Duck Island Cottage: A ‘rural’ retreat in St James’s Park

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Duck Island Cottage is a 19th century building in St James’s Park

Entering St James’s Park from the Whitehall side, it’s likely you will have come across Bird Island Cottage. Situated on the eastern end of the park’s lake stands a 19th century cottage – quite a contrast with the nearby neo-classical, imposing grey stone government buildings and Buckingham Palace. Situated by the lakeside with a small stream running under a bridge linking the cottage’s two sections, it also includes a sweet little garden. When I first saw it, it reminded me of Mr McGregor’s garden in Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit tales.

As part a chain of royal parks (which are separated by roads), St James’s Park stands out from the others because of its birdlife. Established in 1603 under King James I (1566-1625), the park was named after a women’s leper hospital dedicated to St James the Less. After being landscaped, the park became home to exotic animals, including camels, crocodiles and an elephant! It wasn’t until 1664, the famous pelicans arrived as a gift by the Russian ambassador, and they still remain today. At the time, a long canal ran nearly the length of the whole park, with a duck decoy in the south-east corner to capture ducks for the royal dining table. The island in the middle of the decoy was given the name Duck Island, which was entrusted to the appointed Governor of Duck Island to oversee. The first cottage on the site wasn’t built until King William III’s (1650-1702) reign in the late 17th century, initially as a tea house. By the 18th century, Duck Island was removed due to the stench of stagnant ponds and replaced by grass.

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The view over the lake and the Tiffany fountain from the bridge

Over the centuries, the park was re-landscaped many times, with the body of water changing shape between a stream, channels, smaller ponds and now the lake as we see today. The landscape of the park today is mostly down to the Regency architect John Nash (1752-1835), who remodelled the straight canal of water into a more natural looking curved lake in the late 1820s. He also reintroduced Duck Island, which had been missing for several decades at this point. With new trees and shrubs surrounding the cottage, birdlife returned to the park.

In 1837, the Ornithological Society of London was founded with the aim to protect the birds and three years later, work started on plans for a cottage to house a bird keeper. Architect John Burges Watson (1803-1881) designed the cottage comprising of two buildings – a dwelling for the bird keeper and a clubroom for the Society – which were completed in April 1841. The two buildings were connected by a small covered bridge, offering views across the lake and garden. The romantic design appears to be Swiss inspired and wouldn’t look out of place in the countryside.

From 1900 to 1953, Duck Island Cottage was home to bird keeper Thomas Hinton. The cottage was damaged during the Blitz in 1940 and by 1953, following Hinton’s death, the cottage was abandoned after it was considered unfit for habitation. Today, the cottage features water treatment facilities and pumps for the lake and fountain, while the garden is maintained by the Royal Parks. Duck Island is a nature reserve as a sanctuary and breeding ground for the park’s birds, including herons, mute swans and eastern or great white pelicans. If you want to see the pelicans being fed, head to the grassy bank adjacent to the cottage between 2.30-3pm every day.

  • Duck Island Cottage, St James’s Park, Westminster, SW1A 2BJ. Nearest tube: Westminster or St James’s Park. Park is open daily from 5am-midnight. For more information, visit the Royal Parks website.
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The cottage grounds features an enclosed garden ‘in the Arts and Crafts style’

For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.

London Cocktail Week 2015: Tips and highlights of this year’s celebration of mixology

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London Cocktail Week returns to the capital

Anyone that follows my Instagram profile may have noticed I love cocktails. So it’s no surprise that I’m a huge fan of London Cocktail Week – an annual celebration of mixology. This year sees the team from Drink Up London hosting LCW for a sixth year in a row from 5 to 11 October 2015. For those who don’t know, LCW sees hundreds of venues across the capital get involved with special drinks promotions and events.

The main way to get the most of LCW is to buy a £10 wristbrand, which entitles you to £5 cocktails at participating venues. Last year, a large group of girlfriends and I picked up our wristbands from one of the LCW hubs and after trying one of the in-house cocktails, went on an epic bar crawl around Covent Garden, Soho and Fitzrovia, taking in about 7 or 8 bars. Many of the venues had one special LCW drink available so it was a night for experimenting (and mixing spirits… oops). I recommend to start early and also make sure you enjoy a good meal beforehand or during.

