28 December 2009

New Year here we come....

I hope you all had a happy Christmas. I was with family in Kent but managed to squeeze in a few London things around the festivities to tell you about and have a few more Christmassy photos of course.

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park was lovely and worth a good few photos. It is a big funfair full of rides and loads of Germanic stalls selling all kinds of stuff - food and gifts. Unfortunately I've not yet mastered posting videos on here so you'll just have the photo of the moose and will miss his lovely singing of Silent Night which was hilarious!

One hotel worth a mention for their Christmas decorations is the Mandarin
Oriental in Knightsbridge - just an iPhone photo so not as clear as others but you'll get the idea of how lovely it looked.
I went to see Avatar in 3D on a huge screen at the Odeon Leicester Square. It was an amazing visual treat and tho' very long, it sped past. I'm not a great fan of 3D as it gives me a headache but for the flying scenes in particular, the high speed vertical drops it made the experience completley breathtaking. Treat yourself to a big screen if you are going to see it.
Also managed to squeeze in a restaurant trip which saw us at Kitchen W8 in Kensington. It was really good - the room, the service , the food and the extra little extra bits in the form of amuse bouche and great truffles with coffee, all came together for a lovely evening. We took the Time Out special offer which was amazing value at about £20 for 3 courses and the kind waiter hurried us along politely as I'd not noticed the offer ended at 7pm and we just managed to order at 6.59!
I wish you all a fun New Year's eve and all the best for 2010.
Bye for now.

21 December 2009

Merry Christmas....everyone!

Last week's theatrical theme carried on into this week with 2 more stage based evenings. One was high octane A list as we got much sought after tickets for the Misanthrope starring Keira Knightley and Damian Lewis. An excellent expose of shallow lives in rhyming couplets. The second visit was the local pantomine (oh no it wasn't!!) which was performed with gusto and enthusiasm and the chaos on stage only added to the fun. We had the chance to sing along Slade's 'Merry Christmas ..everyone' which really put us in the festive mood. It was directed by Alfie Allen, brother of Lily Allen who I went to see in concert at the Brixton 02 Academy a few days after so it was a family week and their Dad was at Lily's show. It was a snowy night but worth the effort to see her perform what she said will be her last show but let's hope not.

Yes we had snow in London! It didn't lay in the centre of town but caused huge excitement for a few hours.

Lots of lovely London Christmas lights to show you in these photos. The most beautiful were the delicate cut out fairytale images at Tiffany's in Bond Street but the most fun were in Carnaby Street - see previous posting. The most comic was the penguin with the pink wig in Ted Baker South Molton Street, a pedestrianised shopping street which also gave us this original blue arch look. Also worth a mention is St Christopher's Place, another pedestrian shopping area with lovely hanging lights.

London is full of ice rinks during December and they all fight to be considered the best location which is a tough competition between Tower of London, Natural History Museum and my winner, Somerset House. This weekend they also had a Christmas fair where a few more unusual presents were purchased but I can't tell you what just in case the recipients are reading this!

Festive eating and drinking saw our annual visit to Julie's in Holland Park which is a most beautiful restaurant full of tiny side rooms and alcoves. We dined in a room which was just big enough for our table of 5 and all our presents. Festive mulled wine drinking took place at the Ground Floor - First Floor. They've made a festive effort so deserve a photo and are well placed right at the heart of Portobello Road so you can see a few stalls outside even tho' it was quite late in the day. which is the bar below a restaurant which is called - you've guessed already, First Floor! Wishing you all a very merry Christmas. I've one more blog for 2010 so catch me next Monday.

Bye for now.

14 December 2009

All the week's a stage

Life goes in cycles I find and I'm in a wonderful theatre cycle at the moment with 3 plays this week and one tonight which will be in next week's blog. I'll go through them as they fell during the week so we can have some photos on the way.

Monday was the Tricycle Theatre (cycles eh!) to see Kwame Kwei-Armah's new play called 'Seize the Day' about the possible election of London's first black mayor. Hopefully that won't be too long coming.

Mid week I took a trip out to the Olympic site to see how it was coming on and you can see on the left a photo of the stadium which is taking shape now. It's a huge building project including a new station, Stratford International which has just opened so of course we had to go there and try out the new high speed train to St Pancras. Just about 8 minutes which is great but I wish they'd kept the original name of 'javelin train' - much more fun! At St Pancras we loved the ice sculptures of Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower which celebrate the links to Paris via Eurostar, one of my favourite train journeys and one I've taken many times.

Wednesday was music night with great performances from Rebecca Poole and the Cazalets (separately) at the Tabernacle. Always good to see live bands. Rebecca has a great jazz voice but was also doing more rocky numbers this week. The after show drinks at Ravenous were fun too, one of those indoors/outdoors late night venues.... Thursday we were back at the theatre to see 'Sirens' at the Canal Cage Theatre. This is a small venue with a 3 hander play with musicians which a friend was producing and it was really well done with strong performances and of course great producing!

Friday was fun with a tour around London in a bright red original Mini thanks to Oli and Robert of Small Car Big City. We zipped around the West End in style with a fun commentary as well. Thanks guys and here you are in the photo!

The big one play-wise was 'Inherit the Wind' at the Old Vic starring Kevin Spacey which was fabulous. The huge cast, the beautiful set, the brilliant performances and the sharp and witty script. Seats just 5 rows from the stage added to the fun. I've had a very Darwin themed 12 months starting with a trip to the Galapagos and since then I've been to various exhibitions and now a play about how his theories have stirred up the world.

Last week I promised you photos of Christmassy cheer so here is one of the windows at Selfridges department store who are famous for their beautiful and elaborate windows and have a team working on them all year to prepare for our delight. 2009's theme is pantomime and here is 'boo hiss' with a fabulous pantomime dame.

No time for food and drink this week so back to restaurant and bar reviews next time!
Bye for now,

6 December 2009

Christmas is coming.....

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.

