Oct 242014
 

As Autumn moves towards Winter, November is a great time to be in London. Now that the clocks have gone back (you didn’t forget, did you?) we have darker evenings but that makes Bonfire Night so much fun.

© Nilfanion

© Nilfanion

Firework Displays

Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot…

In 1605 Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. He didn’t succeed, and was caught and executed, but we now commemorate the date with firework displays. There are lots going on from 1 to 8 November so have a look at this handy list and wrap up warm to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the sky.

Veteran Car Run

There’s a lot going on near the start of the month. Sunday 2 November is the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. Groups of cars start to leave Hyde Park from sunrise and go over Westminster Bridge towards south London. The cars can be seen in town until around 10am so this is fun to see if you’re up early.

© Krzysztof Marek Wlodarczyk

© Krzysztof Marek Wlodarczyk

Remembrance  Sunday

With all of the focus on the WWI centenary, this year’s Remembrance Sunday will be especially poignant.

poppy

Remembrance Sunday 2014 is on Sunday 9 November and it’s a time to reflect and remember. There is a National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall in the morning. There is a parade from around 9.30am and a 2 minute silence at 11am. Members of the Royal Family will be attending.

© Richard Lea-Hair and Historic Royal Palaces

© Richard Lea-Hair and Historic Royal Palaces

Do go to the Tower of London too as the moat has been filled with ceramic poppies for the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation. The poppies are there until 11 November.

Behind-the-scenes at Tower Bridge 

From Saturday 15 November, you can book a Tower Bridge Engineering Tour running on weekends throughout December, January and March.

© Quistnix

© Quistnix

These two-hour tours usually sell out so do book ahead. After a self-guided tour of the high walkways and the Bridge’s Engine Rooms, one of the Bridge’s Senior Technical Officers escorts visitors to several areas normally out of bounds to the public, including the Bridge Control Room and the immense Bascule Chambers below river level.  Tickets are £50 each and visitors must be over 12 years old.

Sherlock Holmes

The latest major exhibition at the Museum of London has opened and is well worth seeing. Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die is on until 12 April 2015 and gives an insight to the world most famous consulting detective. (I reviewed the exhibition here.) To test your detective skills, can you work out where the entrance is to the exhibition?

Can you see the way in? You push open the second bookcase on the left.

No, it’s not by the hatstand on the right. You actually push open the second bookcase on the left.

Also at the Museum of London, A Bear Called Paddington opens on 14 November, and The Paddington Trail means 50 Paddington statues are across London from 4 November to 30 December. All of this is because of the new Paddington movie in the cinemas from 28 November. There’s a nice tie-in with the Sherlock Holmes exhibition though as the Museum of London will have the Paddington statue designed by Benedict Cumberbatch, the lead in the BBC TV series Sherlock.

Year of The Bus

As well as the Paddington bears, you can also go spotting decorated London bus sculptures across town.

© TfL

© TfL

There are 60 bus scultpures to find in the Year of the Bus Sculpture Trails with three trails in place already and another coming before Christmas.

Spooky Night Out

If Halloween wasn’t scary enough for you, The London Dungeon has some evening openings for grown-ups only. As well as the usual shrieks and fun there’s a Victorian Gin Palace Bar and a dressing-up box for all. Book ahead for Friday 7 and Friday 21 November and Friday 5 and Friday 19 December.

Lates

Another spooky, but more civilised idea is a Candlelight tour of The Queen’s House in Greenwich. This intimate evening tour with a curator is on Thursday 20 November, 7-8pm, and takes in The Art and Science of Exploration 1768-80 exhibition.

Lord Mayor’s Show

The highlight of the month for many is this annual free parade and show.

© Howard Russell

© Howard Russell

On 8 November, you can see the three-mile long parade go from Mansion House in The City of London to the Royal Courts of Justice. The Procession leaves Mansion House at 11am and arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice at 12.40pm where the Lord Mayor leaves the coach and swears an oath of allegiance before the return journey starts at 1.15pm and ends at 2.40pm.

If you’re up early, do go and see the Lord Mayor travelling down The Thames in the Queen’s Row Barge Gloriana in a flotilla from near Waterloo Bridge to Tower Bridge (which will open in salute) starting from 9am.

