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Archive for May, 2013

Literary London Locations

London has a long history of attracting world renowned writers. Many based their stories on the streets they knew best leaving us with plenty of literary locations in the city.

 

46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury  © Myrabella

46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury
© Myrabella

 

 

Bloomsbury has a long association with writers and artists, especially because of the Bloomsbury Group started in the early 1900s. Virginia Woolf and her sister, Vanessa, formed the group at their home at 46 Gordon Square. These friends shared ideas including liberal political views despite all coming from an upper-middle class background.

 

The area has had many other famous residents including George Bernard Shaw, Karl Marx and Ghandi. The strong literary connection remain today because of the British Library to the north on Euston Road and the Charles Dickens Museum at 48 Doughty Street.

 

The Study at Charles Dickens Museum  © Laura Porter

The Study at Charles Dickens Museum
© Laura Porter

 

While Dickens lived in many locations across London this is the only surviving building. It was where he set up a family home in 1837 with his wife, Catherine, his first child – a son named Charley, plus his brother Fred and his sister-in-law Mary Hogarth. The building recently had a lot of renovations and is still a historic house worth visiting.

 

Carlyle’s House in Chelsea is a National Trust property and a chance to visit another celebrity writer’s home. Charles Darwin described Thomas Carlyle as, “The most worth listening to of any man I know.” A prolific writer, Carlyle’s ‘The French Revolution: A History’ published in three volumes in 1837 is his most well-known work and it influenced Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities.

 

Dr Johnson's House  © kim traynor via geograph

Dr Johnson’s House
© kim traynor via geograph

 

Dr Johnson’s House in the City is where Samuel Johnson compiled and wrote the first ever English Dictionary. Although Johnson lived in 18 locations across London this is the only surviving building. He lived and worked here from 1748 to 1759. Look out for the statue of Hodge, Johnson’s beloved cat, opposite the house and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a popular historic pub a short walk away on Fleet Street that was frequented by Johnson.  And yes, this is the same Samuel Johnson who said:

 

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

 

Keats House in Hampstead is where the romantic poet John Keats lived in 1818. He fell in love with the girl next door and became engaged to Fanny Brawne but sadly ill health meant he died in 1820. He had tuberculosis and was advised to move to a warmer climate but died in Italy before they could wed. This is said to be the house where he wrote “Ode to a Nightingale” under a plum tree in the garden.

 

 

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre  © (WT-en) P.K.Niyogi

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
© (WT-en) P.K.Niyogi

 

No look at London’s writers could miss William Shakespeare and the obvious place for fans to go is the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre where you can visit a reconstructed Elizabethan playhouse. There’s a permanent exhibition about the great bard and the theatre which you can visit all year round, and performances take place in the open-air theatre throughout the summer months. Just around the corner you can see the site of the original location of the Globe, and do visit Southwark Cathedral too where Shakespeare worshipped.

 

Sherlock Holmes Museum  © Sherlock Holmes Museum

Sherlock Holmes Museum
© Sherlock Holmes Museum

 

For probably the most popular location about a fictional character, the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street is laid out as if the detective and his sidekick, Dr Watson, actually lived there.

 

Another popular fictional character is Sweeney Todd and sites around Fleet Street claim to be Sweeney Todd’s Barber Shop (at 186 Fleet Street, next to St. Dunstan’s church) and Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop (Bell Yard) and are supposedly connected by an underground passage.

 

Courthouse DoubleTree Hotel  © Mark Hilary

Courthouse DoubleTree Hotel
© Mark Hilary

 

Oscar Wilde, as you would expect, has lots of London locations associated with him but the first one I always think of is The Courthouse DoubleTree by Hilton – Regent Street. The building was previously the Great Marlborough Street Magistrates Court and there are still preserved prison cells in the hotel bar. When this was a courthouse it was where the Queensbury scandal was heard as Wilde prosecuted the Marquess of Queensberry for libel in a case that led to his own arrest and conviction of ‘gross indecency’ with other men.

 

Oscar Wilde portrait by Napoleon Sarony

Oscar Wilde portrait by Napoleon Sarony

 

A London hotel that was a favourite of Oscar Wilde was The Cadogan Hotel in Knightsbridge where he often went for dinner or drinks. He was also a frequent visitor to Room 118 and this was where his infamous arrest took place, immortalised in a John Betjeman poem.

 

 

Jane Austen lived in London and used many locations in her books and Londonist compiled a map of these a few years ago. I recently wrote about blue plaques near The Beaufort Hotel and also included the location where she lived with her brother in 1814.

