I ❤️ London—it’s an amazing city showcasing centuries of history, layered in royalty, exploration and culture. World famous landmarks like the London Bridge and Big Ben dot the skyline.
And London is big. Big, wide and deep. Stairs, tunnels, The Tube—even The Chunnel—carry you down, down, down, then all around. So, while there is much to see all over this town, there’s plenty to discover just below its surface. Recently we decided to spend a day recovering from jet lag by visiting a few places under London.
“Thrown in the Clink” is a popular and somewhat flip expression describing a guilty party’s new residence: behind the many locked doors and iron bars of a prison. But did you know The Clink is an actual place? Well, it was…
Back in the day—way back from 1144 to 1780—a series of prisons existed near and along Clink Street. Why this specific site? The first such prison in the area opened in 1127. No more than a cellar, it belonged to the Palace of the Bishop of Winchester.
Over the next five centuries, hundreds of debtors, assorted criminals, religious martyrs and would-be witches spent time (and most likely their lives) in “the Clink.”
Today, a small wall is all that remains from the original facility, housed in The Clink Prison Museum. Near the London Bridge, this modern day nod to The Clink features many medieval devices used to restrain prisoners, as well as themed decor and sounds that set the tone. Entering the museum, we walked down into the awaiting and dark bit of London’s history…
The walls displayed easy-to-read placards, corresponding with nearby weapons and tools of a featured era, telling the stories of prison life and politics. A little like a haunted house, our self-guided tour took about 40 minutes. A quick “sentence,” compared to that of its former occupants.
“Mind the gap” is a message painted along the edge of the subway platform, reminding all passengers to watch their step when The Tube doors open.
London cabbies are friendly and knowledgeable, and the red double decker buses are a fun, easy way to get around town. Still, my favorite way to shortcut the streets of this famous city is underground.
Making our way from The Clink to Camden Market, we headed down the nearest subway entrance—trusty Oyster cards in hand—exiting a mere 15 minutes later at our stop: Camden Town.
Tea in a basement
Next door to Regents Canal in Historic Central London, Camden Market features over 1000 unique shops, eateries and points of interest. Its own history is quite young, dating back only to the 1970s.
As the area’s industrial commodity (gin production) phased out, the music and fashion scene blossomed, growing into the diverse and contemporary gathering place it is today.
Approaching mid afternoon, we found ourselves ready for one of my favorite mealtimes: Afternoon Tea. And what better place to discover a modern twist to this time honored tradition than in a sub level shop: The Basement Tea Rooms.
Ready to take in our group of six, the Tea Room staff seated us at a fun low table, shopping options just an arm length away: sweaters, shoes, books—you name it!
Very reasonably priced, our tea, sandwiches and treats were fresh and delicious. Our casual traveler attire felt right at home here.
Stuffed after our delicious meal, it was time to sleep off our food coma back at our hotel. And despite the jet lag, we truly enjoyed our underground adventure.
What’s your favorite way to warm up to a different time zone? Well, when in London, I’ll head down under… J 🕳