22 December 2010

'Twas the last blog before Christmas...

Nearly the end of the year and this is the last blog before Christmas, and depending on how the travelling goes next week, it could be the last of the year. England has had more snow than it can cope with on the roads, railways and at our airports which has been very sad for people trying to get home to be with friends and family for the festive period. I'm off to Kent first and then to Dartmouth for New Year so fingers crossed I get to both.... And I hope you get to where you want to be as well.
The last weeks of 2010 have been snow dominated which is really surprising for this time of year s we don't usually get this much snow until February and it's been colder than for many decades - global warning eh! London had a couple of major 'dumps' as they are called tho' it seems an odd word to me. So of course here are a set of photos from my locality including the biggest bus queue in London where at least 12 number 52s were stuck due to the smallest hill - poor show! See if you can spot the snowman...
Some of the best exhibitions are the small ones and I visited the Courtauld Gallery to see the Cezanne's Card Players series. He painted several of the same group in similar positions showing his appreciation of the peasants and their lives. It was wonderful and just this single room of paintings gave me a much deeper understanding of Cezanne. The Courtauld Gallery is a small gem which is packed full of great works and only £6 to get in!It is known for the its collection of impressionist and post impressionist masterpieces, thanks to the collector Samuel Courtauld It is the front part, the entrance gate, of the Somerset House complex which houses an ice rink at this time of year in its beautiful courtyard. I dropped in during a snow storm and it was good to see that this did not deter the brave skaters.

It's panto season so we booked into our local Notting Hill version of Sleeping Beauty which gave us the usual chaotic good fun show at the Tabernacle. It has plenty of improvisation (for which we mean - somewhat under-rehearsed!) and some great in-jokes and splendid acting from the tiniest of kids. We boo'd we hissed and chanted 'behind you' with the best of them and finished the show with full rendition of Slade's 'So here it is, merry Christmas'.... Very festive!

That's all for this year except to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a great 2011.

Bye for now,

16 December 2010

Winter Wonderland and festive lights

Winter Wonderland is the annual huge outdoor festival which has a funfair, ice rink and German market all rolled into one with a mini railway, hundreds of food stalls and a giant snowman thrown in. It's great and was absolutely full of families having a wonderful time. We couldn't face the fast, swirly and vertically dropping fair rides but were deafened by the screams to know just what a lucky escape we'd had! London looks beautiful at this time of year will all the Christmas lights in the streets and shop windows. I've posted in a few photos which show you the classic approach of Fortnum and Mason's where they have recreated some of the old masters. Carnaby Street is up to its usual high standard and the capture a great sense of fun which some other areas miss and this year they have a space man and planet theme - no idea why but it looks great! So here's a whole bunch of photos so you can feel you are here.....

A good week for lovely lunches with a long session at Bar Boulud (from Daniel Boulud) in the Mandarin Oriental, Knightsbridge where the star was the pot of freshly cooked mini Madeleines, ah, simple pleasures.... Another recommendation is Seven Park Place by William Drabble, part of the St James Hotel where the star was the lobster tortellini.

We have more snow on the way but I hope to have plenty to report next week.

Bye for now,

5 December 2010

Russia won the World Cup and sent us their weather!

There was a huge build up of excitement ahead of the announcement of which city would win the prize to host the 2018 World Cup. Ahead of the moment of pulling the card out of the envelope, we dared to dream it could be London and I went down to City Hall to see it all happen surrounded by excitable England fans. We stood in the Siberian temperature and the falling snow with the jolly mascot and the wonderful David Ginola - as a Spurs fan it was good to see him again, reminding us what a great player he was and what a fabulously handsome man he was and still is! We waited and waited with all eyes on the big screen and Seb Blatter and then came the horrible disappointment of losing out but good luck to Russia even tho' we wish we'd won instead.

The build up to Christmas is in full swing and one of our local Notting Hill squares, Norfolk Square, set up a Christmas market and opened this event up with carol singers and a visit (rather early for those who are expecting him on Christmas Eve!) from Father Christmas. It was such a bitterly cold night that I was so impressed by the carol singers and players as they had such good spirits and fine voice, as did the Father Christmas. More Christmas fun at our local shopping centre, Whiteleys which has a wonderful tree to delight visiting children who are greeted by jolly elves and hopefully good presents for well behaved children!

We had a snowfall in the centre of London which is very unusual at this time of year. A couple of inches made the city a beautiful festive scene and the photo attached is shows my garden with the unusual sight of snow and a single remaining pink rose.

Bye for now,


1 December 2010

Cold and snowy? Head for the Savoy!

I've been wanting to try out the new improved Savoy Hotel since is reopened after a massively expensive and lengthy refurbishment (3 years and £220m!). The hotel was built in 1889 and holds a long list of firsts including first hotel to have electricity in London, to have electric lifts, airconditioning and constant hot water. With much anticipation we booked in for afternoon tea which then turned into evening drinks and I can highly recommend the whole experience. We arrived by taxi down the only road in London where you drive on the right side of the road, thus enabling one to exit one's taxi directly into the main door. We swept in past the glass fountain into a haven of art deco. Tea was the classic sandwich, cream tea, pastries and cake format, making 4 courses of loveliness washed down with a glass of champagne and the Savoy Afternoon Tea blend. A pianist entertained us from within a massive bird cage (luckily a photo will make more sense of this description) and we supped our tea until the Beaufort Bar opened at 5.30 by which time we were ready for cocktails. The bar is very chic, dark and you'll be tempted to stay all night! Then the fun was topped off by a spotting of Nicholas Cage - definitely him as I heard him speak.

