Nov 092017
 

Royal Albert Hall

For the first time ever, Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Albert Hall present The Nutcracker using state-of-the-art technology to conjure a vivid and magical winter wonderland.

The Royal Albert Hall’s specially-adapted version blends the best of the old and the new. The innovative production uses 75kg of artificial snow for a magical transformation scene, along with ground-breaking new projections from the award-winning 59 Productions (An American in Paris, National Theatre’s War Horse, London 2012’s opening ceremony).

There are seven performances of this new version of the universally-acclaimed, quintessential Christmas ballet, suitable for all the family, from 28 to 31 December 2017.

Royal Albert Hall - Nutcracker

 

Also on this month, rock legend Robert Plant returns for his first Royal Albert Hall show in four years. The electrifying former Led Zeppelin vocalist, now an accomplished solo performer, is performing songs from his latest album, Carry Fire, along with hits and rarities, at his one-off Hall date on Friday 8 December.

Special guests include Lakeman, Albanian cellist Redi Hasa, and Chrissie Hynde, who duets with Plant on Bluebirds Over The Mountain, written by rockabilly legend Ersel Hickey and later recorded by both Richie Valens and The Beach Boys.

And Christmas with Katherine Jenkins on 18 December is a wonderful way to get that festive feeling.

Chiswick House

The landscaped grounds of Chickwick House are again host to a Magical Lantern Festival. On from 24 November 2017 to 1 January 2018, this year has a Christmas theme. There are life-size and larger-than-life lanterns from ‘Santa and his reindeers’ to a large-scale recreation of an ‘Ancient City from the Song Dynasty’.

As well as the lantern trail, there’s plenty of food and drink and a Santa’s Grotto if you need to check if you’re on the naughty or nice list.

Magical Lantern Festival - Chiswick House

Queen’s Gallery

The Queen’s Gallery’s new exhibition is Charles ll: Art and Power on from 8 December 2017 to 13 May 2018. It looks at the resurgence of art, under Charles’s patronage after the austere Cromwellian era.

After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the court of Charles II became the centre for the patronage of leading artists and the collecting of great works of art. This served not only as decoration for the royal apartments but also as a means of glorifying the restored monarchy and reinforcing the position of Charles II as the rightful king.

The exhibition shows the rich material world of Charles II’s court and the role of the arts in the re-establishment of the Stuart monarchy.

John Michael Wright, Charles II, c.1676

John Michael Wright, Charles II, c.1676.
Royal Collection Trust/(c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Hyde Park

If you’re staying at the Kensington House Hotel this Christmas you’ll be able to take a Christmas Day morning stroll to the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park to watch the annual Serpentine Swimming Club Peter Pan Cup race.

Swimmers have met in London’s Hyde Park on Christmas morning since 1864 to compete in the Christmas Day swim. It became the Peter Pan Cup in 1904 when author J.M. Barrie donated the cup in the same year his Peter Pan play appeared on the London stage.

You can’t join in though as The Peter Pan Cup is only open to members of the Serpentine Swimming Club who have qualified during the season. Do be aware, the water is usually below 4C (40F) in the winter and I’ve even seen them have to break the ice just to get in.

The 100-yard race on 25 December starts at 9am and takes place on the south bank of the lake. Spectators are always welcome as everyone needs some encouragement on a chilly day.

Peter Pan Swimming Cup

British Museum

Living with gods peoples, places and worlds beyond is at the British Museum from 2 November 2017 to 8 April 2018. Belief is a key aspect of human behaviour and the exhibition notes not only the mystical and sociological aspects of this but also the innate neurological and psychological triggers.

There is no known culture in the world or in history without religious beliefs. What sustains this worldwide phenomenon? The answer to this question is usually set out in terms of what people believe. By contrast, this exhibition explores the practice and expression of religious beliefs in the lives of individuals and communities around the world and through time. It also touches on the benefits and risks of these behaviours in terms of co-existence and conflict in societies such as 17th–18th-century Japan, China and the Soviet Union, as well as modern Europe.

The British Museum has taken a new, experiential and innovative approach to the design of this exhibition. It incorporates the sounds, music and silence associated with religious practice, with moments of surprise, achieved with atmospheric lighting effects.

Wonder toad. China, late 1800s –early 1900s. Homes and businesses in China often have images of the three-legged toad that has a third foot on the end of its tail. With coins placed in their mouths, they bring wealth and happiness.

