Category Archives: Tourist Attractions

Tourist attractions of London

Serpentine Pavilion 2019: Slope down to Junya Ishigami’s rock-y structure

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams review: Go crazy for couture at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Exploring eight decades of Dior and the man himself at this stylish exhibition.

Christian Dior Couture © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Early Dior designs, including the red Ulysse coat (right) from 1952

Without a doubt, Christian Dior is one of the most important designers in women’s fashion. Launching his label in 1947, he transformed ladieswear with the ‘New Look’, among many more stunning designs. I’ve visited several fashion exhibitions in the past, but my ultimate design house to see was Christian Dior. As you may have read, the tickets were a huge hit and sold out immediately, prompting the V&A to extend opening hours. A friend and I managed to get tickets recently to a late Sunday evening opening and ending up spending about three and a half hours in fashion heaven.

The exhibition not only explores the story of the man himself and his path to establishing the worldwide brand, but also follows his successors, including Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and the current creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri. While there is something very ‘Dior’ throughout the company’s fashions, each designer has their own signature look they bring to their label.

The entrance to the exhibition was Parisian-esque with the classic Bar Suit given centre stage

A Gianfranco Ferre Allyson Ensemble from 1990

Designer of Dreams starts with the French designer’s early life, growing up in a wealthy family and residing in Paris and Normandy. A display shows artefacts from the young Dior’s youth and creative beginnings, from running an art gallery to becoming an apprentice to fashion designer Robert Piguet. With Europe recovering from World War II, women were tired and weary of wartime fashion so were ripe for Dior’s ‘New Look’. Establishing his eponoymous fashion label in 1946, he stood out for giving women shape and silhouettes – a contrast to the boxy, plain designs which were synonymous at the time. One of the first designs you see in the exhibition is the iconic ‘New Look’: the Bar Suit and Hat, a silk, wool and taffeta ensemble of a structured jacket and full skirt. Being a fan of Netflix’s The Crown and its fashions, it was great to see the silk, couture gown designed for Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday portrait in 1951.

The initial rooms of Designer of Dreams were focused on Dior’s realm at his label, with gorgeous dress upon gorgeous dress. The lighting and layout was very effective at highlighting the detail and complementing the aesthetic of the fashions. Following the designer’s death at just 52 in 1957, his young protégée Yves Saint Laurent was appointed artistic director at the tender age of 21. While trying to keep that signature Dior look, YSL embraced a more softer and wearable style. However, YSL didn’t stay long at Dior and moved on in 1960 after just six collections. As a result, there is an understandably small amount of YSL creations in the exhibition. Read the rest of this entry

Take a ‘wade’ on the wild side with Creekside Discovery Centre’s low tide walk

Explore the history and nature of Deptford Creek with the Creekside Center

With the current pace of building in the capital and developers looking to seize every last piece of land to build on, London’s wildlife is being squeezed into increasingly smaller environments. As banks of rivers and streams are absorbed into manmade land and structures, many animals and birds are running out of space to build nests, or even shelter during bad weather. While we need more homes in this overcrowded capital, it’s trying to balance fulfilling demand while protecting the wildlife’s habitats that is a real challenge.

Recently I paid a visit to the Creekside Discovery Center in Deptford, south-east London to join one of their Low Tide Walks. My boyfriend and I were up bright and early on a Sunday (well, by my standards early for a Sunday!) morning to get suited up for our visit to Deptford Creek. We were told to wear old clothes and a hat, with the CDC providing thigh-high waders and a walking stick. The Center itself is a one-storey educational space in a garden full of beautiful, coloured wildflowers. In fact there are over 130 different wildflower species across the site. It was rather amusing to see various memorabilia retrieved from the Creek dotted around like a modern art display, such as shopping trolleys, rollerskates and typewriters. I’m always baffled why someone would find enjoyment by throwing a trolley into a river or creek… perhaps they should get an actual hobby?!

