London

Google launches Touring Bird – a one-stop shop for tours, activities and experiences

When it comes to planning a trip there are two types of traveller: those who love spending hours and hours researching what to see and do in each destination and those who – quite frankly – find it a faff.

If you fall into the latter camp, check out Touring Bird – a brand new app from Google that collates attractions, activities, tours and local tips (because for many people the best kind of trip is one based on local knowledge) in over 20 destinations.

London bound? Check out my tips for Touring Bird at the link below - and feel free to hit me up for more little known London attractions and quirky corners

https://www.touringbird.com/london/activities/insider_tip/Kaye%20Holland

Touring Bird: London

Take a dip in a London landmark: Brockwell Lido

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When the sun is shining, few things are as appealing as London’s open air swimming pools, with the art deco lidos – built in the first 30 years of the 20th century – of particular interest.
Ask any Londoner for their favourite lido and chances are they’ll answer: Brockwell Lido.
This much-loved local landmark has been at the heart of the local community since 1937 and houses an Olympic size 50-metre outdoor swimming pool, Jacuzzis, and saunas in an Art Deco Grade II listed building. (People flock to this Dulwich Road spot as much to admire the beautiful 1930s art deco design as to actually enter the water).
Feeling hungry after all that swimming? Look to the lovely Lido Cafe which offers freshly ground coffee and a fabulous menu focused on seasonal produce.
 

Get a culture fix at the world's oldest grand music hall: Wilton’s

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Looking for a London culture fix? Leave the West End to the masses and make for Wilton’s Music Hall, a true hidden gem that’s situated down a small pedestrian path called Graces Alley.
The oldest – and arguably most loved – grand music hall in the world, Wilton’s completed a £2.5 million renovation in 2015, while losing none of its rustic charm.
Today the Victorian music hall stages a year round programme of exceptional live music and world-class productions in a Grade 2 Star listed building.
Theatre not your bag? Stop in for a swing dance class, history tour given by passionate heritage experts who work full time at Wilton's raising funds to save one of London’s most beautiful buildings, or perhaps just a drink and bite to eat in one of Wilton’s two bars.

 

Eat your way around SW9: Brixton Village

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Planning on paying Brixton – the birthplace of David Bowie – a visit?
Arrive with an appetite because Brixton's dining scene is among the most dynamic in London thanks largely to Brixton Market. 
This covered arcaded under the railway arches, underwent a renaissance back in 2009 when empty market stalls were leased for free for three months to encourage new restaurateurs.
The result? The original Caribbean stalls (Brixton isn’t known as ‘London’s little Jamaica’ for nothing) have been joined by bakeries, artisan coffee shops, Mexican, Thai spots and even a champagne bar – and half the fun is taking a chance on any place you like the look of.
Standouts include Federation Coffee for brunch and, as its name suggests, a great cup of coffee, Fish, Wings and Tings for a taste of the West Indies and KaoSarn for tasty Thai fare, at prices that won’t break the bank.

Quaff cocktails against a backdrop of St Paul’s Cathedral: Madison, One New Change

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There can’t be many, if any, better rooftop terraces in London than Madison.
Perched on the penthouse spot of One New Change (a stunning glass shopping centre designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Jean Nouvel), this rooftop terrace overlooks the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral and boasts supreme views of the London skyline. 
You can drink in more than the views at the bar and lounge which serves small plates and top notch cocktails. Two to try include the signature Madison Garden (cucumber, Death’s Door vodka, Kamm & Sons, Regal rogue lively white) and the cheekily named Hot bitch martini (sweet vanilla vodka flavours, passion fruit liquor and plenty of prosecco), which is designed to be shared with friends.
There’s also a more formal restaurant serving superb grills and and slow cooked classics.
The rooftop space can be enjoyed year round thanks to Madison’s umbrellas and heaters.