But don’t think that’s it as the day is capped off nicely with fireworks from a barge on The Thames, near Blackfriar’s Bridge at 5.15pm. The best views will be from the South Bank and the Victoria Embankment.

V&A Italian Cast Court

For some indoor culture during these colder days, the Victoria and Albert Museum is free and always worth a visit. The Weston Cast Court has been refurbished and reopens on 29 November.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Italian Cast Court features over 60 of the V&A’s finest 19th-century reproductions of important Italian Renaissance monuments. It includes some of the largest objects in the V&A’s collection, including the five metre high cast of Michelangelo’s David (c.1856), the set of electrotype doors cast from the Gates of Paradise at Florence Cathedral (c.1867) measuring over seven and a half metres in height and a plaster cast of a pulpit from Pisa Cathedral by Giovanni Pisano (c.1865).

For an enjoyable reason to stay longer at the V&A, on Tuesday 18 November, 6.30-7.30pm, Michael Palin is discussing the third volume from his diaries: Travelling to Work. Do book in advance.

Christmas is Coming

lights

Although we’re not in December you will see signs all over London that Christmas is coming soon. The Christmas lights are switched on across the West End during early to mid November and the ice rinks arrive at the same time.

LOOKING AHEAD

Book now for the latest theatrical adaptation of E. Nesbit’s classic novel, The Railway Children, at a new theatre space in King’s Cross from 16 December. I saw this a few years ago when it was at Waterloo Station and it’s a wonderful show. There’s a real steam train involved and I defy anyone do not shed a tear when Bobbie cries “Daddy, my daddy!” at the end.

If you’d like the opportunity to explore a disused tube station, tours of Aldwych station are available from 22 January to 15 February 2015. Booking opened on 27 October so get in quick as these tours are very popular.

Sep 252014
 

While there is still plenty going on around Bankside for the Merge Festival (ends 19 October 2014) don’t forget to see Alex Chinnock’s Miner on the Moon which was created for the 2013 festival and is an upside down house by Blackfriars Bridge which I mentioned back in January.

© Laura Porter

© Laura Porter

 

The Big Draw is on all month and there are lots of events across the country. Near to London Bridge Hotel, this talk at The Menier Gallery looks good and this vintage fashion drawing workshop at the Fashion & Textile Museum looks great too (although it is for 12-16 year olds).

 

If the darker evenings make you feel like heading to the cinema, the BFI London Film Festival is on from 8 to 19 October and has 248 films on offer. Or check out some of the events or festival menus for the London Restaurant Festival on from 8 to 27 October.

London Restaurant Festival illustration

 

 

NATURE

There are a couple of interesting events happening on Saturday 11 October at London Zoo and WWT London. London Zoo has a History and Architect Day and the London Wetland Centre has an introduction to bird watching day.

 

Another good way to support ZSL London Zoo’s conservation work is Roar With Laughter – a night of comedy on 17 October at the Apollo Theatre in Hammersmith.

 

TRADITION

London’s Pearly Kings and Queens are always a treat to see and they are having their Harvest Festival at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden on Sunday 12 October. They are outside the church from 10am and are always happy to say hello. The church service is at 11am.

PearlyKing

 

MAJOR AUTUMN EXHIBITIONS

As I mentioned in September, the major autumn exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is Anarchy and Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy 1860-1960 and it opens on 16 October 2014 (and ends on 11 January 2015).

William Morris by Frederick Hollyer, 1884. © National Portrait Gallery, London

William Morris by Frederick Hollyer, 1884. © National Portrait Gallery, London

I’m also looking forward to seeing the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London which opens on 17 October 2014 (and ends on 12 April 2015). This is the first major exhibition devoted to the world’s greatest detective in 60 years.

 

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

London Cocktail Week is on from 6 to 12 October and The Quarter Bar & Lounge is taking part. Once you’ve bought your festival wristband you can enjoy the signature cocktail for just £4.

If you enjoy free speech and sharing intellectual discussion the Battle of Ideas at the Barbican Centre on 18 and 19 October looks particularly good. It’s an annual event and encourages high level, thought-provoking debate.

Head down to Greenwich, to the National Maritime Museum, on Thursday 23 October (6.30-7.30pm) where The Virtue of Coffee will be discussed. Admission includes entry to the Ships, Clock & Stars exhibition.

