Category: Visit London (14)

Bankside is still the exciting and edgy part of town that it was in William Shakespeare’s day.  This historic Southbank location is where the greatest English writer’s most famous plays were performed, in his own playhouse, right on the river.   Visit London with us and discover this little gem of a neighbourhood where the long gone has returned, the old was made new and art and culture continue to flourish.

ENTERTAINMENT AND CULTURE GALORE!

Bankside was the entertainment district in Elizabethan times. It’s location just across the the river from The City of London meant that it was free of the City’s rules and restraints.  Those in power were threatened by the open frivolity of the area, with it’s gaming dens and brothels and tried to close the playhouses down. Fire and plague were also very real threats. Artists, performers, entrepreneurs and the general public flocked here, however, eager for fun, entertainment or to make money!  The artistic energy and cultural flair of Bankside and it’s surroundings is alive and well today in such places as The Southbank CentreThe Barbican and Tate Modern Art Gallery.

SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE 

The Globe Theatre is a survivor! It was once taken apart and re-assembled across the river.  It then burned down during a performance when a canon mis-fired and terrible plague closed it’s doors more than once.  Fast forward a few hundred years, however, and this enchanting playhouse rose like a phoenix from the ashes, to delight us once again. These days it stands safe and sound almost exactly where it did in the Bard’s day, in all it’s thatched, oak-timbered glory.  Shakespeare’s plays were written to be performed, not read – where better to see them than in the theatre that he knew and loved?

THE HISTORIC GEORGE INN

The wonderful George Inn in Southwark is a short walk away from The Globe and was the Bard’s local tavern, so they say. It is certainly the oldest pub in London and one of only two coaching inn’s that still exists in the capital.  It’s lovely gallery is intact and players used to perform in inns such as this for their supper. Charles Dickens was known to be fond of the coffee served here and he mentions The George in his writings, as does the historic diarist Samuel Pepys. There are several delightful rooms to drink either coffee or alcohol in here and a restaurant upstairs.

JUST ACROSS THE RIVER

St Paul’s Cathedral stands directly across the river from Bankside and catching sight of it’s glorious dome sparkling in the near distance is breathtaking. Shakespeare probably also enjoyed looking at it as he was rowed across every day in a wherry (hired boat) to get to his playhouse for rehearsals, (crossing the London Bridge of his day took too long.) These days we have the lovely Millennium Bridge which links Bankside and The City and crossing it is one of the nicest walks you can take when you visit London.  It offers up some of the best river views to be had and drops you off right before the steps of St Paul’s.

We highly recommend staying in one of short let apartments close to the river, when you visit London. See our guide to canal and riverwalks which is part of our free London attractions series.  After all, some of the most enchanting and historically delightful parts of town are the one’s there where the Thames rolls quietly by, carrying the past with it.

 

VISIT LONDON IN IT’S SPRING TIME GLORY AND SHAKE OFF THOSE WINTER BLUES

Ah, spring! Much as we love all the seasons in our delightful capital city, there is something about this time of year. Spring brings the light and warmth everyone has been longing for and a wonderful urge to banish the last bits of winter gloom by getting out and about and smelling the daffodils.  London’s parks, garden squares and avenues are bursting with buds and blooms and all her attractions, sights and cultural delights are waiting to be visited and explored in the sunshine and balmy air. Visit London now and put a spring in your step.

OPEN AIR THEATRE

It’s a new and exciting season for the open air theatres in the capital.  These marvellous outdoor venues are as popular as ever with visitors and locals alike and are a good choice if you visit London this time of year.  Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the Southbank starts it’s Summer of Love season on April 22, in tribute to San Francisco’s famous summer of love of ’67.  Fittingly, those ever tragic, star crossed lovers, Romeo & Juliet, will be declaring their undying love on this historic stage for all to see.  Not to be outdone, Regent’s Park open air theatre will be delighting the crowds with their production of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. It’s hard to think of a nicer spot to sit and take in the cultured air than this very fine central London park.

