My plan to update my annual Top 10 of Free Carol Concerts has been thwarted by the amount of studying I’m doing for the Clerkenwell & Islington Guiding course. However rather than waste the research I have done so far, here it is!
1. Trafalgar Square
The world famous tree will be lit on Thursday 4th December at 6pm and then from Monday 8th to Tuesday 23rd December there will be carol singing around the tree by a different group each night – 4pm-8pm on weekdays and 2pm-6pm on weekends. More details can be found here.
2. St Bartholomew the Great
This year I finally made it into St Bartholomew The Great – in fact I went inside twice. My first visit was to see Murder in the Cathedral by the amazing Little Spaniel Theatre Company and I see they are returning with that production in October 2015.
My second visit was as part of a London Historians tour which started with an early morning tour of Smithfield Market followed by breakfast and then followed by tours at St Bartholomew the Less, the Hogarth mural at Barts Hospital and then a tour of St Bartholomew the Great. I then had a third visit although this time was only outside in the churchyard where I had to speak for 4 minutes about the history of the church as part of my training to become a Clerkenwell and Islington Guide.
On my first visit I was absolutely taken aback by the interior of the church and will say that it is worth every penny of the £4 entrance fee. The Cloister Cafe is worth visiting too.
There are a number of carol services listed here including those for nearby solicitors and livery companies. The one that jumps out at me is a service of 9 lessons and carols including German music on Tuesday 23rd December at 6pm – scroll down on this link for details. I am hoping to get along to this one.
My previous years’ lists can be found by clicking on these links – 2013, 2012 and 2011 which could be of use as no doubt these venues will be offering something similar this year.
In my other job as a legal secretary I have spent a considerable part of 2014 working for a firm situated close to Borough Market. There is an enormous amount of things to do in the vicinity and I have probably only scratched the surface so please add your favourites to the comments at the bottom.
Places to sit outside by the river
The area immediately around Borough Market and the Golden Hinde is extremely busy and I would normally avoid this area. There are plenty of other places to sit. However the area between Minerva House (the building you need to walk around to follow the Thames Path from the Golden Hind to Borough Market) and the Glaziers Hall is usually surprisingly quiet. (Not yesterday when I took this photo though – probably because of the bus!)
It could be that you can’t actually see it from Borough Market or Southwark Cathedral Gardens so everyone just crams into the church gardens. The quote on the river wall from Raleigh says it all really – “There are two things scarce matched in the Universe – the sun in heaven and the Thames on earth”.
Follow the river east a bit, underneath London Bridge and you get to the More London Estate. There are plenty of places to sit next to The Scoop (between Hay’s Galleria and Tower Bridge) and there is Potters Field Park too just beyond this. There is usually some form of exhibition on in the area too plus amazing views of Tower Bridge. This photo was taken one lunchtime after a very misty morning.
Places to sit outside away from the river
If you carry on down Maiden Lane you will come to Gatehouse Square where you will find this unusual sculpture rather hidden within residential dwellings. There are steps nearby which lead to Southwark Bridge.
If you were to walk down Red Cross Way from Park Street, negotiating the crossing of Southwark Street (this is the worst bit), past the Cross Bones Graveyard (on your left) and Boot and Flogger wine bar (on your right), then cross Union Street you will then come across a school and the lovely Red Cross Gardens opposite. These are definitely worth seeking out and there is an unexpected and impressive view of the Shard from the gardens. (NB: as far as I know people don’t actually swim in the pond; there was a photo shoot going on on that particular lunchtime!)
If you cross Red Cross Way and then walk down the alleyway to the right of the school – Little Dorrit Court you will pass another area to sit which is always quite busy and quite noisy as there is a children’s playground within – Little Dorrit Park. When you emerge from the other end of the alleyway you are on Borough High Street.
Practically opposite Borough station at the junction with Borough High Street and Marshalsea Road is St George the Martyr Church.
Every Monday lunchtime it is worth visiting St George the Martyr because the crypt downstairs is home to the amazing Dragon Cafe. It’s very much a space for the community and as well as very reasonably priced food there are regular weekly events such as free 15 minute massages, writing groups, exhibitions, singing, dancing, gardening etc. You do need to sign up on your first visit but there is no charge. An example of a weekly programme is here.
Next to the church are the church grounds surrounded with what is left of the wall that surrounded Marshalsea Prison – the debtors’ prison where Dickens and his family were incarcerated.
