Have a look at these 10 snippets of info and see if you can tell what city we are talking about….
It is said to be built on seven hills, like Rome
Bound by ancient city walls, it is credited with inventing the skyscraper in the 17th Century
David Hume, Adam Smith, James Hutton, James Boswell and Sir Walter Scott were 18th century residents, leading Tobias Smollet in The Expedition of Humphry Clinker to describe the city as a ‘hotbed of genius’
It hosts the largest annual international arts festival in the world
It has more listed buildings, relative to area, than any other UK city
The company behind the computer games Grand Theft Auto is based here
It has two volcanoes
It is twinned with Kathmandu
JK Rowling began writing her first Harry Potter book here, in a coffee shop
It’s the birthplace of Ronnie Corbett, Gail Porter, Finlay Quaye and Tony Blair
Have you got it yet…. If you need a bit more info have a look at our top ten! Scroll down to have a look at her looking lovely on an autumn evening.
It was a momentous birthday for the man of the house and as a lovely surprise his children decided to pack us both off to London for a couple of days. To make the occasion even more special we also traveled with four of our best friends.
The trip was booked with Omega Holidays and they were really good at making sure that all the little details were just right.
Read below to find out details of our wonderful New Year!
Tuesday December 30th 2014
We set off by coach for fun and festivities and the journey was pleasant and hassle free . Our driver even went to the trouble of taking our party to the London Eye so we would have time to have a go.
The London Eye was jam packed but our initial worry was easily abated as the queue moved really quickly (no need to pay for the express lane). The turn of the wheel was 30 minutes and it was brilliant; marveled at by us all. It was 4.30pm, still a bright sunny day but time for the lights to come on all over London and it look really magical.
We walked back to our pick up point. Although we weren’t sure how long it would take we needn’t have worried as it was quite a direct route taking us past Buckingham Palace and along Bird Cage Walk- a pleasant walk which would have been less hurried had we known the distance in advance.
After being collected by our driver we were whisked away towards Heathrow and our hotel. This is where the only glitch in the whole proceedings occurred. The driver knew where the first hotel was but was at a loss to find a way in. As a consequence we had an unscheduled tour of Heathrow Airport passing our hotel in the process!
At this point the driver knew London well but finding the entrance to The Holiday Inn was difficult but he finally cracked it – even the lack of signage did not get the better of him and at last we actually managed to drop people off.
The food was excellent and the staff were excellent and we enjoyed all the facilities over the couple of days we used it.
Wednesday 31st December 2014
and it started with a brilliant breakfast and present giving. Fully nourished we boarded the coach bound for Windsor. We spent our time there walking and having a browse; it would have been good to go into Windsor Castle but I don’t believe that there would be time to do it justice as we had to leave quite early due to what would follow that evening. It may have been better to have set out sooner in the day to have had sufficient time for the castle experience. Maybe it’s one of those things better done without any time constraints.
Back to the plot… when we returned to the hotel we had plenty of time to bathe, put on the glad rags and slap on a face before departing for Greenwich to commence the nights proceedings. Our carriage (OK, coach) dropped us outside Jamie Oliver’s restaurant.
As we were a bit early we did have to wait but we were inside and it was warm so that was no bother. We had a central table and the staff were friendly and very accommodating of my husband’s celiac dietary requirements. One of our party was sitting underneath the air conditioning and as this could not be turned off he was provided with a cashmere scarf which he could keep. This aside the food was excellent considering they were feeding 100 people at once. The drinks that were included in the meal were just right.
We left Jamie’s Italian feeling well sated and ready for anything.
After a short walk we boarded our boat and set off on the river to see in the New Year. It was about 9.15 pm and although midnight seemed a long way off the time flew by. Sailing the Thames and seeing all those iconic sights gliding past was mesmerizing and so thoroughly enjoyable. Sailing under Tower Bridge was amazing. It was all lit up and wouldn’t have looked out of place in a fairy story. The Shard had lasers shooting into the sky from he top of it and The London Eye was a different color every time you looked in its direction. People lined the bridges and the banks and cheered and waved as we passed and all this made for the best ever party atmosphere. We stayed outside on the back of the boat which was sheltered and not at all cold. It was good to have the convenience of the inside of the boat, a toilet and a bar if needed. Some passengers who have been on the bank in previous years said this was so much better.
