19 December 2011

A Winter Wonderland in London this Christmas!

Christmas time in London is great fun with loads of thing to do and see. One of our favourites is Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park so we took some friends who had not been before to enjoy an evening of Christmas cheer.  They couldn't work out what Winter Wonderland was from our description - is it a theme park, is it a Christmas market, it is a food market, is for kids or adults?  Well, it's all of these and it takes up a huge space right in the middle of Hyde Park!
You enter through a massive arch through which you can just see the beginings of the fun fair in the distance.  The first section is made up of several alleyways of Christmas market chalets but the best thing here is the talking and singing moose!  I've attached a video but in case that doesn't work for you, there's a photo as well.  I hope the video runs for you as he is wonderful and one of my highlights.  (If it doesn't download right away, come back to it)


video


You can linger for ages checking out all the gifts in the chalets of the market section as it is  extensive and tempting. Once through with shopping you are surrounded by food stalls and into the fun fair. There's everything from the old fashioned but beautiful helter skelter and big wheel, to incredibly fast whirling things, all looking very festive, to dreadfully scary rides that were too fast to take a photo of and I have know idea how people were not sick on them but it seemed fun was being had!  The roller coaster was popular, looking a little slower than the super fast rides but still resulted in a good few screams.






There are some traditions about Christmas ghost stories so there was the obligatory haunted house with a huge violin playing skeleton outside. On the cuter side, I loved the snowman, the sweets and the massive balloon





We managed to eat and drink our way round the whole experience, tasting the warming mulled wine and by the time we got to the burgers one friend was so hungry he ordered two, making the stall holder so excited that he shouted for all to hear 'he's going for 2'!  There were stalls full of churros and chocolate, candy floss, any type of grilled sausage and colourful sweets.
We almost went for the ice skating but after a wonderful dry evening, the rain started to come down so we escaped to a nearby pub to keep dry and warm. 


 
We're all going again next year and perhaps someone will be brave enough to try the scary rides but I don't think it will be me!

Bye for now,
Sue
@itsyourlondon

12 December 2011

More gorgeous London Chrismas lights!

There are so many fabulous Christmas lights in London this year I just had to put up another selection for you!  I still have some lights left to visit, so there could even be part 3...

Not quite fitting the heading of lights, but very Christmassy none the less, were the sights on show this Saturday in Trafalgar Square where I stumbled upon a massive Santa gathering! Hundreds of Santa were streaming out of the tube stations and off the buses to hang out together, sing songs, do congas and (shock - horror!) drink beer!  Everyone was having such fun it was infectious, although the tourists who had come to check out the Olympic clock were rather bemused. They kept asking 'why'? It seems the only answer was to have fun...



Nearby Covent Garden always looks beautiful at Christmas and I was eager to see if the giant reindeer was there again. Yes, he was although he had set up camp round the other side of the piazza. I missed the real ones who had been there during the day but I love this chap with his proper red nose!  There was also an intriguing and beautifully lit chalet which turned out to house a digital installation work by Martha Fiennes called Nativity. The market sections were decorated with enormous baubles and the whole area looked wonderfully festive, as I'd hoped.




Regent Street is a posh shopping street but they have a habit of putting up the most commercial lights with product placement to the fore. This year, however, they have been more restrained and have some lovely lights about sledges and elfs!




All the big shopping areas in London are great for lights, festive window dressing and decorated trees - even skating rinks!   Here is the last set of photos showing: the window at Selfridges, the tree at Whiteleys;  and the skating rink at Westfield Shepherds Bush.





I hope you've enjoyed more Christmas in London!

Bye for now,
Sue
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk
@itsyourlondon

7 December 2011

The Christmas lights in London are brilliant!

The Christmas lights seem to go up earlier each year but by December we are all getting into the swing of the festive season. Huge numbers of people come to visit to big shopping areas in London like Oxford Street, Regent Street and Covent Garden to buy presents but also to enjoy the wonderful Christmas lights.
This will be a 2 part blog as there are so many to show you. Here's part 1 and I hope you enjoy a trip around London with me!

One of the loveliest and yet very simple Christmas lights are the blue arches in South Molton Street:



I'm not usually a great fan of Oxford Street as it's so busy and has mostly chain stores but their lights are great this year and really lift the mood in the crowds:




St Pancras Station have cornered the market in lego and have this massive tree made completely of lego! I've put a close up so you can see some of the pieces - it must have taken ages to put together!






 Carnaby Street is often the best of the lot and this year they have gone all loved up with their mistletoe and holly branches and Kingly Court looks magical with its fairy lights:




Just one more for today! The tree in Trafalgar Square is very special as it is sent to us each year from the people of Norway to thank us for our help during the Second World War. It's a huge and beautiful tree and each evening you can listen to the carol singers gathered underneath it.

