Category Archives: London Wanderings

If You Do One Thing in London This Month…visit Kew Gardens.

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For Londoners, Kew Gardens is what Stonehenge is to the rest of England – an iconic site representative of the area that all residents should visit at some point, but just the right distance away that it is practically the definition of the phrase ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Every Summer Solstice (or in Kew’s case, Christmas) everyone is reminded of their self-made promise to visit sometime along with some minor investigations of prices and travel, before it is pushed right back to its old place on the ‘Things to Do When I have Spare Time’ list, between cleaning out your wardrobe and updating your driver’s license address.

This is all a great shame, as Kew Gardens is a treasure trove of follies, interactive learning and exciting diversions that caters to even the most biophobic of visitors, and the arrival of spring in March can only improve things.

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If You Do One Thing in London This Month….

 

……visit Richard Mosse’s The Enclave.

 

Struck by the complete lack of evidence of the ongoing civil war in Congo on the country landscape, Richard Mosse went about capturing unique footage of rebel enclaves and sites of human rights violation in a way that highlights the human realism of the situation without losing any of Congo’s natural beauty. The result is a combination of photographs and a multi-channel video installation that is both haunting and beautiful.

Shot using an extinct type of 16mm film once used by the military to identify camouflaged installations from the air, the pink hue in the images gives the media a beautiful yet chilling mood. The videos were shot on Steadicam in one long continuous take, and echoing surround sound, which forces the viewer to look at the ongoing conflict as though they were actually there.

The exhibition is only showing from April 4-26, 2014, at the Vinyl Factory Space at the Brewer Street Car Park. Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday, 11:30am – 5:30pm.

For more information and a preview of the exhibition, please click here.

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If You Do One Thing in London This Month….

 

….visit Leighton House

East meets west London in the most unlikely of places – an English aristocrat’s home.

Compared to other English aristocratic homes, decorated with portraits of the owners forefathers or art relics from the Classical world, a quick look around Lord Leighton’s and it is fair to say he was a bit of an eccentric in his day. An artist by profession, Lord Francis Leighton held a fascination with the Middle East and its artwork. So much so in fact, that he had the hall in the ground floor of his studio house converted into an opulent Arab Hall, reminiscent of the mosques and grand houses he visited on his travels. All of the materials used for the construction of the Arab Hall were sourced from the Middle East or made by the top masters of that particular craft in Leighton’s day.

 

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Of course, the rest of the house deserves a long look around as well; each room has been painstakingly restored to its’s original state as Lord Leighton left it. Featuring a mixture of his own work and friends including William Morris and Millais, the layout offers an insight into the mind and artistic talent of Lord Leighton.

For more information about Leighton House, please follow this link here.

Photo credits: europanostra / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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If You Do One Thing in London this Month…

…….take a trip down to Little Venice.

While the name evokes visions of Italian villas, gondolas and expansive squares teeming with pigeons, London’s own tongue-in-cheek nickname of its waterways possesses a more quaint atmosphere. Lining either side of the Regent’s Canal and Grand Union waters are barges that simultaneously exist as people’s homes as well as restaurants, coffee shops, book stores, a puppet show theatre and more. The area evokes a bohemian, ‘rough and ready’ atmosphere with the jumble of bicycles, grand pianos, potted plants and other paraphernalia that sit in a big jumble on the deck of the barges, that gives the area its own unique identity outside of Paddington’s well-to-do, corporate office landscape.

Head to Little Venice for a leisurely weekend stroll to work off a hangover or enjoy a sunny day at a slow pace; make sure you stop for a reviving cup of coffee at one of the area’s numerous watering holes.

Photo credit: uncoolbob / Foter / CC BY-NC

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If You Do One Thing in London This Month…

 

….visit the Barbican Conservatory

 

The best way to describe the Barbican is a labyrinth; an 80s maze of Brutalist architecture where hidden around corners and wrong turns is art and displays that, although you might not have expected them, will be a welcome and enjoyable surprise.

The Barbican Conservatory is just one of these surprises, albeit a rather large and more permanent one. As the second largest conservatory in London, the Conservatory is home to more than 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees, along with a myriad of birds, amphibians and fish.

 

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The harsh architecture is softened by the overgrowth of flowering vines and tree branches reaching up towards the sunlight, giving the place an air of abandonment and quietude that is scarce elsewhere in London.

Wherever you look however, oversized, exotic flowers bursting in full bloom can be seen; it is almost enough to make you forget you are in London, and instead wandering through a tropical forest on an island, before the pitter patter of rain brings you back to reality.

 

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One of the highlights of the collection include the Conservatory’s cacti garden, which houses a mixture of the usual household fauna combined with the more frankly bizarre types covered in dense cobwebs or erratically shaped , like these:

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At the end, pay a visit to the aviary where you can easily while away half an hour watching the finches flitter back and forth and the Japanese quails burrow little holes.

 

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The Conservatory is only open on select dates with free entry, so make sure you check ahead of time on their website here to avoid disappointment.

If the Conservatory isn’t enough for you, pay a quick visit outside to look at the expansive fountains located out the back of the Barbican. You might get a few looks yourself:

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If You Do One Thing in London This Month….

…discover its Cold War history.

Traditionally, media representations of the Cold War primarily feature the USA and Russia, while London’s role in this historic period is generally a muted affair. With this route from Walk magazine however, authentic places of espionage and torture during the period, along with a brief explanation of the people and  places involved at the time, are marked all over London, just waiting to be explored.

