1. A Hampstead Heath stomp with a Pub Lunch
I’m not sure if anyone who has ever been for a breath of fresh air and a walk on the Heath, hasn’t felt better in some way afterwards. It’s not that complicated really… great views, acres of beautiful countryside (320 hectares/790 acres), an art deco designed Lido, wild swimming ponds, and a few kites for good measure.
There is also Kenwood House sitting on the North of the Heath. Kenwood is a well loved
London institution. Adored by dog lovers, marathon trainers, and welly wearers. The house is run by English Heritage, a former stately home, it dates from the early 17thC. Within the house is an impressive art collection (though I have a feeling the key paintings are on a US Tour at the moment!). These include works from ‘Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough. There are also sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Eugène Dodeigne in the gardens near the house, which are famous in their own right.
Once you have stomp’d a little, reward yourself with a hearty lunch at the famous Spaniards Pub. Known as ‘a country pub’ in the middle of London, it’s pretty famous. Word has it that Keats wrote ‘Ode To A Nightingale‘ here (That would have been before the noise pollution from the 4×4’s doing the school run distracted him I think…).
Inside you will find roaring fires, a good wine list and enough real ale, cider and decent food to give most tired legs some rejuvenation. Just don’t leave it until closing to find your way home via the Heath. Plan your return journey by bus to either Hampstead tube (10 mins) or Highgate Village for a night-cap (20 mins by bus).
(sort of) Fact Time : “Boudicca’s Mound”, near the present men’s bathing pond on the heath, is a tumulus where, according to local legend, Queen Boudicca (Boadicea) was buried after she and 10,000 Iceni warriors were defeated at Battle Bridge. However earlier drawings and paintings of the area show no mound other than a 17th-century windmill. (Wikipedia)
2. Grab a view from The Shard
Check : ‘the weather’. Check : ‘your footwear’. Check ‘you are definitely not Acrophobic’. Head over to The Shard at London Bridge and fly up to floors 68, 69 and 72, and you will be at almost twice the height of any other viewing platform in the capital.
The view gives you unparalleled 360-degree views for up to 40 miles. Once you have booked your tickets you will be able to choose the time of your visit and can enter The View up to 30 minutes from the time printed on your ticket, that just about give you enough time to finish a bottle of champagne, and post your award winning photography on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Google+, oh did I forget you need to take a selfie with that stick-thing too.
If its views you are hankering for, you could also take a trip to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and fly up the ArcelorMittal Orbit. Here’s a feature with some info for you.
3. Graffiti Street Tour with InsideLondon
Insider London’s Street Art Tour shows you the work of world famous street artists where it’s meant to be seen: on the street.
They’ll show you how street and graffiti art has evolved, showing you everything from an early Banksy piece, to work from heavyweights like Shephard Fairey, Space Invader and Roa, and the latest work from emerging street artists. They’ll also swing by a series of street art galleries to show you how street art is shaking up fine art on a global scale. Read more here.
4. Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Tower of London, via a Boat Ride
Walk from London Bridge (tube/rail), or take a tube to across the Millennium (wobble) Bridge to Tate Modern on Bankside. The latest exhibition in The Turbine Hall is the Richard Tuttle : I Don’t Know. The Weave of Textile Language (14 October 2014 – 6 April 2015), It is the largest work ever created by Richard Tuttle.
If you are hungry for more art you can then either take the Tate Boat (which runs every forty minutes) along the Thames to the Tate Britain. Or just take your Oyster Card to pay for the boat, or buy a Day River Pass, and hop on the other river services that will deliver you to any parts of the Thames. Choose from The London Eye, The Tower of London or further East to Greenwich, for the National Maritime Museum, The Royal Observatory and The newly re-built Cutty Sark. The nearest Pier to the Tate Modern is Bankside, to the right of the museum looking at the river.
Tate Modern Opens : Sunday – Thursday, 10.00–18.00 & Friday – Saturday, 10.00–22.00 & is open for New Year on 1 January, 2015
5. Grab a Bowl of Ramen or Dim Sum in Town
Those that get out and about tell me that the latest Asian dining fashion is to eat bowls of ramen soup. It is ‘Big In Japan’ as Alaphaville sweetly sang. In Japan it is standard to have a specialist Ramen soup shop on every corner. In the UK we have been a part of the ‘Wagamama’ and ‘Yo Sushi’ crowd for a few years now, but it’s only recently that the UK has embraced the real Ramen dish. This soup is on basic levels a combo of noodles, broth, vegetables (bamboo and bean sprouts a must), meat, and egg.
If you get the chance to eat at a Ramen bar, then go for it, as when it’s made properly, with expertise, and hours and hours of simmering to find the ‘perfect’ broth, then you will be hooked. Your soup will be either made with a chicken, pork or (no bone) broth, and they are likely to be named TONKOTSU Ramen, MISO Ramen, or SOY Ramen. This food is fun and satisfying for any takers. We take the kids all the time, and what we often do is order them each a bowl of steamed rice, and then share our soup with them. Get the kids their own chopsticks, and get them practising the art of ‘chopsticking’ (?!) and that will kill at least 9 minutes until the soups arrive. Find out where to scoff up your bowls of deliciousness here.
6. Investigate Sherlock Holmes at The Museum of London
There’s been a certain something in the air around Baker Street, since our local heroes Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (and the darling BBC of course) brought life back to Sherlock Holmes. Riding high on their hat-tails, The Museum of London is hosting their first exhibition about the detective since 1951.
