London is tops for cinema lovers!

I’m a great fan of cinema and much prefer seeing a film on the big screen than on the TV with all the fun of the movie going experience. London has an amazing range of cinemas, from the swanky thousand-plus seaters in Leicester Square like the Empire and Odeon, through to the many intimate local and boutique places.

London has great movie credentials as it hosts one of the world’s top film festivals in October every year when over 200 films are on show and the stars come to town to parade on the red carpets. As a venue for shooting of films there are too many to mention but from the top of my head come ‘Notting Hill’, ‘The King’s Speech’, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Bridget Jones’ and of course the recently released ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’.

My favourite cinemas are the small, boutique and quirky ones and here are my top 5, not in any order as it’s too hard to chose!  Those of you with a working knowledge of London cinemas will notice that these are all around the Notting Hill area. This is not just because I live there, but we have an amazing concentration of great movie houses and I celebrate that!

1. The Electric

This is the last word in luxurious film viewing with extra wide seats, a bar with snacks in the auditorium, plenty of space for drinks by your seat, a footstool, bed sized seats at the back for – well, best leave that there…. All this and up to the moment films and a long and interesting history as they have closed and nearly gone under many times since opening in 1910!  They are one of the oldest working cinemas in the UK

2. The Lexi

This a wonderful warm hearted little cinema, staffed by volunteers and sending their profits out to an amazing project in Africa, the Sustainability Institute. They show you a film about their work with kids so you are in no doubt as to the good they do.  You can catch the latest films here and it’s well worth heading out to find them.

 3. The Gate

The Gate is a very comfortable stylish cinema dating from 1911 with a splendid Edwardian interior. It is an independent cinema showing big name films as well as more hard to find gems and live screenings of opera and plays from the National Theatre, which is pretty cool of them!

4. Portobello Pop Up

This is a brilliant place – a digital non profit microplex, the antidote to multiplexes, made of recycled materials, sitting under the Westway.  The box office is made out of – you’ve guessed – cardboard boxes and the seats are a collection of odd reclaimed seats. They show a range of films, of with director’s Q&A. This year I saw My Beautiful Launderette with a chance to chat to Michael Frears. There’s no booking, no tickets, you just turn up – how refreshing! Just check when their season is….

5. The Coronet

Lots of history associated with the Coronet as it started as a theatre in 1898, featured in the film Notting Hill (remember the scene where Hugh wears his snorkel goggles – of course you do!) and I recall it being the last cinema you could smoke in – upstairs only!  The interior gives away its theatrical background and the tickets for all the latest films are good value too.

London has loads more great cinemas but these are my top 5 – which are yours?

Bye for now,

And they are off… the 157th Boat Race!

Late March in London brings out the crowds lining the banks of the Thames to watch The Boat Race which has now been staged for 157 years! It’s a strange event as it has no overall sporting significance as it’s not part of any rowing event, no points are gained, it doesn’t lead to anything but it amazingly popular and its longevity speaks for itself. Oxford and Cambridge universities field a team each and they race from Putney Bridge to Chiswick Bridge in a mad dash that lasts around 17 minutes. We went to the start in Bishops Park about an hour before the 5pm set off and only just secured a vantage point as both banks of the river we packed with thousands of spectators. . It all dates back to 1829 when it was started by 2 school friends who each went on to one of the 2 universities and has been held every year since 1856, except for the two world wars. The teams both wear blue but importantly Oxford are dark blue and Cambridge light blue. This year Oxford won relatively easily after such a cracking start that they were ahead even when they reached us just a few minutes from the starting line. They flew past in a blur of blues jerseys, showing incredible power and they were so fast the the flotilla of following boats had to rev up to keep close to them. Til next year then! Photos show: the warm up racers getting into their boat; crowds finding a good vantage point on the roof opposite us; the 2 teams approach us just after the start – have a look at the crowds on the river bank!; the teams zoom past us and you can see Oxford are already leading; the chasing flotilla: and, the crowds left after the race had past us – they all went to watch the big screen so got to see the rest of the race happen. One of the great delights of living in Notting Hill is the number of cinemas we have (4!) and that we have some historic, quirky ones too. On Saturday we went to the Coronet on Notting Hill Gate which has gone for an all red interior look – see photo! It’s a place with history and famous among locals for being one of the last cinemas to allow smoking – in the upstairs section. It was opened in 1898 as a Victorian theatre and was considered one of the finest outside of the West End. It became a full time cinema in 1923 and claims to be the oldest in London, It now tends to attract the phrase ‘faded grandeur’ but shows good films at reasonable prices and you can even sit in the circle, from where the photo was taken, for a much better experience than many small screens can offer. We saw ‘Limitless’ which despite its title, was not as good as we hoped…… For film buffs, this is the cinema used for the scene in ‘Notting Hill’ where Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant watch a film, and Hugh has his prescription diving mask on which still makes me laugh after many viewings!







