Tag Archives: London

What to do in London, the best places to visit in London, London hotels, bars and restaurants.

The Beautiful Mosaics in St Mary’s Gardens in Lambeth London

I loved the mosaics in the base of the fountain and on paving stones around the fountain in St Mary’s Garden in Lambeth. This art is part of the Southbank Mosaics Community Enterprise programme.

The gardens are located just to your right after crossing Lambeth Bridge, beside the Garden Museum, which is housed in the former St Mary’s Church.

st marys gardens lambeth london

The mosaics in the fountain depict koi carp, river reeds and two beaches.

st marys gardens lambeth london single fish mosaic in fountain

The water in the base of the fountain appears to intensity the colours of the koi carp.

st marys gardens lambeth london single silver fish mosaic

The pavement mosaics surrounding the fountain, by Helen Lees, are based on a flora and fauna theme.

st marys gardens lambeth london plum mosaic

Plum mosaic in St Mary’s Gardens

st marys gardens lambeth london hedgehog mosaic

Hedgehog mosaic in St Marys’ Gardens

st marys gardens lambeth london purple emperor butterfly mosaic

Purple Emperor butterfly mosaic in St Mary’s Gardens

st marys gardens lambeth london peach mosaic

Peach mosaic in St Mary’s Gardens

st marys gardens lambeth london cherry mosaic

Cherry Mosaic in St Mary’s Gardens

st marys garden lambeth london fox mosaic

Fox mosaic in St Mary’s Gardens

I recommend that you combine seeing the mosaics at St Mary’s Gardens in Lambeth with a visit to the Tate Britain, which is a ten minute walk away in Millbank, on the other side of River Thames.

The Top 10 Must-See Sights of London

London is famous for a whole host of reasons, including the Royal Family, its status as a fashion capital of the world and the fact it’s a major political centre. But it’s also a mixing pot of cultures rich in history and arts.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 must-see sights that London has to offer.

1. The Tower of London

Opening times:

Open daily with the exception of 24th, 25th and 26th December and 1st January
Winter times (1st November to 28th February):
Tuesday to Saturday – 9 am to 4.30 pm
Sunday to Monday – 10 am to 4.30 pm

Cost: From £10

the tower of london

If you’re looking to learn more about British history, the Tower of London is a great attraction that the whole family will enjoy. There are 12 acres of land to explore within the walls so there’s plenty to see.
Founded in 1066 by William the Conqueror, the Tower of London started off as a military stronghold. During the 1200s an exotic royal zoo was founded and remained open until 1835.

A total of 22 executions were carried out at the tower, the last one as late as 1941. There have been plenty of alleged ghost sightings over the years, including by King Henry VI and King Henry VIII’s fifth wife Catherine. There are over 23,500 jewels in the tower totalling an estimated £20 billion.

Nearest tube stop: Tower Hill

2. Coca-Cola London Eye

Opening times:

Open daily with the exception of 25th December and 11th to 22nd January
10 am to 8.30 pm. Opening times may vary.

Cost: From £19.35

the london eye

The newly renamed Coca-Cola London Eye is based in Central London, overlooking the River Thames. Much more than a Ferris wheel, it’s the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel, standing at an impressive 133 metres tall.

On average, this attraction receives more visitors that the Taj Mahal or the Pyramids of Giza. That’s not so surprising when you consider that you can see up to 40 kilometres in all directions on a clear day. That’s as far as Windsor Castle.

The Coca-Cola London Eye can carry up to 800 people per rotation in its 32 capsules at a speed of 26cm per second.

Nearest tube stop: Waterloo

3. Buckingham Palace

Opening times:

30th July to 31st August 2016 – 9.15 am to 7.45 pm
1st to 25th September 2016 – 9.15 am to 6.45 pm

Price: From £21.50 (Children aged 5 and under go free)

Buckingham Palace is one of the most famous landmarks in the United Kingdom. It has been the official London residence of Britain’s monarchs since 1837. Over 50,000 tourists visit the palace each year to view the famous building and take a tour of its interior. The palace boasts an impressive 1,514 doors and 760 windows which require cleaning every six weeks.

Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms which include 19 state rooms, 52 royal and guest bathrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. Its private gardens cover 40 acres of land. That’s the equivalent of four Wembley stadiums.

When the Ballroom of Buckingham Palace was opened in 1856 it was the largest room in London.

Nearest tube stop: Victoria

4. St Paul’s Cathedral

Opening times:

Monday to Saturday 8.30 am to 4 pm. Opening times may vary.

Price: From £15.50

St Paul’s Cathedral is a historical landmark that has hosted some extremely important events over the years. During World War II, St Paul’s Cathedral was struck twice by German bombs. It remained the tallest structure in London until 1962 when the BT Tower was erected.

The most famous funeral held at St Paul’s was that of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965 and the most famous wedding was that of Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981.

The Whispering Gallery – a steep 257 steps up – houses one of the cathedral’s best-known features. If you whisper on one side of the wall, it can be heard on the other side, 35 metres away. You can also visit the crypt beneath the cathedral, which contains over 200 tombs and memorials of national heroes.

Nearest tube station: St Paul’s

5. Big Ben

Opening times:

Tours are at 9 am, 11 am and 2 pm Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays).

Price: From £18

looking towards big ben from westminster bridge

Completed in 1858, Big Ben is over 150 years old. Housed in the Palace of Westminster, the clock is one of the most iconic sights in London. It chimes every 15 minutes without fail. The clock’s bell weighs more than 13 tons and each dial is seven metres in diameter.

The name Big Ben is actually the name of the four-faced bell inside the tower, though common misconception has led to the clock adopting the name. The clock is, in fact, called the Elizabeth Tower.
Each clock face is made up of 312 panes of glass, making a total of 1,248 pieces for the entire clock.

Nearest tube stop: Westminster

6. Natural History Museum

Opening times:

Open daily from 10 am to 5.50 pm

Price: Free

natural history museum

Ever since the Natural History Museum opened its doors in 1881, its contents have fascinated the public. The museum’s collection currently contains over 70 million botanical specimens, 55 million animal exhibitions, 9 million relics from various archaeological digs and 500,000 rocks and minerals.

Despite the wealth of items to see, the museum is easy to navigate. It’s divided into five collections: botany, palaeontology, entomology, mineralogy and zoology. One of its main attractions is the 26-metre diplodocus replica skeleton that greets visitors in the main hall. However, it is said this will be replaced by a 25-metre blue whale skeleton in the near future.

Nearest tube stop: South Kensington

7. The Shard

Opening times:

25th October to 31st March: Sunday to Wednesday 10 am-7 pm, Thursday to Saturday 10 am-10 pm
1st April to 24th October: Open daily from 10 am to 10 pm

Price: From £30.95

view from the shard

With 11,000 glass panels, 44 lifts and a public viewing gallery, at a height of 309.6 metres above the capital, The Shard is the tallest building in Europe and the 59th tallest building in the world. An impressive 95% of the materials used during construction are made from recycled produce.

It has 87 floors in total, 72 of which are habitable. The top 10 floors house a power station and a series of radiators. The Shard also contains three restaurants and one hotel.

The area of the glass façade is 56,000 square metres – that’s the equivalent of eight football pitches. You’ll get unrivalled views of London from the viewing area on the 72nd floor. The lifts travel at 6 metres per second so expect your ears to pop.

Nearest tube stop: London Bridge

8. Trafalgar Square

Opening times:

Open 24/7

Price: Free

trafalgar square

The home of Lord Nelson’s column, iconic stone lions and four famous plinths, Trafalgar Square is a must-see sight for tourists. Seventeen bus routes pass through Trafalgar Square, making it a hive of activity.
Nelson’s Column was built in honour of Admiral Horatio Nelson, who led Britain to victory during the Battle of Trafalgar. The centrepiece of the square is 52 metres tall.

Three of the plinths in Trafalgar Square commemorate three previous English Kings. The fourth plinth never had a statue built for it so it’s often used to showcase modern art displays.

Every Christmas the square boasts an impressive Norwegian Spruce Christmas tree. This is sent by Norway to honour Britain’s commitment to the country during World War II.