The exhibition uses early film, photography and paintings plus original Victorian era artefacts to recreate the atmosphere of Sherlock’s London, and to re-imagine the places featured in Conan Doyle’s famous stories.
Fact-ish: the BFI and The Museum of London are on a worldwide hunt for a silent film about Holmes produced 100 years ago which is missing.The 1914 adaptation of A Study in Scarlet, directed by the London-born George Pearson, is the first British feature-length film based on the consulting detective. It is according to the BFI, high on their list of Most Wanted films. If you know where it is, or have information which you think might help, please email email@example.com or spread the word on social media using #FindSherlock.
7. A Boris Bike, a pub lunch and a ride to Millbank
The Barclays Cycle Hire run by Transport for London, (although there is much controversy around the issue of them not issuing safety helmets with the bike hire) have been very popular since their introduction in 2012 the Olympic Year.
If you’re keen there are superhighway route maps you can follow. I would try out the Wandsworth to Milbank one. Starting at the legendary ‘The Alma’ pub bang opposite Wandsworth Rail station with a pint of something cold, and a decent lunch. Then hire your bikes, pedal through Battersea, across Chelsea Bridge, and end up at Millbank. You get 5 points for every civil servant you spot, 75 points for any lost soldiers on horseback looking for sugar lumps, and 150 points if you pull up next to Prince William ‘undercover’ on his motor bike!
8. Play around the Southbank
Is there anywhere as culturally happening as the Southbank Centre, and its surrounding family of venues? Let me know the answer after you have ticked off this list of 10. In the meantime, for those that have not hit the tarmac there yet, this is an almost of list of what to expect;
Southbank Centre. London’s home to the Royal Festival Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall. They host Festivals, Music Shows, Circus Performance, Family Theatre, Art Exhibitions at The Hayward Gallery, Readings with leading personalities, Parties, Fashion Events, and have the best ever Summer water fountain and sculptures surrounding the buildings, which bring pleasure to young and old alike.
The National Theatre, dependant on your architectural bent, possibly a dodgy looking design, but still home to some of the UK’s leading theatre makers, and performers. Three theatres of diverse world stage programming, under Direction of the influential Nicolas Hytner. Check the What’s On page for the latest shows, and booking information.
The BFI (British Film Institute) shows over 2000 classic and contemporary films every year. On site you can access 1000 hours of free film and TV in the Mediatheque and two restaurant bars. They run screenings, events and monthly seasons (The Best of The Marx Brothers), feature screen actors (Dame Maggie Smith), or work with various industry awards and events like The London Comedy Festival amongst others.
There are also loads of restaurants, pop up’s and bars with great views over the Thames. The London Eye, The Sealife Aquarium, a vintage book market (outside the BFI). Foyles the bookshop, art installations, and the legendary Skateboarding area under the Southbank Centre. For those die hard skateboarding fans, House of Vans have set up the Undercroft and transformed the historical tunnels that lie beneath Waterloo Station developing a warren of venues for art installations and skate boarding events.
Not forgetting the Captain of Sand (www.beachcaptain.com) who can always be found creating masterpieces into the Sand banks when it’s low tide, near Gabriel’s Wharf. He’s a real London gem.
9. Borough Market & Brindisa Spanish Restaurant
My idea of heaven is a late lunch (ideally with the girls for a gossip) at Brindisa (Tapas) restaurant just by Borough market, at London Bridge. It throws you into a Spanish swirl, with the best wine, seranno ham, gambas, and most importantly a glass of heart warming and cheek blushing red.
Borough Market is a foodie heaven. Though to be honest, it’s also a tourists/drinkers/walkers/locals/Aunties/Historians (delete as appropriate) heaven too. Borough Market is a wholesale and retail food market in Southwark. It is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London, and these days although it’s almost impossible to walk freely through the market at the weekends, as it is so popular, if you stand back around the edges, plan your attack for paella, hand-made chocolate or Dorset Knobs, then you will be winning. I’d also recommend any of the pubs around the market, they are all rated high with pub lovers, and will treat you kindly.
What’s more here’s a decent secret to share, they have the best spanish recipes on their website here. If you have a foodie friend with a birthday soon, how about one of their wine tasting and/or personal carving tuition courses at their Ham School. It sounds like a fantastic evening out, £75 for 2 hours. That’s got to be a good scout skill to add to your CV on LinkedIn.
10. Get out of Town to Hatfield House, Hertfordshire (Henry VIII’s Favourite hideaway for his Children)
Hatfield House is one of our favourite choices of a family day out when we need to escape the smoke, and buzz of the city. Trains leave regularly from Kings Cross to Hatfield take 21 minutes.
We often visit the Bloody Hollow Play Area, and children’s farm. There is also a decent (not cheap) cafe, sweet village shops. Our kids adore the playground, and we have lost many a long afternoon there, just remember to dress in your ‘play’ clothes, as they like are likely to scramble up the steep hill surrounding the play area, so party shoes, and Elsa and Super-man dressing up might not survive the action.
For those that plan ahead, put a visit in your diary now for April** to visit the stunning Jacobean country Hatfield house and rolling park-land. The architects that designed the tudor house were Inigo Jones, Simon Basil and Robert Lyminge. When you venture out across the park, look closely you will find an oak tree that marks the place where the young Princess Elizabeth first heard of her accession to the throne.
**Note** The House, Park and Garden are closed for the Visitor Season. They will reopen on Saturday 4th April 2015.
Fact Time : During World War I, the grounds were used to test the first British tanks