Bye for now,




Loving the Victoria and Albert…

This week’s blog has a peek inside the V&A, the Victoria and Albert Museum, one of London’s great treasures. They have a few different sites but the one in South Kensington is the leading one. They tell us that it is ‘one of the world’s greatest museums of art and design with collections unrivalled in scope and diversity’ and who am I to disagree! You can explore 3,000 years of amazing artefacts across such a range of media from fashion textiles, carpets, glass, ceramics, metalwork, photography, paintings, jewellery and more…. They have special exhibitions but the permanent rooms are extraordinary especially the rooms of statues and the cast room where the casts include huge Roman columns – have a look at the 2 photos of these. One item I can’t photograph is the Ardabil carpet that is only lit for 10 minutes per hour because it is so delicate. This carpet dates from 1539/40 and is one of the oldest dated carpets and one of the finest in the world The outside of the building is impressive and an elaborate glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly hits you as soon as you enter as do the V&A monograms in the marble staircases. They even have a courtyard with a pond to splash in (best if you are under 10 years old tho’) and several cafes to rest the weary sightseeing bones in and refresh yourself. Enjoy the photos and book yourself a visit. It’s free and will delight any visitor – there really is something for everyone.

Don’t you think Sundays, when the weather is getting chilly and a bit wet, are just made for a great big roast lunch? This week we went to Rosa’s in Notting Hill where the roast beef with roast potatoes, parsnips and a yorkshire pudding was absolutely excellent. Followed up with apple crumble and clotted cream made this the perfect Sunday lunch – if a little too filling for me! It’s a little place with a lovely local feel – have a look for yourselves and give it a try!
We went to the Lonsdale bar, also in Notting Hill, for a quiz night which was great fun despite the fact that we did not manage to win – not sure how that happened! The quiz master was comedian and actor (Torchwood for those fans among you) Tom Price who was very funny and a great host. I’ll be definitely be back for more, the quizzes are every 3rd Wednesday of the month so pop that in your diary and check them out!


Bye for now,

Days in and days out

Picking up the extras that were bounced out from last week’s bumper full list, we have days out in Cambridge and days in at the Cabinet War Rooms.


A day out to Cambridge from London is a great way to see a bit more of England and really do-able as the train takes about 45 minutes. You can see the famous colleges and can even go inside some of them, you can get run over by the masses of students on bicycles, go punting on the river and mooch around the old streets to your heart’s content. Cambridge is full of wonderful old buildings and we really enjoyed the sunshine too! Another treat was to see the famous Harry Potter platform at Kings Cross as my train to Cambridge left from platform 9. Here’s a selection of Cambridge photos and one from Kings Cross!


Back in London, Sunday was another beautifully sunny day so we walked along the Thames and then visited the Cabinet War Rooms where they have restored the actual rooms used by Churchill and the military to battle out the Second World War. They are marvellously evocative of a time of national peril and the courage of those who battled for our freedom. They’ve added a major Churchill exhibition making it a big visit. Here’s one photo of the Thames at it sparkling best, one of the outside of the Rooms and one of the Churchill’s underground kitchen – not sure he had much time for cooking though!

A couple of cinema trips this week to contrasting venues. One to the very newly opened Vue cinema at Westfields with spacious seats and a huge high quality screen (The White Ribbon was the film) and the other was the Coronet in Notting Hill, a independent cinema which began life as a Victorian theatre in 1898 (Shutter Island was showing here).
Restaurants visits this week included my local favourite, Aphrodite, where the Greek food is really high quality and the welcome is always warm. A trip to South Kensington saw visits to Brindisi for their tapas and to La Cave a Fromage for their wonderful smelly cheeses!
Bye for now,