The route starts in Notting Hill, and swerves up and down west London’s most opulent neighbourhoods, dodging into churches and the capital’s famous landmarks, where quiet corners and nooks contain a surprising history. Best of all, the walk is free, with the only prerequisite being walkers must register an account with Walk magazine before they can fully access the walk.

To register for free on Walk magazine, and download the walk, follow this link here.

 

 

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If You Do One Thing in London This Month….

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pay Greenwich Market a visit.

 

The bigger markets in Borough and Covent Garden might boast big name brands in the foodie world and stands teeming with hawkers, but head to the smaller Greenwich market from Tuesday to Sunday to find food from around the world at relatively cheap prices, chat with artists, designers, and craftsmen about their products and listen to live music without jostling through crowds.

Housed between the quaint Admiral Hardy and Coach & Horses pubs, the Greenwich Market is open from 10:00AM till 5:30PM, with people gathering early on the weekend to grab sandwiches overflowing with chorizo sausage or grab some of the freshly baked bread and pastries. The market is a particularly good spot for shopping for vintage finds and local fashion designers, and for people that suffer from food allergies.

http://www.shopgreenwich.co.uk/news/forthcoming-events

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If you do One Thing in London This Month….

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…..visit the Royal Naval College in Greenwich.

 

 

 

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Even if you haven’t been there, chances are you have seen the Old Royal Naval College. The backdrop for Hollywood blockbusters like Pirates of the Caribbean and Les Miserables, this sprawling complex’s old columns and stately colonnades makes it an ideal choice for historic settings. However the site is more than just a background for films, as it has enjoyed a rich and varied history dating back to 1420 that includes royalty, sailors, and even women fighters during WWII.

On the original grounds where the Old Royal Naval College sits today, King Henry VII built his Greenwich Palace, to compete in grandeur against the palace of Spain and France and to partake in his love of jousting. By the mid-17th century the palace was rarely frequented by the royal family and it fell into disrepair.

In 1694 the site was allocated as the Royal Hospital of Seamen, and architects like Sir Christopher Wren, Hawksmoor, and James ‘Athenian’ Stuart returned the area to its former glory. Much of what visitors see today are these remains. As the number of Pensioners declined, the hospital closed in 1869, and then reopened in 1873 to allow for the expansion of the Royal Naval College in Portsmouth. Students were taught all aspects of naval science, and in 1939 women were admitted into the college for the first time for personnel training under the Women’s Royal Naval Service.

Today the buildings are used between the University of Greenwich, the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and the Greenwich Foundation. However its main attractions, the painted hall ceilings, Sir Christopher Wren’s domes, the chapel, and archaeological artefacts from Greenwich Palace are available to see for free to the public, as is the the aimless wandering between the mazes of columns. The best time to visit is in the spring and summer, when visitors can clearly hear students of the school practising their instruments as they explore the buildings.

For more information, please visit http://www.ornc.org/ or to book a guided tour.

 

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If You Do One Thing in London This Month…

 

…..visit the quirky Brunswick Cafe.

 

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Nestled between Vauxhall’s grey Brutalist-styled towers sits the Brunswick House Cafe: a Georgian mansion that sticks out against the concrete landscape of this area of London. However it’s not only this restaurant’s classic architecture that draws the eye, but its paraphernalia of signs, garden decorations, plants and antiques that plaster the outside walls. Even if you do not step inside the Brunswick, just exploring the outside is worth a stop.

If you do manage to grab a table inside, its interiors are just as eclectic as its gardens. Bric-a-brac and salvaged antiques dangle and perch all around the restaurant, which is well-known amongst the Vauxhall locals for its coffee and cocktails. Grab a chair, sit back with a drink, and make your eyes water at the pricetag of some of the antiques!

 

For more information, visit the Brunswick Cafe’s website.

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If you do one thing in London this month…

…visit the blue trees of Festival Gardens (St. Paul’s Cathedral)

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the charity Trees for Cities, Australian artist Konstantin Dimopoulos has painted the trees of Festival Gardens, neighbouring St. Paul’s Cathedral, an electric shade of blue. The hue is intended to highlight the importance and beauty of trees in London’s urban environment, by turning the tree into a surreal work of art.*

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The idea has certainly been successful; take a wander on a day with pleasant weather and the small gardens will be heaving with throngs of people taking pictures and warily touching the trees. While you’re there, take the time to have a picnic and enjoy the gardens. Originally the site of the Old Change, a street dating from 1923 which collapsed from a bombing raid in WWII, it was transformed into the gardens seen today by Sir Albert Richardson for the 1951 Festival of Britain. On a hot day dip your feet into the cool fountain, and don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate the statue by George Ehrlich, ‘The Young Lovers’.  If you have the time to spare, take a wander around the gardens of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which in the current hot spell London is experiencing, is blooming with roses.

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For those that like their city wanderings with a view, take the lift to the rooftop terrace of the nearby shopping centre One New Change, where visitors are rewarded with panoramic views of London’s biggest attractions. Entrance is free, but the viewing is particularly pleasant with a cold drink in hand.

 

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Entrance to both attractions is free; for more information about the blue trees, visit: http://www.colf.org/whats-on/713-the-blue-trees-do-not-publish

For directions and information to One New Change, visit: http://www.onenewchange.com/11the-roof-terrace.aspx

*Tree-huggers don’t need to fret, as Dimopoulos used a biologically-safe, water-based colourant that doesn’t harm people, animals or trees.

 

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