Jan 262015
 

The Houses of Parliament have more tours this year as there is a General Election coming up in May. This month there are tours on 7, 14, 21, 28 February (all the Saturdays) and on 13, 17, 18, 19, 20 February as well.

HoP

And from 20 January you’ll see the start of a new and colourful banner exhibition in Westminster Hall that charts an 800 year history of rights and representation. Nine artists have been commissioned to create 18 large banners which will line the walls of this magnificent medieval space where numerous trials, banquets and important state occasions have taken place.

Other significant anniversaries this year along the theme of ‘Parliament in the Making’ include 800 years since the sealing of Magna Carta (1215) and 750 years since Simon de Montfort’s first parliament (1265).

In 2015, Parliament can offer more opening dates and tour options than ever before including at Easter and throughout April during the dissolution period preceding the General Election.

 

Art

As I mentioned last month, the first blockbuster art exhibition of the year is Rubens and his Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne at The Royal Academy. The exhibition runs until 10 April 2015 and looks at Rubens’ influence on art history and his artistic legacy.

rubens

The next art blockbuster is at the National Portrait Gallery and opens on 12 February. Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends has astounding works from some of the 20th-century’s greatest artists who were inspired by John Singer Sargent. Based on the theme of friendship, the works on display are primarily of Sargent’s colleagues, friends and contemporaries. This unique exhibition has brought together some exceptional loans from galleries and private collections, many of which are rarely viewed in public.

 

V&A

As ever, there are lots of reasons to visit The V&A this month. Opening on 31 January 2015, Blue & White: British Printed Ceramics looks at this pronounced British phenomenon and its continuing appeal. The range of ceramics on display demonstrate how these objects reflect changes in British society and culture from the 1750s to today.

VandA

On 10 February there’s a V&A evening talk about Marella Agnelli – Style Icon who was one of the most photographed beauties of international high-society in the 1950s and 60s. In this talk, her niece Marella Caracdolo Chia, talks about her aunt’s glamorous life and achievements.

This free photography exhibition, opening on 16 February, also looks worth seeing. Staying Power showcases a variety of photographic responses to black British experience from the 1950s to the 1990s.

 

Royal Albert Hall

Train surfing action. The phenomenon is widespread in Johannesburg. Photo by Marco Casino

“Train surfing action” by Marco Casino

There’s also a photography exhibition at the Royal Albert Hall until 15 February. The annual Royal Photographic Society International Print Exhibition has been held almost every year since 1854, and is the longest standing exhibition of its kind in the world. From the artistic to documentary, from portraiture to natural history, all styles of photography can be entered for consideration. The resulting show is unique in subject and style and showcases the variety of photographic work that is currently being created worldwide. This year over 6,600 images were submitted to the competition from photographers in 72 countries.

2011 production - Madam Butterfly at Royal Albert Hall. Photograph by Paul Sanders

Madam Butterfly at Royal Albert Hall (2011). Photograph by Paul Sanders

For another reason to visit the Royal Albert Hall, Madam Butterfly is on from 26 February when The Royal Albert Hall will once again be turned into an enchanting Japanese water garden for the return of the spectacular in-the-round production.

 

Science Museum

Another place that is always worth visiting is the Science Museum. At the end of January the museum opened the UK’s first exhibition on Churchill and science to mark the 50th anniversary of his death.

craving

Another reason to visit is for Cravings: Can Your Food Control You? which opens on 12 February. You can discover the surprising secret powers that your diet holds over you as the biological complexities of diet and cravings can be traced all the way back to the womb, where the human body learns to enjoy certain flavours that will influence taste in later life. 

 

Chinese New Year

London’s Chinese New Year celebrations are the largest outside Asia and we’ll be having fun for the whole day on 22 February.

cny2014

There is a Parade and festivities in Chinatown and Shaftesbury Avenue with even more fun in Trafalgar Square for performances from local artists and traditional food and craft stalls. Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the February 2015 in London blog post from London Bridge Hotel, our sister hotel.

Looking Ahead

The one many have been waiting for is almost here. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty opens at The V&A on 14 March 2015. This is the first and largest retrospective of the late designer’s work to be presented in Europe. (The original version of Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2011 was organised by the Costume Institute and became one of the Museum’s top 10 most visited exhibitions.)

Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea opens at the Natural History Museum on 27 March 2015. Coral reefs grow in the shallow waters of the tropics, and are home to almost a quarter of all living species in the sea. While they only make up around 0.1% of Earth’s surface, more than 500 million people depend on coral reefs for their livelihood. The exhibition includes a live reef, a virtual dive and more than 200 specimens such as corals, fish and fossils.

Starting from the first Sunday in March (1 March 2015) you can take a guided tour of The Albert Memorial. This gives you exclusive access inside the memorial railings, so you can appreciate up close the craftsmanship.

And the BADA Antiques & Fine Art Fair is at The Duke of York Square in Chelsea from 18 to 24 March 2015.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Jan 212015
 

The Italian Gardens 1

We hadn’t a clue The Italian Gardens existed until I decided to visit Kensington Gardens one fine day for a long walk around this Royal Park and chanced upon them.  Essentially, it is an ornamental water garden which is sited to the north side of Kensington Gardens near Lancaster Gate.

