Aug, 2010 05

drink/eat Fashionable Coffee and Pastry in London?~Where Else?

Cocomaya…love the name and the looks of this picturesque new-ish bakery, coffee shop andchocolate shop in West London. With its pale awnings adorned with hot pink lettering, plus its black and white metal tables and chairs gracing the front of the shop, you could easily think that you have stumbled upon a Paris café in the midst of London.

Three heavy hitters from the London fashion industry have joined together to make a bakery, coffee shop and chocolate shop all in one. The decor is just lovely~all pale wood and white marble for the bakery and a more punchy, confectionary pink for the tres chic chocolate shop.

Afternoon teas are available with sandwiches on the wide variety of artisan breads they create (70 types!), or coffee and pastry for a sublime start to your London morning may be more your style.

What is so fun about places like this, is the impact of a delicious pastry and coffee enjoyed al fresco can start your London day on a great note; allowing you to feel like a local while perched at the café tables, watching the foot traffic stroll by.

TO GET TO COCOMAYA: Located at 12 Connaught Street in W2, the closest Tube stop is the Marble Arch stop on the Central line. Cocomaya is located on the edge of Hyde Park, about a 6 minute walk from the Tube stop. Detailed map and hours of operation are here:

http://www.cocomaya.co.uk/index.php/main/locations

Come along with me….London calling….

Jul, 2010 23

know how Psst…Need a Passport in a Hurry? and Other Travel Solutions…

The very clever people over @ Travel Onion http://www.travelonion.com/ know all the most current travel tips for almost anyplace you want to go. Here are three things I’ve recently learned about some of the sticky wickets of travel just by regularly checking in with their site. Here are quotes from their recent travel posts on important subjects, such as:

Airport hotels:
July 5, 2010 – “Airport Hotels.com launches a price comparison and booking service for 100 airports including Heathrow, Stansted, Dublin, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. The new website uses XML price comparison technology to compare hotel rooms and prices from 10 leading hotel reservation websites in one search. Airport Hotels.com combines hotel data from multiple sources giving travellers more availability and prices than individual sites alone. With access to 3,700 airport hotels, bed and breakfasts and guesthouses the problem of finding no availability is rare”.

Vacation Rentals with a Twist:
The internet is inundated with vacation rental sites. But Getaway Earth is a vacation rental site with a difference, since it allows the vacation home owner to promote more than their property, by acting as a personal travel guide”.internet ”Getaway Earth, a new personalized vacation rental website, announces their official launch. Since late 2009 the site has been in development and seen a steady increase in new listings. Currently there are over 550 vacation rentals listed in 29 countries world wide, from small cottages in the English countryside to condos in the Florida sunshine.

And maybe the most important….NEED A PASSPORT IN A HURRY???:

Don’t panic,” Fast Port Passport makes waiting for your passport unnecessary. “No more long waits. No more hassels. Fast Port makes everything simple , easy. You can visit one of their locations and have a courteous customer representative help you make sure your paperwork is submitted properly. Fast Port Passport is also available online. Just log on to http://fastportpassport.com/ and their user-friendly site will walk you through the necessary steps to completing your paperwork, They will take it from there and magically send you your passport”.

Come along with me….London calling…

Jul, 2010 21

drink/eat, know how The Center of the Universe~Charing Cross Hotel Bar

Candle light stroll to the bar
Candle light stroll to the bar

From the early 19thcentury until 1965, when the concept of “Greater London” came about, Charing Cross was considered the very center of London. Until 1965, if you saw a sign on the outskirts of London that said “London 7 miles”, it was referring to it being 7 miles from where you were then to Charing Cross.

I love the idea of Charing Cross still being the center of London, because in my mind, it very much is. When in London I seem to land at Charing Cross (Station/Hotel Bar) with alarming regularity: to go to The National Portrait Gallery, have a drink, walk to a theater, to eat breakfast in the best café in all of London (see post entitled the same under Eat/Drink), to catch a glimpse of the mighty Thames, or to zoom off on the Bakerloo line to see my dear friends in Maida Vale.

But the very true center of the (London) universe for me these days is the Charing Cross Hotel Bar.

Believe not what the Charing Cross Hotel website shows for pictures of the bar. That is not the bar I am aware of at Charing Cross. Let me tell you about the one I love there. It’s located on the second floor of this very pretty little hotel that you find by going through the main, front doors of the hotel, walking down a candle lit (after 6pm or so) hall way and up a sweeping, winding set of stairs. At the top of the stairs, walk about 20 feet to your left and there, on your right is the bar that I know. It’s true, I do spend a lot of time here, a) because it does seem to be the center of my universe, and b) it is a quiet place to meet my sweetheart, or a friend, at the end of the day for a quiet catch-up in a peaceful setting. My sweetheart and I are actually regulars there and I don’t even live in London.