Wonder toad. China, late 1800s–early 1900s. Homes and businesses in China often have images of the three-legged toad that has a third foot on the end of its tail. With coins placed in their mouths, they bring wealth and happiness.© Religionskundliche Sammlung der Universität Marburg, Germany

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is welcoming in the holiday season with a series of Christmas-themed entertainment and activities, from carolling in the courtyards to a special Elizabethan Christmas.

Visitors can take a spin on the ice at the Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink (24 November 2017 to 7 January 2018), where the palace’s Tudor facade provides a suitably magnificent backdrop to this magical riverside setting.

The BBC Good Food Show Festive Feast returns for another year on 8-10 December, setting mouths watering with over 50 stalls featuring handpicked producers, all filling the palace’s historic courtyards. Tickets are included in palace admission or choose a Festive Feast Twilight Shopping ticket for just £5 for 4-7pm access to Base Court and Clock Court only.

It won’t just be delicious treats filling the air either, with the Christmas Music Weekend (16 and 17 December) promising traditional carols and sacred hymns within the walls of the Great Hall. Performed on traditional instruments just like those used at the court of Elizabeth I, this special event offers a wonderful mix of traditions old and new.

And on 22 and 23 December (and 27 December to 1 January), visitors can also be treated to an Elizabethan Christmas, with Tudor-style courtyard entertainment, live period music and dance conjuring up the Christmas of 1592 with Elizabeth I and her court. The Tudor Queen herself will even be in residence for the celebrations.

Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace is also suitably dressed for the occasion this month with a Victorian Christmas theme running throughout the palace from 1 December. Complete with stunning lanterns, a gorgeous 25ft Christmas tree and a display of illuminated Victorian scenes, the Palace always looks amazing at this time of year.

On 3, 10 and 17 December there are free festive Under the Christmas Tree family activities to experience the excitement of Queen Victoria’s Christmas.

And there is live music in the Queen’s State Apartments between Christmas and New Year, filling the palace with the sound of traditional festive music.

Christmas at Kensington Palace

A view of Kensington Palace decorated for Christmas celebrations, east front. In the foreground is a marble statue of Queen Victoria at the time of her accession. The statue was commissioned by the residents of Kensington to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. Installed here in 1893, the statue was sculpted by Victoria’s fourth daughter Princess Louise. © Historic Royal Palaces

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month, have a look at the December 2017 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

Cirque du Soleil returns to the Royal Albert Hall in the near year with its OVO show. On from 7 January to 4 March 2018, the show is a colourful carnival of crazy crickets, amazing ants and flexible fleas. Crawling with fun, this show is a non-stop riot of energy and movement featuring many of Cirque du Soleil’s mind-blowing signature acts including a stunning 14m high flying trapeze act, the biggest of its kind.

If you enjoy the Charles II exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery this month (see above), why not find out more about his father? Charles I: King and Collector is at the Royal Academy from 27 January to 15 April 2018. During his reign, Charles I (1600-1649) acquired and commissioned exceptional masterpieces from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century. After he was executed in 1649, the collection was sold and dispersed across Europe. Although many works were retrieved by Charles II during the Restoration, others now form the core of collections such as the Musée du Louvre and the Museo Nacional del Prado. This exhibition reunites around 150 of the most important works for the first time since the seventeenth century, providing an unprecedented opportunity to experience the collection that changed the appreciation of art in England.

Opening on 3 February 2018, the V&A has the first ever exhibition to explore the design and cultural impact of the ocean liner on an international scale. Ocean Liners: Speed & Style explores all aspects of these mighty vessels, from the ground-breaking engineering, architecture and interiors to the fashion and lifestyle aboard.

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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 AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Jan 252016
 

The last month of winter can mean a few sprinkles of snow in London but nothing to stop you from enjoying the city. Here are some of the best things to do to enjoy February in London.

Magical Lantern Festival

Light festivals are proving to be incredibly popular in London and this one looks like a ‘must see’. From 3 February to 6 March, Chiswick House Gardens has more than 50 giant illuminated creations including a 10m-high recreation of Beijing’s Temple of Heaven and an 8m Imperial Palace, plus a lit-up life-size London bus and a phone box lantern.

You can also see life-sized flamingos, zebras, kangaroos and elephants nestled among the trees — a nod to the history of Chiswick House Garden, where former owner, the sixth Duke of Devonshire, kept these exotic beasts in its expansive gardens.

The event runs in the evening from 5pm to 8.45pm. The Magical Lantern Festival marks Chinese New Year, the year of the monkey.

magical lantern festival

Chinese New Year

We’re welcoming the Year of the Monkey with Chinese New Year celebrations in London on Sunday 14 February. The parade starts at 10.15am and goes from Trafalgar Square to nearby Chinatown with ten lion teams performing along the short route. There are displays in Trafalgar Square and Chinatown for the rest of the day.

