London is absolutely heaven this time of the year.
I recently visited Destination Christmas at Selfridges on Oxford Street, absolutely amazing. Take the lift to the top floor and volià, you’re in Christmas heaven!!
I bought some presents for my kids, there’s a big toy area, and got them wrapped by Selfridges’ own little helpers: the Elfridges.
If you like me, have a daughter who’s into Monster High, I can really recommend a visit. The dolls are almost half price compared to Sweden.
Fortnum & Mason is a must visit too, especially for their seasonal tea and buscuits. I buy it just as much for the boxes as for the tea…
The area around Covent Garden and Seven Dials are also two of my favourites.
If you’re into shopping, you might want to know that Seven Dials and St Martin’s Courtyard are hosting a Christmas Shopping Night Out on Thursday 5 December 5-9pm with 20% discount at over 120 shops, bars and restaurants.
And if you get the chance, stop by the hotel Claridge’s in Mayfair and have a look at their special Christmas tree, designed by Dolce & Gabbana.
I recently enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Hunterian museum at Glasgow University, an amazing collection and Scotland’s oldest public museum dating from 1807. In these breath-taking surroundings I was reminded about how special a year 2014 is going to be in Scotland.
Homecoming is the name of an incredible range of events taking place throughout the year, it covers art, food & drink, music, outdoor activities – you name it. If you fancy a trip to Scotland, be sure to check the events listing so you can join in.
To commemorate the 700th anniversary of the battle of Bannockburn, a state of the art attraction will be opening a couple of miles from Stirling on the site of the battlefield. The use of cutting edge technology means you will be able to experience the sights and sounds of a battle in 1314. Visitors get the chance to lead their own division of medieval soldiers into a dramatic 3D battle against the enemy (a fellow visitor). I can’t wait to try this!
If this really is your cup of tea, I would recommend that you time your visit around 28th 29th & 30th June, where you can experience Bannockburn Live with 45,000 visitors from around the world, there will be a brutal re-enactment of the battle alongside themed villages, showcasing; sights, sounds and atmosphere of medieval and modern Scotland. There will be a programme packed with music, Scottish food & drink, crafts, literature and outdoor activities. Tickets available here.
If medieval battles and world class sports are simply ‘not you’; have a wee peek at this film it’s not hard to find something in Scotland to your taste.
Slàinte – Gary
Today, 4th of October is the Swedish premiere for the film Diana, bearing Naomi Watts posing as the famous, and much loved, Princess of Wales.
The film tells the story of the last two years of Diana’s life, and her romance with eminent heart surgeon Dr Hasnat Khan.
I was fortunate to attend the gala premiere in late September and if you love to see London on the screen, you will not be disappointed!
The film locations include Kensington Palace, the Princess’s home following her marriage to the Prince of Wales. (It is now the home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and baby Prince George). Naturally you can’t go to the private side of Kensington Palace where the Royals reside, however you can explore the public part of the Palace and admire elegant dresses at Fashion Rules, an exhibition of glamorous dresses worn by The Queen, Princess Margaret, and Diana herself.
In the film, you will also see Naomi Watts take a jog in Kensington Gardens, as her character Diana.
This is also where you’ll find the Diana Memorial Playground, which opened in 2000 in memory of the Princess and her love of the innocence of childhood.
As the most famous woman in the world, Diana sometimes went out in disguise to avoid being recognised. Naomi Watts donned a brunette wig for filming with Naveen Andrew (who plays Diana’s love interest Dr Hasnat Khan in the film) at Soho jazz club Ronnie Scott’s – the ideal place for a first date in the capital. The famous club has been going since 1959, with live jazz from internationally celebrated musicians seven nights a week. On Fridays and Saturdays the club operates two ‘houses’, the first from 6pm-10pm and the second 10.30pm-3am, for fun late-night romancing.
Outside of the capital, Diana and Hasnat go on a romantic visit to Beachy Head in East Sussex in the film. The chalk cliffs of Beachy Head are the UK’s highest, a fantastic place to visit. Romantic couples can stroll along the cliffs, visit the lighthouse and finish off with a pint at the Beachy Head pub.
The Princess often wore clothes by British designer Jacques Azagury, and loved luxury shopping paradise Knightsbridge, where his shop is located. It’s also where you’ll find department stores Harvey Nichols and Harrods, the boutiques of famous designers like Chanel, Fendi, Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as some of Diana’s favourite restaurants, like classic Italian San Lorenzo.
Azagury have also made most of the oufits that are worn by Naomi Watts in the film.
P.S If you live in Sweden and happen be a subscriber of the publication M Magasin, you can enter a competition with the chance win a trip for two to London and travel in the footsteps of the film.
Manchester United Museum and Tour just recently unveiled a special temporary exhibition to honour one of football’s most famous names: David Beckham.
David Beckham first signed as a schoolboy with the Club at the tender age of 14 and the exhibition records his career at Manchester United. From the training kit he wore as a teenager, to his first team shirts from big matches such as the 99 Champion’s League Final.