Another place to sit is within King’s College Guy’s Campus. There is a farmers’ market here every Tuesday from 9am until 2pm. There is also a museum – the Gordon Museum of Pathology – but it is rarely open to the public.
Places to Eat/Buy Food
If you avoid the busy period and particularly the stalls around Southwark Cathedral there are some gems to be found and I am sure there are many more I haven’t yet discovered.
First of all a quite well known place – The Ginger Pig. The name of this butchers comes from the copper coloured Tamworth pig that they rear themselves on their Yorkshire farm. They started off with a stall in Borough Market but now have a number of shops in London including one in Moxon Street, Marylebone which features on my foodie/hidden pubs of Marylebone walk. The Borough Market stall/shop has a wide range of meat and sausages but also sells their famous sausage roll which is absolutely enormous but there is much more sausage meat than there is pastry and it is absolutely delicious.
Quite close to the Ginger Pig can be found the Brindisa shop – this is separate to the restaurant which is on the corner of Borough High Street. Next to the shop they grill chorizo rolls to order – which are delicious. Here’s a review of this sandwich!
Three Crown Square is the part of the Market that is purely for ingredients so you don’t get caught up in long queues for hot food. This useful map makes it easier to locate stalls. A couple of my favourites are:
Wildes Cheese – they are known as the urban cheese maker. The cheese is made in a micro dairy in Tottenham from milk from Sussex cows. Last week I bought some of their St Bruce (which I now see is also known as The Drunk as one of the ingredients is Redemption Brewery’s Hopspur). This cheese is particularly recommended for cheese on toast and I have to say that it worked very well and was delicious. Wildes Cheese are at Borough Market a couple of times a week but you can also find them at Richmond Market and quite a few shops around town including several in Walthamstow near me. A list of their stockists can be found here.
Not too far away from Wildes Cheese stall can be found De Calabria’s stall. They sell jars of Sunratomato which is a delicious combination of sundried tomatoes, herbs, chilli and olive oil. I have become quite addicted to it and use it in salad dressings, pasta sauces plus even just on a bit of toast or French bread!
Little Dorrit Cafe, 11 Park Street
I have already mentioned Little Dorrit Park and Little Dorrit Court but here in Park Street there is also a cafe named after the unfortunate fictional character. Despite its proximity to Borough Market this cafe is surprisingly good value. This baked potato was so big I had to take some of it home with me!
Papaya, 109 Borough High Street
Shrigleys, 125 Borough High Street
Moroccan food. Very tasty and reasonably priced. The Moroccan chicken salad is especially good. There is always a long queue.
Luncheonette, 47-49 Borough High Street
I only spotted this place after reading the first chapter of Shakespeare’s Local about The George Inn. It is a very cheap sandwich/pasta bar and there is usually a queue outside.
Quite unlike me I barely know any of the pubs around here. There is of course the famous George but unless you visit mid afternoon it is usually very busy. Click on the 4th photo along on this link from Londonist to see my impossible to eat sandwich!
I have heard good things about The Wheatsheaf but have yet to visit. More a bar than a pub but serving beer and ciders from the Utobeer Borough Market stall The Rake in Winchester Walk is definitely worth visiting. It is very small though.
A bit further afield and a few minutes’ walk from St George The Martyr church there is a great traditional pub – the Royal Oak – I was there when the photos on the link were taken but thankfully I’m not in any of them!
Lastly I recently stumbled across The Wine Pantry in Stoney Street. This is an amazing place. They only sell English wine and British produce. I didn’t have much time to browse – I will return but notice their amazing selection of gin – 3 shelves full including my favourite Bathtub Gin, Look at all the different type of tonics in the picture too. Apparently lemongrass tonic goes well with Bathtub Gin. I can’t wait to try it.
Not only is it a shop but there is a small wine bar within where they are happy if you bring in your lunch from Borough Market and enjoy it there with a glass of wine. I’m looking forward to returning soon.
*Updated 12.02.15. See Tom Tired of London’s blog post here on a series of free lunchtime concerts from January to March 2015 at Guy’s Hospital Chapel (and St Thomas’s Hospital too).
Something a bit different
Cross Bones Graveyard - this is worth seeking out in Redcross Way. It’s an unconsecrated graveyard to prostitutes known as the Winchester Geese who worked under the control of the Bishop of Winchester. The graveyard was uncovered with the building of the extension of the Jubilee line in the 1990s. At that time 148 skeletons were removed. Much more about the graveyard and the memorial gates can be found here.
