Author: Michael Mansell

  • 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.

  • A Visitor’s Guide to British Pubs

    A Visitor’s Guide to British Pubs

    Going to a British pub, for a beer or food, is one of those experiences that you have to have in London. Partly because it’s tough to avoid, but partly because you will never have a hope of understanding Britain unless you’ve spent at least a little time in the pub.

    Opening Hours

    Until recently, pubs closed at 11pm. There were other licensing laws that allowed other types of establishments to be open and serve drinks later (such as dance clubs, etc.), but pubs were limited to 11pm. A new law recently came into effect which allows pubs to apply to be open later. You’ll now find that some are open until midnight or 1am, and some have licenses to open around the clock. However, most still seem to close at 11pm.

    Ordering drinks & food

    It’s sometimes amusing for locals to see tourists at a pub. They’ll sit down at a table, and wait virtually forever to be served. But that’s the thing… there is no table service in pubs. If you want a drink, or even if you want food, you have to order it at the bar. I’ve heard stories of some people waiting nearly 45 minutes before they figured it out, but those people were also engrossed in a football match.

    When you order food, the staff will typically ask you where you’re sitting, and/or give you a number to display on your table. They’ll bring it out when it’s ready. (There are very occasionally pubs that do have table service, but these are rare.)

    Couple Chatting and Drinking at a London Pub


    Tipping is never an easy topic, except perhaps at British pubs. The general rule? Tipping isn’t done. The staff are paid well enough that they don’t need anything extra, and it’s culturally just not done. That said, if you really feel like you’re being rude by not tipping, just say something along the lines of “… and one for yourself” when ordering. The staff will buy a drink for themselves and charge it to your order. But even this is very rare.

    Queueing for Drinks

    The British queue for everything. This includes a queue at the bar getting a drink. Please be mindful of who was there before you. Typically bar staff are good about keeping track of who needs to be served next, but the last thing you want to do is cut in line. It’s a big offence to Britons.

    Pub culture

    Pubs are an integral part of British culture. Over three-quarters of the population go to pubs, and over a third are regulars (at least once a week). They often serve the role that coffee shops do in the United States, as a community meeting place. In smaller towns and villages, the pub is truly the centre of socialisation for the people there. Everyone in the country has an opinion about their “local,” the pub they are closest to or are a regular at. The only problem in London is that the city is so dense that any number of pubs could be your “local.” For example, I live within a ten-minute walk of at least 12 proper pubs, and I think of three of them as “local.”

    Drink on a Pub Table

    One of the best things about British pubs is that you can take drinks outside, and there are often tables and benches outside to sit and enjoy your drinks with friends. Walking around London on Thursday and Friday afternoons in the summer, you will see pubs with tens or hundreds of people spilling out into the streets outside. Scenes like the photos at the top and below are commonplace.

    The London Traveler Says

    Even if you’re not a drinker, you should at least stop by a pub for a meal. Pubs are really at the centre of British culture, and you’ll never truly understand the country unless you’ve spent some time at a pub. With around 60,000 pubs across the UK, you’ll always be near one!

  • The Less Protein Man – a Sight of Old London

    The Less Protein Man – a Sight of Old London

    The Little Man in Oxford Street

    Every time I went to Oxford Street, somewhere along it, I would see a little man, with a banner in his hand, shuffling along the pavement.

    He never seemed to say anything, never seemed to be with anyone, wasn’t part of a demonstration or a cult. He didn’t grab people to tell them their sins or try to convert them. He didn’t preach. He just seemed to be an oddity – one of those oddities for which London has always been famous.

    The Message

    The message on his board was strange, too. It said: “Less passion from less protein”, and then under that was a list of the bad proteins – “meat, fish, bird egg, cheese, peas beans”. I don’t think punctuation was his strong point.

    Besides, he seemed wrong for Oxford Street somehow. Not only wasn’t he some kind of religious revivalist or preacher, he just looked like the wrong kind of bloke to be walking up and down with a banner. He looked like a mild, rather worn old man, the kind who really ought to be on an allotment or taking the dog out for a walk. There was no crazy gleam in his eye.

    He always made me think of Pythagoras, who wouldn’t let his disciples eat beans. And yesterday, when I was writing about Govinda’s and Ayurvedic theory, I was reminded of him. So I looked him up on the internet.

    His name was Stanley Green. And my idea that he should have been on an allotment somewhere wasn’t far off; he had, at one time, been a gardener. But he started doing his ‘protein man’ work in 1968, and from then on, it seems to have been his entire life. He was still going strong when I started working in London in the early 1980s.

    The Protein Advice

    He took his own advice on proteins. He believed too much protein inflamed sexual desire – so he lived on bread, porridge and barley water. Alas, he is no longer with us – he died in 1993. (He now has his own entry in the  Dictionary of National Biography, bless him.)

    Although I’m afraid I couldn’t ever agree with him on protein – I like my steak tartare far too much and cannot resist a cashew nut – I think he had some interesting things to say to us. For instance, his little leaflet (the title page of which you see above, and which he printed at home) warns us about the perils of the mass media. And he’d never seen Big Brother!

    “BEWARE of the fun of indecent suggestions; of the amusement from the titillating scandal of private lives; of the diversion of the undress of low journalism, etcetera. These things erode our morals and twist young minds.”