Nearest tube stop: Charing Cross

9. Tower Bridge

Opening times:

Summer hours: April to September – 10 am to 5.30 pm
Winter Hours: October to March – 9.30 am to 5 pm

tower bridge

Opened in 1894, the famous Tower Bridge took 432 construction workers 8 years to build, but it was well worth the wait. An average of 40,000 people, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians now cross the bridge each day. It has become one of the main landmarks of the capital.

The bridge is 224 metres long with two tall towers, which are 65 metres high. 11,000 tons of steel were used to construct the bridge’s framework. It takes five minutes to raise each half of the bridge’s central stretch to allow large ships to pass through. It’s free to cross the bridge and take in the sights of London, and if you want to learn more about the bridge’s history there’s an onsite museum you can visit. Admission fees apply.

Price: From £9 (Children aged 5 and under go free)

Nearest tube stop: London Bridge

10. Science Museum

Opening times:

Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm with the exception of 24th, 25th and 26th December

Price: Free

Over 3 million people visit the Science Museum each day and it’s easy to see why. The Science Museum is known for its entertaining interactive displays. It makes education fun for adults and children alike. In fact, it’s Britain’s most popular destination for those with a love of science, technology, engineering, medicine and design.

It hosts an unparalleled collection of historical objects and cutting-edge technology and science. There are over 15,000 objects on display including the Apollo 10 command capsule, 3D and 4D simulators, the 3D Red Arrows experience and a giant IMAX 3D cinema. For a day full of wonder and fun, the Science Museum is the place to visit.

Nearest tube stop: South Kensington

Which of these top 10 sights do you want to see the most? Take a trip to the capital and discover your new favourite places. For more information on the must-see sights of London, take a look at St George International’s interactive guide.

About St George International

St George International are a leading English school based in London. For more information about the courses they provide, visit their website or call +44 (0)203 553 9623.

Exploring the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford London

Despite a rather chilly breeze, I spent an enjoyable September evening in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. The park was close to my hotel, the Travelodge London Stratford.

I entered the Park close to the London Aquatics Centre, where there was a large mural, ‘Carpenters’ Curve’ by Clare Woods. It’s the most complex tile mural in the world, comprising of 88,000 ceramic tiles.

queen elizabeth olympic park london tile mural up

The Aquatics Centre was designed by architect Zaha Hadid. It’s a beautiful building with a curved roof and a vast expanse of glass at the front, which is reminiscent of another of Hadid’s creations, the Riverside Museum in Glasgow.

queen elizabeth olympic park london aquatics centre close up

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is pretty big, and there was only around one hour of daylight remaining. I confined my exploration to the area around the Stadium, across the canal from the London Aquatics Centre.

There were good views back toward of the Aquatics Centre from the bridge.

queen elizabath olympic park acquatice centrejpg

Looking south from the bridge across the canal, I could see the the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the tallest sculpture in the UK, to my right. It looked a bit like a hair-raising fairground ride.

queen elizabath olympic park waterside

There were some attractive flower beds down some steps from the bridge.

queen elizabath olympic park london flowerbed

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is beautifully tended. I was surprised that there were so few people about. But I’m sure that will change with the completion of the nearby Stratford International Quarter, which will offer a mix of office space and homes.

queen elizabath olympic park waterside path

Evidently the circular sliver lanterns suspended above the tree linked avenue are very pretty when lit up after dark.

queen elizabeth olympci park tree lined avenue

There an impressive curved concrete bench close to the Stadium.

queen elizabeth olympic park curved concrete bench

I’d have liked to go up the  ArcelorMittal Orbit, but baulked at the £12 walk-up adult admission fee. You can reduce this charge to £10 by booking your ticket online by midnight on the day prior to your visit. If you live locally, or visit the area regularly. you can buy an adult annual pass online for £12.

queen elizabeth olympic park arcelormittal orbit close up

The East Twenty Bar and Kitchen is located close the ArcelorMittal Orbit.

queen elizabath olympic park restaurant by arcelormittal orbit

There’s a wooden cube installation opposite the restaurant. Its’ called ‘Pixel Wall’, and, according to its creator Tomato, it “has been designed as a kinetic picture board for visitors to interact with”.

queen elizabeth olympic park wooden cube sculpture

I loved the pavement fountain in front of the Stadium.

queen elizabath olympic park london fountain in front of the stadium

I saw a couple of people getting soaked as they got caught out by the intermittent water jets.