 

 

And if you’d like to own a unique artwork the Literary London Art Map is a typographical delight of fictional character’s names from London’s past and present.

 

 

 

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and is also a VisitBritain Super Blogger. She’s @AboutLondon on twitter and fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s.

 

 

 

 

 

Night Watch: Top 3 London clubs

Variety as they say is definately the spice of life. But with so much choice in London where’s the best spot to ensure you are part of the glam crowd?

 

Fear not, as here below is the top three spots to see and be seen at during the wee hours. Just make sure you’re dressed to impress and ready to turn on the schmooze to see your way in. Time to pull up a stoll at these beauties.

Raffles

raffles

(c) Raffles

 

Situated on the Kings Road in the iconic SW3, Raffles is an exclusive haunt for Sloanies and Chelsea locals. Think Made in Chelsea after a few too many Cosmopolitans. However obtaining membership is as closely a guarded secret as the code to David Blaine’s back account.

 

They are famed for their hedonistic events and if you do make it on to their members list, then plenty of privileges await. These include several invitations to high end ski resorts as well as a host of summer soirées. They also have a late licence so you can party right through the night till 5am.

 

Address: 287 Kings Road Chelsea, London, SW3 5EW

Nearest Tube: South Kensington (District, Circle and Piccadilly lines)

 

Maddox

maddox

(c) Maddox

 

A real feast for the senses, Maddox oozes elegance and style and is where the beautiful capitalists come out to play. Thanks to its ideal central location in fashionable Mayfair, you will need to know someone on the inside when it comes to entry.

 

This swanky private members club offers an extensive choice of delectable cocktails and a prestige champagne list that will have you swooning.

 

The interiors are down to renowned designer Samy Chams. Check out the lower ground floor bar which features an impressive glass staircase. Did I also mention you can dance the night away until 4am?

 

Address: 3-5 Mill Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 2AU

Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus (Victoria, Bakerloo and Central lines)

 

Dstrkt

132534279517_tn1

(c) DSTRKT

 

Considered to be one of the most expensive venues in London at a cool £25 million fit, you should all change to the Dstrkt line!

 

Piccadilly plays host to this incredible night spot which offers both a lounge, bar and club until 3:30am on Saturdays. You can enjoy a wealth of chic design which features the likes of Poltrona Frau, Toso and Predralli.

 

This venue is as glitzy as a disco diamond ball. However, if you’re lucky enough to be invited into the VIP section, you will have the opportunity to gaze in awe at the precious stone bar that’s certainly deemed to be one of a kind.

 

You are certainly in good company as previous guests to Dstrkt have included Canadian sensation Justin Bieber and Mr. Gangnam Style himself Psy.

psy

(c) DSTRKT

 

Address: 9 Rupert Street, Piccadilly, W1D 6DG

Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus (Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines)

 

 

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. He also advises businesses on strategies and marketing across different sectors.

Restaurant Spy: Rum Kitchen, Notting Hill, W11

Shake things up at Rum Kitchen.

Based on All Saints Road, you would be a sinner not to try this new Caribbean inspired venue that will have you reaching for your straw hat and deck chair.

 

Created by the good people at table tennis bar Ping, Notting Hill has been transformed into a tropical beach shack that has put West Indian cuisine firmly back on the map.

london town

(c) Londontown

 

Be inspired by sunshine cooking that encompasses the true nature of soul in a bowl. There are plenty of tropical dishes to choose from including all the classics that reflects the vibrancy of this eatery.

The Rum Kitchen, bar and restaurant in All Saints Road, London.

(c) reside in london

 

These feature jerk rubbed chicken wings as well as mutton curry, salt fish fritters, seafood gumbo and much more. Although we witnessed yet more snow in March, this place provides the perfect wintery escape all year round.

 

Their motto is very simple,  ‘No Rain, No Rainbow’ where you can also spoil yourself with a range of traditional home cooking from pulled pork sandwiches to slow roasted oxtail stew.

 

Thirsty for more? Don’t just soak up the atmosphere but the mind boggling array of more than one hundred rum based drinks and cocktails. Check out the ground floor, where you will find the cosy yet intimate cocktail bar serving up a host of inventive concoctions.

 

Simply recoil on a large corner sofa and drink your way through their aptly named Rattle Skull punch, Navy Grog or a Rombustion Cooler.

london town 2

(c) Londontown

 

If you are still parched and want a slice of the Caribbean lifestyle then sip on Mamas Guinness Punch infused with Jamaican rum as well as sweetened milk, a host of spices and chocolate bitters.

