Jul 132017
 

Clarence House

Throughout August we have the opportunity to go inside Clarence House, the official residence of TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (Charles and Camilla).

Clarence House was built for the future King William IV while he was the Duke of Clarence, hence its name. It is one of the last remaining aristocratic townhouses in London.

Visitors are able to see the five rooms on the ground floor where official engagements are undertaken by Their Royal Highnesses. A guide accompanies all visitors and the tour is just £10. There are also more exclusive tours available (£35) that include the Cornwall Room where 22 of The Prince of Wales’s watercolours are hung. Those tours conclude with a glass of Champagne and a view of the garden.

Clarence House

Parliament

Parliament and the First World War is a new, free exhibition in Parliament’s historic Westminster Hall. Running until 28 September 2017, the exhibition enables visitors to explore documents, paintings and objects which demonstrate the profound changes in Parliament and democracy that occurred during the war years.

A poignant addition to the exhibition is a light projection of the names of those recorded on the First World War memorials in Parliament. These names include the 46 Parliamentarians and 26 Parliamentary staff killed in service.

Entry to the exhibition is free of charge and you can visit Monday to Saturday 9am to 6pm (last entry 5:30pm). Access is via the Cromwell Green Entrance. Visitors booked on tours of the Palace of Westminster will have access to the exhibition too.

Women workers at the National Shell Filling Factory, Chilwell, July 1917

Women workers at the National Shell Filling Factory, Chilwell, July 1917. Photograph by Horace Nicholls. © IWM (Q 30040) With permission of the First World War Centenary Partnership, led by Imperial War Museums

Natural History Museum

It’s definitely worth visiting the Natural History Museum this month as there have been some big changes. The most striking is the transformed Hintze Hall – the large space you enter from the main entrance.

The dinosaur cast (Dippy the diplodocus) has gone and since 14 July it has been replaced by a gigantic 25.2-metre blue whale skeleton (real this time) suspended from the ceiling. The ‘wonder bays’ in the hall have ten other star specimens including the skeleton of an American mastodon that went extinct 13,000 years ago.

To complement these changes, the new exhibition, Whales: Beneath the surface, also opened on 14 July. More than 100 specimens from the Museum’s research collection have been brought out from behind the scenes for the first time to show the huge diversity of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Complete skeletons reveal the secret to swimming like a whale, and skulls, flippers and jaw bones uncover how they move, breathe, feed and sense their surroundings. It’s an immersive experience where you can see how some whales, dolphins and porpoises sense their prey using sound.

Humpback whale

© Kerstin Meyer, Getty Images

Wizarding Wardrobes

During the ten years of filming, more than 25,000 unique items of clothing were created for the Harry Potter filmss. Warner Bros Studio Tour is showcasing some of the best never-before-seen costumes from the magical film series with Wizarding Wardrobes on from 21 July to 4 September.

Visitors can see the whole process from initial designs to the finished costumes, as well as learning how new clothes were made to look centuries old or battle-worn through the art of costume distressing.

Hundreds of unique wizard hats were created for Harry’s first trip to Diagon Alley and these are on display at the Studio Tour. And there is the opportunity to step inside Professor Slughorn’s armchair suit used as a disguise to evade capture by Death Eaters in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Wizarding Wardrobes - Warner Bros Studio Tour London

Outdoor Cinema

The immaculate gardens of Kensington Palace make for the ultimate setting for a night of cinema under the stars. The lawn of the Orangery, with its beautiful formal gardens, this summer plays host to some classic cinema, including Bridget Jones’ Baby, The Goonies, Moulin Rouge and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.

On from 8 to 11 August, tickets are on sale now. You can pre-order blankets and backrests and there is hot food available each evening. Or treat yourself to a Premium Ticket and have a two course pre-film dining experience at the Orangery Restaurant, a complimentary glass of prosecco and a premium position to enjoy the movie while relaxing in a Director’s chair.

Bridget Jones's Baby

Matisse in The Studio

Matisse In The Studio opens at The Royal Academy of Arts on 5 August. It takes us into the studio of one of the world’s most popular artists, exploring his prized possessions and artistic process.

Henri Matisse’s studio had an eclectic collection from across world: Buddhist statuary from Thailand, Bamana figures from Mali, plus furniture and textiles from North Africa. Rarely of material value, these objects were nonetheless precious. Offering points of departure to which he could return again and again, they appear in his work in different guises and across spans of decades, reinvented afresh in each new setting.

