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Hidden London: The Strange Story of the Republic of Texas Legation in London

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

A small plaque in an alley leading to Pickering Place off St. James’s Street near St. James’s Palace is a reminder that for a very short time, the Republic of Texas had a small embassy over a wine shop in London. The Republic of Texas was declared in 1836 and quickly the republic tried to foster international ties. A number of Texas Legations were established in Washington, D.C., London, and Paris in 1836. These were more diplomatic missions rather than embassies but were useful to promote the republic, the Texas Legation in London was in a building that was the premises of Berry Bros.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Berry Bros. & Rudd as it is now named can trace its origins to 1698, when the Widow Bourne established a grocer’s shop on the site. The Widow’s daughter Elizabeth married William Pickering and their family ran the business which supplied the fashionable Coffee Houses around St James’s. In the 19th century, tastes had changed and Berry Bros had become wine and spirit merchants to the aristocracy and especially the royal family. The Texas Legation may have been attracted by this access to high quality wines, but it is more likely that the location was chosen for its proximity to St. James’s Palace.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The Texas Legation in London was maintained from 1836 through 1845 and although the United Kingdom never granted official recognition of Texas it did agree to accept Texan goods into British ports.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

When the Republic became a state in the United States of America in 1845 the legations were shut down and this strange part of Texan history was largely forgotten until the 20th century.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The Anglo-Texan Society was founded in London in 1953 and had the famous author Graham Greene has its founding president. Greene knew the Pickering Place area well because he had a flat overlooking the courtyard. The society was led in its early days by Sir Alfred Bossom who was a member of Parliament with extensive ties with Texas.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

In 1963, on the initiative of Bossom, the Anglo-Texan Society erected a brass plaque at the corner of No. 3 St. James’s Place in the passageway of Pickering Place to mark the location of the Texas Legation in Great Britain during the final years of the Republic of Texas, 1842–45. The plaque was unveiled by Texas governor Price Daniel, Sr and the text of the plaque reads: “Texas Legation In this building was the legation for the ministers from the Republic of Texas to the Court of St. James 1842 – 1845. Erected by the Anglo-Texan Society”. The society also paid an outstanding debt of $160 which the Texas Legation had ‘forgot’ to pay for rent to Berry Bros in 1845.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The Texas Legation was not the only place of political intrigue in the building, George Berry who ran Berry Bros at that time was friends with the future Napoleon III who was in exile in London. Napoleon used Berry Bros cellars to hold secret meetings, their Napoleon Cellar is named after him.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Since the plaque was attached, there has been more interest into this curious piece of Texas history and it was celebrated by The Texas Embassy Cantina on the corner of Cockspur Street near Trafalgar Square for many years before it closed.

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Hidden London: The Panyer Boy in Panyer Alley

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

London is the type of city where you find the most unusual objects in the strangest places. This is most certainly the case with The Panyer Boy in Panyer Alley.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Next to St Paul’s underground station and on the wall next to a Caffe Nero coffee shop is a stone plaque of a boy sitting on a basket with written underneath ‘When you have sought the city round, Yet still this is the highest ground. August 27, 1688.’

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The plaque has been the source of mystery for centuries and has been moved to various locations in Panyer Alley as buildings have been pulled down and replaced.

Panyer Alley is located near St Paul’s Cathedral and was first mentioned in the 15th century. One of London’s early historians, John Stow in his Survey of London published in 1598 mentions the location.

At the west end of this parish church is a small passage for people on foot through the same church; and west from the said church, some distance, is another passage out of Pater Noster row, and is called, of such a sign, Panyar alley, which cometh out into the north over against St. Martin’s lane.

We do not what sign that Stow is alluding too but other sources suggest that Panyer Alley got its name from a dwelling house with outbuildings and land called the “Panyer,” or” the Panyer on the hoope”. Some have suggested this might be an Inn or tavern.

We do know that Samuel Pepys frequented the Alley in 1666 when he was looking for some stationary services.