If you are looking to buy something unique, Made London on 24-26 October is well worth seeing as it is one of the top selling events for designer makers in Europe.

On Sunday 26 October October Plenty is happening on Bankside and is one of the great quirky London traditions. It’s the annual Autumn harvest celebration and includes a procession and an outdoor play. Borough Market’s Apple Day is on the same day so it’s fun to attend both.

OctoberPlenty

 

Don’t forget, the clocks go back on the last Sunday of October so we gain an extra hour in bed on Sunday 26 October.

timeFlies

 

LOOKING AHEAD

As there’s a new Paddington Bear film coming out soon, fifty Paddington statues will be placed across London close to museums, parks, shops and key cultural and landmark hotspots. The Paddington Trail will be available from 4 November to 30 December.

The the big event for November in The City is the Lord Mayor’s Show which will be on 8 November with the usual wonderful procession of floats.

 

Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. You can sign up for special offer alerts here. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Aug 252014
 

This is a wonderful month to be by the water as London is having its first month-long Totally Thames Festival. The 30-day programme features over 100 river-related events along its entire 42 mile course through the capital.

Photo credit: Barry Lewis

Photo credit: Barry Lewis

Some of the highlights include a new sculpture for the River Thames by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman (he did the outsized Rubber Duck) which will be launched on 2 September and will remain at Nine Elms on the South Bank until 29 September.

I want to see the Mapping London free exhibition of rare maps of London at gallery@oxo (5-14 September, 11am-6pm) covering the dramatic transformations of the Thames landscape and the art of cartography from 1572 to 2013.

St Katharine Docks, next to Tower Bridge, has a free family-friendly celebration of classic, historic and working boats for the Classic Boat Rally on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 September, 11am-6pm. Both working and leisure boats will be in the dock for public enjoyment and tours. Highlights will include the Queen’s Row Barge “Gloriana” along with “Massey Shaw” fire boat, the Steamtug “Portwey” and SB “Cambria” amongst others.

 

GREENWICH

An excellent reason to head to the Royal Borough of Greenwich is the Tall Ships Festival from 5 to 9 September. The five day free festival is at historic Greenwich, Royal Arsenal Woolwich, Greenwich Peninsula and West India Dock.

10499448_580198205423170_8661232236338903171_o

There will be opportunities to board some tall ships moored along the Greenwich waterfront and there will be evening fireworks displays on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 September. The festival launch and closing Parade should be well worth seeing.

Another reason to go to Greenwich this month is the Greenwich Comedy Festival from 24 to 28 September.

 

FOODIES

Tobacco Dock is the place to be for all carnivores as Meatopia on 6-7 September is a complete meat feast. (And don’t forget you can get a Londinium Rib Eye Steak at the London Bridge Hotel.)

Bermondsey Street Festival on 20 September will have lots of local food and drink as well as live music and stalls and a popular dog show.

Screenshot 2014-08-20 at 21.07.50

Carnival del Kerb is bringing street food to SE1 on 5 and 12 September for Friday night fun at The Paperworks. The Carnival evenings will run from 5pm to 11pm, bringing together 12 street food traders alongside live music and a full bar.

 

TRANSPORT THEME

On Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 September 2014, London Transport Museum opens the doors of its Depot in Acton, for the Battle Bus Open Weekend with activities focusing on the role of London’s Transport in the First World War. Visitors will have access to the Depot’s vast collections store which only opens to the public occasionally. A highlight of the open weekend will be the appearance of the Museum’s 1914 B-type bus No. 2737, now stripped of its London paintwork and converted into a wartime ‘Battle Bus’ with khaki livery and boarded up windows, ready to transport troops to the Front Line.

Acton

 

In central London, at Design Junction from 18 to 21 September, you can visit a London bus themed bar too.

Screenshot 2014-08-20 at 21.14.19

 

DESIGN FESTIVALS

The MERGE Festival returns from 18 September to 19 October with exhibitions, performances, events and happenings drawing on the rich heritage and contemporary culture of Bankside.

London Design Festival is on from 13 to 21 September and is using the V&A as the main hub for the nine day event. A broad range of installations will be spread throughout the Museum, including a kinetic sculpture in the Raphael Gallery by designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby. The two suspended large mirrored silver structures will alter the perception of the gallery, cast new views on the Raphael cartoons and create an immersive experience for the visitor, I’m told.

