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.

Follow The Royal Parks on Twitter @RPFoundation, Facebook/The Royal Parks Foundation – also on Flickr and YouTube

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

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.

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.