Tired of London, Tired of Life - A website about things to do in London



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28 February 2009

See the Olympic site before it's finished

Out in East London there's a lot of building going on. Most of it is behind big fences but if you're cunning and you head out there you might just see something special.

The site seems to be coming along well, and despite some obvious big piles of earth there is clearly something emerging from the Lea Valley which is worth a view.

So now the weather is nicer why not ride out there and have a look, before it is swallowed up by niceness.

27 February 2009

See the Church that inspired a thousand wedding cakes

St Brides Church, which calls itself "The Cathedral of Fleet Street", is just off Fleet Street in the City and was another church designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London. The distinctive spire was added shortly afterwards in 1701-1703, and subequently lost it's top when it was struck by lightning in 1764.

Legend has it that it was this spire that inspired the modern wedding cake, when local baker, William Rich, used the design in his confectionary business.

We are also told that, buried at St. Bride's is Robert Levet, who was imortalised by the author Samuel Johnson (whose quote gave inspiration to this blog) in his poem "On the Death of Mr Robert Levet".

The closest tube stations are St Paul's and Blackfriars. For more information on St Brides visit the website at http://www.stbrides.com/.

^Picture from Wikipedia under Wikimedia Commons^

26 February 2009

Tea and Tapas at the Troubador Cafe

The Troubador Cafe, in Earls Court, is a West London institution. It sells itself as 'the last 1950s coffee house in Earls Court, with a proud history of courtesy, peace and artistic energy', and it's a lovely place to hang around for an evening.

London often seems to lack places for a nice cup of tea after dark, but thankfully the Troubador fills that vibe, and serves tea, food and alcoholic drinks from 9am until midnight every day.

The Troubador Club is downstairs and since its opening in 1954 it has played host to a range of artists, peaking in the 1960s when Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon graced the stage. The cafe also has its own wine shop next door, which stocks a wide range of wines from £5 upwards.

So next time you're in Earls Court, don't just look for the quickest way out. Stop in at the Troubador and have a drink. The Troubador is just down the road from Earls Court tube and you can find more information at http://www.troubadour.co.uk

25 February 2009

Swap clothes

Swap-a-rama-razamatazz is a monthly night at Favela Chic based around the theme of clothes swapping.

Admittedly, at first sight it sounds awful but it's not so bad. The organisers like to insist that there are two rules: (i) don't wear anything you can't live without and (ii) whenever the claxon sounds you must swap an item of clothing with the person closest to you.

It's good honest fun and much as it seem like a w*nky shoreditch night out, it is recommended. It you look very closely you might even spot your author in the video above.

Favela Chic is on Great Eastern Street a short distance from Old Street Tube Station. Entry is £3 before 9pm and £5 after. For more information, visit the night's page on myspace at http://uk.myspace.com/swaparamarazzmatazz.

24 February 2009

Stay in John Betjeman's house

43 Cloth Fair, just off Smithfields Market in the City, was once home to John Betjeman, English writer and broadcaster and former Poet Laureate. It is now owned by The Landmark Trust, a charity established in 1965 to rescue historic and architecturally interesting buildings, and rented out as a holiday let by the Trust to raise funds for its upkeep.

Betjeman had many aspects to his personality and alongside his journalistic and poetic careers, he is also noted for his interest in Victorian Architecture at a time when much of it was being demolished. He was a founder member of The Victorian Society, and is famous for his battle to preserve the Euston Arch (one which he ultimately lost) and his more successful campaign to save the iconic Gothic hotel at St Pancras Station, which is now being converted into a new hotel and apartments.

It was at number 43 that Betjeman lived and wrote, and this is also where he reputedly entertained his mistress Lady Elizabeth Cavendish.

The flat can be rented by the week or for three or four day stays throughout the year. Unfortunately, however, you have to have deep pockets and even a few days stay will probably set you back hundreds of pounds. Those who are looking for a more affordable way to remember John Betjeman could do worse than eat in the restaurant downstairs, which bears his name.

