Monthly Archives: April 2017

The Top Sightseeing Spots in London




Visit the Georgian home of the Duke of Wellington to see its grand interiors and fine art. Please check for times and prices. 149 Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, W1J 7NT. T: 020-7499 5676. Station: Hyde Park Corner. F6.



This 17th-century building was designed for James I, with an exquisite painted ceiling. It is the only remaining part of the Palace of Westminster, which was destroyed by fire. Daily 10am-1pm but call before visiting. Adult £6.50; child free. Whitehall, SW1A 2ER. T: 020-3166 6000. Station: Westminster. E8.



Zoo with lively keeper experiences. Daily 10am-5.30pm. Adult £8.95; child £6.95. Battersea Park, Chelsea Bridge Gate, SW11 4NJ. T: 020-7924 5826. Station: Battersea Park. Off map.



The world’s largest public library. To 29 Aug: Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths. This major exhibition has rare documents and other treasures to mark a century since the revolution. Open daily, please check for times. Admission free; charges for tours, some exhibitions and events. 96 Euston Rd, NW1 2DB. T: 0330-333 1144. Station: King’s Cross. C7.



The London residence and principal workplace of the monarchy has 775 rooms. Closed to the public (except in summer). Buckingham Palace, The Mall, SW1A 1AA. T: 0303-123 7300. www.royalcollection. Station: Victoria/Green Park. F6/F7.



At 11am every Mon, Wed, Fri and Sun, watch the changing of the Queen’s Guard on the Palace’s forecourt (except in heavy rain). Free. Buckingham Palace, The Mall, SW1A 1AA. T: 0303-123 7300. Victoria/Green Park. D5. The Changing the Life Guard Ceremony takes place Mon-Fri 11am; Sun 10am – check for last-minute changes. When the sentries change, trumpeters play. Buckingham Palace, The Mall, SW1A 1AA. T: 0303-123 7300. Station: Victoria/Green Park. F6/F7.



Founded in 1673 as the Apothecaries’ Garden. Adult £10.50; child £6.95. Mon 11am-5pm garden only; Tue-Fri 11am-6pm garden and shop; Sun 11am- 6pm garden, shop and café. 66 Royal Hospital Rd, SW3 4HS. T: 020-7352 5646. www.chelseaphysic Station: Sloane Square. Off map.



See Old Masters in this manor, which features neo-Palladian interiors inspired by 16th-century Italy. Gardens daily 7am-dusk; house Sun-Wed 10am-4pm; conservatory Tue-Sun 10am-4pm. House adult £6.70; child £4. Gardens free. Chiswick House and Gardens, W4 2RP. T: 020-8995 0508. Station: Chiswick Park. Off map.



This 19th-century ship is the world’s last surviving tea clipper. 3, 10, 17 & 24 May: Toddler Time. Songs, stories and playtime. Daily 10am-5pm. Adult £12.15; child £6.30. Cutty Sark, King William Walk, SE10 9HT. T: 020-8312 6608. Station: Cutty Sark/Greenwich. Map inset.



Since 1979, visitors have been able to explore the home of artist Dennis Severs. Ten rooms, from the cellar to the attic, illustrate the life of a family of Huguenot silk weavers from the 17th to 19th centuries. Silent night tour Mon, Wed & Fri 5pm-9pm. Daytime tour Mon noon-2pm & Sun noon-4pm. Tickets £5-£17.50. 18 Folgate St, E1 6BX. T: 020-7247 4013. www.dennissevershouse. Station: Liverpool Street. D11.



Dr Samuel Johnson compiled his first English dictionary here in the 1700s. Mon-Sat 11am5.30pm. Adult £6; child £2.50. 17 Gough Square, EC4A 3DE. T: 020-7353 3745. www.drjohnsons Station: Temple/Chancery Lane. D9.



Part showpiece of Art Deco design and part medieval royal palace, make yourself at home as a guest of the Courtaulds and be transported back to the 1930s. Please check for prices and times. Court Yard, SE9 5QE. T: 020-8294 2548. Station: Eltham. Off map.



This attractive 15th-century building was the summer retreat of the Bishops of London. Now it’s a museum with gardens, a café and art gallery. 8 May: The Ruisi Quartet Plus One. Travel through 125 years of musical history with the Friends of Fulham Palace during this special recital by the award-winning Ruisi Quartet, who will be joined on the night by violist Jenny Lewisohn. Museum, historic rooms and shop Mon-Thur 12.30pm-4.30pm; Sun and bank holidays noon-5pm. Admission free, charges for special events. Bishop’s Avenue, SW6 6EA. T: 020-7736 3233. Station: Putney Bridge. Off map.



Make like a monkey at this treetop adventure playground, which is suitable for children over six and adults. Negotiate ladders, bridges and zip lines while attached to a reassuring harness. Enthusiastic staff are on hand throughout the three-and-a-half-hour experience. Daily from 8.30am. Adult £35; child £27-£35. Battersea Park, SW11 4NJ. T: 0845-643 9236. battersea-park. Station: Battersea Park. Off map.



A full-size reconstruction of Sir Francis Drake’s 16th-century ship, in which he circumnavigated the globe. Regular events include dressing up in historical costumes, quiz nights and battle workshops. Daily 10am-6pm. Guided tour adult £7; child £5. 1 Pickfords Wharf, Clink St, SE1 9DG. T: 020-7403 0123. Station: London Bridge. E10.



One of Europe’s greatest 17th-century houses. Its gardens are said to be haunted. Check for times. Adult £10.80; child £5.40. Ham St, Surrey, TW10 7RS. T: 020-8940 1950. www.national Station: Richmond. Off map.



The former homes of Anglo-German composer George Frideric Handel and American guitarist Jimi Hendrix. See where Handel lived and composed for 36 years, plus Hendrix’s bedroom restored to how it was in 1968 and 1969. Mon-Sat 11pm-6pm; Sun noon-6pm. Adult £10; child £5. 25 Brook St, W1K 4HB. T: 020-7495 1685. Station: Bond Street. D6.



