Sep 282015
 

October means the evenings are drawing in and getting ready for Halloween at the end of the month. The clocks go back one hour on Sunday 25 October and there is a school holiday on 26-30 October.

The V&A

The highlight of the V&A’s India Season, The Fabric of India is the first major exhibition to explore the dynamic and multifaceted world of Indian handmade textiles from the 3rd to the 21st century. Opening on 3 October and running until 10 January 2016.

Wall hanging (detail), cotton applique, Gujarat Credit: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Wall hanging (detail), cotton applique, Gujarat
Credit: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Included is a spectacular 18th-century tent belonging to Tipu Sultan, a stunning range of historic costume, highly prized textiles made for trade, and fashion by contemporary Indian designers such as Manish Arora and Rajesh Pratap Singh. Over 200 objects illustrate the skills, variety and adaptability of Indian textile makers and the enduring nature of techniques for dyeing, weaving and embroidery across India.

V&A evening events this month include supermodel Cindy CrawfordNadja Swarovski from the crystal business, and designer John Galliano.

 

Natural History Museum

Across the road at the Natural History Museum, The Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015 exhibition opens on 16 October. Wrestling komodo dragons, ethereal egrets and curious squirrels are among the creatures captured on camera by this year’s finalists.

The exhibition showcases the beauty, magnificence and diversity of life on our planet, while also highlighting its fragility and the role photography can play in preserving it. Incredible work from talented professionals and gifted amateur photographers from around the globe.

Squirrel and seagull face to face. The photo was taken in Morro Bay, California (USA).

“To drink or not” Squirrel and seagull face to face. The photo was taken in Morro Bay, California (USA) by Carlos Perez Naval, finalist in the 10 and under category.

While at the Natural History Museum, why not try David Attenborough’s First Life Virtual Reality Experience which is on until 25 October?

Journey back to the ancient ocean with Sir David Attenborough in this fully immersive experience that brings natural history to life through cinematic virtual reality technology. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, the experience takes you on a 3D journey to meet some of the Earth’s earliest inhabitants.

 

Trafalgar Square

There are always lots of reasons to visit this iconic location. One of the best reasons this month is to see Goya: The Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery on the north side of Trafalgar Square. Opening on 7 October, this major exhibition features one of Spain’s most celebrated artists.

Photo by Diliff, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Diliff, via Wikimedia Commons

Or why not visit on Saturday 10 October for Africa on the Square 2015? It’s a celebration of African culture with live music and a DJ, a fashion show, food, a market and a popular family area.

The next day is great too as Sunday 11 October is The Diwali Festival. This is the Hindu, Sikh and Jain festival of lights. The Children’s Parade re-enacts the return of victorious Lord Ram to his Kingdom, and there’s contemporary Asian music as well as traditional religious music and rites to open and close the show. The food is exceptional at this event and there’s always activities for the kids too.

 

NFL in London

At the start of the month, the New York Jets play against the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium on Sunday 4 October. But even if you don’t have tickets the NFL Fan Rally in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 3 October is worth attending as it’s a great atmosphere.

American Football has a growing following in London so expect some crowds and some top entertainment from players, cheerleaders and NFL legends.

Later in the month you can have some fun on Regent Street ahead of the Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars game at Wembley Stadium on Sunday 25 October.

On Saturday 24 October it’s the NFL Fan Festival on Regent Street with lots of entertainment, popular on-stage events and a mini field for the junior players.

 

Regent Street Motor Show

Another reason to visit Regent Street, and a great alternative to the obvious Halloween activities, is the Regent Street Motor Show on Saturday 31 October.

The annual motoring event is back to delight motoring fans with an array of classic, vintage and super cars on display along Regent Street. Visitors will be able to get up close and personal with amazing vehicles before they all head off on the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run the next day.

Regent Street Motor Show

Photo © Garry Knight

 

Foodie Love

It’s the London Restaurant Festival so all month there are dining tours and some really interesting foodie tours.

And 12-18 October is Chocolate Week where this sweet treat is honoured with a popular Chocolate Show on 16-18 October where you can buy from iconic brands, meet chefs and cocoa experts.

 

Even More

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

 

LOOKING AHEAD

We’ve got to be brave and admit Christmas needs to be mentioned as the Christmas lights will all be switched on during November.

