Exploring the history of the Tower on a three-hour semi-private tour.
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.
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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Find out where the capital’s roaming cinemas will be located this summer.
With the evenings getting lighter and warmer, the thought of watching a film in the open-air or an unusual venue probably sounds quite appealing right now. If you’re looking for a difference experience than your local Odeon or Vue, why not pay a visit to one of London’s roaming cinemas. From rooftops to stunning royal backdrops to immersive experiences, you’ll be spoiled for choice this summer.
- 1 May – TBA : Rooftop Film Club
Pop-up cinema returns to rooftops across the capital, screening new and classic films. At Roof East (Stratford), Bussey Building (Peckham) and Queen of Hoxton (Shoreditch). Expect a mix of classics and new releases, such as Dirty Dancing, The Breakfast Club, Us, Love Simon, Aquaman, Clueless and many more. Screenings @ 9pm. Tickets from £14.95. For more information and tickets, visit the Rooftop Film Club website.
- 21 May – 9 July : Beach Club Cinema @ Fulham Beach
Riverside beach club hosts a film night every Tuesday throughout the summer. Movies include The Beach, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Top Gun, Eat Pray Love, The Notebook, There’s Something About Mary, Grease and Dirty Dancing. Also on site in bars, dining, shuffleboard, table tennis, minigolf and more. Tickets: £10-£30. Fulham Beach, 364 Wandsworth Bridge Road, Fulham, SW6 2TY. Nearest station: Wandsworth Town. For more information, visit the Neverland London website.
- 31 May – 9 July : Summer on Screen @ Wembley Park
Enjoy classics, latest blockbusters, live opera and Bollywood hits at open-air screenings in Wembley Park. Films include A Star Is Born, Hamid, Sister Act, Moulin Rouge!, The Greatest Showman and more. 7pm. Free, but first come first served for seating. Arena Square, Engineers Way, Wembley Park, Wembley, HA9 0AA. Nearest station: Wembley Park or Wembley Stadium. For more information, visit the Wembley Park website.
- 31 May – 26 September : Luna Cinema
Luna Cinema will be popping up at various venues across the capital this summer. Venues include Danson House (Bexleyheath), Morden Hall Park, Marylebone, Fulham Palace, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Brockwell Lido (Herne Hill), Battersea Park, Old Royal Naval College (Greenwich), Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court Palace, Opera Holland Park, Victoria Embankment Gardens, Dulwich Park, Kensington Palace, Chiswick House and Gardens, Kenwood House, Wandsworth Park, Alexandra Palace, Crystal Palace Park, Tooting Common, Wimbledon Park and Marble Hill. Tickets: Adults from £15.50, Children from £10.50. For booking, visit the Luna Cinema website.
- 4 June – 3 August : Movies On The River
Watch a movie while cruising down the River Thames. Films include Bohemian Rhapsody. Grease, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Top Gun, La La Land, Black Panther and many more. Departures @ 8pm. Tickets from £29. Departures from Tower Millennium Pier, Tower Hill, City of London, EC3N 4DT. Nearest station: Tower Hill, Tower Gateway or Fenchurch Street. For tickets, visit Time Out London. Read the rest of this entry
The Greatest Show of Lucha Libre returns to London on 11 May.
Returning to the capital this May for one day only is the spectacular Greatest Show Of Lucha Libre. Turning Camden’s Roundhouse into a sports arena, superstars of Mexican wrestling will battle it out on Saturday 11 May 2019.
Lucha Libre has been a popular cultural phenomenon since the early 20th century and is known for its vibrant fashions, creative techniques and high-flying moves. Spectators can watch in awe as Good battles Evil in a series of fierce and fabulous wrestling matches. The Luchadores will be wearing their signature outrageous costumes and colourful masks as they showcase their acrobatic skills. Lucha Libre translates as ‘free fighting’ and sees wrestlers either be ‘Rudos’ (using underhanded tactics and breaking the rules) or ‘Técnicos’ (using more spectacular and complex rules and playing by the rules).
This year’s line-up includes firm favourites, such as El Hijo del Santo, El Hijo del Fantasma, former WWE rebel Juventud ‘Juvi’ Guerrera, Cassandro El Exótico, Silver King, Laredo Kid, and Nacho Libre star Ramses and the rookie, El Charro del Mysterio.
In the spirit of equality, there will be plenty of female wrestlers too, including the Wrestling Cholitas of Bolivia making their debut. They will be joined by Elizabeth La Roba Corazones and Juanita La Cariñosa.
