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Archive for December, 2012

Famous London Cats


As a nation of animal lovers it is no surprise to find London has many famous cats.



Larry, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office


When David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010 a rat was seen scuttling past the front door of no.10 Downing Street. The Prime Minister quickly got himself a cat. Larry came from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and was chosen because of his hunting instinct from his days as a stray cat in south London.


Larry The Cat - Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office© Her Majesty's Government

Larry The Cat – Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office
© Her Majesty’s Government


In October 2012 Larry got into a cat fight with Freya, Chancellor George Osborne’s pet cat who lives next door at no.11, possibly because Freya had taken over most of his mousing duties. When asked about how well the felines get on, a spokesman replied: “They co-exist.”


Hotel tip: The Citadines-Prestige Trafalgar Square was renovated in 2012 to have a lovely contemporary style with studios, one-bed and two-bedroom apartments and even duplex options so you really can feel at home and go upstairs to bed.



Kaspar at The Savoy


Kaspar is a 3 foot high black wooden cat sculpted by Basil Ionides in 1926 from a single piece of London Plane tree. He is used as an extra guest when a party of thirteen dine at the Savoy Grill because of the bad luck associated with that number. He gets his own seat and is served a full meal just as another guest at the table.




The superstition dates back to 1898 when South African Woolf Joel dined at The Savoy with thirteen at the table and someone said the first person to leave would be the first to die. No-one believed this at the time but Joel with shot dead in his Johannesburg office a few weeks later.


Kaspar can be seen in the Hotel Foyer at The Savoy. He was the inspiration for the children’s book Kaspar, Prince of Cats by Michael Morpurgo when he was the resident writer in 2007.


Hotel tip: The Savoy has both Art Deco and Edwardian style with today’s luxury. If this is beyond your budget consider The Strand Palace Hotel which is a large hotel right opposite with over 800 rooms.



Dick Whittington’s Cat


Regularly used for pantomimes at Christmas, Dick Whittington’s story has some truth. Although folklore over the years may have altered some of the facts the basic tale is of a boy from Gloucestershire who walked to London to seek his fortune. He took a job with Alderman Fitzwarren and bought a cat to kill the mice in the attic room when he slept.


When his master had a ship ready to sail it was the custom for all servants to send out something for some chance of good fortune for themselves. Dick had no money so sent his cat. A North African king bought the cat to keep down the rat and mice population and paid handsomely. Fitzwarren gave the wealth to Dick who went on to marry Fitzwarren’s daughter Alice and became Lord Mayor of London three times.


St Michael Paternoster Royal is a Wren church in the City of London with a stained glass Dick Whittington window by John Hayward.


Hotel tip: Apex City of London Hotel has complimentary wifi and local calls.





A Street Cat Named Bob


Bob has transformed the life of his homeless owner James Bowen who found him injured and took him to a vet for treatment. Bowen nursed him back to health and now Bob won’t leave him. They travel on the bus and the tube together and were a regular sight at Angel tube station where Bowen sold the Big Issue, a professional newspaper sold by homeless people to earn a living.


Street Cat Bob© Bryan Ledgard

Street Cat Bob
© Bryan Ledgard


Bob wears a harness and a lead and walks with Bowen around the streets of London. He has become such an interesting character that a book was published in 2012 called A Street Cat Named Bob and telling Bowen’s difficult story and how a stray cat has changed his life.


Hotel tip: Not far away from Islington is the stunning Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell. With just 13 rooms, this heritage townhouse has an eclectic style – look out for Skippy the boxing kangaroo in the Dining Room.




Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and is also a VisitBritain Super Blogger. She fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. Laura is @AboutLondon on twitter and @AboutLondon Laura on Facebook. You can find out more about her at about.me/LauraPorter.

Five Quirky Facts about the London Underground

As it is the oldest underground passenger train system in the world there are plenty of tube facts you can impress/bore your friends with. We could stick to the classic statistics such as the length of the network is 402km/249 miles, or the number of miles/km travelled by each tube train each year is 114,500 miles/184,269km, or even the average speed of a tube train is 33km per hour/ 20.5 mph, but really you want to know something that’s easier to remember and quote back at dinner parties or when down the pub.


1. Babies Born Below
While the tube carries 1,107 million passengers each year to 270 stations (okay, I’ll stop with those statistics) there have only been three babies born on the London Underground.



