Saturday, 4 February 2012

Ride the rapids at Lee Valley White Water Centre

Address:Lee Valley White Water Centre
Station Road, Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire EN9 1AB
Tel: +44 (0)8456 770 606

Rafting tickets are priced from £49.
How to get there
By Car
The centre is on the north-east edge of London, five minutes from the M25, near Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire.
By Train
The train journey to the centre takes about 40 minutes from London Liverpool Street Station, which includes a 20 minute walk through River Lee Country Park. You can also reach the centre via Waltham Cross station where buses will take you to the main entrance.

The Lee Valley White Water Centre is an amazing white water rafting centre on the north-east edge of London which will be the scene of the London 2012 Olympic canoe slalom competition.

The Centre opened on April 22, 2011, to the public who can use the facilities before the Games begin and is the only brand new London 2012 venue that the general public will be able to use before the start of the 2012 Olympics.

If you want an action-packed filled day, then take a visit. As an Olympic venue, the Lee Valley White Water Centre was built to be the best the best in the world. It has two separate courses a 160-metre Legacy Loop with grade 3 rapids and a 300-metre Olympic Standard Competition Course with grade 4 rapids and with a 5.5-metre drop from the start to the finish of the pool.

The Competition Course has 300 metres of obstacles, drops and waves, and enough fast-flowing white water to fill a 25-metre swimming pool in less than half a minute.

Almost anyone can have a go at rafting. So, if you’re looking for some challenging sporting activities during your London vacation, this is a chance to test your skills on this demanding Olympic course. Just bring your suitsuit, a towel and your nerves.

Official Website

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew)

One of the many conservatories at Kew

By London Underground
Nearest Tube Station: Kew Gardens.
Take the District Line towards Richmond.
(Got a child buggy or wheel chair? Then go one extra stop to Richmond (two minute journey) and then come to Kew on the East Bound Platform to avoid the steps over the bridge)

By Train(South West Trains) regular stopping service from Waterloo, via Vauxhall and Clapham Junction, stop at Kew Bridge station. Alternatively take a fast train to Richmond and take tube back to Kew.

Opening Times
Gardens open: 9.30 daily. (except closed 24th / 25th December)
Closing times vary throughout the year 4.15pm - 7.30pm: Check website for details

Admission Prices
Adults £13.90, Concessions £11.90, Children FREE

London is not just bustling shops, theatres and restaurants. There are some incredible green spaces too. When planning a stay in London you must find a day to go and visit the historic and beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.

Kew was the world's first and still the greatest Botanic Garden in the world, with an unrivalled reputation for the excellence of its research and the most comprehensive collect of plants and trees. Walk amongst the 300 acre site which borders the River Thames. You will enjoy it if you are just a casual visitor wanting to spend a few hours in a very agreeable environment as much as the keen gardener or professional botanist. But it is more than just trees and plants. Do not miss the many buildings of architectural and historic interest, not least the extraordinary Palm House and the Temperate House as well as recent high tech additions which provide highly controlled environments such as the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

The most recognised feature is the famous the Pagoda. It has amazing walks along wide grassy rides which provide vistas designed to lead the eye to its best features. The landscape has been fashioned by many of the leading garden designers of their day including Charles Bridgeman, 'Capability Brown' and W. A Nesfield. Kew has an Ice House, a Cottage built for Queen Charlotte, a Royal Palace, spectacular statuary, a Japanese Gate and garden, follies, terms, sculpture, parterres, quiet - almost private - gardens, wide sweeping lawns, lakes, ponds, a huge rockery.

The quantity and variation of plants, shrubs, grasses, bamboos of every kind is mind blowing. Many locals are year long members because visiting Kew on any day of the year you will see something different each time. New plantings are constantly appearing and older features re-designed and re-planted. For many people it is, however, one of the best places in London to go for a few hours of rest and contemplation. Nobody who has visited it could fail to love it. That's why so many people get married there or have their ashes scattered.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012


Regent Street
London W1B 5AH
(Entrance is located on Great Marlborough Street)

Opening Hours
Monday - Saturday 10am - 8pm
Sunday 12pm - 6pm

Liberty is one of the last great emporiums for innovative and eclectic design. Situated in the heart of London since 1875, it remains to this day the destination of choice for the savvy and sophisticated shopper.

By far the best department store in London, Liberty has been named number one of the 100 best shops in London by Time Out Magazine for the third year running. If you want a truly British Iconic Shopping experience then steer away from Harrods and Selfridges and have a fantastic time in the Tutor Mansion.

