The arrival of the Serpentine Pavilion each year is a sure sign that the London summer has started and yesterday I enjoyed the 2018 pavilion on a perfect June day in London. Continue reading
London dishes up some pretty amazing weekends but we are still recovering from the last one! We are in the middle of a heatwave with temperatures nudging 30 degrees (or 86 degrees) so all the outdoor events are thanking their lucky stars the rain has stopped – for now at least. Continue reading
Enjoying autumn in London is not just about the beautiful colours in the parks and views along the River Thames but also about the blockbuster exhibitions. London is famous the world over for its museums and galleries and they host some amazing exhibitions, particularly in autumn. I’ve been to a few good ones recently so here they are! Continue reading
As the summer disappears – and what a summer it’s been from the celebrations of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to the success of the Olympics and Paralympics – we are enjoying what autumn brings before winter sets in. So, what’s going on in London? Continue reading
Christmas time in London is great fun with loads of thing to do and see. One of our favourites is Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park so we took some friends who had not been before to enjoy an evening of Christmas cheer. They couldn’t work out what Winter Wonderland was from our description – is it a theme park, is it a Christmas market, it is a food market, is for kids or adults? Well, it’s all of these and it takes up a huge space right in the middle of Hyde Park!
You can linger for ages checking out all the gifts in the chalets of the market section as it is extensive and tempting. Once through with shopping you are surrounded by food stalls and into the fun fair. There’s everything from the old fashioned but beautiful helter skelter and big wheel, to incredibly fast whirling things, all looking very festive, to dreadfully scary rides that were too fast to take a photo of and I have know idea how people were not sick on them but it seemed fun was being had! The roller coaster was popular, looking a little slower than the super fast rides but still resulted in a good few screams.
There are some traditions about Christmas ghost stories so there was the obligatory haunted house with a huge violin playing skeleton outside. On the cuter side, I loved the snowman, the sweets and the massive balloon
We managed to eat and drink our way round the whole experience, tasting the warming mulled wine and by the time we got to the burgers one friend was so hungry he ordered two, making the stall holder so excited that he shouted for all to hear ‘he’s going for 2’! There were stalls full of churros and chocolate, candy floss, any type of grilled sausage and colourful sweets.
We almost went for the ice skating but after a wonderful dry evening, the rain started to come down so we escaped to a nearby pub to keep dry and warm.
It’s summer in London, it’s a lovely Sunday morning, my sponsored half marathon is looming so what could be better than a full circuit of Hyde Park? It turned out to be an excellent idea and I zoomed round taking in all the sights in no time.
I saw the work going on to completely reinvigorate Kensington Palace and give it a grand garden entrance; the wonderful formal fountains on the north side of the park; people take a horse ride around the park, those jogging and more unusually those ski-ing! The Horse Guards were returning to their barracks and the Albert Hall and Albert Memorial were looking at their best. The photo in the order listed here and you can see what a wonderful morning it was!
After completing a full circuit I decided to treat myself to a visit to the annual Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. Each year this fine gallery holds a competition for the best design for its summer outdoor pavilion – this year’s competition was won by Peter Zumthor, a Swiss architect, with his design Hortus Conclusus, meaning Enclosed Garden. It has a plain dark exterior with several doors through to an interior garden and cafe via interior dark passageways. The garden is conceived as a peaceful place which is enclosed and protected. The cafe bustle somewhat disturbs the peace but it is an impressive and interesting structure. Here are some photos: of the Serpentine Gallery itself; the Pavilion exterior with people entering and a view taken further back to give more perspective; and, the interior garden.
London has great night life so I should mention a visit to a venue completely new to me – the Bush Hall in west London. As part of the inaugural London Blues Festival Ray Gelato was playing a set here and it was a great night. Ray was born close by but has had a long and illustrious career playing with many bands as well as his own Giants so he can put on a really fun show as the singing and saxophone playing lead man in a band with plenty of good brass. The hall itself is a star – a small ex theatre decorated in a wonderful Victorian music hall style and I’ll definitely keep my eyes open for future events there.
This was the week when London caught Royal Wedding fever and I’m going to show you just how much we were taken over by it! The weather was beautiful, London looked amazing and we really got into the party spirit.
The first set of photos show you the streets and shops all decked out in bunting and flags. You can see Notting Hill streets, street stall,, even Ann Summers getting covered (just) in the flag, and the most over the top of them all – Regent Street – winning the prize for the most possible flags in one street award!
