What an amazing London weekend!

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. 

Last weekend was my big chance to spend 2 days in Hyde Park at the British Summer Time festival and follow that with a day in the gardens of Buckingham Palace for the Coronation festival. I was excited about both and rightly so. 


Firstly, Hyde Park. We had 2 days of tickets and despite cancellations from Elton John and Tom Odell, it was a treat and luckily I live a short walk away so could stroll home afterwards as 60,000 people headed for the tube stations!  But really it was all about the Rolling Stones, truly great stars of the pop and rock world.

A huge area of Hyde Park was sectioned off for the festival and for the most part there was plenty of space to wander around in and enjoy everything on offer:  the top end food suppliers, the several stages, the excellent and plentiful toilets (always a bonus!) and, the themed areas where were were entertained between bands. We even saw a preview of the Notting Hill carnival and felt we were in Mexico by the brightly painted cantinas!

Carnival came early to Hyde Park




Are we in Mexico?

Elvis Costello was the star of the day with a storming set played at such a pace it seemed he was desperate to play every song he had for us – great fun! Hit after hit rolled by and we even sang happy birthday with him to his mother!


Ray Davies headlined the day and although we thought Elvis Costello should have been awarded that slot, it was a bit strange anyway as Elton John should have been doing his thing there until appendicitis hit him hard.

Day two was really all about the Rolling Stones and the place was absolutely mobbed from the start – such a different feel from the laid back atmosphere of day before. We were squashed into a small spot for most of the afternoon and very disappointed that Tom Odell came down with a chest infection – what is it about these music guys!!  Even more squashing later in 30 degree heat and I was beginning to wonder if it was all worth it and then the sounds went up, the lights came on and ‘Start Me Up’ hit us. For the next 2 hours I was entranced by the phenomenon that is the Rolling Stones. I’ve never seen them so this was my big chance to find out what the fuss was all about and they did not disappoint. I swear Mick Jagger has stolen the body of a thirty year old and stuck his head on top! The energy and swagger were all there. They played all the big numbers and I loved it all. Here are a few photos to give you an idea of our evening of the Stones:








We were exhausted but the next day saw a complete change of pace as Sunday morning we headed off to Buckingham Palace for the Coronation Festival. The Queen opened up her gardens to the ‘warrant holders’ who are the suppliers who hold the ‘By Appointment to…’ badge as they supply a member of the royal family with goods or services. It was all very tasteful and tasty with lots of samples to try out from new Pimm’s to earl grey biscuits, through loads of whiskeys, gins and tarts, chocolates…… you get the picture. The palace looked great as we arrived although the big stage for the evening concerts obscured the magnificent rear facade. There was plenty to keep us entertained once we’d hoovered up the food and drink including an unexpectedly lovely performance by the National Youth Ballet of scenes from Alice in Wonderland with brilliant costumes and dancing – what a treat.  We saw the Queen’s rose, coronation benches, a fashion show and a great new singer and explored the spacious gardens at leisure before heading home again.

Arriving at the palace – side entrance



A rose called ‘Gracious Queen’


New themed  benches


Top quality marquees


Alice in Wonderland




Alice in Wonderland

Time for a lay down now!  It was a great weekend in the middle of London’s heatwave, making it memorable in every way.  There’s plenty more to report on so come back soon…

Bye for now,

London Christmas, part 3!

The Christmas lights and fun in London are so cheery this year, I’m doing one more blog about them!  If you missed the last 2, just click here and here and you’ll find more lovely pictures.

Winter Wonderland takes over Hyde Park each year bringing us a funfair, stalls selling all kinds of festive food and drink, a Christmas market and, my favourite, the singing moose!  It’s always a chilly eve when we go and mulled wine is essential to enjoy the outing properly. Here are a few photos to give you a feel for the fun and hopefully the moose video will work for you!

The speaking tree which welcomes you!


Sugar anyone?


Classic helter-skelter


A winter zoo


Cheery snowmen


The singing moose and video below!



Father Christmas off on his deliveries


There’s a big skating rink as well

St Pancras station has joined up Christmas and the London Olympics with their golden medal tree: 

London’s South Bank has a Christmas market along the banks of the river Thames with great stalls, food including gingerbread and festive drinks as well as a jolly if slightly tired looking Father Christmas!



I hope you enjoyed seeing London at Christmas time over my last 3 blogs. So, here’s wishing you all a wonderful festive season and I’m sending my very best wishes for 2013!

Bye for now,

Enjoying autumn in London – great exhibitions

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!

Firstly, just one photo of the great colours in Hyde Park:

Hyde Park colours

Ansel Adams is one of the most famous and influential photographers in the world and his new show at the National Maritime Museum takes his love of water as its theme, Ansel Adams: Photography from the Mountains to the Sea.  These wonderful black and white photos span his whole career starting with a first showing of his first photo, taken at the age of 14!  He was no longer going to school at that age so his parents sent him to the World Fair in San Francisco, where they lived, to see the world and its artists on display. It seems that was time well spent and his first photo, which features a water reflection, was the start of a journey which led to the extraordinary large scale prints of Yosemite that he is most recognised for.  He was a pioneer of both scale and the eye popping detail he achieved in his studio where he printed every shot himself. 