I’d really like to return to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and see more of it.

Review of Ravi Shankar Indian Restaurant London

I had a vegetarian buffet lunch, costing £6.95, at the Ravi Shankar Indian restaurant in Drummond Street, close to London’s Euston Station, in September 2015.

ravi shankar indian restaurant london exterior

I arrived in Kings Cross around 1pm, However, I couldn’t check into my hotel, the Travelodge London Stratford, until 3pm and Travelodge don’t offer a left luggage facility. As I had a fair sized suitcase and a backpack, my options for spending that couple of hours were limited.

As I didn’t know if there were any good restaurants in Stratford, I thought I’d stick to Drummond Street near Euston Station. I’d eaten at the Diwana Vegetarian Restaurant located there a few months ago, and wanted to try one of the other restaurants that I’d observed in the vicinity.

I wasn’t sure what type of reception I’d get as a solo customer with luggage arriving at the Ravi Shankar at peak time. Upon entering, I was impressed to receive a warm welcome.

Initially, the waiter gave me a small table by the food counter, with space to tuck in my luggage.  He told me that he’d give me a larger table as soon as possible. Sure enough, within a few minutes, I was seated at a more spacious table closer to the buffet selection.

ravi shankar indian restaurant london lunch buffet main courses and salads

There was a notice at the buffet requesting that you use the same metal plate for both your starters and main course. That didn’t bother me, as I often re-use my plate. It certainly encourages you to try a tiny portion of something to see if you like it.

ravi shankar indian restaurant london lunch buffet desserts

I didn’t see labels on the various dishes, so I tried most things.

ravi shankar indian restaurant london starters

I enjoyed the desserts. The Fresh Fruit Salad was refreshing and the Gulab Jamun (like doughnut balls in syrup) were rather addictive.

ravi shankar indian restaurant london lunch buffet dessert

In my opinion, the buffet lunch at the Ravi Shankar Indian Restaurant for £6,95 was very good value for money.  I thought that food at the lunch buffet at the nearby Diwana, for the same price, was tastier and better presented, but that the staff at Ravi Shankar were much friendlier than at the Diwana.

The Garden Museum London

I like to visit different places every time I go to London. Prior to my recent trip, I did some research. I thought that the Garden Museum in Lambeth sounded interesting. As it’s a private museum, there’s an adult admission fee of £5.00 for the permanent collection, £7.50 when there’s a temporary exhibition. I requested complimentary press entry, which was granted.

garden museum london exterior

The Garden Museum London

The Garden Museum is located in the former St Mary’s Church. The museum first opened in 1977, inspired by the fact that John Tradescant The Elder, and his son John The Younger, gardeners to Charles 1 and plant-hunters, were buried in the grounds of St Mary’s Church.

There was a lovely flower arrangement above the door leading from the vestibule into the main building.

garden museum london entrance

The flower arrangement above the entrance

The interior of the deconsecrated St Mary’s church was beautiful, with several stained glass windows.

garden museum london stained glass windows

Stained glass windows at the Garden Museum

There are some none too interesting displays on the mezzanine floor, including a Yates Seeds display cabinet and some old lawn mowers.

garden museum london seeds collection

Yates Seeds display cabinet at the Garden Museum London

You get some of the best views of the building from the mezzanine floor.

garden museum london interior

Looking down from the mezzanine floor at the Garden Museum

On the ground floor was a temporary exhibition, ‘Gnome and Away; Secrets of the Collection’ featuring some items not usually on display such as gnomes, gardening tools and shoes. Looking at some of the items, I think it might not have been such a loss if they stayed secret.

garden museum london tools collection

Gardening tools display at the Garden Museum London

For me, the most interesting part of the Garden Museum was the ‘Cosmic Landscapes’ exhibition, showcasing the land art of Charles Jencks. As soon as I saw the photos of his work, I was reminded of the Landform Udea in the grounds of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, which I then discovered had been created by Jencks.