The decor of the bar reminds me of a private club in NYC circa 1940’s~not that I was around then, but it does have a very old, black and white movie kind of feel about it. The actual bar seats just a few, there are gorgeous grey walls, about 12 tables and very kind servers that can make all manner of drinks that are worth a try. And the wait, (as this is not the kind of place where they just sling the drinks at you) is worth it. They also will serve you just tea and coffee if that’s your tipple.

  This is the place for a fab cocktail at the end of the day in a setting that might remind you of the above, or a 19thcentury English gentleman’s drawing room. The view from the window is of The Strand, the large avenue that runs in front of Charing Cross Station; the perfect vantage point for watching Black Cabs and double-decker buses wend their way through London. And what could be more London than that? It is another place that I have found that several of my London friends had never heard of. Love those places.

To get to the Charing Cross Hotel: Make your way to Charing Cross Station via Tube or over-ground train. As you come out of the large Charing Cross Train Station (depending on which under or above ground exit you take) you will either come out on to the forecourt where all the taxis are waiting near The Strand. In that case, turn and look to your right and there are the large revolving doors to enter the hotel where the bar is. If you come up from some of the exits of the underground/Tube, you will be right across the street from the hotel. Look for the large revolving doors of the hotel.

Good news:  An small elevator takes you from the hotel lobby to the floor where the bar is if climing the winding stairs is an issue for you or your travel companion.

Come along with me….London calling….

Jul, 2010 19

days out, drink/eat Maida Vale…Eat & Drink in a Peaceful Part of Town

In the Paddington, Westminister area of West London, not far from the Beatles old stomping ground of St John’s Wood and the elegant funk of Notting Hill, is nestled the area of Maida Vale, an area worth your time if you are seeking a more peaceful pace than Central London. Here are shops, cafes, a nearby puppet theater and comedy club, the BBC recording studios, punctuated with pubs and trees and a sense of how the other 1/10 might live. I suggest two places below that are excellent places to eat and drink. Both are worth a trip to Maida Vale.

Maida Vale has its own Tube stop named after itself and has one of the most charming Tube stations in all of London. Maida Vale is in W9 if you are taking a taxi, but the Tube ride is a mere 10 mins., direct, from Paddington Station and a 20 min. direct shot from Charing Cross Station on the Bakerloo line.

After WWII this area was gentrified in a large way, evolving from a place, in the 1930’s and 40’s with gorgeous mansions broken up into rented rooms-some by the hour-ahem, and also by the month. Now it consists of those same mansions broken up into family flats (apartments) that are owned or rented. The rentals are not for all, alas, as 2010 prices for a 1 bedroom flat are about $650 a week. 85 per cent of housing in Maida Vale is flats; the rest, large, showy one- family homes whose front doors suggest something even grander beyond them.

In Maida Vale are two wonderful places to eat and drink that you might try. One a pub, The Grand Union, and one a family run Eritrean (African) restaurant called Mosob. Both can be reached by the Hammersmith and City Tube Line, the Ladbroke Grove Tube stop. But, the much more scenic way is to traverse to these lovely places to eat and drink from the Maida Vale Tube stop on the Bakerloo line.

The Grand Union Pub

The Grand Union has beer, wine, rustic/modern tables and fabulous soups and salads daily, as well as evening specials of pasta dishes, lamb stew or shepard’s pie. The setting in summer is especially lovely because they have an assortment of tables outside right on the canal.

To find the Grand Union:

Take the Bakerloo line to Maida Vale. Come to the top of the only set of stairs at the Maida Vale Tube station and turn left on the large avenue in front of you-Elgin Ave. Walk approx 12 mins down a tree-lined, mansion filled street until you come to the Royal Bank of Scotland on your left near a busy (and less ch-chi-la- la) bustling square , turn left here and walk 3 mins toward a small bridge/overpass. There, on your left, is the Grand Union Pub..

Their hours are here: http://www.beerintheevening.com/pubs/s/37/3753/Grand_Union/Westbourne_Park

The Grand Union would qualify as, what the English call, a gastro pub. This means (as I understand it) that it has likely been modernized, decor-wise, inside (very often to great effect) and that it serves some usual pub fare along with more contemporary choices of food, such as gazpacho soup in summer, or crab cakes and creamy butternut squash soup in winter.

Mosob is an absolute favorite of mine. Each time I have gone I have been charmed by the service and delighted with the spicy African food. Cold beer, a sweet decor and service with a smile have kept me going back these last few years with dear friends who live in the area.

