Month: September 2023

  • Modern London Icon: the Lloyds Building

    Modern London Icon: the Lloyds Building

    London, a city steeped in history, is also a beacon of modern architecture. Among its impressive skyline, the Lloyds Building, often referred to as the ‘Inside-Out Building’, is a standout. It’s not just a building; it’s a declaration of innovation, a symbol of London’s ever-evolving spirit.

    History and Construction

    The Lloyds Building, located at 1 Lime Street, houses the world-renowned insurance institution, Lloyd’s of London. Completed in 1986, this avant-garde construction took eight years in the making. The design genius behind this structure is Richard Rogers, who later became Lord Rogers of Riverside.

    The building stands on a site occupied by Lloyds since 1928, but the current structure is the third to bear the Lloyds name. When conceiving its design, Rogers aimed for a building that was both functional and forward-thinking. The result? A timeless modern marvel.

    Architectural Significance

    At first glance, what grabs attention are the building’s exposed elements: ducts, lifts, staircases, and pipework, all positioned on the exterior. By placing these services outside, Rogers freed up internal space, thus maximising room for the building’s primary purpose – insurance trading.

    This ‘inside-out’ architectural style isn’t just aesthetic. It serves a purpose. Exteriorly placed elements can be easily maintained or replaced without disturbing the building’s core function.

    The Lloyds Building in the City of London

    Design Elements

    • Towers: The Lloyds Building comprises three main towers and three service towers around a central, rectangular space.
    • Materials: Stainless steel, concrete, and glass dominate the structure. The building’s reflective properties ensure it gleams, adjusting its shade depending on London’s often moody sky.
    • Lifts: One of the building’s iconic features is its external glass lifts. They were among the first of their kind in the UK, offering passengers a panoramic view of London as they ascend.

    Inside the Icon

    While the exterior speaks of modernity, inside, the building pays homage to Lloyds’ rich heritage. The Underwriting Room is the beating heart of the building. Its centrepiece is the Lutine Bell, salvaged from the ship Lutine. Traditionally, the bell rang to announce the fate of a ship – once for its loss and twice for its safe return.


    Even before it became a trend, the Lloyds Building stood for sustainability. Its deep-plan design maximises natural light, reducing the need for artificial lighting. The building’s flexibility means that it can adapt to technological advancements and evolving work practices.

    Recognition and Legacy

    In 2011, the Lloyds Building received Grade I listed status, making it the youngest structure ever to achieve this. It’s a testament to its significance in architectural history. The building has paved the way for radical designs worldwide, proving that form and function can coexist harmoniously.

    The Building in Popular Culture

    The Lloyds Building, with its futuristic design, has caught the eye of many filmmakers and artists. It has been featured in films, television shows, and even music videos, often used as a backdrop to depict a modern or dystopian world.

    Here are a few of them.


    • “Highlander” (1986): The building can be seen as one of the modern structures of 1980s London.
    • “Entrapment” (1999): Featuring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones, the Lloyds Building makes a brief appearance.
    • “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” (2018): In a quick London cityscape shot, the iconic structure can be spotted.

    Television Shows

    • “Sherlock” (BBC series): The Lloyds Building has appeared in some shots of London’s skyline in this modern adaptation of Sherlock Holmes.
    • “Spooks” (MI-5 in some regions): Given the show’s contemporary setting in London, the Lloyds Building has made occasional appearances.
    • “Doctor Who”: Given the show’s penchant for iconic London locations, the Lloyds Building has been seen in a few episodes.

    While these are some instances, the building’s use in media is expansive. Its unique architecture ensures that it remains a popular choice for creators wanting to capture a blend of historical and modern London.

    Visiting the Lloyds Building

    Though it’s a functional building, Lloyds occasionally opens its doors to the public, primarily during the annual London Open House weekend. Visitors get a chance to experience the underwriting room, ascend in the glass lifts, and take in the breathtaking views from the Committee Room.

    The Lloyds Building isn’t just an architectural wonder; it’s a representation of London’s spirit. In a city that holds its history dear, the building shows that there’s room for the new. It’s a bridge between past and future, tradition and innovation. Like London itself, the Lloyds Building is timeless, always ready to face the future while nodding to its past.