 

It is then finished with Guinness which will leave your cheeks a shade of crimson. Other highlights feature the aptly named Whistlebelly with Appletons VX Estate and vermouth or the fierce Pre Emptive Strike.

 

This blends together a melange of Barbados Rum not to mention Araku coffee rum liqueur and a shot of espresso.

 

With all this rum in the air, you may want to take to the high seas yourself after a couple. There is enough grog here to keep even the jolliest of pirates at bay.

 

By the way, it also operates as a place to let your hair down until four in the morning. You can enjoy a host of reggae, Afro-funk and Calypso beats by the fun loving DJ Fast’ who is actually part of the real Fun Lovin’ Criminals.

 

If you are there till the small hours then you may just spot a royal or two as this spot is one of the renowned favourites of Prince Harry.

Prince+Harry+parties+friends+Notting+Hill+V1mwlPiHT6ql

(c) Zimbio.com

 

It seems rum certainly does make the world go round.

 

The Rum Kitchen

6-8 All Saints Road,

Notting Hill,

London,

W11 1HH

 

W: www.therumkitchen.com

 

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. He also advises businesses on strategies and marketing across different sectors.

Movie footage of London 1927

 

The clips on this film are taken from the work of Claude Friese-Greene. He took these in 1926.

Whilst the skyline looks familiar just check out the streets with horse drawn vehicles!

It has been enhanced by the British Film Institute.

Courtesy of the BFI

 

Christmas Markets in London

It may seem early to be thinking about Christmas but as shopping is one of the most popular pastimes in London it could well be time to find out about the shopping opportunities at Christmas Markets.

 

Southbank Christmas Market  © renaissancechambara

Southbank Christmas Market
© renaissancechambara

 

Continental Christmas Markets have attracted visitors for a long time but you no longer need to travel to Europe as London too realises how much fun these can be and we have a ‘Cologne Market’ on the Southbank, by the London Eye and Southbank Centre, each winter. It opens in mid-November and runs up to Christmas Eve, with lines of wooden chalets selling wooden toys, handmade gifts and lots of traditional sweets. With the carousel there all year round this makes a really festive location for evening shopping when it’s all lit up.

 

Foodies are well-catered for at Southbank Centre with the Real Food Market held every weekend (Friday to Sunday) on the Southbank Centre Square, behind the Royal Festival Hall. At Christmas the Real Food Christmas Market includes all you’ll need for the perfect Christmas dinner plus gift foods too.

 

London Chocolate Festival

London Chocolate Festival

 

The Chocolate Festival is also on in December at Southbank Square where you can meet chocolatiers and try lots of samples, as well as buying more gifts.

 

As the festive season is a lot about eating, Taste of Christmas is another good choice. It runs for 3 days at ExCel London with chef demonstrations and many of London’s top restaurant offer seasonal dishes to try. After eating, there’s a boutique market where you can meet producers and choose some unique gifts.

 

Spirit of Christmas Fair

Spirit of Christmas Fair

 

Other indoor Christmas fairs worth noting include the Spirit of Christmas Fair at Olympia in early November which is in association with House & Garden. There are workshops, a popular food hall, as well as the Luxury Travel Fair on at the same time.

 

The Country Living Magazine Christmas Fair is also in early November and is held at the Business Design Centre in Islington. There’s a focus on British exhibitors so you’ll find excellent craft ideas for special decorations as well as gifts. I also like the children’s clothing and toys here as they are always so unusual and well-chosen.

 

Smaller annual Christmas fairs include Boutique de Noel and the British Red Cross Christmas Fair. Both take place in November and both are at Kensington Town Hall with a preview night then a day of shopping.

 

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland  © McKay Savage

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
© McKay Savage

 

The biggest outdoor Christmas event in London is Winter Wonderland which opens in Hyde Park in late November and stays until early January. There’s a Bavarian Village where you can get bratwurst and mulled wine to keep you going while shopping at the Yuletide Market. Bring plenty of money to shop as there are over 100 stalls (but keep it tucked away safely until needed as it attracts big crowds every day). This is a real destination so there’s also a giant observation wheel (a bit like the London Eye), a huge ice rink and 2012 brought an ice sculpture display too. Zippos Circus add to the entertainment with a family show in the daytime and a more adult show in the evening.

 

Many of London’s markets have special fairs and shopping events for the festive season and Columbia Road shopping evenings are recommended. The street is lined with wonderful unique stores which all stay open, along with a street market, on Wednesdays in December.