Christmas at Kew looks really good as the botanical gardens are illuminated after dark from 25 November.

The V&A keeps on bringing us something new and exciting. Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection has spectacular Indian jewellery, drawn from a single private collection. Highlights include Mughal jades, a rare jewelled gold finial from the throne of Tipu Sultan, and pieces that reveal the dramatic changes that took place in Indian jewellery design during the early 20th century.

And The V&A keeps on improving as the Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art reopens on 4 November after a full redisplay and refurbishment as part of the V&A’s ongoing FuturePlan scheme.

An unusual but interesting idea for next month is Sleeve Notes with Alan Parsons – lectures hosted in Abbey Road’s legendary Studio Two. Alan Parsons is a lauded producer and musician synonymous with Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Abbey Road Studios.

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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.

Aug 262015
 

The V&A

It looks like there are lots of reasons to visit The V&A this month. It’s a ‘last chance to see’ What is Luxury? which closes on 27 September. This free exhibition interrogates ideas of luxury today and addresses how luxury is made and understood in a physical, conceptual and cultural capacity.

Visit the Museum’s Medieval & Renaissance Galleries and you will find a six metre high ceramic installation created for the V&A by artist Barnaby Barford and on display from 8 September to 1 November 2015.

 Artist's impression of a section of The Tower. Artist: (c) Barnaby Barford

Artist’s impression of a section of The Tower.
Artist: (c) Barnaby Barford

The Tower of Babel is composed of 3,000 individual bone china buildings, each measuring 10-13cm tall and depicting a real London shop. The tower depicts London’s streets in the early 21st century, cataloguing a variety of types of shops, including independent shops, department stores, and charity shops and those that have been left derelict. More affordable properties will be situated at the base of the Tower and the more prestigious but less affordable towards the top. And yes, you can buy replicas in the Museum shop.

And from 19 to 27 September the V&A is the main hub for the nine day London Design Festival. The Tower of Babel is one of the special installations but there will be more spread throughout the Museum, as well as the latest acquisitions on display.

In the V&A’s John Madjeski Garden, Mexican architect Frida Escobedo’s pavilion, ‘You know you cannot see yourself so well as by reflection‘, marks the Year of Mexico in the United Kingdom.

Science Museum

On 18 September the Science Museum opens its ground-breaking exhibition: Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age. This autumn blockbuster represents the most comprehensive and in-depth look into the Russian space programme, showcasing the most significant collection of the country’s spacecraft and artefacts ever to be shown outside of Russia.

In 1957 Russia launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, into space and just four years later sent the first ever human – Yuri Gagarin. Discover the dramatic story of how Russia turned the dream of space travel into a reality and became the first nation to explore space.

Cosmonauts

Natural History Museum

There’s a special Science Uncovered evening at the Natural History Museum on Friday 25 September. For one night only, discover the Natural History Museum’s hidden wonders at this annual free after-hours extravaganza.

Science Uncovered involves over 300 scientists from across the Museum and from other leading organisations, and for many visitors, meeting the scientists is one of the most surprising highlights of the evening. There’s over 200 different activities on the night, from Science Bars and nature games to debates with scientists, and seeing extraordinary specimens from the Museum’s collections not normally on display.

It’s also your ‘last chance to see’ Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea and Sensational Butterflies as they both close on 13 September.

London Fashion Week

London Fashion Week is a chance to get ahead of the fashion curve with catwalk shows and splash out on some new clothes too, with collections looking ahead to spring/summer 2016. This year it moves to the Saatchi Gallery on the Kings Road so expect a whole new vibe compared with Somerset House. From 24 to 27 September you can see catwalk shows, trend presentations and panel discussions with industry experts.

London Fashion Week

Kew Literary Festival

From 24 to 28 September the inaugural Kew Literary Festival has Booker Prize winners to poets and nature writers. The festival has over 80 events across all genres, from fiction to science, children’s to cookery.

Margaret Atwood will launch her latest novel at Write on Kew, Bill Bryson will offer illuminating talks on travel in Britain, Andrew Marr focuses on Britain through its poetry and Iain Sinclair on London’s Ginger Line. The children’s programme looks outstanding too with Judith Kerr, Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson.

