Tuesday morning we joined one of the London Walks, this one called "Secret London." http://www.walks.com/
We were met by the tour guide Rex, who led us and about 15 other bundled-up people in and out of the Holburn area. We began in Staple Inn, which in the 16th century was where wool was weighed and taxed. It is one of the few buildings that survived the Great Fire, although has been extensively rebuilt, especially after being bombed in WW2. The timbered facade leads into a brick courtyard, the buildings of which has been used as one of the Inns of Chancery, and are now an actuary's institute.
Rex led us into the courtyard of an ornate red brick late Victorian Gothic building, Holburn Bars, where Dickens had lived on the site of an earlier building. The present structure was built by Prudential Insurance in a time when women were beginning to work in offices--it had extra stairways so women wouldn't need to go up with a man behind her! We followed Rex through a tiny passageway to Ye Olde Mitre in Ely Place, built in 1546 when it was still the bishop of Ely's land. Then on to the oldest Catholic church in London, St. Etheldreda's (which of course was turned into a Church of England church during Henry VIII's reign) and St. Andrew's reconstructed by Christopher Wren. Love the statues of children who were educated by a school for poor children nearby. (and according to Rex, the material used is still trying to be replicated today)
We also found Dr. Johnson's house, St. Bride's church, a 19th century bathhouse, more early buildings among the modern glass and steel. All along the walk we were treated to stories about the people who lived in the area through the centuries, a lot of history, a bit of historical illustration, and a lot of fun. We enjoyed the walk, and would recommend it.
Rex suggested the Cheshire Cheese Pub nearby for lunch. It' was rebuilt in 1667, and full of atmosphere. There's a little pub area down a twisty staircase, or the small upstairs dining room. We opted for a booth in the dining room, and had an excellent lunch--fish and chips for me, sausages and mash for Larry. And a pint. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ye_Olde_Cheshire_Cheese
Afterward, we visited Dr. Johnson's house, which has been restored to its 18th century detail. The rooms have documents and artwork related to Dr. Johnson's life, the dictionary he's chiefly famous for, and his friend Boswell who chronicled his wit and life. http://www.drjohnsonshouse.org/
My feet gave out at that point, so returned to the flat for a lazy evening and some disappointing Indian take-away. Avoid Malabar in Notting Hill (Larry says it wasn't bad, but I thought it greasy and bland)