For more information on this or any of the Landmark Trust's 186 properties including forts, farmhouses, manor houses, mills, cottages, castles, gatehouses, follies and towers, visit http://www.landmarktrust.org.uk/. For more information on John Betjeman, click here for the article on Wikipedia.

^Picture from Wikipedia under Wikimedia Commons^

23 February 2009

Go for a £4 swim in the '8th best pool in the world'

Ironmonger Row Baths, on a quiet backstreet a short walk from the City, was built in 1931 and houses a 30 metre pool, a Turkish Bath and a gym.

In 2000, The Independent Newspaper named Ironmonger Row Baths as the 8th best in a rundown of the 50 best swimming pools in the world. Alright, this may be entirely subjective but it is a nice little pool, and it's fairly warm unlike some others in Central London.

The whole centre is run by Aquaterra for Islington Borough Council and is open daily. The Turkish Bath consists of a steam room, a series of three hot rooms of varying temperature, marble slabs for massage and body scrubbing and an ice-cold plunge pool.

It costs £3.90 for an adult swim and the Turkish Baths cost £13.30. The centre in Ironmonger Row is a short walk from Barbican or Old Street Tube Stations. You can read more at the Ironmonger Row Baths website at http://www.aquaterra.org/ironmonger-row-baths.aspx.

^Picture of Ironmonger Row Baths building from Wikipedia under Wikimedia Commons^

22 February 2009

Eat dinner on a Routemaster bus

The Rootmaster 'Bustaurant', in Elys Yard off Brick Lane, is a vegetarian restaurant in an authentic 1967 Routemaster Bus.

There is a kitchen on the lower deck, with a takeaway hatch for those on the run and upstairs it is a fully fledged restaurant with seats for 28 people. There are also seats outside.

The bus was withdrawn from service after 37 years in 2004 when and went through two more owners before being acquired by the current restauranteurs and launched in May 2007.

The kitchen serves up healthy vegetarian fare which is priced around £5-£8 at lunch and £9-£12 for dinner. The bus is open Monday to Saturday from 11am to 11pm and Sunday from 11am to 10.30pm, though the kitchen only opens at noon and closes about an hour before the time listed. The nearest tubes are Liverpool Street or Aldgate East. for more information visit the website at http://www.root-master.co.uk/.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of slushpup^

21 February 2009

Drink Wine from vending machines

The Sampler is a wine shop on Upper Street in Islington which has an ingenious wine sampling system.

The shop claims to have around 1,000 wines from around the world, 80 of which are available for sampling at any time. They manage this through their special vending machines in store which serve small tasting samples so you can check you like a wine before you buy it. Prices for a sample start at less than 50p.

To try the wines you must first register for a smart card and charge it up with a minimum of £10 tasting credit. Then you can get tasting. By simply pushing the button for the wine you want.

There are separate white wine and red wine machines which are changed every 2 - 3 weeks to keep the selection fresh.

The Sampler is a short walk from Highbury and Islington or Angel tube stations.
For more information visit the website at http://www.thesampler.co.uk.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of TheBusyBrain^

20 February 2009

Learn about the Foot Guards

The Guards Museum, at the Wellington Barracks on Birdcage Walk in Westminster, tells the history of the regiments of Foot Guards.

These are the Grenadier Guards, the Coldstream Guards, the Scots Guards, the Irish Guards and Welsh Guards, who, along with the two regiments of Household Cavalry make up the Queen's Household Division and guard The Queen and the Royal Palaces. The museum opened in 1988, and is home to a wide collection charting the history of the regiments from the 17th century to present, through uniforms, paintings, drawings, and sculptures.

The museum is open 10.00am to 4.00pm, 7 days a week and costs £3. For more information visit http://www.theguardsmuseum.com/.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of Dave-F^

19 February 2009

Watch film at the Mediatheque

At the Mediatheque suite just of the foyer of the BFI Southbank, you can enjoy films from the National Film and Television Archive, one of the world's largest archives of moving-images, comprising thousands of hours of film and television.