He made his first-team debut for Manchester United in 1992 aged 17, going on to win the Premier League title six times, the FA Cup twice, and the UEFA Champions League in 1999. Some of David’s winner’s medals and commemorative shirts feature as part of one of the displays.
In addition to this there are also interactive aspects to the exhibit which sounds really fun! Beckham is famed for the precision of his free kicks, so as a fan you can try to predict exactly where within the goal posts he will place the ball during one of his many famous strikes.
Just as famous off the pitch as he is on it, ‘Becks’ is also well known for his changing hairstyle and as a visitor you can relive some of these via an interchangeable portrait of his famous face.
The temporary David Beckham exhibition at the Old Trafford will be on display during the next 12 months.
There are so many great new exhibitions in London at the moment. One of them is an original exhibition about Amy Winehouse which has just opened, curated by the Jewish Museum with help from her brother Alex and sister-in-law Riva.
Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait takes us beyond the hype and shows a more private side, and what she meant to her brother. A personal and intimate exhibition about a much-loved sister.
‘Being Jewish to me is about being together as a real family…It’s not about lighting candles and saying a brocha.’ Amy Winehouse, 2005
The family have given the Jewish Museum unprecedented access to Amy’s belongings, including her guitar, record collection and iconic outfits. Hosted in the heart of Amy’s Camden, this exhibition celebrates her passion for music, fashion, London and her family.
Many unseen photographs of Amy’s family life will be on display, revealing her strong Jewish roots and heritage as well as her close family relationships. Friday night dinners and Alex’s barmitzvah are captured in these images, and vintage photographs of their beloved grandmother Cynthia show what may have been the roots of Amy’s distinctive style.
Photographs are an important part of the exhibition and Amy’s own battered suitcase crammed with photographs of friends and family will be on display. It is this suitcase that Amy insisted her father come to look through with her a couple of days before her death in 2011 – the last time he saw her.
A must-see exhibition from my point of view!!
I think this is so cool. For the first time ever, you can explore Harry Potter behind the scenes on Google Maps. The intricate set of Diagon Alley at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London.
The 360 degree images include Ollivanders where Harry’s wand chose him, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes featuring a 20 –foot mannequin above the main entrance and the amazing medicinal world of Mr Mulpepper’s Apothecary with its fantastic collection of jars and cauldrons.
During production it took the crew more than three months to build the set, while the graphic designers and prop team spent six months creating over 20,000 different items and packages which appear on the shops’ shelves. Amazing!!
See you in Diagon Alley!
Do you happen to be one of the lucky people who have a ticket to one of the Rolling Stones concersts in London tomorrow or on 13 July?
Well, even if you don’t but will be in London before 14 July, I suggest you head off to Hilton on Park Lane (who is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year) who have created a Rolling Scones afternoon tea to mark the occasion.
The music-themed treats come served on an edible chocolate plate and include cherry flavoured biscuit lips; a 1978-inspired rainbow lolly; chocolate button cake; cheese cake with a tattoo twist; and tumbling dice based on the band’s top 10 hit. Yum, yum!! I love it!
And the story goes, that as well as being regular guests at London Hilton on Park Lane, Keith Richards, founding member of The Rolling Stones, is also reported to have written the famous riff from Satisfaction at the hotel.
Every Friday night at the moment, my family and I tune in Let’s Dance on TV4. The Swedish version of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.
My 6-year-old daughter loves it and so do I. If I was a celebrity, I wouldn’t miss the chance to be on the dancefloor. Seems like so much fun. Except for the harsh jury of course….
One of the judges, and perhaps the toughest of them all, is Tony Irving. A British dancer, dance teacher and nowadays a very popular TV personality. Tony is a very proud to be an Englishman in Sweden. He is proud to be British and loves his home country. VisitBritain was very curious to find out about his favourite places to visit in the UK, and he kindly shared his top 10 travel tips with us!
This is where you should go if you want to experience Tony Irving’s England:
1. Mousehole in Cornwall. Visiting this small quaint Cornish village gives a feeling of how things where . It’s Cornwall at it’s best.
2. Falmouth and Saint Mawes. A great place to visit to see Castels and small quiant villages and towns.
Visit the Jacobs Ladder Inn at Falmouth. (My Aunt ran this for years and I spent a lot of my youth there).
In Saint Mawes I reccommend the Ship and Castle Hotel on the Waterfront, the food is great and the location is amazing.
3. Windsor and Eton. Two towns seperated by the Thames. A perfect place to see England at it’s finest. Everything from historic Windsor castle to the prestigious Eton School. While you’re here a must is the House on the bridge restaurant.
4. Caernarfon Wales – A perfect spot to feel the history of Wales. It’s a place that as a child stimulated my fantasy and brought about a fascination for legends and stories that I still have today. It’s within easy reach of the Mennai Starights , The Island of Angelsey and Snowdonia so it’s a great place to base yourself for a long weekend holiday.
5. Bassenthwaite Lake near Keswick. Beautifull area if you like country walks in a ‘real’ English setting. My favourite place to stay is Armathwaite Hall. My family has been taking short weekend holidays there since the 80’s . If you want a Downtown Abbey feel it’s the perfect destination.
