Category Archives: England

List of articles with tips for things to do in England; top English attractions, sights and museums.

ahaleena buffet park royal main course

Review of Ahaleena Buffet in Park Royal, London

I knew from looking at the map and talking with our son who had previously stayed at the Holiday Inn Express London Park Royal that there wasn’t much to do in the immediate vicinity of the hotel. When I did a search for restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, the Ahaleena Mediterranean Buffet appeared. I liked the sound of the food and reckoned it would take me around 20 minutes to walk there.

I was a bit surprised as I turned into Standard Road, where the restaurant is located, as it led into an industrial estate. I confirmed the street name and number of the restaurant’s address on my piece of paper. Sure enough as I walked down the street, I spotted the Ahaleena, which adjoined the Flames Food unit.

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 Entrance to the Ahaleena Buffet

The interior style was simple,. It was very quiet inside with only two other customers. I assume it’s busier during the week with customers who work in the industrial estate. There were some freezers selling ready made food by the entrance.

I didn’t see any prices displayed., I’d read online that the price was £7.95, but that must have been an old review, as it was £9.50 without a drink, or £10.50 with a drink. The selection when I was there consisted of orange squash, drinking yoghurt and tea. The price is the same every day.

ahaleena buffet park royal interior

 Interior of the Ahaleena Buffet

As soon as I looked at the food, I knew that I was onto a winner and it was worth £9.50,  My favourite starters were the Tzatziki (a yoghurt and shredded cucumber dip) and Lamb Parcels.

ahaleena buffet park royal starter

Starters at the Ahaleena Buffet

I loved the Meatballs Wrapped  in Aubergine.

ahaleena buffet park royal main course

Main course at the Ahaleena Buffet

I only saw one member of staff, who was very welcoming, saying “eat as much as you like, we want you to feel as though you are at home”. I asked him if the food was from any particular country and he said it was a mixture. However, when he told me that he was Lebanese, I remembered a similarly tasty Lebanese meal I’d eaten in Cyprus.

ahaleena buffet park royal starters

Buffet selection at the Ahaleena Buffet

The sweet filled pastry desserts were delicious.

I really enjoyed my meal at the Alaheena Buffet and recommend that you visit if you’re in the Park Royal or North Action area,

I’d advise you to phone (020 8838 0444) to check opening hours and prices before visiting. The restaurant doesn’t have it’s own website and the opening times and prices given on various other sites vary.

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Islington Museum in London

Islington Museum is located in St Johns Street, beneath Finsbury Libray.

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Exterior of Islington Museum

I’ve always been a bit confused about the location of the boundaries of the London borough of Islington. I didn’t realise that its southern border reaches down to the City of London.

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Information board at the entrance to Islington Museum

I found the entertainment section interesting. Music halls were popular in Islington. Collin’s Music Hall opened in Islington Green in 1863.

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Marie Lloyd – “Queen of the Music Hall”

Islington was quick to embrace the cinema craze. The first film show in England took place at the Agricultrual Hall in Upper Street. In1914 the borough had around 30 cinemas. In 1930 the 3,000 seater Astoria Cinema opened. It’s interior was designed to look like a Mediterranean village. It later became the Rainbow Theatre, but is currently a Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.

islington museum astoria cinema

Astoria Cinema

At the radicals section, there was information on rights for women. I hadn’t realised that Mary Wollstonecraft, the 18th century advocate of women’s liberation and education, died aged 38 after giving birth to her second daugher Mary Shelly, the author of Frankenstein.

islington museum mary wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft information board

More than 1,000 suffragettes were imprisoned in Holloway Prison during the fight for women’s right to vote in the early 20th century. I knew about the authorities force-feeding prisoners who went on hunger strike, but during further research I was horrified to read that force-feeding was also done through the vagina and rectum. There’s no way that would’ve provided any nourishment, it was sexual abuse and torture.

islington museum suffragette badge

Suffragette badge

It’s free to get into Islington Museum. The museum is open from 10am – 5pm, but closed on Wednesdays and Sundays.

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Visiting Wesley’s Chapel and the Museum of Methodism in London

I spotted Wesley’s Chapel and the Museum of Methodism in City Road as I was walking between the Geffyre Museum and the Barbican Centre. It was a coincedence, as I’d read about John Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist movement, when I was in Islington Museum the previous day.

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Sculpture of John Wesley at the entrance to Wesley’s Chapel

Wesley’s Chapel opened in 1778, to replace the original Foundery Chapel.

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The Museum of Methodism is located in the crypt beneath the Chapel. There’s a short video giving a good summary of the life of Wesley.

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Entrance to the Museum of Methodism

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Collection boxes at the Museum of Methodism

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Ceremonial trowels at the Museum of Methodism

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The Wesley tradition of outdoor preaching lives on

The Garden, where you’ll find Wesley’s tomb, is accessed through the rear of the museum. The rear of the Chapel is reflected onto the glass windows of the adjacent modern office block.

wesley's chapel garden

Garden at Wesley’s Chapel

You can also visit John Wesley’s House on a guided tour, but I didn’t have enough time to do this.