You can order your wristband online or buy one from the hub at the Vinyl Factory, 51 Poland Street in Soho, where there will also be bars and special events, or the London Cocktail Week Village at Old Spitalfields Market.

Here’s just some of my highlights during this year’s London Cocktail Week…

A one hour cruise from King’s Cross’s Granary Square on a canal boat. Daily throughout LCW. Price: £30pp.

Cocktail masterclasses from the bartenders at Happiness Forgets in Hoxton. Daily throughout LCW. One hour long. £20pp

Eat and drink your way through Soho on a guided walk by local chef Michelle Francis, who will share the history, architecture and culture of the area along the way. Friday 9 and Saturday 10 October. £69.50.

Pop-up bar for whiskey fans in Kingsland Road. Daily throughout LCW. Free entry for LCW wristband holders.

Chambord Black Raspberry Liquer are hosting a party at Brixton’s Sovereign Loss on Thursday 8 October. Featuring live music and Prohibition-style cocktails. Free entry for LCW wristband holders.

Enjoy cocktail courses paired with British American tapas in the Green Room at the House of Vans underneath Waterloo station. Thursday 8 October. £38.50.

Bringing the event to a close with a knees-up and oysters at the East London Liquor Company near Victoria Park. Sunday 11 October until midnight.

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Angel Eyes cocktail at Cellar Door

And here’s some reviews of participating bars…

Dirty Bones, 20 Kensington Church Street, Kensington, W8 4EP. Nearest tube: High Street Kensington. Click here to read Metro Girl’s review.

Ceviche Soho, 17 Frith Street, Soho, W1D 4RG. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus or Tottenham Court Road. Click here to read Metro Girl’s review.

Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings. 42 Northampton Road, Clerkenwell, EC1R 0HU. Nearest station: Farringdon or Angel. Click here to read Metro Girl’s review.

Flesh & Buns. 41 Earlham Street, Seven Dials, WC2H 9LX. Nearest tube: Covent Garden or Leicester Square. Click here to read Metro Girl’s review.

Cellar Door. Zero Aldwych, WC2E 7DN. Nearest tube: Covent Garden or Temple. Click here to read Metro Girl’s review.

Lucky Pig. 5 Clipstone St, Fitzrovia, W1W 6BB. Nearest tube: Great Portland Street or Regent’s Park. Click here to read Metro Girl’s review.

  • London Cocktail Weeks runs from 5 to 11 October 2015. For more information, visit Drink Up London.

For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.

It’s what’s inside what counts! Visiting the Sky Garden at the ‘Walkie Talkie’

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The Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street offers 360 degree views of London

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The 35th floor features large windows offering expansive views over the River Thames

20 Fenchurch Street, aka as The Walkie Talkie, is one of London’s most controversial buildings. During construction, it hit the headlines in summer 2013 after the building ended up channelling the sun’s rays into a powerful beam, which singed mats and melted cars parked on the streets below (this has since been rectified!). While most of the building is dedicated to offices, the top floors feature a garden, a bar and two restaurants. Since opening in January 2015, the restaurants and bars have been mostly well received, but the structure itself hasn’t been embraced by most Londoners as a prominent piece of the skyline. In September 2015, it was awarded the Carbuncle Cup for being the worst new building in the UK.

Designed by architect Rafael Viñoly, 20 Fenchurch Street stands tall at 160 metres. It’s the fifth tallest building in the City of London so shorter than the nearby 30 St Mary Axe, aka The Gherkin (180 metres), Tower 42 (183 metres) and 122 Leadenhall Street, aka The Cheesegrater (225 metres). But what is lacks in height, it more than makes up for width wise with its decidedly ‘top heavy’ design. The tower was controversial from the planning stages, with many concerned how the building would impact on the City’s skyline and views of iconic architecture such as St Paul’s Cathedral. The designs were granted permission because it promised a free public garden on the top.

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Enjoy views of the River and The Shard

Personally, I’m not a fan of the building architecturally. Although when I paid a visit, I did enjoy the inside of it. Alongside the other skyscrapers of the City, the Walkie Talkie is just too big and dominates the view. However, going inside, you can’t deny there’s a great vista. There’s two ways of getting up to the top of the building – either book a table at the Darwin Brasserie, Fenchurch restaurant or Sky Pod bar or apply for a free slot to visit the Sky Garden.

