Category Archives: England

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

Photo Tour of the London Film Museum – Bond in Motion

Although I’m not the greatest aficionado of the Bond movies, the series of films is an integral part of British culture. As I had a relative working at Pinewood Studios in the 1970s, a highlight of my teenage years was gaining access to watch part of ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, starring Roger Moore, being filmed in 1976.  That’s why visiting the ‘Bond in Motion’ exhibition at the London Film Museum was fun for me.

Photo Tour of the London Film Museum   Bond in Motion

‘The Living Daylights’ (1987) – Aston Martin V8

Photo Tour of the London Film Museum   Bond in Motion

 ‘You Only Live Twice’ 1976 – Little Nelly

Photo Tour of the London Film Museum   Bond in Motion

‘Die Another Day’ (2002) –  Jaguar XXR

Photo Tour of the London Film Museum   Bond in Motion

‘Diamonds Are Forever’ (1971) – Ford Mustang Mach 1

Photo Tour of the London Film Museum   Bond in Motion

‘A View to a Kill’ (1985) – Rolls Royce Silver Cloud

Photo Tour of the London Film Museum   Bond in Motion

‘Octopussy’ (1983) – Agrostar BD-5J

Photo Tour of the London Film Museum   Bond in Motion

‘Die Another Day’ (2002) – Aston Martin V12 Vanquish

Photo Tour of the London Film Museum   Bond in Motion

Montage from various Bond movies

Tickets for the London Film Museum cost £14.50 for adults, £9.50 for kids aged 5+ and over 65s. I received complimentary entry. Do check the opening hours before you visit, as the day before I visited, the standard opening hours were reduced.

camden arts centre foyer

Camden Arts Centre London

Camden Arts Centre is located close in Arkwright Road, near the Finchley Road Underground station in London. It focuses on contemporary visual art and education. The building started life as Hampstead Central Library in 1897. It became an arts centre when the new library building opened in Swiss Cottage in the 1960s.

Camden Arts Centre London

The shop in the foyer has a good selection of books.

Camden Arts Centre London

There’s a garden with a patio for the Cafe and some other seating. It was too wet during my visit to go out.

Camden Arts Centre London

I wasn’t permitted to take photos in any of the galleries.

Camden Arts Centre London

The Morya Davey exhibition ‘life without sheets of paper to be scribbled on is masterpiece’ didn’t appeal to me at all. The Canadian artists’ visual essays and her relationship with literature were too much naval gazing for my taste.

Camden Arts Centre London

Things went from bad to worse in the other exhibition, ‘Besides’, by London based Phillip Lai,  which featured installations such as folded blanket type material with cutlery arranged at the side and what looked like an old metal lamp sitting on a plank with wires sticking out of the top.

Anyway, it’s still interesting to see work by various artists. Different styles of art appeal to different people.

It’s free to get into the Camden Arts Centre. It’s closed on Monday. Opening hours are 10am – 6pm, with late opening until 9pm on Wednesdays.

poppy installation at the tower of london

Visit the Poppy Installation at Tower of London Before It Ends on 30 November 2014

Update 8 November 2014 -I read this morning that the Weeping Willow and the Wave segments of the poppy installation will now stay on display until 30 November 2014.

The ‘Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red’ installation at the Tower of London, featuring 888,246 ceramic poppies, will be on display until 11 November 2014.

Visit the Poppy Installation at Tower of London Before It Ends on 30 November 2014

I visited today. Quiet contemplation wasn’t easy with the hordes. Nevertheless, I recommend that you visit the poppy installation.

Visit the Poppy Installation at Tower of London Before It Ends on 30 November 2014

Visit the Poppy Installation at Tower of London Before It Ends on 30 November 2014

re london shoreditch double room1

Review of RE London Shoreditch Hotel

I stayed at the RE London Shoreditch for two nights in late May 2014. I was searching for a hotel in the Shoreditch/Hackney area to be to close to the Aegon Retiready event which I was attending for my personal finance blog.

I booked the hotel around ten days in advance of my stay through lastminute’s ‘Top Secret’ hotels. I reckoned that the “4 star jewel in East London’ secret hotel priced at £177 for two nights, on a room only basis, was the RE London Shoreditch, which had a standard price of £238 for two nights. I hadn’t been too bothered if the ‘Top Secret’ hotel wasn’t the RE, as the hotel was guaranteed to be in the area in which I wanted to stay.