Meanwhile, representing the UK from the Lucha Brittania posse will be Cassius the Neon Explosion, Pavo Real and Metallico. Guests on the day will also be able to enjoy live mariachi music, DJs and referee Black Terry taking charge.
- Lucha Libre takes place on Saturday 11 May 2019. Matinee: 2pm (family-friendly) or Evening: 7pm. Tickets: £20-£50. At the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, Camden Town, NW1 8EH. Nearest station: Chalk Farm. For tickets and more information, visit Lucha Libre World or the Roundhouse websites.
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Rooftop destination is back at Tobacco Quay for summer 2019.
One thing I love about the coming of summer is the opening of London’s rooftop bars. With such an amazing skyline in our capital, along with the lovely feeling of the sun on your face, it’s not surprising these sky-high destinations are a big draw over the warmer seasons. This week, one of my favourite summer destinations, Skylight, opened for the new season with its latest makeover. I went along to the launch in Wapping and checked out the attractions, cocktails, and – of course – the views.
Spread over three floors, the venue combines drinking, (casual) dining, lawn games and events, such as live sport screenings. The venue is well prepared for the unpredictable British summer, with plenty of zones undercover should the weather turn for the worst. Returning this summer are the croquet lawns and Palenque courts. My friend and I enjoyed a few games of croquet, which is significantly harder than it looks, but provided lots of laughs. In addition this year, Skylight has also added some table tennis.
Skylight offers three bars over the different levels, serving a mix of summery cocktails, such as Jalisco Sky, Raspberry Rum Margherita, Apple Sunrise and the Gin Basil Spice. There are also more traditional options, including wine, Bacardi spirits, Moet e Chandon champagne and Sharps Offshore, Staropramen, Wolf Rock IPA, Blue Moon and Aspal Cyder on tap. When you get hungry, there’s two stalls YIRO and Flipside, serving up delicious street food. I couldn’t resist some halloumi fries.
This summer sees even more seating and bookable options than previous years, with daybeds and garden booths available for intimate groups. There is more raised seating so even more people can get a better look at the views, while added greenery gives an urban garden vibe. Sports fans will be able to watch big games, including the FA Cup Final, Wimbledon and the Rugby World Cup. There will also be special events throughout the summer, including Hendricks Summer Solstice party (21 June), Gay Day, Opera and Dog Day.
Skylight was originally launched in 2017 on top of Tobacco Dock’s multi-story car park. Located just east of the City of London a short walk from Shadwell station (only a few minutes on the DLR from Bank), it gives stunning views over the capital’s skyline, with sights such as the Gherkin and The Shard visible. As well as its summer season, it is also a popular winter spot, with a rooftop ice rink on the roof.
- Skylight, Tobacco Quay (Pennington Street entrance), Wapping, E1CW 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell (DLR/TFL Rail) or Wapping. Open from 2 May until (TBA) September 2019. Open Thu-Fri 5pm-11pm, Sat-Sun 12pm-11pm. Free entry, but large groups over 10 are recommended to book. Croquet: Indoor £25, Outdoor £35 (45 min game), Petanque: £15 (2-4 players), Table tennis £5 for 30 mins. Day beds and booths available for booking from £70 for up to 10 people. For more information, visit the Skylight London website.
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Find out what’s on in the capital this May, including the two bank holiday weekends.
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.
- 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.
A special dining experience inspired by the hit fantasy drama.
Game Of Thrones is the show on everyone’s lips right now as the eighth and final series is currently hitting screens. Whether you’re aligned with the Lanisters or the Starks, there’s a special dining experience that could be right up your Westeros. Dinner Is Coming is a new immersive spoof dining adventure inspired by the hit fantasy drama. Guests can expect an exciting mix of theatre, comedy, food and murder in the tunnels below Waterloo station. The world of the Several Kingdoms will be created deep in the Vaults.
Dinner Is Coming, which launched in early April, tells the story of a marriage between heir Jaffrey Bearathon and Margarine Trywell. Guests will come together to celebrate the union of two families with a sumptuous feast. However, it won’t be smooth sailing, as there’s always a chance of violence or murder. Be prepared to pledge your love and loyalty to your kingdom.
The show is a new production from The Vaults’ creative team and directed by Sam Carrack. The fabulous feast has been designed by chefs Chavdar Todorov and Steven Estevez. Along with the food, guests will also enjoy a specially-designed drinks menu. Visitors will be invited to dress in accordance with their chosen house.