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20 Fenchurch Street stands tall at 160 metres

Arriving at the base of the Walkie Talkie, there is the airport security-style scanners that is typical in most skyscrapers. Visitors to the Sky Garden may need to queue a bit, although diners with reservations are able to bypass the queue to the lift. Exiting the lift on the 35th floor, you are greeted by huge windows on the façade of the building, with a balcony overlooking the Thames and The Shard across the river the dominant view. The Sky Pod bar is open for walk ups and serves cocktails and light snacks.

Turning north, you are faced with east and western terraces of garden spanning three storeys. In the middle are the two restaurants – Darwin and Fenchurch – in boxes, which have been compared by some to Portakabins. The horticultural display features Mediterranean and South African plants, giving a greenhouse feel. On the day I visited it was sunny, but hazy so the views were pretty good. However, the position of the sun made it difficult to take photos due to the reflection on the glass. Despite there being up to 200 people in the Sky Garden at a time, the huge expansive space means it doesn’t feel too crowded – except on the balcony where there were security guards controlling numbers. There’s plenty of seating both near the bar and on the terraces so you can sit amidst the greenery and enjoy a spot of nature in the middle of the city.

  • Sky Garden is open from Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Weekends 11am-9pm. Located on the 35th floor at 20 Fenchurch Street, City of London, EC3M 3BY. Nearest station: Fenchurch Street or Monument. To book a free slot, register on the Skygarden website.
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Nice view! Looking east towards the Tower Of London and Docklands

For a review of the Darwin Brasserie in the Sky Garden, click here.

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Guide to what’s on in London in October 2015

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London Cocktail Week returns to the capital in October
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The summer is finally over (sad face) and the weather is sadly getting cooler. But fortunately, London is doing its best to lift our spirits with a whole lotta fun going on around town. Obviously there’s Halloween at the end of the month (a guide to come…), but there’s tons on around town for those who aren’t interested in the ghoulish holiday.

  • Now until 1 October : St Martin’s Courtyard Film Festival

Three day free film festival in St Martin’s Courtyard. Films include Shaun Of The Dead, Atonement and Billy Elliott. Enter the online ballot to receive a free ticket at the St Martin’s Courtyard website. St Martin’s Courtyard, off Long Acre, WC2. Nearest tube: Leicester Square or Covent Garden. To sign up for tickets, visit the St Martin’s Courtyard website.

  • 1 – 31 October : London Restaurant Festival

Restaurants all over the capital are taking place in this festival, offering special menus, discounts and events celebrating the capital’s culinary culture. Highlights include Champagne Laurent-Perrier Gourmet Odysseys and American Express menus with Michel Roux Jr, Pierre Koffmann, Helene Darroze, Tomos Parry, Marcus Wareing, Jeremy Lee, Mark Hix, Philip Howard, Nathan Outlaw. For more information, visit the London Restaurant Festival website.

  • 2 – 11 October : Wimbledon BookFest

Ten day festival featuring readings, children’s events, storytelling, comedy, courses and interviews from a wide range of authors, including Sebastian Faulks, Louis de Bernieres, Alexandra Shulman, Vince Cable, Brian Moore, Seann Walsh, Andy McNab, Steve Backshall, Boris Becker, Shirley Williams, Stella Duffy, Ben Fogle, and more. Tickets range from free to £90 and are recommend to be booked in advance. A majority of events take place in tents on Wimbledon Common, but also other venues nearby. Nearest station: Wimbledon. For more information and tickets, visit the BookFest website.

  • 2 October – 3 January 2016 : Dressed By Angels

An exhibition of over 100 costumes from Angels’ archives, worn by Fred Astaire, Noel Coward, Laurence Olivier, Tom Baker, Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep, among others, Opening hours vary. Tickets: Adults £16, Children £9. Old Truman Brewery, Loading Bay, Ely’s Yard, 15 Hanbury Street, Shoreditch, E1 6QR. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street or Aldgate. For booking, visit the Dressed By Angels website.

  • 3 October : NFL Fan Rally

Fans of American football can warm up ahead of the New York Jets V Miami Dolphins match at Wembley Stadium that afternoon. Featuring a celebration of American football with players, cheerleaders and NFL legends. 12-4pm. Free. Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN. Nearest tube: Charing Cross, Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the website.

