Wandering through London

North of London’s centre for Lawyers is Lincoln’s Inn Fields one of London’s great public squares.

Sir John Soane's Museum
Sir John Soane’s Museum

It’s where one of London’s oldest and nicest Museums, Sir John Soane’s Museum, is located. Despite the good weather I had a relatively crowd-free visit this week.

The museum with its authentic early 19th-century interior is one of Britain’s most eclectic Museums and certainly the most cramped. Cameras and bags to be left in the cloakroom – policies are unlike other publicly owned Museums in the UK, I can’t honestly remember this regulation last time I visited many years ago. The buildings and collection itself are the vision of a single person and are backed by a specific Act of Parliament to protect them from change (initially directed at Sir John’s disgruntled son). The collection probably isn’t something for a visit if you are interested in specific periods or types of artefacts, for me it was more about the overall randomness of the whole.

Stanford's Books London
Stanford’s Books London

A vast ancient alabaster sarcophagus of Pharaoh Seti alongside Hogarth’s 18th c ‘A Rake’s Progress’, the series of pictures of a life turned bad. Realistically this isn’t a visit for summer, with heat and crowds probably making for a very uncomfortable time.

I wandered less than a kilometre through Covent Garden and dropped into Stanford’s Travel Bookshop. Downstairs in their Middle East section is where I made my first purchase from them perhaps 25 years ago, a series of large-scale maps of Oman, as the best available in the country were small scale.

Stanford's Maps
Stanford’s Maps

While Oman’s own publically available maps haven’t changed in scale – I was really impressed by how Stanford’s own map corner has moved forward; it has Admiralty charts printed to order as you wait.

Stanford's Interior with Bradt Guide to Oman
Stanford’s Interior with Bradt Guide to Oman

Almost opposite the printing machine I was thrilled that the best travel book shop in the world had on their shelves the Bradt Guide to Oman and not just a token one copy – but a full shelf’s depth. Time for celebration with a Gelato from Amorino nearby.

Author: Tony Walsh

Book author including the current Bradt guide to Oman