- Dinner Is Coming is on from 9 April – 14 July 2019. The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN. Nearest station: Waterloo or Lambeth North. Tickets: £35-£55 (inc booking fees). Runs 3 hours. Bar open until late on Fri and Sats. Dress code: Lords and ladies of Easteros. Ages 18 and over. All dietary requirements catered for. For more information and tickets, visit The Vaults website.
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The history of 17th century almhouses on the Mile End Road.
Standing in a busy, built-up part of the East End, the district of Stepney couldn’t look less rural. However, there’s one particular complex of buildings that have been standing since the area was surrounded by fields. If you walk down traffic-laden Mile End Road, you may find your eye drawn to the historic Trinity Green Almhouses and Chapel.
Originally named Trinity Hospital or Trinity Almhouses, the complex was built in 1695 by the Corporation of Trinity House (est. 1514) to provide housing for “28 decay’d Masters & Commanders of Ships or ye Widows of such”. Captain Henry Mudd of Ratcliffe (1630-1692) – an elder brother of Trinity House – donated the land to the charity in his will. His grave can be found in St Dunstan’s churchyard less than a mile away. Deputy Master of Trinity House, Captain Robin Sandes (d.1721) also contributed funding the building. As well as accommodation, the retired and incapacitated mariners also received a money allowance and coal. It’s been claimed the almhouses were designed by Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) and John Evelyn (1620-1706), although this cannot be verified. Many historians believed it was the work of master carpenter Sir William Ogbourne (1662-1734).
The Trinity Almhouses featured two rows of cottages facing a central garden with a separate chapel in the north. Each red brick house features is spread over one storey and a basement, with wood block and bracketed eaves cornices providing some lovely period detail. The front doors feature a wide hood supported by carved brackets.
At the south end of the two rows of cottages stand ornate gable ends facing Mile End Road. Each gable end is two storeys high and features white, rusticated quoins. The top storey features a brick niche surrounded by an ornate, stone architrave, while the building is crowned with a stone pediment. While the eastern gable end is still in good condition, the western one’s windows have been bricked up. The main attraction of the gable ends are the four model boats perched on the corners. These are actually 1950s fibreglass replicas of the original marble ones, which are being protected by the Museum of London. The models are of 42-gun Stuart warships of the 4th Rate and carved by Robert Jones. Each gable end also features a cartouche depicting the purpose of the almhouses, the contribution of Mudd and his widow and the year it was built.
The centrepiece of the gardens is the Chapel. Built in a Classical Revival style, it stands two storeys high, with rusticated quoins and pediment. The chapel is entered through a white door, at the top of a flight of stone steps curving outwards. Trinity Green is protected from the street by curved brick wall, wrought iron railing and iron gates.
Few would disagree that The Savoy is one of London’s most iconic hotels. It’s been standing on Strand for 130 years. A byword for luxury, the five-star hotel isn’t just for visitors to the capital, it also has a host of dining, drinking and entertainment options for Londoners. When it comes to The Savoy’s relationship with music, it goes way back. A host of musical legends, including Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and George Gershwin have performed in the hotel, while a more contemporary act Duran Duran have shot a music video in its hallowed halls.
Today, music is still very much part of The Savoy experience. Launching this spring is a new evening entertainment series. Live At The Savoy will kick off on 24 May 2019 in the hotel’s Thames Foyer nightly.
American singer Judi Jackson is launching the series as The Savoy’s Musician in Residence. The acclaimed jazz vocalist will begin on Wednesday 24 April and three further dates. The Virginia-born performer has recently released her debut album Live In London and tours internationally. Jackson has collaborated with Warner Music’s George Moore and Michael League, member of Grammy award-winning band Snarky Puppy, and credits Wynton Marsalis and Mavis Staples among her influences.
Also performing during Live At The Savoy will be American-born and Liverpool based soul singer/songwriter Jalen N’Gonda. He was hailed as ‘a voice full of nuances and golden songs’ at the 2018 Montreux Jazz Talent Awards and opened for Motown legends Martha And The Vandellas in Liverpool in 2015.
- Live At The Savoy with Judi Jackson: 24 April, 24 May, 20 June and 25 July.
- Live At The Savoy with Jalen N’Gonda: 9 May, 16 May (and further dates).