It took me 15 minutes to walk to the RE London Shoreditch from Bethnal Green Underground station.

Review of RE London Shoreditch Hotel

I arrived at the hotel a few minutes after the check in time of 2pm. I was hoping for a quick check in, so that I could head straight for the Horniman Museum. I had to queue for around ten minutes to check in. Although I’d requested a quiet room on the lastminute.com booking form, I was allocated a room at the front of the hotel, right above a pelican crossing on Hackey Road.  As I didn’t fancy two nights of disturbed sleep, I decided to go back down to reception to request a quiet room. I had to queue for around ten minutes again. I was offered a room which faced the internal courtyard. However, that room wasn’t ready, so I was asked to wait in the lobby. A receptionist came over to give me key to my new room.

Review of RE London Shoreditch Hotel

I was really glad that I changed rooms. My new rooom was cooler and quiet enough to leave the window open overnight.

I thought that the room was low key but functional and comfortable. There was a fridge which was great for storing milk and fruit. I was glad that I was staying alone, as the duvet didn’t seem wide enough to cover two people.

Review of RE London Shoreditch Hotel

The hotel offers free WiFi throughout but you need a username and password for each device. I was unable to use the WiFi. When I tried to connect both my netbook and mobile phone, there was a “this connection is untrusted” message. I played it safe by sticking to my mobile broadband. I did mention this issue on check out, but was told I was the first person to have a problem with the WiFi connection.

There were some tasty biscuits and drinking chocolate sachets in the room. However, I think that there should be more than two teabags and two sachets of regular coffee in rooms. I doubt if the one small tube of shampoo and shower gel supplied in the bathroom would be sufficient for two people.

It’s a ten minute walk up to Broadway Market, held on Saturdays. Regent’s Canal, Hackney City Farm and Haggerston Park are a few minutes walk west along Hackney Road. There’s a Tesco Express close by on Hackey Road heading east towards Cambridge Heath station. The Geffyre Museum of the home is a 20 minute walk, located next to Hoxton Overground station.

In summary, I was happy with the RE Shoreditch, my room was very quiet for London, clean and comfortable. However, it could be improved by doubling the supply of  toiletries and tea/coffee sachets, a larger duvet and WiFi which doesn’t require usernames and passwords or have security issues.

Review of RE London Shoreditch HotelKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

colonnade town house hotel room2

Review of the Colonnade Town House Hotel London

I booked a room at the Colonnade Town House Hotel in Little Venice through lastminute.com’s ‘Top Secret’ hotels. I was searching for a reasonably priced hotel for a two night stay, in an area I hadn’t previously explored, one week before my stay in late May 2014.

I’d worked out that a hotel described as a “4 star Victorian boutique hotel by Little Venice and Paddington” and priced at £155 for two nights (after using a 10% discount code) was likely to be the Colonnade. This was a massive saving of of £284, compared to the £439 price of being guaranteed that you were booking the Colonnade.

The hotel is located a one minute walk from Warwick Ave Underground station on the Bakerloo Line. It all looked very promising as I approached the Colonnade, the area was beautiful and the hotel exterior impressive.

Review of the Colonnade Town House Hotel London

I thought that the lobby was a bit over the top. There was a cat basket in the corner of the lobby and a friendly cat wandering around. Not ideal if, like me, you are allergic to cats.

Review of the Colonnade Town House Hotel London

Things got worse when I entered my room. It was at the back of the hotel with two frosted white upvc windows with mould in some sections. This made the room so dingy that I needed the lights on during the day. There were two heating/air conditioning units, one in a corner of the room and one under the smaller window (which prevented the blind from coming down fully.) As I didn’t require the room to be heated or cooled, I didn’t investigate further, but I didn’t understand why two ugly units were requried and why they weren’t located in more discreet locations. All in all, the room was not quite in keeping with the touted Victorian luxury town house.

Review of the Colonnade Town House Hotel London

I swithered about whether to go back down to reception to request another room. However, I could see the advantage of the quiet location at the back of the building. I’d read in reviews that the rooms in the basement were noisy as they were above the Underground train tunnel and I thought that rooms on the top floor might be hot. On balance, I decided to stay put.

The room was so badly designed. There was no place for my case. The wardrobe was too small, so I had to lay the case on the floor. There were no free electrical sockets by the desk. I had to unplug the TV to charge my netbook or boil the kettle. There was barely space on the desk to lay my netbook, due to the TV and large lamp. I  ended up sitting the kettle on the carpet and plugging it into the electrical socket by the bathroom door.

