diamond geezer

 Saturday, September 19, 2009

Earlier in the year, chatting over beer, blogger M@ from Londonist posed me an intriguing question. "What's the most surprising place in London you haven't actually visited yet?" he asked. I had to think for a bit, because I've had more than four decades to explore the capital and I've covered a heck of a lot of it. But I eventually decided that the most iconic place I'd never actually visited was Buckingham Palace. Everyone's done the outside, but I'd never managed to get myself inside. But now I've been to Buckingham Palace, so I can tick that off my list. Which leaves me thinking where's now the most famous place in London I haven't yet been?

I've done Parliament (Commons and Lords, but not yet the trip up the Clock Tower). I've done the Tower (fortress and Bridge, but not yet the Ceremony of the Keys). I've watched the acrobatic show at the heart of the Dome (but never quite felt the urge to go watch any performance at the O2). I've done all of Visit London's Top 10 London Attractions (although I was only little when I visited Madame Tussauds, and wild horses wouldn't drag me back now). And, thanks to London Open House, I've even done the inside of the Hoover Building, the depths of Churchill's Neasden bunker and the top floor of the Gherkin.

Mid-September, and it's London Open House weekend again! Another excellent opportunity to venture inside buildings I've never been inside before. Except that this is now my eighth London Open House, and I sort of feel I've done most of the really special places already. It didn't help that when booking opened for this year's invite-only buildings, I was sitting on a rain-lashed train somewhere outside Blackpool and therefore missed signing up to any of them.

So this year I thought I'd try something completely different. I thought I'd stick to Open Housing in just two London boroughs - one on Saturday and one on Sunday. One'll be north of the river and one south, one'll be central-ish and one rather further out, and both will (I think) be unexpected. I shall see some of the more ordinary special places for a change, and hopefully enjoy the experience all the more.

In the meantime, if you're out Open Housing this weekend, here are ten suggestions for places you might try:
Freemasons Hall (Sat): ornamental inner temple in Holborn, and HQ of the rolled-up trouser brigade (trowel not essential)
Village Underground (Sat): tube carriages on top of a viaduct in Shoreditch (now used as artists studios)
Royal Courts of Justice (Sat): behind the scenes of this vast Gothic building, including courts and cells (a great couple of hours)
Broadgate Tower (Sat, Sun): the new skyscraper north of Liverpool St station (ooh, that's quite special, innit?)
No 1 Croydon (Sat, Sun): otherwise known as the 50p building (because it looks like a pile of coins)
Barnardo's Village (Sat, Sun): charitable village for poor Victorian urchins (get the tube to Barkingside)
City Hall (Sat, Sun): Boris doesn't allow the public in as often as Ken (but you can do roof and ramp this weekend)
Foreign Office & India Office (Sat, Sun): opulent Whitehall building, paid for by the fruits of empire (queues likely)
Slice of Reality (Sun): that sliced ship moored just north of the Dome (yes, you can go aboard)
Roof Gardens (Sun): unlikely horticultural hideaway above Kensington High Street (arrive very early!)

Oh, and the the most famous place in London I haven't yet been? I'm thinking it might be Wembley Stadium. How hard can that be?


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