After sailing up and down and soaking up the sights and sounds of London on such a party night we parked up at the front of all the boats with The Eye to our right and the tower of Big Ben in front of us. The final 60 second countdown was displayed for all to see on a building by The Eye. When it got to 10 seconds all around joined in with great enthusiasm and on the stroke on midnight Big Ben chimed in 2015 and the fireworks started.
I was glad I wasn’t paying for the fireworks! They were magnificent, fantastic and any other superlatives you can think of and they seemed to go on forever!!
When they finished there was still partying going on all around us and as we toasted in The New Year we set sail for home. We left our boat and walked to our coach to begin the long journey back to our hotel. We had been warned in advance that it would take some time to exit the metropolis and it did, but it was fascinating just observing the chaos – easy when you’re not driving. We managed to be tucked up in our beds about 3 am.
We didn’t really lie in the next morning but were enjoying a leisurely breakfast, which again could not be faulted, just after 9 am. As we left the dining room i was glad we had been early as there was a very long queue for the dining room.
Sadly, we packed and made our way to the coach for our homeward journey. Just as the journey to London had been trouble free so was this one. It was the perfect break. This was undoubtedly the best new year we had ever had.
It could only be equaled by doing it again and god willing we will do just that very soon.
We all know that feeling… you have arrived in a city and see it sprawling gorgeously in front of you and you don’t know where to begin!
This is never more true of a city like Edinburgh that has so many attractions, places to visit and things to see.. we have put together (in no particular order) a list of our top things not to miss:
#1 Edinburgh Castle
You could have probably guessed this one yourself!
Standing at the top of the Royal mile on top of Castle Rock, this is home to Scotland’s crown jewels including the Stone of Destiny, formerly used in the coronation of Scottish rulers. Guided walks are available if you can get there for around 1pm to watch the gun firing. To find out more visit here. Attraction #10 out of 295 things to do in Edinburgh (tripadvisor)
The castle is probably Edinburgh’s most famous attraction but our next one is #1 of 295 things to in Edinburgh according to TripAdvisor:
#2 Arthur’s Seat
This can be a bit of a trek but we are yet to hear of anyone saying that the climb wasn’t worth it! After all, it’s not every day you can climb an extinct volcano in the 640 acre Royal Holyrood Park and see wide panoramic views of the city all the way to the sea.Read more here.
Next up is another favourite, particularly with families:
#3 Edinburgh Zoo It’s panda-monium out at Edinburgh Zoo, just a 25 minute (max) bus ride from the city centre. The extensive animal collections and landscaped areas make Edinburgh Zoo a top pick for everyone.
#4 National Galleries of Scotland National gallery including works by Rembrandt, Monet and Raphael, Portrait Gallery with over 3000 portraits, and the gallery of Modern Art showcasing contemporary paintings and sculpture.Visit Scotland’s National Galleries.
#5 The Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Queen’s official residence in Scotland. Pretty straightforward – take the tour and have a right royal time. Visit Holyroodhouse!
#6 Royal Yacht Britannia Less than 30 minutes by bus and you’re at Ocean Terminal & Leith, permanent home of The Royal Yacht which sailed over1 million miles in its day. Ocean Terminal also offers a state-of-the-art retail and leisure complex. See Royal Yacht Britannia.
The Royal Yacht Britannia is #2 of 295 things to do in Edinburgh on TripAdvisor and is a 2015 Travellers’ Choice Winner 2015!
#7 National Museum of Scotland Currently enjoying substantial investment and consisting of a number of themed galleries, including Natural World, World Cultures and Scottish Archaeology.
