Mar 312014
 

Paul O’Pray is the Head Concierge of London Bridge Hotel, the independent, four star property located just steps away from London Bridge and The Shard London.   He has worked for the hotel for over 16 years this May and has become famous or perhaps infamous for his idiosyncratic musical choices shared via social media streams.  We caught up with him to ask him for his personal London favourites.

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You obviously love the area – what hidden gems are there hereabouts?

There’s Borough Market of course – unbeatable but I think the biggest gem in the collection has to be the Old Operating Theatre museum – just around the corner from us.  It offers a glimpse into the Victorian age and is atmospheric and bursting with character – a very unique attraction.

The Old Operating Theatre by Sue Lowry

I also like Southwark Cathedral just a couple of minutes walk from us across the road.  It’s a very peaceful oasis in the heart of the city – they offer a daily prayer and sometimes, it’s a very soothing place to visit and be at peace.  There’s a monument to Shakespeare and the Marchioness memorial of course – I always stop for a moment there. Oh and I love the George Inn.  The food is very good – there’s a mix of tourists and city types – it has a wonderful atmosphere and you can really feel the history – the coaches which must have pulled in here for refreshment before travelling onto Dover.

the-george-inn

The George Inn by Sue Lowry

Oh and did you know, the captain of the Mayflower is buried in Bermondsey at the St Mary the Virgin Church in Rotherhide.  Christopher Jones was his name.  London has a wonderful maritime history – and I love its seafaring history.

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St James Park by Sue Lowry

What else do you love about London?

I enjoy our parks – especially Hyde Park. Full of little gardens – you can really lose yourself in there and completely forget you are in the centre of the capital.  I’m a bit of a gardener too so I always visit Regent’s and St James’s Parks to see what’s going on.

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

 

Mar 242014
 

I hope you didn’t miss the tip in the March article about the clocks changing. The UK moves to British Summer Time on Sunday 30 March and the clocks go forward one hour. Which means we’re officially in Spring! It’s also Easter this month with Easter Sunday on 20 April 2014. It is actually one of the few days when all large shops must be closed but most museums and attractions will be open.

SPORTY FUN

This April is a fantastic month for sports fans. The first weekend of the month sees the opening of the South Park of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park over in Stratford. The area looked stunning during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and we’re now free to enjoy the parklands, fountains and walkways again. The Lee Valley VeloPark is open, as is the Copper Box Arena and the wonderful London Aquatics Centre which is the best swimming pool I’ve ever been swimming at. Ever.

AquaticsCentre1

The ArcelorMittal Orbit also reopens on 5 April 2014 (it’s the tall building you can see in the photo above). Designed by Anish Kapoor, it’s the UK’s tallest sculpture and has two high viewing galleries.

On 6 April it’s time for the annual Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race. This is the 160th Boat Race and is one of the oldest sporting events in the world. It doesn’t happen on the stretch of The Thames near the London Bridge Hotel; it’s further west, between Putney Bridge and Chiswick Bridge. It’s a great excuse to sit by the river, or in one of the parks near the race to watch the large screens for the atmosphere. The race starts at 6pm and these are the best places to watch.

The following weekend is the London Marathon (13 April 2014) and you can see it from near to the London Bridge Hotel as the race goes over Tower Bridge at mile 12 before looping around the Docklands and then continuing along the north bank of the river for the last few miles. Good luck if you are running this year and, if not, enjoy cheering on as a spectator.

SHAKESPEARE’S 450TH BIRTHDAY

With 2014 marking 450 years since the birth of playwright William Shakespeare, you can expect plenty of celebrations – especially on 23 April.

A world tour of Hamlet opens on the bard’s birthday at Shakespeare’s Globe to start the open air theatre’s 2014 season. This production will tour every country in the world over a two-year period.

The Rose Theatre has Richard III on this month, and the Noel Coward Theatre will have Shakespeare in Love from July to October.

If you’d like to see the London locations that were known to Shakespeare, London Walks have tours on Wednesdays at 11am and on Sundays at 2pm that combine Shakespeare’s & Dickens’s London.

23 April is also St George’s Day, the patron saint of England, but we’ll celebrate on 21 April 2014 with the Feast of St George in Trafalgar Square. There will be banqueting seating for 250 between the iconic fountains and plenty of stalls to buy something delicious to eat.