 

EXPLORING

One of my favourite weekend’s of the year is Open House London when over 800 buildings open their doors for visitors to nose around. I’ve been inside government buildings, historic and modern houses, windmills and many more fascinating places. This year the fun is happening on 20 and 21 September.

I’d also recommend the Walk London Autumn Ambles Weekend on 26 and 27 September as there are lots of free guided walks on offer to give you a reason to get to know a new area.

If you find yourself in the City, look out for the Sculpture in the City artwork on the streets. And across London look out for the Talking Statues.

 

ALSO

If you’d like a free wet shave you should visit the Yes Sir Social Media Pop Up on 18-20 September in Marylebone. You simply pay with a tweet, facebook status update or Instagram.

If crafts are your thing, Kirsty Allsop’s Handmade Fair is at Hampton Court Palace from 19 to 21 September.

The Geffrye Museum has its annual celebration of ceramics at the Ceramics in the City fair on 19/20/21 September.

And if you’d like to know the mathematical secrets of The Simpsons and Futurama, this event at the Science Museum on 27 September will help.

 

Looking Ahead

On 17 October, the next major exhibition opens at the Museum of London about everyone’s favourite fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes. I’m also really looking forward to the major autumn exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery which opens on 16 October: Anarchy and Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy 1860-1960. And LEGO is in focus at The Art of The Brick which opens on 26 September.

 

Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. You can sign up for special offer alerts here. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Aug 212014
 

The Shard

The View2

The view 3

The View 4

The View

Here’s some View facts:

  • The Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe
  • The View is situated on floors 68, 69 and 72 – the last is open aired
  • The View From The Shard is twice the height of any other viewing platform in London.
  • It costs (at the time of writing) GBP24.95 for a timed entrance for an adult and GBP18.95 for a child.
  • For more information – www.theviewfromtheshard.com / Twitter:  @ShardView

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

 

Jul 252014
 

July was an amazing month for sporting fans with the Tour de France coming to London, as well as the Wimbledon Tennis Championships and the World Cup.

For more sporting memories head to the Museum of London where a new gallery opens in the courtyard on 25 July called Designing a Moment: The London 2012 Cauldron. This new pavilion was built by the same technical team behind the London 2012 Cauldron and is the first permanent addition to the museum since 2010.

© Heatherwick Studio

© Heatherwick Studio

The gallery includes two huge sections of the Cauldron – including the original steel stems and test versions of the copper elements. Combined they are some of the largest objects the museum has ever acquired. One section presents the Cauldron in an upright position, as it was for the majority of both Games. The other is the Cauldron in an open formation, as if frozen at that climactic defining moment of the opening Olympic ceremony. Yeah, I expect it’s going to be quite emotional seeing this one but I’m looking forward to it.

The big cycle race this month is Prudential Ride London – a two-day festival of cycling on 9 & 10 August. On the Saturday there’s an eight-mile traffic-free cycle around London and on the Sunday a race from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for a 100-mile challenge. There will be large screens to watch the action in Green Park and on The Mall, and there will be festivals in Wimbledon and Hampton Wick in west London.

PrudentialRide

 

There are many reasons to go to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park this summer – and not only for the fountains which seem to keep many families entertained all day.

fountains

The Great British Carnival on Sunday 27 July is a day of dance, music and performances from midday with a grand finale at 8.30-9.30pm of The Carnival of the Animals: a magical twilight crescendo of costumed performers, 300 dancers, giant carnivalesque creatures and extraordinary illumination.

Shademakers Horses

 

And it’s National Paralympic Day on 30 August so the QE Olympic Park will be the place to see Paralympics GB medallists in the London Aquatics Centre, plus international athletes competing in Boccia, Goalball and Wheelchair Basketball at the Copper Box Arena. There will also be loads of free, family-friendly entertainment plus the Mayor of London’s Liberty Festival with deaf and disabled artists performing street theatre, dance, live music, and much more.

 

If you have the kids with you, and it is school holiday time, Eltham Palace has activities for young explorers every Sunday to Tuesday throughout the month. Events range from Awesome Archaeology, to the Ugly Bug Safari, plus a Knights & Princesses Academy. I’ll admit, I’m tempted myself.