#8 The Scott Monument Located right next to Princess Street Gardens and built in the 19th century as a monument to Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott. Puff your way up the 287 steps to the top for breath-taking views of the city. For more visit The Scott Monument. This attraction comes in at #37 of 295 things to do in Edinburgh.
#9 Scottish Parliament Take a tour to discover the buildings making up Scotland’s parliament which sits at the foot of the Royal Mile in front of the spectacular Holyroodpark and Salisbury Craggs.
#10 Shopping Princess Street and George Street for big name department stores and high street brands…whilst the Grassmarket, Victoria Street and the Cowgate buzz with designers, artisans and independent shops of all kinds.
#11 The Real Mary King’s Close Tucked away just off the Royal Mile this warren of concealed streets remains frozen in time since the 17th Century. People who lived during these tough and often grisly historical events tell harrowing tales of murder, plague victims and what it was really like to be a part of society back then. This is a must see fun yet factual social history tour hiding right in the heart of the city.
This attraction is #29 of 295 things to do in Edinburgh on TripAdvisor …more details here.
If your sights are now firmly set on Scotland’s capital city we can take you there (and back) as well as put you up in centrally located hotel… oh and make sure you get a full Scottish breakfast too!
After a brilliant run at the New London Theatre it has been announced that War Horse will close in the West End on March 12th 2016.
In case you don’t know the story that’s based on the beloved book by Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo (2003 – 05) it follows Albert who, when his beloved horse Joey is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France at the outbreak of the First World War, he can’t bear to leave him to a terrible fate and enlists at age 16 to follow Joey to the trenches in order to bring him home.
The story was adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford In association with the Handspring Puppet Company, War Horse is a gripping story of love, courage and sacrifice in time of war. From the early workshops at the National Theatre Studio in 2005, where actors worked to bring Handspring Puppet Company’s life-size horses to breathing, charging, galloping life; to limited seasons at the Olivier Theatre; and later, transferring to its current home at the New London Theatre, the show’s journey has been incredible.
From humble beginnings, War Horse has won over 25 International awards and been seen by over 7 million people in 10 countries, including a Chinese-language production which opened earlier this month in Beijing and will tour to Shanghai later this year.
Some less than obvious things you could do in Europe’s most popular tourist destination. (With the added bonus that most of these are free.)
‘Ten Peak’ Challenge
Did you know that ten of the most popular destinations in the UK are all in London, mostly free, and within a mile or two of each other?
2. Six of the Best
Not just of London, or even the UK but the world. The Science, the V&A, the Natural History, the British, the National Maritime, and the Imperial War. Museums, that is.
You’ll find the first three of these right next to each other, and the others are just a few tube stops away.
3. Absolutely Fabulous
Harrods, Selfridges and, of course, Harvey Nicks for some bubby Bolly.
4. Monopoly Marathon
Your challenge is to walk the Monopoly Board of famous place names including Piccadilly, Pall Mall, Oxford Street, Leicester Square, and the Angel Islington, plus all the stations. This is one time you can land on Mayfair without it costing you all your little green houses. You won’t need Free Parking either and you can skip the utilities. Just make sure you don’t Go To Jail!
5. Upstairs Downstairs
Before there was Downton Abbey , there was Upstairs Downstairs. Start from the TV location in Eaton Square and work your way round one of the most exclusive and expensive square miles on Earth, where practically every street is a celebrity and residents don’t order their rolls with butter.Sloane Ranger your way across Cadogan Gardens, Cruise the news in Kensington and count the Bentleys in Belgravia. Take a walk on the posh side!
6. Regents Park, Hyde Park, St James’ Park, Kensington Gardens
London has more green spaces than any capital cities in the world. If you’re near Hyde Park’s north-east gate don’t miss lively Speakers’ Corner (not to be confused with Hyde Park Corner), the last historic remnant of a once popular national pastime.