In 1924 a girl was born at Elephant & Castle station and was named Marie Cordery after Lord Ashfield who was Chairman of the London Passenger Transport Board at the time. In December 2008 a girl was born at Kingsbury station and in May 2009 a boy was born at London Bridge station.


Hotel tip: London Bridge Hotel is right next to the base of The Shard, one of Europe’s tallest buildings.



2. Be Inside a Clock (Sort of)
Apparently, Hopkins Architects designed Westminster station to look like the inside of a clock which would seem like a very relevant choice as this is the station next to ‘Big Ben’.


© Laura Porter



3. Linear World Clock
Most people walk straight by this but there is a linear world clock in the ticket hall at Piccadilly Circus station. The time band moves across the central line at the same pace as the world rotates. There is also an arrow fixed on Greenwich so you can always check the current time in London too. The clock was added as part of the £1.5 million refurbishment in 1925-8 by architect Charles Holden and builder John Mowlem and Co.


Hotel tip: Sofitel London St James and Le Meridien Piccadilly are both fabulous luxury hotels near Piccadilly Circus.


© Laura Porter



4. Mind The Gap
Some tube platforms are curved and this creates sporadic wide gaps between the train and the station platform. Authorities agreed that passengers needed to be warned before getting off the train but it proved impractical for tube drivers to make an announcement at each relevant station every time. A recording was created in 1968 that needed to be kept as short as possible as it was also to be written along the platforms. Mind The Gap came into regular use in 1969 and is still used today.




5. Interesting Scar
Albus Dumbledore, the Hogwart’s School Headmaster in J K Rowling’s Harry Potter stories gave us this interesting snippet about his body in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone:


“Scars can come in handy. I have one myself above my left knee
that is a perfect map of the London Underground.”




Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and is also a VisitBritain Super Blogger. She fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. Laura is @AboutLondon on twitter and @AboutLondon Laura on Facebook. You can find out more about her at about.me/LauraPorter.



South Kensington has three major museums: The Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. You could spend a full day in each and still not see everything on display.


When you arrive in the area, if you see a queue to enter the Natural History Museum then do know that the other two museums are just as worthy of a visit. The V&A is dedicated to art and design, and the Science Museum is a wonderful place for anyone with an exploring mind. All three welcome many visitors a year with the Natural History Museum receiving nearly 5 million, the V&A 2.6 million and the Science Museum nearly 3 million visitors.


These wonderful museums are now an integral part of London and there’s a very good reason they are all in the same area.


Great Exhibition of 1851
While England was feeling the benefits of the Industrial Revolution and was not involved in any international wars, Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert wanted to find a way to display the wonders of industry and manufacturing around the modern world. Prince Albert became the President of the Royal Commission who organised the Great Exhibition which took two years of intense planning.


The Crystal Palace(Image is in the public domain)

The Crystal Palace


An enormous glass building, known as the Crystal Palace, was built on Hyde Park, in sight of Kensington Palace. There were about 100,000 objects on display and Britain, as host, occupied half the display space inside with exhibits from Britain and the Empire.


Inside the Crystal Palace(Image is in the public domain)

Inside the Crystal Palace



The Great Exhibition was a huge success and around 6 million visitors came over the summer. After expecting to make a loss the exhibition actually made a £186,000 profit and plans were considered for future exhibitions.


Prince Albert proposed instead to purchase land to have a dedicated centre for science and art, and the education of the population in these subjects. Along with Henry Cole, another of the Great Exhibition’s Commissioners, they created the South Kensington we now know.


In 1857 the South Kensington Museum opened and this is what we now call the Victoria and Albert Museum. In 1860 The Times referred to “the rising suburb of Albertopolis, south of the Kensington Road” and the slightly mocking nickname stuck for some time until Henry Cole christened the area South Kensington.


There are more buildings and institutions in South Kensington than just the big three museums and you can found out more from these walking tours from architecture.com and walktheworld.org.uk.


Albert Memorial
When her beloved Prince Albert died of Typhoid at the age of only 42, Queen Victoria commissioned a statue of him, sitting under a gilt canopy opposite the Royal Albert Hall with a copy of the Exhibition catalogue on his knee. The Albert Memorial can be visited; check details on the Royal Parks website.


