Category Archives: Europe

10 Sherlock Filming Locations

As a relatively late convert to the latest BBC adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes stories (I’m now a mad Cumberbatch fan, too), I thought I’d have a look at where some of the most famous “Sherlock” filming locations.

221B Baker Street

187 North Gower Street & Sherlock Fans

187 North Gower Street & Sherlock Fans

The address, which made its first appearance as the famous fictional detective’s residence in the book “A Study in Scarlet”, doesn’t appear in the recent BBC1 series. The actual 221B Baker Street is occupied by the Sherlock Holmes Museum, a small institution with a waxworks room, a drawing room well laid out in Victorian style, and a gift shop.

For the purposes of the new series, a nearby street location serves for exterior shots – 187 North Gower Street in Bloomsbury. The current resident copes very well indeed with the  crowds of tourists taking selfies outside his door (all day at the weekend); and was amused to receive a letter addressed to the actors who the Sherlock fan letter-writer believed lived inside. Interiors are shot in film studios in Cardiff.

Speedy’s Café

The Cumberbatch having brekkie at Speedy's (Radio Times)

The Cumberbatch having brekkie at Speedy’s (Radio Times)

The café used by Holmes and Watson in the series, Speedy’s Café, is on the ground floor of 187 North Gower Street, and, being seen regularly in Sherlock (interiors and exteriors) it’s benefited enormously from its prime position. At time of writing it has nearly 18,000 Twitter followers!

Its owner, Chris Georgiou says, “Customers ask me what it’s like, what the actors are like. I’ve always said they’re a lovely crew, lovely actors, lovely people.” (From an Independent article.) He’s hoping to have a cameo in the next series.


Appledore aka Swinhay House

Appledore aka Swinhay House

The high tech home of super-baddy Charles Augustus Magnussen from the last episode of the third series, is in real life Swinhay House near North Nibley in Gloucestershire. Owned by millionaire engineer Sir David McMurtry, it’s a spiral-designed 30,000ft “futuristic mansion” whose swimming pool has a floating floor so that the water level can be adjusted. The engineer doesn’t live in the house, however, because his wife thinks it’s too “flashy”.

Leinster Gardens

Leinster gardens aerial shot (Bing Maps)

Leinster gardens aerial shot (Bing Maps)

The dummy houses featured in finale episode of Series 3 are in fact “real” dummy houses. 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens in Paddington were pulled down to make way for the Metropolitan Railway (the world’s first underground railway) and, instead of leaving a distasteful gap where locomotives used to vent off their smoke and steam, a frontage was built that matched that of its neighbours.

St Bart’s Hospital


The Cumberbatch and his double outside St Bart's Hospital

The Cumberbatch and his body double outside St Bart’s Hospital (PacificCoastNews)

Sherlock meets Watson both in the original stories and in the BBC series in a lab in St Bart’s, and it’s the connection with Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation that led to the Tokyo “Sherlock Holmes Appreciation Society” to donate a grand sum of £650 to the “Save Barts” campaign in the 1990s. There’s also a plaque in Bart’s Pathology Museum in commemoration of the meeting of two of the most famous characters in literary history on their premises.

The Sherlock fan site Sherlockology details a visit to the building in an attempt to scour the area for clues after Sherlock’s “fatal” fall. The roof of St Bart’s and extensive exterior shots appeared in the exciting climax of Series 2, but the spoilsports won’t let you visit the roof to act out your Sherlock/Moriarty fantasies.

The phone box that you see in the image above was filled with hand-written notes commemorating the so-called “death” of Sherlock at the end of Series 2:

Touching notes in the Sherlock phone box

Touching notes in the Sherlock phone box

Tapas Brindisa Soho

Tapas Brindisa from Sherlock

Sherlock fan outside Tapas Brindisa Soho (Sherlock Tour)

The window seat in the Tapas Brindisa (then known as Tierra Brindisa) in “Northumberland Street” (actually 46 Broadwick Street) was occupied by Messrs Cumberbatch and Freeman in Series 1. Unfortunately it’s  been refurbished since the episode was shot, so you won’t quite be able to recreate the famous scene exactly:

Brindisa Tapas Soho in Sherlock Series 1

Tapas restaurant scene in Sherlock Series 1



Sherlock and Watson in Chinatown (or are they?)

Sherlock and Watson in Chinatown (or are they?)