It was World Aids Day on Tuesday and London did its bit to raise awareness with gatherings, pop up shops for fund raising, church services and the most visible sign was the London Eye which turned itself red and was a really spectacular sight. We all stopped, stared, thought about the message and took our photos.

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 .

My restaurant of the week is Polpo, a Venetian wine bar on the edge of Soho near Carnaby Street. It's a busy place and they don't take advance bookings so we had a quick drink nearby before claiming our table. They have a tapas style approach and I recommend their pork belly with mushrooms and radicchio and the wonderful roast rosemary potatoes, washed down with a good strong red wine. We stayed on beyond the lunchtime rush and it was lovely as the afternoon light faded outside, it's cosy with a casual dining area and seating at the bar on stools. It has that classic 'distressed' look and is hugely popular.
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....
Bye for now.

29 November 2009

Visiting the home of the enemy!

As we know football is a very important game and in London we have several major rival teams. Mine is Tottenham, known as the Spurs and their rivals are Arsenal, known as the Gunners (when we are being polite). The grounds are close together but I've never been to Arsenal's, neither their old ground nor their new one called the Emirates thanks to the power of sponsorship. So, when Visit London said they were holding a business seminar there I jumped at the chance and must admit that it's a very impressive stadium. It did feel odd being in the home of the enemy and luckily the photo is too small to see that they have all of their achievements inscribed on the second tier hoarding and they do have rather a lot of cups and championships.
We are still beset by rain but it is not constant and I went to the South Bank to meet a colleague in the wonderful British Film Institute (BFI) cafe. I love film and walking around there you just want to spend the rest of your life in the cinema catching up on old films. It was a beautiful day and the river Thames was at its best so here's a photo showing the river, the boats, St Pauls, Tower 42 and the 'Gherkin' and the classic double decker red bus on the bridge.
While on the South Bank, I popped into the Royal Festival Hall to get a sneak preview of the Press Photographers exhibition which was showing wonderful, haunting photographs of some of this year's dreadful events. Faces stare back in suffering and again many from Afghanistan but also from the Chinese earthquakes and Kenya. I think I'll go back as they had not finished displaying them all and these images deserve my full attention.
London is great for shopping and a visiting friend had 2 requests - ballet tights for men and a tartan beret with a built in ginger wig - well of course! He's in a play is his excuse and he's sticking to it. No problem in London, so we found a ballet shop near Baker Street who had a good selection of manly tights and then we headed off to Portobello Market. The Scottish hat was more of a challenge but a party shop delivered and I was very tempted by the full length blonde Abba wig but just held out. Portobello was buzzing as always and although I live very nearby, I never tire of it as it's so full of life.
It was the last Bookslam event of the year at the Tabernacle with Lionel Shriver, author of 'We need to talk about Kevin fame', Paul Lyalls a performance poet, Robin Ince was comparing, and music came from the Great West Singers and Andreya Triana. Paul was the star for us - funny, entertaining and great poetry.

Restaurant and bar update: I went back to the Oak which houses my new favourite local bar and this time managed to get into the restaurant. They don't take bookings so we chanced it on a Monday as it's a bit hit and miss later in the week but the food was wonderful and I'll be back. I think I missed out mentioning a neighbour of the Oak, a Mexican restaurant called Crazy Homies which serves proper Mexican food surrounded by Mexican artifacts, so skeletons and pinatas everywhere, in a lively fun atmosphere. It's run by Tom Conran who has a few places in the area, all of good quality. A return visit to Albertines wine bar in Shepherds Bush was as cosy as ever on a rainy evening.

The next blog will be in December so watch out for tales and photos of Christmas lights as there are some good ones around already!

Bye for now,
Sue Hillman

23 November 2009

Rain and rainforests

I have to admit it does rain in London sometimes and this week was one of those weeks and some! So it was fitting that the rainforest came town in the form of the 'Ghost Forest - from the Tropics to Trafalgar' an outdoor exhibition which highlights the extent and danger of deforestation. Ghost Forest brought us 10 stumps of rainforest trees from Ghana filling up Trafalgar Square in an haunting and beautiful display of fallen giants. The square was well chosen as Nelson's Column is about the height of one of the fully grown trees and we learned that Ghana has lost 90% of these trees in the last 50 years . I went to see them by night in the rain and by day in the sun, so I've posted one photo from each visit and you can see the trees against the backdrop of the square and the National Gallery. The trees are now off to Copenhagen for the climate change conference.

London Jazz Festival was in full flow this week - good indoor activities for rainy evenings! There was a huge range of artists in town for this and I chose to see the African Jazz Quintet at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill. They were really good and for me the saxophonist was outstanding though my friend thought the guitarist was the star but the photo is mine so it's of the sax guy! The music was full of melody and life and the band were clearly having a great time as well as the audience.

Another great escape from rainy days in London is the amazing variety of courses you can take. I treated myself to a one day on British cinema at the City Lit college and we watched clips and discussed how the cinema showed us the massive social change just after the 2nd World War (lots of great black and white movies) . Not everyone's cup of tea but I thought it was fascinating and on that day the college were running everything from singing to keep fit to professional study. Afterwards we caught up on cinema as I've been a bit lax lately and went to see An Education which was really evocative of the 60s and had some great performances.

Restaurant update. In London you can get special deals through a website called OpenTable  and we picked up a great deal of 2 courses for £14.95 at Brasserie St Jacques in St James's. It's a good quality French restaurant with excellent food and charming staff who were keen to tell us that on Tuesdays they will be bringing opera to diners at their tables, rather than the enjoyable background jazz we had. I've also been frequenting coffee venues in Notting Hill and can recommend Daylesford Organic and 202 on Westbourne Grove as this week's favourites for meetings and catch ups. Good coffee but don't expect it to be cheap!
My neighbour's just turned up for coffee, so bye for now.

16 November 2009

Exhibitions and exhibitionists

Last week was full of exhibitions. It was the World Travel Market in London's massive ExCel exhibition centre out east in the Docklands. It was sadly only for travel trade people, sadly because there must have been a stand from every country in the world and for a lover of travelling it was heaven. However, I was a there a couple of days for work and restrained myself from spending too much time looking at the wonders of South America and Africa.