Permanently moored on the River Thames, this is Europe’s only surviving World War II cruiser. Daily 10am-6pm. Adult £14.50; child £7.25. The Queen’s Walk, off Tooley St, SE1 2JH. T: 020-7940 6300. Station: London Bridge. E11.



The site of Parliament since 1265 and still a royal palace, the current building with Big Ben was built in the 19th century. Watch debates for free when the Houses are in session. Bring your passport. Tours every Sat plus Mon-Fri 26 & 31 May. Advance audio tour adult £18.50, child £7.50 (fi rst child free); guided tour adult £25.50, child £11. On the day audio tour adult £20.50, child £8.50 (fi rst child free); guided tour adult £28, child £12. Palace of Westminster, Parliament Square, SW1A 0AA. T: 020-7219 4114. www.parliament. uk/visit. Station: Westminster. F8.



Built around 1365 to house Edward III’s treasures. Please check for prices and times. Abingdon St, SW1P 3JX. T: 020-7222 2219. Station: Westminster. F8.



This 19th-century home belonged to the Romantic poet John Keats. See his paintings, books, letters and household items, plus the engagement ring he gave to his sweetheart Fanny Brawne. Wed-Sun 11am-5pm. Adult £6.50; child free. Keats Grove, NW3 2RR. T: 020-7332 3868. Station: Hampstead. Off map.



This royal residence sits in Kensington Gardens and was Princess Diana’s last home. Diana: Her Fashion Story. Trace the evolution of the Princess’s style, from the demure, romantic outfits of her first public appearances, to the glamour, elegance and confidence of her later life. Daily, check for times. Adult £17; child free. Kensington Gardens, W8 4PX. T: 0844-482 7777. Station: High Street Kensington/ Queensway. Off map.



On the edge of Hampstead Heath, Kenwood house and its landscaped gardens is a hidden gem. Admire Robert Adams’ neoclassical interiors and a wonderful art collection including Rembrandt, Vermeer and Gainsborough. Free admission. Open daily, please check for times. Hampstead Lane, NW3 7JR. T: 020-8348 1286. Station: Hampstead. Off map.



This royal retreat in the grounds of Royal Botanic Gardens Kew was home to King George III. Don’t miss the Royal Kitchens and its garden. Admission free with Kew Garden tickets. Kew Gardens, Richmond, TW9 3AB. T: 0844-482 7777. Station: Kew Gardens. Off map.



Parents take a back seat here as children take charge. Three times the size of Trafalgar Square, KidZania has two storeys of everything a child could want including TV and animation studios, a chocolate factory, pit lane, hospital and aviation academy – there’s even a tattoo parlour. You will leave wondering why there wasn’t a KidZania when you were growing up… which is why it hosts occasional adult nights! Daily from 10am, check for closing times. Adult from £15; child from £18. Westfield London Shopping Centre, Ariel Way, W12 7GA. T: 0330-131 3333. Station: Shepherd’s Bush. Map inset.



An exciting history lesson on the past of the 1,700-year-old London Bridge site. Special effects and actors bring this spine-tinglingly scary attraction to life. Tickets also include the London Tombs, under the bridge, which are in a former plague pit. Please check for times and prices. 2-4 Tooley St, SE1 2SY. T: 020-7403 6333. Station: London Bridge. E10.



This uniquely thrilling attraction will whisk you back to the capital’s most perilous past. See, hear, feel and (ahem) smell the chillingly amusing characters of the ‘bad old days’ as they come to life before you. Not for small children or the faint-hearted, but a great option for brave teenagers. Joint tickets available with Sea Life London Aquarium, Coca-Cola London Aquarium, London Eye, Madame Tussauds and Shrek’s Adventure!. Please check for times and prices. County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, SE1 7PB. T: 0871-423 2240. Station: Waterloo/Embankment. F8.



One of the world’s largest observation wheels. Interactive screens in each pod give an insight into landmarks. Joint tickets with the London Aquarium, London Dungeon, Madame Tussauds and Shrek’s Adventure! available. Daily from 10am, check for closing times. Adult £24.95; child £19.95. County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, SE1 7PB. T: 0871-781 3000. Station: Waterloo. F8.



Immerse yourself in the animal kingdom at the world’s oldest scientific zoo, which has more than 750 species. As well as an aquarium, penguin beach and endangered Sumatran tigers, you can see the new Land of the Lions exhibition – which features Asiatic lions in surroundings designed to resemble an Indian national park. 17 May: Safari in the City. An after-hours event which includes a twilight tour, talks from conservation experts, an African-themed dinner and prizes. Daily 10am-6pm. Adult £29.75; child £22. Regent’s Park, NW1 4RY. T: 020-7722 3333. Station: Camden Town. C6.



Celebrated home of life-sized wax figures depicting famous people from the worlds of entertainment, politics, sport and history, from the Queen to Adele. Pose with your favourite legend and visit the terrifying Chamber of Horrors and Scream experiences. Don’t miss the permanent Star Wars exhibition, featuring 11 sets from the film. The Game’s Afoot, an immersive attraction with actors, illusion and sound effects, is a highlight. Joint tickets with the London Aquarium, London Dungeon, London Eye and Shrek’s Adventure! available. Please check for times. Adult £35; child £30. Marylebone Rd, NW1 5LR. T: 0871-894 3000. Station: Baker Street. C6.



This beautiful stone column in the heart of the City was built in 1677 to commemorate the 1666 Great Fire of London. Climb the 311 steps to its observation gallery. Daily 9.30am6pm. Adult £4.50; child £2.30. Joint tickets with the Tower Bridge Exhibition available. Monument St, EC3R 6BD. T: 020-7626 2717. Station: Monument. E10.


THE O2-star-wars

Star Wars Identities. Browse 200 original sketches, models and props from Star Wars and find out which character you identify with. Mon-Sat 10am-6pm. Tickets £10-£20. Peninsula Square, SE10 0DX. T: 020-8463 2000. www.theo2. Station: North Greenwich. Map inset.