IMG_7568

 

As this month is the centenary of the start of World War One there is a suggestion to turn our lights out at 10pm in the UK on 4 August as a time to reflect. Another interesting project is The Letter to The Unknown Soldier at Platform One at Paddington Station where the statue is reading a letter and we’re all invited to write to him. But the biggie in London is the reopening of the Imperial War Museum with new First World War galleries as well as the new objects in the redesigned and larger atrium. (My review.)

IWM

 

Another centenary celebration is at ZSL London Zoo during the Little Creatures Family Festival from Friday 29 to Sunday 31 August as it was 100 years ago that Winnie the bear arrived at the zoo. The black bear was a mascot for the Canadian regiment and was given to London Zoo at the start of World War One. The author A.A. Milne often brought his son, Christopher Robin, as the young boy really loved the bear.

Winnie the bear and Christopher Robin. © ZSL London Zoo

Winnie the bear and Christopher Robin. © ZSL London Zoo

 

The Geffrye Museum in east London is celebrating its centenary this month and the tri-centenary of the opening of the almshouses for the poor and elderly. It’s a museum of English domestic interiors and has period room-sets to admire from the 17th century to today. The summer events will be indoors and out as they have period gardens too, and there’s lots of fun planned including a free family day on Sunday 17 August.

 

As this is now truly summer time it’s good to plan more outdoor time and the Books About Town trails are fun for all ages. Fifty benches have been placed around London – grouped into four trail areas – designed by local artists and famous names to celebrate London’s literary heritage. Enjoy finding the benches, or simply sitting in the sunshine to read a good book. There are events happening at the benches throughout the summer. For example, the That’s Not My… bench has a photo booth on Wednesday 6 August. The benches are staying until 15 September and will then be auctioned for charity.

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 11.36.34

Planning Ahead

If the Londinium grilled rib eye steak makes you salivate you’ll want to know about Meatopia on 6 & 7 September. And if you want to feel more connected to the famous Thames river that divides London, Totally Thames is a festival running throughout the whole of September.

 

Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. You can sign up for special offer alerts here. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondonand on Facebook as AboutLondonLaura.

Jul 162014
 

Vegetarians look away now. Today we celebrate the humble steak, always a guaranteed  crowd pleaser and this grilled rib eye, isn’t just any grilled rib eye, it is a Londinium grilled rib eye!

Take 2,000 years of Roman history, mix with a measure of contemporary design, blend with red suede furnishings and rich brown walnut floors, add a pinch of soft lighting and crisp white linen and sprinkle with relaxing music and a welcoming ambiance … and you’ll get a taste ofLondinium.

Londinium can be found on the lower floor of London Bridge Hotel. Open in the evening from 5.30pm – 10.00pm daily with dishes starting at GBP6.00.

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

Jun 252014
 

I hope you’ve been following the London Bridge Hotel blog as there have been some great tips on what to see at Kensington Gardens and a review of the Matisse exhibition at Tate Modern. And I have plenty more recommendations for you now summer is here.

Tour de France

In my last post about June in London I mentioned a few of the highlights coming up in July. The Tour de France whizzing through London on Monday 7 July is a major treat.

The riders will leave Cambridge around midday, go through Essex, then east London and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park before passing the Tower of London and the Houses of Parliament to reach Buckingham Palace around 3.30-4pm. The ‘Fan Parks’ will be in Trafalgar Square and Green Park for you to enjoy the atmosphere and watch the action on the big screen.

 

What’s That Noise?

If you are near the Thames on Saturday 28 June you may well hear a sound signal from the vessels on the river at 6pm. Ships are being encouraged (although it is not compulsory) to give one long prolonged blast of their horn at this time to indicate mourning, in memory of the firing of the first shot in WWI.

I hope the Imperial War Museum shop still has these mugs in the shop!

I hope the Imperial War Museum shop still has these mugs in the shop!

The Imperial War Museum reopens on Saturday 19 July with new First World War Galleries as well as revealing the new, reconfigured atrium with its large object displays.