Time Out Review
“Tah-dah! Time Out’s best shop this year is Liberty – the creakiest, wonkiest and most beloved emporium in London!

The mock Tudor department store was a clear winner – so many of our panellists singled it out – and rightly so. Liberty was founded in 1875, but the present Marlborough Street site, with its ships’ timbers and leaded windows, was built in the 1920s. The interconnecting jumble of rooms, with the odd fireplace and cushioned window seat, makes for an intimate feel – as if you’ve strayed into a private room in a stately house. It’s not an accident, founder Arthur Lasenby Liberty wanted customers to feel as if they were exploring someone’s home, keeping the shopping galleries small, albeit linked to three rather grand atriums.

Although Liberty trades well on its history, it constantly squeezes innovation into its wood-panelled rooms. Alongside one of the best edits for fashion shopping in the world, in 2011 it expanded its men’s floor, adding a huge tailoring and accessories chamber packed full of posh undies. The Paper Room soon followed on the ground floor with micro-floral Liberty print stationery and gifts, and then the Dining Room opened – quirky cookware and gadgetry in a space modelled on the kitchen in Downton Abbey.

French publishing powerhouse Assouline opened its Literary Lounge on the ground floor, where you can flick through fashion, art and photography coffee-table books (which are, oddly, the size of coffee tables). The Beauty Hall then doubled in size with ten new brands – their counters manned by an eerily beautiful staff. And five new treatment rooms are set to open.

But for all its pomp and fizz, Liberty doesn't take itself too seriously – there's a genuine sense of whimsy in its approach to retail. Collaborations with brands like Nike produce floral sneakers (that instantly sell out) and, via its Art Fabrics project, Liberty has worked with babydoll-dress fancier Grayson Perry and even Hello Kitty to create exclusive fabrics. Liberty threw a Hawaiian luau (complete with rum shack) for its Vogue Fashion’s Night Out party in September. It also hosts Dragons’ Den-like open days for entrepreneurs to pitch new products (which usually involves nervous people dragging sofas and knick-knackery up and down the stairwells). Visitors can also have their moustache expertly trimmed and waxed at Murdock barbers or their barnacles plucked off by expert chiropodists in the Margaret Dabbs Sole Spa.

Unapologetically eccentric and truly innovative, Liberty is a London icon – and is Time Out’s Best London Shop 2011."

Take a ride in a London Taxi

No trip to London is complete without a ride in a London taxi! Classically they were black cabs, but today they also come decorated in a dazzling palette of colours these days. Every Black Cab driver must complete the 'knowledge' which is a rigorous test of London route and a comprensive knowledge of theatre, hotels, embassies, and points of interest. To complete the knowledge takes 3-5 years. Therefore your Black Cab driver is a highly trained individual. They are renowned for the chat and banter so if you have any questions about London then ask them.

The London taxi is a fasinating story that goes back to the 1700's. London Taxi Story

Black cabs can be hailed in the street or at designated ranks situated in prominent places, including many mainline rail, Tube and bus stations. They can also be booked by telephone.

If the yellow TAXI sign at the front is illuminated, the cab is available for hire. Black cabs are legally obliged to take on any job for journeys up to 12 miles (20 miles for cabs at the Heathrow Airport taxi ranks), or up to one hour duration.

London Cabs Fares and Tips
Fares are metered, and there is a minimum charge of £2.20. Black cabs are licensed to carry up to five people (six in the special Metrocabs and Mercedes Vitos) plus luggage. There are no additional charges for extra passengers or items of luggage.

There is a £2.40 charge when you take a black cab from Heathrow Airport and also a £2 charge when you book a black cab by telephone.

Many black cabs accept payment by credit or debit card but check with the driver before the trip starts. If you pay by card there is an additional charge of a maximum of £1 or 12.5% of the metered fare, whichever is greater.

You can tip taxi drivers as much as you like, but most people round up to the nearest pound.

London Black Cab Accessibility
All black cabs are wheelchair accessible and carry assistance dogs at no charge. Most taxis have a variety of additional aids for travellers, including:
Swivel seat
Intermediate step
Seat sight patches
Large coloured grab handles
Induction loop

Stay Safe in London
Unbooked minicabs are illegal. You may be approached by minicab drivers seeking passengers or offering a service; avoid these at all costs as these are unsafe, unlicensed, uninsured and illegal and you put yourself in danger if you use these services.