This Baroque masterpiece, part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, has costumed characters and tours. During its conservation project, you can see the Painted Hall ceiling from an observation deck (adult £10; child £5). Daily, please check for opening times. Admission free. King William Walk, SE10 9NN. T: 0208269 4799. Station: Cutty Sark/ Greenwich. Map inset.



Formerly the site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, this park includes an aquatics centre and the ArcelorMittal Orbit observation tower. The park is open 24 hours daily. Admission free. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, E20 2ST. T: 0800-072 2110. Station: Stratford. Off map.



This curiosity-filled museum has 700 oddities over six floors, from a shrunken head to an albino alligator and the world’s tallest man. Daily 10ammidnight. Adult £27.99; child £20.99. 1 Piccadilly Circus, W1J 0DA. T: 020-3238 0022. www.ripleys Station: Piccadilly Circus. E7.



Better known as Kew Gardens, this World Heritage Site contains plants from across the globe, with Victorian tropical greenhouses, a Chinese pagoda and the Treetop Walkway. You can also experience The Hive, an aluminium structure modelled on a beehive. Buzzing and lights play inside it in response to a real beehive. Daily from 10am, please check for closing times. Adult £15; child £3.50; charges for special exhibitions. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AB. T: 020-8332 5655. Station: Kew Gardens. Off map.



Grade I-listed building housing a museum about the institution’s 15 Nobel Prize-winning scientists. Mon-Fri 9am-6pm. Admission free; charges for talks. 21 Albemarle St, W1S 4BS. T: 020-7409 2992. Station: Green Park. E6.



Built by John Nash in 1825, this beautiful part of Buckingham Palace houses the Queen’s vehicles and horses, including the Diamond Jubilee State Coach. Mon-Sat 10am-5pm. Adult £10; child £5.80. Buckingham Palace Rd, SW1W 1QH. T: 0303-123 7302. Station: Victoria. F6.



The home of Greenwich Mean Time and London’s only planetarium. The Sky Tonight. Daily planetarium show that explores the Moon, constellations, planets and deep space objects. To 25 Jun: Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year. Skyscapes. Meridian Line and Observatory daily 10am-4.30pm. Adult £9.50; child £5. Blackheath Avenue, SE10 8XJ. T: 020-8858 4422. Station: Greenwich/Maze Hill/Cutty Sark. Map inset.



One of Europe’s largest aquariums, with 500 species. Ocean Invaders: Enter the World of the Jellyfish. Get up close to a swarm of jellyfish at this permanent exhibition. You can also snorkel with sharks (from £80 including admission). Please check for times and prices. Joint tickets with London Eye, London Dungeon, Madame Tussauds and Shrek’s Adventure! available. County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, SE1 7PB. T: 0333-321 2001. Station: Westminster/Waterloo. F8.



Ride the magical 4D ‘DreamWorks Tours’ bus to step into live actor fairytale-themed shows where you can meet the characters from the much-loved films. Joint tickets with London Eye, London Dungeon, Madame Tussauds and Sea Life London Aquarium are available. Please check for times. Adult £27.50; child £22. Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, SE1 7PB. T: 0871-221 2837. Station: Waterloo. F8.



One of London’s oldest palaces, constructed in the 14th century and home to royalty for three centuries. Palace and house closed to the public. Marlborough Rd, SW1A 1BS. Station: St James’s Park. E7.



Dating from the 11th century, this marina is near the Tower of London and is lined with markets, shops, galleries and restaurants. 50 St Katharine’s Way, E1W 1LA. T: 020-7264 5287. www.skdocks. Station: Tower Hill. E11.



Landmark Palladian church with tours, a brass-rubbing centre and live classical music (some free). Holy Communion given daily and classical music performed weekly by candlelight. Please check for opening times. Admission free; brass rubbing from £4.50. Trafalgar Square, WC2N 4JJ. T: 020-7766 1100. Station: Charing Cross. E8.



Sir Christopher Wren’s 300-year old cathedral has stunning mosaics. Climb up the dome to the Whispering Gallery and a further 271 steps to the Golden Gallery for a classic London panorama. Don’t miss Oculus: An Eye into St Paul’s, a 270-degree film experience. Free tours. Mon-Sat 8.30am-4.30pm. Adult £18; child £8. St Paul’s Churchyard, EC4M 8AD. T: 020-7246 8350. Station: St Paul’s. D9/10.



Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne’s former home. A highlight is a costumed actor- led tour. Wed, Sat-Sun 11am-12.15pm & 2pm- 5.30pm. Adult from £7; child from £5. 18 Stafford Terrace, W8 7BH. T: 020-7602 3316. www.rbkc. Station: High Street Kensington. Off map.



Designed in 1884, this landmark has wonderful views; check out the glass floor on the high walkways. You can also tour the engine rooms. Joint tickets with The Monument available. Daily 10am-5.30pm. Please check for prices. Tower Bridge Rd, SE1 2UP. T: 020-7403 3761. Station: Tower Hill. E11.



This historic landmark includes the Bloody Tower, Traitors’ Gate and the Jewel House, home of the Crown Jewels. Enjoy free guided tours by ‘Beefeaters’ (Yeoman Warders). Book ahead online for the nightly Ceremony of the Keys, which dates back to 1340 (free). 26-27 May: Pride, Power and Politics. Tour exploring changing attitudes to gender and sexuality . Tue-Sat 9am-5.30pm; Sun-Mon 10am-5.30pm. Check for prices. Tower Hill, EC3N 4AB. T: 0844-482 7799. uk/tower-of-london. Station: Tower Hill. E11.



This venue used to protect the Queen’s treasures under the old Coutts Bank; now it’s home to rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia. Daily 11.30am-10.30pm. Admission free. Hard Rock Cafe London, 150 Old Park Lane, W1K 1QZ. T: 020-7514 1700. www.hard Station: Hyde Park Corner. E6.



Ascend Western Europe’s tallest building in a high-speed lift. At 1,017ft, on a clear day you can see as far as Windsor – and if you can’t see four major landmarks you can visit again for free. Daily 10am-10pm. Advance adult £25.95, child £19.95; on the day adult £30.95, child £24.95. 32 London Bridge St, SE1 9SG. T: 0844499 7111. Station: London Bridge. E10.