The Diary of Samuel Pepys

13th April 1666

Thence called upon an old woman in Pannier Ally to agree for ruling of some paper for me and she will do it pretty cheap.

Monday 16 April 1666

Then I left them to come to me at supper anon, and myself out by coach to the old woman in Pannier Alley for my ruled papers, and they are done.

This was before the Great Fire of London in September 1666 which destroyed St Paul’s and large parts of the City of London. It is possible that in the rebuilding work after the fire that the plaque was attached to a new building with the boast of this being the highest spot.

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John Strype updating Stow’s Survey of London in 1720 noticed something new in Panyer Alley.

When you have sought the City round,
Yet still this is the highest Ground.
August 26. 1688.

This is writ upon a Stone raised, about the middle of this Panier Alley; having the Figure of a Panier, with a Boy sitting upon it, with a Bunch of Grapes, as it seems to be, held between his naked Foot and Hand: in token, perhaps, of Plenty.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

This is one of the first mention of the Panyer Boy and provides some idea of its location. The mystery of Panyer Boy has led to a number of theories. Many people have made the connection with the name of the alley and the basket the boy seems to be sitting on. Pannier derives from the Old French panier, meaning ‘bread basket’.

Stow mentions that nearby Bread Street has long been associated with bakers.

Then is Bread street itself, so called of bread in old time there sold; for it appeareth by records, that in the year 1302, which was the 30th of Edward I., the bakers of London were bound to sell no bread in their shops or houses, but in the market, and that they should have four hallmotes in the year, at four several terms, to determine of enormities belonging to the said company. (John Stow, Survey of London).

A newspaper report of 1893 mentions that some people had their eye on the Panyer Boy.

A wealthy American is said to have offered a workman £50 to procure for him the Panyer Stone in Panyer Alley, Newgate-street, which for two centuries has marked the highest point of the City of London. The workman, who was engaged in pulling down the old warehouse in which the stone is fixed, informed the city authorities, and now a guard is placed upon the relic.

The real mystery is how the plaque has survived over 330 years of political turmoil, bombing and buildings being pulled down and redeveloped. It has certainly led a charmed life and although ignored by thousands as they pass by, for some Londoners it is part of the fascination of the capital.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Hidden London: The Hardy Tree near St. Pancras Old Church

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

London is full of strange and unusual stories, none more so than The Hardy Tree which brings together one of London’s oldest churches, a famous novelist and the growth of the railway in the 19th century.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

St. Pancras Old Church is considered one of the oldest places of Christian worship in London dating back to at least the 7th century. It was in the 19th century when the Midland Railway line was being extended, part of this extension was over part of the original St. Pancras Churchyard. Mr Arthur Blomfield, an architect based in Covent Garden was commissioned by the Bishop of London to supervise the exhumation of human remains and dismantling of tombs.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Blomfield passed this task over to his assistant, Thomas Hardy who would later become famous as an novelist of books like Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, and Jude the Obscure. In 1865, Hardy had the mundane task of moving bodies and tombstones, for some reason he began to place some of the tombstones against a large ash tree in the middle of the churchyard.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

A poem entitled The Levelled Churchyard by Hardy indicates that it was not a task he enjoyed.

O passenger, pray list and catch
Our sighs and piteous groans,
Half stifled in this jumbled patch
Of wrenched memorial stones!

“We late-lamented, resting here,
Are mixed to human jam,
And each to each exclaims in fear,
‘I know not which I am!’

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

As Hardy’s fame grew, so did the interest in the strange circle of tombstones around the tree. Over time the tree and tombstones seemed to have melded as one and is a strange mix of life and death.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The information on the plaque accompanying the tree explains that The novelist and poet Thomas Hardy before turning to writing full time,” Thomas Hardy studied architecture in London from 1862-67 under Mr. Arthur Blomfield, an architect based in Covent Garden. During the 1860s the Midland Railway line was being built over part of the original St. Pancras Churchyard. Blomfield was commissioned by the Bishop of London to supervise the proper exhumation of human remains and dismantling of tombs. He passed this unenviable task to his protégé Thomas Hardy in. c.l865. Hardy would have spent many hours in St. Pancras Churchyard … overseeing the careful removal of bodies and tombs from the land on which the railway was being built. The headstones around this Ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) would have been placed here around this time. Note how the tree has since grown in amongst the stones.