London Transport Museum Depot Open Weekend

A fun place to visit is the London Transport Museum Depot where you can see Museum’s store of many larger transport exhibits they can’t have on display at the Covent Garden museum. There’s an Open Weekend on 26-27 September when you can explore over 300,000 objects with a focus this autumn on design classics. Saturday includes a rare opportunity to visit the Heathrow Express Depot too.

This is one of my personal highlights for the year as I love the stalls selling transport memorabilia.

Acton

Late Night Comedy

As well as hosting the annual Proms (which end on 12 September), the Royal Albert Hall also has late night comedy. Join some of comedy’s finest up and coming and established names in the Elgar Room. Many of these comedians will have come fresh from Edinburgh as these shows present the best of the Festival.

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

The highlight of the V&A’s India Season, The Fabric of India exhibition is the first major exhibition to explore the dynamic and multifaceted world of handmade textiles from India from the 3rd to the 21st century. Opening on 3 October and running until 10 January 2016.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum combines the extraordinary work of talented professionals and gifted amateur photographers from around the globe. The 2015 exhibition opens in October.

Running the whole of October, the London Restaurant Festival helps you discover London’s finest cooking and encourages a lot more eating out.

Apsley House has torchlight Twilight Tours on Wednesdays throughout October.

And the National Gallery blockbuster autumn exhibition is Goya: The Portraits opening on 7 October.

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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.

Jul 272015
 

South Kensington Museums

As always, there’s lots going on at the South Kensington Museums this month.

At the Natural History Museum it’s the last month to see the 50th year of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition as it closes on 30 August. You can see the extraordinary work of talented professionals and gifted amateur photographers from around the globe.

Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea has a live reef, a virtual dive and more than 200 strange and beautiful specimens. The exhibition closes on 13 September.

And Sensational Butterflies, on the East Lawn, is the opportunity to enter a tropical butterfly house and see caterpillars and butterflies flying freely. This also closes on 13 September.

© Natural History Museum, London

© Natural History Museum, London

Across the road at The V&AFacing History: Contemporary Portraiture features a variety of portraits by contemporary artists and photographers, from Grayson Perry to Gavin Turk. The exhibition is on from 27 July to 24 April 2016 and shows how artists have adapted historical or conventional modes of portraiture such as silhouettes, portrait miniatures, medals, Old Master paintings, and death masks, as well as passport photographs, ID cards and election campaign posters.

What is Luxury? is the major exhibition this month and looks at how luxury is made and it’s controversy.

And around the corner at The Science Museum there’s a summer of fun with lots of family activities including building a magic lantern and taking part in a real scientific experiment. In the Cravings gallery you can find out if your head or your stomach controls what you eat. And in the Information Age gallery you can see the computer on which Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, plus he’s there (in a virtual form) to explain how it works.

And the museum is staying open later – until 7pm – from 25 July to 30 August.

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Kensington Palace

Even without buying a ticket to visit the Palace you could join a free Garden History Tours that gives exclusive access to the Sunken Garden. Or you could visit the gardens in the evening for some open-air cinema. And if you’ve brought the family – and remember, kids always go free at Kensington Palace – you could join Queen Caroline’s Garden Party on 21-23 August and complete a series of challenges to transform yourself into the perfect Georgian courtier.

© Historyc Royal Palaces

© Historic Royal Palaces

Also, in Kensington, The Proms have started at Royal Albert Hall and go on until 12 September.

London Landmarks

Buckingham Palace State Rooms are open to visitors from 25 July to 27 September. This year the theme is ‘A Royal Welcome’ and we get to enter the Palace through the Grand Entrance for the first time. The Australian State Coach is on display at the Grand Entrance Portico and inside we’ll see how the Palace prepares for formal occasions. Look out for the knighting stool and a sword used to confer knighthoods on display, plus the red leather seating-planner.

The Ballroom at Buckingham Palace set up for a State Banquet. Royal Collection Trust (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2015

The Ballroom at Buckingham Palace set up for a State Banquet.
Royal Collection Trust (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2015

St Paul’s Cathedral is worth visiting all year round but there are a couple of special days this month as they are allowing photography inside the Cathedral on Monday 3 August and Monday 17 August. Usually photography is banned to maintain a sense of calm for a place of worship but for these special days you are free to snap away to your heart’s content.