London’s Chinatown isn’t quite what it seems in the Series 1 episode, The Blind Banker. Yes, Sherlock and Watson are seen walking down Gerrard Street, the iconic Chinatown street in London’s West End, but exteriors and interiors for The Lucky Cat shop were shot at 183 Upper Dock Street, Newport, Wales.

You’ll not find a shop selling Chinese wares there, however – the place was transformed purely for the filming (at the moment it’s a beauty salon called Glamour & Glitz). Upper Dock Street itself was transformed with the addition of Chinese lanterns and painted street bollards. This isn’t the only Newport/London fakery that’s taken place in Sherlock. One of the scenes in a supposed London kebab shop in Episode 1, Series 3 was filmed in Adonis Kebabs, for instance:

Sherlock filming in Adonis Kebabs, Newport (

Sherlock filming in Adonis Kebabs, Newport (

Swimming Pool

Bristol South Swimming Pool

Bristol South Swimming Pool (Bristol Post)

The atmospheric swimming pool that sees the showdown with Moriarty in the last episode of Series 1 was filmed in Bristol South Swimming Pool, where Mark Gatiss learned to swim, according to Sherlockology. It’s a fantastically well preserved Victorian pool complete with poolside changing rooms,  in a Grade II listed building in Dame Emily Park in the city.

 Irene Adler’s House

Irene Adler at Eaton Square

44 Eaton Square in well-to-do Belgravia serves for exterior shots of “The Woman’s” house. The interiors were, again, shot in Newport: in a private residence known as Fields House that’s also been seen in episode “Blink” of Dr Who.

Irene Adler's drawing room, Aka Fields House, Newport

Irene Adler’s drawing room, Aka Fields House, Newport

Let’s hope it won’t be another two years until we can add some new locations for Series 4 and the return of Moriarty!

The Beaked Mask of Venice

The bird-beaked Venice mask

The bird-beaked plague doctor’s mask

We saw this eery beak-masked mannequin on a recent trip to Venice. It’s an excellent way to advertise the mask shop it stands outside of course, and it harks back to devastating times in Venice’s history.

Venice was hit many times by the plague, with outbreaks occurring in 1348, 1462, 1485, 1506, 1575–1577 and, disastrously, 1630–1632 when over 32% of the population died as a result and of course the doctor coming into contact with the sick needed something to protect him. Interestingly, plague doctors were normally less-qualified than proper physicians, who had a habit of fleeing cities once the disease hit.

The mask pictured above represents the type used to protect against the awful smells (miasma) that were thought to spread the disease. There was a respirator within the beak filled with sweet-smelling flowers like roses and lavender, camphor or a vinegar-soaked sponge and eye glasses (very steam punk) to protect the eyes while still allowing the doctor to see.

Plague doctor from Rome

Roman plague doctor from a 17th century engraving. (Wikipedia)

Other key parts of the doctor’s outfit were the long leather or waxed gown that protected the body, the traditional physician’s hat, full length boots, gloves and a wooden cane that was carried most probably to examine patients from a distance and keep people away.

Can you imagine lying in a fever, scared stiff that your time has come, being tended to by someone wearing an outfit that must surely disturb you even more?

The beaked mask appeared not just in Venice, but throughout Europe. It’s been immortalised in this historic city, however, by its appearance in the Commedia dell’Arte (through the character of the Medico della Peste) and the Carnavale, where it’s still one of the most common masks seen in the annual festival.

Traces of the plague in Venice

Lazzaretto Vecchio is a quarantine station where visitors and residents exhibiting signs of the plague were transferred. It’s an island near the Lido and one can imagine that life there couldn’t have been the slightest bit pleasant during the worst of the plague years. In 2004-2005, 92 burial locations were discovered on the island, with the remains of some 1500 victims and their artefacts uncovered.

At the moment, Lazzaretto Vecchio can’t be visited, although this will change – preparations for a new archaeological museum were being made when the graves were found.

Another quarantine island is Lazzaretto Nuovo which can apparently be visited on a guided tour, although the link to a site with more information isn’t currently working. (Here it is, just in case it comes live again


Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute (Wikipedia)

Plague Churches

Another remembrance of the plague are the impressive churches built as thanks for deliverance from this terrible disease (and to hasten the end of the latest outbreak).