A few years before Hardy’s involvement here, Charles Dickens makes reference to Old St. Pancras Churchyard in his Tale of Two Cities (1859), as the churchyard in which Roger Cly was buried and where Gerry Cruncher was known to “fish” (a 19th Century term for tomb robbery and body snatching).

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Without doubt, The Hardy Tree is one of the more unusual London ‘memorials’ but the church is full of literary connections, the Dickens connection mentioned before and Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley planned their elopement here.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
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Hidden London : Statue of Charles I at Charing Cross


© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Thousands of visitors to London make their way to Trafalgar Square to enjoy the public space, but very few will notice the statue on a small island before Trafalgar Square. Many would be surprised that the location of the statue is one of the most important in London being for centuries the official centre of London and being the place that all distances from London are measured. The location and the statue have a long and fascinating history which is often overlooked by Londoners and visitors.

The small traffic island on which the statue stands was the site of Charing Cross which was where Edward I in the 13th century erected the most elaborate of the Eleanor crosses which marked the funeral route of Eleanor, the Queen of Edward I who died in 1290 in Lincoln. The embalmed body of the Queen travelled from Lincoln to Westminster Abbey, where her body was laid to rest. Along the route were erected a series of twelve crosses that indicating the different stages of the journey.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The cross at Charing was by far the most expensive and elaborate of the twelve being the closest to Westminster. Eleanor’s Cross in Charing stood in the same spot for three and a half centuries until 1647. Although the original cross disappeared, in 1863, a replica of the ancient cross was erected in the courtyard of Charing Cross station, about 200 yards from the original site.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The equestrian statue of Charles I at Charing Cross, London is by the French sculptor Hubert Le Sueur and was probably cast in 1633. It is considered the first Renaissance-style equestrian statue in England and was commissioned by Charles’s Lord High Treasurer Richard Weston for the garden of his country house in Roehampton.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

However the English Civil War put these plans to one side and when Charles I was executed at Whitehall in 1649, the statue was sold to a metalsmith to be broken down. The metalsmith named John Rivet from Holborn received instructions from Parliament to break down the statue, he produced some broken pieces of brass as evidence that he had followed these orders and even sold pieces of cutlery, which he claimed was made from the remains of the statue.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

But for whatever reason and it was a dangerous course of action, Rivet buried the statue intact on his premises. After the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the statue was purchased by the King Charles II and in 1675 was placed in its current location. A pedestal was made of Portland stone with a carved coat of arms for the statue by Joshua Marshall, mason to Charles II.

The site has been used for less noble purposes, after the Restoration, eight people involved in Charles I’s death were executed on the spot and in the 18th century, a pillory, was set close by the statue. An etching by Thomas Rowlandson from 1809 shows the scene of the pillory with the person in the stocks surrounded by a large crowd.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

So if you are looking for the centre of London, make your way to the statue and the site which is now dwarfed by Trafalgar Square but for centuries was one of the most important places in London.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Hidden London: Memorial to John Heminge and Henry Condell by Charles John Allen in St Mary Aldermanbury Garden.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

In the quiet garden of the remains of the former church of St. Mary Aldermanbury in the City of London is a bust of William Shakespeare as part of a memorial to his fellow actors Henry Condell and John Hemmings who were key figures in the printing of the playwright’s First Folio of works. Both actors are buried in the church.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The church of St. Mary Aldermanbury was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666 and then rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren. Unfortunately it was gutted during the Blitz in 1940, leaving only the walls intact. Rather unusually, in 1966 the remains of the church were shipped to Fulton, Missouri, USA. The church now stands as a memorial to Winston Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech made at Westminster College, Fulton, in 1946.