 

120th Anniversary

Tower Bridge was officially opened on 30 June 1894 by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) so the most famous bridge in the world is celebrating its 120th anniversary on Monday 30 June. This is a great day to visit the Tower Bridge Exhibition as admission will be just £1.20 for the day. There’s also a free exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery (ends 30 June) celebrating 120 Years of Tower Bridge.

TowerBridge500

 

Design Museum Birthday Party

Close to Tower Bridge, there’s another birthday party on Saturday 5 July for the Design Museum as it celebrates its 25th year at its current home – a converted banana warehouse in Shad Thames. It’s an all-day event with a BBQ by the river. The first 25 guests will receive a goodie bag and visitors are encouraged to bring photos and mementoes from the Design Museum and Shad Thames for a free family-friendly Memory Lane workshop exploring the museum’s unwritten history.

Image © Design Museum. Photographer: Luke Hayes

Image © Design Museum. Photographer: Luke Hayes

 

Wimbledon Al Fresco

The Wimbledon Championships are on until Sunday 6 July and The Refinery Bar on Southwark Street has an outdoor terrace with striped deck chairs and a big screen making this a fine place for a glass of Pimm’s while watching the tennis. They will also be showing the World Cup Final on Sunday 13 July and there are film nights here too.

Refinery500

Another venue for open-air cinema is The Scoop, by City Hall, where the 2014 More London Free Festival has started so look out for free music every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday lunchtime and evening, and open-air cinema every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evening.

The Refinery are showing Belleville Rendezvous on Sunday 13 July at 1pm as part of the Bastille Festival on Bankside which includes cheese and wine tasting at Vinopolis, pétanque at La Cave Restaurant and lots of fun at Borough Market.

 

Digital Revolution

I haven’t fully got my head around the amount of things going on at the Barbican Centre this summer as there’s simply so much! The Digital Revolution is on from 3 July to 14 September and explores and celebrates the transformation of the arts through digital technology since the 1970s.

The creative possibilities offered by technologies including augmented reality, artificial intelligence, wearable technologies, robotics and 3D printing will be included plus Robert Henke: Lumière and Robin Fox: RGB on Saturday 19 July for audiovisual laser performances.

Other great concerts at Barbican this month include American singer-songwriter, pianist and composer Ben Folds performing the European premiere of his new Piano Concerto on Saturday 5 July and the Founder of The Specials and 2 Tone Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA Orchestra and Reggae Ensemble on Friday 18 July.

 

Dancing In The City

It’s Big Dance Week 2014 from 5 to 13 July so look out for the Big Dance Routemaster Bus in town. It’ll be in Covent Garden on Tuesday 8 July and on Regent Street on Sunday 6 July as part of Regent Street Summer Streets where all Sundays are traffic-free this month.

Image by Lucy Hill

Image by Lucy Hill

 

Theatre Tips

Gillian Anderson is starring in A Streetcar Named Desire at The Young Vic from 23 July to 6 September. It’s a sold out show but look out for returns on the day.

Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles opens for preview performances on Wednesday 30 July with booking until 6 September 2014. The play was a hit in Liverpool and the story of this 1960’s icon who shaped music across the world should be popular in London too.

 

Planning Ahead

If you’re heading over to Greenwich with the kids do visit Doctor Geof’s Fantastical Steampunk Tea Museum at Cutty Sark from 16 July to 30 September. And over in the Docklands, the Museum of London Docklands has a free summer exhibition called Bridge on until 2 November featuring rare images of London’s bridges. And don’t forget, Southbank Centre’s Festival of Love is on until the end of August.

 

Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. You can sign up for special offer alerts here. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as AboutLondonLaura.

Jun 132014
 

Next time you are staying with us or Kensington House Hotel, why not pay Kensington Gardens a visit?  There are a wide number of things to do and see within the confines of this 242 acre park, one of eight Royal Parks in the capital.   Bought by William III in 1689 from what was originally part of Hyde Park, he commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to design the redbrick building that is Kensington Palace.  Queen Anne enlarged the Palace Gardens by ‘transferring’ 30 acres from Hyde Park and was responsible for the creation of the Orangery in 1704. It was Queen Caroline, wife of George II, who in 1728 moulded the gardens to their present form by creating the Serpentine and the Long Water from the Westbourne stream. Queen Victoria was born in Kensington Palace and lived there until she became queen in 1837.