7. Naval Gazing
Take a boat trip or water taxi to see the floating museum of HMS Belfast and the Cutty Sark.Star gazers shouldn’t miss the chance to go round the Greenwich Observatory and the Planetarium.
8. I Spy with my London Eye
London is full of spy stories, ‘spooks’ nooks, ipcress File crannies, James Bond chase locations and real-life former KGB dead drops. MI6 lives in Vauxhall Cross, also known as Legoland, blown up in more than one Bond Film, while Blythe House, Kensington is the MI6 Location used in the 2011 film Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Meanwhile MI5 can be found at Thames House, Milbank (although in TV’s Spooks they used the Freemason’s Hall in Convent Garden) while the KGB had a dead drop at Brompton Oratory. If you’re a fan of the Great Game, London is the perfect place for a snoop.
9. Tower BridgeDid you know you could hire this and hold a party. Named 2012’s most unusual venue, this is free to walk across although there’s a charge to see the engine rooms and the exhibitions (the bridge has a lift where you can check bascule lift times.)
10. Camden Market, Petticoat Lane & Portobello Road Market
Where people shopped before department stores, and still world famous today – no need to buy, just fun to explore.
We hope you have enjoyed our selection of ideas of what to explore when in London.
On just one special night of the year, all Jellicle cats meet at the Jellicle Ball where Old Deuteronomy, their wise and benevolent leader, makes the Jellicle choice and announces which of them will go up to The Heaviside Layer and be reborn into a whole new Jellicle life.
We are delighted to reveal the full cast announcement for Blackpool’s eight week run of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record breaking musical Cats.
It has already been revealed that Jane McDonald will play Grizabella at the Blackpool Opera House and will be joined by the following cast:
Adam Linstead (Old Deuteronomy), Matt Krzan (Munkustrap), Antoine Murray-Straughan (Rum Tum Tugger), Mark Richardson (Quaxo/ Mistoffelees), Paul Monaghan (Gus/Growltiger/Bustopher Jones), Evan James (Skimbleshanks), Georgie Leatherland (Rumpleteazer), Harry Francis (Mungojerrie), Clare Rickard (Jellylorum), Emma Lee Clark (Bombalurina), Anna Woodside (Demeter), Jane Quinn (Jennyanydots), Hannah Kenna Thomas (Victoria/ White Cat), Tarryn Gee (Jemima), Danielle Cato (Cassandra)
Gabrielle Cocca (Tantomile), Luke Cinque-White (Carbucketty), James Titchener (Coricopat), Javier Cid (Macavity/Admetus), Jon-Scott Clark (Bill Bailey), Jack Butterworth (Rumpus/Alonzo) and Jordan Shaw (Pouncival). They are joined by Megan Armstrong, Lindsay Atherton, Lucy Brushett, Oliver Ramsdale, Alex Pindar and Barry Haywood as swings.
This is not the first time that Cats has come to Blackpool Opera House . It first had an unprecedented six month run in 1989. It then returned in 2003 as part of a national tour. This 2015 Blackpool season of the Cameron Mackintosh and Really Useful Theatre production of Cats is presented by David Ian Productions.
Michael Williams, Managing Director of the Blackpool Winter Gardens, said:
“Excitement is really starting to build ahead of the show now so it’s great people are able to see who exactly is in the full cast.”
“Cats has such a successful history in Blackpool and has always proved to be an incredibly popular show here and I think people are really looking forward to seeing just how much the staging has changed for this new production.”
Find out about our excursion to see Cats at The Blackpool Opera House here.
We are delighted that this gorgeous, inspiring show won the following at the Tony Awards:
Best New Play – Simon Stevens
Best Direction of a Play – Marianne Elliot
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play – Alex Sharp as Christoper Boone
Best Scenic Design of a Play – Bunny Christie and Finn Ross
Best Lighting Design of a Play – Paul Constable
Alex Sharp, who plays Christoper Boone on Broadway, said: ”
“to be a part of this universal show on Broadway but under the umbrella of the National Theatre, a name i grew up knowing an admiring, is a profound honour to say the least”.