Wesley’s Chapel and House and the Museum of Methodism are open Monday to Saturday 10am – 4pm, but closed on Thursdays between 12.45 & 1.30p for a service. Admission is free, with donations welcomed.

st james court courtyard

Review of St James Court Hotel London

I stayed at the St James Court Hotel in London for one night in February 2015. The stay was booked by a credit report company hosting an event for personal finance bloggers, which I attendied as editor of Help Me To Save.

My confirmation from Booking.com stated that I was in a classic double room and the price paid was £119 on a room only basis.

Staying at the St James Court Hotel was going to be a trip down Memory Lane for me, as I had a live-in Summer job at the hotel in 1976 when I was a student.

If my hotel booking is done by a third party, I always phone the hotel in advance to check that they have a record of the booking.  During the call, I was asked if I required an early check-in. I replied that, all going smoothly, I should arrive at the hotel around 1.30pm, so I was told that every effort would be made to have my room ready by 1pm.

st james court hotel entrance

 Entrance to the St James Court Hotel London

It took me around 10 minutes to walk to the hotel from Victoria Tube Station. St James Park Tube Station is much closer, but  the quickest, direct route by Tube from Kings Cross was to Victoria on the Victoria Line.

It only takes five minutes to walk from the hotel to Buckingham Palace.

Upon entering, I could see that the hotel had been seriously upgraded since I worked there, when It was more of a tourist class hotel with some rooms having shared bathrooms.

At check-in I was upgraded to an executive king room. It was a beautiful room with a bay window overlooking the courtyard.

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View from my room at the St James Court Hotel

I loved the clock opposite my room.

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St James Court Hotel clock

The room was spacious, beautifully decorated and furnished and maintained to a very high standard. The free WiFi was reasonable; you had to pay for a faster connection.

st james court hotel room

 Executive king room at the St James Court Hotel London

The downside to having such a great room, is it puts you off going out, as you want to enjoy the luxury. However, I had to leave by 3.30pm to walk to the event in Kensington.

As I arrived back at the hotel late that evening, I asked if I could check out at 1pm,  instead of noon, the following morning. My request was granted.

It was so quiet overnight that I could hardly believe that I was in a hotel in central London. The king size bed was super comfy.

st james court hotel executive king room

Executive king room at the St James Court Hotel London

Breakfast wasn’t included in my booking. I thought that it’d be lovely to have a drink or a meal in the courtyard during warmer weather,

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The courtyard at the St James Court Hotel

There were three elephant sculptures in the courtyard.

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 ‘Clearing’ elephant sculpture in the courtyard of the St James Court Hotel

It appears that room upgrades are carried out as standard if availability exists. The other personal finance blogger staying at the hotel had also been upgraded and an attendee at the event from the credit report company had been upgraded on a few occasions when staying at the St James Court.

I really enjoyed my stay at the St James Court Hotel. If I’d paid £119 for the night and been upgraded to an executive king room, I’d have throught it was excellent value for money for the quality of the room.

british library painting

Visiting the British Library

The British Library is a great place to visit. It’s located close to King’s Cross railway station.

british library gate

The cloakroom and lockers are free (but you need a £1 coin as a deposit for the lockers). It states at the entrance that you can store a suitcase the size of airline carry on luggage. However I couldn’t find a large enough locker, but I was able to leave my case at the cloakroom. There are drinking water fountains outside the toilets.

british  library interior

There’s usually a free temporary exhibition. The topic was polar exploration during my most recent visit.

British library 'Paradoxymoron' by John Hughes

‘Paradoxymoron’ by John Hughes on the lower ground floor

I had a look around the free ‘Treasures of the British Museum’ gallery. For me, the most interesting items were in the novelists section with texts from Charles Dicken’s ‘Nicholas Nickelby’ and Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’.

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Penny Black stamp printing press at the British Museum

If the weather’s good you can sit outside in the British Library Piazza.

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Photo Tour of Little Venice in London

I was never quite sure where Little Venice was. When I stayed at the Colonnade Town House, it was only a five minute walk to Little Venice. The nearest Underground Station is Warwick Ave, a three minute clearly signed walk from Little Venice. Paddington station is also close by.

little venice

The map of Little Venice was informative, but it did make me wonder why the area had been given this name, it’s merely a triangular pool at the junction of Regent’s Canal with the Paddington Basin on the Grand Union Canal, with a bridge at each corner of the triangle.

little venice map

The railings and the Borough of Paddington coat of arms on the bridges looked recently painted.

little venice bridge western end

It is a beautiful location, with the white mansions of Blomfield Road along the north-western perimeter.