It was a misty couple of days and the photo from the terrace captures that feel in contrast to the mad, busy, bright interior of the event.

I've been to a couple of great public exhibitions this week. One was a photographic delight - Beatles to Bowie: The 60s Exposed. This traces the course of the 60s and its pop stars through brilliant photography and magazine and album covers. It's great fun to see all these icons in their earlier seemingly innocent times when we know what is in store for them. Each caption mentioned a key song from that artist at that time so there was shameless singing along from many visitors, including us at one point I must admit!

The second was at the wonderful Victoria and Albert Museum who are hosting the Maharja: Splendour of India's Royal Courts. It's a tour through their world over a couple of centuries of colour and excess. We saw fabulous jewels and paintings and even their 20th century luxuries when their commissions kept Rolls Royce and Van Cleef & Arpels extremely busy. There's a lot of information and it look nearly 2 hours to get around and a coffee afterwards in the extravagantly decorated V&A cafe was essential.

From a lost worlds of Indian princes and the 60s to a film about lost millions and the internet but all about living lives on the public stage. 'We Live in Public' won the documentary prize at the Sundance Film Festival and traces the life of Josh Harries, a pioneer in the cyber world through his rise and crash including a section where he lives with his partner on camera 24/7 in a fore runner of films and TV to come. Josh himself was at the cinema for Q&A afterwards which was strange as the film portrays him as an interesting but very unsympathetic character, both of which were borne out in person. We squeezed in cocktails at the Criterion bar and a wonderful lunch in one of Soho's authentic Italian restaurants - Il Porchetta - huge bowls of lovely pasta and very reasonably priced.

It feels like winter is nigh and the Christmas lights are coming on all over London - more on that next week and perhaps some photos.

Bye for now.


Sue Hillman

8 November 2009

Fireworks, fairs and fun evenings

This weekend saw the main fun and games for Bonfire night although the actual night was of course on 5th but as ever we have the nearest weekend for the big events. I went to was at Alexandra Palace which is a great venue as it's a steep hill so you get the best view of the huge fireworks with suitable musical accompaniment - Star Wars, ET, Doctor Who etc. It was absolutely packed with families having a good scream as the rockets exploded with maximum noise and they almost slipped down the hill in the excitement! I tried my hand at firework photography which is pretty hard so here's one to give you an idea.

Sunday was the Luxury Travel Fair at the Olympia Exhibition centre so of course I went to that. It was quite quiet and as a friend had a stand at the next door Spirit of Christmas Fair, they let me in and I helped out on their stall for a couple of hours. This was great fun and I even sold a few things for them! Her company is called Floreat and we had beautiful candles, holders, decorations and the like. It was much buzzier in there and I began to feel a bit Christmassy helped by the wonderfully decorated massive hall it was held in - see photo.

One very fun evening was at the Jonathan Wylder Gallery in Knightsbridge. They were showing their fabulous sculptures, many of ballet figures ranging from tiny to life size and paintings, mostly of London. The garden was open and was also a venue for sculpture and was a magical oasis. We were wonderfully entertained by Rebecca Poole's jazzy tones and I think she is one to watch for the future. Afterwards we adjourned to the famous Motcomb's bar and restaurant to savour the evening.

Any other restaurants this week? Of course - Mulberry Street in Notting Hill with their 20 inch pizzas and yes they really are that big but between 3 they seem to disappear quite quickly and they do offer them by the slice for the faint hearted! And coffees at the excellent people watching venue of the Kitchen Pantry also in Notting Hill.

Off to meet some business contacts in Pimlico so bye for now.


2 November 2009

My blog's being posted a day late this week - sorry! I'm busy helping my mother move house and opportunities to get online have been a bit limited but we are nearly sorted - phew. Also means very few photos this week.

Last week was dominated by my excitement at seeing David Tennant! Anyone who knows me is well aware that I think he's absolutely gorgeous so the chance to see him close up was not to be missed. I was at the London Film Festival catching a good Spanish film called 'Three Days with the Family' made with new actors and technical staff. I enjoyed this although I was hoping to get my ear in with Spanish and it was in Catalan so more difficult to follow. The London Film Festival is a brilliant event with hundred of films of all genres and nationalities packed into a few weeks in October. So many stars were in town there were red carpets rolling out all the time!

On the way out I came across a huge crowd waiting along the red carpet to see the stars of 'Glorious 39' arrive. Bill Nighy, Jenny Agutter, Hugh Bonneville came and went and then the screams started for David (not just me!) See photo for closeness but it's a bit blurry due to all the other flashes going off....

The same afternoon I got 'wristbanded' as I was passing Leicester Square and gained access to the special night time party to celebrate the launch of the Michael Jackson film 'This is it' We saw videos of Michael's career on the huge screens and all kinds of folk interviewed on stage as part of the red carpet - Westlife, Harry Connick Jnr, Scarey Spice, JLS, Diversity, Tao Cruz, Peter Andre...... More screaming but this time not from me.

Thursday saw this month's Book Slam at Notting Hill's Tabernacle and the star was undoubtedly Roger McGough with his witty, insightful and accessible poetry read with charm and warmth.

There's not been too much time for eating out this week but I did spend a fun evening at the Chepstow in Notting Hill which is one of my favourite local bars. We had a few drinks and then got caught up in their weekly quiz and had we joined properly, might have done rather well but who knows.....

That's all for this week.
Bye for now.


26 October 2009

Autumn colours, blue skies and sunshine

What a beautiful autumn we are having! September and October have been a delight and with the odd day's exception, we've had sun and warmth beyond the season's norm.

This Sunday in Hyde Park was wonderful and I've attached a photo to show the autumnal colours with a group of horse riders from the local riding school and one of the Serpentine lake at its best. It was the kind of day which you just want to hang on to as you feel winter approaching. Our clocks went back this weekend so we are now back on GMT which means darker afternoons and very soon it will be much colder.