Paul Constable, lighting designer, added:
“winning the Tony for best lighting for curious is completely overwhelming. Curious is a celebration of collaboration between all of us as a creative team- and with the audiences and the community of Broadway”. The way audiences have taken this show to their hearts is life affirming”
Rufus Norris, Director, National Theatre, said:
“All of us at the National are hugely proud of the ongoing achievements of this beautiful show, affirming once again the huge importance of the public subsidy of the arts in Britain”
Marianne Elliott, Director of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, said:
“I’m absolutely thrilled and honoured that we have won five Tony Awards, and that our show has been as embraced by audiences in New York, as it has been in London and on our tour in the UK and Ireland. When we first started working on this show we had no idea whether there would be an audience for it. We were all working outside our comfort zones, all trying to do something we believed in utterly but which meant taking risks. It was incredible to see the audience at the National Theatre, then for that to grow in to the West End. To have even the slightest idea that it would go to Broadway, let alone to win these awards is incredible.”
Simon Stephens, playwright said:
“It’s been an incredible collaboration and the fact the show has been received this well in New York means the world to me.’”
Just in case you have actually been living under a rock for the last couple of years the story of Curious is based on Mark Haddon’s bestselling novel of the same name:
Christopher, fifteen years old, stands besides Mrs Shears’ dead dog. It has been speared with a garden fork, it is seven minutes after midnight and Christopher is under suspicion. He records each fact in a book he is writing to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington. He has an extraordinary brain, and is exceptional at maths while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, he detests being touched and distrusts strangers. But his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world .
Maybe it’s time you let this play turn your world on it’s head after all 7 Olivier Awards and 5 Tony Awards – says it all, wouldn’t you agree?
Have you seen the show already? If so leave a comment below to let us know what you thought.
A bit of Bardology… It’s almost impossible to think of Stratford-Upon-Avon without Shakespeare springing to mind but how well do you think you know the ‘Bard’?
Read on , we think you will find these facts quite interesting and if you find, as you read, that you have some Shakespeare knowledge you would like to share please leave us a comment.
Shakespeare’s plays are plenty and although they have never stopped being popular, in the 17th century it was very common for theatre producers to change his plays ‘for the better’, in order to appeal to taste. They would think nothing of taking out the corny puns and the frequent saucy bits, and even altering the endings to make tragedies like
Romeo and Juliet
One extremely sanitised version of his collected works, which deleted around ten percent of the original text, was published by Henrietta Maria (aka Harriet) Bowdler in 1807. The title page of The Family Shakespeare informs the reader that it is an edition
‘in which nothing is added to the original text, but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family’.
The edition became notorious, and today the word ‘bowdlerisation’ is used to describe any work similarly cut, altered and heavily censored.
On a visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon simply wondering around the delightful streets is a really good way to spend a day, as our colleague Charlotte recently discovered on a break, but you may also like to visit
the Church of the Holy Trinity in the Old Town, situated right on the Avon just north of the Seven Meadows Bridge.Shakespeare was baptised and buried here, and there is a faded inscription threatening a curse on whoever disturbs his bones, which many think explains why he was not subsequently moved to Westminster Abbey.
There is also a small shrine-like wall monument, created just 7 years after the Bard’s death and bearing what is probably the most true and accurate likeness of him to be found anywhere.
Finally…have you ever wondered where the phrase ‘Bardolatry’ comes from? – you have, great!
Bernard Shaw coined this sarcastic term in frustration at the tendency of some enthusiasts to claim not only that Shakespeare was the best English Writer who ever lived, but also that he was the finest philosopher, psychologist, social theorist and political analyst who ever lived too…would you agree with this?
Well, Shaw was happy to recognise the ruff-collared writer’s creative talents, but thought this kind of ‘bardolatry’ was pushing it a bit far.
If you have any other Shakespeare snippets? Just let us know and we would love to add them in!