This exhibition offers a rare glimpse into the artist’s personal collection, as well as the paintings, sculptures and drawings it inspired. Seen together, they reveal how Matisse’s vision of rich and masterful energy first stemmed from the collage of patterns and rhythms which he found in the world of objects.

Henri Matisse, The Moorish Screen, 1921.

Henri Matisse, The Moorish Screen, 1921. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Bequest of Lisa Norris Elkins, 1950. Photo © Philadelphia Museum of Art/Art Resource, NY

Great British Beer Festival

The 40th anniversary of The Great British Beer Festival is on at London Olympia from 8 to 12 August (and for the first time they are including English wines too!)

This is the biggest beer festival in Britain and the Exhibition Hall becomes one big pub. But it is not all about boozing for the sake of it as everyone here is passionate about their beer and capable of recommending the perfect drink for connoisseurs and enthusiastic amateurs alike.

Over 900 drinks are on offer from real ales, fruit beers and ciders, to stouts, bitters and international beers. And there are also pub snacks, pub games and competitions.

Clinking beer glasses

Serpentine Boats

This is the perfect month to enjoy boating on the Serpentine in Hyde Park. There is a fleet of rowing and pedal boats which are a lot of fun with friends as each boat holds up to 6 people. Boats are available daily until sundown.

Or why not try the UK’s first Solarshuttle? It glides silently across the lake powered only by the sun and can carry up to 40 passengers. The SolarShuttle has two extra Ship’s Wheels so that children (or adults!) can enjoy trying their hand at being a Captain for the trip.

The SolarShuttle travels between the Diana, Princess Of Wales Memorial Fountain, which is on the south side of the Serpentine, to the Boat House on the northern edge of the lake near the Dell restaurant. The service runs every half hour or so from midday to dusk.

Update: The Solar Shuttle has some technical difficulties so may not be running this summer. Looks like the rowing and pedal boats will be the best choice!

Solar Shuttle - Serpentine, Hyde Park

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Presented by Kirstie Allsopp, The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court Palace is all about appreciating the beauty of handmade, and learning the skills to become a maker. On from 15 to 17 September, there will be the chance to learn how to make something from scratch or up-cycle an old piece of furniture, with the fair promising to make life that little more beautiful.

Celebrate the finale of two months of BBC Proms classical concerts with the BBC Proms in the Park in Hyde Park on 9 September. As well as the live music there are fireworks and plenty of excuses to sing along.

Opening on 12 September at Tate Britain is a major exhibition of the work of Rachel Whiteread to celebrate her position as one of the UK’s most highly respected sculptors. Bringing together large and small scale sculptures in the range of materials characteristically used by the artist – plaster, resin, rubber, concrete and metal – it will be the most substantial showing of Whiteread’s work to date and include new work not previously exhibited.

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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.

Jul 212016
 

Open-Air Cinema at Kensington Palace

With the longer summer days, watching a movie outside in the evening is really enjoyable. The Luna Cinema returns to Kensington Palace for four nights of classic films from 2 to 5 August.

You can choose from the Spectre, The Breakfast ClubFour Weddings and a Funeral or Some Like it Hot. Tickets must be booked in advance and there’s food and drink available.

Luna Cinema

The Entertainer

Kenneth Branagh is practically taking over the Garrick Theatre for a whole year, with a series of five different plays. The fifth offering is John Osborne’s modern classic The Entertainer, opening on 20 August (and on until 12 November 2016).

Set against the backdrop of post-war Britain, the play conjures the seedy glamour of the old music halls for an explosive examination of public masks and private torment.

Rob Ashford directs Kenneth Branagh as the unforgettable Archie Rice with a cast including Phil Dunster, Jonah Hauer-King, Crispin Letts, Sophie McShera and Greta Scacchi.

Do note, John Hurt will no longer be appearing in The Entertainer following medical advice.

The Entertainer Garrick Theatre

The Proms

The 122nd BBC Proms started on 15 July and continues until 10 September. It’s an annual season of classical music made more accessible with affordable prices and an informal atmosphere.

The main venue is the wonderful Royal Albert Hall but a new feature this year is to have concerts in four other unique and unusual London settings, from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Camden Roundhouse, to the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich and a large car park in Peckham, south London.

To help you get in the carnival spirit as the Rio Olympics unfold this summer there’s music from Latin America, including the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Symphony Orchestra.

BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall

© Chris Christodoulou

Notting Hill Carnival

Speaking of carnivals, Britain’s biggest street party, the Notting Hill Carnival is on Sunday 28 and Monday 29 August.

Sunday is Children’s Day which doesn’t mean it’s only for kids; it’s just a bit more family friendly on the first day. There’s still a carnival parade with lots of music and dancing.