It's very cold in London and the whole of the UK at the moment so it's very tempting to stay in, but we've only a few flakes of snow so far so really no excuse for being lazy. I was meeting friends at St Pancras station and took the moment for a few snaps with no people in as they were all hiding inside. St Pancras is still undergoing a massive refurbishment, more lengthy and expensive than even the Savoy and the last part will be the opening of a huge top end hotel next year. However the inside of the station now used for UK train services and Eurostar is working and has the most beautiful blue, really blue, arching frame and is full of light, making you want to start a train adventure right away! 2 statues catch the eye, the enormous kissing couple called Meeting Place and one of John Betjeman, celebrating his role in helping the station escape a planned demolition in the 1960s! Opened in 1868 it was the largest single span building in the world at that time and still looks pretty enormous. The restoration and relocation of the Eurostar terminal from Waterloo to St Pancras has helped bring new life to the Kings Cross area which is really up and coming now. When it's a bit chilly the St Pancras Grand is worth popping into as it's a good station brasserie when the weather is far too cold for the wonderful champagne bar, the longest in Europe but without any form of heating!

That's all for today so bye for now.

22 November 2010

Loving the Victoria and Albert.....

This week's blog has a peek inside the V&A, the Victoria and Albert Museum, one of London's great treasures. They have a few different sites but the one in South Kensington is the leading one. They tell us that it is 'one of the world's greatest museums of art and design with collections unrivalled in scope and diversity' and who am I to disagree! You can explore 3,000 years of amazing artefacts across such a range of media from fashion textiles, carpets, glass, ceramics, metalwork, photography, paintings, jewellery and more.... They have special exhibitions but the permanent rooms are extraordinary especially the rooms of statues and the cast room where the casts include huge Roman columns - have a look at the 2 photos of these. One item I can't photograph is the Ardabil carpet that is only lit for 10 minutes per hour because it is so delicate. This carpet dates from 1539/40 and is one of the oldest dated carpets and one of the finest in the world The outside of the building is impressive and an elaborate glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly hits you as soon as you enter as do the V&A monograms in the marble staircases. They even have a courtyard with a pond to splash in (best if you are under 10 years old tho') and several cafes to rest the weary sightseeing bones in and refresh yourself. Enjoy the photos and book yourself a visit. It's free and will delight any visitor - there really is something for everyone.

Don't you think Sundays, when the weather is getting chilly and a bit wet, are just made for a great big roast lunch? This week we went to Rosa's in Notting Hill where the roast beef with roast potatoes, parsnips and a yorkshire pudding was absolutely excellent. Followed up with apple crumble and clotted cream made this the perfect Sunday lunch - if a little too filling for me! It's a little place with a lovely local feel - have a look for yourselves and give it a try!

We went to the Lonsdale bar, also in Notting Hill, for a quiz night which was great fun despite the fact that we did not manage to win - not sure how that happened! The quiz master was comedian and actor (Torchwood for those fans among you) Tom Price who was very funny and a great host. I'll be definitely be back for more, the quizzes are every 3rd Wednesday of the month so pop that in your diary and check them out!

Bye for now,

17 November 2010

Lord Mayor's Show in London since 1189!

Winter is really on its way now and it's gone rather cold on us but there's plenty of indoor stuff to do in London and those from northerly climes would not even call this cold - you need just wrap up warmly and walk briskly and you are fine!

Last Saturday was the annual Lord Mayor's show which has been held in some form or other since 1189 making it the world's oldest civic procession and in all that time it has only missed one year, in 1852, for Wellington's funeral! The parade was huge with the armed forces, the guilds of the City of London, businesses and a mix of people on foot, on horseback, in grand carriages, vintage vehicles and even in a massive piece of farm equipment - no idea what that was called.... I went to see this at Mansion House where there was a grandstand for presenting arms to the Lord Mayor and these arms were muskets presented by Civil War soldiers. The Mayor-ship (I doubt that's the right term!) is a one year appointment so each year this event celebrates the new person taking office. The was a sense of fun running through the parade with many of the serious looking gents in carriages waving hand puppets around! There were huge crowds enjoying the parade who all wandered over to the Thames to ooh and aah at the spectacular fireworks. A great day out for all and all free which is a great bonus with all the talk of cuts at the moment. The photos show the parade, the toys (can you spot the glove puppet sheep?), real dogs and dog costumes from the PDSA charity, the Lord Mayor waving from his carriage and one firework shot across the Thames to St Pauls.

It was a big week for those of us in the travel industry as the World Travel Market arrived in force taking up the whole of the massive Excel Centre in east London. There were fancy stands from every country in the world and some seemed as big as a country! There was so much to see and people to catch up with that it was exhausting but it's a major event in the industry year so great to be there. A few photos just for fun - Paddington continues the soft toys theme, the komodo dragon made me look twice and the Korean stand saved me by serving very tasty lunch!

It was a delight to show a visiting American around London and we wandered our way through the tried and tested favourites: Downing Street, Big Ben, Thames Cruise and British Museum. I never tire of these....

Just one more thing to squeeze into this week's jumbo photo blog was a charity event at Mary Portas Giving and Living shop on Westbourne Grove. It was the kick off for their online auction of Killer Heels against Killer Diseases and they have gathered designer shoes - Manolos, Westwoods and Choos - and donations from famous locals - Pixie Lott, Nigella, Jonathan Ross etc. So we viewed the shoes over a glass of bubbly, with many of the clever window display you can see on the photo, and decided which ones to bid for. Great idea Mary!

Bye for now,