After last week's art fest, only one visit to report this week - to the Wallace Collection to see Damien Hirst's new paintings called 'No Love Lost' . Very blue with skulls, lines and ashtrays so work that out if you can. The Wallace Collection has wonderful art, furniture, ceramics and armour and, as important to some, a lovely courtyard restaurant where we had a late breakfast to sustain us on our visit.

A couple of restaurant visits to report - one to The Criterion in Picadilly Circus which must be one of the most stunning dining rooms in London with it's gold mosaic ceiling and marbled walls and welcoming bar. They call it neo-Byzantine and they've been serving dinners to everyone from Suffragettes to Arthur Conan Doyle for over 100 years. We also had a meal at Vasco & Piero's Pavilion as Michael Palin recommended it and I believe every word he says! A good Italian meal was had but I prefer the Criterion as surroundings are very important to me and it's hard to beat theirs.

I had a good afternoon exploring pubs in Victoria but all in the line of business as I have some Americans coming in today and they wanted to eat in a 'proper pub' ahead of their evening's show in Victoria. It's not an area with that much to offer but I've chosen 2 and will talk them through which style their prefer and report back on which one we go to next week! I took the opportunity of being in the area to revisit Westminster Cathedral, the home of Roman Catholic church in the UK. It's a wonderful building and continued the neo Byzantine theme this week with its golden mosaics which are unfinished as they want each generation to add to the building. Dating from the turn of the last century it also has fine sculptures by Eric Gill and have a look at the photo of the exterior.

Off to meet my Americans so bye for now.


19 October 2009

Art, art and more art....

There have a couple of big highlights this week and loads of arty things too. It's been quite a week!
Frieze Art Fair is a stand out event in the London art world - and the world art world too I gather. We had tickets for the private viewing on the day before opening so had a special look at both the art and the people who live in the world of private views. And the free champagne was an added bonus.... Huge buzz, some strange art and fabulous people, all in a big marquee in Regents Park. A wonderful time was had.

The other big highlight was a charity do for LEPRA - look it up, they do important work. This was a private party held in the new Club at the famous Ivy restaurant. They have a wonderfully impressive glass entrance which sets the exclusive tone. Stephen Fry was hosting the event and I had a chat with him which was a great pleasure, for me, bless him! There was a raffle and I won theatre tickets (how lucky was that) and an auction of fabulous gifts including some original paintings (more art!) and all kinds of interesting people to chat with, and oh yes, some champagne. On the way out I saw Matt Smith, the new Doctor Who, and can confirm that David Tennant will always be my favourite!
It was a huge week for art in London and as well as Frieze I went to Origin fair in Somerset House where artists where showing and selling beautiful jewellery, ceramics and small items of clothing, all very lovely. It was a clear bright day and the Thames was glistening from the terrace outside Somerset House.

On Sunday there was the Autumn Fair in Teddington where I went to see Keith Hern's wonderful photographs and yet more jewellery.

Finally on the art theme was a visit to Wanted Gallery in Notting Hill for the final evening of the Thomas Osternberg Sculpture Exhibition. It's a great small gallery and they have a strong programme coming up so I'll be keeping an eye on them.
What else?? A strange Koren vampire movie called 'Thirst' which was not my thing at all as it was rather, unsurprisingly really, bloody and the sound track was slurpy, crunchy and altogether too horrid! It was on at my friend's club so we could recover in lovely surroundings before venturing out afterwards.

That seems enough for one week so bye for now.
Sue Hillman

12 October 2009

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,

5 October 2009

Star struck!

The highlight of last week was a trip to the Donmar Warehouse to see Dominic West, lately of 'The Wire', being interviewed. He's an unassuming and amusing interviewee and the time passed all too quickly. He talked about his career, The Wire and his new play opening in a few weeks - a 16th century Spanish play called 'Life is a Dream' which is quite a contrast to 21st century urban Baltimore! Thanks to the intimate nature of the theatre we'd seen him walk past us on the way in and wondered if we might see him leaving. So after a few minutes, when the main crowd had left, Dominic came out and posed for photos. I would never normally do this but he was there and I was there so I asked and you can see the result...... What a lovely man!

We topped the evening off with drinks and dancing at Ronnie Scott's upstairs bar to recover from all the excitement. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we'd been sitting outside Bar Italia earlier which is opposite Ronnie's and enjoyed great people watching, Soho really is the place for this.

Yesterday I did part one of a photography course using East End markets as a way of learning more about taking shots of people and busy places to give a stronger impression of the character of somewhere. We wandered around Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane and although my photos weren't as good as I'd hoped, it was fun and I'm looking forward to part two next week. Brick Lane had some amazing graffiti and here's one photo that did just about work. It was fun to see the markets on a busy Sunday and we were all tempted by the wonderful food smells and extraordinary bargains- perhaps we will succumb next week.

Had a lovely lunch at Bloody French in Notting Hill - yes it really is called that! We chose the very authentic French Onion Soup and had a good gossip. Notting Hill is packed with high quality and interesting restaurants and I do my very best to work my way through them all!

Bye for now,



24 September 2009

Summer came back and we loved it

What a glorious week and weekend for us sun lovers. Late September often brings a burst of sunshine and this year was a really good one. So, there was sitting out with Sunday papers, country walks and even some gardening.

The big events this week included Tent, an design exhibition which was part of the busy London Design Festival. Why 'Tent' you may wonder - Tent is an event consultancy and apparently the guys who run it, started off in a tent in the Kings Road. It was held at the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane in the East End (no longer a brewery tho') and we had lunch sitting out at Patisserie Valerie on the way. Lots of groovy designs and new designers to chat with but not sure how much of the work would really suit my flat.

London has been jam packed with style this week as we've had London Fashion Week and the Design Festival, both with multiple venues and lots of press attention so there's no excuse for frumpiness or ordinariness but it's a bit hard to keep up with it all.... I'm told that the main fashion statements were ' big curly hair and expensive looking cardigans' so let's see what happens this autumn.