Catch a film at an independent cinema: The Ritzy Cinema

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Whether you’re into arty flicks, subtitled shenanigans or Hollywood blockbusters, there’s a seat in the dark with your name on it at The Ritzy Cinema.
Built in 1910, this Grade 11 listed building shows an eclectic mix of films on its five screens. But this Brixton institution doesn’t just attract filmgoers. Drinkers and foodies flock to its bars and cafe, the latter of which spills onto Windrush Square whose name commemorates the arrival of the Empire Windrush from Jamaica in 1948, and a new era of Caribbean settlement in post-war Britain.
Meanwhile Upstairs at The Ritzy always has something interesting going on from complimentary live music (think blues, jazz and reggae) to dance lessons, club nights, stand up shows and exhibitions.
Bottom line? The Ritzy Cinema is the cornerstone of Brixton’s community.

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Sip in secret: Evans & Peel Detective Agency

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London has fallen hard for the speakeasy trend. Consequently you’ll find speakeasy (the word was first coined in the US during the prohibition era, when the sale of alcohol was generally illegal from 1920 to 1933) bars across the capital but the most hidden is Evans & Peel Detective Agency.
Located on the cusp of zone two but less than a five minute stumble from Earls Court tube station – the first London station to install escalators in 1911 – this is where Londoners head when they want to pretend it’s Prohibition time in the 1920s.
However in order to enter the bar that’s disguised as a detective agency, you'll have to convince the person in the ‘office’ that your case is worth investigating. Pull that off and you’ll be rewarded with a brilliant cocktail bar: the Old Fashioneds are a particular highlight.

Fall for football: Wembley Stadium

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Football. You can’t escape it, especially in London which must have more clubs than any city in the world. 
However the one trip that every true football fan must make is to Wembley. This 90,000 capacity stadium, is renowned around the world for its iconic, 134m high arch that towers over the North stand, and has hosted some of football’s biggest spectacles: think England’s glorious World Cup victory in 1966, Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona’s stunning UEFA Champions League triumphs or the historic ongoing tradition of The FA Cup Final.
The excellent 75 minute Wembley Stadium tour takes you behind-the-scenes of what footballing legend, Pele, once called “the cathedral of football, the capital of football and the heart of football”.
Expect to see inside the dressing rooms, press room and players’ tunnel, and be taken pitch-side before climbing upto the iconic Royal Box to have your photograph taken with a replica of the world-famous FA Cup.
All told if you're a football fan, you won't regret making a pilgrimage to the beautiful game's spiritual home (that's as famous as the players it welcomes), unless you forget your smartphone.

Drink like Winston Churchill: Effra Social

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Situated on the site of a former local Conservative club, the Effra Social (not to be confused with the nearby Effra Hall Tavern), now appeals to a different party faithful. 
It’s out with politics and in with DJs and bands, one of Brixton’s best Quiz nights, book clubs, cinema clubs, comedy and poetry – all of which fill this Effra Road hot spot each week.
Yet while the Brixton boozer is no longer tied to its political past, its walls are still painted Tory blue and lined with memorabilia: think portraits of prominent local party members, club posters and old correspondence.
Fans of Churchill won’t want to miss the carefully restored Churchill Lounge, with its flock wallpaper, fireplace and own bar, where Britain’s wartime leader used to enjoy a tipple or two.
effrasocial.com/bookings

View my London tips for Touring Bird at: touringbird.com/london/activities/insider_tip/Kaye%20Holland

Little Black Book to London: part two

“Cool never stays in one place for long. By its very nature, it’s always looking for the next place to hang out, to drink, to try not to dance too zealously to the freshest tunes.”

So scribbled journalist Clive Martin.

Martin wasn’t wide of the mark.