  • The Biggest Park in London – Richmond Park

    The Biggest Park in London – Richmond Park

    Richmond Park – London’s Sprawling Oasis

    London, with its rich tapestry of history and culture, offers a relentless pace. For those longing for a breath of fresh air away from the urban jungle, Richmond Park stands out as a verdant haven.

    A Historical Overview

    Spanning an impressive 2,500 acres, Richmond Park holds the distinction of being Europe’s largest enclosed park, a legacy left by Charles I. Although enclosed during his reign, its royal roots stretch back another 400 years. Today, the park boasts designations as both a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

    Accessibility and Costs

    The joys of Richmond Park are available without an admission fee. Expenses might only arise from food or optional activities.

    Reaching Richmond Park:

    • Public Transport: Hop onto the District Line Tube or the National Rail to Richmond Station. From there, the 371 or 65 bus routes will ferry you directly to the Petersham gate.
    • By Car: If you’re inclined to drive, Richmond Park provides six parking spaces within its perimeter.

    Activities and Experiences

    • Leisure: The vastness of Richmond Park allows for tranquil spots to simply relax and soak in nature.
    • Cycling: Pedal your way through dedicated paths. For those without their own bicycles, rentals are available near the Roehampton Gate.
    • Jogging: The park’s picturesque trails offer a refreshing backdrop for your runs.
    • Horseback Riding: Experience the park through dedicated equestrian routes.
    • Golf: Golf enthusiasts can take a swing at one of the park’s two 18-hole courses.
    • Fishing: For a calm day out, fishing is an option. Do remember to get a permit, available on-site.
    • Power Kiting: Experience the thrill of kite-surfing but on terra firma. Enrol for lessons and feel the adrenaline rush on the park’s vast grasslands.
    Richmond Park Run
    Photo credit Ruth Gledhill

    Landmarks and Spectacles

    • Henry VIII’s Hill: As you near Richmond Gate, ascend to the park’s highest point. The panoramic views of the City of London, notably featuring St. Paul’s Cathedral, are nothing short of breathtaking. Remarkably, these vistas are so esteemed that they enjoy legal protection.
    • Pembroke Lodge: This Georgian mansion has transitioned from a historic marvel to a sought-after restaurant and event venue. The estate offers captivating views, serving as a reminder of the park’s beauty.
    • The Deer: A signature of Richmond Park is its resident deer herd. While they’ve grown accustomed to human presence, a respectful distance ensures safety. Yet, they are photogenic subjects, offering ample opportunities for captivating snapshots.

    Richmond Park isn’t just another park; it’s an experience, an escape, a breath of fresh countryside air in the heart of London. Dive into its beauty and history, and find your corner of calm in the city’s sprawling expanse.

    Featured photo credit @MarkAshleyG

  • St. Christopher’s Place – a Hidden Gem in the Heart of London

    St. Christopher’s Place – a Hidden Gem in the Heart of London

    The Lay of the Land

    Tucked away from the hustle of London’s main thoroughfares are its charming secrets: narrow lanes and cosy streets that paint a different portrait of the city. Not far from Oxford Street, you’ll stumble upon one such gem: St. Christopher’s Place.

    You won’t find St. Christopher’s Place sprawling across a map with prominent markings. No, it’s discreet — almost whispering for you to find it. Shaped like an ‘H’, it comprises two elongated lanes running perpendicular to Oxford Street, with a shorter one bridging the two.

    A Gastronomic Delight

    The area thrives as a gastronomic haven. It’s a delightful parade of restaurants, each with its own slice of the world’s culinary offerings. Whether you fancy a rich Italian pasta, a French delicacy, a juicy burger, a Turkish feast, or just a hearty pizza, you’re in for a treat. And the experience is elevated, thanks to the outdoor seating that almost every restaurant there boasts. As you sip your wine or enjoy your meal, the world continues in a blur around you, yet you’re comfortably ensconced in this enclave of serenity.

    Shopping Extravaganza

    But it’s not all about food. St. Christopher’s Place is also a treasure trove for those with a penchant for shopping. As you saunter through, you’ll discover boutique stores offering clothing that stands out, glittering jewellery shops, and places where you can find chic accessories. A word to the wise, though — it leans towards the high-end, so your wallet might feel a bit lighter after a spree.