On Monday it’s the Grand Finale Parade with 60 bands and incredible costumes. There’s also 38 sound systems on side streets from the carnival route to keep the party going.

On both days you can expect huge crowds, loud whistles, big smiles and the best jerk chicken.

Notting Hill Carnival

© VisitBritain / Jon Spaull

V&A

There’s always something marvellous at the V&A and highlights this month include a display of Beatrix Potter’s London, on from 28 July 2016 to 28 April 2017, to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter this year.

The display explores how the children’s author and illustrator was influenced by the cultural life of her birthplace. Although Potter is often associated with the sweeping landscapes of Scotland and the Lake District depicted in her illustrations, she spent most of her life at her family home at 2 Bolton Gardens in London, about 20 minutes walk from the V&A.

Potter was a frequent visitor to the South Kensington museums, including the V&A where she sketched items from the collection. This display brings together artworks, original sketches and Potter’s earliest published works to look at the inspirational role London played throughout her career.

View from 2 Bolton Gardens by Beatrix Potter

View from 2 Bolton Gardens by Beatrix Potter (1882)
© V&A with kind permission of Frederick Warne & Co

Also at the V&A, this month is the last chance to see Curtain Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Theatre in London and New York as the display ends on 31 August.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Olivier Awards this year, you can see the extraordinary range of craft and collaboration that goes into creating award-winning plays, musicals and productions in the West End of London and New York’s Broadway.

The display is an immersive theatrical experience taking visitors from the stage, to the design workshops and through the history of the awards to the red carpet. You can see costumes, designs, models, photographs, archival production material, film and awards from productions such as The Phantom of the Opera, A Chorus Line and Wolf Hall.

And there’s a related evening event on Friday 19 August, as Christian Holder is discussing his experience of working in both theatre industries. Holder was a leading dancer with the Joffrey Ballet in New York during the 1970s and later designed costumes for ballet and celebrities including Tina Turner. He is now based in London where as a child he attended the Corona Academy Stage School, acted in British television, and danced with his father’s company, Boscoe Holder and his Caribbean Dancers.

The Mechanics of Genius

More than just an artist, Leonardo da Vinci was an incredible inventor too. Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius is on at the Science Museum until 4 September.

He created a remarkable body of mechanical drawings that showed a radical approach to the challenges of flight, manufacturing and war. The exhibition includes 39 historical models of Leonardo’s inventions including flying machines, diving equipment and weapons, plus modern examples of bio-inspired robotics, aviation and materials technology.

Great British Beer Festival

The annual Great British Beer Festival is back on 9-13 August at London Olympia with over 900 tipples on offer from real ales, fruit beers and ciders, to stouts, bitters and international beers. The exhibition hall is basically one big giant pub, staffed by people who are both passionate about their beer and capable of recommending the perfect drink for connoisseurs and enthusiastic amateurs alike.

It’s not a ‘get drunk quick’ event but an opportunity to try a huge variety of beers, plus it’s free entry for accompanied under 18s with a family area upstairs.

Great British Beer Festival

Houses of Parliament Tours

While the Houses of Parliament are open on Saturdays throughout the year, during the summer we can visit on weekdays too. It’s best to book ahead for Houses of Parliament tours as they are popular.

You can choose between guided tours or self-guided audio tours. Both options allow you to see the Robing Room, the Royal Gallery, plus the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and more. The tours start and end in Westminster Hall – the historic chamber which witnessed the State trials of Guy Fawkes and Charles I.

Houses of Parliament

Buckingham Palace

The summer opening of the Buckingham Palace State Rooms includes a special exhibition Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe.

Dresses worn by The Queen for two of the most significant occasions in Her Majesty’s life will be seen together for the first time ever from 23 July to 2 October 2016.

The wedding dress worn by Princess Elizabeth for her marriage to The Duke of Edinburgh on 20 November 1947, and The Queen’s Coronation dress, both designed by the great British couturier Sir Norman Hartnell (1901–1979), will be wonderful additions to a visit to this magnificent palace.

I’ve got a special tip for you too. This photo shows The White Room and the Queen can access her private rooms through here but can you see the door? It’s very well hidden as the mirror on the left, and the cabinet in front of it, can swing open to allow her retreat unobtrusively.

Buckingham Palace

© Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

You’ve got until 11 September to see the eighth year of Sensational Butterflies at the Natural History Museum.
Follow chomping caterpillars turning into beautiful butterflies and along the way discover fascinating facts about one of our planet’s most amazing life cycles.