Here’s our guide to the capital’s coolest new spots and events for spring/summer 2018…


Smoky cocktails at The Royal Exchange

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Smoked flavours are having a moment in cocktail culture and the trend has found it’s way to The Royal Exchange – one of London’s most iconic buildings – at Threadneedle Bar.
The new menu offers smokiness to cocktail aficionados in two ways: through intrinsically smoky ingredients such as whisky and mezcal which feature prominently throughout the menu, and by infusing key serves with wood smoke for a robust flavour and unique immersive experience.
Each cocktail boasts its own distinct personality and has been carefully crafted for depth of character and complexity.
Choose from the Smoky Mandarin (Black Label whisky, Mandarin Napoleon liqueur, Talisker 10yo, cinnamon sugar), Mexican Negroni (Mezcal, Campari, Martini Rosso), The White Lord (Tanqueray Gin, Suze, Martini Bianco), The Lumberjack (Woodford Reserve infused with bacon, maple syrup, orange and angostura bitters) or JAT favourite The Art of Rum (Ron Zacapa 23yo, cherry liqueur, banana syrup, orange bitters).
All cocktails on the smoky menu are priced at £12.00 and available until the end of 2018. Smokin!
https://www.royalexchange-grandcafe.co.uk/at/lounge-bank/


Mad Lab at Madison
Shake, rattle and stir your way to killer cocktails with Madison’ s MadLab sessions.
Don a lab coat and learn three cocktail techniques – carbonation, infusion and foam.

Foam
Learn how to make a foam with the help of a blender and vegan emulsifying/stabiliser agent using a nitrous oxide cartridge – and then how to integrate the foam into a cocktail.

Infusion
Make an instant infusion with a cream whipper and a nitrous oxide cartridge. You’ll then create a cocktail with the infused spirit and learn how to use a torch to caramelise the garnish.

Carbonation
Master a carbonated cocktail with a cream whipper and CO2 cartridge, before using the torch to scorch the garnish.

You’ll get the chance to create molecular twists on three Absolut Elyx vodka based cocktails, with the finished serves yours to enjoy while drinking in the views of the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral from the top of the Jean Nouvel designed One New Change complex. Chin chin.
https://www.madisonlondon.net/menus/restaurant/madlab/


Grease is the word

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Pink Ladies get ready! To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Grease, TV streaming service NOW TV is creating a slumber party pop-up experience.
On 10 and 11 May only, fans will be able to visit an exact replica of Frenchy’s bedroom: expect patterned pink wallpaper, plush carpets and satin-fringed curtains, Rydell High flags and even a giant panda toy poised to paw Rizzo’s silky drawers.
Slumber party guests will be able to take their pick from a Grease inspired prop box, bursting at the seams with rollers, hair nets, jackets and much more, to transform themselves into a Pink Lady and step back to the fifties – all they’ll need to do is battle it out for the role of Sandy and Rizzo
Food and drink straight out of the fifties will be available as guests get comfy on Frenchy’s patchwork bedspread and settle down to watch the iconic film.
Even better? Fans can enter the Eventbrite ballot for the chance to win free tickets to one of the seven sessions  (day and evening times) available, here


Bluebird flies into White City

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The celebrated Chelsea restaurant and café has spread its wings and opened its doors at one of London’s hottest venues: take a bow Television Centre White City.
Opening out onto a piazza overlooked by the Television Centre’s famous circular core, Bluebird Café White City is at the heart of the £8 billion regeneration that has opened this iconic location to residents, diners and revellers for the first time in its history.
Bluebird’s new sister encompasses a café, bar and spacious all-year-round terrace spread out over 5000-square-foot space serving a modern European menu: think Nduja crusted yellow fin tuna with grilled onion and green sauce, Butter chicken curry with basmati rice and burnt chilli and Spiced King prawns with yoghurt and pistachio.
The interior has been designed by David d’Almada’s Sagrada and incorporates a mix of British styling from the 1960s and modern Bluebird Chelsea glamour, while the artwork has been sourced by Fraser Scott and features works by young British artists as well as designs inspired by Bridget Riley and Celia Birtwell.
www.bluebirdcafe.co.uk.


