What to do when it rains in London!

Yes it does rain in London and, despite the drought warnings we have been bombarded with lately, it has been raining for the last couple of weeks.  Gardeners and the people who run the water supply have been happy but the rest of us are looking forward to the sun shining again.  Luckily there are loads of things to do in London when the rain comes down and here I’ve listed just a few as a full list would go on for pages!

In bad weather (and good days too!) I usually head for a museum or art gallery – they are free, warm and dry and house some of the greatest treasures in the world. You can see the amazing Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles or gaze at the paintings by everyone from Rembrandt through Van Gogh, Matisse and Monet, to Jake and Dinos Chapman by dropping into the British Museum, The National Gallery and the Tate Modern.  If you are strong enough to face the queues, you can marvel at the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum.

British Museum
National Gallery
Tate Modern


Natural History Museum

Travel by the underground and you’ll be sheltered from the weather and you can get around London easily and quickly. For those of you who love shopping, either head for a large department store such as Selfridges or Harrods and you’ll be there for hours, or disappear in one of the huge Westfield shopping centres in Shepherds Bush and Stratford and you can easily lose a whole day.

Westfield Shepherds Bush

On a wet evening, you can’t beat a good play or film. London’s ‘theatreland’ will delight you with the stars (at the moment we have Danny Devito and Cate Blanchett on the stage and recently had Keira Knightley and Kevin Spacey), with great musicals like Billy Elliot and Phantom and newer ones like Sweeney Todd. The National Theatre will give you meatier fare, the off West End theatres like the Donmar Warehouse give you a smaller more intimate experience and don’t forget to check out the ballet and opera too!

National Theatre

Last but by no means least are the thousands of pubs and restaurants which provide shelter from the rain and some of the top cuisines in the world and certainly the most variety.You have everything from Heston Blumenthal’s amazing Michelin starred Dinner,  Gordon Ramsay’s own top restaurant and Koffman and Ducasse through to cheap and cheerful pub food with lots of fish and chips on their menus. You can find just about any cuisine in the world and London’s food scene is immensely rich and varied so look beyond the chain restaurants and find something special and memorable. 

Hopefully these ideas will keep you dry when you visit London and you could be surprised by beautiful sunshine instead, in which case you’ll be able to find open air versions of almost everything on this list!

Bye for now.
Sue Hillman
Twitter: @itsyourlondon

London’s Small and Hidden Theatres

London is the home to hundreds of theatres from large and glitzy famous West End ones like the Palladium and the Palace Theatre (long time home of Priscilla Queen of the Desert) to the very smallest room at the back of a pub.  In between you will find the National Theatre ,a home fine productions both new writing and revivals, as well as the excellent range of ‘off West End’ theatres such as the Old Vic, the Royal Court and the Donmar.

The Donmar Warehouse deserves special mention as it is a wonderful small space with just 250 seats where you can see the big stars of stage and screen – currently Jude Law is in a sell out production. As with many of the small theatres, its entrance is easily missed on the street and if you are lucky you can get hang around these doors and get close to the stars – here’s my favourite photo of me and Dominic West!

What about the ‘hidden theatres’ then? Well there is an amazingly well hidden small theatre in Notting Hill called The Print Room which is down an alleyway, through to a welcoming reception area and is a converted 1950s warehouse.  From these unexpected premises they put on great plays and if you like to meet the cast, they are usually in the bar opposite, the Commander! Their staging is amazing, one production was set inside a disused tennis court and another on a huge mound of soil which actors had to climb across (well the play was called ‘Kingdom of Earth’!

Another very small theatre well worth a visit is the Gate just off Notting Hill Gate. They have a really small room, with about 70 seats, above the Prince Albert pub but manage to pull off the most imaginative use of space and I hardly recognise the room from one production to another.  New writing is on show and it specialises in international work. Their last production, Wittenberg, was fun, challenging, incredibly well staged

Much grander and more famous is The Old Vic which currently has a wonderful artistic director – Kevin Spacey!  He often stars in plays there and most recently was Richard 111 and previously in Speed the Plow with Jeff Goldblum and Inherit the Wind. It is a treat to have him regularly on stage, but the Old Vic was great before him and will be great when he leaves.

So many more theatres worthy of mention but hopefully this has given you as taster for some of London’s less well known off West End delights.

Bye for now,

How to chose the right theatre show in London

Something a bit different from my blog this week as I’m always being asked about theatre in London. There are so many shows on all the time in the West End and off West End, how can you chose the right one for you? Tickets are not cheap and you want to make sure that if you can only see one show that it really is the best. So, here are some handy headings to help you work through your choice and ideas about what’s on at the moment:


