Feb 272015

Spring is coming and London’s parks are looking wonderful as the blossom appears. Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park are always fantastic and this month sees the return of the guided tours of the Albert Memorial. These tours give you exclusive access inside the memorial railings, so you can appreciate up close the craftsmanship and the bravura marble carving of the Parnassus frieze comprising 169 figures of renowned poets, musicians, painters, sculptors and architects.

Albert Memorial

Albert Memorial. Photo by David Iliff. License: CC-by-SA 3.0.

Sunday 1 March is the first tour of the year and more follow on the first Sunday of the month. Tours are at 2pm and 3pm and last 45-50 minutes.


The major spring exhibition we’ve all been waiting for at The V&A is Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty opening on 14 March (and running until 19 July 2015).

Duck feather dress created by Alexander McQueen.  Date: The Horn of Plenty, A/W 2009-10. Model: Magdalena Frackowiak represented by dna model management New York, Image: firstVIEW

Duck feather dress created by Alexander McQueen. Date: The Horn of Plenty, A/W 2009-10

This is the first and largest retrospective of the late designer’s work to be presented in Europe and will showcase McQueen’s visionary body of work. Spanning his 1992 MA graduate collection to his unfinished A/W 2010 collection, McQueen’s designs will be presented with the dramatic staging and sense of spectacle synonymous with his runway shows.

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.


The V&A also has some interesting evening talks this month including Margaret Atwood: Fashion and Fiction on Friday 13 March. Margaret Atwood is an internationally acclaimed author and also a dressmaker who has been photographed by Vogue. Atwood has always attributed great significance to dress in her novels, including The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Blind Assassin. In this talk she discusses her lifelong passion for clothes with broadcast journalist Rosie Goldsmith.

On Friday 20 March Yinka Shonibare MBE reflects on his work and talks about his studio project space. Yinka Shonibare is one of Britain’s most well-known contemporary artists whose work ranges from film and photography to sculpture and major installations, such as his ship in a bottle commission in Trafalgar Square in 2010-12. In this talk he discusses his early paintings, his use of costume, photography and performance, and his most recent series of public sculptures.


Over at the Natural History Museum, Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea opens on 27 March (and runs until 13 September 2015).

© Natural History Museum, London

© Natural History Museum, London

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 the 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 allowing us to explore the richness of life on these busy, bustling cities of the sea.


Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden opens at The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace on 20 March (and runs until 11 October 2015).

Studio of Marco Ricci, A View of the Cascade, Bushey Park Water Gardens, c.1715  Royal Collection Trust / (C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014.

Studio of Marco Ricci, A View of the Cascade, Bushey Park Water Gardens, c.1715
Royal Collection Trust / (C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014.

Whether a sacred sanctuary, a place for scientific study, a haven for the solitary thinker or a space for pure enjoyment and delight, gardens are where mankind and nature meet. This exhibition explores the many ways in which the garden has been celebrated in art through over 150 paintings, drawings, books, manuscripts and decorative arts from the Royal Collection, including some of the earliest and rarest surviving records of gardens and plants. The enduring appeal for artists from the 16th to the early 20th century, includes work by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt and Carl Fabergé.


For a more light-hearted day out the St Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival is on Sunday 15 March. The Parade leaves Green Park and heads off along Piccadilly at midday and travels to Trafalgar Square for fun all afternoon with live Irish music, plenty of Guinness and lots of smiles.


It’s also Mother’s Day in the UK on Sunday 15 March so you might want to think about booking afternoon tea and the Kensington Palace Orangery is very special, as well as well-priced.

Afternoon Tea at Kensington Palace Orangery. © Laura Porter

Afternoon Tea at Kensington Palace Orangery. © Laura Porter


If you are looking to buy something special in London The BADA Antiques & Fine Art Fair is on from 18 to 24 March at The Duke of York Square in Chelsea, SW3. Nearly 100 art and antique dealers exhibit at this fair making it wonderful to see even if you are not thinking about purchasing.


And my last recommendation is Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy at the British Library which opens on Friday 13 March (and runs until 1 September 2015). The British Library is the custodian of two original Magna Carta manuscripts and this year marks the 800th anniversary of this charter.

King John hunting,[Miniature only] King John hunting a stag with hounds. Originally published/produced in England; 14th century. © British Library

King John hunting,[Miniature only] King John hunting a stag with hounds.
Originally published/produced in England; 14th century. © British Library

When granted by King John in 1215, Magna Carta was a practical solution to a political crisis, but in the centuries since it has become a potent symbol of liberty and the rule of law. This exhibition takes us on a journey from its medieval origins to the modern uses of Magna Carta.

Also on display will be Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten text of the Declaration of Independence, an original copy of the US Bill of Rights, together with other key documents and artifacts.


Clocks Change

Don’t forget, the clocks go forward one hour in the UK (and across Europe) to move to British Summer Time (BST) at 1am on the last Sunday in March so this year the date is Sunday 29 March.

© Laura Porter

© Laura Porter


Even More

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



Easter is 3-6 April this year and there will be lots of celebrations – mostly involving eating copious amounts of chocolate.

At Hampton Court Palace they are starting the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the palace with impressive evening parties on 3, 4 and 5 April. Over the Easter weekend you can see a state of the art 3D film projection onto the Palace’s south facade that will take a kaleidoscopic journey through the building’s history, re-modelling and life of the palace in four ‘movements’. The Palace will be dressed for a celebration, with carriages from different eras parked outside the famous Tudor gatehouse.

On 27 AprilWhat is Luxury? opens at the V&A presenting exceptional examples of contemporary design and craftsmanship alongside conceptual projects. From a diamond made from roadkill to a vending machine stocked with DNA, a golden crown for ecclesiastical use to traditional military tailoring, over 100 objects will address how luxury is made and understood in a physical, conceptual and cultural capacity.

Sensational Butterflies opens at the Natural History Museum’s East Lawn on 2 April. Visitors can walk among hundreds of free-flying butterflies at this family-friendly exhibition.

And on 2 May a new gallery opens at the V&A: Europe 1600-1800. Seven galleries are being transformed for the redisplay of the Museum’s unrivalled collection of 17th- and 18th century European art and design.


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.

Feb 182015

1The Speke Monument by Sue Lowry

This memorial is dedicated to John Hanning Speke, the explorer who discovered Lake Victoria in East Africa and led expeditions to the source of the Nile and  lies near the junction of Lancaster Walk and Budges Walk in Kensington Gardens, one of London’s Royal Parks. It was designed by Philip Hardwick, designer of the original Euston Railway Station, hewn from Scottish red granite and erected in 1866.  It was paid for by public subscription and sponsored by the President of the Royal Geographical Society which had paid for two of Speke’s expeditions. Speke died in mysterious circumstances – shot by his own gun the day before he was due to take part in a debate about the source of the River Nile.  His claim that the source was the Rippon Falls, an outflow from Lake Victoria in east Africa, was eventually proven but he would have been opposed at the debate by fellow explorer, Sir Richard Burton.  The Royal Geographical Society said he had solved “the problem of all ages”.

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.