    His devotion to duty, his steadfastness, and his utter burning integrity are impressive. But I never did quite work out what was the meaning of the last line of his banner;


    Photo credit: Simon Crubellier on Flickr

  • From Londinium To The Shard – And Everything In Between

    From Londinium To The Shard – And Everything In Between

    “Micky, I need help quickly! Can you think of an ancient or at least medieval place that I can take a small group of tourists to visit near the Shard? I have thirty minutes before they finish taking pictures. Need quick ideas. Kisses, Sis.”

    Before we continue, let me say I hate being called Micky, and one of the two people who can come away with it is Sis – a.k.a my older sister Helen. This single SMS is why I decided to create The London Traveler – or rather, the catalyst. When I received it, I was at the Tower Hill Gardens, drawing the remnants of the Roman London wall. If drawing is a frustrating hobby (I have never been quite able to master it), ancient history is a lifelong passion. Sitting a few yards away from the fortifications, built more than eighteen centuries ago by my favourite ancient civilisation, was a huge thrill. I’ve never been able to understand why the London Wall is so greatly underrated, and my only explanation is that many Londoners and visitors to the city are not even aware of its existence. 

    London Eye

    Apart from being my protective older sister, Helen is a busy travel guide. But if I can talk for hours about Roman Britain, Vindolanda, the Saxon invasion and the coming of the Vikings, she is an expert on the most modern and glitzy landmarks in London (like the world-famous London Eye, for example). I was not surprised at all that she had taken her group to the Shard – after all, who could resist the chance to take a shot of the London skyline from birdseye view? I didn’t have to think twice before I sent her a message back, tipping her to take her tourists (it turned out they were Japanese) to the Tower Hill Garden and the London Wall. After all, the two landmarks are barely a mile away from each other, and if you choose to take the walk, you will have to cross one of the two most iconic bridges over the Thames – either Tower or London Bridge. 

    With our brief message exchange done, I could go back to my drawing. But my inspiration had slipped away, and instead, I was in a contemplative mood. I couldn’t think of a better dichotomy to describe London than the Roman wall near The Tower and the Shard across the river. Eighteen centuries and at least four civilisations separated them, yet they were just a bridge apart. In between and around them, history has woven one of the most astounding urban chronicles in the world. 

    Roman Londinium

    London, or Londinium, was founded by the Romans in the mid-1st century AD – whether at the time of the Claudian invasion or shortly after, it is beside the point. The Romans, with their keen eye for strategic locations and trade, immediately recognised the advantages of the site – easy riverine access to the Channel and the Continent beyond, dominating the fords of the Thames and the main transport link on the central south-north axis of the island. Soon, Londinium was a thriving commercial entrepot and asserted its natural position as the capital of Roman Britain. It is no surprise, then, that the local military governors decided to erect massive ramparts protecting the burgeoning city on the Thames, probably in the late 2nd or early 3rd century AD (by this time, Londinium had a population of at least 50,000 people). It must have been the same logic that accounted for the building of the much more famous Hadrian Wall – the Roman realisation that the local tribes would not be easily subdued and civilised the way Caesar forced the Gallic tribes into submission. From the late 2nd century AD to the end of the Roman presence in Britain in the mid-5th century, their strategy was fundamentally defensive. 

    Fragment of the London Wall at Tower Hill Garden.

    Having said all that, one would expect London to retain a bit more of its Roman heritage. Instead, the city is almost entirely modern, with a few wrinkles of medieval churches and the Tower of London. Unlike many European cities outside Italy, London has not retained even one building in its original form from its Roman period. Compare that to the magnificent amphitheatres in Nimes and Arles (France), Cartagena and Merida (Spain), the Roman theatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria or the stunning Palace of Diocletian in Split, Croatia. The best we can come up with is the St Pancras Old Church in Camden and St Bride’s Church at Fleet Street. However, both stand at the site of probable worshipping sites of the Roman period and do not represent the original buildings. If we compare them to other European cities, the magnificent Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was consecrated in 532 AD and, to this day, remains a symbol of the unsurpassed architectural mastery of the late Roman empire. The St. Sophia Church in Sofia, Bulgaria, was also built during the reign of Justinian the Great (mid-6th century) and has remained the tallest building in the city since the early 20th century. 

    Why London Lacks Ancient Architectural Heritage?

    Even if we push the boundary to the Medieval Age, London cannot boast of too many landmarks. The legendary White Tower of London and Westminster Hall were built in the early Norman period (1066 and 1097, respectively), but the latter was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1834. Which, of course, leads us to the logical question – why hasn’t London retained more of its ancient and medieval architectural heritage? 

    The London fire of 1666 destroyed the medieval heart of the city.

    I have already mentioned the word that holds the answer – fire. Although London has never been conquered by a foreign enemy since 1066 (we can hardly count the Glorious Revolution of 1688 as a foreign invasion), apocalyptic fires have plagued the city and its historical landmarks throughout the centuries. None more so than the Great Fire of 1666, immortalised by Sir Samuel Pepys. The 4-day calamity obliterated the medieval city of London, taking down fabled buildings like St Paul’s Cathedral, the Guildhall, almost a hundred parish churches, numerous private houses and public buildings. Medieval London perished in the flames, only to give Sir Christopher Wren a tabula rasa for his creative genius. The city we know today was, to a large extent, planned and built by Wren.

    I was thinking about all this and more when I heard the clicking sound of cameras approaching me from the south. “You are daydreaming about your Romans again, aren’t you?” Helen asked, pointing her group to the Tower. No, I wasn’t. In fact, I was planning a blog about all things London, even the Shard.