The old lifting bridge, built in the 1830s

The name Deptford comes from ‘deep ford’, with the Creek forming the north end of the River Ravensbourne before it flows into the Thames. We started our two-hour expedition being led down to the Creek by a conservationist Nick. We entered the water – and mud – near the historic lifting bridge. It was originally built in the 1830s for the London and Greenwich Railway, which connected London Bridge with Greenwich, which was incredibly busy at the time due to its naval and royal connections. The railway was the first steam service in the capital and also the first entirely elevated railway. When it came to crossing the Creek, the railway owners realised it was problematic. They couldn’t build a regular fixed crossing as that would have blocked the many ships passing up and down the Creek. Civil engineer George Thomas Landmann (1779-1854) came up with the idea of a lifting bridge, which would allow trains to pass over while in situ, but could be lifted up for passing barges via pulleys, chains and sliding rods with eight men required to operate it. The current bridge you can see today, is a younger replacement, with several bridges replacing the original 1830s one. At time of writing, it’s been out of action for decades and is a listed structure. Read the rest of this entry

A look at London’s post boxes from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II

Victorian post box © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

A Victorian post box in Kensington

The red post box is an iconic piece of British heritage, having been a familiar piece of the streets for nearly 180 years. Despite the public’s fondness of the post box, it isn’t in such demand as it used to be due to the rapidly changing world. The rise of electronic communication and the introduction of rival delivery companies to Royal Mail means the post box isn’t used so widespread as in previous years. A Royal Mail post box is said stand half a mile from over 98% of the UK population. There are around 155,500 post boxes across the UK, with a substantial portion of these situated in London.

Edward VII era post box in Kensington

Of the thousands of post boxes in the capital, some of them are listed. In 2002, the Royal Mail entered into agreements with Historic England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively to retain and conserve all existing post boxes.

When it comes to post boxes, there are two main factors  which distinguish them from each other – their design and the royal cypher. The roadside post box has existed since the reign of Queen Victoria, with every subsequent monarch’s cypher being immortalised on the front. By looking at the cypher, you can date the age of your nearest post box, although admittedly the ballpark for boxes erected during the reigns of Victoria and our current monarch Elizabeth II are rather large! Of course, the shortest reign in recent memory is that of King Edward VIII. The eldest son of King George V only reigned for 326 days, before he abdicated the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Despite his short time as head of state, there are 171 boxes with his cypher, some of which are in London.

Ciphers of British monarchs

VR – Queen Victoria : 1837-1901
ER VII – King Edward VII : 1901-1910
GR – King George V : 1910-1936
ER VIII – King Edward VIII : Jan-Dec 1936
GR VI – King George VI : 1936-1952
EIIR – Queen Elizabeth II : 1952-present.

Walking around London today, a red post box is a frequent piece of street furniture. While the majority are round or oval, there are also hexagonal, wall boxes and other unusual sizes. Most free-standing post boxes feature a cap, which protects rainwater from entering the box and wetting the mail.

Prior to postal reform in 1840, mail was an expensive form of communication. The Uniform Penny Post was introduced, meaning the sender pre-paid the postal costs, rather than the recipient. The same year, the Penny Black adhesive stamp was released. It wasn’t until 12 years later, the first roadside Post Office pillar box was erected in St Helier, Jersey as a trial. In 1853, the first roadside pillar box was established in the mainland United Kingdom in Carlisle. In 1856, Richard Redgrave (1804-1888) from the Department of Science and Art came up with an ornate pillar box design to be used in London and other cities. Today, you can see one of Redgrave’s designs – which were bronze – at the Victoria & Albert Museum. From 1857, some post boxes were built into existing walls. Read the rest of this entry

Sculpture in the City 2019/2020: Free art exhibition returns to London

Step inside the Colour Palace as the Dulwich Pavilion returns for 2019

A look at the Summer Exhibition 2019 at the Royal Academy of Arts

Review: Visiting the Tower of London with a Context Travel tour

Exploring the history of the Tower on a three-hour semi-private tour.