It was BookSlam at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill on Thursday evening with William Boyd reading a fun short story and from his new book, Don Patterson reading rather gloomy poetry(my view but some folk liked it) and Netsayi who is a great singer from Zimbabwe. The Tabernacle site is wonderful and their outside courtyard was humming before it started and here's a photo of it. It's the home of the Notting Hill carnival and is now hosting a wide range of cultural activities and is almost on my door step.

I spent the weekend in Bristol visiting friends, seeing a great up and coming jazz performer called James Morton at the Bebop club in Bristol and visiting the Georgian splendours of Bath. Bath is a lovely city and has wonderful surroundings including Prior Park Gardens where we walked through the dramatic landscaped grounds and sat in the hot sun. Bath is an easy trip out from London and rewards with its beautiful buildings made out of the fabulous golden stone, the Roman Baths which you can tour and then go the spa. There is also the Pump Room where Jane Austen used to take tea and where you can taste the spa waters - not very tasty unfortunately but I'm sure therefore that it does you good, but I just have a cup of tea instead, like Jane!

Bye for now.


21 September 2009

Open House weekend, please show me the money!

Open House weekend in London saw hundreds of properties, normally closed to the public, throw open their doors for 2 days. This is so popular that many are booked up as soon as the programme is announced and others just have huge queues all day.

I decide to brave the Bank of England as it seemed rather topical given the economic crises they have been at the heart of recently. This definitely fell into the 'queues' category but I stuck it out and had a fascinating tour of the rooms such as the one where they meet monthly to decide what's happening to the base rate. It's all so ornate that it's hard to imagine it's a working building. And no I didn't get to see any money! I took a photo of the queue as it looked like there was a run on the bank....

Saturday night was comedy night as Mark Thomas was performing at the Tricycle. He's very funny and political and this year's tour is about coming up with a manifesto for change. The audience write out a new policy they'd like to see introduced and he bases his show on these including a vote for the best one - ours was a new law to ban MPs from lying (interesting to think that the audience assumes they won't stop unless it's illegal)! He's managed to persuade the GLA (London's governing body) to debate the top ones with him after the tour, which should be worth seeing. We bumped into him as we arrived and had a little chat - what a nice man...

We had fun at a local restaurant despite the enormous torrents of rain coming down all evening. Pix joined the Notting Hill restaurant scene and is very welcome. They are offering pintxos - Barcelona style tapas served on bread and secured with a skewer - in casual, comfortable, lively surroundings. You help yourself to skewers off the bar and they count them all up and charge you £2.50 each and they soon mount up as the food's very tasty and the owner John has done a great job bringing us something new.

On the food and drink trail, we had a good meal at the Butler's Wharf Chop House on the river and drinks beforehand in the cool bar at the nearby Gaucho. An added treat was a sight of Tower Bridge raised up to let a sailing boat in - see photo. I've only seen it raised a couple of times and it's amazing how quickly it works so you've got to be ready with the camera at all times!

Bye for now,

16 September 2009

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.

8 September 2009

How much can you fit in one evening?

This weekend saw some visitors from America who wanted to pack as much in one evening as possible, so I took them up on that challenge. Take a deep breath and here goes...

  • Early evening dinner at Momo getting the first table after they opened at 6.30. Yummy couscous and tagines with some good Moroccan red wine.

  • Off to the theatre to see Mountain Top at the Trafalgar Studios, a two-hander about the last night of Martin Luther King's life. Front row seats meant we were very much in the action including a covering of pillow feathers following an on stage fight! Wonderful play, truly excellent performances and unexpected plot lines. The experience left us buzzing

  • Walked through Trafalgar Square to show them the art project One & Other, also known as the Fourth Plinth. We saw 2 of the 2400 people who have one hour on the empty 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square to do whatever they want (if legal!). These people weren't doing much but good to see public participation and acknowledge the brilliant concept.

  • On to Pizza Express Jazz club in Soho for a show - Sarah Gillespie and Gilad Atzmon - he was particularly good managing to play accordion, various sizes of sax and the clarinet. We stayed on for the jam session afterwards and they were set for the night with some great sax players.

  • Home! Bit tired but felt we'd squeezed in as much as we could and got some great variety in there too.

Saturday and Sunday were brunch days and walks. Brunch number one was at the Waterway in Little Venice overlooking the canal boats followed by a London Walk around the area. Can't recommend London Walks highly enough, always knowledgeable and entertaining guides give you insights into an area even if you live there. Brunch number two at the Orangery by Kensington Palace which is such a beautiful terrace (see photo) followed by a walk around Hyde Park on another sunny day.

I'm currently battling technology as I can't update the rest of my website (http://www.itsyourlondon.co.uk/) so I'm currently still showing August on the front page which is very frustrating - hoping for progress soon.

Bye for now. Sue

1 September 2009

Even more madness - Notting Hill carnival!

The bank holiday weekend in England always feels like the end of summer and it certainly goes out with a huge loud bang in Notting Hill when the carnival swings into town. We are lucky enough to have 2 days of the world's second largest street party - I think Rio still beats us! The build up feels weird as they start boarding up shops and restaurants the days before and some locals rush away, especially if they are on the parade route. And the anticipation builds, especially for those in the parade who have spent all year making huge and elaborate costumes.

On the mornings of the event, all starts quietly and then the noise starts to crank up as the parade winds itself around the long route and the sound systems keep moving the volume button to the right. If you want to see the extraordinary bright colours of the parade costumes, smell the wonder of jerk chicken and feel your sternum pulsate to the rhythms, then this is the place for you! Several of my neighbours can't get far enough away as the hundreds of thousands of visitors make it a bit of crush at times but I love it. I really enjoy showing friends around which they appreciate as we pass endless lost people turning maps every which way to find out where on earth they are. The police patiently give directions and brace themselves for the later stages of the event when they have to try and get everyone on their way home after a few beers (the carnival goers that is not the police!).

The next day it's like nothing has happened as the amazing clear up puts us all back to normal and I spend the next day sorting through my photos to keep the few great ones and lose the rather blurry dozens and wonder if my neighbourhood is the same place that hosted the carnival madness.