    Festive Magic in the Air

    Time your visit around Christmas, and you’re in for an even grander spectacle. The area transforms into a winter wonderland, with twinkling lights creating a canopy overhead. The radiant glow of Christmas decorations adds to the magic, casting a warm hue over everything. There’s a special allure to London during the festive season, and St. Christopher’s Place captures that essence brilliantly.

    Finding the Hidden Jewel

    Now, you might wonder: how does one find this hidden gem? Here’s a hint. As you walk down Oxford Street, let your eyes wander to the north side. Between the O2 and H&M stores, there’s an alleyway. At first glance, it seems like it’s just wide enough for a single person. Venture in, and it soon broadens out, revealing the wonders of St. Christopher’s Place. A hallmark of this entrance is a clock, accompanied by a sign — both of which can be seen if you look closely enough.

    A Cinematic Touch

    For those who regard cinema as a mirror to reality, you might recognise this place from the film “Love Actually” Remember the tender scene where Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson cross paths before they embark on their Christmas shopping spree? Yes, that was right in the heart of St. Christopher’s Place.

    So the next time you’re on Oxford Street, perhaps overwhelmed by the crowd and the ceaseless energy, and yearn for a more tranquil spot to dine or simply to gather your thoughts, let St. Christopher’s Place be your refuge. It’s a reminder that even in the heart of a sprawling city, there are pockets of calm and charm, just waiting to be discovered.

  • Understanding Football (Soccer) in London

    Understanding Football (Soccer) in London

    Football is a Tribal Thing

    Football in London is a tribal thing. I remember speaking to a local supermarket owner in Stoke Newington. He supported Trabzon Spor because he came from Trabzon; Fenerbahce, because it was a great team; and Arsenal, ‘of course’.

    Now if you live in Stoke Newington, you have two local teams you can choose – Arsenal (’the gooners’) or Tottenham Hotspur (’spurs’). London is a very big place when it comes to football, with five Premiership teams and many more in other leagues, but loyalty is often very parochial.

    Well, this article, being a snapshot in time from 2009, describes with plenty of nostalgia the glory days of one particular London football club, I am going to start my list with.

    Photo credit Ronnie Macdonald

    So, imagine you just found a time machine and teleported yourself back into 2009, right in the middle of the first part of the season of the top league of British football. Here is what you are most likely to find.

    The Premiership Teams

    • Arsenal. This used to be Woolwich Arsenal, named after the dockyard, but the team moved to north London in 1913.  Managed by suave Frenchman Mr Arsene Wenger, it’s one of the top British teams and, on its day, plays probably the most beautiful football in the world. Unless you support Spurs. It plays at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal’s home colours are red, and you can see the origins of its name in the cannon that figures on its coat of arms.
    • Spurs. The other north London team, the inveterate enemy of Arsenal. This team plays at White Hart Lane; when they play against Arsenal, it’s called ‘the North London Derby’. The home colours are white, and the crest is a cockerel standing on a football.
    • Chelsea. This team plays at Stamford Bridge. (Don’t do the same as that poor chap who put ‘Stamford Bridge’ in his satnav and ended up in Yorkshire; make sure you use the London postcode, which is SW6 1HS.) Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has spent millions on the club, buying expensive players, hiring and firing managers (Mourinho, Scolari, and now Guus Hiddink), and turning it into the club everybody loves to hate. (Except for Chelsea supporters, of course.) Considering Manchester United had filled that spot for the last, what, thirty years, that’s quite some achievement. Home colours are royal blue, and the crest shows a lion holding a staff.
    • Fulham, playing at Craven Cottage, is Chelsea’s local rival in the ‘West London Derby’. Fulham only just survived in the Premiership last year but has managed to stay mid-table this year.  This club is owned by Harrods boss Mohammed al-Fayed. The home colours are black and white, and the shield simply shows the letters FFC for Fulham Football Club.  Official mascot Billy the Badger (picking up on the black and white colours of the club) was sent off last year during a match for breakdancing on the pitch while the game was in progress.
    • The last of the five premiership clubs is West Ham, based at Upton Park, which plays in claret and blue. Famous for its team anthem, ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’. West Ham was at one time noted for its hooligans, the ‘Inter City Firm’, and had particular trouble with old rival Millwall FC: Milwall no longer plays in the Premier League (it’s in League One, below the Championship and so two leagues below West Ham) so there’s no occasion for trouble now.