Food and Drink

The biggest pub in the world is back this month at the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia from 11 to 15 August. You can try over 900 real ales, ciders, perries and international beers but it’s probably best not to try them all on the same day.

Hampton Court Palace has the BBC Good Food Festival from 29 to 31 August – the Bank Holiday weekend. You can meet producers, watch demonstrations and enjoy the live music too making this a lovely choice for all ages.

The South Front of Hampton Court Palace shows off the Baroque style, designed by Christopher Wren, which replaced an earlier Tudor building erected for Henry V111. Two visitors walk up through the Privy Garden from the direction of the river Thames. Pic: Richard Lea-Hair Credit: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk

The South Front of Hampton Court Palace shows off the Baroque style, designed by Christopher Wren. Photographer: Richard Lea-Hair Credit: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk

To End The Month

More ideas to end the month include the Regency Weekend at Apsley House on 29 and 30 August where you can join in etiquette lessons and find out all about dressing, and dancing, the Regency way.

And, of course, there’s the Notting Hill Carnival on 30 and 31 August for amazing costumes in the parades and lots of Caribbean food, drink and music to keep you feeling tropical whatever the weather.

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

A six metre high ceramic installation created for the V&A by artist Barnaby Barford will be displayed in the Museum’s Medieval & Renaissance Galleries from 8 September to 1 November 2015.

On 18 September, the Science Museum will open its doors to a ground-breaking exhibition, Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age.

And The Royal Academy will present a landmark exhibition of the Honorary RA, Ai Weiwei from 19 September to 13 December. As the first significant British survey of his artistic output, the exhibition will include major works spanning Ai Weiwei’s career, as well as including new work by the artist.

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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.

May 272015
 

There’s so much going on this month it was hard to decide what to include but I think these recommendations will ensure you have a great time in London.

The V&A

The V&A has plenty of reasons to visit this month. The Shoes: Pleasure and Pain exhibition is the main highlight. On from 13 June 2015 to 31 January 2016, this exhibition looks at the extremes of footwear from around the globe.

Parakeet Shoes

Parakeet shoes,
Artist: Caroline Groves (b.1959)
Credit: Photography by Dan Lowe

Over 200 pairs of shoes are on display from historic sandals to famous shoe wearers and collections. Cultural significance will be considered alongside the latest developments in footwear technology creating the possibility of ever higher heels and dramatic shapes.

 

The V&A also has Captain Linnaeus Trip: Photographer of India and Burma, 1854-1860 on from 24 June to 11 October, as part of the V&A India Festival, and the exhibition is free to visit.

Rangoon: Henzas on the East Side of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda,  November 1855 Artist: Linnaeus Tripe

Rangoon: Henzas on the East Side of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, November 1855
Artist: Linnaeus Tripe

This display features some of the earliest and most striking views of the landscape and architecture of India and Burma, by a pioneering British photographer.

Other reasons to visit The V&A this month include comedian Paul Merton: In Conversation on 19 June and the monthly Friday Late on 26 June. This month’s theme is Art Is Good For You and the evening will explore the capacity of art and design to empower and transform, and ask questions of art, design, and architecture’s relevance as a tool for social development today.

 

Kew Gardens

Full of Spice is the summer festival at Kew Gardens, on until 6 September.

Kew Gardens

© RGB Kew

We don’t think twice about the peppermill on our dining table or the vanilla in our ice-cream, but the power of some plants to colour, flavour and preserve, makes them worth more than their weight in gold.

This summer, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is exploring the botanical origins of these mystical commodities. Come face-to-face with nutmeg, turmeric and tamarind in the steamy Palm House, or chillies, ginger and vanilla orchids in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

You can meet the Kew Scientists and there are lots of ‘hands on’ sessions too. Every Sunday you can get a ride on the Cinnamon, Pepper or Cardamom Rickshaw for an immersive, theatrical and yet educational ride around the Gardens. And there’s a Botanical Bar on weekends too, and a Strictly Spice Dance competition on the lawn in front of the Orangery throughout the summer holidays.