  • 3 – 4 October : Classic Car Boot Sale

A boot sale with a difference, featuring vintage fashion, homewares and pop culture memorabilia up for purchase from the boots of over 100 classic cars. Entry: £5. Lewis Cubitt Square (off Stable Street), Kings Cross, N1C 4AY. Nearest station: Kings Cross St Pancras. For more information, visit the Classic Car Boot Sale website.

  • Now until 4 October : Raindance Film Festival

UK’s largest independent film festival returns to the capital. Featuring over 100 movies and 150 short films screened in The Vue Piccadilly and Wes End. Tickets: £12. Passes range from £100 to £175. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus. For more information and tickets, visit the Raindance website.

  • 5 – 11 October : London Cocktail Week

Bars, restaurants and other surprising venues are celebrating London Cocktail Week with a variety of offers and events around the capital. To get the most out of it, buy a £10 wristband so you can enjoy cocktails at participating venues for as little as £5. For more information, visit the London Cocktail Week website. For tips and highlights of this year’s LCW, click here.

  • 7 – 18 October : BFI London Film Festival

Film buffs rejoice for the biggest event in the British film calendar – next to the Baftas of course – but this is the one we can all experience.  Eleven days of screenings, premieres, exhibitions, masterclasses and Q&As will be taking place across the capital, at venues including Leicester Square, BFI Imax, BFI Southbank and the Renoir. For more information, visit the BFI website.

  • Now until 8 October : Victorian London In Photographs

Exhibition of archive shots of Victorian London on show at the London Metropolitan Archives. Opening times: Mon and Sat 9.30am-4.45pm, Tues-Thurs 9.30am-7.30pm, Closed Fridays and Sundays. Free entry. London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, Clerkenwell, EC1R 0HB. Nearest station: Farringdon. For more information, visit the City Of London website.

  • 8 – 11 October : Oktoberfest London

German beer festival comes to London. As well as the chance to sample a wide range of beer and German cuisine, there will also be live music and the chance to rent Lederhosen and Dirndl. Tickets start from £10. Tobacco Dock, 50 Porters Walk, Wapping, E1W 2SF. Nearest tube: Wapping. For more information, visit the Oktoberfest London website.

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Amaranto review: Fine Italian cuisine in sleek surroundings at the Four Seasons

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Delicioso! Sfogliatina Fior di Latte – Semi-Soft Cheese and Courgette Tart

Park Lane is one of the most exclusive addresses in London and is home to some of the capital’s grandest hotels. Over the years, I’ve gradually been stepping inside these hotels to sample their bars or restaurants. For my mother’s birthday, we booked a table for six one Saturday evening. Although the restaurant was fairly busy on the night in question, we were fortunate enough to be placed in the private dining room – which had folding doors separating it from the rest of the restaurant (which were open so we weren’t quite ‘private’). It was nice to have a bit of intimacy within our group and we felt like it had elevated our experience. I personally loved the contemporary interiors – the restaurant was a mix of red and black, very sleek and Asian-influenced design. Although the night in question was a bit chilly, there is also an outdoor terrace for up to 20 diners for warmer days and nights.

After ordering a bottle of champagne to kick off proceedings, we then ordered from our set menu. I opted for the Sfogliatina Fior di Latte – Semi-Soft Cheese and Courgette Tart. The presentation was brilliant, but being pastry, that soon went out the window as I tucked in and my plate was soon a mess thanks to the flakes. The tart was light and fluffy and the cheese was lovely and creamy, making it a nice way to ease myself into the three-course meal.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Roasted Halibut with Fennel Marmalade and Sauce Rouille

For my main course, I decided on the Roasted Halibut with Fennel Marmalade and Sauce Rouille. The presentation was very good, with some raw cabbage sticking up giving the dish a quirky injection. The halibut was cooked well, with its mild flavours well complemented by the marmalade and sauce. We’d ordered spinach and broccoli on the side, which really completed the dishes.