    Below these clubs, though, London has many more. In the Championship, the league below the Premiership, there are three; Charlton Athletic, Crystal Palace, and Queens Park Rangers (QPR).

    The Weird One

    The strangest of the ‘London’ clubs is Wimbledon. Yes, Wimbledon is in London – but the club isn’t. It moved to Milton Keynes in 2004 and is now known as the MK Dons.

    You’ll find many people, even if they support one of the major clubs, have a soft spot for Leyton Orient, which plays at the Matchroom Stadium in Brisbane Road, Leyton, east London. Leyton Orient’s team are often known simply as ‘the O’s’. Famously, it was bought for five quid in 1995 – a far cry from the multi-million-pound deals being done in the Premiership!

    But its great claim to fame is the Leyton Orient Supporters’ Club, which is celebrated for its commitment to real ale, and hosts regular beer festivals which, odd to relate, usually coincide with at least one football match.

    I used to work with someone who told me Leyton Orient used to be a great club. (This is true.) He also told me that in the old days, when it was called Clapton Orient, it won the FA Cup. That was a fib. The furthest they ever got was the semi-final (in 1978). Probably just as well; it’s a lovely club, and too much success might have spoiled it…

    Photo credit Ben Sutherland.

  • Trooping the Colour: The Majesty and Tradition Behind the Queen’s Dual Celebrations

    Trooping the Colour: The Majesty and Tradition Behind the Queen’s Dual Celebrations

    Ever since I can remember, the Queen’s unique way of celebrating her birthday has been a source of envy for me. Can you imagine having not one, but two birthdays in a single year? One is her natural day of birth, akin to the way we all mark our yearly milestones. The other, an official birthday, is set for a more predictable time when the unpredictable British weather is less likely to dampen the spirits of grand outdoor celebrations like those at garden parties. Oh, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she unwraps two sets of gifts, each time. The cherry on top? Her official birthday is invariably fixed for a Saturday, ensuring a weekend of merriment. Now, that’s the royal treatment!

    The splendid Trooping the Colour, a tradition spanning many generations, marks her official birthday. This year, it is scheduled for June 14th and promises to be an extraordinary affair. The Household Division, an elite unit that serves as the Queen’s personal guard, is set to lead the parade. Picture this: 200 majestic horses, over a thousand gallant soldiers in full regalia, all lining up in ceremonial precision, waiting for the monarch’s inspection. After the detailed review, the procession moves towards Buckingham Palace. Here, from its historic balconies, the Queen and her entourage enjoy a breathtaking fly-past by the RAF.

    So, what exactly is “Trooping the Colour?” This tradition has its origins in military strategy. Historically, “trooping” the regimental colours ensured that soldiers could easily identify and rally around their unit’s standard during the chaos of battle. Fast forward to our technologically advanced times, and our soldiers are equipped with GPS, radios, and other gadgets, rendering this practice obsolete from a tactical standpoint. However, some rituals are too cherished to fade away. Today, Trooping the Colour stands as a proud testament to Britain’s rich heritage and is a spectacular ceremonial display—a domain where the English unquestionably excel.

    Kettle Drummer from the Household Cavalry During Trooping the Colour

    Now, if you’re hoping to be amidst the esteemed gathering at Horse Guards Parade, and haven’t secured a ticket yet, it might be a tad late. Those tickets are as sought after as golden Willy Wonka tickets! But not to fret. An equally impressive vantage point is The Mall. It provides a fantastic view of the ceremony, and you can absorb the atmosphere and the reverberations of history being enacted.

    If you’re a real enthusiast and keen on behind-the-scenes experiences, consider attending the rehearsals. They’re nothing short of spectacular themselves. A week prior to the Trooping, on June 7th, there’s the Colonel’s Review. Delve a bit further back, on May 31st, and you can witness the Major General’s Review. Both are mesmerizing spectacles that give you a glimpse into the rigorous preparations and the unmatched precision of the ceremonies.