DAFFODILS IN THE PARK

What announces spring’s presence in a nicer way than the carpets of gorgeous, golden daffodils that adorn many of London’s parks round about now? They are a beautiful sight to see and bring tangible evidence that summer is on the way.  Green Park and St James’s Park are two of the most lovely parks to admire them in. We recommend all of the capital’s green open spaces when you visit London now, be they big or small, prettily perfect or wild and rambling.  It’s a joy to stroll through any of them in the warm breeze, listening to the birds, watching the squirrels and joining local Londoners, out to take the air. See The London Agent’s guide to London’s Parks for more information.

THE CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW

The annual Chelsea Flower Show is unique, charming and very English.  This garden show and exhibition is held each May in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. It is the most famous of it’s kind in the UK and probably the world, attracting visitors from all over the planet who visit London in May for this show alone. The exhibitors win medals for their garden and floral designs and each and every year they manage to come up with new and innovative displays. This is inspirational, fun and worth a visit, even for non-horticulture fans. Chelsea itself is always delightful to walk around in and there are plenty of cafes, pubs and bistros here with outdoor seating.

PUPPET SHOWS AND MORE IN COVENT GARDEN

Talking of excellent neighbourhoods to be outside in when you visit London, Covent Garden is a must, with it’s markets, boutiques and shops and pubs, cafes and restaurants.  The Piazza’s street performers and musicians are out in force, enjoying being al fresco as much as everyone else.  On 14 May, the annual May Fayre and Puppet Festival takes place around the local St Paul’s Church here (the famous actor’s church). Enjoy these traditional Punch & Judy puppet shows which kids of all ages adore, and not only the younger visitors, it seems.  The great diarist Samuel Pepys enjoyed watching one of these little theatricals so much in Covent Garden in 1662, that he wrote with much enthusiasm about it later.

THOSE FAMOUS APRIL SHOWERS

English nursery rhymes warn us of April showers (rainfall) – and it’s worth paying attention.  Spring time here can be blustery with some bouts of rain, so if you’re smart you’ll take your umbrella and a light coat when you visit London now. There may be good stretches of calm and steadily warmer days but, as everyone knows, the English weather is unpredictable. Perhaps that’s why we all talk about it so much!  Duck into one of the many free museums or galleries of the capital to wait out a shower of rain, or into a cafe for a nice cuppa and a few biscuits.  Remember that “April showers bring May flowers,” so its worth being rained on, just a little bit.

See The London Agent’s guide to the free museums and galleries of London – there are quite a few.

 

 

EVER WONDERED WHAT THEY’RE ALL ON ABOUT WHEN YOU VISIT LONDON?

We are talking about words and expressions typical of London that are strange and quirky to foreigner visitors and to some out of town English speakers, too. The English language has a high vocabulary and when you throw in some local humour, a cheeky way with words and perhaps something obscure and unique like Cockney rhyming slang, what do you get? London English!

Educate yourselves with this guide and you’ll parley like a local in no time, when you visit London.

Ta, luv! ” This means thank you, dear.  Ladies, please don’t think that a man is being suggestive or amorous because he is using the word love to address you in London.  A foreign friend of mine was a little surprised when she was called this by a market vendor who was handing over her change.  This is a friendly, innocent way to address someone in a casual manner.

Alright?” This is usually mumbled or thrown at you in passing and may sound more like “owrigh?”  This one word enquiry is more of a statement than a question.  It does not require you to respond with a detailed account of your sore throat, or the fact that you left your umbrella on the tube this morning. Just shrug and throw back a ” yeah,” or something equally vague. That’ll do nicely.

Sorry, but can you…”  Americans say that the English are constantly apologising for everything because they seem to start most sentences with the word sorry. Used in this way, sorry is not an apology for wrong-doing, but a way of starting a conversation or getting your attention.  A polite, English heads-up, if you like. “Excuse me”… is used in the same way.

Cheers.”  A contender for the most confusing single word. Nostalgic tourists may imagine a merry group of locals in their local pub lifting pints of warm ale and toasting the fact that it’s Friday.  No.  Most of the time, cheers means thank you, as in “Cheers, mate.” It can also mean goodbye, as in cheerio, so keep your wits about you.

