Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Plans for Saturday - update

We've managed to get some tickets for the Fulham Vs Man City game. Hopefully there will be enough for all those who what to watch a bit of football.

It looks like it'll be a bus tour on the Saturday afternoon for those not interested in the football. Simona asked around and the feedback was very positive for the bus tour. It's a tour where you can stop along the way, spend an hour to take in a sight or go shopping.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wedding Info: Gifts

A few people have been in touch to ask about a wedding list and gifts. Please don't bring / send us any anything! Traveling and staying in London is really expensive and we are really grateful that you're coming. The last thing we want to do is ask you to spend more money on gifts. Some people still want to give us something so we've asked them to donate to charity. Here are some great charities if you feel like doing the same. Many, many thanks.

The Camphill Family
Deutsche Krebshilfe
Cancer Research
East Africa Crisis

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Things to do in London: Clothes Shopping

London is a Mecca for shopping. Simona's ever-increasing piles of bags and shoes are testament to that. If you are shopping in the centre of town often getting around on foot is an easier and quicker than taking the tube. In quite a few areas, like Chelsea, stores will stay open later on Wednesdays.

Department Stores
There are for four main fancy department stores in London, two in the centre of town, Liberty's and Selfridges, two in Knightsbridge, Harrods and Harvey Nichols. What makes Harrods stand out from the others is a wonderfully tasteful statue of Princess Diana and Dodi.

Bond Street

If you heading to London with the intention of getting rid of a lot of cash very quickly this is the place to go. All the world's luxury stores can be found along the street.

Covent Garden

A really popular area with a mixture of high street shops, independent designers and some designer stores, most notably Paul Smith's large main store, on Canal Street. It can get very crowded at weekends.

Oxford Street and Regent Street

Oxford street is the main street in London and should be avoided unless you have a fetish for being squashed. Somehow it always seems to suck you in. Regent Street isn't quite as bad. There you'll find the Apple store and Hamleys, a toy store of seven floors.

Sloane Street, running from Knightsbridge to Chelsea, is full of the designers loved by footballers and dodgy Italian businessmen, whereas the King's Road has more of a mix from the serious Gieves and Hawes to the standard high street stores like Gap and Monsoon. Maybe you'll get really lucky and bump into Frank Lampard, or even John Terry.

Savile Row
If any men coming over wishes to outdo their wives' expenditure on clothing then perhaps they could spend a few thousand pounds on a bespoke suit. For over 200 hundred years Saville Row has been home to England's traditional tailors. Go crazy and get yourself dolled up as Churchill and James Bond did in the past. Pick up a shirt to go with it from Jermyn Street

Kensinton High Street
According to the blurb I read Kensington High Street is functional and stylish and can be less crowded than the Wesr End.

Vintage Shops
London boasts plenty of vintages stores, a few where you can buy things for a tenner, most where you can be true to the city and spend a small fortune. According to Time Out here are some of the good ones:
Absolute Vintage Boutique
Fashion Exchange
Little Pad

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Things to do in London: Sport

Actually this is more about the sport that's going on around the time of the wedding. I've already covered football and our plans to go to a game on the Saturday after the wedding in another blog entry.

I know many of you coming to the wedding are cricket crazy, especially those from Germany and the States. Unfortunately the 5th one-day game between England and India of the season is actually on the day of the wedding, in Cardiff. Unfortunately you'll have to miss that. The 4th one-day game in London at Lord's, the world's best sport ground, takes place on the 11th. But you've more chance of winning the lottery than getting tickets. However, Lord's is the venue for the final of the domestic one-day game competition, Clydesdale Bank 40, which fortunately takes places on the 17th Sept. If you fancy going to a game of cricket, this would be a great opurtunity, as Lord's is a great place to experience sport.

I know a far few people coming to the wedding are racing fans. If you're here for a longer stay you may fancy going to Doncaster Racecourse for the St Leger on the Saturday before the wedding. Doncaster is in the north of England but only a short and direct train ride from London. The St Leger is one of England's five classic races - not as famous as some of the others, but still worth a visit. If you're only here for the weekend there is a full card on the Saturday after the wedding at Newmarket Racecourse near Cambridge, about 1hr 20 mins from London.

Rugby fans can get up early and watch some World Cup games on the Saturday morning on the tv and then go to a Aviva Premiership game later that afternoon. Harleqins play Gloucester at The Stoop in Twickenham, Wasps play Sale at Adams Park in High Wycombe.

Things to do in London: Art / Museums

London is fantastic for art and museum fans, not least because many have free admission [though temporary exhibitions usually have a charge]. Here are a few of my favourites, but there are plenty.

The Victoria and Albert Museum
A great and quite unique museum. You just can't go wrong here. A huge variety of things to see, wonderfully presented, not too busy and free admission. Even the museum shop is good. The icing on the cake comes on a sunny day as there's a large courtyard where you can take a rest and a cup of tea.
Tube: South Kensington. Map.

The Tates
The Tate Modern now gets all attention but the original, Tate Britain, is still great. Free admission.
Tube:Pimlico. Map .
Tube: Mansion House [and cross the bridge on the wobbly bridge]. Map.

The Courtauld Gallery
Unlike other museums you do have to pay to get in, but the Courtauld has three great things going for it: it's not very big [so there's no traipsing around], the quality of work is great, it's doesn't get very busy.
Tube: Covent Garden, Temple, Charing Cross. Map.

