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.

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.

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.

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.

Jan 252014
 
© anniemullinsuk

This is still, technically,  the quiet time of the year for London but, as we discovered in the January round-up, there’s always an incredible amount going on.

We start the month with the celebrations for Chinese New Year which falls on 31 January but London’s celebrations are on Sunday 2 February. 2014 is the Chinese Year of the Horse and the festivities will be across Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and Chinatown.

ChineseNY-1

If you’re looking for some Chinese food near to London Bridge, I can recommend Dim T at More London as you can dine while looking out to Tower Bridge, or Hutong on level 33 of The Shard.

 thamesjet22

For those with no fear, and who are craving something to blow away the winter cobwebs, can I suggest Thamesjet for speedboat sightseeing? A trip on The Thames is always a good way to see the London sights and this is the fastest ride available on The Thames (up to 40mph).

Valentine’s Ideas

romantic-candlelight

This is also the month of lurve. While there are many romantic dining opportunities available (the Londinium restaurant is, of course, a fine choice, as is afternoon tea in the Quarter Bar & Lounge) there are some more unusual ways to spend Valentine’s Day in London this year.

Valentines-Late

How about stepping back in time and learning to dance the Jitterbug before sitting down to compose a love letter, 1940s-style? The Churchill War Rooms have a special late night opening on 14 February with vintage gifts in the shop and a pop-up bar.

© Laura Porter

© Laura Porter

Moving even further back in history to Victorian times, the Charles Dickens Museum is celebrating Valentine’s on 13 February with The Literary Gin Palace. While exploring the home of Dickens and his family you can follow a botanicals trail and even create your own unique gin and tonic in the original kitchen.

Or, if you’re in London later in the month, the Charles Dickens Museum has a candlelit evening on 26 February. There isn’t a guided tour but it would be wonderful to see the home lit this way as Dickens often wrote by candlelight.

Historic homes and candlelight do seem a popular collaboration as the stunning Georgian townhouse that is Dr Johnson’s House, in the City of London, has a candlelit tour on  Valentine’s Day when you can hear about Johnson’s views on love and ‘the fairer sex’. Tours include wine and a recital in the Withdrawing Room.

And there is a monthly candlelit tour at Sir John Soane’s House, at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, on the first Tuesday of each month (so that’s 4 February this month).

Southbank

A walk along the Southbank is for everyone, not just the romantics.

Pop into BFI Southbank during February and March and you’ll find they are having a Derek Jarman film retrospective as part of their Queer Pagan Punk Season. Across Waterloo Bridge, at Somerset House, there’s a Derek Jarman exhibition too with more of his Super 8 films. Pandemonium is hosted by King’s College London as he was a student there in the 1960s.

A_Taste_of_Honey_NoTitle-11

Keeping with a theme of taboos, A Taste of Honey at the National Theatre was written in the 1950s and depicts the harsh working-class life in post-war England with plenty of love and humour too. Previews start from 10 February and it’s booking until 5 April.

Another reason to visit the National Theatre is to try one of the Backstage Tours which run daily. On Saturdays there’s a Costume Tour so you can see the costume and wig room, and during school holidays there are special family tours too.

Speaking of school holidays, do note that most London schoolchildren have a one week break from 17 to 22 February.

If you need to entertain the family, do consider the annual Imagine Children’s Festival at Southbank Centre which is on from 10 to 23 February. There are more than 100 events for families to enjoy.

Barbican

There’s a lot going on at the Barbican Centre this month including a new installation in The Curve from 13 February. What could just be a pathway within the building is used for interesting art projects; the latest from United Visual Artists (UVA) is called Momentum and combines light, sound and movement through the 90 metre long gallery.

MND

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the first collaboration between Handspring Puppet Company and Tom Morris since War Horse and runs from 6 to 15 February. And on 6 February there’s also Blow the Bloody Doors Off! – a concert celebrating the music featured in the defining films of Michael Caine’s career.

Bermondsey Street

© London Glassblowing

© London Glassblowing

There are more good reasons to take a stroll down Bermondsey Street this month as the Silent Auction at London Glassblowing starts on 27 February (and ends on 15 March). This is your opportunity to acquire a unique piece of contemporary studio glass from internationally renowned glass artist, Peter Layton, at less than than the usual gallery price. You’ll have to wait until 6 March for everything to be on display but, as I mentioned in January, it’s always worth visiting the workshop, especially on a cold day.

Do cross the road and see the Fashion & Textile Museum (FTM) which reopens on 31 January with a new exhibition: Artists Textiles: Matisse to Warhol that traces the history of 20th century art in textiles.

There’s also an interesting talk on 27 February celebrating Lucienne Day’s designs for textiles, carpet, wallpaper and ceramics called In the Spirit of the Age.

A Treat

© Laura Porter

© Laura Porter

Let’s end with something relaxing. Did you know there are Sunday organ recitals at St Paul’s Cathedral? They start at 4.45pm, last for half an hour and are free to attend.

 

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.