There’s a procession to this day in commemoration and it crosses from the city of Venice to the grand church of Santa Maria della Salute along a temporary bridge of barges and wooden boards, taking place every year on November 21st.

The construction of Salute began in 1631, a year after the disease hit in 1630. Other plague churches include Il Redentore on Giudecca, which was finished in 1592, a number of years after around 25% of the population had died in the 1570s outbreak, San Rocco, San Giobbe and San Sebastiano.

Some historians believe that the devastation reeked by the plague on Venice caused the downfall of this previously immensely powerful city, and where traces of the disease have largely disappeared in Europe, it still hangs over Venice to this day: with a little help from a strange beaked mask.

Walking London: Hidden And Not So Hidden Gems

Walking London, there’s something new to see around every corner. I’ve lived here for eight years now and I never cease to be amazed. It may something historic, entertaining, jaw-droppingly gorgeous, sadly neglected, about to disappear, or it may be downright queer. Whatever, it’s all good fun.

Here are a selection of photos I’ve taken on recent walks around the city – some of the sights I’ll be going into in more depth in later posts.

Britain at War Experience

Britain at War – Closed January 2013

The Britain at War Experience in Tooley Street is a London museum I never got to visit. If you haven’t visited you’ve left it too late as well because as of January 2013 it closed for good – the redevelopment of London Bridge station put paid to it. The exhibits however have been bought by an organisation called the Bay Trust, so they may well pop up somewhere else in the near future. One exhibit I hope doesn’t disappear is the V2 rocket strapped to the side of the building and visible from Platform 1 of London Bridge station. It surprised the hell out of me when I first it from the station, I tell you.

v2 rocket London Bridge station

The very surprising V2 Rocket at London Bridge

Here’s a video of the Britain at War Experience.

One of the best things about urban life is spotting new street art and just because Banksy’s art is now more well known for its monetary value than anything else there’s a ton of other stuff waiting to be uncovered. I was touched by this little illustration. (Can’t remember where I saw it, though).

death to traffic lights

Death to Traffic Lights

The George Inn off Borough High Street in Southwark is the only galleried inn left standing in London (fires, bulldozers and  World War Two bombings have put paid to the rest) and was  a major stop-off for the horse-pulled coaches coming to London in the 17th century.

The George Inn, Southwark

The George Inn, Southwark

It’s owned by the National Trust these days, but don’t let that put you off – it operates as a normal pub. The ubiquitous Charles Dickens gave it a short but sweet mention in Little Dorrit “if he [Tip Dorrit] goes into the George and writes a letter”.

Decoration at Cross Bones Graveyard

Decoration at Cross Bones Graveyard

Above is a recent photo of one of the newer decorations added to the gates at Cross Bones Graveyard, where the remains of thousands of prostitutes, children and the destitute lie. A monthly vigil is held at the site in memory of these unfortunates. The International Union of Sex Workers hope the graveyard will be  “…the first World Heritage site dedicated to sex workers… a permanent garden of celebration and remembrance to honour their lives.” Read more about Cross Bones.

Senate House - University of London

Senate House – University of London

The wonderful thing about a good guided walk is the research put into it and even if you only come away with one or two new things it’s been worth it, in my opinion. Yannick Pucci puts a lot of work into his walks and  I think I can say that everyone who was on the Art Deco Bloomsbury tour one blustery Saturday was well satisfied with the tidbits learned.

This photo is of one my favourite buildings, the Senate House, administrative centre of the University of London and I’m sure Yannick won’t mind me saying that this was intended to be part of a much larger site. At 370m in length it would have completely changed the character of this literary part of London. The scale was pulled back when critics like George V said it would look too much like a battleship. Read this article for images of the beautiful detailing on the inside of the building.

Syd's Coffee Stall - Shoreditch

The Oldest Coffee Stall in London – Syd’s

Another tour guide I go out with regularly in London is Ken Titmuss. aka Old Map Man. He introduced me to a couple of local gems on his Shoreditch walk. There’s Syd’s coffee stall that’s still run by the same family (above)…

…and a 500 year old morgue that looks like a garden shed:

Shoreditch morgue

Shoreditch Morgue dating from 1500

Yes, that really is a morgue – and it has a connection with Jack the Ripper.

More on these two anachronisms in a later post.

As long as you’ve got the energy to cope with the crowds, you never do tire of London :o)

5 Unusual Cultural Customs Around the World

This is a guest post by freelance travel writer Cheryl Brown.