Jencks created the Garden of Cosmic Speculation in the grounds of his home near Dumfries in south-west Scotland.

garden museum london garden of sosmic speculation exhibition

Photos of the Garden of Cosmic Speculation

Jencks’ most recent project is the Crawick Multiverse, also in south-west Scotland.

garden museum london crawick multiverse

Photos of the Crawick Multiverse

The garden at the Garden Museum has the same plants that the Tradescants grew in their gardens almost 400 years ago. The centerpiece is a knot garden.

garden museum london knot garden

The Tomb of the Tradescants where John The Elder and John the Younger, plus other family members are buried, is covered in relief sculptures.

garden museum london John Tradescant tomb sculpture

Seven headed hydra carved one of the side panels of the Tomb of the Tradescants

garden museum london John Tradescant tomb

Family coat of arms on the Tomb of the Tradescants

The Cafe offers some seating in the garden, but it was too chilly when I visited in early September for there to be any takers.

garden museum london cafe garden seating area

Cafe seating in the garden

There were some very tempting and unusual cakes in the Cafe, including Butternut Squash and Courgette, Ginger & Lime, but I didn’t succumb.

garden museum london butternut squash cake

Butternut Squash Cake

If Id’paid £7.50 to get into the Garden Museum, I’d have been disappointed. I’d expected there to be a lot more about the history and development of gardening in the UK. The three other visitors to the Garden Museum with whom I conversed were all of a similar opinion.

As the food served in the Cafe looked delicious, I recommend that you put the admission fee towards buying something at the Cafe, (as there’s no admission fee if you only want to go to the Cafe). Then you’ll be able to see the beautiful interior and, weather permitting, sit in garden.

Please note that Garden Museum will be closed from the end of October 2015 until early 2017 to undergo major renovation.

Acton Cemetery in London

When I was walking back to the Holiday Inn Express London Park Royal from Park Royal Tube station, one of the last sections of the route took me through Acton Cemetery.

acton cemetery london

The cemetery was consecrated in the late 1890s and is home to a Victorian Gothic Chapel. There are no new plots available, but there are occasional burials in existing family graves.

acton cemetery chapel from the side

I like exploring cemeteries, but it was too cold to hang around for long. There are benches dotted around, so it would be a good place to sit and read in warmer weather.

acton cemetery chapel

The cemetery was split in two by the construction of the Metropolitan District Railway in 1903.

acton cemetery london looking back to chapel

It only takes five minutes to walk to Acton Cemetery from North Acton Tube Station. Click here to check  the cemetery opening hours, which vary according to the day of the week and the time of year.

Why Don’t All Tube Stations in London Have Toilets?

When I was staying at the Holiday Inn Express London Park Royal, I looked on the map to find a walk in the area, as the following morning was forecast to be dry and sunny.

A section of the Grand Union Canal looked promising. It was accessible from Perivale Station, three stops up the Ruislip branch of the Central Line from my hotel. After around a mile along the canal, I could walk to Alperton Station, where I could travel two stops south on the Piccadilly Line to Park Royal Station, a 15 minute walk back to the hotel.

I did wonder if there would be any toilet facilities en-route during my morning out, especially as it was a cold day. Surprisingly, there were toilets at Perivale Station. I did wonder if toilets were more common at suburban stations, as I can’t remember seeing toilets at any other Tube stations.

perival stationi toilets

By the time I found the Canal, after a wrong turn into an industrial estate, and walked along to the exit for Alperton Station for the return leg of my journey, I was desperately hoping that Alperton Station would have public toilets. But no luck.

grand untion canal perivale

Thankfully my destination stop, Park Royal Tube Station, did have public toilets, otherwise it would’ve been a struggle to walk back to the hotel.

park royal toilets

My morning out left me wondering why all London Tube stations don’t offer toilet facilities for passengers? It’d be so good to be able to go out and about anywhere in London knowing that you could find a toilet in any Tube station.

Review of Kitchin Buffet Restaurant in Kings Cross London

I usually have a buffet Indian lunch at the Poppadom Express when I’m in London, often before heading for a mid-afternoon train back to Berwick upon Tweed from Kings Cross Station. However on my most recent trip my train was departing at 2pm, so I decided to look for a restaurant closer to Kings Cross Station.