6. Ambleside at Lake Windermere. The heart of the Lake District. This picturesque town is a must if you visit this area. But just outside is a little village called Little Langdale. It’s a beautiful unspoiled area with a typical Inn called the Three Shires. A must! Especially if you’re looking for the William Wordsworth feel.
7. A day or night on the Northern Belle. Most people have heard of the Orient Express,well this is the Northern English extension of that famous rail service.
It’s an inexpensive way to treat yourself to a once in a lifetime experience. You’ll get a feeling for the Agatha Christie touch. It’s a wonderful experience for 2. My advice is try one of their dinner journeys. It’s a trip into a forgotten world. I love it!
8. Alton Towers, theme park and resort. In my opinion this is the best theme park and tivoli in England. Your kids will love it and if you don’t have kids you will thoroughly enjoy yourself.
9. Slaidburn and the forest of Bowland. This is for me one of the most exciting parts of the English countryside and I have many fond memories of our family outings to this area. The small rural village of Slaidburn is trapped in a time warp and is the stereotypical Lancashire country village. The best place to visit is the pub called the Hark to Bounty. They do a great traditional country pub food.
10. The one destination which I visit as often as I can is funnily enough Manchester. (My home District)
The city centre or the Trafford centre are amazing for shopping.
The restaurants are out of this world.
The nightlife is to die for and the theatre and musical scene is the best outside of London.
Close by to Manchester are lots of smaller towns with great access to the centre so you can always combine the two for a town and country feel. But I prefer the Midland hotel as its got a high standard and everything you want is on the doorstep.
My favourite restaurant is the Cafe Istanbul. Oriental food at its best… And of course the different districts in the City, China town, the Indian district and of course the Gay village all come together to make Manchester a great cosmopolitan area.
Thank you Tony! Lots of great travel tips.
To download a Swedish version of Tony’s tips, click here.
If you like me, live in a house and have your own private garden, it’s always fascinating to peek into other gardens in the neigbourhood or watch garden shows on TV.
One of my favourites is the programme on the National Garden Scheme in the UK. I’m impressed by the dedication of amateur gardeners who strive to get accepted in the scheme and the hard work that goes into it. I would never have the patience!! And to be honest, it’s usually my husband who does the hard work in our garden, I just come up with ideas and a ‘wishlist’…
This year, over 800 gardens (!), some in every county of England and Wales, will open to the public on the weekend of 15 and 16 June in the National Garden Scheme’s first ever National Gardens Weekend. Quite a few to visit if you are dedicated fan!!
The weekend is designed to raise awareness of the scheme, whereby private gardens, not generally open to the public, throw open their gates on one or two days a year, to raise money for charity (while a number of gardens which do open regularly to the public, also dedicate the proceeds on one or two set days, to the charity).
This year a record 3850 gardens will open throughout the year, including nearly 600 which are new or “returning” to the scheme. The scheme attracts serious gardeners – for example there are 80 plant heritage collections among the openings - as well as more amateurs so this is very much an opportunity for an enjoyable day out with friends and family. An indication of this is that while 2453 offer plants for sale, even more (2750) offer tea and home-made cakes! Yum, yum!!
More info on www.ngs.org.uk, or buy “The Yellow Book” as the book of dates and openings is known, and see what is open when you are visiting a particular part of the country.
As you will have seen in my previous posts. Me and my family had a fantastic weekend in London. Here’s my top tips on how to make it fun and memorable for everyone!
1. Get a decent sized hotel room, Look for Premier Inn or other chain hotels that cater for families. Apartments are another option. Compared to travelling as a couple or by yourself, you will be in the hotel more, so get a comfortable decent sized room.
2. Location, Location, Location, isn’t as important as in other cities, but make sure you are close to an underground station or even better a good bus route (my kids loved riding on the double-decker buses)
3. Don’t bite off more than you can chew! Pick max three activities/attractions per day – and everyone will be able to enjoy each experience.
4. Research before travelling and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Check out our website www.visitbritain.se also look at www.visitlondon.com – when you are in London make friends with the concierge at the hotel, they are generally very helpful, as are policemen, taxi drivers, people working for sightseeing companies and really Londoners in general.
5. If you want to eat at a good restaurant at the weekend, it’s a good idea to reserve a table, I use http://www.squaremeal.co.uk/restaurants/london/ but there are lots of alternatives.
6. Some attractions might need to be booked in advance, for example the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour. You can buy tickets here.
7. Getting around London. It’s easy by bus or tune, you can buy on the day at underground stations, but you should also check out buying in advance, www.visitbritain.se/shop . London cabs are not expensive for short journeys and are part of the experience.
8. Take in a show. Going to see a musical in London is a fantastic experience, you can get discounted tickets on the day, but if you want to guarantee a good seat and the show you want, book in advance online.
9. If you are going for afternoon tea, have it on the same day as you go to the theatre/musical. It saves you from rushing dinner pre-theatre (as you probably won’t be hungry).
10. Go now! The pound is cheaper than it has been for 20 years.