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.

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.

Dec 312013
 
Twelfthnightprocession

As the festive decorations start to come down in London it doesn’t mean the fun is gone as there’s always plenty to do in London.

New Year’s Day Parade

NYDPcheerleader

© NewsPics Ltd

We start the new year with the New Year’s Day Parade on 1 January which sets off from near Green Park station at 11.45am and reaches Parliament Square (Westminster station) around 3pm. There’s a ‘swinging 60s’ theme for 2014 and it’s likely to be bigger and louder than ever with marching bands, cheerleaders, floats and performers entertaining the huge crowds along the 2.2 mile route.

Twelfth Night Festival

© Laura Porter

Nearer to London Bridge Hotel, and much more quirky, there’s an annual celebration on Sunday 5 January 2014, from 2.30pm, for the Twelfth Night to mark the end of Christmas and to welcome in the new year. It’s one of those traditional ancient customs that you might think was now lost but thankfully this is an annual free festival that takes place whatever the weather.

Outside Shakespeare’s Globe on Bankside, the Holly Man arrives by boat along the River Thames. There’s a Mummer’s play and cakes given out to find the King Bean and Queen Pea who then lead a procession to the George Inn on Borough High Street for storytelling and more dancing.

Ice Skating

If you’re still feeling energetic, the last day for the Tower of London Ice Rink is Sunday 5 January 2014 and it’s open until 10pm.

Or walk along the South Bank to the London Eye’s Ice Rink, called Eyeskate, as it also has its final day on 5 January and the last skate session is at 9pm.

Upside Down House

© Laura Porter

© Laura Porter

If you do find yourself strolling along the South Bank, towards Waterloo, do have a quick look at 20 Blackfriars Road (just by the south side of Blackfriars Bridge). Artist Alex Chinneck has created a facade of an upside down house, called Miner on the Moon, as an art installation on a disused site. It will remain here as public artwork for up to 3 years.

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse Opens

Back to Bankside, while the Shakespeare’s Globe doesn’t have performances in January – but it is a good time to visit for the exhibition and tour of the theatre – the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse opens on 9 January 2014. This new playhouse provides indoor space for winter performances but the Jacobean ambience won’t be lost as the handmade oak structure will be lit by hundreds of candles during performances. The first production is The Duchess of Amalfi with Gemma Arterton in the lead role.

The Rose Theatre

RoseTheatre

© Laura Porter

Shakespeare’s plays were also performed at another nearby theatre that is not so well known. The Rose Theatre was built in 1587 for Philip Henslowe and was only the fifth purpose-built theater in London. There’s only one performance planned for this month, on the evening of 20 January 2014, when you can see The Eve of St Agnes by John Keats.

The Rose is really still an indoor archaeological site and is open every Saturday so you can find out more.

Bermondsey Street

LondonGlassblowing1

© Laura Porter

Once a street of traditional industries, especially the leather trade, Bermondsey Street is now a conservation area and much of its architectural character has been preserved. The independent shops, cafes and restaurants here make it an enjoyable place for a stroll and I recommend visiting London Glassblowing, at no.62-66, as a perfect way to warm up on a cold winter’s day. Incredibly, the workshop is at the back of the studio so you can watch glass delights being created before checking out the sale from 8 to 25 January 2014.

Just across the road is a bright orange building that houses the Fashion & Textiles Museum (FTM). It was started in 2003 by British designer Zandra Rhodes and is the only museum in the UK solely dedicated to contemporary fashion. The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon ends on 11 January and Artist Textiles – Picasso to Warhol opens on 31 January 2014.

Winter Wanders

Walking is a great way to explore London and Walk London have over 30 free led walks planned for 25 and 26 January 2014.

Behind The Scenes Tour of Tower Bridge

TowerBridge

© Laura Porter

On weekends throughout January, February and March 2014 there are special Tower Bridge Engineering Tours available taking you to areas of the bridge usually out of bounds. Booking ahead is essential as these tours are always popular.

Buckingham Palace State Rooms Tour

The Grand Staircase, Buckingham Palace Photographer: Derry Moore, © The Royal Collection 2006, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The Grand Staircase, Buckingham Palace
Photographer: Derry Moore, © The Royal Collection 2006, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Another unusual opportunity is the chance to visit the Buckingham Palace state rooms as this is the first time they have opened to the public in the winter. The Queen is away at Sandringham so they’ve laid on something very special for visitors as you’ll get a guided tour and a glass of Champagne, plus a souvenir guidebook and a 20% discount in the shop. The tours are on selected dates until 2 February 2014 (including New Year’s Day).

Ice Sculptures

It takes less than 15 minutes to reach Canary Wharf from London Bridge so you might like to visit for the annual London Ice Sculpting Festival which starts on Friday 10 January 2014 and ends on the Sunday (12 January). It’s completely free to watch and you’ll see teams from around the world competing to create wonders from blocks of ice.

NBA Global Games London 2014

On Thursday 16 January, head to The O2 in North Greenwich for a regular season NBA game between the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets. I know nothing about basketball but I’m told this is a big thing so book ahead.

Borough Market

Back nearer to the London Bridge Hotel, Borough Market is always worth visiting and the glass Market Hall that opened in summer 2013 is also the home of the demonstration kitchen every Thursday and Friday at 12-2pm. This is where chefs are invited to showcase products from the market in a cookery demonstration and members of the public get to taste their creations.

Cheapside Hoard

Emerald, diamond and enamel Salamander brooch © Museum of London

Emerald, diamond and enamel Salamander brooch
© Museum of London

The Cheapside Hoard exhibition at the Museum of London has tight security as it’s displaying priceless treasure of late 16th and early 17th century jewels and gemstones that were discovered 100 years ago in a cellar on Cheapside, near St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s definitely worth seeing and Sunday 26 January 2014 is ‘Pay What You Can’ day so a good time to try a paid-for exhibition at the museum. There’s also a free contemporary jewellery exhibition on too called Made in London.

Phew! And everyone tells you January is a quiet month in London. Enjoy!

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.