For most of the 18th century the gardens were closed to the public. They were opened gradually but only to the respectably dressed!

Kensington Palace

Originally built for William III and Mary II at the end of the 17th century, Kensington Palace has been a museum, a barracks and a private residence.  It is perhaps best known today as the London home of Diana, Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  There are a great many rooms to see – the Queen’s and The Kings Apartment’s as well as the room where Queen Victoria was born.  Temporary exhibitions are a constant draw and at present, it’s all about The First Georgians, celebrating 300 years of Hanoverian rule.

These accompanying Palace gardens really enhance the setting of the Palace as well as being a lovely spot to sit and take in the magnificent planting.  The cafe by the way is well priced and a good place to fuel up for further expeditions in the Gardens.  Entrance starts at GBP16.50 for adults or GBP15.40 if booked online.  It is free for Historic Royal Palaces members.

Henry Moore’s Arch

Located at the end of one of the longest uninterrupted avenue vistas in London lies Henry Moore’s glorious Arch, opposite Kensington Palace and overlooking the lake.  It is inspired by life and natural objects (a bone in this case) but evokes comparisons with other monumental structures such as Stonehenge.  This mammoth sculpture, crafted from Travertine marble, was originally created for Kensington Gardens following a major retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery in 1978.  It was restored in 1996 and repositioned in its original site.

Statue of Peter Pan

Commissioned by the author himself – Sir James Barrie – from artist George Frampton RA, the statue appeared overnight on 1st May 1912 and caused something of a sensation after an announcement made about it in The Times that morning advising “there is a surprise in store for the children who go to Kensington Gardens to feed the ducks in the Serpentine this morning”.   In the book, The Little White Bird, Peter flies out of his nursery and lands beside the Long Water and this is exactly where the statue is located.

Barrie had apparently met a family – the Llewellyn Davies – in Kensington Gardens and based the Darling Family from the book on them.  Indeed the statue is said to be based on young Michael Llewellyn Davies.

 The Italian Gardens

I didn’t know that The Italian Gardens even existed before I perused the website for Kensington Gardens.  The Italian Gardens are situated on the north side of Kensington Gardens, near Lancaster Gate and are effectively an 150-year-old ornamental water garden. It is said that the gardens were created by a love-sick Prince Albert for his bride Queen Victoria and it consists of four main basins with central rosettes and a stunning white marble Tazza Fountain – all surrounded by intricately carved stone statues and urns.  Located at the head of The Long Water, the river which flows through Kensington Gardens into Hyde Park where it becomes The Serpentine, these gardens were restored in 2011 with help from the Tiffany & Co Foundation of NYC.  They are now protected by English Heritage who have listed them Grade II as a site of particular importance.

The Albert Memorial

The most extravagant, the most recognisable and perhaps the most poignant statue in London for me has to be Queen Victoria’s memorial to her late lamented husband, Prince Albert, opposite the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, London in Kensington Gardens.  It commemorates the life and work of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha – a life cut short at just 42 when he died of typhoid fever. He left behind him a grief-stricken widow who would wear her mournful weeds for the rest of her life.

This memorial to her husband took eight years to complete, was designed in the gothic manner by Sir George Gilbert Scott (architect of St Pancras) and involved an army of artists and craftsmen in its complex design.  For some, and it is rumoured The Queen is among them, it is a little too ornate but it certainly helps you keep to your bearings in the park.

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Jun 042014
 

 

If you only visit one exhibition this year, make sure it’s the Matisse Cut-outs at Tate Modern, opening tomorrow until 7th September 2014.   I predict that the Tate has a major blockbuster on its hands here. Brilliantly curated with a light touch, these masterpieces from the latter end of Matisse’s life emit an unqualified joie de vivre which will appeal to all ages and leave you with a smile on your face. Make sure you take the accompanying headphone tour as there are anecdotes galore which only add to your enjoyment.

Handwritten illustrated books mix with the major pieces, each looking as fresh as the day they were commissioned. It is the most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to the artist’s paper cut-outs made between 1937 and 1954 and features 130 works, many seen together for the first time. When ill health prevented Matisse from painting, he began to cut into painted paper with scissors and in a very simplistic explanation, a new art form was born.  His will to continue creating works of art must have been extraordinary strong – I am in awe of his genius and I am sure I will return again to see this incredible exhibition.