The site of the church and churchyard were acquired by the City of London in 1970 and laid out as a public garden.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Although the names of Henry Condell and John Heminge are now largely forgotten, they played a pivotal role in making sure that many of Shakespeare’s plays were not lost. John Heminge and Henry Condell were actors in the King’s Men, the playing company for which William Shakespeare wrote. Both men had shares in the Globe theatre and were mentioned in Shakespeare’s will, with Richard Burbage, each being bequeathed 26 shillings and eightpence to buy mourning rings. There is evidence that Heminge was resposible for some of the financial deals of the King’s Men and served as trustee for Shakespeare when the latter purchased a house in Blackfriars in 1613.

Both men settled and raised families in the St Mary Aldermanbury parish and both men were buried in the parish church. Condell in 1627 and Heminges in 1630.

The memorial gives more information of their work on the folio.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Shakespeare

The First Folio

Mr William Shakespeare’s comedies, histories & tragedies, published according to the true originall copies, London 1623

We have but collected them and done an office to the dead . . . Without ambition either of selfe profit or fame, onely to keepe the memory of so worthy a friend & fellowe alive as was our Shakespeare.

John Heminge
Henry Condell

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

To the memory of John Heminge and Henry Condell, fellow actors and personal friends of Shakespeare. They lived many years in this parish and are buried here.
To their disinterested affection the world owes all that it calls Shakespeare. They alone collected his dramatic writings regardless of pecuniary loss and without the hope of any profit gave them to the world. They thus merited the gratitude of mankind.

Given to the nation by Charles Clement Walker Esqr., Lilleshall Old Hall, Shropshire.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The fame of Shakespeare rests on his incomparable dramas,. There is no evidence that he ever intended to publish them and his premature death in 1616 made this the interest of no one else. Heminge and Condell had been co-partners with him in the Globe Theatre Southwark, and from the accumulated plays there of thirty five years with great labour selected them. No men then living were so competent having acted with him in them for many years and well knowing his manuscripts they were published in 1623 in folio thus giving away their private rights therein. What they did was priceless. For the whole of his manuscripts with almost all those of the dramas of the period have perished.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

John Heminge lived in this parish upwards of forty two years and in which he was married. He had fourteen children, thirteen of whom were baptized, four buried, and one married here. He was buried here October 12 1630. His wife was also buried here.
Henry Condell lived in this parish upwards of thirty years. He had nine children, eight of whom were baptized here and six buried. He was buried here December 29 1627. His wife was also buried here.
“Let all the ends thou aim’st at be thy country’s thy God’s and truth’s”
Henry VIII Act 3 Scene 2.

The design of the monument and the inscriptions are by Mr Charles Clement Walker who also paid for the monument. Charles John Allen was the British sculptor who created the memorial which was unveiled in 1895.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Hidden London: Goodwin’s Court in Central London

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

For all the modern development in Central London, there are small areas which can transport a visitor into the past.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

One of those areas is Goodwin’s Court which is an narrow alley that runs between St. Martin’s Lane and Bedfordbury, in an area, just north of Trafalgar Square.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Goodwin’s Court first appears in the records in 1690 and replaced Fishers Alley which had occupied a similar location in preceding years.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

What is really unusual about Goodwin’s Court is that since the late 18th century, it has changed very little and walking in the alley you feel that are transported into London of the past. The area was once full of these type of a small, murky courts. The row of shops in the court, that have typical Georgian bowed shop windows date back to the 18th century.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Goodwin’s Court has been hidden away for so long that information about these shops have been long forgotten and the shops are now small offices for a number of businesses. The doors to the offices have a number of decorative door knobs, knockers, and nameplates.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Although Goodwin’s Court is generally off the main tourist trail, it does attract a number of photographers and rather strangely is often visited by Harry Potter fans. Although there is no obvious connection to Harry Potter, tours often describe the alley as the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Goodwin’s Court was not just a mystery to people in the present, 100 years ago Punch magazine writer E V Lucas found the alley and wrote about it in his book Adventures and Enthusiasms published in 1920.