    In essence, these ceremonies and traditions underscore the essence of British regality, history, and the nation’s penchant for upholding customs. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, witnessing these events is a rendezvous with history, pageantry, and an undying legacy. The Queen’s two birthdays are not just dates on a calendar; they represent the continuity of traditions, the pride of a nation, and indeed, a reason for many, like me, to look on with a touch of envy and a whole lot of admiration.

  • Great London Pubs – the Sherlock Holmes and Ship & Shovell

    Great London Pubs – the Sherlock Holmes and Ship & Shovell

    The Sherlock Holmes pub is conveniently located not far from the National Gallery, the Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square. It’s on Northumberland Street, just off the main drag.  If you’re looking for a cooling pint after your touristic endeavours, it’s an atmospheric place to relax. It’s recreated Sherlock Holmes’s digs in 221B Baker Street – though I do wonder why this was done here, and not anywhere nearer to Baker Street itself!

    It serves real ale – Greene King Abbot Ale, for instance, or Speckled Hen. (Don’t be fooled by the Sherlock Holmes ale – a bit of detective work shows that it’s rebadged Morlands, apparently.)

    The Sherlock Holmes Pub, London

    However, if the rather touristy feel of Sherlock Holmes puts you off, just take a little walk up to the Strand, where the Ship & Shovell in Craven Passage has a ramshackle charm. And serves beers you won’t find everywhere – Badger beer, to be precise, including the famed Tanglefoot.

    Even better, you have a choice of two tiny bars, one on each side of the alleyway. One is snug, with wooden benches and fine mirrors, and the other is even snugger – practically just a bar with a tiny allotment of space for you to stand in. Difficult to choose between the two. I suppose if you wanted to be entirely free of bias, you could always drink in the alleyway itself…

    Now, there’s a little bit of history here because you’ll probably have noticed the odd spelling of Shovell. That’s because it doesn’t refer to a digging implement, but to Sir Cloudesley Shovell – the admiral who got his fleet lost in the English Channel. Having refused to listen to a sailor who was a rather better navigator than he was, the admiral ended his life on the rocks of the Isles of Scilly. It’s said that he struggled ashore alive, but a local woman killed him and cut off his finger in order to get at his expensive ring.

    All in all, just as interesting a story as anything in the casebook of Sherlock Holmes!

    Photo courtesy of Ewan Munro.

  • Oxford vs. Cambridge University Boat Race

    Oxford vs. Cambridge University Boat Race

    This Sunday, 29th March, sees the University Boat Race – Oxford and Cambridge competing again, as they have for over 150 years, to win this annual event.

    The Boat Race, like the Derby, the Grand National or the FA Cup Final, is one of those sporting events that has become part of popular culture. You don’t have to be an alumnus of either university or interested in rowing, to know about the Boat Race – or to have fun going to see it.

    Although the Boat Race itself won’t start till 1540 in the afternoon, turn up early, and you’ll be able to see the reserve boats, Isis (Oxford) and Goldie (Cambridge), race.

    Cambridge colours are light blue; Oxford, dark blue. (Those who have represented either University in a sports team are known as ‘blues’, for this reason.) Depending on where you are on the course, it may not be obvious which team is which – on one famous occasion, a poor BBC commentator said, “I can’t see who’s in front, but it’s either Oxford or Cambridge.”  Er, yes, precisely.

    This race will be the 155th. Currently, the tally stands with Cambridge ahead, having won 79 races to Oxford’s 74; each team has been sunk once (Cambridge in 1859 and Oxford in 1925), and there has been a dead heat once (in 1877).

    The race is rowed over a distance of just over four miles – 4 miles, 374 yards to be precise – in the Thames tideway. The fact that the river is still tidal here makes for extra interest; the race is rowed upstream but on an incoming flood tide (an hour before high water). The coxes of the two boats aim to use tidal currents to assist their boats’ performance; at the same time, they have to steer around three huge bends. Clashes of blades (oars) are common as they jockey for position.

