I’ve been wining and dining and even spa-ing in the County Hall Marriott Hotel for more years than I would like to mention so I was really looking forward to a return visit, especially as I was here to try out the new menu at Gillray’s Steakhouse and Bar! County Hall has a prime site next to the London Eye and across from the Houses of Parliament and fascinating history as the former home of the Greater London Council and its leader Ken Livingstone before it was abolished in 1983. 17 years later he became the first Mayor of London but a new City Hall was built by Tower Bridge so this magnificent building could be taken on by the Marriott group who luckily kept many of the original features such as the wood panelled corridors and bar.
As many of you will know I’ve been in Africa for 9 weeks working on a voluntary project in Ghana and then joining a tour of West Africa. It was an amazing adventure and I feel very happy that I played my part in building a primary school in a very hands-on way! Our tour took us on the roads less travelled in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia and Senegal and there are many stories to tell about these dusty red roads but they are for another time… Continue reading
As you’ll know from my bio I offer private tours of London for small groups and they all want to see loads of stuff in London without feeling like they have been rushed from one place to the next. So, I thought I would share with you my most recent tour which lasted a day and a half so you can see just how much you can pack in without exhausting yourself! Continue reading
St Paul’s Cathedral has been the scene of some great events in British history: the funeral of Winston Churchill, the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth 11, the funeral of Wellington, the bombing of the blitz in the Second World War. Continue reading
This week’s highlights were a massive bar opening, a black cab tour and nosing around some beautiful private gardens – the usual great mix!
The Trafalgar Hotel (on Trafalgar Square of course) have revamped their rooftop bar and it is now the largest in London so they threw a brilliant party to celebrate its opening. The weather was a worry as it had rained on and off during the day but we were lucky and the clouds held off raining but gave us dramatic skies. The views over Trafalgar Square and toward the London Eye and Houses of Parliament are exceptional and add to that a great bar, lots of heaters, big umbrellas, a covered area with a second bar, it all adds up to a great venue. We were treated to champagne all night and a special performance by the lovely Beverley Knight in the stage/DJ area. Ice sculptures, dancers and fire throwers all added to the party atmosphere. What a great night!
Photos are: the ice sculpture; Trafalgar Square view; the outside and mobile bar!; Houses of Parliament and Big Ben; the London Eye and a gathering storm; Nelson’s column almost at eye level; sunset over London; and, the lovely Beverley Knight – yes I was in the front of the crowd!
As a special treat for a great group of London bloggers, John the Cabby (as he’s known on twitter @Johnthecabby) took us round his tour of London for a couple of hours. It’s always fun travelling in a cab and John has his own commentary as we pass by the great sights of London. Given the combined knowledge in the cab (the other 4 are masterminds – Laura, Ian, Tom and Matt), John’s challenge was to find something new to us all. He really excelled and even found a doorway which he’d not seen before – the entrance to a 17th prison just by Parliament! Thanks John for a brilliant morning!
It was Open Garden Squares Weekend so we set off with our trusty Oyster card and a £7.50 ticket giving us entry to every garden and tried to work our way through a list of gardens not normally open to the public. We strolled around: the residents’ gardens by Regents Park with a famous underpass formerly used by posh nannies looking to get their charges to sleep; a tiny garden at the Academy Hotel; a Japanese roof top garden at the University of London; a strip of garden along a side street trying to make the most of a precious piece of inner city green; a perfect garden square in Bloomsbury; a tranquil oasis just by the Mall; the palatial lawns at Marlborough House (with a royal pet cemetery!) and, the spacious private gardens of Cadogan Place. The last one was our favourite and not just because they had a jazz band and were serving freshly made Pimms! We bare touched the surface of the list of 200+ gardens but felt we’d poked our noses into some new areas and seen loads of wonderful plants and expertly cared for gardens.
Bye for now , Sue
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!
Christmas is most definitely coming and it’s time to get out and attack that present list. London is looking beautiful with all the lights and decorated shop windows, so I’ll be posting a couple of photos each week in December and you can see for yourselves. Even better, why not squeeze in a visit to London or plan to come next year? On the left is the huge Santa’s Grotto at the massive Westfield shopping centre – shopping heaven or shopping hell, up to you! On the right is a very 60s style Carnaby Street, naturally, where peace and love are the festive theme and very much in keeping with the street’s history as the centre of groovy London.
One of the big exhibitions in town at the moment is Moctezuma Aztec Ruler at the British Museum. You can see amazing artefacts from his rule and find out his story especially the momentous year following the Spanish landing through to the defeat of his empire. I loved the turquoise mask and serpent and thought the historical explanations well written. The British Museum is one of the most beautiful buildings in London both outside and inside. The photo on the left shows the classic exterior and the other is of the amazing covered court with the historic library in the curved central building. There is so much to see in the museum that it would take a whole blog to do it any justice but its newest exhibit is a few pieces from the recent Anglo Saxon find in Staffordshire. There are gold fixings from swords dating back to the 600s AD with beautiful workmanship and inlaid garnets. It’s incredible to think someone found the full hoard of over 1500 pieces laying in the ground just a few months ago. I’m returning to the British Museum next week so will report on more of its wonderful exhibits .
Bar of the week was in the Courthouse Hotel, which lives up to its name and has many of its original features including 3 former cells in the bar area which you can sit in (with the door open!) complete with the cell toilet but for decorative purposes only now. Oscar Wilde and Mick Jaggar spent some time here but before the cells became part of the bar sadly for them!
Must be off shopping for presents….