Finally, I was in a very indulgent mood when it came to dessert and ordering the Chocolate Soup. Presented a mousse-looking pudding in a bowl featuring brownie chunks, lemon compote, grapefruit segments and chocolate swirls, the waiter then poured hot chocolate sauce over the top, giving a sense of theatre as I watched part of the pudding collapse as it melted. It was very creamy and rich – tasting gorgeous. Meanwhile, my sister ordered a lighter but zesty Orange Tartlet with Vanilla Sauce and Milk Ice Cream, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

Overall, the food, ambiance and service were brilliant. Our wine and water glasses were always topped up, with the waiters happy to give rounded and enthusiastic explanations to any menu questions we had.

  • Amaranto, Four Seasons Hotel, Hamilton Place, Park Lane, Mayfair, W1J 7DR. Tel: 020 7499 0888. Nearest station: Hyde Park Corner. For more information and booking, visit the Amaranto website.
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Choco-tastic: The chocolate soup was a creamy, rich dessert not made for sharing (ha!)

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Zesty: Orange Tartlet with Vanilla Sauce and Milk Ice Cream

For more of Metro Girl’s restaurant reviews, click here.

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Visit Pick pop-up restaurant and wooden tube station installation at DesignJunction for London Design Festival

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Pop-up restaurant Pick, which will serve classic British cuisine, is open at DesignJunction during the London Design Festival
© Transport for London 2015

One of the highlights of the annual London Design Festival (19 – 27 September) is the design show DesignJunction. This year, the show is spread across two different venues in Bloomsbury and runs from 24 – 27 September. Transport For London are teaming up again with DesignJunction for the fourth year in a row as part of ‘Transported by Design’ – events and collaborations celebrating TFL’s design heritage.

This year sees a TFL-themed pop-up restaurant and an entire hand-drawn wooden tube station installation at DesignJunction. ‘Pick’ is a foodie collaboration between TFL and the East London Liquor Company, named after Frank Pick (founder of TFL’s design ethos) and designed by Michael Sodeau. On the menu will be classic British dishes with a contemporary twist, while ELLC will be serving spirits from their distillery. Aside from the food and drink, the restaurant will feature a range of British design, including Trent Jenning’s Coolicon pendant shade lighting, Lindsey Lang’s table graphics and AJ Wells’ enamel top tables and splashbacks.

Meanwhile, sculptor and illustrator Camilla Barnard is designing and building a typical Underground station made from wood. The station will feature classic and new TfL design elements. The mini station will include a ticket hall, platform and barriers. Also on display will be TfL’s new product ranges, including from Alice Made This, Coolicon Lighting, Michelle Mason, Mini Moderns, Swoon Editions and Homes & Gardens award winner Lindsay Lang.

  • The Pick restaurant and pop-up wooden tube station installation is on at Designjunction, The College, 12 Southampton Row, Holborn, WC1B 5BP. Nearest station: Holborn. Open from 24 – 27 September 2015. To visit Pick and the installation, you must pay entry to DesignJunction. Tickets: Pre-register £10, on the door £14. Open Thu 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-7pm, Sun 11am-4pm. For more information, visit the TFL website or Design Junction website to register for tickets to enter the show.
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DesignJunction will feature a wooden tube station installation created by Camilla Barnard
© Transport for London 2015

For a guide to what else is on in London in September, click here.

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Open House London 2015: Royal residences, Roman baths and Georgian townhouses

Regency London, John Nash and the Third Reich: Visiting The Royal Society’s Carlton House Terrace with Open House

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Only a staircase with blue and white Regency-style wood panelling is all what is left of John Nash’s original interiors at Carlton House Terrace

At Open House London this weekend (19-20 September 2015), The Royal Society are opening the doors to their headquarters for tours. The UK’s national science academy has been based at 6-9 Carlton House Terrace since 1967. However, their HQ was originally separate houses with an interesting history dating back nearly 200 years. I visited during Open House London last year and was charmed by the varied layers of history within the building.

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The Wolfson Library, in what used to be No.6, features a spectacular ceiling and was used at the turn of the 20th century for lavish parties

Carlton House Terrace is a road comprising of two Regency terraces (Nos.1-9 on the west side, Nos 10-18 on the east) in a Roman classical style designed primarily by London-born architect John Nash (1752-1835), with input by Decimus Burton (1800-1881), among others. The road’s name refers to the site’s former royal residence Carlton House, which was demolished on order of its former resident King George IV (1762-1830) when he moved into nearby Buckingham Palace. The King wanted to give the site to the public on the condition new dwellings for the upper classes were erected on the site. Nash’s original idea was to link the two terraces with a large fountain, but the King vetoed his plans so the flight of stairs down to Pall Mall were built instead. The four-storey terraces were built between 1827 and 1832, with the Duke Of York column erected in between the blocks in 1834 in memory of the King’s younger brother Prince Frederick (1763-1827).