    This is a long race – the record time is 16 minutes, 19 seconds, rowed by the Cambridge crew in 1998, and last year’s race took over 20 minutes in very rough weather. Wherever you stand, you’ll only see part of the race – though three big screens are being put up this year, so you can watch the rest of the race via TV coverage.  One screen will be at Bishops Park, Fulham (Putney Bridge tube station), and the other at Furnival Gardens, Hammersmith, about halfway along the course.

    There are numerous good places to watch on either bank of the river. The riverbanks are liberally dotted with pubs, so you can get a pint or two once you’ve watched the boats go by. My favourite place during the rest of the year is the Hammersmith riverbank, with its lovely alleyways and old pubs – but for the Boat Race, I have to say the atmosphere at the end of the course is probably unbeatable. And there’s a good pub there, too – the Ship, by Chiswick Bridge.

    The only disappointing thing about the end is that apparently, only two teams that were behind at the Barnes railway bridge have ever managed to come back and win. So you’re probably not going to see that exciting a finish. Then, on the other hand, you might always see one of the boats sink…

    If you can’t get down to the Thames, you can watch the race live on ITV1. And you can have a bet on the race in most bookies if the fancy takes you.

    I shall, as ever, be supporting Cambridge. And drinking Fullers – because the Fullers brewery is actually on the Boat Race course!

  • London’s Premier Pitches: The Top Five Football Stadiums to Experience

    London’s Premier Pitches: The Top Five Football Stadiums to Experience

    London’s football atmosphere is top-notch, complemented by its amazing stadiums. Serving as the arenas for epic titanic clashes, they also offer a unique experience for fans. Here are 5 must-see football stadiums in London.

    1. The iconic Wembley Stadium is the cream of the crop. Its grand structure and special history have hosted many memorable events, including England’s ’66 World Cup win. It has state-of-the-art facilities and a seating capacity of over 90,000.
    2. Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea Football Club, is renowned for its passionate supporters. The crowd’s proximity to the pitch creates an intense atmosphere that makes every match even more thrilling.
    3. Emirates Stadium is Arsenal Football Club’s pride and joy. It has modern architecture and world-class amenities, with great sightlines from every seat. Its design reflects Arsenal’s stylish play.
    4. Tottenham Hotspur Stadium stands out for its cutting-edge technology. It has the latest features, providing comfort for fans while preserving the club’s traditions. Its retractable pitch makes it multi-purpose.
    5. Craven Cottage, Fulham Football Club’s home ground, is small but full of charm. It has an undeniable appeal for both home and away supporters. Stepping into Craven Cottage is like being transported to a different era of football.

    Every one of these stadiums has stories and emotions embedded in them. From Wembley’s roaring crowd to Stamford Bridge’s chants, these football venues offer an incomparable experience. So, if you’re in London, visiting these iconic stadiums is a must for any football enthusiast.

    Wembley Stadium

    Wembley Stadium in London

    Wembley Stadium is grand! It has a seating capacity of 90,000 – one of the UK’s largest. Its architecture and design are top-notch, ensuring spectators have an unforgettable experience.

    Plus, it’s home to the England national football team. It has luxurious seating and great hospitality services, making it the perfect place for football fans.

    Wembley Stadium has a fascinating history. The original was built in 1923 and saw some momentous occasions, like England’s World Cup win in 1966. Then, it was demolished in 2002 and replaced with a modern stadium.

    This majestic venue continues to captivate football fans. It’s the ideal destination for those wanting an extraordinary football experience, full of tradition and grandeur.

    Emirates Stadium

    Emirates Stadium in London

    The Emirates Stadium, located in London, is renowned. Let’s explore its remarkable features!

    Details about the Emirates Stadium:

    • Location: Holloway Road, Islington
    • Capacity: 60,704
    • Club: Arsenal FC
    • Opened: 22 July 2006
    • Pitch Size: 105m x 68m

    The stadium is special to Arsenal fans as it’s their home ground. It has hosted many significant matches and events since 2006. The pitch size of 105m x 68m provides a great playing surface.

    Pro Tip: Get to the Emirates Stadium early, experience the atmosphere, and explore the area before the match.