Review of the Colonnade Town House Hotel London

There were a few small patches of peeling paint in the bathroom. The bath towels were very frayed around the edges,

There was a safe in the wardrobe, which was large enough to hold my netbook. The free WiFi had a very good signal.

The Colonnade makes a big deal of having a turn down service, where they bring a bottle of water to your room, lay a chocolate on your pillow, change your towels (on request) and fold over the duvet. In my opinion, they need to put a lot more effort into basics such as new towels, providing a suitcase stand and more electical sockets in the bedrooms,

At under £80 a night for a double, my room at the Colonnade Town House Hotel was reasonable value by London standards. I did sleep quite well due to the room being quiet and dark. However, if I’d paid the standard price of £220 for that room, I’d have been livid and left feeling cheated.

Review of the Colonnade Town House Hotel LondonKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

swiss cottage gallery beyond seizures exhibition2

Swiss Cottage Gallery London

When I’m in London, I like to get off the beaten track. I decided to explore Swiss Cottage one afternoon. After lunch at the Tara Tari Buffet Restaurant, I walked over to Swiss Cottage Library. I wasn’t allowed to take photos in the library. That’s a shame, as it has some nice features for a 1960ss building.

However, I was permitted to take photos in the Swiss Cottage Gallery on the first floor of the library.

When I visited in late May 2014, the exhibition was ‘Beyond Seizures’, with pieces by people with epilepsy, scientists and artists.

Swiss Cottage Gallery London

Swiss Cottage Gallery London

Swiss Cottage Gallery London

Swiss Cottage Gallery London

Swiss Cottage Gallery London

If you’re in the area, I recommend a visit to the Swiss Cottage Gallery. There’s an attractive little cafe in the library and free Wifi throughout the building.

scenic train route scotland

Evaluating UK Travel Options with GoEuro

We’ve been thinking of re-visiting Plymouth in Devon, in south west England, for some time. What’s put us off is the journey there.

Evaluating UK Travel Options with GoEuro

Plymouth Hoe by Visentico/Sento

We prefer to take our car for trips within the UK. It costs a lot to own a car, so it makes sense to use it as much as possible, especially as we have an economincal diesel super-mini. However, it’s a pretty long drive down from Berwick upon Tweed to Plymouth and the roads in Devon get pretty congested.

Previously, I’d had a quick look at the option of travelling to Plymouth by train. There is a direct Cross Country train, but the return fare is often near enough £200, which seems excessive.

I decided to check out other options for the journey from Berwick upon Tweed to Plymouth in September on the GoEuro site, which searches through all available rail, bus and air routes.

Evaluating UK Travel Options with GoEuro

It’s cheaper to take the train via London, first travelling there by East Coast and then by First Great Western to Plymouth. But that increases the journey time from 8 hours to around 14 hours. I did think that with a flexible return ticket you could have at least one stopover in London. We could further reduce the train fare if we bought a Two Together railcard, which gives one third off most off-peak fares for two named passengers travelling together. Although this discount card costs £30,  we could save more than the cost on that one long trip.

I hadn’t considered flying, but GoEuro came up with flights from Newcastle upon Tyne to Bristol with easyJet. Surprisingly, even factoring in rail travel from Berwick upon Tweed to Newcastle and from Bristol to Plymouth, the cost was lower than undertaking the whole journey by train. The estimated journey length was around 14 hours, the same as travelling the whole way by train via London.

Evaluating UK Travel Options with GoEuro

I wasn’t very keen on that option. I thought that there was a higher chance of things going wrong with the increased number of connections, e.g. if the train to Newcastle was late and we missed the flight to Bristol, or if our arrival into Bristol was delayed and we missed the train to Plymouth.

The cheapest option was taking the coach via London, which again took around 14 hours. I thought that it was quite possible that there could be delays on the motorway, plus I didn’t really fancy spending so many hours on a coach. At least on a train you can walk around more.

In conclusion, I thought that trying to find the lowest fare for the direct Cross Country train would be my preferred option for travelling between Berwick upon Tweed and Plymouth.

camden lock market indoor1

Photo Tour of Camden Lock Market

Camden Lock Market is another one of these London attractions that I’ve been meaning to visit for years. I decided to walk there from my hotel, the Tune London King’s Cross, via Regent’s Canal.

I have to say that the market was looking pretty tatty on the approach along the towpath.