Mate.”  A mate is a friend, as in “I was out with my mates last night.” Similar to the American pal or buddy, it is a rather masculine word, but also used by girls to describe each other.  China also means friend and this, of course, is Cockney Rhyming Slang: china plate – mate.

Fancy.” Fancy is not describing the chocolates in Fortnum and Mason’s or the dress code for the Queen’s garden party  – it can also mean like or want. If the local chap (man/guy) you have been talking to after he directed you to the British Museum says “Fancy a pint?” this means “Would you like a drink?” If you fancy (are attracted to)) him, you may want to join him for said pint (.47 litres of beer) in the nice little pub (public house/bar) around the corner.  If you don’t fancy him at all you could say: “Cheers, mate, but I’m off to the British Museum!”

Ta-ta” This means goodbye and can be pronounced ta-ra or ta-da! (Not to be confused with just one “ta” – see first example.)  This rather lyrical way of taking your leave is used in London and northern England, also in Ireland and on the Isle of Man!  The actual history and origin of this phrase is a bit of a mystery, but it’s fun to use.

“Quid and pee ” These are, of course, slang words for English money.  A quid is one pound and pee or P is short for pence or penny. Tuppence is two pennies.  The predecimal monetary system in the UK was a little more complex with its shillings, ha’pennies, farthings and bobs, but they were such lovely words for old coins.

YOUR SHORT LET LONDON home IS BOOKED, NOW PLAN YOUR DAYS OUT

Some practical tips about staying in one of our short let London homes during the holiday season.  Visit London in the festive season and you will find that there are things you should look out for and be aware of. This is especially true for those of you who are staying with us between Christmas and New Year’s, when the holidays fall.

A REDUCED TRANSPORT SERVICE
London transport offers a reduced service, or no service at all, on the holiday days during the festive season.  It helps to know exactly what to expect if you are travelling or moving around town this time of year, in order to avoid spoiled plans. The sensible thing to do is to check with Transport for London to make sure you know how and if the buses, tubes and trains are running on each holiday day. TfL will also advise and inform if the weather is affecting the roads and railway lines in any way.  Be prepared and you won’t be disappointed.

WHICH DAYS ARE HOLIDAYS BETWEEN CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR 2016?
May we remind visitors staying in one of our short let London homes that shops, museums, galleries and attractions are closed on the holidays days between Christmas and New Year. The traditional holiday days are: Christmas Day – 25 December, Boxing Day – 26 December and New Year’s Day – 1 January.  This year, there are some additional holiday days to look out for: Tuesday 27 December is a holiday to compensate for the fact that Christmas Day falls on a Saturday and Monday 2 January is a holiday because New Years Day falls on a Sunday.

LONDON’S WINTER WEATHER.
The winter weather in London usually behaves well and getting around town is pretty straight forward, as usual.  We do not get severely icy conditions here like New York City, for example.  Sustained snowfall in central London is unusual so when it does snow, everyone loves it and marvels at how beautiful the hushed capital looks in it’s new white coat. Bring sensible, warm clothes when you visit London now, like a comfortable winter coat, some practical shoes or boots ideal for walking, plus a wooly winter hat, scarf and gloves, (which you may or may not need) and you’re all set!

LIGHTS AND DELIGHTS IN THE PARKS
There’s plenty to do and see when you leave the comfort and warmth of your short let London, even when the shops are closed! Enjoy the magical, transformed parks in central London. You will be amazed at the quiet and more gentle pace out there and there will be lovely lights and festive decorations to dazzle and cheer and compensate for the dark winter afternoons.  Should there be some snowfall, head off to Primrose Hill to watch the young and not so young on their sleds and toboggans. Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is as fun and popular as ever, for the whole family.

A LESS CROWDED MUSEUM OR GALLERY
On the days the museums are open, you will soon discover that this is the perfect time to go! Take refuge in a gallery or museum out of the cold wind, and enjoy the fact that it may not be as crowded as usual! Many Londoners are away this time of year or huddled at home watching Home Alone on telly! Here is our handy guide to the free museums and galleries of the capital.  Don’t even try to resist the tempting traditional English fare on offer in the museum and gallery cafes and restaurants such as mulled wine, hot cider, mince pies, sticky buns, candied fruits and spicy hot chocolate.