    Stamford Bridge

    Stamford Bridge is situated in the illustrious district of Fulham in London. It has a whopping seating capacity of 40,834, making it an ideal setting for electrifying matches. Since 1877, it has been the home ground of Chelsea Football Club.

    This stadium has a section of seating known as the Shed End, where passionate supporters cheer and chant for their team. It also comes with top-notch facilities and amenities for players and spectators.

    Over the years, Stamford Bridge has seen many renovations. These renovations have helped make it one of the premier stadiums in Europe.

    Historical sources state that this stadium was named after a bridge over a tributary of the River Thames – Stamford Creek. The stadium embodies its historic roots, as well as modernity and innovation.

    The London Traveler Says

    Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London

    Exploring the top 5 London football stadiums reveals unique experiences for all football fanatics! Just go to the Emirates Stadium, home to Arsenal FC, its modern design and grand facilities create a lively atmosphere. At Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the historic home of Tottenham Hotspur, its iconic architecture and electric atmosphere will leave you thrilled. A smaller but nevertheless exciting little stadium, Selhurst Park, home to Crystal Palace F.C., offers a great character. I did not mention it in the top 5 list, but still a London football stadium it is and should receive an honourable mention. At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea F.C.’s legendary stadium, you are taken back in time. Lastly, Wembley Stadium, often referred to as the “Home of Football”, has seen countless historic moments and boasts impressive architecture.

    These stadiums all offer distinct ambiences and unforgettable experiences. But one memory stands out. On a crisp autumn evening at Stamford Bridge, the atmosphere was filled with anticipation. The crowd erupted in cheers and jeers, creating an energy that was truly remarkable. This moment showed me the power of football to bring people together.

  • Discover Portobello Road Market: The Iconic Setting of “Notting Hill”

    Discover Portobello Road Market: The Iconic Setting of “Notting Hill”

    Have you seen the film Notting Hill? Well, the central market that’s featured in the film is a fantastic real-life market that you can visit nearly every day. It’s called the Portobello Road Market.

    Getting there

    Trellick Tower as Seen from Portobello Road Market

    Take either the Central, District, or Circle line to the Notting Hill Gate Tube station. (A number of buses also serve the area.) Signs at and near the station will show directions to the market.

    Operating Hours

    The market operates every day except Sunday. It opens each morning at 8am, and closes at 6:30pm except for Thursday, when it closes at 1pm. Saturday is the main day for the antiques market.

    What to Expect

    If you go on a Saturday, expect a very packed street market that goes on for what seems like forever. (It’s over a half-mile long.) Each block or so has a new theme, such as antiques, food, arts & crafts, etc. In addition to the street vendors, there are also unique shops, cafes and restaurants on both sides along the entire length of the market. These can be just as good or better than the vendors on the street.

    How Much Time?

    It takes an hour or two to walk the length of the street. If you’re an intensive shopper, it could take a few hours more to browse the variety of shops available.

    Portobello Road is one of the top markets in London, particularly for tourists. I would certainly recommend a visit, particularly for fans of the Notting Hill movie!

    Tips for Visiting:

    Dress Comfortably

    With the amount of walking and browsing you’re bound to do, make sure to wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather. London can be unpredictable, so a light raincoat or umbrella might be a good idea.

    Cash is King

    While many stalls and shops do accept card payments, there are some that are cash only. There are ATMs around the market, but it’s always a good idea to carry some cash with you.

    Haggling is Allowed

    Antiques Stall at Portobello Road Market

    Especially in the antiques and bric-a-brac sections. But always remember to be polite and know that not every stallholder will be open to negotiation.

    Early Birds Get the Worm

    If you’re serious about shopping, particularly for antiques, try to get there early. The best items can be snapped up quickly, and the market is less crowded in the morning.

    Stay Hydrated and Nourished

    With so many food stalls and cafes along Portobello Road, take breaks to refresh and recharge. Trying out local delicacies is part of the market experience. You should try some proper jerk chicken from the Jamaican food wizards.

    Mind your Belongings

    Like any busy tourist spot, Portobello Road Market is no different. Always be aware of your belongings. Keep your bag zipped and close to you, and be wary of pickpockets.