Not much time in between for restaurants, bars or art etc but local eateries I've frequently this week were: Toms Deli for brunch in their lovely outdoor garden (a rare treat as they normally have a huge queue), and another return to Aphrodite for a pre-carnival fortifier.

One more thing to let you know about was the One Magic Summer event in Trafalgar Square, brought to us by the Mayor's Office (Boris Johnson). Rows of deck chairs in the middle of the square had been set out for anyone to sit in for free and chill out for a few minutes or even hours with entertainment laid on. It was a lovely day when I went down and the whole idea really brought smiles to a lot of people's faces, always a delight to see in a big busy city.

Bye for now.


26 August 2009

Fringe madness....

Spent a busy busy weekend outside London at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, an annual treat for me and I was joined by two American friends having their first Fringe experience. They were amazed by it and want to make it their annual treat too! We were lucky with the weather which was mostly dry and even sunny at times so we got to see the city at its best.

We managed 8 shows, a mix of comedy x3, theatre x2 and dance and I squeezed a visit to the Book Festival before they arrived with a friend who lives in Edinburgh. They have about 4 or 5 different festivals all on at the same time so everywhere you turn there is a venue with something interesting showing. The famous Royal Mile running from the castle to Holyrood Palace is full of players persuading you to see their show with flyers and mini performances. It really is a case of so much to see, so little time.......

Back in London we had a visit to Greenwich for the day to see the sights there. The day kicked off with a boat trip from Embankment in the centre out to Greenwich on the super fast Thames Clipper. We wandered around Greenwich,past the Market square through the Royal College and its wonderful baroque Painted Hall to the National Maritime Museum. Lots to see here including Nelson's jacket - the one he was wearing when he took the fatal shot. And yes, there is the bullet hole. On a more modern note, you can drive the simulator and park your ocean liner in Sydney Harbour but take your turn with all the kids!

After lunch at the famous Trafalgar Tavern we walked up to the Observatory to stand on the Meridian at 0.00.00 longitude and take in the spectacular views over London. The film show at the Planetarium was wonderful if a little sleep inducing so we briskly walked back to the river and took the little known pedestrian tunnel under the Thames. Important not to think about the water above you....... A glass of Pimms at Plateau in Canary Wharf topped off a highly recommended day out. Greenwich is not far but feels out of town and we don't go there often enough.

Excitement builds as it's the Notting Hill carnival this weekend and a huge party will be going on all around me. Can't wait!

Bye for now.

20 August 2009

Trips and tours

I'm a bit late posting this week's blog due to a short trip to Cornwall which was great. We stayed in a lovely boutique hotel in Fowey (pronounced Foy just to confuse) where they were starting their regatta week so bunting everywhere. Coves, harbours, 2 cream teas and a visit to the Eden Centre all added up to a great little break tho' the sun was clearly not venturing out of London for us.

Last week was focused on a business day with 2 Chinese visitors on an It's Your London tour on Friday. They went for the fully accompanied version and we had a fun day (have a look at http://www.itsyourlondon.co.uk/ to see more about the tours). They wanted a full big sights tour so, with the help of our taxi driver, we managed to fit in: Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey (inside too), Downing Street, Changing of the Guard at Horse Guards Parade, Buckingham Palace (inside tour and lunch), Tower of London (inside too) and a drive around the City past St Paul's and we nipped into the Olde Cheshire Cheese for a quick half before finishing with Trafalgar Square. Action packed but not too rushed either. They were lovely people and hopefully my explanation of Henry 8th didn't confuse them too much - all those wives! The sun shone thankfully and the crowds weren't too bad for mid August so I'm looking forward to the next visit.

One other outing worth a mention this week. We went to the Electric Cinema on Portobello Road which is always a delight with its huge seats, foot rests, bar in the cinema and more space around the seat then your own home. It's what all movie going should be. Before the film, a return visit to El Pirata de Tapas on Westbourne Grove to have another tasty meal before strolling round to the cinema. That's the beauty of Notting Hill - loads of good stuff all close by.

Bye for now. Am off to Edinburgh for the Fringe to catch some comedy and theatre. It's all go.....


10 August 2009

Lazy days in the park....

The return of sunshine lead to a batch of outdoor activities - from walking round Hyde Park to sitting having coffee with friends in my garden - and being amazed by the strength of the sun!

Culturally this week's highlight was a ticket for Streetcar Named Desire starring Rachel Weisz at the Donmar Warehouse. Strong performances in a small venue made for powerful theatre. A warm evening helped give some idea of a steamy New Orleans night and cocktails after at the Covent Garden Hotel with 2 funny barmen made for an excellent evening's entertainment.

Saturday saw several hours whiled away in Hyde Park starting with a visit to the Jeff Koons exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery which is based on inflatable beach toys, odd but amusing. The reflecting outdoor pavilion at the Gallery, this year's winning commission for the annual temporary structure, was strangely calming. The park itself was full of people sitting, picnicing, boating, playing games and enjoying the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen, now run by the Benugo group which has upped the quality so we joined them there for a snack and a Pimms.

More entertainment came in the form of a live band at Charlotte Street Blues bar. They were good but I'd definitely call them rock not blues, still live music is a treat in a small venue so no harm done, except for any die hard blues fans who'd have felt rather cheated!

One bar to sign off with...... Albertine's in Shepherd's Bush has been there for many years (19 to my knowledge) and is just what a wine bar should be: no nonsense, reliable good and a lots of choice of wine, good food without being fussy or taking over and it doesn't change apart from the odd lick of paint. Long may it last!

Bye for now.

3 August 2009

A rather different week in London...

A rather different week from the usual as I was a volunteer for WaterAid at the London Triathlon this weekend. WaterAid is a great charity whose vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation. Take a look at http://www.wateraid.org/. Lots of cheering on our runners/swimmers/cyclists but also rooting for anyone who was running for charity or looked really exhausted and there were a few of those..... We were all wearing WaterAid t-shirts to spread the word so it was important to have a big group of volunteers to be as visible as possible. London has lots of big events where you can volunteer for a day or 2 to show support so there's no excuse not to get involved. The event was held at the Excel Centre in the east of London and this will be one of the Olympic venues in 2012, tho' not for the triathlon which will be in Hyde Park.