The massive prints are taller than me that’s for sure and come from a private collector in Texas who had real problems getting them up to the room for display and had to put them on top of the lift to manoeuvre them through to top floor. I’m sure they looked great there and the procedure had to be reversed to get them out for this exhibition.

We were shown around privately by the curator, Philip Prodger, and were allowed to take a few photos but sadly that’s not the case normally.

The man himself


One the right is his 1st photo


These are taller than a person!


Amazing quote


His famous Yosemite photo on the right

The National Maritime Museum is worth spending time in as it’s full of wonderful exhibits including the coat that Nelson wore at the Battle of Trafalgar and you can see the hole where the fatal bullet entered – luckily he’d already won the battle!  Outside the museum is my favourite piece from the 4th Plinth art project in Trafalgar Square – Yinka Shonibare’s Ship in a Bottle. This witty piece is a 1:30 scale model of Nelson’s ship The Victory (good name!) with sails symbolic of African identity, linking Britain’s maritime and colonial past. 

Yinka Shonibare’s Ship in a Bottle

 In complete contrast, I visited two fashion based exhibitions. The Hollywood Costumes at the Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the best presented shows I have seen in a long time. They use video and computer generated information boards to bring to life a huge number of iconic costumes from Darth Vader to the Adams Family, a Wookie to Dorothy’s shoes, from Indiana Jones’ outfit including the whip and how it works to Jonny Depp’s pirate outfit.There are great case studies of the process which takes a script through to a finished set of costumes in films such as Ocean’s Eleven.  No photography is allowed inside so you’ll just have to go and enjoy, or read the V&A’s own account.

 The other fashion themed exhibition is Chanel The Little Black Jacket at the Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea. They had the great idea of taking the famous Chanel black jacket and getting a range of celebrities and artists to wear it as they wished and it looks completely different on each person. The lighting was a little underpowered and we thought having a jacket for each visitor to try own and take their own photo would have just made the show. However there were some fun shots to see and it’s amazing how one garment look so different. You can pick up a free poster and of course buy Karl Lagerfeld’s new book featuring all 113 photos!

Sarah Jessica Parker


A wall of little black jackets!


Another take on the jacket…..

 It’s a busy time in London – when isn’t it!  So I hope to be posted a few shorter blogs very soon.
Bye for now

Enjoying autumn in London

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?

London is busy any time to year and autumn is no exception so here just a few highlights from my diary in the last 2 weeks. 

London Film Festival is in its 56th year and seems to get bigger every time. This year’s was full of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie which opened the festival and the Rolling Stones who turned up in force for the premiere of their documentary Crossfire Hurricane ahead of their upcoming sell out concerts in London. The best film winner was however a French film called Rust and Bone, a poetic love story.   I was passing Leicester Square on the night of the Stones opening so here are a few photos to give you an idea of the excitable crowd, the paparazzi and the premiere atmosphere.  Colin Firth arrived as I did and the place erupted with shouts, flash cameras and oohs and aahs! He stopped and chatted to the crowd as well as the press, what a nice man.

Leicester Square Odeon ready for a big night


The lights and the anticipation


This is what happened when Colin Firth arrived!

Continuing the theme of big excitable crowds, the French gathered in London when Johnny Halliday came to town for his first concert in the UK despite his 69 years. He’s very much a French thing and the Albert Hall was turned into a French language zone for the night, no one even bothering to ask the way to the toilets in English!  The crowd were adoring and knew every word he sang, desperate to enjoy every moment of the 2 hour show.  We were swept away with the show which was big, loud and hugely good fun. 

Would you believe this is the Royal Albert Hall?


Johnny Halliday – still rocking

Autumn is a great time of year to explore London’s wonderful parks and enjoy days out to the countryside near to the capital. One of my favourite parks is Hyde Park, an immense open space in the centre of London well used by locals and visitors alike. It is full of trees which give us lovely autumnal colours –  not quite like the American fall but pretty nonetheless. If you want to get out of town you can take short trips out to the small towns that gather along the banks of the upstream river Thames. At Cookham, just a 45 minute drive from London, you can enjoy delightful autumnal views and even a herd of cows joined in when I was there this weekend. 

The Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park


Hyde Park’s trees


Autumn light at Cookham


Beautiful countryside just 45 mins from London

There you have just a sneaky peek at London’s autumn and watch out for more next week. 

Bye for now,


A Winter Wonderland in London this Christmas!

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 enter through a massive arch through which you can just see the beginings of the fun fair in the distance.  The first section is made up of several alleyways of Christmas market chalets but the best thing here is the talking and singing moose!  I’ve attached a video but in case that doesn’t work for you, there’s a photo as well.  I hope the video runs for you as he is wonderful and one of my highlights.  (If it doesn’t download right away, come back to it)


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. 

We’re all going again next year and perhaps someone will be brave enough to try the scary rides but I don’t think it will be me!
Bye for now,

Hyde Park, a great place on a Sunday morning

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.








Bye for now





When London caught Royal Wedding fever!

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!











Bye for now.




The Olympic countdown is on!

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…..!

The ayes to the right!

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.


My weekend continued the art theme with a visit to Palace Art Fair, held in the wonderful Bishops Palace in Fulham, followed by Art London held in the grounds of the Royal Chelsea Hospital. We saw some good stuff, some hideous stuff but mostly enjoyed the browsing and the sunshine.
Bye for now,