The beauty of world travel is that you get to experience different cultures and their traditions and customs. Taking yourself away from your own familiar world and seeing something completely alien to you is always an enriching experience and the world is full of unique customs. Here are five of the most unusual cultural customs that you might come across.

El Colacho - baby-jumping

El Colacho. Pic credit The Guardian

El Colacho

This Spanish custom has been around since 1620, and involves the unusual activity of ‘baby jumping’. Originally, the festival was intended to keep the devil at bay, where jumpers wearing devil costumes run down the street, leaping over babies laid down on mattresses.

As you might expect, injuries occur from time to time, but the festival remains a popular one and is unlikely to be disbanded any time soon.

Monkey Buffet Festival

Monkey Buffet Festival Pic Credit

Monkey Buffet Festival

This particular festival is fairly young – only starting in 1989 – but has since proved to be a great money-maker to the local economy in Lop Buri, Thailand, attracting thousands of interested onlookers each year.

In this particular town, Macaque monkeys have free reign all over the town, often stealing food, clothes, and generally being pests. Rather than trying to stamp out this annoyance, however, the locals honour the monkeys each November by putting on an enormous buffet spread for them, consisting of cakes, candy, and fruits.

The monkeys converge on the tables and cause quite a stir, with thousands of tourists and locals attracted to watch. It is certainly an interesting way of celebrating these mischievous monkeys, and an entertaining one at that.

Blackening of the Bride

Blackening of the Bride. Pic credit

Blackening of the Bride

Most brides like to look as pristine as possible before, during, and after their wedding, and that is what makes this particular custom so interesting. The blackening of the bride is a Scottish tradition that involves friends and family covering her in mud, fish sauces, syrup, spoiled milk, feathers, and all sorts of other nasty things before the wedding. In the Orkneys it’s the groom who’s the victim and occasionally its both bride and groom.

One idea behind is that if the couple can take such humiliation, then all other issues they might face in their marriage will feel insignificant by comparison. Consequently, it is said to lead to a happy marriage for them, allowing them to overcome any and all problems with ease. [Editor note: Another theory is that it helps keep the faeries at bay :o)]

Bullet Ants ritual

Bullet ants ritual. Pic credit Oti the Lis

Bullet Ants Coming of Age Ritual

There are a host of different coming of age rituals from around the world, none more unusual than that endured by young men of the Satere-Mawe tribe in Brazil.

This ritual isn’t complicated, but it’s certainly both painful and a real test of character. For 11 hours, the youngsters put their hands in gloves filled with bullet ants – critters with the highest rating on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index as you can get. These ants get their name because their stings feel like you are literally being shot with a bullet, so you can only imagine what it’s like having to endure relentless stings like this for eleven hours.

If you endure this, you can truly call yourself a man.

Tibetan Sky Burial

Different cultures bury their dead in various different ways. In Tibet, the sky burial is common. With this ritual, the deceased body will be marked with a series of cuts and then positioned on a high mountaintop where it is exposed to the local animals and elements. The ritual is known to show generosity and a way of giving back to nature, just as we,  take advantage of nature’s bounty ourselves.

[Editor Note: No way was I going to add a picture of this!!]

If you are thinking about going travelling, or planning your round the world flights, why not consider including some of these great destinations in your itinerary and take the chance to see some of these unusual customs.

Christie’s: An Out of the Ordinary Exhibition

Buffalo horn hat from "Out of the Ordinary" sale at Christies


Christie’s in South Kensington, London will be holding a one-off sale of unusual items in their “Out of the Ordinary” auction on September 5th 2013. As the items are open to the public to view,  I went along yesterday to take a few snaps.

There’s a lot of great stuff in the salesrooms, and here a few of the photos that worked out:

Two-headed calf at Christie's

Two-headed calf

This very Fortean stuffed two-headed calf dates from the second half of the twentieth century and was made to demonstrate polycephaly (having more than one head).


Titanic bell

Titanic bell

Well, it isn’t actually from the real Titanic. This is a copy used in the 1958 film “A Night to Remember”, starring Kenneth More.


Chaise Madame chair - Denis Cospen

Chaise Madame chair

Denis Copen-designed anthropomorphic chair.


Chaise monsieur chair - Denis Copen

Chaise monsieur chair

And here’s the bloke version!