Tower of London © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

One of London’s most historic and important sights – the Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the capital’s most iconic sights. It’s been standing on the fringes of the City, looming over the River Thames, for over 1,000 years. With such an amazing heritage, the layers of history within the Tower walls can be overwhelming for a visitor. I previously visited the Tower of London as a teenager and didn’t really absorb the stories of the complex as I knew I would as an adult. Over the Easter Weekend, I paid a long-awaited return to the Tower on a semi-private tour with Context Travel.

Context Travel is a specialist walking tour company, which offers private, semi-private and custom tours in over 50 cities worldwide. Aiming to put tourist sights ‘in context’, the tours are hosted by experts in their field, giving you an in-depth knowledge while taking you off-the-beaten track to find hidden places and details. Context Travel semi-private tours are in small groups, which immediately appealed to me because I’m not a fan of sharing my travel/tourist experiences (even in my hometown of London!) with a huge group of people.

Tower of London Tour © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

The White Tower is over 1,000 years old

Tower of London Tour © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

One of the Tower Guards on duty

My three-hour tour started on a sunny Sunday morning so the weather was on our side. Myself and two other participants met our guide Lesley outside Tower Hill station and headed straight to the entrance of the complex. The immediate bonus of visiting on a group tour I noticed was being able to bypass the long queue and we were within the tower walls within no time.

We swiftly passed through the Middle Tower and crossed the now-dry moat before passing under the Byward Tower for our first stop on the tour. Looking at the complex, I would find it hard to identify the ages of the different parts. However, Lesley shared her great knowledge of each buildings’ history, which King (or Queen) was responsible for its building and how their use had evolved over time.

Before delving deeper into the various sections, Lesley suggested we head straight to the Jewel House to visit the world-famous Crown Jewels. As guides aren’t allowed to accompany tour groups inside during busy periods, Lesley gave us easy-to-remember pointers on what to focus on inside. Covering 800 years of the British monarchy, the Jewel House contains some truly amazing sights and spectacular examples of wealth. I recognised many crowns and other regalia and vestments I had seen worn by Queen Elizabeth II over the decades. It was great to see them in the flesh so to speak – albeit surrounded by heavy security.
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Fearless Girl statue visits the City of London for the spring

Fearless Girl London © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Fearless Girl by Kristen Visbal has come to London for three months

Fearless Girl London © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019Two years ago, a bronze sculpture of a young girl appeared in New York City and made international headlines. ‘Fearless Girl’ by Kristen Visbal was originally commissioned by State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) to highlight companies with more balanced gender representations and more women amongst leadership roles. The sculpture was erected opposite Wall Street’s famous Charging Bull statue.

A copy of Fearless Girl was unveiled in London on International Women’s Day (8 March 2019). The bronze statue stands outside the London Stock Exchange on Paternoster Square, just moments from St Paul‘s Cathedral. Standing at around 50 inches high, the sculpture will remain in situ until early June. The SSGA said it hopes the statue’s appearance in London will encourage companies to address gender imbalance in leadership roles.

  • Fearless Girl is on show until 4 June 2019. At Paternoster Square, City of London, EC4M. Nearest stations: St Paul’s or City Thameslink.

For the latest what’s on guide in London, click here.

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Guide to what’s on in London in May 2019

Find out what’s on in the capital this May, including the two bank holiday weekends.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Spring into spring

The weather’s getting warmer, the days are getting longer and summer is just around the corner. With two bank holidays, May has plenty of time to play. This month, expect to see many outdoor rooftop and riverside destinations opening for the summer. Get ready for summer by getting your mind and body ready with a host of wellness events.

For a guide to London’s outdoor and pop-up cinemas this summer, click here.

  • Now until 1 May : Shen Yun

Chinese performing arts company’s spectacular show is in London for two weeks. Experience a lost culture through classical Chinese dance. Tickets: £62-£138. Eventim Apollo, 45 Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith, W6 9QH. Nearest station: Hammersmith. For tickets, visit the Shen Yun website.

