Category Archives: England

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

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.

spitalfields market animal cushions

Colourful animal cushion covers

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Jewelry selection at Spitalfields Market

spitalfields market clothes and bags

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

 

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‘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.

the nether1

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.

the nether3

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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tune hotel liverpool st garden

Review of the Tune Hotel Liverpool Street London

I stayed at the Tune Hotel Liverpool Street in London for two nights in early November 2014. I didn’t choose to stay at this hotel. I’m not a fan of Tune Hotels, as I think their business model of charging for supposed extras is flawed, when things like a towel and daily cleaning are classified as extras. However, I ended up there after booking an Expedia Secret Saver.

I was looking for a budget hotel in central London about one month before my stay. It appeared that even Travelodges were charging around £100 a night, so when I spotted a 2.5 star hotel in the St Paul’s/Tower Bridge/City area of London for £160 for 2 nights it sounded like reasonable value, at least by London standards.

I was disappointed when the hotel name was revealed as the Tune Hotel Liverpool St. I know from previous stays at Tune Hotels that check out is a very early 10am and there’s no kettle in the room.

When I checked the price on the Tune Hotels website, it was £190 for 2 nights in a room with a window (windowless rooms are cheaper).  However, with the Expedia booking, the Comfort Package which includes towels, toiletries, WiFi, use of the TV, safe and hairdryer were included in the price. The Comfort Package usually costs £10 a night.

A total price of £210 for a direct booking versus an £160 booking through an Expedia Secret Saver represented a saving of around 23%. Much lower than the ‘up to 40%’ advertised on the Expedia Secret Savers.

tune hotel liverpool st exterior

Although the hotel was a five minute walk from Liverpool Street station, I found it difficult to locate. This may have been because there are so many exits from the station and a lot of construction in the area.

I arrived at Tune Hotel Liverpool Street before noon to drop off my suitcase, for which there was an additional fee of £2.50 per bag. The reception staff were really friendly. When I checked in later that evening, I was allocated a room on the third floor.

When I entered the room, I thought that the window must have been open as I could hear traffic noise, despite the fact that the room wasn’t that close to the main road. However, the window was closed. The double glazing was ineffectual at keeping out exterior noise. At least I hardly heard any noise from the adjoining rooms during my stay.

Being allocated a twin room worked well. There were only four coat hangers on a tiny rail. I used the other bed to lay out my clothes. I was glad I was staying alone, as the room was small. I didn’t find the bed to be as comfortable as the double beds in other Tune hotels. The WiFi signal was very good and you could connect up to four devices per room.

tune hotel liverpool st room

One of the best things about the Tune Hotel Liverpool Street was the garden. The Cafe was shut during my visit.

tune hotel liverpool st the garden

I liked the location of the hotel. It was a two minute walk down to Spitalfields Market. There are lots of pubs, restaurants and cafes close by.  It only takes a few minutes to walk up to Shoreditch.

In summary, if you manage to find a cheap room at the Tune Hotel Liverpool Street, fair enough – you can live with the small room and paying for extras. It’s worth paying the additional £10 per night for the Comfort Package if you book direct. If I stayed there again, I’d request a room overlooking the garden.

Review of Tune Hotel Liverpool Street LondonKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

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Walking Along Regent’s Canal from Victoria Park to Islington Tunnel

I’d already walked along Regent’s Canal from Mile End to Victoria Park previously, so I decided to walk the section between Victoria Park to the Islington Tunnel.

I did this in two parts. In the morning, I visited Broadway Market and walked the relatively short section east to Victoria Park.

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In the afternoon, I decided to walk to King’s Cross station from my hotel, the RE London Shoreditch, mainly along Regent’s Canal. It would’ve taken me at least 15 minutes to walk to the closest Underground station at Bethnal Green, whereas to walk the whole way was supposed to take around one hour. I allowed two hours, factoring in stops to take photos and a few sit downs to give my case-dragging arms a rest.

With hindsight, I’m not so sure that was a great idea, mainly because it was a sunny Saturday; the tow path was crowded with pedestrians and cyclists, whom I had to weave between while wheeling my suitcase. There was still mud at the side of the tow path after recent rain. The first part of the tow path heading west was closed, the next part hardly had any benches and there was a lot of litter around.

I wished that I was in a canoe with my suitcase.

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I spotted a swan with some cygnets.

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The nicest part was at City Road Basin, between Wharf Rd and Danbury Street.

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There were plenty of benches and raised garden areas.

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There were some beautiful mosaics.

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regent's canal victoria park to islington tunnel11

I was relieved to get off the tow path at the Islington Tunnel. The last part of the walk to King’s Cross, south through Duncan Terrance Gardens and west along Pentonville Rd, was plain sailing, as it was downhill on wide, smooth, uncrowded paths and pavements.

hackney city farm english classroom

Hackney City Farm in London

Hackney City Farm is in Hackney Road at the southern end of Haggerston Park, is a ten minute walk from Hoxton Overground station.

hackney city farm sign

It looked as though the goats were in love, as they only had eyes for each other.

hackney city farm goats

They seemed unperturbed by a chicken pecking around close to them.

hackney city farm goats and chicken

The pigs were enjoying an afternoon snooze in their hut.

hackney city farm sleeping pigs

There were a couple of donkeys grazing in the field.

hackney city farm donkey

I liked the donkey stable.

hackney city farm donkey stable

There’s a small garden with a vegetable patch.

hackney city farm garden

You can buy fresh eggs and organic vegetables, as well as gifts and souvenirs at the Hackney City Farm Shop.

hackney city farm shop

The shop extension opened in September 2013. It was constucted of recycled materials including scaffolding boards and sash windows.

hackney city farm modern bulding

The farm gets a lot of school visits. Some of the classes on the environment, nature and food take place in brightly painted caravans.

hackney city farm english classroom

There’s a ‘Woodland Trail’ close by in Haggerston Park, where I spotted several squirrels.

hackney city farm woodland trail sign

It’s free to enter Hackney City Farm, although donations are welcome. It’s open all year from 10am–4.30pm everyday except Mondays.

mumbai square exterior

Review of Mumbai Square Indian Restaurant in Aldgate London

I saw a sign advertising the £10 buffet lunch at the Mumbai Square Indian Restaurant when I was walking back from Tower Gateway station to the Tune Hotel Liverpool Street. The restaurant is very close to Petticoat Lane and less than a ten minute walk from both Aldgate and Liverpool Street stations.

On my last day in London I had lunch there. The first thing I noticed upon entering was a pianist. I’ve never had a live music accompanient in an Indian restaurant. I later spoke to the pianist, Tristran from Galway in Ireland, to compliment him on his playing.

mumbai square live music from tristan

The interior was spacious, but I thought that all the dark wood and chairs made it slightly gloomy.

mumbai square interior

The starters weren’t part of the buffet. They were cooked freshly and served at the table.

mumbai square xtarters

There was a good choice of main courses at the buffet including three chicken and three lamb dishes, My favourites were the Prawn Curry and Aubergine Bhaji. Nan bread was brought to the table.

mumbai square main course

The staff were all friendly and attentive. After I’d eaten and paid,  I said I was going to take some photos of my restaurant for my review. The staff volunteered to be photographed.

mumbai square waiting staff

I was happy with the quality of the food for the £10 paid and I’d recommend the buffet lunch at the Mumbai Square Indian restaurant if you’re in the area.

Review of Mumbai Square Indian Restaurant in LondonKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff