Category Archives: Activities

Get involved – things to do as well as see

Talks, philantropy and more as Seven Dials marks International Women’s Day

© Seven Dials

Gemma Cairney will be hosting a live panel with Charlie Craggs, Dinny Hall, Jenny Scott, Olivia Wollenberg as part of Seven Dials’ International Women’s Day celebrations

Following the recent #MeToo movement, this year’s International Women’s Day is predicted to be the biggest ever. Although it’s still not a public holiday like in Cambodia and the Ukraine (we can dream…), there are a host of events on around the capital to celebrate woman power.

This year, Seven Dials will be hosting a week of events, launches and promotions focused on females. One of the highlights will be an ‘In Conversation With’ talk on International Women’s Day itself on 8 March. Presenter Gemma Cairney will be a hosting a free discussion with a varied panel of influential and progressive women to discuss IWD’s theme of ‘Press for Progress’. Taking place at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street Hotel, the panel will feature Trans activist and author Charlie Craggs; British jeweller Dinny Hall; Founder of Mothers Meeting Jenny Scott and Founder of Livia’s Kitchen, Olivia Wollenberg.

Throughout the rest of the week, the area’s boutiques, cafes and bars will be taking part with various activities and promotions. Rossopomodoro will be serving a special chocolate pannacotta with marmalade from CasaLorena, an Italian organisation who help women affected by domestic violence or sexual harassment. Neal’s Yard Remedies will be hosting create-your-own massage oil workshops and offering free hand and arm massages, superfood tasting and in-store discounts. Illustrator Morgan Seaford will be talking about her designs at Duke and Dexter, while jeweller Dinny Hall will be launching a Suffragette-inspired edit at the boutique. Meanwhile, steak restaurant and bar Hawksmoor Seven Dials have created a £6 ‘Sister Suffragette’ cocktail (Appleton Rum, Cocchi Rosa Vermouth, Lavender Bitters and Triple Sec). Throughout the week, Seven Dials have partnered with Hey Girls, who are campaigning to end period poverty in the UK.

  • National Women’s Day celebrations are taking place from 1 – 8 March 2018. At venues and stores around Seven Dials, Covent Garden, WC2H. Nearest station: Leicester Square or Covent Garden. The panel discussion takes place on 8 March at 7pm at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street Hotel. To claim your free ticket to the talk, enter the ballot on the Seven Dials website before 2 March at 6pm. For more information, visit the Seven Dials website.

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

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Mail Rail review: Travel under London on the Royal Mail’s underground railway

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The Mail Rail is a ride on the Royal Mail’s former underground railway

We all know about the Victorian origins of the London Underground, which has been transporting commuters since 1863. However, did you know it’s not the capital’s only underground railway in existence? For eight decades, the Post Office ran their own subterranean train system to transport letters and parcels under the city’s streets. Affectionately known as the ‘Mail Rail’, it closed for good in 2003. However, in September 2017, the railway was brought back to life and adapted for human passengers as part of a new experience at the Postal Museum.

Road traffic has been a problem in London for centuries, stemming back to the days of horses and carts. For owners of the Post Office, the impact on their deliveries arriving late was not good for business so something had to be done. In 1909, a committee was set up to devise a traffic-proof delivery system, and by 1911 had settled on the idea of driverless electric trains. Construction began in 1914 with a trial tunnel in Plumstead Marshes, south-east London, with the main 6 1/2 miles of tunnels completed by 1917. By this time, World War I was in full swing so lack of labour and materials meant the project was put on hold. However, the tunnels did find some use during WWI as the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate stored some of their artworks in them for safe-keeping. Following the end of the Great War, costs of materials had risen so much, it wasn’t until 1923 that work could finally resume. Finally, on 5 December 1927, parcels were transported underground between Mount Pleasant and Paddington for the first time.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

One of the former stations, where busy Royal Mail workers would be hauling carts of post to and from trains

The trains run in a single 9ft tunnel featuring a double 2ft gauge track. Approaching each station, the tunnel would split into two 7ft tunnels with a single track each. The railway’s deepest point was 70ft, although the stations tended to be slightly closer to street level. By 1930, the original rolling stock were knackered so they were replaced with new trains. These new ones featured a 27ft single car train with each container having a capacity for 15 bags of letters or six bags of parcels. These were used until they were replaced in 1980 by a new fleet. Over the decades, some of the stations came and went, including the Western Parcels Office and Western District Office, with the latter name being reused at a new station at Rathbone Place, which opened in 1965. In 1987, the train system was renamed ‘Mail Rail’ to mark its 60th anniversary. In 1993, the whole system was computerised so the trains could be controlled from a single point. By the end of the 1990s, only the stations at Paddington, Western Delivery Office, Mount Pleasant, and the East District Office were being used, carrying over 6 million bags of mail annually. However, as the system aged, Royal Mail decided it was becoming too costly to run the railway, claiming road transport was cheaper and its death warrant was signed. On 31 May 2003, the Mail Rail was closed for good.  Read the rest of this entry

Lumiere London 2018: The capital becomes a gallery of neon

Happy Christmas to my readers (and a few tips if you’re staying put in the capital)

Wishing all Memoirs Of A Metro Girl readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Wishing readers of Memoirs Of A Metro Girl a Happy Christmas

Wow, what a year! Here we are again, it’s Christmas Eve and we’re all ready for some down time to relax. If you are working over Christmas, I feel your pain, I’ve worked Christmas Day before and it’s tough working while getting major FOMO.

It’s that time of year when London gets the quietest it can. A mass exodus leaves the capital’s population dramatically shrunken with many bars, restaurants and shops closing up for days. I was out having Christmas drinks with some friends last night and was loving how quiet it was and easy to get a seat everywhere we went.

Wishing all my readers a merry Christmas and hope you’re having a good one wherever you are. I’ll be having another London Christmas as usual, still no white one is sight.

If you’re staying in the capital over the festive period, here’s a few things on around town if you do venture out:

  • Try a spot of ice-skating on one of the capital’s pop-up ice rinks, including one on a rooftop with a view of London’s skyline, Skylight.
  • Get merry this Christmas with a festive cocktail from one of these London bars.
  • For a general guide to what’s on in December, check out this post.
  • Party with Santa’s naughty elves with live music, winter warmers, street food and more at the South Pole Saloon.
  • Start planning your New Year’s Eve with my Metro Girl’s guide to the best parties in town.

See you in 2018 for more exploring the capital!

Metro Girl

Sculpture In The City 2017/2018: Contemporary art comes to the Square Mile

Guide to what’s on in London in December 2017

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Wishing my readers a Merry Christmas

It’s all very festive in the capital. If you haven’t been forced into the Christmas spirit already with the sheer volume of red, green and glitter around the capital, it won’t take long before it hits you. There is a host of events on around the capital for both adults and families. Foodies will be particularly well catered for with seasonal markets and shows on. Across town, there’s plenty of festive pop-ups, with many listed below. Of course, there are many open-air ice skating rinks for those with a good sense of balance.

For a guide to London’s New Year’s Eve events, click here.

For a guide to London’s ice rinks, click here.

To find out which bars are serving special Christmas cocktails and Winter Warmers here.

  • 1 December : Dreamworks Animation in Concert

Listen to songs from your favourite Dreamworks animated films performed live by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. From 6pm. Tickets start from £28.32. Wembley SSE Arena, Arena Square, Engineers Way, Wembley, HA9 0AA. Nearest station: Wembley Park or Wembley Stadium. For tickets, visit the Dreamworks SeeTickets website. For more information, visit Metro Girl’s blog post on the concert.

  • 1 – 2 DecemberThe Spirit Show

Fans of gin, vodka and the like will enjoy this boozy festival, featuring masterclasses, tastings, street food, interactive lounge, VIP speakeasy and more. Open Fri 1-9pm, Sat 12-5pm. Tickets from £25 (standard tickets inc unlimited tastings, showguide and 6 bottle jute). Business Design Centre, Islington, N1 0QH. Nearest station: Angel. For more information, visit The Spirit Show website.

  • 1 – 3 DecemberLondon Illustration Fair

Three-day event celebrating illustration, featuring artist-led stands, talks, workshops, music, DJs, live signings. Entry: £8 advance, Under 12s free. Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bankside, SE1 9PH. Nearest station: Blackfriars or Waterloo . For more information, visit the London Illustration Fair website.

  • 1 – 10 December : London International Animation Festival

Showcase of animation from around the world featuring gala premieres, retrospectives, filmmakers Q&As, workshops, audience voting and screenings. Tickets start from £12 (Barbican standard tickets) to £95 for full pass. At the Barbican, The Horse Hospital, Close-Up Cinema and The Whitechapel Gallery. For more information and tickets, visit the LIAF website.

  • 1 – 17 December : Ferrero Rocher – Behind The Layers

Ferrero Rocher are creating an immersive sensory tasting experience for chocolate fans. Open 1pm-10.30pm (last experience 9.30pm). Tickets: £25 (45 minute experience, includes a glass of Prosecco or non-alcoholic beverage). Westfield London, Shepherd’s Bush, W12 7GF. Nearest station: Shepherd’s Bush, Shepherd’s Bush Market or Wood Lane. For booking, visit BehindTheLayers.co.uk. Read Metro Girl’s blog post to find out more.

  • 1 – 19 December : Art For Love festival

A Christmas extravaganza in the historic surrounds of Devonshire Square, featuring live music, carol singing, ballet, ice skating performances and more. Times vary. Free. Devonshire Square (Western Courtyard), City of London, EC2M. Nearest stations: Liverpool Street or Aldgate. For more information, visit the Devonshire Square website. Read Metro Girl’s blog post on the festival.

  • 1 – 31 December : Greenwich Winter Time

The royal borough of Greenwich are hosting a winter festival, featuring open-air ice skating outside the Old Naval College, festive market, food and drink, entertainment on the mirrored stage and Father Christmas’ launch pad. Entry tickets (morning, afternoon or evening sessions): Adults £15-£18, Children £8. Old Royal Naval College, Park Row, Greenwich, SE10 9LS. Nearest station: Cutty Sark, Greenwich or Maze Hill. For more information, visit the Greenwich Winter Time website.

  • 2 DecemberThe Great Christmas Pudding Race

Watch or take part in the annual Great Christmas Pudding Race in Covent Garden, which sees participants dressing up and raising money for Cancer Research UK. From 11am. Free for spectators. Covent Garden Piazza, WC1. Nearest station: Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Charing Cross or Embankment. For more information and details on entering, visit the Great Christmas Pudding Race website.

  • 2 DecemberBeautycon

Social media influencers and celebrities will come together to talk beauty, fashion and style. Featuring Olivia Buckland, Jordyn Woods, Patricia Bright, Montana Brown, Grace Victory, Jayde Pierce and many more. 12-6pm. Tickets start from £30. Olympia National, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more information, visit the Beautycon website.

  • 2 – 3 December : Santa and his huskies come to the London Wetland Centre

Special Christmas weekend event at the London Wetland Centre, where families can visit Santa’s Grotto, enjoy a sleigh ride with the huskies or a donkey ride or make decorations in the elves’ workshop. Normal admission prices to LWC apply: Adults £13.49, Children £7.42. Santa visit £8 per child (includes gift). London Wetland Centre, Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, SW13 9WT. Nearest station: Barnes. For more information, visit the WWT London Wetland Centre website.

  • 2 – 10 December : Spitalfields Music Festival

Spitalfields Music return with their winter festival. Acts include Mark Titchner, Sara Mohr-Pietsch, Musical Rumpus, Max Richter and André de Ridder among others. At various venues in the Spitalfields area including Shoreditch Church, Rich Mix and the Huguenot Houses of Spitalfields. For booking, visit the Spitalfields Music website. For this year’s highlights, read Metro Girl’s blog post.

  • 2 – 23 December : Santa’s Grotto @ Museum Of London

Meet Santa in a Victorian Santa’s Grotto. Professional photographer available to capture the moment. £10 per child (includes gift, book in advance). Museum of London, 150 London Wall, City of London, EC2Y 5HN. Nearest station: Barbican or Moorgate. For more information, visit the Museum Of London website.

  • 5 DecemberHome Front – Immersive Time Travel

One-off evening of an immersive time travel experience set in London during World War II. Featuring performances, escape rooms, live music, five bars and more. From 5.15pm-10.30pm. Tickets start from £25. At a secret east London location. For booking, visit DesignMyNight. For more information, read Metro Girl’s blog post.

  • 5 – 8 December : Vauxhall One’s Christmas Music Week

Every night, a different choir will perform in front of Vauxhall One’s Christmas tree. Choirs include West End Musical Choir, Sunday Assembly Choir, House Gospel Choir and Real Voices. 5.30pm-6.30pm. Free to spectate. Vauxhall One (outside Vauxhall station), SW8. Nearest station: Vauxhall. For more information, visit the Vauxhall One website.

  • 5 – 9 DecemberPigs Ear Beer And Cider Festival

Annual beer festival in conjunction with CAMRA, featuring over 230 real ales plus ciders, perries and bottled beers, food stalls and unique festival brews. Opening hours TBC. Entry: £3 (members), £5 (non-members). Round Chapel, Powerscroft Road, Hackney, E5 0PU. Nearest station: Hackney Downs or Hackney Central. For more information, visit the Pig’s Ear website

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Indulge your sweet tooth at Ferrero Rocher: Behind The Layers pop-up experience

Ferrero Rocher Behind The Layers

Ferrero Rocher: Behind The Layers takes place at Westfield London

Christmas is that time of year to ditch the diet and indulge your sweet tooth. This festive season, chocolate lovers will be in for a treat with a new pop-up experience from Ferrero Rocher.

Following their successful dessert experience last Christmas, the Italian chocolatier is bringing a taste exploration to Westfield London. Launching on 1 December, the Ferrero Rocher: Behind the Layers will take guests on a multi-sensory tasting experience. Participants will sample delicious mini-desserts inspired by the five layers of Ferrero Rocher. The different flavours will be enriched by powerful light projections, music and motion.

Guests will start their journey in the golden bar and lounge, where they discover a drink menu created by the mixologists from Liquid Chefs. Next, they will take their seats to progress to the multi-sensory dessert experience. Visitors will watch their mini-desserts being hand-made in the spectacular setting. Chef Paul Hannagen has devised the special dessert menu, each creation inspired by the layers of a Ferrero Rocher – hazelnut, chocolate wafer and gold.

Following their experience, guests will be able to visit the on-site shop to buy Ferrero Rocher, which can be accompanied by personalised calligraphy labels for your loved ones. The bar will also be open to all those who haven’t been able to get tickets to the main event.

  • Ferrero Rocher: Behind The Layers takes place on 1-17 December 2017. At Westfield London, Shepherd’s Bush, W12 7GF. Nearest station: Shepherd’s Bush, Shepherd’s Bush Market or Wood Lane. Open 1pm-10.30pm (last experience 9.30pm). Tickets: £25 (45 minute experience, includes a glass of Prosecco or non-alcoholic beverage). For more information and booking, visit BehindTheLayers.co.uk.

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

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Ready for some curl power! Try a spot of curling as Sliders comes to Queens

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Red or yellow? Curlers are given a pair of grips before taking to the ice

Ever thought about curling? It’s likely you may have watched it on TV since the sport has been an official game at the Winter Olympics since 1998. However, when it comes to winter leisure activities we’ve actually done, it hasn’t reached the popularity of ice skating, skiing, snowboarding or sledding. However, that could be set to change with curling club Sliders pitching up at Queens this winter.

Following their successful run at Roof East in Stratford last year (and back again this winter), Sliders is going west at Queensway’s versatile leisure venue Queens. Known for its year-round indoor ice rink, Queens is also home to cocktail and burger haven MeatLiquor, a bowling alley and arcade following its recent £4million refurbishment.

I went along last week with a group of friends to try out the new curling experience. We started off in MeatLiquor first for cocktails and burgers. The restaurant is diner style, spacious with low ceilings featuring a mix of sofas, stools and chairs, with the options to order to your bowling lane. I opted for a Bristol Fizz cocktail (Grey Goose vodka shaken with pear, strawberry and lemon juice, topped with fizz), which was fruity, sweet and easy to drink. People with special dietary requirements (halal, gluten-free, etc) will be pleasantly surprised to see plenty of menu options. I ordered a really good halloumi burger, with a generous halloumi portion which was cooked perfectly so it wasn’t tough and chewy. I find many restaurants overcook halloumi so especially enjoyed the MeatLiquor one.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Curling is a game which requires balance, strength and mental dexterity

Following our meal we headed to the rink for a spot of curling. All four of our party were novices and admittedly hadn’t watched much of the sport on television. A portion of the rink has been transformed into curling lanes, with coaches on hand to explain the rules. As you would expect, it’s pretty cold so coats, hats and gloves wouldn’t go amiss. Unlike ice skating where you’re likely to keep warm through movement, there are periods during curling where you’ll be standing still on the ice, so make sure you’re wrapped up. Before entering the lanes, we were given grips to help transform our shoes into ice-suitable footwear.

Curling is a game which requires balance, strength and mental dexterity. I like to think (hopefully!) I have an adequate amount of all three, but needless to say, I wasn’t too good at curling. The game involves hurling a stone towards the target area. If you end up in the target, you can’t always be certain you’ll remain there during the round as you can get knocked out by a rival team or even your own teammate. My friends and I played against another team of four. Despite our team managing to win by 1 point, I was probably the weakest link and didn’t get any stone near the target. However, we all enjoyed the game and I would be keen to return in the hope of improving. By the end of our curling, we were pretty chilly so headed to the handily located ringside café, with hot drinks and heat lamps which were much appreciated.