Henri Matisse:  The Cut-Outs at Tate Modern is open from 17th April – 7th September 2014.  Tickets (with donation) are GBP18.  For a quieter viewing, book the Sunday evenings where visitors are restricted from 20.00 – 22.30.  Can’t get to London but you live in the UK or Eire, then from 3rd June, Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs Live will be shown live at selected cinemas.

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May 242014
 

This is definitely a more lively time of year to visit London as I had a lot more choice on fun events and happenings to share with you. Here are my recommendations for the start of summer in London.

As I mentioned in May, this month starts with London Wine Week which runs from 2 to 8 June and the Quarter Bar & Lounge at London Bridge Hotel is participating.

LondonWineWeek

 

I also mentioned ZSL London Zoo last month as there is so much going on there throughout the summer months. Zoo Lates is back on every Friday in June and July plus a bonus night in August. As well as seeing the animals in the evening, there’s comedy and the popular silent disco too.

Zoolates

 

Apsley House was the home to the Duke of Wellington after his victory over Napoleon at Waterloo. For two weekends this month (14-15 and 21-22 June) there’s the Waterloo Festival where you can get close to Wellington’s troops but also gossip with the soldier’s wives.

© English Heritage

© English Heritage

 

Sunday 22 June is the Regent Street Bus Cavalcade as part of the celebrations for Year of the Bus. Around 30 buses, dating from 1908 to today, will fill this famous street and visitors will be able to explore the buses and take part in activities. I hear Mo Willems’s “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” is going to feature during the day which only encourages me to go even more. The buses will be assembling at Albert Embankment and making their way to Regent Street for midday.

Regent Street in the 1950s. © The National Archives

Regent Street in the 1950s. © The National Archives

 

Welcome to The Hotel California

The Eagles have added some extra dates at The O2 for their History of The Eagles show and London Bridge Hotel does a nice O2 Package that includes tickets for the fast boat to The O2, as well as your hotel accommodation.

TheEagles

 

Another reason to head to Greenwich is the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF14) which runs from 20 to 28 June and always has something bonkers but brilliant to see. There’s plenty of outdoor theatre, and the country’s biggest programme of outdoor dance as well as ingenious and surprising art installations. The full line-up is announced in mid-May.

GDIF11 © Doug Southall

GDIF11 © Doug Southall

 

The world’s longest, toughest and most prestigious powerboat race is starting from St Katherine’s Docks, near the Tower of London. We can view the impressive vessels here from 4-6 June and on Saturday 7 June The Venture Cup race to Monte Carlo starts the 2,750 mile adventure with the first leg heading down The Thames towards Greenwich. On the viewing days before there is a Venture Cup fanzone with food stalls and drinks stands plus art installations and a comedy festival.

St_Katharines_Docks

 

From 18 to 22 June, Regent’s Park is transformed into a foodie wonderland for Taste of London. Top restaurants get to show off the best from their menu for you to savour. There are also cooking demonstrations and the chance to meet some of London’s best chefs including Michel Roux Jr and Theo Randall.

© Anamariasmith

© Anamariasmith

 

Southbank Centre’s Festival of Love starts at the end of the month and runs until the end of August. It includes a rooftop garden and lots of free events including different-themed weekends. The festival will highlight seven kinds of love inspired by the Ancient Greeks who actually used around thirty words to better describe their love.

Festivaloflove

 

Planning Ahead

Monday 7 July 2014 is an exciting day in London as the Tour de France is arriving in town! Stage 3 of The Grand Depart sees elite cyclists riding from Cambridge to central London, passing near the London Bridge Hotel at Tower Bridge. Big screens and entertainment can be found at Trafalgar Square and Green Park so get out and support the riders.  I remember when the Tour de France came to London in 2007 and you’ll be amazed at their speed.

 

And Buckingham Palace opens for its annual summer opening from 26 July 2014 with a special exhibition about Royal Childhood where we can see toys and treasured family gifts as well as previously unseen photographs and film footage.

Image credit: Royal Collection Trust / (C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Image credit: Royal Collection Trust / (C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. You can sign up for special offer alerts here. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as@AboutLondonand on Facebook as AboutLondonLaura.