Albert Memorial&#copy; David Iliff

Albert Memorial
David Iliff



Hotel tip: There are some excellent hotels in South Kensington including The Gore which has a Judy Garland room with a bed that was owned by the great actress, and a Tudor Room which has an oak four poster bed and a 15th century minstrel’s gallery. How brilliant is that?




Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and is also a VisitBritain Super Blogger. She fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. Laura is @AboutLondon on twitter and @AboutLondon Laura on Facebook. You can find out more about her at about.me/LauraPorter.

London Underground “Ghost” Stations

2013 is a big birthday for the London Underground. On 9 January 1863 the world’s first underground passenger train travelled from Paddington station to Farringdon which means 2013 is the 150th anniversary.


While there are eleven lines now, the first was the Metropolitan Line (then called the Metropolitan Railway) which was initially used by passengers more as a fun ride than a work commute even though it was built to encourage business links.


Oldest In The World
The London Underground is the oldest subway in the world, although note we never call it the “subway” or “metro” but instead the “tube” is most common. This name was given to the deep-level lines to identify them from the sub-surface lines which were the first built but now the name is used for the whole network.


The London Transport Museum has lots of plans in place to celebrate this special anniversary all year but I’ve got some ideas how to see the quirky side of the Underground while travelling around town.


Aldwych Station
© Laura Porter


Abandoned Stations
As each line of the London Underground network was built by different private companies it worked out that there were some stations so close to each other that it made no financial sense to keep all open due to low passenger numbers. As the network integrated – it is now run by Transport for London – some stations were closed but you can see some clues to their locations at street level and below ground.


Looking towards Holborn at Aldwych Station, WC2.
Taken on the final day of operation before this station closed in 1994.
© Phillip Perry and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence


Aldwych Station
The most popular closed station is Aldwych which is used as a film location and there are occasional public tours organised by the London Transport Museum. I visited many years ago and it’s a ‘time capsule’ to a bygone era as everything was left when the station closed in 1994. As with many tube stations, during the Second World War, Aldwych was closed for nearly six years and was used as an air raid shelter. More unusually it’s reported that the unused tunnels were used as storage for art and treasures from the British Museum.


Hotel tip: One Aldwych nearby has a fantastic view across Waterloo Bridge.


Ghost Stations
While walking around King’s Cross I noticed York Road station which closed in 1932. At street level you can see the red-tiled station building on the corner of York Way and Bingfield Street, but what I hadn’t realised was that you can (sort of) see the disused platforms from the Piccadilly Line.


York Road Station
© Ewan-M


When travelling between King’s Cross and Caledonian Road on the Piccadilly Line, look out of the windows on the right-hand side (both directions) and you’ll notice a short gap when the normal cables running along the wall can’t be seen as you’re passing an open platform area (the platforms themselves have been removed).


Hotel tip: St Pancras Renaissance is a beautifully restored railway station.



Another popular ghost station to spot is the British Museum station which closed in 1933. When travelling on the Central Line between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn look out on the right-hand side and you should be able to see the dirty tiled walls of this old station.


British Museum station
© LoopZilla


There are a couple of great sites for finding out more about abandoned and ghost stations on the London Underground. I recommend abandonedstations.org.uk and this great print-out-and-keep list from underground-history.co.uk.




Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and is also a VisitBritain Super Blogger. She fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. Laura is @AboutLondon on twitter and @AboutLondon Laura on Facebook. You can find out more about her at about.me/LauraPorter.

Beer’s To You: Bavarian Beer House


Get ready to clink your glasses in the air and shout Prost as the bubbles fill the air in the streets of the capital.


I don’t know about you but all this talk of beer is making me extremely thirsty. From dark bruin to heffeweiss, if you are in  search of a cold frosty one, then why not indulge in the Bavarian Beer House.


(c) Bavarian Beerhouse


With venues in both Tower Hill as well as Old Street in the east of London, you can have the chance to sample a whole host of beer and oompah band fun.


Considered to be the only German restaurant chain in the entire UK, it has been wowing diners since 2005 with its incredible array of food and drink which would make anyone shout Jawhol.


The extensive selection of beers you can choose from is simply mind boggling which all come in traditional Steins. They include Erdinger, Krombacher, Warsteiner as well as Jagermeister and Jagerbombs that will keep you going until the smalll hours.


(c) Bavarian Beerhouse


In addition to this, all the produce is sourced and shipped in from Germany ensuring high quality local ingredients. Whether you are chowing down on one of their monster schnitzels or tucking ito their succulent sausages or pork shanks, you can be rest assured that you will benefit from the freshest meat.


