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.