1. Star vehicles
Major high profile movie stars love the tread the boards in London and we’ve seen Jude Law, Gillian Anderson, Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Radcliffe, Ewan McGregor, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan (together!) and, going back a bit further – Nicole Kidman, Matt Damon and John Malkovitch, to name but a few. We often have the pleasure of seeing Kevin Spacey as he is the Artistic Director of the Old Vic Theatre where he stars and directs. So you can usually find a show with a big name or two if that’s what you are after. Right now you can catch Kiera Knightley and Elizabeth Moss in The Children’s Hour at the Comedy Theatre and about to open is Sienna Miller in Flare Path at the Theatre Royal. Matthew Fox is also about to open. So much to see!
2. Musicals
This one is straightforward and the London stage is full of good musicals. Your main choice will be around long running favourites such as Phantom of the Opera, the Lion King, Chicago. Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Billy Elliott or some newer kids on the block such as Legally Blonde or The Wizard of Oz and Love Never Dies (also know as Phantom part 2!). Musicals tend to be on for long runs so are often easier to book in advance if you are planning a visit but they are very popular so book as early as if you can!
3. Hot tickets.
There is always a buzz about new openings or the hot favourite in town. At the moment it’s Frankenstein at the National Theatre directed by Danny Boyle, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch who alternate the two lead roles each night! Tough to get tickets for but worth the effort. Hot tickets are usually for short runs so grab them fast and keep you eyes on the press for the next big thing.
4. Classics
There is always some Shakespeare to be found in London and really worth going to the Globe in the summer to see these performed in authentic surroundings. But other theatres offer the Bard and at the moment we have Twelfth Night at the National Theatre directed by Peter Hall and starring his daughter Rebecca. Classics can include Ibsen, Chekov, Wilde and Coward and currently we have Blithe Spirit (Coward) in preview. Always worth checking the National Theatre for ‘proper’ plays, serious and extremely high quality.
5. Off West End
There is a rich source of great theatre outside of the West End. Try these for interesting new plays and stars in the making as well as established actors. These theatres tend to have quite short runs but it is well worth checking them out and the best venues are: The Donmar (a personal favourite), The Almeida, The Bush Theatre (very small), The Lyric, Soho Theatre and the Young Vic.
For information on any of these shows or venues or to find listings try:
And of course some photos… Priscilla, The National Theatre, The Donmar and The Globe

Bye for now.


Educational times…

I started the week off with a great talk at the Royal Society, just off The Mall. Tracey Chevalier, the best selling author, was being interviewed along with Dr Richard Fortey, by Dr Alice Roberts. To decode that – Tracey’s best know book is The Girl with the Pearl Earring, Richard is an eminent scientist from the Natural History Museum and Alice is often on the TV usually in Coast! This unlikely trio was brought together by the launch of Tracey’s new book called Remarkable Creatures about an early 19th century woman fossil collector.

It was a fascinating session about fact, fiction and fossils, as was the title of the talk, and the life of a working class woman with little education at a time when women’s potential was so wasted. And the invite-only after talk drinks were great too- I managed to get into as I have a personal connection. There were some interesting discussions going on about science v arts and how to bridge the divide. Fascinating and not your average Monday evening.

Later in the week it was time for a trip to the theatre and we went to see The Power of Yes, a new play by David Hare about the financial crisis, at the National Theatre on the South Bank (I mention location as an excuse to add a photo of the area!) The play was unusually constructed – we had the author at the centre of the stage at all times, asking a range of expert witnesses to explain to him what had happened and why so he could write a play. Large numbers of men in suits came on and off the stage with varying theories and fingers to point. We learned a lot and got angry all over again, tho’ the emotional involvement with the characters in the play was low.

Friday was also educational – isn’t strange how weeks go like that? It was TEDx in Notting Hill which is an event of inspirational speakers, this time on the topic of The Future of Enterprise. Back at the Tabernacle which is a great venue, we heard amazing stories of young entrepreneurship, new forms of energy and people making a real difference to the world through their own lives. It was great if a little daunting! One great fun story to mention about recycling – a project to pair up single lost gloves to make a new groovy unmatching pair and sell them. Watch the Glove Love video on http://www.dothegreenthing.com/

The rain stopped and Saturday was a perfect Portobello Market day and we wandered up and down and then found the best outdoor seat in the area – just in front of the Ground Floor bar. We watched the world go past, caught up with friends and even worried whether the sun would burn! Early October can be so wonderful with its stolen extra days of summer.

What about the restaurants I hear you ask? More bars than restaurants this week, so one to mention for an evening get together is The Sun in Splendour at the start of Portobello Road. Drinks, food and a great bit of eaves dropping! We wanted to say ” No, he’s not interested in you and you getting even more drunk isn’t going to change that ” but didn’t of course…..

Bye for now,

Promenading and visiting the Royals

Last week started with a visit to the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall (see photo) , my only concert this year which is a bit of a shame given that the season has over 70 to chose from but it’s been a busy summer. We saw a Mendelssohn Piano Concerto and Mahler’s 10th symphony which was completed after his death. I preferred the concerto tho’ the symphony had some great percussion – drums, symbols and gongs all together at times.


The Royals had the pleasure of my company twice this week – well, they were not actually there at the time but we only missed Princes William and Harry by a matter of an hour or two. Firstly we went to Clarence House which is the London residence of Charles, Camilla and the princes. An interesting and not too long a tour of this historic house – particularly good for those who have a penchant for the Queen Mother. Afterwards we had lunch in St James’s park and strolled to the National Gallery for the Corot to Monet exhibition of landscapes There was time for afternoon tea (of course!) in the gallery restaurant with a great view of the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square so we could watch the goings on in comfort. We finished off the afternoon by dropping into the foyer of the National Theatre to see the photographic exhibition ‘Public Faces, Private Places’ and list to the free jazz – the Damon Brown Trio – who were really good.
More great photos at the Getty Images Gallery where I caught the end of their current exhibition – Londoners Through A Lens – wonderful black and white images of everyday Londoners mostly from the last century. It really made me think about using black and white more as I always go for colour photos (see my website itsyourlondon.co.uk for some of my images).
The other royal visit you ask? A weekend with the family in Norfolk was marked by a trip out to see the seals at Blakeney Point and then a drive over to Sandringham House. No sign of the royals to welcome us there either but the Game and Country Fair was full of tweeds, waterproofs, dogs, horses and hawk flying demonstrations. It’s a different world…. Norfolk is about 3-4 hours drive from London and is a great way to feel a long way from a big city but it’s good to be back!
Bye for now.