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.

May 192014
 

 

This silky smooth Martini was created by Carlo the Head Bartender for the General Manager who just loves chocolate…

50ml Vodka

15ml Cocoa Liqueur

15ml White Cocoa Liqueur

15ml Chocolate sauce

Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake well. Double strain and serve in a chilled Martini Glass. Garnish with two Mini Marshmallows and enjoy.

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

May 142014
 

 

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 George Gilbert Scott and involved an army of artists and craftsmen in its complex design.

The iconography of the statutory is slightly confusing but from what I can gather, the main large sculptures on the outer edges symbolise the various continents of the world who exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 which to a large degree, was organised by Prince Albert.  It took place in a temporary Crystal Palace created just a few metres away in Hyde Park.  The groups above the main frieze are symbolic of Agriculture, Manufacture, Commerce and Engineering – the major themes of the Exhibition.

The Parnassus frieze however, which runs around the memorial, depicts those figures that the Victorians considered the greatest figures in Western culture, arranged within the fields of poetry, music, painting, sculpture and architecture. Most of the statues are hewn from Campanella marble but for the figure of Prince Albert (for which 72 tons of cannon barrels were provided by Woolwich Arsenal), gilded bronze was used.

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The sculptor of Albert himself – or rather sculptors – was firstly Baron Marochetti (who died), then John Foley (who again died before the statue was cast) and finally Thomas Brock who completed the work.  It shows him in his Garter robes, holding a volume of the Great Exhibition catalogue. The actual memorial opened to the general public in 1872 but without the Prince’s statue which was eventually installed three years later.  It was then covered up again  for another year so it could be gilded before being finally unveiled in March 1876.  Scott was knighted for his work on the memorial.

 

The monument incurred slight damage in both World Wars but it was only when a piece of lead fell off in 1983, that a full restoration was commissioned.  The monument, complete with an Albert now covered in 24-carat gold, was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in October 1998.  Rumour has it, it is a bit too ornate for her taste ….

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company. Images by Sue Lowry

May 062014
 

Today we bring you another Quarter Bar & Lounge original, made with a London native Edgerton Pink Gin. Edgerton is resolutely London-based and is London’s first Pink Gin. The botanicals come from halfway round the world. Coriander, angelica, juniper, orris root, sweet orange peel, cassia bark, nutmeg – oh and did I mention – the Admirals and officers in the Royal Navy used to drink Pink Gin?

To make this deliciously pink concoction, you will need:

  • 50ml Edgerton Pink Gin
  • 50ml cranberry juice
  • 15ml lemon juice
  • 15ml sugar syrup
  • 4 raspberries
  • 1 egg white

In the bottom of a cocktail maker, muddle the raspberries and add the gin, cranberry juice, lemon juice, syrup and mix gently. Add the egg white and shake over ice, then double strain and garnish with mint. Sit back and enjoy!

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

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.

Apr 222014
 

 

In the space of just 12 years (it opened in March 2000), The EDF Energy London Eye has become a symbol of London innovation and cities around the world have raced to replicate its success. Taking seven years to create, the Millennium Wheel as it was known when it opened, was designed by David Marks and Julia Barfield, a husband and wife architectural team and at 135 metres, is one of the world’s tallest observation wheels.   It is now the UK’s most popular visitor attraction with over 3.75 million customers a year.

Here are five fast facts about one of my all time favourite London attractions:

  • You can see around 40 kms (25 miles) from the top on a clear day – sometimes even as far as Windsor Castle.
  • There are 800 passengers per revolution, equivalent to 11 London red double decker busses.
  • A rotation takes around 30 minutes.
  • The weight of the wheel and capsules is 2,100 tonnes or as much as 1,272 London black cabs.
  • Kate Moss is the UK celebrity who holds the record for return visits on some 25 occasions with Jessica Alba being the international record holder at 31!

Go on – give it a whirl – I know you want to.

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

Apr 152014
 

7800297284_786e27f0c1_b

Ever wanted to meet the man behind the platters? Well our next staff profile is for you… meet Head Chef Guy.

Guy has always had a passion to cook, ever since he was a little boy – “I was always going to be a chef”. He likes dishes with big flavours, which explains why the Deep fried brie with beetroot jam is a particular favourite.

With the menu for Quarter Bar & Lounge, Guy takes his inspiration from the local markets and their seasonal fair, to create a number of modern dishes with a British or Mediterranean flavour.  At home, however, he enjoys nothing more than traditional Congolese food.

So the all-important question that all chefs must be asked – what ingredient could you not cook without? A simple answer from Guy – all of them, they are all as important. Without salt you have no flavour but without meat and vegetables you have nothing to season!

Oh and one more – what football team do you support? Even faster with the answer this time – Man U!

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

Apr 112014
 

For this episode of Shaken not Stirred we bring you another a modern classic the espresso martini. This espresso martini is just one of many coffee-flavoured martini recipes being made today. We like this one because it uses chilled espresso that gives that caffeinated kick you just can’t duplicate with coffee liqueurs.

To make this intense and creamy drink you will need:

  • 50ml vanilla infused vodka (just steep a vanilla pod in vodka for a few weeks)
  • 50ml  Kahlua coffee liqueur
  • a shoot of espresso
  • 15ml sugar syrup

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and mix well. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with three coffee beans. Sit back and wait for the buzz!

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

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.

exterior

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.

st-jamess-park

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.