 

With all these options you can avoid Oxford Street which reaches fever pitch on Saturdays each December and can actually enjoy the Christmas shopping experience too.

 

 

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and is also a VisitBritain Super Blogger. She’s @AboutLondon on twitter and fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s.

 

Hotel Xenia

This is the newest opening in South Kensington, an area popular with visitors to London. It’s a contemporary design-led boutique hotel and only opened last week yet I’ve already been for a look around.

 

Xenia Hotel London

 

Xenia is on Cromwell Road and about ten minutes walk away from the famous South Kensington Museums (Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the V&A). The Victorian building was previously the run-down Majestic Hotel but it closed in 2012 for an extensive transformation under new ownership.

 

The Greek word for generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home is Xenia making this an excellent name for a new hotel. Staff are both welcoming and professional and the hotel has joined the Great Hotels of the World group. There are six other GHOTW properties in London including The Landmark London and St James’s Hotel so they are in impressive company from the start.

 

Xenia Hotel London

 

As the first space you experience on your arrival at Hotel Xenia, the Lobby sets the tone with Tom Kirk chandeliers complimenting the high Georgian ceiling.

 

Guest Rooms

Xenia is five floors high and has 99 guest rooms with prices from £160 up to £600 for a suite (excluding VAT). The rooms feel very calm and tranquil; even the rooms that face the busy main road are well soundproofed yet you can watch London life below. The Cole & Son wall coverings complement the muted metallic tones and while you know you are in a historic building the contemporary interiors are right up to date. Guest rooms have ivory deep pile carpets and the signature Hotel Xenia details include hand-woven cashmere blankets on all the beds. Technology is in every room with a Samsung tablet loaded with a guest directory and hotel information – you can even order room service by clicking on the photos in the menu. All rooms have large flat screen TVs, Bluetooth compatible wireless speakers and there’s free wifi for all guests.

 

Xenia Hotel London

 

The room levels move from Classic (small but beautiful) to Executive, Deluxe and Suite whose guests are offered access to the Lounge serving complimentary light refreshments between 5pm and 7pm daily. A nice extra so it may well be worth upgrading your booking.

 

I would have liked to see more storage space, particularly room for a suitcase under the bed would have been appreciated, but the hotel had a secret to win me over: a rooftop bar just for guest use! This was still being finished when I visited but oh wow, the views will be magnificent making this a fabulous place for an evening cocktail.

 

The Lounge at Hotel Xenia

The Lounge at Hotel Xenia

 

Speaking of cocktails, the hotel’s Living Wall bar on the ground floor is the place for meeting friends in the evening and even has its own herb garden terrace which will appeal to cigar smokers as the hotel will soon have its own cigar selection available.

 

Evoluzione

The hotel’s Italian restaurant has an interesting food concept: Art Joins Nutrition. This means there is a focus on healthy eating principles, choosing and portioning ingredients carefully whilst cooking them in such a way that they maintain their intensity of flavour and nutrients. Not only will it all taste good but the natural properties of the ingredients should help prevent illness and promote anti-ageing. A balanced three courses will come in under 800 calories but there will still be classic Italian dishes we know and love such as ravioli, risotto and tiramisu. This conservatory restaurant has an outdoor terrace for al fresco dining, plus a private dining room too.

 

The idea was developed by Italian nutritionist, chef and university lecturer Chiara Manzi whose book will soon be published in English. Xenia’s chef Pasquale D’Ambrosio follows Manzi’s principles and has worked in Rome, Paris, Tokyo, New York and Istanbul. While not yet a well known name in the UK he is a celebrity chef in Italy and has appeared on an array of Italian cookery shows.

 

It sounds like a really interesting idea but no menus were available when I visited last week. I’m looking forward to seeing the reviews soon and maybe trying a meal there myself too.

 

Xenia Hotel London

 

Multi-Function Room

Below the restaurant, there’s another hidden gem. A great space that will be used for wine tasting – the cellar is being stocked this month – and can be hired for events. It also has a huge 3D screen so will make an excellent private cinema. I spotted a blue plaque on a building opposite the hotel marking where Alfred Hitchcock lived so hopefully we’ll see some Hitchcock film nights here soon.

 

Xenia Hotel

 

Address: Hotel Xenia London, 160 Cromwell Road, London SW5 0TL

Tel: 020 7442 4242

Check rates for Hotel Xenia on london-hotels.co.uk.

 

 

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and is also a VisitBritain Super Blogger. She’s @AboutLondon on twitter and fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s.