Explore behind the scenes of the legendary Harry Potter films in The Making of Harry Potter tour. Visitors can witness iconic sets including the Great Hall, Hagrid’s Hut, Diagon Alley and the Forbidden Forest. A fascinating insight into filmmaking. Please check for times. Adult £39; child £31. Booking essential. Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, Hertfordshire, WD25 7LS. T: 0845-084 0900. Station: Euston to Watford Junction, then shuttle bus. Off map.



Climb to the viewing galleries of this magnifi cent arch for panoramic views over the Royal Parks and Houses of Parliament. It also hosts exhibitions. Joint tickets are available with Apsley House. Daily 10am-5pm. Adult £4.70; child £2.80. Apsley Way, Hyde Park Corner, W1J 7JZ. T: 020-7930 2726. Station: Hyde Park Corner. F6.



Consecrated in 1065, this abbey is the crowning and burial site of most English monarchs. It also houses Poets’ Corner, the burial place of Charles Dickens and other famous writers. Mon-Sat, check for times. Adult £20; child £9. 20 Dean’s Yard, SW1P 3PA. T: 020-7222 5152. Station: Westminster/St James’s Park. F7.

Uncovering The Bespoken Places of Los Angeles

It’s Sunday morning in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Along a winding stretch of Mulholland Drive between Malibu and Kardashian Country, packs of cyclists, Harley crews, and a Mustang car club rolling a dozen deep are all vying for space on this two-lane ribbon of blacktop. They are here to improve their times, to practice their S curves, and to perhaps be documented doing so against a classic canyon backdrop by Victory Jon, a photographer who has set up shop on the shoulder and who sells his pictures on the Internet. (HIGHWAYPHOTOS.NET, a banner screams.) But later, when they are finished, many will end up where I am going: a tiny roadside restaurant called the Old Place.

You might think it was an Old West movie set, built in the Disney spirit to look the right amount of ramshackle. Large antlers hang above the front door. Inside, ponytailed Malibu tweens in soccer uniforms mix with eccentric locals and canyon hipsters, ombré dye jobs peeking out from under felt hats. Customers crowd a 30-foot antique saloon bar or, if they’ve secured a reservation months before, into one of five wooden booths separated by doors salvaged from the Santa Barbara Mission. Moody paintings of Native American figures hang on the walls. As if on cue, overhead speakers begin to play the Oklahoma country-blues singer J. J. Cale’s rambling road song “Call Me the Breeze.”


Old Place, a classic restaurant in the Santa Monica hills

But while its owner, Morgan Runyon, used to be an art director—he is renowned in the surfing world for helping make the Runman films, a cult series of 1980s surf movies shot with a Super 8 camera—nothing about the Old Place’s atmosphere is staged. Morgan’s father, Tom Runyon—a fiction writer and bon vivant whose uncle, the coal baron Carmen Runyon, gave Runyon Canyon in Hollywood its name—opened the restaurant in 1970 in a building dating back to the early 1900s that had been a general store and post office. For decades he served only two entrées—grilled steaks and steamed clams—to a cast of regulars that included Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw, and sometimes Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Though Tom was not himself an actor, another regular, Sam Peckinpah, cast him as a bad guy in The Getaway. The portraits were painted by Morgan’s mom, Barbara, for years the restaurant’s only waitress. When Dolly Parton sang here one night, the story goes, she was accompanied on the upright piano by Bob Dylan.


Isa Genzken’s 30-foot-tall sculpture of a rose in the courtyard of Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel

In other words, the Old Place is the kind of establishment that it is a cliché to say doesn’t exist in L.A., one with original character and “real history,” as the website advertises. And for a long time, not many people knew that it did. Then, a few years ago, something changed. Malibu locals began to encounter a wait list. The crowds were attributed in part to a new menu, updated by Morgan after Tom passed away, and in part to a new wave of reviews. “The Internet has been very good to us,” Morgan told me one Friday night at the start of the dinner rush. Because the surf was good that afternoon, he had arrived a few minutes late, eyes bloodshot from the salt water. “What I’ve realized is that our restaurant is a very visceral experience,” he said. “You can’t order a steak online. People want to smell the smoke, to hear the wood creak.”

There is another key reason more travelers are visiting the Old Place and other far-flung spots in Los Angeles: thanks to navigation and car-hailing apps like Waze and Uber, we can find them. With no knowledge of the terrain and only Waze to guide me, I drove here from Venice, up the Pacific Coast Highway, through the sandstone outcrops of Malibu Canyon, past the old M.A.S.H. set and Paramount Ranch. Other routes were taken just as blindly by a group of German bikers on Ducatis and Triumphs and a young Japanese couple, conspicuous in deconstructed denim and what looked to be vintage Comme des Garçons, iPhones in hand.

Richmond: A Mustsee Neighborhood – London, U.K.

The Mayor of London’s #SeeMoreLondon campaign encourages tourists to visit local neighbourhoods

From river views to quaint cobbled streets lined with independent shops, you’ll find there is so much to see and do in leafy Richmondupon-Thames. If you’re travelling to Richmond by public transport, then the District Line Tube will take you from Earl’s Court to Richmond in about 20 minutes, while the train from Waterloo takes approximately 20 minutes. Here are the reasons why this beautiful part of southwest London deserves your attention.

Richmond Park


Isabella Plantation Garden – Richmond Park

You might not expect 2,500 acres of land devoted to a city park, but this is London after all. Richmond Park is the largest of London’s Royal Parks, and is three times the size of New York’s Central Park. There are lots of walking and cycling paths to explore. Make sure you admire the beautiful and exotic plants and flowers in Isabella Plantation, and grab a drink and a bite to eat at pretty Pembroke Lodge. Kids can run around in the playgrounds and play hide and seek among the trees. More than 600 red and fallow deer roam freely – just remember not to chase or touch them. Look out, too, for stag beetles, foxes and bats.

