Laura Porter

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.

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.

Apr 252014
 

May is a lovely time to be in London as the days are getting longer and the options to be outside, with a greater chance of dry weather, are more plentiful.

REGENT’S PARK

I was inspired by Paul O’Pray, Head Concierge of London Bridge Hotel, who likes to visit Regent’s Park and there are a few good reasons to head there during May.

The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre 2014 season opens on 15 May with Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. It’s a 20th century classic with a story of denial, guilt and a confrontation that leads to a shameful family secret.

open-air-theatre

The Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park is the only professional, outdoor theatre in Britain. It offers a range of events and performances from May through to September.

On the north side of Regent’s Park is London Zoo where there’s a Silent Cinema from 6 to 10 May. The special five nights starts with ’90s classic Jumanji and concludes with childhood-favourite, The Jungle Book.

London-Zoo-cinema

I’ve always admired the old Lubetkin penguin pool at London Zoo so the new History Tours at the Zoo sound like a really good idea. From April to November, on the last Friday and Saturday of each month, the history tours will look at the beginning of the Zoological Gardens in 1826, how it helped to inspire Charles Darwin, plus the famous listed buildings. London Zoo has some incredible heritage – it’s actually where we get the word ‘zoo’ from as it was the first.

© ZSL - Lubetkin Penguin Pool

© ZSL – Lubetkin Penguin Pool

MUSEUMS AT NIGHT

15 to 17 May is when many museums and cultural venues stay open late for the annual Museums at Night festival. As you would expect, there’s lots going on across London but, again, I took inspiration from Paul O’Pray as he recommended the Old Operating Theatre close to London Bridge Hotel.

On 16 May the Old Operating Theatre is opening for “Night of The Bodysnatcher” so you can hear about the gruesome profession of the Resurrectionists – the men who supplied corpses to the dissecting rooms of London from the graves of the city.

Old Operating Theatre - Image © Sue Lowry

Old Operating Theatre – Image © Sue Lowry

A much less frightful option would be to visit Apsley House on Friday 16 or Saturday 17 May (6-8pm) to explore the resplendent rooms after dark and hear the tales of the house’s fascinating history brought to life. This was the Duke of Wellington’s home and is also known as ‘Number One London’.

QUIRKY ENGLISH FUN

I mentioned the Tweed Run in the ‘Planning Ahead‘ section last month as it’s a fine example of English eccentricity. On 17 May look out for the genteel gentlemen cyclists, along with some fair ladies too, as they take to the streets on bicycles old and new. It’s all about looking the part and “overdressed” is not in their vocabulary!

There’s more English fun the week before on 11 May as it is the 39th Covent Garden May Fayre. You can expect a Grand Procession in the morning and Punch and Judy puppet performances throughout the afternoon.

Another English tradition is a pint at the pub and Pint of Science, on from 19 to 21 May, allows you to combine having a drink with learning something scientific. The talks are cheap (less than the price of a pint) and there are dozens of pubs to choose from as well as topics to select.

Close to the London Bridge Hotel, The Rose Theatre has a sponsored Readathon, on 31 May, of twelve plays by Shakespeare and Marlowe – many of which were performed at this 16th century theatre.

 FURTHER AFIELD

There’s an Art Deco Fair at Eltham Palace, in Greenwich, on 10-11 May, so you can surround yourself with Art Deco decadence and sample the splendour of the thrilling thirties with an abundance of vintage stalls to satisfy the most ardent shopper. If you miss this date there’s another on 13-14 September.

Kenwood House, on the edge of Hampstead Heath, has a Foodies Festival on Friday 30 May to Sunday 1 June (11am-7pm). It will be a celebration of fine food and drink in a beautiful outdoor setting, with plenty of cookery demonstrations, plus kids can learn to cook too in the Children’s Cookery Theatre. I’m looking forward to afternoon tea in the Vintage Tea Tent and taking part in one of the tea dances.

PLANNING AHEAD

Southbank Centre’s annual Meltdown festival has been running since 1993 and each year invites a different cultural figure to act as director of the event and pick the performers of their choosing. This year, DJ, recording artist and record label boss James Lavelle has been asked to direct the 2014 festival – promising 10 days of performances and creative collaborations from 13 to 22 June. Look out for hip hop legend Grandmaster Flash and Scratch Perverts who are playing a one off double-bill.