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There’s a boarding point for the London Waterbus, which runs a service between Little Venice to Camden Lock via London Zoo in Regent’s Park.

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Some of the barges are decorated with colourful paintings.

little venice barge painted doors

You can find public toilets in Rembrandt Gardens on the north eastern perimeter of Little Venice.

There’s a Puppet Theatre on a barge, which I thought was rather pricey for tickets at £12 for adults and £8.50 for kids.

little venice puppet theatre

The Waterside Cafe is attractive.

little venice waterside cafe

I’d recommend a visit to Little Venice, as it is pretty, but don’t expect it to be anything like a miniature Venice.

newbiggin by the couple sculpture

Newbiggin by the Sea on a Sunny Winter Afternoon

I visited Newbiggin by the Sea, in south east Northumberland, on a sunny afternoon in late February.

The first thing that struck me was the good availability of good parking spaces on the attractive high street. From there, it was a case of crossing the relatively quiet road over to the sea side and the promenade.

The 13th century Parish church of Saint Bartholomew overlooks a wide green space with attractive benches overlooking the sea (Little Bay).

newbiggin by the sea st bartholomew parish church

There was also ample parking in a designated space by a children’s play area, near a modern building housing the Maritime Centre. The Maritime Centre combines a museum, attractive shop and cafe. I was particularly struck by the interesting shaped mirrors in the men’s loo.

newbiggin by the sea martiime centre

The UK’s oldest operational boathouse (1851), Newbiggin’s  Lifeboat Station, was established after ten fishermen drowned.

newbiggin by the sea lifeboat station from front

It is on the promenade and the lifeboat gets launched by tractor.

newbiggin by the sea lifeboat station launching tractor

There are plenty of interesting art installations on the Newbiggin Art Trail.

newbiggin by the sea art trail

In Little Bay, there’s a huge modern statue of a couple looking further out to sea.

newbiggin by the sea the couple sculptue out at sea

It was the UK’s first permanent offshore sculpture, installed in August 2007, the creation of artist Sean Henry. A smaller version can be found by the Promenade.

newbiggin by the couple sculpture on dry land

There are some murals too.

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newbiggin by the sea wall art

Despite the time of year, there were some floral displays in the town.

newbiggin by the sea flower bed

All in all a well spent couple of hours in Newbiggin by the Sea.

 

spitalfields market jewwllery

Photo Tour of Spitalfields Market London

Spitalfields Market is located a five minute walk from Liverpool Street Station, very close to the Tune Hotel Liverpool Street where I was staying.

spitalfields market entrance

The market is open seven days a week from 10am – 5pm. There are different themes every day. I visited on a Thursday, which is Antiques Day in the Old Market.

spitalfields market egyptian bust

Anyone for an Egyptian bust?

spitalfields market

What about a soldier’s metal helmet?

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Crockery and glassware in Spitalfields Antiques Market

The other section of the market sells new items.

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Colourful animal cushion covers

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Jewelry selection at Spitalfields Market

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Vast selection of clothing at Spitalfields Market

There are lots of cafes and restaurants in the Spitalfields Market with a mix of indoor and outside seating.

 

 

wellcome collection staircase

Visit the Institute of Sexology and See the New Staircase at the Wellcome Collection London

‘The Institute of Sexology’ exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London runs until 22 September 2015.

wellcome collection institure of sexology entrance

You’re not allowed to take photos in the Institute, but the video below gives an outline of the exhibition.

Having worked as an interviewer on the second National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles in 1999, I found the filmed interviews with the four leading members of the research team fascinating. On the whole I did get a positive response from interviewees to the survey, but I was glad that the most personal questions were in a self completion section.

The day when I visited the Wellcome Collection was one day prior to the public opening of the new staircase  designed by architects Wilkinson Eyr, who are Stirling Prize winners. This meant that I wasn’t able to climb the staircase, so could only take photos from the ground floor.

wellcome collection new staircase

 

the nether2

‘The Nether’ is One of the Best Plays I’ve Seen

When I was in London last week, I went to see  ‘The Nether‘ at the Duke of York’s theatre in St Martin’s Lane. I paid £11, including all fees and credit card payment charges, for a third price ticket with restricted view, booked on the lastminute.com website.

The Nether ticket

Now the issue with my seat, in the front row of the Upper Circle, wasn’t the restricted view, which was easily remedied by leaning forward, but the restricted leg and foot room.

That discomfort was soon forgotten when the performance started, This is an amazing, gripping, chilling portrayal of virtual reality in 2050, which allows you to act out your desires with (supposedly) no consequences.

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Now with some plays, you could argue that a TV or movie production might be superior to being limited to a stage. However, with ‘The Nether’ the 3D dreamy sets give an eerie fairytale-like feel to the grotesque tale.

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I’d recommend that you go to see ‘The Nether’ as its run at the Duke of Yorks is due to finish on 25 April 2015.

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