I am an introvert. I admit I often feel the overwhelming desire to escape the city and disappear into the countryside just to be away from everyone. Samuel Johnson got it wrong, to be tired of London is not to be tired of life. Be that as it may, I have found over the years that there are some hideaways in the city centre that make life just a little bit more relaxing.
If you're in the City, you can often find a silent spot of sanctuary just off the trodden path...
If near Monument, you can seek out St. Dunstan in the East Church Garden, between Lower Thames Street and Great Tower Street, which is open seven days a week from 08:00-16:30. It is a magnificent walled garden (as shown below left) that blocks out the sound of the bustling city around you and features a soothing water fountain for those needing the comfort of some white noise.
St Pauls Cathedral can often seem over-run with tourists. Adjoining it is Paternoster Square, a wonderful hubbub of bars, restaurants and cafes, and across the road is the shopping centre One New Change. Just a 5 min walk from the Cathedral steps though you can find Postman's Park. It too is open 08:00-16:30 and being off the beaten track it is usually quite quiet. You get the added bonus of passing Christchurch Greyfriars garden which looks beautiful when the lavender is in full bloom.
Covent Garden can be more than enough for most people, so if you need a moment of tranquility head to St Pauls Church (not the Cathedral down the road) and you can find the garden at the back with plenty of benches to collapse on after shopping. It is accessible either from the back, off Bedford Street or at the front there are arched entrance-ways to either side of the main building. I was fortunate when I visited that there was a charity bake-sale going on. Heaven.
The Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington is free for the general public to enter and has several perfect bolt-holes for the introvert. The courtyard has outside seating, a large water feature and access to the cafe; the noise of the surrounding city is completely blocked out. The cafe on the ground floor is stunning, but busy; if you seek a respite from the masses and have a members card head to the 5th floor cafe.
Madeleine Patisserie in Clapham is perfect if you want to go to a cafe alone and just want somewhere to eat cake and read your book. The staff are wonderful and the choice of freshly baked patisseries has every taste covered. The prices are very reasonable and the tea sets make you feel just a little bit like you're treating yourself.
Battersea Park is well known in South West London, but most people tend to stick to the perimeter paths, on foot, bike or rollerblades. It underwent extensive restorations in the late 1990s and early 2000s and in the centre is the Russell Page Garden, a beautiful spot that's often deserted.
Do you have a favourite spot to take refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city? If so please let us know about it in the Comments below...