I hope you've enjoyed a short trip round the London Christmas lights. I'll try to squeeze a few more in very soon.

Bye for now,
Sue
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk
@itsyourlondon

21 November 2011

Exploring London - Brixton Village Market

One of the best things about living in London is that there is always something new to see and do. I've lived in London for longer than I care to mention but I can still be delighted by finding a new area to visit.  Last week a group of us went exploring to Brixton Village, south London.
We headed there on a Saturday morning and entered the Village which sits under the railway arches. I didn't know what to expect from the title 'Village' and especially from this entrance.  However, as soon as we walked in, we were greatly entertained by an amazing range of stalls and cafes in an old covered market.



This once run down arcade with an empty unloved corner now houses over 20 new cafes and shops according to Time Out but I'm sure that number has grown massively since their article.  It's a foodie's paradise with great independent cafes and restaurants and food stall groaning with great produce. This link gives you the chance to 'be there' via some videos of the

http://www.timeout.com/london/feature/1543/brixton-village-market-restaurants-and-cafes-guide

We made use of the wonderful array of eateries and tasted the burgers at Honest Burgers which were very good. This tiny cafe with a few tables inside and outside has constant queues outside which are testament to its quality - so we went for take-away.  Simply walking around was fabulous sight seeing and this selection of photos will give you a feel of the place.












What else is there?  Upstairs there are artists' studio and as there was an open day when we went, we could go up and chat with artists about their work from photography, to model making to printing.


Nearby I need to  mention the Ritzy Cinema, a fabulous building, showing great films with a wonderful history. Those of you who read my last blog post will know my love quirky local cinemas. I've not seen a film at the Ritzy so it couldn't make my list. Dating from 1910 it offers 4 screens, bars and restaurants and a lively social centre.




Finally, for music lovers with a good memory, one of the local streets brought about an outbreak of bad singing - remember Eddie Grant's Electric Avenue? Well it's here and was so called because it was the first market street to have electricity in the 1880s.




I'll be going back to Brixton Village Market, that's for sure!

Bye for now
Sue
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk
@itsyourlondon

7 November 2011

London is tops for cinema lovers!

I'm a great fan of cinema and much prefer seeing a film on the big screen than on the TV with all the fun of the movie going experience. London has an amazing range of cinemas, from the swanky thousand-plus seaters in Leicester Square like the Empire and Odeon, through to the many intimate local and boutique places.

London has great movie credentials as it hosts one of the world's top film festivals in October every year when over 200 films are on show and the stars come to town to parade on the red carpets. As a venue for shooting of films there are too many to mention but from the top of my head come 'Notting Hill', 'The King's Speech', 'Harry Potter', 'Bridget Jones' and of course the recently released 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'.

My favourite cinemas are the small, boutique and quirky ones and here are my top 5, not in any order as it's too hard to chose!  Those of you with a working knowledge of London cinemas will notice that these are all around the Notting Hill area. This is not just because I live there, but we have an amazing concentration of great movie houses and I celebrate that!

1. The Electric

This is the last word in luxurious film viewing with extra wide seats, a bar with snacks in the auditorium, plenty of space for drinks by your seat, a footstool, bed sized seats at the back for - well, best leave that there.... All this and up to the moment films and a long and interesting history as they have closed and nearly gone under many times since opening in 1910!  They are one of the oldest working cinemas in the UK


2. The Lexi

This a wonderful warm hearted little cinema, staffed by volunteers and sending their profits out to an amazing project in Africa, the Sustainability Institute. They show you a film about their work with kids so you are in no doubt as to the good they do.  You can catch the latest films here and it's well worth heading out to find them.




 3. The Gate

The Gate is a very comfortable stylish cinema dating from 1911 with a splendid Edwardian interior. It is an independent cinema showing big name films as well as more hard to find gems and live screenings of opera and plays from the National Theatre, which is pretty cool of them!




4. Portobello Pop Up

This is a brilliant place - a digital non profit microplex, the antidote to multiplexes, made of recycled materials, sitting under the Westway.  The box office is made out of - you've guessed - cardboard boxes and the seats are a collection of odd reclaimed seats. They show a range of films, of with director's Q&A. This year I saw My Beautiful Launderette with a chance to chat to Michael Frears. There's no booking, no tickets, you just turn up - how refreshing! Just check when their season is....


 5. The Coronet

Lots of history associated with the Coronet as it started as a theatre in 1898, featured in the film Notting Hill (remember the scene where Hugh wears his snorkel goggles - of course you do!) and I recall it being the last cinema you could smoke in - upstairs only!  The interior gives away its theatrical background and the tickets for all the latest films are good value too.




London has loads more great cinemas but these are my top 5 - which are yours?

Bye for now,
Sue
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk
@itsyourlondon

17 October 2011

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,
Sue
www.itysourlondon.co.uk
@itsyourlondon