Folk music at the Golden Hinde
Technically I shouldn’t include this as it’s not a lunchtime event but on the first Friday night of the month the Golden Hinde is host to the Tiller Flat Folk Club. Entrance is the bargain price of £5 (although it was £3 when I visited in May – the same night as Tom) but you do need to book in advance. I have been once and it was a great night.
Lastly I really should mention the excellent SE1 website – www.london-se1.co.uk which is really worth checking out and signing up for their weekly newsletter full of local events.
As you can probably tell from the photos taken in the summer I have been writing this post for quite a long time. There is so much to do in the area I fear I shall never finish this post so am going to post it as is. I look forward to hearing in the comments about places I’ve missed especially pubs!
This is the 5th in an occasional series of lunchtime wanderings. I have previously written about Chancery Lane, Fleet Street, Marylebone and Westminster. NB: some of the older posts contain premises that are unfortunately no longer in business.
Dare I say it but it is that time of year that people are starting to think about what to do for their work Christmas party.
The walk starts in a cosy Sam Smiths pub in Marylebone (with a fire) then meanders through the back streets of the West End (where the best lights can be found), through Mayfair and into Soho. The walk includes hidden passages, posh shops (usually with the best decorations) and lots of historical snippets along the way. As with most of my walks there is a food/drink theme plus Christmas traditions and decorations throughout. The walk finishes in Soho close to Piccadilly Circus tube in a freehouse that serves hot toddies and also does very good food.
|Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/denis57/sets/72157628338866113/|
St James’s is one of London’s most exclusive areas and is particularly pretty at Christmas with decorations along Jermyn Street and in the various arcades. It is also gaslit which makes for a very atmospheric walk. Famous for its gentlemen’s clubs which were originally coffee and chocolate houses St James’s also houses one of the oldest and most expensive restaurants in town and Britain’s oldest wine and spirit merchant not to mention the Queen’s grocery store and a 200 year old cheese shop. We will hear about the Jamie Oliver of the 19th Century, the cook that inspired the TV series the Duchess of Duke Street and the man who invented the sandwich.
Save the date – Saturday 11th October is this year’s Local London Guiding Day. This is the fifth year running that London’s four local guiding associations – City of London, Westminster, Clerkenwell & Islington and Greenwich have got together to offer a day of free walks on a specific theme.
This year’s theme is The Georgians. Each guiding association has created an hour long walk in their respective area which they will repeat throughout the day from 10am until 4pm. No booking is required – just turn up!
The walks are free but there will be a collection for the Royal British Legion at the end of each walk.
You may need quite good eyesight to read the flyer below, so details of each of the walks are as follows:
City of London: Georgian Life in the City
What was it like to live in Georgian times? Learn a little bit more about daily life in the City, see buildings from the time and hear stories of those who lived and made their mark while a George was on the throne.
Meet: Bank station, exit 3, Royal Exchange
Clerkenwell and Islington Guides: Bad, Sad, … and Mad!
A fascinating walk through the Georgian streets and squares of Islington exploring the world of the Four Georges.
Meet: Angel station
Greenwich Tour Guides: Inheritance, Indulgence and Infighting
Follow in the buckled shoe footsteps of England’s Hanoverian monarchs and their dysfunctional families amid more grand Georgian architecture than you can shake a powdered periwig at.
Meet: Cutty Sark DLR station
Westminster Guides: Through a Fanlight Darkly
Sometimes the most secret places are closest to the busiest streets. Join us to explore one such area and to meet its Georgian inhabitants.
Meet: the forecourt of Charing Cross station, in front of the hotel.
In the meantime like this page on Facebook with some tantalising teasers about the walks!
I am rather obsessed with social media and I’m always going on about how Twitter or Facebook and of course blogging are good for getting your name (and business) known. You may wonder how Twitter can help you so much as you are limited to 140 characters per tweet but it is amazing once you know how.
Click on the picture of the bell and you will see who has re-tweeted you, followed you, favourited you etc. I have set it up so that I receive a text too which is useful if you are away from internet access. Click on the picture of the cog to the left of the quill and then click on “Settings” to choose your notification preferences.
I started off by following lots of museums, London themed websites such as Ian Visits, Londonist and London Historians, hotels, London enthusiasts and also fellow Westminster Guides. As my walks are mainly food and drink themed I also follow lots of cafes, cocktail bars and restaurants. Since Summer 2013 I have been doing local walks too so now follow lots of Walthamstow and Chingford based businesses.