The content is available to your choice on small private screens in the Mediatheque suite itself and it's free to view. You can either book or just show up, sit down, and watch.

The Mediatheque is open Wednesday to Sunday 11am - 8pm and Tuesdays 1pm - 8pm. It's free and you can book in advance, should you wish to do so, on 020 7928 3535. For information on some of the films available click here or visit the BFI website at http://www.bfi.org.uk.

^Picture of the BFI reception (mediatheque is just to the right of the desk) from flickr courtesy of Jon & Alison^

18 February 2009

See a Brutalist marvel

Particularly handy for navigating your way around the Notting Hill Carnival, and for telling when it's time to get your bags ready on a train into Paddington, Trellick Tower was designed by the Brutalist architect Ernő Goldfinger, and completed in 1972.

Brutalism apparently derived its name from the French béton brut, meaning "raw concrete", and the Trellick has this in spades. Your author has always found Brutalism particularly inspiring, and this tower is no different. It is certainly well deserving of the Grade II* listed status, which was awarded in the late 1990s.

The building has 217 flats and is characterised by a long, thin main building, with a separate tower housing a lift and linked at every third floor to main building.

The tower is at 5 Golborne Rd, W10, just up the road from Westbourne Park Tube, and you can read more about it on Wikipedia.

^Picture from Wikipedia under Wikimedia Commons^

17 February 2009

Climb Monument

Only two days since tiredoflondontiredoflife recommended climbing another monument designed by Sir Christopher Wren which was built after the Great Fire of London, but there's a special reason for writing about the Monument today.

The Monument has been closed since July 2007 to undergo an 18 month, £4.5 million restoration, but it reopened to visitors at noon yesterday.

Built to commemorate the Great Fire of London, and placed near the site of Farryner's bakery, where the fire began, Wren was requested to lodge a design as Surveyor-General of the King's Works, and after this was finalised in 1671 it took a further six years before the 202ft Monument was completed.

Legend has it that Charles II refused to have a statue of himself placed atop the monument, as he did not want to be associated with the fire, and so a bowl of flame was placed there instead.

The Monument is open daily 9.30am to 5pm and admission is £3, which includes a certificate to prove you've climbed. For more information visit the website at http://www.themonument.info/.

^Picture (pre-refurbishment) from flickr courtesy of RightIndex^

16 February 2009

Hunt for treasure

Time Out put together an annual treasure hunt in the Spring, and whilst there's a while yet until the 2009 hunt is published, ones from previous years are still available online.

Treasure hunts are a lot of fun, and whatever anyone says they're not just for kids. Avoiding valentine's events like the plague, your author and some friends did the 2007 hunt on Saturday and it was brilliant.

There were a few outdated clues, but it made for a great day out and gave a fresh perspective on the city.

Needless to say, your author's team didn't win, and when it came time to dish out the best prizes £2-£3 in Fopp could buy in the Museum Tavern, we went home empty-handed.

A brilliant day out, though, and we still have the South Bank, West End and Greenwich clues saved up for another day.

You can view the full list of clues (and answers) for the treasure hunt on the ***link temporarily disabled for September Treasure Hunt***.

^Picture of the Hunt by the author^

15 February 2009

Climb to the top of St Paul's Cathedral

A surprising number of Londoners have never been into St Paul's Cathedral, but in your author's view they are the ones missing out on one of London's gems.

The 'modern' St Paul's was built after its predecessor was burnt down in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and was completed in 1708. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, legend has it that the cathedral elders wanted a more traditional design, and Wren promised them this, safe in the knowledge they would be long gone by the time his masterpiece was completed.

Sure, it's fairly expensive at £11 a ticket, but for that, you can see inside one of Britain's most iconic landmarks, and climb to the top of the dome for spectacular views out across London.

The cathedral has played host to many state occasions, including the funerals of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington (both of whom are buried in the Crypt) and Sir Winston Churchill, the 80th and 100th birthdays of the Queen Mother and the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana and

The cathedral is open to tourists from Monday to Saturday between 8.30am and 4pm. For more information visit the website at http://www.stpauls.co.uk/.