The Saatchi Gallery
Charles Saatchi gets plenty of bad press for his role in the art world but he can't be all bad as he's set up a great gallery showing cutting edge work. As it's free it can get busy.
Tube: Sloane Square. Map

Whitechapel Gallery
You have to pay to get into the main exhibition here, but it's a very popular exhibition space for good reason. Their latest show, of Thomas Struth photos, is excellent, and runs until Sept 16th.
Tube: Aldegate East. Map.

Other places that might interest you:
The Serpentine Gallery
The British Museum
Fold Gallery
Danielle Arnaud

One for the kids:
The Natural History Museum:
I used to love going to this museum as a kid because it had row upon row of insects. That said, it wasn't particularly child-friendly as many modern museums now are. It is now, though. Traditionalists like myself might complain about silly moving dinasaurs, but the changes which are educational and often interactive, are obviously a huge with kids.
Natural History Museum

Things to do in London: Markets

Borough Market.
This market is by no means the biggest, but makes up for that through quality and charm. It's open on Saturday mornings and therefore perfect for anyone suffering from jetlag and looking for something to do.
Tube stop: London Bridge. Map.

Spitalfields Market and Brick Lane.
Spitalfields Market [2nd site] and the surrounding area can get pretty busy but it's certainly an interesting area of town. It's either a great example of urban renewal or a poncy destruction of a London landmark. Brick Lane is famous for it's curry houses and has a good market on Sundays.
Tube stop: Liverpool Street. Map.

Flower Market:
Columbria Road has one of the few true flower markets in Europe and although pretty small, is good fun. You have to get there early on Sundays otherwise it'll take you half an hour to take five paces forward. It's not far from Brick Lane, so the two can be combined.
Tube stop: Old Street, Hoxton, Shoreditch High Street. Map

Portobello Market.
Unless you're prepared to get up early this Saturday market gets way too busy. If you like antiques, silverware, that kind of stuff and love battling your way through millions of people, it's the place for you.
Tube stop: Ladbroke Grove. Map.

Plans for Saturday

We have a few things planned for Saturday, the day after the wedding, which we'd love people to join in with if they want. Simona had hoped to take people to one of Jamie Oliver's new Italian restaurants [the cheap ones, not the expensive ones - we don't like you guys that much]. But the food-world controlling lisping little git doesn't doesn't take large sittings. I'm pretty pleased though because we are now going with my choice of a Indian restaurant instead. We haven't picked out a place yet, but we should be able to find a pretty good one.

We are hoping to plan something on the football front. The problem will be getting tickets, as the Premier League is very popular. The one fixture that jumps out is Fulham against Man City. Unfortunately Man City are a pretty popular team, but if there any any tickets free, we'll be trying to get them. James' beloved Millwall play West Ham in the Championship, but this is a local rivalry and tickets will be even harder to get the Fulham game. The two teams don't exactly like each other and we don't want to be responsible of any of our guests loosing blood so that's unlikely to be an option. Crystal Palace versus Middlesborough, everyone's dream fixture, is also on. If that game is the only one it looks like we can get tickets for, we'll ask people if they fancy going or would prefer an afternoon in the pub.

Simona has other things planned for those who have little interest in football. Shopping will almost certainly be involved, though I think her main idea is a fancy picnic in Hyde Park. Miracles have been known to occur, so the weather could be good. If for some unbelievable reason the weather isn't so nice, then she's considering other options, like a bus tour or afternoon tea at somewhere like Fortnum and Masons.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Getting Into And Around London

You can take the Piccadilly Line straight from Heathrow to the centre of town. The Heathrow Express is quicker, running direct from the airport to Paddington, but costs more. A taxi is really expensive, and not always quicker. There's also an Express running direct from the Gatwick Airport to Victoria, though other trains run the route. The Stansted Express runs every 15 minutes from Stansted Airport and reaches Liverpool Street Station in 45 minutes. Alternatively you can get off at Tottenham Hale and take the Victoria Line into town.

Getting around London can be a pain the neck at times as the underground isn't always the most reliable and can get very busy. The Circle and District Lines should be avoided if possible, and often the bus is the better, less stressful option. The Tube website isn't especially helpful for planning a route with the underground, but has a pretty good tool for finding and planning bus routes. The best option for traveling in London is to buy an oyster card, which can be used for both the tube and buses.

London now offers a city-wide cycle hire scheme. Boris, the Mayor, introduced it recently. Using your credit card, it's pretty easy to hire a bike from an automated station, ride around and then drop it off at another station somewhere else in town. Unfortunately there's the small matter of how easy it is to get around on a bike in London. Our guests coming from The Netherlands wont find it quite so bike friendly as they might be used to. If the Gods do smile on you and you happen to find one of the few roads with a bike lane, the chances are a parked car will by blocking the way.

Hotels in London

The wedding will take place at the Haymarket Hotel [map]. It's pretty easy to find, just down from Piccadilly Circus in the centre of London. You'll know you've found it when you see the big pompous Union Jack hanging above the entrance. The rooms there are really nice, but not exactly London's cheapest. If you'd like a room there, let us know if we can help. Up to now we've been recommending, and helping people organise rooms at the Caesar Hotel in Lancaster Gate / Bayswater [map]. Simona has used it in the past and says it is good value for money. If you'd like help getting a room there, or at any other hotel in London, please let us know.