While so many festive attractions in London are outside, Queens offers a range of fun activities inside. You could easily spend hours here with your friends drinking, eating and showing off your sporting prowess… or not so much. My group had a great evening and would be keen to try curling again… hopefully with better results. See you on the ice!

  • Queens, 17 Queensway, W2 4PQ. Nearest station: Queensway or Bayswater. Tickets: From £12.50pp for teams of 4 or 8 (including curling, grips, drinks service and welcome drink). For more information and booking, visit the Queens website.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Vegan burgers at MeatLiquor

For a guide to what else is on in London in January 2018, click here.

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Guide to London’s open-air and pop-up ice rinks this winter 2017/2018

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Break the ice on a rink (and hopefully no bones!)

It’s that time of year again. With the temperatures dropping and the lights a twinkling, it’s no surprise many people want to take to the ice. As usual, there are a host of pop-up, open air rinks on around town. Many are accompanied by other wintry activities and festive food and drink offerings. Here’s a guide to open-air and pop-up ice skating in London this winter season.

 

  • 26 October – 7 January 2018Natural History Museum Ice Rink

A 1,000 square metre rink in the gardens of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. Opening hours vary. Session times last 1 hour. Adults from £12.65, Children 12 and under from £8.80. Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 5BD. Nearest station: South Kensington. To book, visit the Natural History Museum website.

  • 2 November – 14 January 2018 : Skylight London

London’s highest ice rink surface on top of Tobacco Dock’s car park. Features alfresco and covered bars, fondue and ice hockey slap shot. Under 18s allowed until 6pm. Free entry to Skylight. Skating tickets: £10 (45 minutes). Skylight, Tobacco Quay, Pennington Street entrance, Wapping, E1CW 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell or Wapping. For booking, visit the Skylight London website. For Metro Girl’s review, click here.

  • 4 November – 24 February 2018 : Ice Rink Canary Wharf

Skate over ice in the middle of the soaring skyscrapers of Canary Wharf. Non-skaters can watch the action from the bar or street food stalls. Session times last 1 hour. Opening times vary. Adults £9.95-£16.95, Children £9.95-£10.95. Canada Square Park, E14 5AB. Nearest station: Canary Wharf. To book, visit the Ice Rink Canary Wharf website.

  • 15 November – 14 January 2018Skate at Somerset House with Fortnum & Mason

One of the original pop-up ice rinks located in the courtyard of Somerset House. As well as general skating, they also host club nights on ice and skate lessons. Session times last 1 hour and are from 10am until 10.30pm (later for club nights and New Year’s Eve). Tickets start from £8.90. Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 1LA. Nearest station: Temple. To book, visit the Somerset House website.  Read the rest of this entry

Discovering the origins of Somerset House on the Historical Highlights Tour

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The Historical Highlights Tour explores the history and secrets of Somerset House

Somerset House is one of my favourite London buildings. It’s so versatile, full of history, is beautiful to look at and has a wealth of entertainment and art options. The current building we see today dates back to the 18th and 19th century, but its history goes way back to the 16th century. With over 450 years of history on the site, there’s a lot to take in. However, the Historical Highlights Tour, which takes place every week is a good place to start.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Gravestones from the former Catholic chapel are now hidden under the courtyard

The first large house on the site was a two-storey property, which started to be built in 1547. It was a home for the Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (1500-1552), who was given the land by his brother-in-law King Henry VIII. He served as Lord Protector of England for the first two years of his nephew King Edward VI’s (1537-1553) reign from 1547-1549, who was only nine when he came to the Throne. However, Somerset was overthrown in October 1549 and was executed on Tower Hill in 1552. His house, known as Somerset Place, was taken into the crown’s possession, with the future Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) living there during her half-sister Queen Mary’s (1516-1558) reign. However, the house hadn’t been completed decades later, with 16th century historian John Stow (1524/25-1605) referring to Somerset Place as still ‘yet unfinished’ in 1598 – over 50 years after building work started.

By 1603, Anne of Denmark (1574-1619), Queen Consort to King James I of England (or James VI of Scotland) was given Somerset Place for her London residence, with it renamed Denmark House in her honour. Anne enrolled architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652), among others, to make some improvements and additions to the long neglected house. Following Anne’s death, Jones designed a chapel in 1636 where her daughter-in-law, Henrietta Maria of France (1609-1669), wife of King Charles I, could quietly worship as a Roman Catholic, when Protestant was the dominant religion of the time. A small cemetery was established outside the chapel, with some of the 17th century gravestones being shown during the tour.  Read the rest of this entry