^Picture from Wikipedia under Wikimedia Commons^

14 February 2009

Listen to a public lecture at the LSE

Much as it pains your author to admit it, considering the number of friends who studied there, LSE is (probably, sometimes) regarded as one of the world's leading academic institutions.

One of the benefits of LSE as an institution, and of its convenient location, for those of us who didn't attend is that they do frequent free lectures, which are probably reasonably interesting.

They're very regular and are given by some of the top academics in that area of London at the time (or in the world, or whatever). So why not see what you can learn? You never know...

For more information, visit the website at http://www.lse.ac.uk/resources/search/events.

^Picture of Old Building - LSE from flickr courtesy of markhillary ^

13 February 2009

Take a tour of BBC Television Centre

Shepherd's Bush isn't really an area of London you associate with major landmarks, but nowadays it has a few major ones. The Westfields Shopping Centre is only streets away from BBC Television Centre, and west of that is Loftus Road, home of Queens Park Rangers FC.

BBC Television Centre (or "TVC" to meeja types) was opened in June 1960, and has been home to a great deal of BBC Output since then.

Back in 2007 it seemed like Television Centre's days were numbered, when it was scheduled to be sold off by the Beeb by 2013. However, more recently the credit crunch has meant it simply isn't be worth as much, so it looks as though the BBC will retain it.

Interestingly, plans to sell off the building have led to it potentially being scheduled for listed status by English Heritage, who had previously agreed not to list it unless the BBC disposed of it, so the BBC could make adjustments, so perhaps their indecision may cause them problems in the future.

The BBC offer an award-winning tour of Television Centre six days a week, Monday to Saturday. Booking is essential, however, and it costs £9.30. Clearly the telly tax doesn't stretch this far. You can find out more about the tours at http://www.bbc.co.uk/tours/details/details_tvc.shtml and they can be booked on 0370 901 1227.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of Phillie Casablanca^

12 February 2009

Eat breakfast in a recording studio

The Premises Cafe, on Hackney Road, E2, is part of the Premises Rehearsal & Recording Studios, and is open every day from 8am serving a wide-ranging menu from breakfast to lunch. At 6.30 every evening a new menu is rolled out including Turkish Mangal Grills, Daily Specials and Salads.

The recording studio itself has played host to many big names, including: Lily Allen, local resident Jarvis Cocker, Lady Sov, Lee Scratch Perry, Amy Winehouse, the London Community Gospel Choir and Chaka Khan, and a whole host more, and the walls of the cafe are adorned with pictures of the stars as you can see above.

According to the website this Cafe has been named by TFL as the number one cafe in London for breakfast fry-ups, which seems a little difficult to believe with all the choice, but this is undoubtedly a good cafe.

For more information visit the website at http://www.premisesstudios.com/.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of OllieR^

11 February 2009

Catch the last tube

There's something very pleasant about catching the last tube home. It usually occurs as an excellent combination of a good 'school night' out with friends and being organised enough to make it onto a convenient mode of transport to get you home in a quick and stress free manner. Sure, it may have lost a bit of it's charm since Boris banned binging on the tube, but still...

Again, it's not something which you should go out of your way to do, unless perhaps you never have before, but it is an experience which is particularly London, and without sounding cliched there is even sometimes even the glimmer of a sense of camaraderie that a usual tube ride doesn't bring amongst those who have managed to beat the system and avoid the night bus.

Visit the TFL website for details of first and last tubes.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of Annie Mole of http://london-underground.blogspot.com/^

10 February 2009

Experience a good London Fog

In Evelyn Waugh's Novel Put Out More Flags, the character Ambrose Silk says "The decline of England...dates from the day we abandoned coal fuel. We used to live in a fog, the splendid, luminous, tawny fogs of our early childhood...We designed a city which was meant to be seen in a fog."
He continues..."Then some busybody invents electricity...the fog lifts, the world sees us as we are, and worse still we see ourselves as we are. It was a carnival ball which when the guests were unmasked at midnight was found to be composed entirely of imposters."

