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Three places you don’t know in London

Created date

May 22nd, 2012

In London, of course, you can watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and go to the British Museum. But tucked into odd corners of that splendid city are places you might not know. Here are three delightful places I ve discovered.

Leighton House

All summer long an exhibition calledVictorian Visionswill be seen in the most hospitable atmosphere that could be imagined for it Leighton House where one of the artists it includes once lived. Frederic Leighton was High Victorian in every sense and painted in the extravagant manner of the Aesthetic Movement, popular then, later dismissed, and now regaining interest. Leighton House (12 Holland Park Road) itself is a glorious spread inspired by exotic locales (Pompeii, the Middle East) and boasting the finest north-facing studio an artist could aspire to. There s a stuffed peacock in the sky-lighted hallway, an interior shallow pool, a room with walls covered in green silk, another with walls of Turkish tile. Queen Victoria was a guest here, also the poet Robert Browning and the artist Dane Gabriel Rossetti.

Idler Academy

From the studied opulence of Leighton House, move on to the Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment at 81 Westbourne Park Road. The Academy calls itself a bookseller and coffeehouse and offers both in the simplest of surroundings a few tables and chairs and bookshelves. The Idler takes its name from an idea of Samuel Johnson s, that idleness is admirable and productive in its own way, and publications and courses on such subjects as grammar, theology, and ukelele-playing furthers the concept. You ll not have time for a course, probably, but might want to buy a book. I did (Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939).

The Cow Pub

Immediately around the corner from The Idler, at 89 Westbourne Park Road, is a pleasant neighborhood pub called The Cow for reasons now muddled in memory, but odd as its specialty is seafood. We shared a plate of oysters, standing at the bar, and enjoyed the atmosphere, more Irish than local Brit. Tourists are less likely to light here, but when they do are treated like anyone else, which is to say pleasantly and satisfactorily. While it will be the end of summer before you can have oysters there, good seafood is always on the menu. This is, of course, the summer of the Olympic Games in London. Information on all that can be found in abundance, but any of these three places will enlarge your visit in ways you didn t expect.