The Kitchin international buffet in Caledonia St, literally around the corner from Kings Cross, fitted the bill. The lunch buffet was served between 12 -3pm and cost £7.95.

kitchin buffet kings cross exterior

The restaurant is quite trendy inside with reasonably spaced seating. The buffet is arranged around a central island kitchen which allows good access even with the restaurant is busy.

kitchin buffet kings cross interior

I liked the fact that there were several vegetable dishes; the broccoli in the Stir Fry was perfectly cooked.

kitchin buffet kings cross veg

You can select your own ingredients for a freshly cooked wok meal. I plumped for prawns and through that they were quite generous with them.

kitchin buffet restaurant kings cross prawns from wok

The desserts were very good. The Fruit Salad had pineapple and honeydew melon. There was a whippy ice cream machine.

kitchin buffet restaurant kings cross desserts

All the staff were pleasant.

I’d recommend Kitchin, especially to have a tasty meal before boarding a train at Kings Cross for a long journey. Particularly so when you compare the buffet lunch at the Kitchin with what food you could buy on a train for £8.

If you have the time, check if there’s a free exhibition to visit at the nearby Kings Place.

Review of the Hungry Yeti in Ealing, London

On the day I checked out of the Holiday Inn Express London Royal Park I decided to take the Tube west to Ealing Broadway to visit Walpole Park. I thought it’d be a good idea to find somewhere for lunch after a walk around the park.

The Hungry Yeti buffet restaurant in New Broadway, opposite Ealing Town Hall, received good reviews and at £6.95 for a weekday lunch sounded good value for money and was only a five minute walk from Walpole Park.

hungry yeti ealing exterior

 

It wasn’t too busy when I arrived at the Hungry Yeti around 12.30pm. I was able to select my own table.

hungry yeti ealing interior

There was a fair selection of starters. My starters were a bit cold, I assume they’d been sitting out since opening time at noon.

hungry yeti ealing starters

 

The salad items were very fresh.

hungry yeti ealing salad and fruit selection

My favourite dishes were the Aubergine Curry, although it was a bit oily, and the Vegetable Stir Fry.

hungry yeti ealing lunch buffet

There wasn’t much choice for dessert,  the fruit salad was mainly apple and the ice cream wasn’t great.

For £6.95 I was happy with my lunch. I wouldn’t rave about the food, but if you’re in the area it offers a well priced, tasty meal.  It’s probably better to eat there during busier periods so that the food is hotter,

Review of Diwana Vegetarian Indian Restaurant in Euston, London

I did a search for a buffet restaurant close to the Wellcome Collection in London, as I planned to visit the ‘Institute of Sexology’ exhibition there. The Diwana Vegetarian Indian Restuarant in Drummond Street, close to Euston Station, received very good reviews. Although I’m not a vegetarian, I was attracted to the lunch buffet at the price of £6.95.

diwana indian vegetarian restaurant exterior

I was impressed by the extremely attractive buffet selection as I waited to be shown to a table.

diwana indian vegetarian restaurant buffet lunch

I was offered a table on the first floor. Not ideal when you’re as accident prone as me, but I managed not to spill any food on my trips up and down the stairs.

diwana indian vegetarian restaurant interior

I thought that the food was fantastic. I wasn’t sure what everything was, but it was all very tasty.

diwana indian vegetarian restaurant plate

diwana indian vegetarian restaurant lunch buffet

diwana indian vegetarian restaurant dessert

When I asked for my bill there was a notice on the small silver plate saying that service was not included. I checked that I could pay by card. When the waiter brought the card reader machine, he asked if I wanted to add a tip. I’ve never had this experience at a buffet before, although many London restaurants automatically add a supposedly discretionary service tip to your bill. I do usually leave a tip, but In some ways I wish that the Diwana would just increase the price of the lunch buffet to include a service charge, which would save them asking customers for a tip.

The buffet is only available at the Diwana Vegetarian Indian Restaurant during lunch time, from noon to 3pm. I’d recommend that you eat then, so that you can try a wide selection of wonderful dishes,