  • 1 – 6 May : Contemplative Spaces exhibition

Oxfordshire-based, American artist James Gemmill brings his exhibition to Kensington for six days. With a background in painting and film scenic work, Gemmill presents 14 pieces for the exhibition. Open 11am-7pm or by appointment. Free entry. Old Brompton Gallery, 238 Old Brompton Road, Kensington, SW5 0DE. Nearest station: Earl’s Court or West Brompton. For more information, visit James Gemmill’s website. Read Metro Girl’s blog post on the exhibition.

  • 2 May – TBA September : Skylight London

Rooftop bar Skylight London returns to Wapping with city views, cocktails, street food, lawn games, World Cup and Wimbledon screenings and more. Open Thu-Fri 5pm-11pm, Sat-Sun 12pm-11pm. Free entry. Croquet: Indoor £25, Outdoor £35 (45 min game), Petanque: £15 (2-4 players). Skylight, Tobacco Quay (Pennington Street entrance), Wapping, E1CW 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell or Wapping. For more information, visit the Skylight London website. Read Metro Girl’s blog post on Skylight.

  • 2 May – 29 September : Fulham Beach @ Neverland

The popular Neverland has had a summer makeover, featuring day beds, private beach huts and cabanas, two bars, live DJs, croquet, beer pong, shuffleboard and ping pong. They also host special events include bottomless brunches, yoga classes, fancy dress parties and sports screenings. Open Wed-Fri 6pm-11pm, Sat 12pm-11pm, Sun 12pm-9pm. Entrance starts from £5 (free to SW6 residents all days except Sat). Neverland, 364 Wandsworth Bridge Road, Fulham, SW6 2TY. Nearest station: Wandsworth Town. For more information, visit the Neverland London website.

  • 3 – 5 May : Women’s Health Live

The Women’s Health magazine teams up with some of the country’s top wellness experts for three days of classes, talks and workshops. Guests and speakers include Ella Mills, Alice Liveing, Anna Victoria, Katie Piper, Natasha Devon, Dr Zoe Williams, Jillian Michaels and Rochelle Humes. Tickets: £15. Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, Islington, N1 0QH. Nearest station: Angel. For more information, visit the Hearst Live website.

  • 3 – 19 May : Wandsworth Arts Fringe

Two week fringe festival in the borough of Wandsworth featuring over 180 events, including theatre, dance, art, music, comedy, poetry, workshops, talks, markets and more. Highlights include silent disco walking tours, ceilidh, Antisemitism – the musical, Deathbed Skiing and much more. For more information, visit the Wandsworth Arts Fringe website.

  • 4 May : The Tweed Run

The 11th annual bicycle ride sees participants dressing up in vintage tweed and cycling past London’s landmarks. Starting in a secret location at 10am-11am and going for 12 miles, before ending for the Closing Ceremony (4-9pm) in Spa Fields, Clerkenwell, EC1. Rider tickets: £32.57, spectators free. Nearest station (to Spa Fields): Angel or Farringdon. For more information, visit The Tweed Run website.

  • 4 – 6 May : Canalway Cavalcade

A unique waterways and community festival at Little Venice. Features stalls, bands, kids’ activities, Morris dancers, a Real Ale bar, food and pageant of boats. Open Sat-Sun 10am-6pm, Mon 10am-5pm. Procession of illuminated boats @ 9pm on Sun. Free. Little Venice, Maida Vale, W2. Nearest station: Warwick Avenue. For more information, visit the Inland Waterways Association website. For Metro Girl’s blog post on a previous year’s Cavalcade, click here.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Canalway Cavalcade returns to Little Venice

  • 4 – 12 May : Grand Designs Live

Based on the Channel 4 TV series, the show features ideas and inspiration for your own grand design, including workshops, consultations, lectures and celebrity guests. Tickets: Weekday £12, Weekend £15. ExCel, Royal Victoria Dock, E16 1XL. Nearest station: Prince Regent (DLR). For more information and tickets, visit the Grand Designs Live website.

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