The London Grill: Charlotte Gunnell

We challenge our contributor to reply to ten devilishly probing questions about their London and we don’t take “Sorry Gov” for an answer. Everyone sitting in the hot seat will face the same questions that range from their favourite way to spend a day out in the capital to their most hated building on London’s skyline to find out just what Londoners really think about their city. The questions might be the same but the answers vary wildly.

charlotte-gunnell

[C]harlotte Gunnell started her blog, A Peace of London, in 2015 after she’d been living in the capital for four years. Like many people in the city, she was spending over 10 hours of her week commuting and yearned for smaller museums with fewer crowds, quiet cafés and peaceful corners where she could forget the world outside. Charlotte couldn’t find any sites dedicated to these quiet places, so she created her own, and A Peace of London was born! Follow her on Twitter @APeaceofLondon.

What’s your secret London tip?
My big tip for anyone visiting (or living in) London would be to seek out alternatives to the main tourist-traps: instead of paying £30 for The View From The Shard, pay £2.50 to see the magnificent 360-degree view from Severndroog Castle; instead of waiting a week to go to the Sky Garden, relax in Crossrail Place Roof Garden whenever you like; instead of Camden Market on a Saturday, give a local market such as Brockley Market a try.

Oh, and visit the Petrie Museum, Grant Museum of Zoology and Hunterian Museum (all free) if you’re fed up with the crowds at the British Museum and Natural History Museum. With a bit of effort, you can see some great places, have a more relaxing day and save some cash at the same time. If you need a bit of help finding these lesser-known places, then try a geeky socialising club such as Thinking Bob or a tour from a London expert such as Yannick Pucci.

What’s your secret London place?
Camley Street Natural Park near King’s Cross. It’s hard to believe that there is a nature reserve within a five-minute walk of King’s Cross station, especially since it’s so hidden, but it’s there and it’s the perfect place to rewind.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
The lack of personal space in busy areas, especially on the Tube — it does come with the territory, but it’s the one thing that makes me want to leave London. Hence the blog about quiet places!

What’s your favourite building?
That’s a tough one. I have so many! But if you’re twisting my arm then I’d have to go with Dr Johnson’s House. I started a six-week volunteering placement there last year and six weeks turned into six months, simply because I love being there. The house still has the original floors and staircase that Samuel Johnson would have walked on when he made this his home, as well as the original 18th-century security system on the door.

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Garrett in Dr Johnson’s House

I also love that the building has been kept as a historic house rather than being turned into a traditional museum: the building is the main attraction. Walking in the front door feels like stepping back in time and it was a lovely place to end my week for six months. When I win the lottery, I think I’ll just work there for free . . .

What’s your most hated building?
Madame Tussauds, inside and out. I guess it comes down to personal taste, but I can’t understand why people pay so much money just to see waxworks of celebrities when there are so many beautiful and unique places in London to experience instead.

What’s the best view in London?
As mentioned, the view from Severndroog Castle in east London. You get a 360-degree view and you’re at the top of a castle. What could be better?

What’s your personal London landmark?
Two of my best friends got married at Orlean’s House Gallery in Richmond in 2014; everything about it reminds me of a very happy day.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
Does Sherlock count? Well, the episodes are as long as a film… I just love how good the city looks in each episode, from the Tower of London to St Bart’s Hospital.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
I love Sale E Pepe in Knightsbridge for fantastic Italian food (and singing waiters!)

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
Start with a sunny weekday. Get into London at 9am in time for tea, pumpkin bread and book shopping at Stanford’s, then spend another half an hour browsing at Any Amount of Books.

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Hampstead Heath pergola

Walk north, stopping off at the Japanese Roof Garden at SOAS on the way to Skoob Books and the Grant Museum. Have a quick cup of winter spice tea and maple syrup granola at Bloomsbury Coffee House, before popping into the Treasures Gallery at the British Library. Get the Tube to read a book in the sunshine at Hampstead Heath Hill Garden and Pergola. If I had any time left, I’d pop into Sutton House on the way home.

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