The sky’s the limit at Jin Bo Law Skybar

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London has a new rooftop bar: here’s looking at Jin Bo Law.
Located on the 14th floor of the new Dorsett City hotel, Jin Bo Law offers panoramic views taking in key sights of the London skyline such as the Walkie-Talkie, the Gherkin, and the Shard, alongside quintessentially London landmarks including Tower Bridge and the Thames – as well  an innovative Asian-inspired menu.
Tipple to try include Pickled Think (Japanese spirit Shochu, pickled ginger and Japanese raspberries), Spice to Meet You(Chinese flavours, featuring gin and quince alongside fragrant five spice and Acacia honey) and Nikka-Bocker Glory – a unique play on traditional Vietnamese coffee, with its sweetened condensed milk and Japanese whisky, served like a milkshake.
www.jinbolaw.co.uk

View the post here: http://www.justabouttravel.net/2018/04/17/little-black-book-to-london-part-two/

Where the experts holiday: Kirsty Marrins, travel blogger

Travel, food and lifestyle blogger, Kirsty Marrins, shares her travel highs and lows with Just About Travel readers

What do you like to do on holiday?
Eat! Honestly, if you really want to experience a culture eat local cuisine and find out where the locals eat. If we get a taxi from the airport, we always ask the taxi driver where they eat and which restaurants they recommend. We’ve found some absolute gems this way, including the fabulous Lido Azzurro right on the marina. It was delicious food and the best view.

Where did you last go?
We spent five nights in Boston, Massachusetts for New Year. It was our first time in Boston – or even New England for that matter – and definitely not our last! Despite it being absolutely freezing – it was the coldest weather they’d had in about 100 years – we just loved everything about this beautiful city. We tried to see and do as much as we could but there were a few things we didn’t get to see which we’re saving for the next time.

Do you know where you’re going this year?
We’ve been quite proactive this year and already have several breaks planned. We’re off to York for a weekend break in a couple of weeks’ time and then Rome for the Easter weekend, which I’m excited about as we’ve not been to Rome for a few years. We’ve already booked our July holiday where we are going to Ischia, a gorgeous island off Naples, for four nights and then getting the ferry to Positano and staying there for four nights. We’re also looking into a short break in June where we’d like to go back to Taormina in Sicily, which we’ve been to three times before and adore. We always take a two-week holiday towards the end of the year and we’re hoping to go to Cape Town and Kruger National Park.

Of all the places you’ve been to, which was your favourite and why?
I honestly couldn’t choose just one favourite! I’ve seen so much of Italy and I consider it my second home, so I’ll go with Italy. If you want specific places then: Ischia, Positano, Alberobello, Polignano a Mare, the Aeolian Islands, Bologna, Florence and Verona.

Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?
Machu Picchu in Peru has been on my must-see list for years. We came close to booking it a few years back but then opted for Brazil and Argentina instead. There’s just something about it that keeps drawing me to it… I just need to book it now!

In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?
I’d tell people to go see the Tower of London then walk across the road for lunch at St Katherine Docks. Afterwards, walk off your meal by walking along the Thames towards Wapping, where you’ll see an amazing view of Tower Bridge as well as old warehouses that are now apartments. If you’re feeling energetic, continue walking all the way to the Southbank.

How do you plan your holiday?
We use a combination of things depending on where we’re going. We tend to use travel agents if the trip has a few stopovers or if it’s difficult to organise independently. Usually we book ourselves and I research using blogs or Facebook travel groups that I belong to. If we know someone from that country, we’ll ask them for their recommendations. I love to buy travel guides for each place we go – they also look great on our bookshelf!

How often do you go away?
Let’s just say we use up ALL our annual leave. We probably go away around five times a year.

Who do you travel with?
My husband, who is Italian – hence all our trips to Italy!

Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years?
I’m going to go with South Africa (my home country) for this question and say that tourism will be booming in 10 years’ time. I feel that more people will realise that it is safe to visit and that it’s an attractive destination because it’s so affordable to people living in the US and the UK. Combine that with great weather, fabulous food and wine, a diverse landscape, wildlife, sea, mountains and vineyards and you have quite simply, a winning destination.

Kirsty Marrins is the author of What Kirsty Did Next
Follow Kirsty’s travels via TwitterInstagram, and Facebook

View the post here: 

http://www.justabouttravel.net/2018/03/19/where-the-experts-holiday-kirsty-marrins-travel-blogger/

Leave London? Never

Ex-Londoners complain that life in the capital circa 2018, is getting worse but Kaye Holland is hooked and hopes never to leave

 

I’ll confess: I don’t need to live in London. That requirement expired with the rise of the digital office.

Providing I can fire up my laptop and connect to WiFi, I can make a living just as easily in Leeds or Lincoln - two cities where the living is easier than London.

Yet every time I log onto Rightmove or Zoopla and look at the properties available in East Anglia - where the relatives live - or Exeter which my friend Heidi now calls home, a wave of my panic grips my heart.

For the fact of the matter is that I have a bad case of FOMO - not fear of missing out, rather fear or moving out.

In London there’s always something to do. You have everything you want in terms of activity and accessibility. Every week a new (independent, natch) pop up bar or restaurant is opening - little wonder then Londoners don’t know how to stay in.

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The capital also offers a cornucopia of world class carnivals, museums, theatres and art galleries, plus gorgeous gardens and parks (30 percent of the capital is given over to green space so wherever you find yourself in the city, a leafy retreat isn’t far away) so it’s nigh on impossible to get bored.

My country dwelling family and friends counter that the capital gets crowded and can be costly (they’re correct – you’ll fork to £3 for a filter coffee and £4.70 to travel for a single journey from my home in Harrow to Baker Street) but I’d argue that it gives you something you can’t put a price on: energy.

My East Anglia based cousins also claim that London is a lonely place to live, but I’ve never understood that argument. Next time you’re in town, look around: you’ll find that you’re surrounded by Londoners - aka some of the most interesting, outgoing and open people in the country.

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I’m biased, of course, but in my mind Londoners are the most fascinating people on the planet. They’re people who want to participate in life, with many having come to London to escape their humdrum hometowns.

Regardless of what time of year you visit, you’ll find the Windward rush generation interacting with immigrants from India, Asian neighbourhoods juxtaposed alongside Jewish communities – and Poles working alongside Portuguese.

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On any given day in the capital. I can learn a little about their cultures  – not exactly something you can do in a homogenous suburb in Middle England.

For London is not really about is blockbuster sights, world class cultural venues and top notch clubs as it is about the people you meet. London’s sheer size and its internationality, ensures that no matter how quirky your tastes may be, you’ll meet like minded people without any difficulty.

If I was to - gulp - leave London, I’d also miss the fact that within a five minute walk of my flat I can tuck into into Thai, Turkish, Lebanese or Ethiopian food at any hour.

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So while moving out might mean that I could afford to trade up from a two bedroom flat in Brixton to a four bedroom house in Bishops Stortford or Stevenage, the consequences - suffocation out in the sticks - wouldn’t be worth it.

And how can you be sure that towns outside of the capital aren’t a bit - how to put this  - Brexity? Living in Yorkshire and the Humber, the Midlands or the south coast (take a bow Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Southampton et al) - all areas which voted overwhelming to leave the EU - might make my bank manager happy, but I don’t think heated political debates with people who fail to grasp that Brexit is clearly a bad idea, would be good for the soul.

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All told, while the maths might indicate that I would be wise to relocate, the fact of the matter is that I wouldn’t be able to handle leaving London: I am a city girl and need a vibrant community around me.

Plus while I’m told that is now possible to get a decent Flat White outside of the M25, you can’t get a night tube, can you?

View the post here: http://www.justabouttravel.net/2018/03/07/the-dark-side-of-turning-your-back-on-the-capital/