 

BERMONDSEY STREET

The latest exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum, Artists Textiles: Picasso to Warhol (which I mentioned in February), has proven so popular that the museum is opening on Sundays from 6 April 2014. They have a series of free Sunday events available and there’s a map you can pick up at the museum that has a local history tour of Bermondsey Street’s fashion heritage.

There’s also a trainers display at the FTM and on Thursday 3 April there’s a panel discussion on How to Wear Trainers with British tailor Timothy Everest MBE and other fashion industry experts.

Across the road at London Glassblowing, Peter Layton is launching two new glass series – Beach and Tempest – for the Spring Open House from 4 to 13 April.

peterlayton

If you are planning to visit Collect: The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects at the Saatchi Gallery from 9 to 12 May, you will also appreciate Gather at London Glassblowing from 25 April to 21 May which will present museum-quality work by the same group of artists exhibited by London Glassblowing at Collect, with the addition of two new names on the glass art scene, Laura McKinley and Elliot Walker.

 

EXTRAS

If you head over to Borough Market, do pop into The Wheatsheaf pub as they have a medieval flagon on display as it was found here during recent railway construction work. It may have been used to serve ale in the Abbot of Waverley’s town house, on the same site as the current pub. The Museum of London have worked out it was made between 1350 and 1440.

Henri Matisse Cut-Outs opens at Tate Modern on 17 April to be the major summer exhibition. And at Tate Britain, sculptor Phyllida Barlow will unveil her largest and most ambitious work for the Tate Britain Commission 2014. It will be on display from 31 March to 2 November 2014.

French couturier Jean Paul Gaultier is celebrated at the Barbican Art Gallery with an exhibition featuring more than 140 of Gaultier’s boundary-pushing designs, including iconic pieces created for Madonna, Kylie Minogue and for the films of Pedro Almodóvar. The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk opens on 9 April and runs to 25 August 2014.

Gaultier

Over at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, Longitude Punk’d displays steampunk artwork inspired by the technical inventions that were presented to the Board of Longitude between 1714 and 1828. The exhibition opens at Easter and runs until February 2015.

The Houses of Parliament has audio tours available from this month so you don’t have to take a guided tour any more. But if you like guided tours the current offering is being extended with more stops to sit and enjoy the building.

Alan Ayckbourn’s A Small Family Business, a riotous exposure of entrepreneurial greed, returns to the National Theatre on the Southbank where it premiered in 1987. The cast is led by Nigel Lindsay as Jack McCracken. The play opens on 1 April and runs to the end of May 2014.

 

PLANNING AHEAD

The London Tweed Run is on 17 May 2014. Do read their Etiquette page which did make me smile. It should be a lot of fun to watch as antique bicycles come out and the dress sense of the participants always adhere to the requirement for gentility and decorum.

Looking further ahead, Tate Britain will have an exhibition of Late Turner paintings opening in September. Once he turned 60 in 1835 there were accusations of madness and senility but this exhibition hopes to show he was just as prolific and just as creative as he travelled more and planned his contentious legacy.

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.

Mar 172014
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today we bring you our twist on the classic Cuban cocktail, made with fresh kiwi, white rum and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

To make this fresh and fun cocktail you will need:

  • 1 ripe kiwi peeled and sliced
  • 50ml white rum
  • 50ml pressed apple juice
  • 15ml lemon juice
  • 15ml sugar syrup

In the bottom of a cocktail maker muddle the kiwi and add the rest of the ingredients and shake well over ice, then double strain and garnish with a slice of kiwi. Sit back and enjoy!

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

Mar 102014
 

There is so much to see in London but for newcomers, (and for Londoners like myself who have never done it),  my suggestion would be to visit the myriad of attractions that surround the Tower of London.  This suggested day out requires both stamina and good walking shoes!

Coming in via Tower Hill Underground and heading for the underpass, you might do a double take as I did when you notice a Roman statue staring at you.  This is not just any Roman centurion – it’s actually a statue of Emperor Trajan and he stands proudly in front of one of the largest parts of the Roman wall still in existence.  The London Wall (as its now known) used to surround the Roman city of Londinium.  (When you have time, a walk around the London Wall is another great “to do”, taking around two hours to complete and you can download a PDF of the route via the Museum of London.)

Anyway – keep heading onwards, following the crowds and in front of you, will loom the fortress of the Tower of London – a palace and a prison where many a terrified citizen has entered and never exited … alive.  It was built to awe and subjugate Londoners and the key building (and the one I headed to immediately) is the White Tower.  What really amazed me when I entered however was the pure scale of the site.  It really is enormous and there is so much to see and so many batiments to walk that you can spend a good few hours here.