During the entertainment, guests can feast on the new Thames Foyer evening menu, available from 7pm. It has been inspired by The Savoy’s famous 19th century chef Auguste Escoffer, who invented the Peach Melba. The menu is divided into three sections: Prolgue (7pm-8.30pm); Story (8.30pm-10.30pm) and Epilogue (conclusion). An extensive drinks list will also be on offer.
- Live At The Savoy takes place in the Thames Foyer. At The Savoy, Strand, Westminster, WC2R 0EZ. Nearest stations: Embankment, Charing Cross or Temple. Tickets: £25pp with additional minimum spend on food and drinks at £20pp. Tel: 020 7420 2111 or email. For more information, visit The Savoy website.
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Coming to the Old Brompton Gallery this May for a short run is a new exhibition from acclaimed American artist James Gemmill. It’s likely you’ve already seen his work in some of Hollywood’s most stunning films, including recent releases Dumbo and Mary Poppins Returns. Throughout his career, Gemmill has worked as a scenic artist on The Da Vinci Code, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!, Beauty And The Beast, Skyfall, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and many more.
Gemmill started training in his native US, receiving a Master’s in Fine Art at Boston University. Landing a scholarship at the Royal College of Art took him to the UK, with the artist and sculptor now based in Oxfordshire. As well as painting and film work, he has also utilised his artist’s eye in interior design, as well as with calligraphy and metalworks.
His new exhibition, ‘Contemplative Spaces’, features a collection of 14 images, which are all available for sale. Opening on 1 May, the display runs for six days at the Kensington space. Explaining his artistic approach to his paintings in the exhibition, Gemmill said: “I do not start with a canvas or stretcher size, this would put a constraint on the creative process. A large piece of canvas is fixed to my studio wall, I then walk up to it, start painting. The image and the process determine the boundaries not the other way around. The pieces either grow or shrink and sometimes I get it wrong and the piece needs to expand again with extra canvas. These canvases represent a process of creativity as much as a view of the world.”
- James Gemmill’s Contemplative Spaces exhibition runs from 1 – 6 May 2019. At Old Brompton Gallery, 238 Old Brompton Road, Kensington, SW5 0DE. Nearest station: Earl’s Court or West Brompton. Open 11am-7pm or by appointment. For more information, visit James Gemmill’s website.
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Creative cocktails, fabulous food and house parties galore.
Long before The Little Blue Door, there was The Little Yellow Door. The original, cult pop-up entertained tens of thousands of revellers with cocktails, food and fun during its first three years in its first home in Notting Hill Gate. Following the opening of its successor The Little Blue Door in Fulham last year, The Little Yellow Door is returning to Notting Hill with a permanent home.
TLYD’s second outing will be situated at All Saints Road, around the corner from its original home. The flatmates are moving into their new abode and are ready to welcome guests to join their never-ending house party. To those uninitiated, The Little Yellow Door is based on a fictional flatshare, home to an eclectic mix of flatmates. Guests are invited to drop by the party pad to enjoy cocktails, sharing plates, boozy brunches and late-night dancing.
The Little Yellow Door is set over two floors and is inspired by its first outing with colourful and quirky décor, mismatched furniture and the original yellow door. Guests can mingle in the open plan kitchen and living room, with cosy sofas and a fireplace for those colder evenings. The experimental cocktail list is inspired by the flatmates’ DVD collection. Previous visitors will recognise boozy concoctions such as Coffee And Cigarettes and Kill Bill (Earl Grey infused Bombay Sapphire Gin, Lemon Curd and Thyme).
Meanwhile, foodies will be in for a feast with TLYD offering a monthly, changing seasonal menu. Every month will feature two of the flatmates using their national cuisine in a cook-off, with each winner offering more culinary treats the following month. Among the grub on offer includes Salt and Pepper Squid with Lettuce Wraps, Lime Leaf and Lemongrass Dipping Sauce; Woodfired Bavette Steak with Chimichurri and a Horseradish Cream or Shallot Sauce; and Pork Belly and Peanut Bao Buns with House Pickles. Meanwhile, every weekend the flatmates will be hosting bottomless brunches on Saturday and Sunday roasts.
If you’re up for a late-night party, guests can sneak away to the secret hideaway downstairs. The Flatmates’ Den is open until 2am and features retro games, backgammon and poker tables, while the music corner offers instruments, record players and live DJs.
- The Little Yellow Door, 6-8 All Saints Road, Notting Hill, W11 1HH. Nearest station: Westbourne Park or Ladbroke Grove. For more information, visit The Little Yellow Door website. To book, WhatsApp: 07801 267 854 or email TLYD
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