33

Another annual event starting in June is the City of London Festival on from 22 June to 17 July. The Square Mile celebrates music, dance, art, film, poetry, and family events across iconic venues and outdoor spaces, including Paternoster Square, next to St Paul’s Cathedral, where there will be a giant bowler hat. It’s an inflatable pop-up venue and will host theatre, comedy and circus events.

Also, the Quarter Bar & Lounge, at London Bridge Hotel, is taking part in London Wine Week which runs from 2 to 8 June. Look out for the wine tours.

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 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.

Feb 212014
 

It’s nearly Spring and I’ve got plenty of suggestions of things to do this month from discovering London’s dark history to Guinness celebrations, and the start of the rowing season to time with mother.

Barbican Centre

Danceroom-Spectroscopy-500

On 1st-2nd March, it’s the Barbican Weekender which is a free weekend of events exploring image and identity through arts and technology.

© Nobby Clark

© Nobby Clark

Also at the Barbican on 2 March is a collaboration between saxophonist John Harle and singer Marc Almond called The Tyburn Tree which looks at London’s dark history such as Jack the Ripper and the Ratcliffe Highway murder.

 

Shakespeare’s Globe

Photographer: Bronwen Sharp

Photographer: Bronwen Sharp

In  January I mentioned the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe that opened with The Duchess of Amalfi. The next production started on 20 February and runs until 30th March. The Knight of the Burning Pestle looks like a fantastic comedy and stars Phil Daniels.

 

Pancake Day

© pfig

© pfig

Tuesday 4th March is Shrove Tuesday and the day to enjoy a pancake race. The Better Bankside Pancake Race is at Borough Market from 12pm-2pm with the races starting at 12.30pm.

 

Cycling

Credit: Luke Webber/Revolution Series

Credit: Luke Webber/Revolution Series

The Lee Valley VeloPark opens on 14th-15th March with the Revolution  Track Cycle Series - the first event at the velodrome since the London 2012 Olympics. You’ll get to see big-name British riders competing including Laura Trott, Jason Kenny and Ed Clancy. 

© TfL

© TfL

If this inspires you to get cycling, there’s a new Barclays Cycle Hire docking station on Snowsfields with space for 32 bikes. You don’t need to book in advance and can simply pay by credit card, at the paypoint next to the bikes, and be riding away in minutes. There’s another rank at Duke Street Hill, both only minutes away from London Bridge Hotel.

 

St Patrick’s Day Parade

We celebrate St Patricks Day in London on Sunday 16th March with a free parade that starts at Green Park at midday and goes through central London to Trafalgar Square where the fun carries on all afternoon with Irish food, drink and culture.

 

Silent Auction

© London Glassblowing

© London Glassblowing

The London Glassblowing Silent Auction comes to an end on 15th March (see February in London for more details).

 

Recommended Exhibitions

You may also like to see the Dale Chihuly exhibition at the Halycon Gallery which is on until 5th April. And the Discoveries exhibition at Two Temple Place is well worth a visit.

 

Designs of the Year 2014

LEGO CALENDAR - Designed by Adrian Westaway, Clara Gaggero, Duncan Fitzsimons, Simon EmbertonPhotographs by Adrian Westaway

LEGO CALENDAR – Designed by Adrian Westaway, Clara Gaggero, Duncan Fitzsimons, Simon Emberton
Photographs by Adrian Westaway

The Design Museum has the Design of the Year nominations on display from 26th March to 22nd June celebrating design across seven categories: Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Furniture, Graphics, Transport and Product. Winners will be announced in May 2014.

 

Head of the River Race

© JET Photographic

© JET Photographic

The Head of the River Race is rowed from Mortlake to Putney (the Boat Race course in reverse). It’s the first major national rowing event of the season with over 400 crews taking part. It’s all happening on 29th March from 2.15pm, with crews departing at 10-second intervals,  and you’ll get a great view from London Bridge.

 

Mother’s Day

© London Bridge Hotel

© London Bridge Hotel

While Mother’s Day in many parts of the world is in May, in London it comes earlier on Sunday 30th March.  I’d definitely recommend afternoon tea as a wonderful way to spend time with mum. The Quarter Bar & Lounge is excellent value too and even includes a complimentary glass of Champagne.

 

Clocks Change

Don’t forget, in the UK we move to British Summer Time on Sunday 30th March and the clocks go forward one hour.

 

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.