People use Twitter in different ways. I dip in and out, others try to read every single tweet in their timeline. This is impossible. Yes I do follow over 2000 accounts but I have managed somehow not to get addicted to constantly reading my timeline.
An automatically generated email is sent to Twitter users each week which usefully lists your best performing tweets. It is sometimes surprising what is the most popular and therefore helps improve your output.
This tool only works for tweets written after you sign up to the service which is why my statistics are so low at the moment.
There is also a separate page where you can analyse your followers ie where they come from and who they follow ie 82% of my followers are from the UK and 30% follow @LondonHistorian (a very worthwhile organisation to follow and to join – but I digress).
Dos and Don’ts
Don’t just re-tweet other people’s tweets. Give yourself a voice, have something to say. I personally am unlikely to follow people who don’t have their own identity.
Until a friend moved to Geneva earlier this year the city didn’t have a place on my “to visit” list. It had been somewhere I had passed through on my way to various ski resorts but I had never thought to stop. However after a 4 day visit last week my opinion has changed and I would definitely recommend a trip.
Geneva is an expensive city but many of the museums are free and the biggest bonus of all is free transport for tourists which surely cancels out some of the other expenses incurred.
Free transport for tourists
All travel on the extensive network of buses, trams, trolleybuses and even taxi boats on various routes across the lake is free as is transport to and from the airport by train (around 6 minutes). When you check into your hotel/hostel/campsite you are given a dated card for the duration of your stay.
Getting around isn’t limited to these forms of transport either as from mid April to October you can hire bikes for free (up to 4 hours) too.
You might wonder how you can initially get from the airport to your hotel for free. In the baggage collection hall is a ticket machine that dispenses free transport tickets valid for 80 minutes. There is a big sign saying “Public Transport to Geneva – Free Ticket” but I witnessed several tourists paying for tickets at the machine next to it. Scroll down on this link for a picture so you know what to look for. All you need to do is press the button and a ticket will emerge from the slot.
You can even use your free transport card to go over the border into France but don’t forget to take Euros.
There are two things that you need to be aware of in Geneva – firstly that the Old Town is at the top of a very steep hill (although bus no. 36 can transport you up there should you wish). Secondly the town is sometimes on two levels which makes reading a one-dimensional map difficult.
What to see
Whenever I go abroad I tend to seek out the smaller attractions rather than the big museums which in some instances are similar to those we have in London. After enjoying Secret London and Secret Brussels I bought a copy of Secret Geneva which gave a lot of historical details about some of the odder things around the City. You can read my review here. One thing that I didn’t get to do was count up exactly how many statues there were in the city which depicted people in the nude – there certainly seemed to be a lot! For other suggestions of things to do in the City this website (which also covers other cities) was useful too.
This was my first museum visit in Geneva and was definitely my favourite. It is the oldest house in Geneva and houses the Museum of Urban History and Daily Life. The museum is free but it is definitely worth investing in 5 CHF for an audio guide which really enhanced my visit.
The tour starts outside where you gaze up at the mysterious heads on the outside of the building. I have never seen anything quite like this before. These heads are replicas, the originals were removed to prevent further decay and can now be seen within the museum. No-one knows exactly why they are there. I would love to be able to go back in time to find out the real story. It was incredibly hard to get a good picture of the outside as it is a very narrow street but if you scroll down to the last page of this booklet you can see where the heads are situated.
Every single floor had something of interest to me and it really was a place full of surprises. The vast cellars are from the original house pre-1334 which destroyed the rest of the building. Originally these cellars wouldn’t have been connected to the main house; access was via a set of enormous doors from the street.
The other highlight from the house was the amazing Magnin relief map which showed the City prior to the removal of the defences in 1850. I spent at least 10 minutes looking at this model in all its intricate detail.
Before you leave it is definitely worth watching the video about the history of Geneva from the Ice Age onwards which lasts 12 minutes.
The museum is in the Old Town and bus no. 36 stops nearby if you want to avoid the steep climb up the hill.
There were two reasons I wanted to visit this museum the first of which was to see a number of rooms that had been transported from Lower Zizers Castle – quite bizarre. Again my photos aren’t up to much but hopefully they will give you an idea. Within these rooms were some enormous china central heating structures complete with a seat on the top!
The second reason to visit this museum was to see the exhibition on Geneva and English Satire which is on until the end of August. I discovered that it was in a separate building in Promenade du Pin which I eventually found when I discovered that I was on the wrong level and looking at a park on the map that didn’t seem to exist in real life – there was several lanes of traffic where the park should have been – until I discovered that the park was actually above me! I didn’t quite succeed in getting my head around this aspect of Geneva.