Richmond Hill


Nothing beats a river view, especially on a sunny day. If you don’t have sea legs, walk up Richmond Hill for a beautiful view of the surrounding area. This renowned hill offers the only vista in England that is protected by an Act of Parliament, which was passed in 1902. The view has been immortalised in paintings by JMW Turner, and was described by novelist Sir Walter Scott as an ‘unrivalled landscape’.



George Street – Richmond

Richmond has many independent boutiques as well as high-street names. Some of the well-known shops along and near George Street include House of Fraser, COS, H&M, Jack Wills, Jo Malone, Waterstones and Smiggle, as well as a string of independent stores – you won’t find any American-style malls here. Stroll from shop to shop and take in the beautiful architecture around you.


richmond theatre london

Located on leafy Richmond Green, the Richmond Theatre has a wide programme of performances, from plays and musicals to ballets and comedy shows – as well as a much-loved pantomime every winter. This month you can watch the musical Footloose (15-20 May), as well as comedian Russell Brand (30 May).



Schnitzel – Steins Bavarian, Richmond Riverside

Richmond has some great restaurants. Stein’s is an outdoor Bavarian restaurant by the river – on a balmy day, there is nothing better than beer and sausages in the sun. Other good riverside restaurants include The Bingham inside the boutique hotel of the same name, and a branch of American diner Jackson + Rye.



Types of ice-cream at Gelateria Danieli

If you prefer something lighter, there are lots of cafés, too. For great ice cream, head to Gelateria Danieli for gelato, frozen yoghurt and shakes.

Chelsea Flower Show 2017

Taking everything from the Bermuda Triangle to a ruined abbey as inspiration, the Chelsea Flower Show (23-27 May) at the Royal Hospital Chelsea is set to wow once more. Since 1862, the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual garden design show has celebrated spring with gardens bursting with beautiful blooms, and every year tops the last.


This season sees nine show gardens, including veteran Ishihara Kazuyuki’s oasis. Inspired by the Kyoto Imperial Palace, it features a Japanese pond surrounded by pines and maples. Another highlight is a Yorkshire garden, complete with cliff s, a beach and ‘sea’ lapping against abbey ruins.  Look out for five fresh gardens, one of which is Mexican-themed with drought-tolerant plants set against orange and hot-pink walls. The Bermuda Triangle, meanwhile, features a palm tree, tropical plants and volcanic landscapes in a pyramid designed by one of the show’s youngest exhibitors, 23-year-old Jack Dunckley.

As well as the gardens themselves, the show features a packed programme of talks, botanical-themed crafts, restaurants serving edible blooms, and experts who will be on hand to provide advice for your own garden.  With celebrities and royals flocking to the show, tickets to this prestigious event sell out fast. If you are not successful, London has plenty of green spaces to explore – in fact, almost 40 per cent of the city is made up of parks and open spaces, making it the greenest city in the world. And we are only getting greener – a garden bridge opening up across the river is in the pipeline. Until then, it’s time to see the city in full bloom.

10 Free Attractions of London

The British Museum


The famous museum houses treasures including the Rosetta Stone and Egyptian mummies.

The National Gallery


Priceless European art belonging to the nation. See works by Botticelli, da Vinci, van Gogh and more.

Natural History Museum


Explore the natural world, including prehistoric fossils and taxidermy.

Southbank Centre


Opened in 1951, this world-famous arts centre hosts music, dance, art and spoken-word events.

Tate Modern


This former power station in Bankside, which has recently expanded, houses a modern art collection.

Tamil Nadu: Where The Spirit Blesses The Place – India

On the coast of Coromandel
Where the early pumpkins blow,
In the middle of the woods
Lived the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo…

As a child I assumed that these lines by Edward Lear, England’s 19th-century master of nonsense poetry, described a magical home for the Yonghy, his fantastical protagonist. So it was with a shiver of thrill, as at a spell taking effect, that I landed in Chennai, on India’s southeastern shore—the actual Coast of Coromandel. Lear himself visited the city in the 1870s, when it was called Madras.

Lear’s primary modes of transportation then were bullock carts and sedan chairs. I was grateful to be riding in a Toyota minivan steered by my driver, S. Jayapaul Sreenevasan, a gentleman of courtly manners dressed entirely in immaculate white, who navigated the roaring capital of the state of Tamil Nadu with a mixture of nerve and verve. The morning rush hour was thick with traffic, crow calls, and the salty air of the Bay of Bengal.

Tamil Nadu might best be thought of today as a country within a country. Under its charismatic leader, Jayalalithaa Jayaram (who died suddenly last December, plunging the region into political uncertainty), it became one of the stablest and most developed parts of India. Its more than 70 million residents power the third-largest state economy in India, with a gross domestic product of about $130 billion. Yet even as Tamil Nadu has embraced the present, traditional Tamil culture and language, which date back thousands of years, remain vigorously alive. The state’s temples and treasures have long drawn travelers and pilgrims from other parts of India, but they are less familiar to foreign visitors. Because Tamil Nadu has not been as economically reliant on developing a tourism infrastructure as other parts of India, like neighboring Kerala, only now are a number of sleek hotels coming to the state. They provide an ideal way to experience Tamil Nadu’s diverse living history, which includes the monuments of long-ago dynastic rulers, hermetic spiritual practices, and eccentric breakaway communities. From the inscriptions at the burial site of Adichanallur carved in 500 B.C. to the great Meenakshi temple at Madurai where mystic rituals are enacted nightly, there is much to discover, even for frequent travelers to India.


Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai

As we reached the outskirts of Chennai, Sreenevasan pointed out the shining headquarters of several international tech companies. The buildings looked strangely incongruous beside lagoons and marshes where egrets stalked and bent-backed farmers tended rice paddies, just as they had during Lear’s time.