My second little street—disregarded by Wheatley and Cunningham altogether—has only just come into my own consciousness: Goodwin’s Court, which runs from St. Martin lane to Bedfordbury. It is not a street at all, merely an alley, one side of which, the south, is the least Londonish row of dwellings you ever saw, and the other side is the back doors of the houses on the south of New Street—that busiest and cheerfullest of old-world shopping centres, where Hogarth’s ghost still walks. New Street is famous in literature by reason of the “Pine Apple” eating-house where Dr. Johnson in his penury dined regularly for eightpence: six-pennyworth of meat, one pennyworth of bread, and a penny for the waiter, receiving better attention than most of the clients because the penny for the waiter was omitted by them. Take it all round, New Street (which has not been new these many decades) is not so different now, the small tradesman being the last thing in the world to change.

But it was of Goodwin’s Court that I was going to write, and of its odd houses—for each one is like the last, not only architecturally but through the whim of the tenants too, each one having a vast bow window, and each window being decorated with a muslin curtain, in front of which is a row of pots containing a flowerless variety of large-leaved plant, created obviously for the garnishing of such unusual spaces. Where these strange plants have their indigenous homes I cannot say—I am the least of botanists—nor do I particularly care; but what I do want to know is when their beauty, or lack of it, first attracted a dweller in Goodwin’s Court and why his taste so imposed itself on his neighbours. But for this depressing foliage I should not mind living in Goodwin’s Court myself, for it is quiet and central—not more than a few yards both from the Westminster County Court and several theatres. But it would be necessary for peace of mind first to find out who Goodwin was.

If you would a taste of ‘old’ London that recreates the world of Charles Dickens and Sherlock Holmes, take a trip down Goodwin’s Court.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Hidden London : The York Water Gate in the Victoria Embankment Gardens

Near to the river, close to Embankment Station is the attractive Victoria Embankment Gardens, in one corner looking strangely out of place is a small classical building that is often ignored by the many people who walk past.

The story of the structure is a fascinating one and takes us back to the early 17th century and to one of Britain’s greatest scientists and a notorious favourite of King James I.

The York Water Gate in the Victoria Embankment Gardens is now almost the sole surviving relic of the great houses which in the medieval and Renaissance periods were built along the Strand.

York House, to which the York Water Gate formed the river approach, was originally the site of the town house of the Bishops of Norwich from the 13th century, in the early 16th century it was acquired by King Henry VIII and was then granted to the Archbishop of York in 1556 when the residence was named York House. Sir Francis Bacon moved into York House in the early 17th century before he was charged with corruption.

York Water Gate 1795

In 1622, the house became the property of King’s favourite, George, Duke of Buckingham who began repairs to the house until he run out of money. Despite being in debt, Buckingham built up a large and prestigious collection of art treasures. In 1628, George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham was murdered and the house passed to his family.

The York Water Gate was built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1626, it was built to form an approach to a new residence which Buckingham planned to erect on the site, after serving for many years as a water approach to the houses on the Buckingham estate, it is now over 150 yards from the river within the Embankment Gardens due to the construction of the Thames Embankment in 1860s.

York Water Gate and the Adelphi from the River by Moonlight, by Henry Pether, circa 1850

The York Water Gate is made of Portland stone, and is one of the few surviving reminders in London of the Italianate court style of Charles I. Its design has been attributed to Sir Balthazar Gerbier, Inigo Jones and sculptor and master-mason Nicholas Stone. The structure comprises of three bays and is divided by Doric columns. The central portion, bears the arms of the Villiers family.

In London, there are many buildings and structures that have a fascinating history and the York Water Gate connects us to interesting historical characters and insight into an area which has changed beyond recognition in the last two centuries.

Video review available here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website
here