Both exhibitions were free.
The building housing the Cabinet d’arts Graphiques was quite anonymous looking and seemed to be deserted. However I soon discovered the exhibition was on the 3rd floor. The exhibition compared the satirical cartoons of London and Geneva; it was fascinating for me.
Visiting this museum on my last morning in Geneva, I didn’t quite have enough time to do it justice. It is an amazing building. It was built to house the collections of Gustave Revilliod and today holds an amazing collection of ceramics and glass. There is a small tea room with a lovely balcony too. I got there via tram no. 15 from Gare du Cornavin to Nations the last stop on that route, right next door to the United Nations building.
I was a bit anxious about getting back in time for my flight so I really must return at some point in the future for a proper look.
My second to last recommendation is to visit the tower of St Pierre Cathedral. It is free entrance into the cathedral but well worth paying 5 CHF to go up to the top of the tower. Quite by accident I ended up halfway up the tower at 12 midday and it was amazing to hear all the bells of Geneva chiming out of sync. If I had been really organised I would have been at the top of the tower where I could have seen the bells too.
When I came back down from the tower I went to the back of the Cathedral and down a steep flight of steps – Passage des Degres-de-Poules which emerges opposite the Lutheran Church which doesn’t look anything like a church from the outside. The reason why is in the Secret Geneva book but I don’t have it to hand at the moment. I was at the church for one of their regular free lunchtime recitals. On the way down I passed a shady garden.
Finally, whilst unexpectedly taking a black cab from London City Airport right through Central London to Heathrow at the start of my trip (as my flight to Geneva was cancelled) I couldn’t help but share a few London tips with my fellow passengers. In exchange I discovered that there was free live music at sunrise at the Bains des Paquis by the lake in Geneva and free outdoor cinema too. Unfortunately I ran out of days to do either of these things but they are definitely on my to do list for next time.
When I started working as a tour guide I tended to avoid Soho with its narrow streets and busy pavements. However over the past 18 months or so I have developed a couple of foodie themed walks and now love guiding in the area. It is busy – especially on a Saturday afternoon – but some streets are quieter than others and Soho has such a fascinating history that it is now one of my favourite places in Central London.
|Goodwins Court WC2. Photo by Jenny Pedler|
There has been an unexcusable gap in my blog postings recently mostly because I am doing too much. I am still looking for the perfect work/life balance – a part-time job rather than ongoing temping (which I have too much of) so I can have more time for guiding and for relaxing too!
|Roupell Street, SE1. Photo by Banalities via Creative Commons|
|The King’s Arms, Roupell Street, SE1. Photo by Ewan Munro via Creative Commons|
|Photo by Ewan Munro (who was on this same pub crawl but earlier in the day) via Creative Commons|
On Tuesday night this week, rather by accident, I did something I’ve never done before – I took part in a singalong around the old Joanna.
I arrived at the Coach & Horses, Greek Street just as the pianist was starting. She rattled off a few well known tunes – My Old Man, Roll out the Barrel etc but at 7.30pm most people in the pub ignored her.
|Photo courtesy of https://twitter.com/London_Nut|
Only an hour later it was a different story. Although it turned into a bit of a karaoke session at one point – with groups of work colleagues singing along to tunes from the Jungle Book and Oliver (words provided) – after a short break she was back on the traditional songs. Soon loads of people were singing along (including me); not needing words to the famous Londony songs. I can’t sing that well so really hope she was attracted to our table by the much better voices of @London_nut and his girlfriend A.
We were amazed to discover that Lili Davies – or to give her her stage name, Magic Betty, was from Romania! She said she had learned all the songs from scratch. I must admit I initially felt a bit cheated. I wanted her to be London born and bred. However she is very entertaining and I will definitely return.
The Coach and Horses has singalongs around the piano every Tuesday and Saturday at 7.30pm. I expect Saturday evenings will be a different crowd entirely. There are a number of different performers; Magic Betty will next be performing there on Saturday 22nd March.
There are lots of other good reasons to visit the pub. They only serve vegetarian food, upstairs there is a “secret” tea room and they sell at least 5 varieties of pickled egg! (I have to confess I have never eaten a pickled egg – maybe I should try one here.) Any recommendations for a particular flavour?
The pub has got a fascinating history too and if you want to discover that why not book on my Soho Sunday Pub Themed Stroll – a new public date coming very soon.