On the unusual theme, I spent 2 evenings on a jewellery making course and came home with a pair of earrings and 2 rings made of silver wire and beads. London's colleges offer an unbelievable range of courses for adults to try our hands at new skills. I wasn't that good so won't be back for more but being able to have 2 evenings of tasters was just great and my masterpieces are definitely wearable if not brilliant!

It was Ealing Jazz Festival and on Saturday evening we popped in, gave them our £1 and saw 2 great bands. Yes, that was £1 - the best value in town. The Township Comets featuring Pinise Saul had great African sounds particularly from the singer. This was followed by Liz Fletcher and her band, again a great singer with strong instrumental back up. This event's been going for 25 years and never fails to provide excellent music in large circus style tents with a programme spread over 5 days. You can sit outside the tents during the day and picnic or just lay around and listen to the varied jazz styles. It's an important part of the summer for west Londoners and I used to be one.

Before I close, one restaurant to mention. Annie's down by the river in Chiswick is a beautifully decorated converted Victorian house with tables on 2 floors and outside on the street. Sumptuous is a word that crops in their reviews for their decor and is very apt and the brasserie style food was lovely including the seasonal special of lobster which I couldn't resist and the cocktails slipped down easily as well.

Bye til next week.


29 July 2009

Lycra in Paris and a giant cupcake in London!

I took a few days out of London to visit Paris , my second favourite city and one which makes a fabulous side trip from London. We've been many times for long weekends or just for a long lunch which is really easy now that the journey time can take as little as 2 hours and 15 minutes. The lycra was in abundance thanks (if that's the right word!) to the Tour de France racing through Paris for the finale on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday. We had a front perch on the road near Notre Dame to see the cyclists flash past in a 10 second blur of bright colour and wheels. A Brit won the day in Paris but overall scoring meant a Spaniard took the crown in 2009 as there are 2o other hard days' work to take into account. Great meals, lots of pastis and good doses of culture added to the fun.

Life in London's been busy and topped by a giant cupcake which was sighted in Covent Garden as a special guest at their regular Thursday real food market. How big you ask, well it was 2 metres by 1.25 metres and was big enough to offer over 2000 people a decent sized slice, brought to them by Culinary Olympic winner Michelle Wibowo. I saw it, it was huge and took forever to cut up.

More cerebral delights were tucked away in the massive Westfield shopping centre in small Getty Images collection of glorious celebrity photographs by Terry O'Neill. From Paul Newman and Lee Marvin's publicity shots to the casual snap of the Rolling Stones in a BBC canteen, they were arresting photos.

One local monthly event for us Notting Hill-ers is Book Slam which moved venue for July so had to be checked out. Book Slam is a live event and mixes poetry, book reading and music. We dropped into the Tabernacle, the new venue and also home of Notting Hill carnival, to see a performance poet (Luke Wright) and the novelist David Nicholls. We gave the new venue the thumbs up and even bought the book as it was signed and the reading had got us hooked.

I can't end without a mention of a restaurant or bar and for this blog it's the Champagne Bar at St Pancras International which makes a fitting start to any Eurostar train trip to Paris. It's the longest champagne bar in Europe and for those who have to ask the question - there is no clear answer to who holds the world award! From the bar you can enjoy St Pancras which has been renovated to become a wonderful and beautiful station.

londonliving blog will be coming to you on a weekly basis from now on as there is just too much to fit in each fortnight and I'll be able to do every entry a bit more justice. Hope you're enjoying it so far.

Bye for now.

13 July 2009

The heady days of Wimbledon are behind us and there was to be no win for our own Andy Murray but we are already looking ahead to next year....

The heatwave is also behind us but not before we enjoyed drinks in my garden until midnight in short sleeves - what a treat. Now we have sunshine with passing showers but easily good enough for an outdoor BBQ on Friday.

On Saturday evening we went to see something amazing. Sadler's Wells was the venue for Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray, a retelling of Oscar Wilde's gothic fable through dance. The fluidity of movement, the seductive choreography, the stunning elegance, the driving music, all came together in a fabulous experience. The dancers must be from another planet compared with us earth bound mortals. They lead us through the glorious rise and then the fall into decay of an advertising made 'It Boy'.

On a sombre note, last week saw the unveiling in Hyde Park of the memorial to the 52 people who were killed by terrorist bombs in London on 7th July 2005. There are 52 tall stainless steel pillars, one for each person, grouped into four sections which represent the four locations of the bombs. It's a public space and you can walk among the pillars and reflect on the loss, as the many visitors were doing when I was there. Very fitting.

For Sports fans, cricket has taken over and the 2nd match in the 5 match series called 'The Ashes' of England v Australia will start in London on Thursday. This is at Lord's cricket ground the home of cricket, by Regents Park. I won't even try to explain cricket to those not brought up with it but as a major sporting event it's great fun as the rivalry is intense. Not looking that good for England after the first match ....

A couple of restaurants to mention before I sign off. Launceston Place in Kensington for lunch was lovely, we had the set menu but they added in a couple of extra taster dishes, a pre-starter and pre-dessert which always cheers the diner up. The staff were charming and its conventional look is dignified without being stuffy. In contrast was Crazy Homies in Notting Hill, a very lively Mexican restaurant with loud music and wacky decorations. Good food, good service and a fun atmosphere has put this onto the list of local favourites.


30 June 2009

Heatwave in London!

The last 2 weeks of June saw a couple of unusual events - a British player doing well at Wimbledon and temperatures hitting the 30s (90s)! To make the most of both I headed off to Wimbledon on Monday to see Andy Murray play on the centre court with the roof closed for the first time and play went on to a very untraditional 10.39 pm. Nails were bitten, eyes were hidden behind hands, Mexicans were waved and in end Andy prevailed and we breathed again. This being England, the fans are planning to queue for 2 days to catch his next encounter!