Photo Tour of Camden Lock Market

It’s quite confusing, as each section of the market apparently has a different name, but the demarcationa aren’t very clear. The first area, to the east of Chalk Farm Road, had ‘Camden Lock Village’ painted on the wall behind the stalls.

Photo Tour of Camden Lock Market

That’s not the only confusing thing. You’d imagine that Camden Lock Market would be on Camden High St, but in fact it’s on either side of Chalk Farm Rd. However, it only takes a few minutes to walk up to the market from Camden Town tube station.

Photo Tour of Camden Lock Market

You get some of the best views of Camden Lock Market from Chalk Farm Bridge.

Photo Tour of Camden Lock Market

There were a number of food stalls in Camden Lock Village charging reasonable prices, e.g. £4 for fair sized main course, with seating on canal view motor bike style seats.

Photo Tour of Camden Lock Market

For me, the only unit in Camden Lock Village which had some character was ‘Planet’ which stocked punk style clothing.

Photo Tour of Camden Lock Market

I didn’t see a name on the two storey indoor market which I entered after crossing Chalk Farm Road.

Photo Tour of Camden Lock Market

The circular window was very striking.

Photo Tour of Camden Lock Market

There were some unusual items for sale; the ‘Record ‘Breakers’ stall sold  clocks made out of vinyl records.

Photo Tour of Camden Lock Market

Another stall was selling old cameras and typewriters.

Photo Tour of Camden Lock Market

The public toilets are just off the first floor of the indoor market.

There was a courtyard area at the side of the indoor market with lots of outdoor seating. One of dining options was paella served from a huge cooking dish.

Photo Tour of Camden Lock Market

The Camden Lock Footbridge was pretty.

Photo Tour of Camden Lock Market

Overall, I wasn’t that impressed by Camden Lock Market. I was left with an impression of a shabby tourist trap selling a lot of overpriced tat. Having said that, on a sunny day it could be quite pleasant to sit out with a coffee or drink by the canal.

battlebridge basin from kings place

Kings Place in London’s King’s Cross

Kings Place describes itself as “a hub for music, art dialogue and food”. I spotted it as I was walking north from King’s Cross station toward Regent’s Canal to take the tow path to Camden Lock. From the exterior, it wasn’t that obvious what it was, I thought maybe a shopping centre, with the Guardian/Observer premises taking up one side of the building. I did some research on Kings Place back at my hotel room that evening and decided to visit on the last day of my stay in London.

On arrival at Kings Place, I went down to the Gallery area to see the ‘Looking Out, Looking In’ exhibition by Lucy Jones.

Kings Place in Londons Kings Cross

Hall One at King’s Place

There’s a cafe and a restaurant with some outdoor seating in a terrace at the back of Kings Place. The tarrace overlooks Battlebridge Basin on Regent’s Canal. There was a £10 lunch offer for a traditional British main course with a drink when I was there.

Kings Place in Londons Kings Cross

Tables on terrace at Kings Place

It was a wet morning, so there were only a couple of smokers out on the terrace, but I can imagine that it must get very busy on pleasamt Summer evenings.

Kings Place in Londons Kings Cross

Swans in Battlebridge Basin viewed from Kings Place

Kings Place in Londons Kings Cross

Sculpture on terrace at King’s Place 

Kings Place in Londons Kings Cross

Sculpture on terrace at Kings Place

When I’m catching a train back to Berwick upon Tweed, I like to arrive at King’s Cross Station around one hour before my departure time. Next time that I’m returning from London by train, I’ll probably walk up to Kings Place, instead of hanging around at the station.

meanwhile gardens moroccan garden

Meanwhile Gardens in Westbourne Park, London

After exploring Little Venice,  I decided to have a walk along the Grand Union Canal heading west to Westbourne Park. Along the route I had a chat with a barge resident who recommended that I visit Meanwhile Gardens.

Meanwhile Gardens in Westbourne Park, London

My favourite part of Meanwhile Gardens was the Moroccan Garden, opened in 2007. The tiled fountain area was pretty.

Meanwhile Gardens in Westbourne Park, London

There were also a couple of rectangular pools.

Meanwhile Gardens in Westbourne Park, London

Further along was a larger pond  with water lilies.

Meanwhile Gardens in Westbourne Park, London

There were some ducklings in the thick long grass at the side of the pond.

Meanwhile Gardens in Westbourne Park, London

So if you are walking along Grand Union Canal tow path, take a short detour into Meanwhile Gardens.