Just inside the entrance, you come across a water gate.  This is the infamous Traitor’s Gate - trust me, you don’t want to enter the Tower of London this way – the clue is in the name.  Bad news.

Did you know the Tower of London used to house a Royal Menagerie (AKA zoo) around the time of King John too?  These rather good wire statues give an idea of the other “prisoner” inhabitants of the Tower.

What I really liked?  The costumed actors who inter-acted in perfect character with the public as you walked around.  These children are entranced.  I also liked all the cafes and restaurants scattered around the complex – all are good, well priced and ideal for quick re-fuelling.

Refreshed and revived, from here, it’s but a short walk to the nearby Tower Bridge.  I’ve always had a fascination with this particular London attraction as my god-father used to be Bridge Master here.

Shame he never did get to take me on a private tour but the friendly peeps here make everyone feel at home.  You ride up the lifts to see the walkways (little tip – take photos only from the tiny windows that open above the displays) - descending and walking across the bridge to go downstairs to see the engine rooms.  Just brilliant.

Now walking alongside the River Thames, my next suggested pit-stop is HMS Belfast – a tethered warship just steps from (and photographed from) Tower Bridge.  A World War II cruiser, she saw service from 1939 – 1963 when she retired.

HMS Belfast opened to the public on Trafalgar Day, 1971 under the auspices of the Imperial War Museum.  Today she is the last remaining vessel of her type – one of the largest and most powerful light cruisers ever built.

There’s lots to see on board so a good tip is to leave around 90 minutes for your visit – I highly recommend it and kiddies in particular adore it.

OK, onwards and upwards again just along from HMS Belfast and you come across these amazing public artworks along the footpath.  I couldn’t see the artist’s name for this one – as you can see, it was otherwise engaged – but they are certainly both thought-provoking or amusing – depending on your point of view.

Trundling along the path, I next suggest a quick visit to Shakespeare’s Globe - the recreation of one of London’s famous Elizabethan theatres just a few feet along from where it originally stood.

We have American political refugee, Sam Wanamaker, to thank for this amazing building – without him, it surely would never have happened.  Thanks Sam.

Enjoy one of the many plays enacted on this famous stage (did you see it in Shakespeare in Love?) or just come for a tour of the building.  Quick tip – bring a comfy cushion along or hire one at the Globe if you come to a play – they are wooden seats and the plays can be long in duration.  Enough said.

You will hear all about the South Bank of London and its history – renowned for frivolity and excesses of all kinds and kept at arm’s length from the more serious-minded citizens of The City of London who forbade the operation of such “palaces of debauchery” within its square mile.  Tsk, Tsk.

On for another culture boost and just in the shadow of the Globe lies Tate Modern.  One of the UK’s top three tourist attractions, Tate Modern is housed inside the former Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s Bankside Power Station.  Imaginatively converted by Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron, the views from the top floor restaurant are some of London’s best.  Reservations recommended.

After this day of heroic activity, crawl back home or head for the nearest bar ….. and relax.  Job well done.

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

 

Mar 042014
 

Creative Head Barman Carlo Pallone at Quarter Bar & Lounge  is a cocktail-crafting genius – making everything from classic drinks such as the Old-Fashioned, to his masterpiece to celebrate  The Shard – The Shard-Ini.

Appropriately named, The Shard-Ini takes customers to new heights with its watermelon and passion fruit flavours. For full details on how to make the cocktal, read on…

Ingredients

  • Watermelon (middle part)
  • Passion Fruit
  • Lime Juice
  • Sugar Syrup
  • Passion Fruit Puree
  • Passion Fruit Liquor
  • Vanilla Infused Vodka

1)      Crush the middle part of some watermelon and passion fruit into a glass

2)      Add a dash of lime juice, passion fruit purée and sugar syrup

3)      Add passion fruit liquor and two shots of vanilla infused vodka (to make this insert a some vanilla pods into a                 bottle of vodka for 3-4 days)

4)      Shake and double strain in to a glass garnished with watermelon.

If all this seams like far too much effort, head down to Quarter Bar & Lounge and Carlo will conjure one up for you… you will not be disappointed! Located just three minutes walk away from London Bridge Station, Quarter Bar & Lounge, next  to London Bridge Hotel is the perfect stop off en-route from work (or to – on a bad day).