Opening on 10 September at the V&A, You Say You Want a Revolution: Records & Rebels 1966-70 is a major exhibition examining the optimism, ideals and aspirations of the late 1960s, expressed through music, fashion, film, design and political activism, and their relevance to contemporary life.

For one night only on 25 September, Science Uncovered is your chance to discover more about the latest research, meet scientists, and enjoy a drink in the grand setting of the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall.

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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 sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Nov 262015
 

There’s no need to hibernate in London in December as there’s simply too much going on. Wrap up warm and get out and enjoy the capital while it sparkles.

Kensington Palace

There’s a wonderful series of talks and debates at Kensington Palace and this month has Victoriana: Panto and Performance on Saturday 5 December at 11am-12.30pm. It’s called a ‘Brunchtime Lecture’ and tickets include a glass of bucks fizz and entry to Kensington Palace.

Kate Howard, historian and Creative Director for the UK’s oldest professional costumed historical interpretation company, Past Pleasures Ltd, will be the speaker and will bring to life tales of cross-dressing actors and backstage shenanigans in an era that brought entertainment to the masses.

The Cupola Room at Kensington Palace, London

The Cupola Room at Kensington Palace. © Historic Royal Palaces

Albert Memorial Tour

As the last blog post on here was all about the Albert Memorial I thought it would be good to highlight the Albert Memorial Tour on Sunday 6 December. The 45 minute tours start at 2pm and 3pm, and gives you access inside the memorial railings. Do note there are no tours in January or February.

Albert Memorial

© Sue Lowry

Winter Wonderland

Even though I included it last month, Winter Wonderland has so much going on it deserves another mention. It’s not just ice skating and a fun fair as there’s the popular Giant Observation Wheel and Zippos Circus too. Some people go just for the shopping and others go for the food and drink. And as it’s free entry you can visit as often as you like right up to 3 January 2016.

Winter Wonderland Ice Rink

Royal Albert Hall

I also mentioned last month, Champions Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall. From Wednesday 2 December to Sunday 6 December you can see big name players compete in this end of season finale. There’s Tim Henman, Pat Cash, John McEnroe and many more battling it out on the stage in both singles and doubles matches.

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall, © David Iliff

Plus, The London International Horse Show is back at Olympia on 15 to 21 December. Consider it an ‘equestrian Christmas party’ with big names in show jumping competing alongside the Household Cavalry, and there’s the Shetland Pony Grand National too.

The V&A

There’s always a reason to visit South Kensington’s Victoria and Albert Museum and this month sees the reopening of the Europe galleries. From 9 December we can see the final phase of the museum’s ongoing redevelopment programme to complete the restoration of the entire front wing of the Museum.

There are 1,100 objects on display across seven gallery spaces covering 17th- and 18th-century European art and design.

And another part of the V&A India Festival opened recently: Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection. This ticketed exhibition has spectacular objects from a single private collection. There’s traditional and contemporary Indian jewellery, and a look at the influence that India had on avant-garde European jewellery made by Cartier and other leading houses. The exhibition is on until 28 March 2016.

Royal Academy

This landmark exhibition of works by Honorary Royal Academician Ai Weiwei at The Royal Academy closes on 13 December so if you’ve not yet been it’s definitely worth considering for this month.

Although Ai is one of China’s leading contemporary artists, his work has not been seen extensively in Britain. The exhibition includes significant works from 1993 onwards, the date that marks Ai Weiwei’s return to China following more than a decade living in New York. Ai Weiwei has created new, site-specific installations and interventions throughout the Royal Academy’s spaces.

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei in his studio in Caochangdi, Beijing, taken in April 2015.

Chelsea Physic Garden

If you’ve still got some shopping to do consider going to the Chelsea Physic Garden Festive Shopping Days as there are seasonal discounts in the shop and it’s free to visit the Garden too. On 1–4 and 6–11 December the gift shop and cafe are open 10am to 4pm.

Chelsea Physic Garden

Chelsea Physic Garden. Image credit: Charlie Hopkinson

Merry Christmas!

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Lumiere London is on 14 to 17 January and it’s the biggest ever light festival in London. See iconic architecture transformed with 3D projections, interactive installations and other extraordinary light works.

There are more interesting Brunchtime Lectures coming up at Kensington Palace in the new year. On 16 January 2016 it’s Victoriana: Drinking and Dining, and on 13 February (an alternative Valentine’s weekend idea?) there’s Victoriana: Science and Séance.

And the Orchid Festival opens inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens on 6 February and runs until 6 March. There will be late evening openings 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.