When it comes to the in house entertainment, this does not disappoint either. This is thanks to the number of warm and friendly servers who are decked out in classic costumes from the Bavarian region.


They are on hand in order to guide you through the menu and array of drinks. Trust me when I say that you will be high kicking and buying yourself a pair of Lederhosen in no time.


In fact the best time to go is around September time when both venues come alive. This is largely in part down to the incredible Oktoberfest festivities.


(c) Bavarian Beerhouse


The Bavarian Beerhouse actually celebrates for 8 hard weeks on the trot and has been recognised as having the longest celebrations in the world as far as this famous event is concerned.


And who said the Germans did not have a sense of humour. If you want to pull up a seat at the traditional wooden tables for lunch or dinner, you will certainly not be disappointed at what’s on offer.


Bottoms up!


Bavarian Beerhouse Tower Hill - The Arches, 9 Crutched Friars, London, EC3N 2AU

Opening Times for Tower Hill are Monday to Thursday between 12pm and 11pm, Fridays and Saturdays between 12pm and 1am, Sundays between 12pm and 9pm


Bavarian Beerhouse  - 190 City Road, London, EC1V 2QH

Opening Times for Old Street are Mondays to Thursdays between 5pm and 11pm, Fridays and Saturdays between 12pm and 1am. Closed on Sundays.



Simon Lazarus is an experienced PR/Business Consultant and copywriter with a number of clients across different territories including the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. His vast portfolio includes writing content for a variety of sites on food and drink, travel, personal finance, news, showbiz, sport, technology and much more.

Batter Me Up: London’s Best Fish and Chips


Whether you like a bit of skate, good old fashioned scampi or if you are a sole man, we all love a good chippie. But if you really want to sample posh fish and chips, help is at hand.


Considered to be one of the quintessential British dishes, it is both warming and as comforting as a pub dinner complete with roaring open fire. In fact you may want to read this on an empty stomach!


Are you ready? Feast your eyes below on some of the best venues for fish and chips the capital has to offer.


Fish! kitchen - 170 Upper Richmond Road West, London, SW14 8AW


(c) Fish! Kitchen


Following the success of the venue in Kingston, the little number decided to make an entry. Located on Upper Richmond Road West,


Fish! shares the same ethos as the original chip shop and is the same located in London’s iconic Borough Market!.


Opened since 2009, it has an extensive choice of fresh fish which includes regular changing specials on a daily basis.


Sink your teeth into such delights as organic salmon or diver caught scallops while there is also a comprehensive drinks and wine list available.


Geales - 2 Farmer Street, London, W8 7SN


Fish & Chips in Notting Hill, London

(c) Geales


With 2 locations based in Notting Hill as as well as chic Chelsea, Geales has been serving up this exquisite delicacy for more than 70 decades.


Opened in 2010, it is popular with locals and celebrities alike. If you are in the area this is the way posh fish and chips should be. Simple decor is coupled with unfussy but incredibly tasty fayre using only the highest quality ingredients.


Choose from pollock, cod, haddock and sole while they also offer a mean fish pie.


Golden Hind - 73 Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2PN

(c) Qype


You will instantly fall in love with this classic chippy which will bring back plenty of golden memories. Watch out for the roll call of honour dedicated to former owners of this venue going back more than an incredible 8 decades.


You can select from all your favourite dishes with a generous helping of mushy peas. If you are still feeling pecking then why not tuck into one of their indulgent desserts including fritters made dfrom feta cheese.


Nautilus - 27-29 Fortune Green Road, London, NW6 1DU


(c) Yelp


Steeped in history, Nautilus is an institution in the heart of West Hampstead. Situated on Fortune Green Road it has been owned by the same family from Greece for the past half a century.


The one unique selling point that makes Nautilus stand head and shoulders above the rest in North West London is for one thing alone.


Their fish is entirely fried in matzo meal which is a Jewish staple. You are truly blessed to sample this unique taste sensation but ask for a doggie (or should that be fishy) bag as portions are enormous.


Simon Lazarus is an experienced PR/Business Consultant and copywriter with a number of clients across different territories including the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. His vast portfolio includes writing content for a variety of sites on food and drink, travel, personal finance, news, showbiz, sport, technology and much more.