While the houses have changed and some have been merged over the years, only a small portion of Nash’s original interiors still exist. In what used to be No.7, Nash’s Staircase is still in situ, featuring white and blue wood panelling and wrought iron bannisters. It’s a small, but fine display of Nash’s regency interior style, of which hardly any examples exist these days due to it falling out of fashion.

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The stunning mother of pearl detailing on the first floor ceiling of what used to be No.6

The houses remained as homes for around 100 years, with Prime Ministers Lord Palmerston, Earl Grey and William Ewart Gladstone among the high-profile residents. American millionaire Charles Henry Sanford, who lived at No.6 in 1890-91, had the house madeover in an opulent Italianate style when he moved in. Today, his stunning marble staircase and ceiling – featuring carved timber and mother of pearl inlays – can still be seen. Upstairs, the Wolfson Library features gold leaf detailing and a painted ceiling and was formerly used as a ballroom for lavish parties at the turn of the 20th century, hosted by American Mrs John W Mackay, who lived at the residence between 1892 and 1920. The Milwaukee Journal wrote of her abode: ‘Her beautiful house in Carlton House Terrace is always open and her gracious hospitality is chronicled by foreigners and her own countrymen.’ Read the rest of this entry

It’s London baby! Central Perk comes to the capital at FriendsFest

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Monica and Rachel’s apartment has been recreated at FriendsFest in Shoreditch, London

Like millions around the world, I was a huge fan of Friends back in the 90s and early 00s. I can’t believe it’s been 11 years since the show finished, but thanks to the joy of re-runs, there’s always an episode on somewhere. Last month, I heard there was a five-day Friends festival coming to London and knew I had to get tickets somehow. The tickets sold out in less than 20 minutes, but I was fortunate enough to check it out at the press launch last night.

Comedy Central’s FriendsFest has set up camp at the Boiler House on Brick Lane, transforming a huge space into a slice of ’90s Manhattan. The shining glory is a meticulous reconstruction of Monica and Rachel’s apartment, which we were able to walk in to and interact with the props. There was the TV where the gang watched the Prom Video, the notepad where Monica used to insist everyone write down phone messages and the clock face biscuit tin on the kitchen counter. The iconic yellow door frame – which fans will remember was the last shot in the series finale in 2004 – was in situ, prompting many a selfie in front of it. One of the highlights of the evening was meeting the very friendly James Michael Tyler, who played Central Perk manager Gunther, in Monica’s kitchen!

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That’s familiar! An orange sofa in the Central Perk-style café

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That’s not Monica! Actor James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther, surprised fans by attending

After walking around Monica and Rachel’s apartment, we visited the photobooth, complete with costumes from iconic episodes, such as Father Christmas, Dr Drake Ramoray’s scrubs, Rachel’s cheerleading outfit and wedding dresses. For those wanting a ’90s style makeover, there was a pop-up hair salon for ladies after a ‘The Rachel’ blow-dry. Around the corner, a small section of Joey and Chandler’s living room had been recreated with black barcaloungers, an entertainment unit and foosball table – which I admittedly lost playing against my friends.

Amidst all the emotional revisits of favourite episodes and photo moments, there was also somewhere to eat and drink in the Central Perk-inspired café, with Monica’s Mac N Cheese and Joey’s favourite pizza on the menu. Taking centre stage was a familiar orange sofa – which featured in Central Perk and the opening credits. While chowing down on the snacks, we checked out the mini museum, featuring actual props from the show, including The Geller Cup and the VHS of ‘Buffay The Vampire Layer’.

What was notable about FriendsFest was how excited everyone was. People from different backgrounds and varying interests shared a common love of Friends with different props or pieces of furniture prompting people to quote lines from their favourite episode – ‘Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!’ Even the celebrities in attendance, such as Alesha Dixon, Michelle Keegan and McBusted’s Tom Fletcher, were free to let their public personas drop and enjoy a ‘fan girl or boy’ moment over a beloved show. For those lucky enough to get tickets, you’re in for a treat.