The Italian Gardens 2

They are believed to have been created as a gift from Prince Albert to his adored Queen Victoria and they sit at the head of The Long Water – the river which flows through Kensington Gardens into Hyde Park where it becomes the Serpentine.

The Italian Gardens 3

Now over 150-years old, they were restored with the help of the jeweller Tiffany’s as part of their outreach programme Tiffany Across the Water.  The design, which apparently bears a marked resemblance to that designed at Osborne House on the Isle of White, was created by James Pennethorne who incorporated many of Osborne’s features.

The Italian Gardens 4

The gardens consist of four main basins with central rosettes – all carved in Carrera marble, Portland stone and white marble – with silhouettes of both Victoria and Albert sited near each other.  Intricately carved stone statues and urns surround them with five main designs – the Swan’s breast, a woman’s head, a ram’s head, a dolphin and an oval.  It’s now Grade II listed by English Heritage.

The Italian Gardens 5

Several films have featured The Italian Gardens including Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Wimbledon.

Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Contributor & photographer: Sue Lowry Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

 

Jan 012015
 

Happy new year! January is actually one of my favourite times to be in London as it’s a lot less busy than in August or December so you can enjoy the space without the queues. 

It’s the perfect time to visit the South Kensington big three: The Natural History Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum (better known as the V&A) and The Science Museum.

The Natural History Museum has recently added its first complete dinosaur specimen to go on display in nearly 100 years. The 150 million year old Stegosaurus stenops is the most significant dinosaur the Museum has acquired since the 1980s and can be seen inside the Museum’s Exhibition Road entrance.

© Natural History Museum

© Natural History Museum

The V&A has the Wedding Dresses 1775–2014 exhibition on until 15 March, as well as the free exhibition Disobedient Objects which explores the powerful role that objects play in grassroots movements for social change.

 Over at The Science Museum, the Information Age gallery opened in October and is well worth a visit. On 23 January another new gallery will open: Churchill’s Scientists. Marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill, this exhibition will tell the little-known story of how Churchill’s fascination with science led to the vital achievements that helped the Allies win the Second World War, and which invigorated scientific research in post-war Britain across a wide range of fields.

 

kooza-cirque-du-soleil 

If you’re looking for an exciting evening out the Cirque du Soleil: KOOZA is at the Royal Albert Hall from 6 January to 8 February 2015. The show combines acrobatics and clowning in spectacular style. 

Set in an electrifying and exotic visual world full of surprises, thrills and chills, it tells the story of The Innocent, a melancholy loner in search of his place in the world, through contortionists, trapeze-artists, the high wire and the breathtaking ‘Wheel of Death’.

 

General view of the Cupola Room at Kensington Palace, London. 16 April 2014.

© Historic Royal Palaces

For a more spooky evening try a Kensington Palace Eerie Evening Tour where you will hear tales of mysterious sights, unexplained happenings and strange stories of Royal residents who have lived in Kensington Palace. Yes, ghosts will be mentioned. The dates this month are 9, 16, 23, 31 January.

 

Image credit: Alina Cojocaru as Odette/Odile and Alejandro Virelles as Prince Siegfried in English National Ballet's production of Swan Lake. Photo: © Photography by ASH

Image credit: Alina Cojocaru as Odette/Odile and Alejandro Virelles as Prince Siegfried in English National Ballet’s production of Swan Lake. Photo: © Photography by ASH

 English National Ballet is performing Swan Lake at the London Coliseum, near Trafalgar Square from 7 to 18 January 2015. Beloved for its exquisite dancing, beautiful sets and Tchaikovsky’s glorious music this Swan Lake is a thrill for the dedicated ballet fan or first-time ballet-goer.

 

matt-goss

Later in the month there’s a special evening at the London Palladium that’s worth considering. Matt Goss & Friends is on Sunday 25 January and will be a special one off show featuring the former Bros member with a blend of musical talent and performance. 

Matt is backed by a nine-piece band with horn section, two backing singers and four burlesque dancers, The Dirty Virgins. He will reveal the inspiration behind many of his popular songs including the closing ode to his ‘second home,’ “Lovely Las Vegas“.

 

GILT

 Get Into London Theatre makes January the best time of the year for a trip to a West End theatre as there are tickets to 65 shows – including theatre, musicals and ballet – for £10, £15, £25, £35 or £40 covering performances from 1 January to 13 February.

 

rubens 

Near the end of the month the exhibition at the Royal Academy looks fantastic. Rubens And His Legacy opens on 24 January bringing together masterpieces produced during his lifetime, as well as major works by great artists who were influenced by him in the generations that followed. 

 

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the January 2015 in London blog post from London Bridge Hotel, our sister hotel.

 

Looking Ahead

I’m really looking forward to seeing this photography exhibition at Tate Britain. Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840-1860 is the first major exhibition in Britain devoted to salt prints, the earliest form of paper photography. The exhibition features some of the rarest and best early photographs in the world, depicting daily activities and historic moments of the mid 19th century. The ninety photographs on display are among the few fragile salt prints that survive and are seldom shown in public. From 25 February.

Chinese New Year is on 19 February so we’ll be celebrating in London on Sunday 22 February.

And in March the V&A’s major spring exhibition will be Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. Opening on 14 March, this is the first and largest retrospective of the late designer’s work to be presented in Europe.

 

Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.