27 August 2013

Loving Notting Hill Carnival!

I go to carnival every year and still love it just as much - the music, the parade with mad costumes, the food, the noise, the people watching, the colours, did I say the noise?  Some residents of Notting Hill head for the country while others, like myself, make the most of one of the world's best street carnivals coming to their doorstep. 

Firstly the history bit:  the roots of the Notting Hill carnival are way back in the Caribbean in the 19th century, particularly in Trinidad, when freed slaves wanted to celebrate the end of of slavery and these traditions are carried forward into what we see now. Our carnival dates from the late 1950s/early 1960s when it started as a celebration of Afro-Caribbean cultures and traditions at a particularly difficult time for race relations. We have 2 women to thank for this amazing event - Claudia Jones and Rhaune Laslett. These days over 1.5 million people come to have a great time, watch the parade, enjoy the sound systems, eat the Caribbean food (mostly jerk chicken, goat curry, rice and peas and my favourite - ackee and salt fish), have a few drinks and dance!

The weather was great for both days and day one, which is the kids day was full of fun and families trying to navigate the crowds with double buggies - rather them than me!  I've picked a selection of day one photos for you to enjoy:

Waiting for the parade to start

Anyone can join it!

Great viewing spot

These kids were having such fun

Colours and feathers - and a head in the background

How heavy do you think this is?
Classic London routemaster bus getting in on the act

Cooking up a smokey BBQ
Even Dr Who dropped in with some famous enemies

This group weren't even in the parade, just turned up anyway

I said it gets busy....

There really is only one beer at carnival

Unusual window display in this butchers shop on Portobello

Beautifully made statue of The Pan Man

It can get very tiring

Great costume

A mime troop decide to  join in

Thumbs up from one of the parade floats

The happy face of carnival

 I was hoping to bring you some brilliant photos from day two of carnival and had a whole set in the camera but unfortunately I was the victim of a very sly pick pocket so the camera has gone! It's the first time in 11 years of going to carnival that this has happened to me so however careful you think you are it can still happen and you need to be on your look out. Thankfully I have a spare camera so I'll still be out and about taking photos of London for you.

Bye for now

16 August 2013

3 of the best rooftop bars in London

We've been having a brilliant summer in London this year so we've been seeking out bars with outdoor space, preferably with stunning views and a breeze. I've been working very hard to find the best bars to tell you about and, although there are so many to chose from, here are my top 3. 

Newly opened and already a firm favourite with long queues snaking round the block to nab a stool at this fabulous bar is the Radio Bar. I went when it had just opened on a stormy eve which blessed us with a rainbow right over London - hope that's a lucky sign! Sitting 10 floors above the Aldwych you can see for miles across some very famous skylines.

It's trademark pointy end!

Lucky rainbow?

Looking over Waterloo bridge to the South Bank

The Shard and Tower Bridge

Looking right to the London Eye and Big Ben

The most amazing bar is at the top of the Gherkin which doesn't do the whole summer thing as it is indoors but you are sitting right inside the top of the roof dome and it is a really incredible experience at 180 metres above street level. If you go mid evening you can go from day to night and enjoy the changing light as the cocktails go down! There are 360 degree views to wow you but just one catch - it's private members only!

Arriving at the Gherkin - bar is in the dome at the top!
On top of the world

Right at the top of the building

Lovely view over the Tower and Tower Bridge

Canary Wharf

Shard with the 'Walkie Talkie in front

Sun going down - as did the cocktails!
Lights across Tower Bridge

My 3rd bar on this list is the Quarter Deck on the South Bank, or more accurately, over the Thames next to the South Bank!  They have put up a building which sticks out into the river and on the top there is a small and lovely bar. You feel like you are at sea, especially as HMS Belfast is moored next to you! The bar is part of the Imperial War Museum who run HMS Belfast so it has a military as well as nautical feel. We were lucky enough to have the most fabulous light over Tower Bridge and the Tower of London and rather too many wines later we were still enjoying this new and very welcome bar...

IWM- Imperial War Museum

Bar with a view...

On deck!

Love that light

Getting dark.....

HMS Belfast protecting the Tower!

Hope you enjoyed 3 of my favourite London rooftop bars but, who knows, new ones may be opening right now to over take these so I'll keep an eye out and bring you any more that catch my fancy!

Bye for now

6 August 2013

London tube maps are even better when they made of Lego!

We are celebrating 150 years of the London underground this year and all kinds of inventive approaches have been used to make this a fun year on the tube. My favourite is the wonderful Lego tube maps dotted around London!

On 9th January 1863 the very first underground railway journey was made from Paddington Station where you can see the commemorative plaques and photos. The underground train travelled just 3 and a half miles under London's streets to Farringdon station and history was made. 

A picture from Paddington station

There are 5 specially created maps made of Lego bricks which show the tube system and how it has developed over the years since 1927 (although there were maps before then) and the proposed future size and scale of the tube in 2020.  I've been hunting them down in the 5 ticket halls and here they are from South Kensington, Picadilly Circus, Green Park, Stratford and King's Cross. 

The oldest map is from 1927 and looks very different from version we are used us as back then they superimposed the tube lines onto a  map of London show this is really how it looks!
South Kensington station's map

The key to this strange looking map

Chronologically we next have a map from 1933 and this is Harry Beck's original design which is the basis for our current versions so islooking more familiar. He expanded the central area to make it clearer and simplified the look by distorting the actual distances between stations and the shape of the lines. A radical idea but it has stood the test of time.  While checking out this map I had to stop several tourists from using it to plan their journey, it was hard to explain why there was a map from 1933 on the wall!

Picadilly CIrcus station

We jump to 1968 to see various changes such as an extended Central line and a change of colour to brighter red, a longer Northern line and by the look of it, much more Circle line.

Green Park station

In 2013 we see our familiar map which has grown from 1968 with the addition of the orange showing the overground lines circling London, the arrival of the Jubilee line and of course the Docklands Light Railway.

Stratford station

In a peek into the future we can see 2020's network showing the major development of Crossrail cutting through the centre of London, the Croxley link in the north west and the Northern line extension at Battersea.  It's an ever changing system as it has to adapt to the different requirements of commuting of the future, travellers' needs and the challenge of carrying over 1 billion passengers a year!

King's Cross station
The vital statistics of these maps are thanks to the London Underground website:
  • Each map is made up of over 1000 LEGO bricks
  • The LEGO Tube maps measure 140cm x 100cm
  • Each map took four days to build
  • Created by Duncan Titmarsh, the UK's only Certified LEGO Professional - there are only 13 in the world! 
Hope you enjoyed a some time travel via the London tube!

Bye for now,