 

The Battle of Waterloo Bicentenary

Apsley House is celebrating 200 years since The Battle of Waterloo with a vegetable reenactment! Visit on Thursday 18 June to find out about Regency clothes and dressing and prepare to celebrate when the Duke returns.

Apsley House

The re-presented Waterloo Gallery in Apsley House with magnificent silver gilt dinner service on the banqueting table.

Another reason to visit Apsley House this month is for the Preparing For a Waterloo Banquet weekend on 20-21 June. Prepare your toasts and perfect your speeches as the house is readied for the imminent return of the Duke of Wellington and the annual Waterloo banquet.

On the same weekend (20-21 June) you could head to Eltham Palace in southeast London for the Grand Medieval Joust. Knights compete on horseback and the cheeky court jester brings the laughs for this medieval entertainment.

 

Barbara Hepworth

The summer exhibition at Tate Britain is Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World, on from 24 June to 25 October.

Barbara Hepworth, Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) (6) 1943 © The Hepworth Estate

Barbara Hepworth, Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) (6) 1943
© The Hepworth Estate

Hepworth is often overshadowed by her contemporary Henry Moore, although she really shouldn’t be. Here’s a chance to appreciate the full portfolio of her work including textiles, collages, drawings and trademark sculptures.

Also at Tate Britain is the BP Spotlight: Tracey Emin and Francis Bacon where you can see Tracey Emin’s famous unmade bed as it is back on display until summer 2016 and is free to see.

Another popular exhibition this month is the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition from 8 June to 16 August. It is the world’s oldest open-submission exhibition and includes painting, printmaking and sculpture through to installation, photography and film. Look out for Conrad Shawcross’s installation in the courtyard which consists of a group of five steel ‘clouds’.

 

Sporting Highlights

If you would like to attend a quintessentially British summer occasion (and didn’t manage to get tickets for Wimbledon)  Polo in the Park is at Hurlingham Park on 5, 6, 7 June. Or you can watch world-class motorsport at the London ePrix on 27-28 June. The track is in Battersea Park, next to The River Thames, for 20 Formula E drivers to zoom around.

Polo in the Park

Even More

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

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Apsley House has a Waterloo Weekend every weekend in July where you can meet Wellington’s Troops in the midst of the combat campaign. There are also etiquette lessons and tips on dressing the Regency way.

Soundscapes: Listening to Paintings opens at the National Gallery on 8 July where you can ‘hear’ the paintings and ‘see’ the sound.

Eltham Palace has Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon on 5 & 19 July for you to relax and enjoy a summertime stroll in the stunning surroundings.

And this year, at the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace the theme is A Royal Welcome and you can discover what goes on behind the scenes from 1 August to 27 September.

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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.

Apr 182015
 

8._Installation_view_of_Voss_Alexander_McQueen_Savage_Beauty_at_the_VA_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London (Large)

If you love seeing a true, original talent, then swiftly head for the Victoria and Albert Museum, London to see their blockbuster exhibition, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.

9._Installation_view_of_Romantic_Naturalism_gallery_Alexander_McQueen_Savage_Beauty_at_the_VA_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London (Large)

What a revelation this was – entering into the world of a privileged few who knew him, reviewed this designer or wore his clothes. It’s only by seeing the physical products that he produced that you understood what a raw and innovative talent this young Scot had – and what we lost when he left us.

6._Installation_view_of__Cabinet_of_Curiosities_gallery_Alexander_McQueen_Savage_Beauty_at_the_VA_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London (Large)

The skilful way in which the exhibition has been curated tells his story alongside his clothes – his Savile Row apprenticeship, his association with marques like Givenchy and the establishment of his own eponymous label. It’s easy to see why he was often referred to as the enfant terrible of fashion for his irreverent style and celebration of the gothic and grotesque – yet even in the most outlandish of collections, a beauty and grace shone through together with a surprising depth and grasp of historic knowledge and tradition.

3._Installation_view_of_Romantic_Gothic_gallery_Alexander_McQueen_Savage_Beauty_at_the_VA_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London (Large)

By walking through his life through this carefully curated exhibit, I saw the skill and raw talent that he had and how his ideas have permeated every section of our society. The quote “You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition” really sums up this exhibition. You can still buy tickets for this exhibit and I urge you to do so. I came away both enlightened and informed.  Just wonderful.