Cygan robot

Cygan robot

Cygan is an Italian humanoid robot made in 1957 by aeromodeller Dr Ing Fiorito from Turin. He made an appearance at the Windmill Theatre in London in 1958 and opened the British Food Fair of that year. In the 1970s he was sold to a Ford car dealership who named him “Moto” and after that stint found his way into a private collection. He used to be able to walk and turn around, but doesn’t have the facility to do that any more.


Bearded Lady painting Helene Detroyat

Bearded Lady painting

Hélène Detroyat painted this intriguing image of a bearded lady.


Vivienne Westwood hats

Vivienne Westwood hats

The incomparable British designer Vivienne Westwood created the buffalo diamante-horned and bicorne hats pictured above, as well as two cowboy hats that are also being auctioned.


Silvered bronze skeleton

Silvered bronze skeleton

Derek the skeleton (that’s what I’ve called him, anyway) probably comes from Germany and was made in the second half of the twentieth century.


Hiroshi Furuyoshi painting

Hiroshi Furuyoshi painting

This extremely realistic and ever so slightly disturbing was painted by Furuyoshi in 2012.


Cave bear skelton

Cave bear skelton

The cave bear died out 27,500 years ago but fortunately we have really well preserved skeletons like this one, simply because the creatures liked to hide out in caves.


Map of Paris, 1739

Map of Paris, 1739

This enormous birds-eye map of Paris shows buildings such as the Tuileries palace and Bastille prison that no longer exist.


Stuffed peacock

Stuffed peacock

The image doesn’t do justice to the colours of this magnificent peacock.


Marijuana poster

Marijuana poster

America’s drug problem in the 1940s was apparently all down to the nazis, according to the film that this poster advertised (Devil’s Harvest). Doh! to that incorrectly placed apostrophe.

There’s a lot more to see at Christie’s saleroom in South Kensington, so get yourself along before September 5th.

Review: The Forge and Foundry in Camden Town

Camden Town is either a dump, an exciting and vibrant area, a madhouse or a great location, depending on who you speak to.

What it is not is quiet and laid back.

Which is why I’m very pleased to tell you there’s a music venue and restaurant in this inner city area of London where you find peace and quiet, excellent music (and the odd comedy gig or two), if you need it. It’s called The Forge and Foundry.

Just off the main drag that is Camden High Street, The Forge is an arts venue that was opened in 2009 by musicians Adam and Charlotte Caird. It’s an environmentally friendly place designed by Camden architects Burd Haward specifically designed for “small ensemble playing” according to their website. The centre specialises in jazz and classical music.

The Foundry Restaurant, Camden

The Foundry Restaurant

The restaurant is a separate entity in the same building, and it’s called The Foundry – tables can be reserved to watch the events in the adjoining Forge with food supplied by The Foundry.

We visited on a Friday night, when most of Camden’s pubs are filled to bursting with punks, hipsters, tourists and 14 year olds and were pleased to find a little cool haven of tranquility (it was a stiflingly hot day outside).

It’s a beautiful space with wood-clad walls and photos of jazz cats that I’m afraid I didn’t recognise, with very listenable-to jazz being played (not that improvisational stuff that drives a person insane after five minutes listening to it.)

We went for the four small plates menu (four for a tenner) and had healthy tid-bits like chicken goujons, feta and watermelon and crab salad (too much cold potato in it for me, but that’s just me and cold potato). Normal sized main courses are available, too. The food was very good and washed down nicely with a very good pint of Meteor white beer.

The Forge Music Venue, Camden

The Forge Music Venue

The event we were here to see was the Kirsty McGee Trio, part of a summer female artists festival, so we moved on into the music venue part of the building (past the only indoor living wall – 6.5 metres high – in the UK, apparently).

Kirsty’s mix of blues, jazz and folk (all written by herself) was beautiful and atmospheric. In fact, she’s such a good song writer than Danny Boyle has featured one of her tunes has featured in his recent film, Trance. (And my husband has now bought two of her CDs!)

It was a quiet audience to suit the venue but we were appreciative, and speaking for my husband and I anyway, we had a great, chilled out evening after a long work week. The cocktails we had after the beer might have helped …

(Disclosure – we were given tickets to the gig, but paid for our own food and drink. And we’ll definitely be back on our own expense account!)

Have you any chilled-out Camden places you can recommend? I’d love to hear about them below.