Friday, November 24, 2017

A Curious Guide to London by Simon Leyland

I've been reading a few guidebook recently, but none as curious as A Curious Guide to London. Unlike most guidebooks, this one is full of tales about the weirder side of London history. For example:

- Under the statue of George Washington in Trafalgar Square is American soil, because Washinton swore that he would never step foot in England

- The smallest police station was an ornamental stone lamppost in Trafalgar Square (it's now a broom cupboard).

- The saying "When the lions drink, London will sink" refers to the Thames Lions which are used as a flood warning system (the book also mentions that there is a Metropolitan Standing Order that if the water reaches the top of the lion's heads, all London underground stations are to be closed immediately", but I couldn't find any other citations for that).

- Apparently, the embassy of the United States at Grosvenor square was the only embassy built on land not owned by the Americans. They had tried to buy the land, but the Duke of Westminister refused to sell unless the Americans would return the land the Grosvenor lost after the war of independence. The Americans decided to lease it instead.

The places are covered in topics, and quite a few are located near spots that even a first time visitor will go to. If you're into obscure history and fun facts, this would be a good book to read before going to London or while wandering around London.

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