Cirque Berserk

To see some “Wowzer, how do they do that?!” performances you need to see Cirque Berserk at The Peacock Theatre from 8 to 24 February. This is real circus made for theatre and includes the world’s most dangerous circus act – the legendary motorcycle ‘Globe of Terror’. That’s up to four motorcyclists inside a metal sphere cage riding at up to 60mph!

Cirque Berserk

Monet to Matisse

Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse is at Royal Academy of Arts from 30 January to 20 April. It’s not just the two great painters mentioned in the title who are feature in this exhibition though. This landmark exhibition examines the role gardens played in the evolution of art from the early 1860s through to the 1920s. Expect to see works by Renoir, Cezanne, Pissarro, Klimt, Van Gogh and more.

Monet Waterlillies

Claude Monet, 1914-1915, oil on canvas, Museum Purchase: Helen Thurston Ayer Fund. Photo (c) Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon

Pre-Raphaelites on Paper

Moving from painting to drawing, at the stunning Leighton House in Kensington, Pre-Raphaelites on Paper: Victorian Drawings from the Lanigan Collection opens on 12 February (and runs until 29 May 2016).

Illustrating the broad evolution of draughtsmanship and the new appreciation for the art of drawing that emerged during the reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837 to 1901, the selection of artworks ranges from preparatory sketches to highly finished drawings intended as works of art in themselves.

Highlights are the works of the foremost Pre-Raphaelite artists, John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as well as exceptional drawings by artists such as Edward Burne-Jones, Simeon Solomon, George Frederic Watts, and Frederic Leighton himself.

Dickensian

Here’s another good reason to visit the Charles Dickens Museum. From 19 January to 17 April 2016, the new BBC Drama series Dickensian has brought behind the scenes costumes and props to the most Dickensian house in London. As you enter each room there will be additions from the TV series helping to build the atmosphere and to get to know the characters.

More reasons to visit this month include The Housemaid’s Tour on Sunday 21 February, and The Museum by Candlelight on Wednesday 24 February.

Dickensian

Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art

From 17 February to 22 May 2016, The National Gallery has Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art.

Described as the last painter of the Grand Style and the first of the modern masters, Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863) was the pre-eminent French artist of the first half of the 19th century – complex, contradictory, a rebel, and an outsider. Few artists had more of a profound and lasting influence on his contemporaries and future generations.

This exhibitions looks not only at Delacroix’s fantastic Romantic masterpieces but also how his work influenced the Impressionists and beyond.

Olive Trees Vincent Van Gogh

Olive Trees, Vincent Van Gogh (1889)

Vogue 100: A Century of Style

It’s the centenary of Vogue magazine and this exhibition showcases the remarkable range of photography that has been commissioned by British Vogue since it was founded in 1916. Vogue 100: A Century of Style is at the National Portrait Gallery from 11 February to 22 May 2016.

There are over 280 prints from the Condé Nast archive and international collections on display to tell the story of one of the most influential fashion magazines in the world.

 

Also, available to see this month at the National Portrait Gallery is a major display of personal items, original manuscripts and works of art to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre. The display opens on 22 February and runs until 14 August 2016. It explores the author’s life, creative development and professional success.

Fashion Rules: Restyled

From 11 February, the Fashion Rules exhibition at Kensington Palace reopens with a new focus on different periods in the wardrobes of HM The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales, expanding our glimpse into the era-defining style choices of these three royal women.

From the ‘New Look’ glamour of Princess Margaret in the 1950s, the elegance of HM The Queen in the 1960s and 1970s, and the tailored drama of outfits created for Diana, Princess of Wales in the early 1990s, the display continues to explore how these women navigated the fashion ‘rules’ defined by their royal duties in unique style.

Fashion Rules, Kensington Palace

Another reason to visit Kensington Palace this month is for the Victoriana: Science and Séance event on 13 February. You can find out how science, religion, fanaticism and the supernatural co-existed and what this meant for morality, beliefs and culture in Victorian society. Tickets includes a glass of Bucks Fizz and entry to Kensington Palace.

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the February 2016 in London blog post from London Bridge Hotel, our sister hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

Easter is slightly earlier this year so we’re being celebrating in March (Easter Sunday is 27 March 2016).

It’s the Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon on 20 March that includes road routes and Thames river paths.

And Kew Palace reopens at Kew Gardens on 24 March where you can see The Royal Kitchens and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage too.

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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 AboutLondonLaura.com 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.