Waugh wrote this as parody, but it reflects the very real smogs, or "pea-soupers", which affected Victorian London. Wikipedia tells us that London had been known for smog since Roman times, and coal fires were banned (briefly) as early as 1306 (by Edward I), to try to combat the problem of pollution in the capital.

However, it was not until the 1956 'Clean Air Act' that followed the Great Smog of 1952, which darkened the streets of London and killed as many as 4,000 people over 4 days, that real action was taken to combat the problem.

Nowadays, though vehicle pollution is still a problem, there is much less pollution in London. And to experience London as millions did over 600 years you must wait for a cold day when conditions are right and the fog hangs low over the city.

So next time it happens, don't complain. Embrace the London which has long since passed and see London as it was designed to be seen: grey and smoggy.

For more about London's worst smog, the Great Smog of 1952, see the relevant page on Wikipedia.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of Gwire^

9 February 2009

Spot Jimi Hendrix's flat

An American by birth, Hendrix made London his home and it was here that he built his career. During the late 60s London was as fashionable as it has ever been and Jimi, having just returned from finally conquering America, moved into a flat at 23 Brook Street, right at the heart of the London music scene, next door to the former home of the composer George Frideric Handel, and close to music venues such as the Marquee, the Speakeasy and the Saville.

Here he spent a few months of 1968-9, in between a punishing tour schedule, soaking up local bands and generally living the rock and roll dream.

It wasn't here that Hendrix died, however. This occurred a year of so later when, in early morning of September 18, 1970 he was found dead in a flat in the basement of the Samarkand Hotel at 22 Lansdowne Crescent in West London, and was rushed to nearby Kensington Hospital, where he was pronounced dead just after midday.

For more information you could look at Westminster City Council's Black History Month leaflet, or the Jimi Hendrix Page on Wikipedia.

^Picture from Wikipedia under Wikimedia Commons^

8 February 2009

Take a walk with the Metropolitan Walkers

The Metropolitan Walkers is part of the Ramblers Association and organises regular walks for Londoners.

The walks vary in location and some are in London whilst others are in the surrounding area, but never more than a reasonable train ride from the centre.

You can take up to three walks with them for free before you have to join. More committed members can also attend the regular social events and walking weekends away. Walks take place on evenings and weekends, and all are accessible by public transport.

There are, apparently, up to five walks a week to choose from, "with everything from evening strolls through London’s parks to hiking Ben Nevis the hard way".

For more information visit the website at http://www.metropolitan-walkers.org.uk/.

^Picture of Walking the Chilterns from flickr courtesy of net_efekt^

7 February 2009

See Van Gogh's Sunflowers

In August and September 1888, Vincent Van Gogh painted four paintings of sunflowers when he was living in the Yellow House which he rented in Arles, in the South of France.

One of those paintings is held by the National Gallery, in Trafalgar Square, and when another painting in the series came up for sale in 1987 it was sold to a Japanese businessman for $39 million.

The National Gallery is open daily from 10am to 6pm and on Wednesdays from 10am to 9pm. Annoyingly, however, from 27th February late opening is changing from Wednesdays to Fridays, to fall in line with seemingly every other gallery in town. Apparently it is wrong in London Galleries to allow weekday late opening!

For more information visit the National Gallery Website at http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

6 February 2009

Climb the Wellington Arch

The Wellington Arch, on Hyde Park Corner was planned and built between 1825-30 to commemorate Britain's victories in the Napoleonic Wars. The Arch is also known as Constitution Arch or the Green Park Arch and was planned to line up with Marble Arch and form a grand entrance into London from the west.

In 1846 the Arch was selected as a suitable location for a statue of soldier and Prime Minister the First Duke of Wellington.

Nowadays, the symbolism is somewhat drowned out by the traffic which circles the it, and the similarities to the Arc De Triomphe in Paris don't end there. Inside the arch, there are three floors of exhibits which tell its history, including the time it spent as London's smallest police station. There is also a viewing gallery, which offers a unique view of the surrounding area, and a chance to glimpse into the gardens at Buckingham Palace and see who is playing tennis on the courts there.