And still the heat goes on....

It's Henry V111 year as it's 500 years since he came to the throne and there are all kinds of events and exhibitions to visit to learn about this monarch who changed the course of our history. We visited Hampton Court and as well as getting lost in the famous maze (but finally found the centre to claim our sticker!) we joined Henry and his courtiers for pre-wedding drinks and a lively chat about his life and thoughts about wives! Henry was married, well one of his 6 weddings, at Hampton Court and there are re-enactments of the preparations and the wedding for visitors to join in and even Tudor dress to wear as you go round. It's great fun and part of a very entertaining day out in this grand palace.

I was very happy to see Michael Palin in a one off charity show at the O2 arena entitled '20 years of jokes and 20 years of comedy', a treat for travellers and Monty Python fans alike. What a lovely man. The O2 is an amazing building designed as a huge tent and features in Casino Royale for those who know their James Bond films.

One of my visitors staying in Notting Hill wanted to try an English pub so we went to The Cow, known for its sea food. The menu offered 'whelks and winkles' so we decided to boldly go. I retreated to the Pimms as this went down much easier but, for the brave, this dish is really something to remember! Pimms is the classic English summer drink, refreshing but a little bit stronger than it seems.

One more unusual London experience worth telling you all about are the 30 pianos out on the streets all across London, for anyone to sit at and play, as part of Luke Jerram's Play Me I'm Yours artwork. I found one in Notting Hill being played rather well by students whose days mission was to give a short rendition on each of the 30 pianos for Cancer Research, a huge effort on such a hot day.

Yes, it's still hot...


17 June 2009

June fun.....

Hello readers,

My blog will now be posted fortnightly so hopefully you won't have the mammoth sized May one to plough through again! What are these blogs going to be about? Mostly what I've been doing in London and if there's something great that's been happening which I somehow missed, I'll add that in too. Hope you enjoy it - let me know!

First 2 weeks of June

You have to love the contrasts in London life. One day watching the ballet Ondine on a big screen in Trafalgar Square being beamed live from the Royal Opera House - all restrained elegance and passion. Another day at the Shepherds Bush Empire watching Katy Perry's show - all energy and bounce, nothing restrained at all.

More energy on show with the quick thinking gang at the Sunday show at the Comedy Store where their amazing improvisation leaves you feeling very slow. Good to see Paul Merton still does this show despite all his TV and Radio appearances. A great end to a weekend.

Had fun at 'First Thursday' which is the once a month late opening of a whole lot of small and very groovy art galleries in the East End. We started at the newly refurbished Whitechapel Gallery which is highly recommended, except for the one painting that makes your eyes go really funny. In Vyner Street there about 10 galleries and we joined the flow of people going in and out of all the venues and stopping at the pub on the corner. It's all a brilliant chance for new art lovers (and the curious among us) to see a great range of stuff all at once.

As we were out in the east of London, we went on to the Boundary restaurant which has a lovely roof top bar - complete with heaters, blankets and an outdoor grill. It was hard to walk past all the Indian restaurants in Brick Lane but rooftop bars are so tempting!

This brings me onto restaurants and those who read May's blog will know I'm a big fan of eating out. There are so many place to go in London that it's hard to find the time to return old favourites but Aphrodite in Notting Hill is one I keep going back to. It's a wonderful neighbourhood Greek with the friendliest staff and owner possible.

New ones that have been tested out were: La Fromagerie in Marylebone and the Notting Hill Tandoori in - well you can guess! La Fromagerie has a handful of tables in the middle of a drooling food shop where the cheeses are so strong and well thought of that they shut them away in a special room! Notting Hill Tandoori gave us great Indian food served by a charming waiter and if you are a fan of breads, I recommend their parathas.

Andy Murray won at Queens tennis - first Brit for 71 years and I missed it, only saw it on TV! It's Wimbledon soon and the excitement and expectation are mounting. There's world cricket in town as well, tho' sadly England didn't do too well. Royal Ascot this week - all hats and royals. It must be summer with all this sport.

We 've had some lovely sunshine and a little bit of rain so the flowers and trees are in bloom and leaf and London is full of life and colour. Wish you were here? Well, come and visit!

Oops - sorry, this seems to have been as long as May's blog. There's just so much happening.......

31 May 2009

What a month May has been...

May draws to a close with an amazing burst of sunshine and blue sky. It's light til nearly 10pm so we're squeezing the last moments out of each evening.

We love May in London - it's when the sun comes out and we have not 1 but 2 public holidays so we get to spend more time having a good time.

I've been trying out some great restaurants - Dehesa, Terroirs and L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon - all recommended and showcasing the current welcome trend of grazing/small plates. More traditional new restaurant was Chor Bizarre and also The Real Greek out at the new huge shopping centre called Westfield, so many shops so little time!

The Globe Theatre has seen a couple of visits from me - once to an amazing modern play called The Frontline which was a blast of energy on stage. And once to their lovely bar and restaurant called Swan at the Globe where we wiled away a very long lunch looking over the Thames to St Paul's dome on another sunny day.

It's been a good month for theatre with some big hitters on stage like Gillian Anderson, Judy Dench and we are waiting for Jude Law to bring us his Hamlet. I went to see When the Rain Stops with less well known players but still a good night out at the Almeida theatre, combined with a drink at the restaurant of the same name opposite.

May also saw a visit to the Jazz Cafe to see the wonderful Mali guitarist Vieux Farka Toure who put on a great show for us on my birthday - thanks Vieux!

And there's more.... Bookslam this month hosted David Simon of the Wire fame, reading from one of his books. Bookslam is a fun and funky event of poetry, music and book readings held in a night club. A very different feel was the Conspiracy Theories talk from David Aaronovitch in the fabulous surroundings of the Miller's Academy club.

Well that was May in London, well just the highlights but it certainly was fun.


30 March 2009

I'm back!!

London Living is back - sorry about the delay, lots of reasons...... But it's great to be writing about London again and giving some insights into what's on and what's fun in town.