  • FriendsFest is on at the Boiler House in Brick Lane, Shoreditch from 16 – 20 September 2015. All tickets have sold out in advance and will not be available on the door.
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The familiar purple doors to Monica and Rachel’s bedrooms with the vintage French poster on the wall

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Fans could sit in barcaloungers and watch TV in the oversized entertainment unit in Joey and Chandler’s apartment

For a guide to what else is on in London in September, click here.

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Open House London 2015: Highlights and advice on how to make the most of the weekend

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Visit Lambeth Palace during Open House London over 19-20 September

The third weekend of September sees the return of Open House London. Now in its 23rd year, it’s essentially a festival of design and architecture. Over two days, around 700 homes, government buildings, offices and more will open their doors to the public for free. While some will be museums which are usually open to the public for a fee will be free, there are also rare opportunities to visit some very special buildings, such as 10 Downing Street or the BT Tower. Some buildings, such as the latter two I just mentioned, are entry by ballot only so you need to apply in advance. However, most you can just turn up and enter. Some popular venues, such as the Gherkin and Lambeth Palace, are likely to have a queue. With that in mind, here’s my guide to getting the most of Open House London.

Tips to making the most of Open House London

  • Comprise a list of places you hope to visit and also a few back-ups if the queues are too long.
  • Check out TFL’s website to make sure there are no engineering works affecting your transportation to the sites.
  • Buy an official guide book (available to order here) or download the app on iTunes or Google Play for £2.99.
  • Make sure your phone is fully charged so you can access Google maps… or bring an A-Z.
  • Bring ID – some official buildings or skyscrapers may want to check you out before letting you enter.
  • Bring your lunch with you – you’ll have plenty of time to eat it if you end up queuing.
  • Make sure you don’t carry too much in your bag, which will inevitably end up getting searched at many buildings.
  • Go the toilet whenever you find a public convenience. Some of the more unusual buildings may not have any available facilities.
  • Share your discoveries on social media under the hashtag #openhouselondon.

Highlights of Open House London 2015

30 Cardozo Road. A partially subterranean house built in 2013. Open Saturday 10am-5pm. 30 Cardozo Road, Holloyway, N7 9RL. Nearest stations: Holloway Road or Caledonian Road.

30 St Mary Axe, aka The Gherkin. Iconic skyscraper in the City of London, built in 2003. Open Sunday 8am-5pm (groups of 30 every 10 mins). 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8EP. Nearest stations: Bank, Aldgate or Liverpool Street.

55 Broadway (London Underground Head Office). Late 1920s office building featuring sculptures on its exterior. Open Saturday and Sunday 10.30am-5.30pm (pre-book tours). 55 Broadway, Victoria, SW1H 0BD. Nearest station: St James’s Park.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Visit buildings normally off limits to the public at Open House London, such as City Hall

6 Bevis Marks. Modern glass 16-floor office block with roof terrace in the City, built in 2013. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. 6 Bevis Marks (Entrance on Bury Court), City of London, EC3A 7BA. Nearest station: Liverpool Street or Aldgate.

Admiralty House. Grade I-listed Georgian building, now used by Cabinet Office, built in 1785. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Ripley Courtyard, Whitehall, SW1A 2DY. Nearest station: Westminster, Charing Cross or Embankment.

Airport House. London’s first ever airport in Croydon, built in 1928. Open Saturday and Sunday 11am-3.30pm. Purley Way, Croydon, CR0 0XZ. Nearest station: West Croydon, East Croydon and Purley (then a bus).

Bank Of England. Imperial classical headquarters of England’s bank, built in 1925-1939. Open Saturday and Sunday 9:30am-4pm. Threadneedle Street, EC2R 8AH. Nearest tube: Bank.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Hindu temple, built in 1995. Open Saturday and Sunday 9am-4pm. 105-119 Brentfield Road, Neasden, NW10 8LD. Nearest tube: Harlesden.

Bruce Castle Museum. Tudor manor house, built in 1514. Open Saturday and Sunday 1-5pm. Lordship Lane, Tottenham, N17 8NU. Nearest station: Bruce Grove.

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