I love mooching about in second-hand bookshops and London is packed full of them. I discovered a great place recently when sheltering from the summer rain after a lunch in Greenwich.
Halcyon Books is lined up to the high ceiling with shelves bursting with second-hand, out-of-print and new books on every subject under the sun.
It is possible to browse online and buy via email but there's really nothing like the smell of dusty old books to inspire and excite. It doesn't travel through the ether.
On my visit, all the second-hand books were selling for £1 each and I picked up some incredible bargains: a giant English-French-English dictionary and a massive Readers' Digest Complete Atlas of the British Isles. Two quid well spent!
Stanfords is simply the best bookshop in the world for anyone with a love of travel. It's a London landmark to get the pulse racing of any would-be adventurer. Trading for over 150 years, it was from Edward Stanford Ltd that Sherlock Holmes bought a map in "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and both Dr Livingstone and Cecil Rhodes started their journeys. More recently Kenneth Williams trained as a map maker here — before going round the Horne and carrying on up the Khyber.
Today pick your way through three floors of books, maps and travel paraphernalia on offer in this Edwardian labyrinth. Sitting alongside big name guides like Lonely Planet, look out for specialist handbooks on climbing, caravanning, canals, caving, canoeing and kayaking. Thumb through a guide to battlefields or customs and etiquette in Turkey. For a real Anatolian adventure, don't miss Kate Clow's idiosyncratic "The Lycian Way" — one of the world's Top 10 walks — and while you are there pick up a novel by Turkey's Nobel Laureate, Orhan Pamuk. Farther afield wander into Tajikistan, Togo or Tuvalu.
Closer to home Stanfords stocks the full range of OS maps and has guides to every village, town and county in the UK.
There are flags, wall maps, street maps, atlases and globes. If choosing between a cuddly toy globe or chocolate globe is impossible — or you find yourself wrestling with the desire to own a hanging Christmas tree globe — stop for a break at the Sacred Café. You might discover that after a reviving cup of ayurvedic loose-leaf tea what you really want is a jacket from the new Bear Grylls range of clothing.
Before you leave grab a signed book from perky world girdler Michael Palin, or even stay for a travel lecture. Stanfords has it all.
12-14 Long Acre
City of London WC2E 9LP
+44(0)20 7836 1321
Nearest Underground: Leicester Square or Covent Garden
Open Mon-Tue 9am-7:30pm; Wed-Sat 9am-7pm; Sun 12pm-6pm
Google map: bit.ly/9Ax6Eg
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