Finally the day of the wedding arrived. You had to get up in the middle of the night and ideally camp out for several days to get a spot on the route itself and I decided not to try this as being rather short of stature I’d probably not see very much . I was offered an exclusive ride on the London Eye to see the procession to the church so here’s a photo of the royal car passing Big Ben and a shot of the Mall as it looked the day before the big moment. From the Eye we walked through to Trafalgar Square to see the service on the giant screen where it was absolutely packed with people trying to catch a glimpse and be part of the party.
The next party was Hyde Park where, surrounded by thousands of Londoners and visitors, we saw the balcony moment, the WW2 fly past and then the band struck up and there was dancing and flag waving everywhere! Dressing up as well of course with knights and lots of brides. And finally the street party back in Notting Hill. What a day!
Good job we had a long weekend to recover!
Last week saw the kick off of the 500 day countdown to the start of the London 2012 Olympics – which sounds like a lot of days still to go but it’ll soon be here and the excitement is bubbling up. The railway station St Pancras unveiled a set of huge Olympic rings for everyone to see as they arrive on Eurostar tho’ possibly a little cruel to the French who lost out in hosting 2012 and this is the first thing they will see when reaching London!
The BT Tower gave us a sound and light show with a big 500 days sign, a countdown and then huge loud fireworks which were brilliant but lasted a really short time – sign of the times perhaps! Still it was fun and I was interviewed live on BBC Radio London so I could tell Londoners all about it – fame at last! One final Olympics happening was the unveiling of the clock set up in Trafalgar Square which is counting down to the Olympics in days, hours, minutes and seconds. It’s proving a hit with visitors who all wanted their photo taken in front of it!
Spring has sprung in London so we booked ourselves for lunch into one of the buildings with the best views over this great city. The top floor of the Hilton Park Lane has a bar on one side and a Galvin brothers restaurant on the other. My cheeky request for ‘the table with the best view possible’ worked and we were given a large round table overlooking Hyde Park. The sun was so bright that the photos are not all that great (sorry about that) but you can see the huge expense of Hyde Park, the iconic Battersea Power Station, the back door of Buckingham Palace (good to be nosey!), a view over the City including the ever growing Shard tower and a quick snap of the outside so you know what the building looks like if you ever get a chance to visit. The food is great too and they do a wonderful special lunch deal which doesn’t break the bank, especially as they thrown in a free glass of champagne. It was a long lunch as you can imagine…..!
A big event in my week was a tour of the inside of the Houses of Parliament. A pre-booked 75 minute tour led by a very well versed Blue Badge Guide (Noel) took us into the very heart of this extraordinary building. I’ve been meaning to do this for ages so we very pleased to finally poke my nose inside this seat of power. You can visit any Saturday at the moment as they are trialling Saturday opening in addition to the usual summer recess visiting days. You can walk through the route that the Queen takes when she opens Parliament past amazingly ornate decoration, huge paintings and numerous statues. The interior of the building was designed to tell the story of the country and, as the guide said, you could study the contents and designs for years. We spent some time in the House of Lords, resplendent in gold and red and then in the less flamboyant House of Commons in green. We saw where they vote in new laws, the 2 rooms to the right and left where the ‘ayes’ (the yes’s) and the ‘noes’ (the no’s) go and heard tell of the rush to get all the MPs into the house in time for the vote.The tour concludes in the Westminster Hall, an impressive and precious remainder of the original Palace of Westminster, built in 1097 with changes made in 1245, but which burned down in 1834. The building you see now is a Victoria edifice except for this huge Hall. which now used for receptions and layings in state – you may have seen pictures of the Queen Mother’s coffin there as the most recent. You can’t take pictures during the tour, just of the hall so you have to remember the rest! I’ve added an exterior shot across the Thames as it’s one of the great sights of London.
It’s a big time of year in London for art lovers with so many fairs and exhibitions and Hyde Park didn’t want to be left out so has set up a few of pieces from Anish Kapoor to delight us. The main piece is wonderful – a curved mirror which sits amoung the trees and reflects back toward Kensington Palace and catches the viewer in shot (yes that’s me with the camera!). The reverse is concave and reflects one back upside down. Kids and adults alike were having great fun with this work – what more can you ask from an artist? He’s also got a reflective witch’s hat in the park. I’m sure that’s not the real title but that’s what it looked like to me! As you can see from the photos it was a wonderfully sunny October day in the park and the deck chairs were full and many visitors had arrived on the new ‘Boris bikes’. These are bikes you can hire by the half hour from stands all across the centre of London. At the moment you have to subscribe online to use them but they plan to offer the option to just turn up and hire one and hopefully that will come in very soon as I want to have a go! Lots of photos posted in to try to show you the Kapoor work and a day in the park.