    History of the Market

    Vintage Photo of Portobello Road Market

    The history of the Portobello Road Market dates back to the 19th century. Originally, it began as a fresh food market. Over the years, it has expanded to include second-hand goods, which eventually led to its fame as an antiques market. Today, while the antiques are a significant draw, the market offers a mix of fashion, crafts, music, and more, reflecting the diverse and ever-evolving culture of London.

    Events and Festivals

    Throughout the year, Portobello Road Market plays host to various events and festivals. The summer months often see live music, art displays, and other local festivities. It’s worth checking the market’s official website or local event listings to see if there’s something special happening during your visit.

    The London Traveler Says

    Whether you’re a movie fan, a passionate shopper, or simply a traveller eager to soak up the local London vibe, Portobello Road Market offers an unparalleled experience. The mix of history, culture, and shopping is irresistible. Don’t miss the chance to wander its bustling aisles, uncover hidden treasures, and immerse yourself in the spirit of Notting Hill.

  • Westminster Cathedral: The Neo-Byzantine Marvel in the Heart of London

    Westminster Cathedral: The Neo-Byzantine Marvel in the Heart of London

    Westminster Cathedral is one of the great sights of London – in my book, anyway.

    First of all, I’d better make sure no one confuses it with Westminster Abbey. The Abbey is where Kings, Queens, poets and the Establishment are buried; it’s a medieval building in the Gothic style and an Anglican church. The Cathedral, on the other hand, is a Victorian building in the neo-Byzantine style, and it’s a Roman Catholic church.

    The foundation stone was laid in 1895. Architect JF Bentley didn’t choose the Gothic or classical styles that competed elsewhere in London for space – he looked to Byzantium and, in particular, to the great church of Hagia Sophia with its immense dome. Like the Byzantine churches, this one is mainly in brick – and brick that’s not hidden by stone cladding, but proudly proclaimed in the white-and-red decorative fabric of the great west front.

    It’s a magnificent building, even though on a busy day, it sometimes reminds me of a large railway station – there’s the same booming acoustic, the same to-ing and fro-ing, the same muted hum. It’s huge, for a start – 342 feet long, 148 feet wide, with three great domes and using over 10 million bricks.

    The other thing that puzzles me is why this cathedral looks so much like an Ottoman mosque. I know the Turks were much influenced by Hagia Sophia, so perhaps there’s a mutual influence there – but the west front, with its little domed turrets cascading down from the great dome, really does look incredibly like one of the great mosques of Istanbul – Sultanahmet perhaps, or Suleymaniye. The tower looks almost as much like a minaret as it does a Byzantine tower.

    Whether it makes you think ‘Ottoman’ or ‘Byzantine’, there’s undeniably something exotic about this church. You won’t find anything quite like it in London (though the Natural History Museum comes close.)

    The interior is splendidly decorated with marble and mosaic. The marble used in the decoration comes from Greece, from Languedoc (the red), from Verona (the yellow), and from Carrara in Italy (the capitals at the top of each column). The altar, on the other hand, is made out of Cornish granite – and apparently weighs ten tons.

    Westminster Cathedral Inside

    Don’t miss the Stations of the Cross. They were carved by the great Eric Gill – a master stonemason and engraver. His work is clearly twentieth-century, and yet it has something of the intensity and concentration of the best medieval art about it. (His impassive, finely carved figures weren’t understood at the time when they were unveiled in 1915-16 – they were widely derided as flat and undevotional; it’s only later that Gill’s real artistic value was understood.)

    Entrance to the cathedral is free, but there’s a charge to ascend the campanile – a marvellous red-and-white striped needle – for a marvellous view of London. And there is a lift – in case you were worried about your ability to manage all those steps.

    The cathedral choir is also renowned, particularly for its performance of Spanish Renaissance music. The wonderful acoustic doesn’t hurt, either. Go to choral vespers, and it’s rumoured you won’t even have to sit through a sermon – just smells and bells and the most marvellous music.

    Where: Victoria Street, SW1 (Victoria tube station)

    When: cathedral 7am to 7pm, tower viewing gallery 930-1230 and 1-5pm. The cathedral closes at 5.30pm on public holidays.

    How much: Westminster Cathedral is free to visit, but there is an admission charge for the tower.