Sreenevasan and I drove for several hours through a repeating landscape of rice paddies, palm trees, and little villages until we reached the first treasure of the coast, the beguiling town of Pondicherry. Officially Puducherry since 2006 (though I never heard the new name used), it is a languid and floral place, busy with birds and dragonflies, that still reflects centuries of French rule. This is another of Tamil Nadu’s oddities; while Britain colonized nearly all of India, France maintained a few small enclaves on the Coromandel Coast, including Pondicherry, which it controlled from 1674 until 1954. After independence, some Pondicherrians chose to become French citizens. Today, French is less an influence than a mode de vie.

“I think in French most of the time,” said Christian Aroumougam at the Café des Arts, on Rue Suffren. He was born in Pondicherry and educated there and in France, where he ran a yoga school until returning to India to help his parents settle into retirement. “French rule in Pondicherry was not as harsh as British rule in the rest of India,” Aroumougam explained. “They were more tolerant and permissive of local traditions and arts. You have seen the statue of Joseph Dupleix?”

A bronze tribute to Pondicherry’s 18th century governor, grandly dressed in a long coat and riding boots, stands on a plinth by the sea. Like the French street signs, the cuisine of the French Quarter, and the tricolor flying over the consulate of France, it is a symbol of pride in Pondicherry’s unusual heritage.


La Villa – Pondicherry, India

My base was La Villa, a delightful hotel in a colonial mansion that has been updated with imaginative architectural flourishes, like a spiral staircase leading up to a pool overlooked by elegant rooms. Each evening, I sallied out to join the crowd of flaneurs who stroll Pondicherry’s seafront. We relished the milky-green violence of the Bay of Bengal bursting on the breakwater and the cool of the sea wind. At Le Café, a beach restaurant, students and families drank café au lait and ate dosas while across the road men played boules. They posed with the same meditative hunch, hands behind their backs, that gentlemen throughout France adopt when they fling the steel balls. Between rounds, one spoke briefly to me.

“I worked for the police in Paris for twenty years,” he said. “Of course we care for France. Soldiers from Pondicherry fought for France in Vietnam.”

Embrace The Romantic Sense of Northwest England – United Kingdom




Has there ever been a man with a more apt surname than William Wordsworth? The Cumbria-born Romantic poet understood the value of language, investing his lyrical ballads with economy and rare beauty.

Yet while his literary gifts were undoubted, it was a lifetime spent in Cumbria that inspired him to reach such heights. His 1815 masterpiece, ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’, recently voted one of the nation’s favourite poems, was inspired by a trail of daffodils near Gowbarrow Park in Ullswater, for example. Other literary talents to have drawn on the local landscape and left their mark for years to come include Peter Rabbit creator Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome, the children’s author famed for his adventurous Swallows and Amazons series. Despite the area’s rich literary history, Cumbria is a modern county, formed in 1974 from Cumberland, Westmorland and parts of neighbouring Yorkshire and Lancashire. Enclosed within its vast borders are England’s largest lakes, highest peak and second lowest population per square mile, ensuring an unrivalled sense of space and drama. In fact, even a short visit to Cumbria is sure to have you penning paeans to this glorious corner of the country.



Carlisle Cathedral

Cumbria’s largest city dates back to the 1st century AD and the Roman settlement of Luguvalium. Emperor Hadrian later visited in 122 and ordered the construction of Petriana, the largest fort along his 73-mile long wall that marked the northern limit of Britannia. The city makes a perfect base for exploring Hadrian’s Wall Country, while the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery has a section devoted to The Roman Frontier. Look out for the cathedral – founded in 1122, it is one of the smallest in England yet worth seeing for the East Window’s stained glass.



Wray Castle

At 10.5 miles long, England’s largest lake has been attracting visitors for centuries. Wealthy Victorian businessmen built huge villas on the shores that have since been converted into hotels, while steamer ships offer sedate perspectives on the surrounding fells.

Families make a beeline for Bowness-on-Windermere and The World of Beatrix Potter, an interactive recreation of the author’s best-loved characters and scenes. Other points of interest include Rydal Mount, poet William Wordsworth’s home from 1813 to his death in 1850, and the National Trust-owned Wray Castle.


Still Life with Tulips and Oranges (1925) - Samuel John Peploe

Still Life with Tulips and Oranges (1925) – Samuel John Peploe

Renowned as the home of Kendal Mint Cake, there is far more to this south Cumbrian market town than just sugary confectionery. Abbot Hall Art Gallery is a stately Georgian villa packed with great paintings (including SJ Peploe’s 1925 Still Life with Tulips and Oranges). Elsewhere, the Strickland family home of Sizergh is a National Trust gem and the Kendal Museum boasts local archaeology and rare flora and fauna.


Bean An T-Visce Woman of the Water by Alannah Robins, 1995 - Grizedale Sculpture Trail

Woman of the Water by Alannah Robins, 1995 – Grizedale Sculpture Trail

The great swathe of forest nestled between Coniston Water and Lake Windermere is an area of natural beauty, full of walking trails and cycle paths, and home to England’s only surviving indigenous woodland herd of red deer.

The area’s real calling card, however, is Grizedale Sculpture, an ever-changing collection of around 40 public artworks dotted throughout more than 4,000 hectares of woodland.

Since 1977, site-specific works have been commissioned from leading international artists, including British favourites David Nash and Andy Goldsworthy.




It may lack the fame and UNESCO recognition of Wiltshire’s Stonehenge, but when it comes to pure aesthetic appeal, Castlerigg is undoubtedly Britain’s most impressive stone circle. One of the oldest examples of British circles, Castlerigg dates back to the Neolithic era – it is thought to have been raised around 3000BC – while the rolling hills of Skiddaw, Blencathra and Lonscale Fell provide a gorgeous backdrop.

And with little archaeological activity having taken place on the site to date, its original purpose remains a beguiling, unsolved mystery.



Beatrix Potter’s portrait by Delmar Banner – 1938

Author Beatrix Potter’s former home – a 17th-century farmhouse at Near Sawrey in Ambleside – was purchased with the proceeds from her first book in 1905. The National Trust preserves the house as if Potter  has just popped out, with the fire roaring in winter and crockery laid out on the table. Tickets are timed to avoid overcrowding in the cosy interior, while the cottage garden is lovingly maintained in true Victorian style.