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Monday, 30 January 2012

National Gallery


Trafalgar Square

Opening hours
Daily: 10am – 6pm
Friday: 10am – 9pm

Admission: Free

London's National Gallery displays Western European paintings from about 1250-1900. You will find the works of Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Renoir, Rembrandt,  Turner, Gainsborough,  Cezanne and Van Gogh. There are usually  special exhibitions, lectures, video and audio-visual programmes, guided tours and holiday events for children and adults. The Gallery aims to study and care for the collection, while encouraging the widest possible access to the pictures

Sunday, 29 January 2012

London Eye

The EDF Energy London Eye (as it's current know as)  since it opened in March 2000  has become an iconic London landmark and as recognisable as St Paul's Cathedral or Big Ben. The London Eye is the UK’s most popular paid for visitor attraction, visited by over 3.5 million people a year.

The London Eye was an amazing engineering project. On a clear day at the highest part of the 'flight' you can see up to 40 kilometres in all directions from the capsules.

The London Eye was the brain-child of David Marks and Julia Barfield, a husband and wife architect team. The wheel design was seen as a metaphor for time turning into the new millennium.

There are a number of "flight" options, for instance you could combine your flight with a river cruise, take a champagne flight or book a private capsule. Pre-booking before hand is recommended (and cheaper!)  but a number of tickets are held back for same-day sale at the eye. If you haven't booked and you are looking to go during school holidays or weekends then don't bother turning up as it tends to be sold out or the queues are huge! Disabled visitors and wheelchair users should ring to pre-book a ticket. Tickets for the London Eye can be bought easily through AttractionTix.

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Saturday, 28 January 2012

Hamleys Toy Shop

If you are bringing children or buying presents to take home for them then you must take a visit to Hamleys famous toy shop on Regent Street. Most boys and girls who have visited London will have some memory of this store. I have my own Childhood Memories [click link]

The Magical Hamleys at Christmas
Hamleys toy shop is the world’s most iconic toy store. It can be found London’s famous Regent Street  and has been there since 1881.  Hamleys itself dates back to 1760 and has established itself as the United Kingdom’s best store for children’s toys and also enjoys a worldwide reputation too. Split over seven packed floors you will find modern and classic toys. The staff are very engaging and there are always loads on hands-on demonstrations of their wares. It is one of London's unique experiences and it is very easy to spend many hours as well as pounds there!

History of Hamleys (Taken from Official Website)
The wide-eyed children filling Hamleys today share something very special with our founder. A love of toys. Growing up in Bodmin, Cornwall, William Hamley might have become a tin miner. Or a fisherman. But William had other ideas. He dreamed of opening the best toy shop in the world. In 1760, he did, cramming 'Noah's Ark' with every kind of toy, from rag dolls to tin soldiers.  Over the street-sellers' calls and horses' hooves ringing on the cobbles, you could just make out the delighted cries of children as they approached the window. By the time Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, Hamleys was already a London landmark. Families flocked to William's 'Joy Emporium', now owned by his grandsons. So successful was the shop that in 1881 a new branch opened in Regent Street. To cope with the public's growing appetite for playthings, Hamleys added a further five floors of toys. We can only imagine the spectacle, as toy theatres, puppets, pedal cars and miniature railway trains jostled for space in the largest toy shop in the world. Hamleys faced hard times in the late 1920s, along with everybody else. In 1931, the picture looked bleak. The shop was forced to close and its fleet of horse-drawn delivery vans was stilled. But this story has a happy ending. Walter Lines, the Chairman of the Tri-Ang company, bought Hamleys and worked hard to bring customers back. In 1938, his efforts were rewarded - Queen Mary gave Hamleys the Royal Warrant. Even being bombed five times in the Blitz did not stop Hamleys. Wearing tin hats, staff served at the shop entrance, rushing in to collect the toys then handing them over at the door. The Festival of Britain in 1951 brought a Grand Doll's Salon as well as a vast model railway to amaze children - and their mothers and fathers. When she came to the throne, Queen Elizabeth II showed she still remembered the toys her grandmother had given her. She in turn gave Hamleys toys to her own children. In 1955, her Majesty honoured Walter Lines with a second Royal Warrant as a 'Toys and Sports Merchant'. But it was the children's smiles that truly rewarded Walter Lines and his staff. Arriving back in the present, we find Hamleys in its famous location at 188-196 Regent Street. Step over the threshold and you enter a world of joy and wonder. Over the squeaking, bleeping, whizzing and chiming of toys, you hear children laughing excitedly as they goggle at the sheer choice over our seven floors of toys and games. The toys may have changed, but if he were here today, we're sure William Hamley would recognise the same delighted faces as he guided you round the shop he dreamt of as a boy.