2._Installation_view_of_Savage_Mind_gallery_Alexander_McQueen_Savage_Beauty_at_the_VA_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London (Large) (2)

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, in partnership with Swarovski, supported by American Express and made possible with the co-operation of Alexander McQueen, runs from 14th March – 2nd August 2015. There are still tickets available so snap one up soon – www.vam.ac.uk/savagebeauty. Follow Victoria and Albert Museum on twitter @V_and_A and on Facebook: Victoria and Albert Museum.

 

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

Photographs: Reproduced courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Mar 252015
 

I hope you remembered the clocks changed in the UK on Sunday 29 March (I reminded you last month) so we’re on British Summer Time. And as Easter arrives at the start of this month we can start thinking about being outside more.

Hampton Court Palace is the place to be the for Easter weekend (3-5 April) as it’s the 500th anniversary. The Palace will open for the three evenings for after hours festivities including pop up bars and live performances of period music. The evening will culminate in a dazzling 25 minute 3D projection onto the Palace’s south façade taking visitors on a kaleidoscopic journey through Hampton Court’s 500 year history. This truly unique event finishes with a spectacular firework display.

Hampton Court Palace

 

Another great excuse to get out and about this month is Shaun in the City: a ewe-nique art trail to find the sculptures of Shaun the Sheep created by artists, celebrities and designers. The sculptures will be auctioned in the summer for charity but the trails are on the website and are free.

shaun

 

As ever, the V&A is spoiling us this month with two new free exhibitions. All of This Belongs To You (14 April to 19 July) looks at the role of public institutions in contemporary life and what it means to be responsible for a national collection.

James Bridle: Five Eyes Image courtesy of V&A

James Bridle: Five Eyes Image courtesy of V&A

What is Luxury? (25 April to 27 September) is a collaboration with the Crafts Council to interrogate ideas of luxury today. It will address how luxury is made and understood in a physical, conceptual and cultural capacity, before exploring the future of luxury design.

Combs, Hair Highway, Studio Swine, 2014

Combs, Hair Highway, Studio Swine, 2014

The V&A also has many interesting evening talks and events. One that stood out to me this month is Michael Eavis: Glastonbury on Tuesday 21 April. The farmer and founder of the legendary festival will discuss music, politics and the festival history as The V&A has recently acquired the Glastonbury archives which will grow with each new festival.

 

If you take a walk in Hyde Park this month be prepared for it to be noisy on 21 April as we celebrate the Queen’s Birthday with a gun salute at 12pm and another at the Tower of London at 1pm.

Credit: Richard Lea-Hair / Historic Royal Palaces

Credit: Richard Lea-Hair / Historic Royal Palaces

 

Another annual treat is the Feast of St George in Trafalgar Square to celebrate the patron saint of England. This year the fun is on Saturday 25 April, 12-6pm, and everyone is welcome. There’s traditional English food including an English farmers’ market and live demos from leading chefs, plus family activities, music and more.

 

There’s a great weekend planned for 25-26 April at the London Transport Museum Depot in Acton, west London, where you can see treasures from London’s transport past and present. Visitors can take a trip on a moving miniature railway and a heritage bus, hear expert talks and see rare film screenings too. Plus, there’s lots for sale that I can never resist.

LT Depot

 

Back in South Kensington, the Natural History Museum’s Sensational Butterflies (2 April to 13 September) is a tropical butterfly house on the East Lawn where you can walk among hundreds of free-flying butterflies and learn about the science behind these delicate creatures.

© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Even More

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

 

LOOKING AHEAD

The V&A has even more to offer in May with a new gallery: Europe 1600-1800. This is actually seven galleries transformed to redisplay the Museum’s unrivalled collection of 17th- and 18th century European art and design.

The V&A also has Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 opening in May, tracing the development of the fashionable white wedding dress and its interpretation by leading couturiers and designers. And continuing the fashion theme, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain is opening in June to look at the extremes of footwear from around the globe.

And bring your walking shoes for Walk London’s Spring into Summer free led walks on 30 and 31 May.

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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.

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.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

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.

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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 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 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.