Lord Inglewood’s family home since 1605 is one of Britain’s most fascinating country houses, a patchwork of many architectural styles. The original, moated Pele Tower was built around 1350, while subsequent additions include the crenelated 17th-century Gallery (now home to the Cloisters Tearoom) and the early Victorian southeast tower.

The extensive gardens, meanwhile, are spectacular, containing more than 50,000 trees planted by Lord Inglewood’s ancestor Henry Vane Fletcher in the mid-18th century. Lounge among the impressive topiary on the terrace, admire the fruit trees of the Walled Garden, or follow the Woodland Walk for a chance to spy rare red squirrel.

5 U.K Places Where You’ll Feel Majestic

1) Ickworth – Suffolk


The library in the Italianate rotunda at Ickworth


In the 18th century, a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe was a rite of passage for any self-respecting young aristocrat. After being ordained in 1754, Frederick Augustus Hervey, the 4th Earl of Bristol, did just that, returning to his family’s Suffolk home with grand designs for bringing it up to a standard that better reflected their social standing.

Although Frederick didn’t live to see the results, the house was completed by 1830 and included two palatial wings, landscaped gardens and an Italianate rotunda – the first of its kind in Britain, albeit one dubbed a stupendous monument of folly” by some.

Sold in 1996 and opened as a hotel, Ickworth has lost none of its neoclassical grandeur, with ornate chandeliers, marble floors and views across the 1,800-acre estate.

2) Luton Hoo – Bedfordshire


The 18th-century Luton Hoo’s regal lounge


For sheer indulgence, this 18th-century stately home-turned-hotel is hard to beat. Just 30 miles from central London, the Grade I listed building’s interior was redesigned in 1903 by Charles Mewes and Arthur Davis, architects of The Ritz. Luton Hoo was a private residence at the time: HM The Queen and Prince Philip spent part of their honeymoon here, something the royal couple made into an annual tradition.

The neoclassical house was built for the 3rd Earl of Bute following his year-long stint as Prime Minister in 1762, developed further during the 19th century, and re-opened as a 228-room hotel in 2007. Vintage chandeliers and Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown-designed gardens all add to the winning blend of country splendour and urban luxury.

3) Bradley House – Wiltshire


Henry VIII was so desperate for a male heir that he divorced his first wife and beheaded the second. When third wife Jane Seymour eventually gave birth to a son, Edward, the Tudor king was evidently so grateful he later granted this particular corner of Wiltshire to his eldest brother-in-law in 1547 and anointed him the 1st Duke of Somerset.

It was almost 200 years before the family built the house, which they later reduced in size in 1821. It lost nothing of its aristocratic atmosphere in the process, not least since Henry and Jane’s four-poster bed was relocated here from Wolf Hall. Currently home to the 19th Duke of Somerset, the house boasts 12 guest bedrooms and, while they can’t be individually booked, this is an ideal location for weddings or events.

4) Scone Palace – Perthshire

The vaulted Long Gallery at Scone Palace, said to be the longest room in Scotland

The vaulted Long Gallery at Scone Palace, said to be the longest room in Scotland


Far from just a seat for Scottish nobility, Scone Palace played a pivotal role in the country’s history. The first true King of Scots, Kenneth MacAlpin welcomed the Picts here in the 9th century, while Macbeth and Robert the Bruce were among the many to be crowned here on the Stone of Scone, a coronation seat that currently resides in Edinburgh Castle while a replica can still be found in the grounds of the palace’s chapel.

The modern Scone Palace (pronounced “Scoon”) was completed in 1812 and home to William David Murray, the 8th Earl of Mansfield. Visitors can enjoy five-star accommodation in the Balvaird wing apartment with three en-suite bedrooms, using this as a base for fishing on the River Tay and exploring the staterooms.

5) Belvoir – Leicestershire


Belvoir Castle’s Chinese Room, which takes its name from the ornate wallpaper


Few noble British families welcome overnight guests to their estates and many of those that do prefer to restrict accommodation to separate lodgings away from the main house. With this in mind, a stay at the Duke and Duchess of Rutland’s Grade I listed Belvoir Castle is rare indeed. Guests can stay in one of 14 bedrooms designed by the Duchess (a minimum occupancy of five rooms applies), while drinks are served in the Duke’s own private library.

Opt for the Tapestry room, featured in the movie, Young Victoria, or the Nurse Griffiths room, decorated with peacock motifs based upon the family crest. No stay is complete without a walk around the gardens, opened last year yet based on unrealized 1780 plans drawn up by Capability Brown.

The Jewel of England’s South Coast – Bournemouth, U.K

With seven miles of golden sands and sparkling sea, the vibrant cosmopolitan town of Bournemouth has it all. Explore a vast variety of shops, restaurants and holiday accommodation, seafront hotels, quality B&Bs, a rich history and endless countryside with beautiful, award-winning gardens.

Much acclaimed in the Victorian era for its pine-scented air and medicinal seawater, Bournemouth established its reputation in the 19th-century as a rejuvenating destination. Investment and regeneration mean that it remains the quintessential British resort town, complete with the historic pier, the promenade with 2,000 beach huts – including England’s first – and more Blue Flag beaches than any other.

The history and culture of Bournemouth is still prevalent to this day and the beautifully landscaped gardens that run from the town centre to the beach still bloom with Victorian-themed plants and trees throughout.


The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum

The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum sits proudly on the clifftop – showcasing a fascinating chapter in Bournemouth’s history via a world-class array of paintings and sculpture. The Bournemouth International Centre and Pavilion Theatre also ensure a choice of top-quality concerts, exhibitions and West End theatre productions during your stay.

Bournemouth also makes the perfect base for discovering the riches that the area has to offer. The town’s perfect seafront location in picturesque Dorset means that it has both the New Forest and the Jurassic coastline on its doorstep. It also provides the perfect backdrop for a wide range of major events and festivals, including the multi-disciplinary Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival (14-21 October) and the 10th Bournemouth Air Festival (31 August to 3 September), complete with pyrotechnics.