Entrance is £3.20 and it is open Wednesday-Sunday from 10am til 5pm from 21st March - 31st October and 10am-4pm for the rest of the year. For more information visit the page on the English Heritage Website.

^Picture by the author^

5 February 2009

Watch the World's longest running live comedy show

NewsRevue is a satirical sketch and music based comedy production which began in 1979 and is still running at the tiny Canal Café Theatre in Little Venice.

In 2004, the show was awarded the Guiness World Record for the World's Longest Running Live Comedy Show, and as it is still running this record still stands. Sure, it is fairly am-dram but it is updated every week and has, in the past, won numerous awards and starred the likes of Rory Bremner, Michelle Collins, Josie Lawrence & Bill Bailey, so it will hopefully raise a few laughs.

Tickets are £9.50, but you also have to pay a £1.50 membership fee to the theatre. Newsrevue is on stage from Thursday to Saturday at 9.30pm and Sundays at 9pm, 50 weeks of the year. The nearest tubes are Warwick Avenue, Royal Oak and Paddington.

For more information visit the website at http://www.newsrevue.com/.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of morbuto^

4 February 2009

Cake, Tea and Jazz in the Cafe at Foyles

Central London can often be a bit of a desert when looking for somewhere cosy to drink tea and have a nice sit down.

So thank goodness for Ray's Jazz Cafe at Foyles Bookshop, on Tottenham Court Road.

Recently refurbished, it's a bit more personal than your usual bookshop Starbucks and also serves cakes and limited food options.

The cafe is open Monday - Saturday: 9.30am - 9.00pm and Sundays 11.30am - 6.00pm. There is not much information on the Foyles website so why not have a look at the Time Out review.

^Picture from flickr courtesy of box of lettuce^

3 February 2009

Remember London's abandoned children

The Foundling Museum, in Brunswick Square WC1, is an art gallery and museum to London's abandoned children, and takes its name from the former Foundling Hospital, which for 200 years cared for orphaned children in London and was situated on the site adjacent to the current building, and was demolished in 1926.

The building later became London's first ever public art gallery, and this still remains, containing work by Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, Louis-Francois Roubiliac and William Hogarth.

Alongside the art, you can learn the story of the thousands of children who were abandoned to the hospital between 1741 and its closure in the 1950s. This is shown through furniture, photographs and other items from the days when the Foundling Hospital cared for and educated abandoned children.

Also on site is the Coram Café, run by a Morrocan chef who apparently cooks up a mix of standard snack fare and Morrocan specialities.

The Museum is open Tuesday–Saturday, 10am–5pm and Sundays 11am – 5 pm. Admission is £5.

The website is at http://www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk/ and for more information on the history of the Foundling Hospital you can visit the page on Wikipedia.

^Picture of the original Foundling Hospital (since demolished) from Wikipedia under Wikimedia Commons^

1 February 2009

Walk beneath the Thames

Greenwich is a myriad of delights for tourists, but one of its more understated features is the foot tunnel which runs under the Thames between the Cutty Sark and Island Gardens, on the Isle of Dogs.

The tunnel was designed by London's then chief civil engineer Sir Alexander Binnie opened in 1902. It is is 1,217 feet long and is about 50 feet below the Thames.

Originally built to get South Londoners who worked in the docks North of the river to work, it has largely been superceded by the DLR which now transfers bankers to their jobs in the same areas.

Clearly, it's just a tunnel and isn't worth making the journey in itself, but if you're down that way why not get off the DLR a stop early and have a look. It is also handy for cyclists to cross the river, and is part of the UK's National Cycle Route 1 which links Inverness and Dover. However, you must push bikes through the tunnel and the lift isn't always working.

The best DLR stops are Island Gardens and Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich. For more information see the page on Wikipedia.

^Picture from Wikipedia under Wikimedia Commons^