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.

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.

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.