Bournemouth Air Festival 2014

Steeped in history, Bournemouth is a cosmopolitan town that is constantly reinventing itself. With something for every taste, it is a destination not to be missed.

A Wistfully Medieval Relic: Bodiam Castle – East Sussex, England, U.K


Rising like a ghost ship from its watery home, Bodiam is one of the most wistfully beautiful castles in Britain – a familiar sight from chocolate boxes and calendars or possibly, to some, from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail about the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The film is a spoof, of course, but Bodiam was, in fact, built in 1385 for a knight, Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a supporter of Edward III, that most chivalric of kings, though he acquired permission to build a castle – a licence to “crenellate”, as it was known – from Edward’s successor Richard II.

This was no small matter – and the wording of the grant gives a sense of the favour being bestowed: “Know that of our special grace we have granted and given licence on behalf of ourselves and our heirs, so far as in us lies, to our beloved and faithful Edward Dalyngrigge Knight, that he may strengthen with a wall of stone and lime, and crenellate and may construct and make into a Castle his manor house of Bodyham [sic], near the sea, in the County of Sussex, for the defence of the adjacent country, and the resistance to our enemies.”


The wooden walkway across the moat at Bodiam Castle

Rebels and mercenaries

The enemy in question at the time was France – and Bodiam, positioned on the River Rother in East Sussex, not far from the English Channel, was in a reasonably strong defensive position. Dalyngrigge built the castle on a fresh site rather than fortifying the manor.

At the time, the Hundred Years War had been going on for almost 50 years (the name is misleading – it lasted from 1337 to 1453). The conflict began when the death of Charles IV of France in 1328 brought the direct line of the Capetian dynasty to an end. England’s Edward III, who had a claim to the throne through his mother, Isabella of France, declared his intentions in 1337 and secured the territories of Aquitaine and Calais.


King Edward III

The king was supported in his mission by the likes of Dalyngrigge, Englishmen who travelled to France to seek their fortune as the members of free companies, essentially armies of mercenaries. After travelling with Lionel, Duke of Clarence, Edward III’s son, and fighting under the Earl of Arundel, Dalyngrigge joined the company of Sir Robert Knolles, a notorious plunderer who was reputed to have made 100,000 gold crowns from his pillaging, leaving burning buildings, with charred gables (or roof peaks) known as “Knolly’s mitres”, in his wake.

In such a fashion, Dalyngrigge, who as a younger son missed out on the family fortune, raised the money to build Bodiam Castle, where the postern tower (the secondary entrance) features Knolles’s coat of arms in a gesture of loyalty.

Following Dalyngrigge’s return to England in 1377 – an eventful year which also saw the death of Edward III and the accession to the throne of Richard II – his fortuitous marriage to a Sussex heiress brought the moated manor of Bodiam into his possession.


An illustration depicting Richard II marrying seven-year-old Isabella of France from Froissart’s Chronicles

Around the same time, the Treaty of Bruges of 1375, which had ensured peace for two years, expired, meaning resumed conflict between England and France. Internal clashes added to the pressure of external threats, and Dalyngrigge was involved in suppressing the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, the greatest triumph of Richard II, who rode out virtually alone to meet the rebels, though he reneged on his promise to them later with the infamous words, “Rustics you were and rustics you are still. You will remain in bondage, not as before but incomparably harsher.”


The East Range at Bodiam Castle, where the Lord and Lady’s apartments were situated

In such an atmosphere of anxiety and unrest, Bodiam was built quickly. Often cited as the perfect incarnation of a moated medieval castle, it is quadrangular in shape, with a central courtyard, buildings against the curtain walls and no keep.

Circular towers mark each of its four corners, with square equivalents on the south, east and west walls and the imposing gatehouse dominating the north side of the castle. Yet in landscaping and design, not least the artificial watery landscape in which it stands, Bodiamwas clearly built with display inmind as much as defence.

A rare treasure

This latter question has been a particular point of debate for historians – essentially was Bodiambuilt

for militaristic or social purposes? In the case of the former, the castle’s imposing gatehouse boasts the original wooden portcullis, which was made of such stern stuff that it endures to this day as one of the oldest in the country. Nor do arrow slits in the towers or “murder holes” in the gatehouse, through which boiling oil and water could be poured on to the heads of approaching enemies, suggest a genteel welcome.


The original portcullis made from oak with steel covering

Nevertheless, some have argued that Bodiamwas, in fact, too far inland from the English Channel to be in the perfect position for defending against the French and that the broadmoat serves tomake the castle appear bigger and grander rather than more secure, while some of its larger windows weaken its defences. Certainly the character of the impetuous Dalyngrigge might indicate honour and display were just as important as defence – in a high-profile legal dispute with the Duke of Lancaster he threw down the gauntlet not once, but twice, in court.

Following Dalyngrigge’s demise, the occupants of Bodiamhad a habit of challenging authority – or being on the wrong side of history. After passing through several generations of Dalyngrigges, the castle came, via marriage, into the possession of the Lewknor family, who during theWars of the Roses supported the House of Lancaster – which became difficult when Richard III of the House of York became king in 1483.


Photo of The Bodiam Castle taken by drone

Worse was to come: by the era of the English Civil War in the 17th century, Bodiam was owned by 2nd Earl of Thanet, a Royalist who was forced to sell the castle to pay fines levied against him by parliament. Bodiam was subsequently slighted, with the destruction of the barbican, the bridges and the buildings inside the castle, and left as a picturesque ruin In the 19th and 20th centuries, restoration work was undertaken by various owners, the most notable being Lord Curzon who bought the castle in 1917 and later bequeathed it to the National Trust, claiming “so rare a treasure should neither be lost to our country nor desecrated by irreverent hands”.

Sadly, by the time he came along it was too late for the ruined interior, though it survives in sufficient detail to give a vivid impression of castle life, with 33 fireplaces, for example, and access to glorious views up the vertiginous spiral staircases. From the outside, however, Bodiam looks much as it did in the age of chivalry, standing in a league of its own.

1 3 4 5 6 7 14