Mosob, too, can be reached: by the Hammersmith and City Tube line, but you can get to it the same scenic way as above. I highly recommend that route. For Mosob, though, when you get to the Royal Bank of Scotland and the bustling square, look over toward your left. Across from the bank you will see Mosob at 339 Harrow Road. For hours and menu, look here: http://www.mosob.com/

Think of Maida Vale for a day or evening in a more peaceful London ~ I think you will be impressed.

P.S. From both of these places you are a five min. walk to Notting Hill’s famous Portobelo Road.

Come along with me…..London calling….

 

Jul, 2010 19

days out, drink/eat Life’s a Picnic…in London

It may be true that ” in spring a young man’s thoughts turn to love” , but in spring, my thoughts often turn to picnicking. Having a picnic in London will offer you a unique travel experience that could make your London stay memorable in a different way.

Let me tell you about two places in London to picnic where there are not hordes of people and where its possible to have a peaceful tete- a- tete with your sweetheart, or a place that is excellent for taking children on a picnic. I mention out of the way places devoid of hordes of tourists, but if you want the also lovely “oh, will I spot a celebrity” kind of experience, by all means head over to Hampstead Health-a park in NW London. There, I hear tell, Jude Law is known to toss a Frisbee about with dramatic flair, calling attention to his actor-y self all the while. A friend has spotted him many times around that section of London and notices that he does little to hide his light under a bushel basket. So if actor- spotting is your sport , off you go.

For your London picnic, either you can ask your hotel restaurant to pack you a picnic if they will, or try one of the places mentioned here: http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/restaurants/london-summer-picnics-feature-1036.html .

The best idea yet, may be to find the closest Camden Food Company, Costa, Eat, Cafe Nero or Marks and Spencer’s food shops: all places that have fresh daily, pre-made sandwiches of vegetarian and non-vegetarian variety, along with juices, soda, coffees and teas and slices of cake to go. Chilled bottles of champagne, wine or beer can be found some of those places, too, or at Odd Bins, a chain of wine shops all over London. The least hard thing to do in London-town is to find alcohol to accompany any occasion.

If the season is right, why not pack a simple travel picnic kit to take for your London picnic experience? You may be like me in that you want style to feature while you picnic. If you are, consider packing these items:

~  ” plastique” wine glasses or champagne flutes

~  ” plastique-but stylish”,  dinner size plates (Ikea, Crate and Barrel and Target all do a nice range of these)

~    forks, knives and spoons from your silverware drawer (who wants plastic utensils when you are trying to be chic in London?), wrapped in cloth napkins so they don’t get lost in your luggage, (of course these would go in your checked luggage).

~  wrap all of these items in your luggage in a a very large, beautiful beach towel to use as your picnic blanket

THE LOCATIONS:

POSTMAN PARK

So called, not because you need to be a postman to picnic here, simply because the park in located on the site of the original head office of the general post office. It is located in” The City”, home of banks galore, but is hidden and probably even the bankers know nothing about the place.

The location is in the church yard of St Leonards on FosterLane, Aldergate between King Edward Street, Angel Street and Little Britian. The post code is EC1A 7BX. You can give this info to the black cab driver if you decide to cab it there. The closest Tube station is St Pau’sl Cathedral. The park is a few minutes walk from the Tube. However, I would suggest a cab to the park if you are at all direction-challenged. I would not dare to try to be of more help in this instance as, although this is an area I know quite well, I had to call out my posse not long ago because I got lost on King Edward Street and might be there still had I not been rescued. Lots of alley ways and nooks and crannies in The City, so maybe cabbing it is best. Let me tell you why I think this park is worth the effort, though.

At Postman Park, along with the small fountain, plenty of benches and green grass and trees, you will find touching tributes to ordinary people who, over the last 125 years, have done extraordinary things to save someones life. Their tales are briefly depicted in hand lettered Royal Dalton plaques under a wooden canopy. These little stories spelled out make it a very special place to share a London picnic with people you care about.

BROCKWELL PARK

If a miniature railway that you can ride on( if you are under nine years old) is more your thing, head over to Brockwell Park in SE London, near Brixton. The park is open daily at 7:30 a.m and closes 15 minutes before sunset. What a wonderful way to keep time: ” I’ll meet you 15 minutes before sunset”.

In Brockwell Park, along with a Regency style building called Brockwell Hall, you will find a walled garden, a shaded arbor and a lido (large outside swimming pool) that is unusual for London. Additionally, there are 6 tennis courts if you fancy a pre-picnic game. The railway operates a select times mentioned here on this link for the park: http://www.brockwellpark.com/

To get to the park:

The park is a 7 minute walk from the over-ground train station and a 15 minute walk from the Tube station. I’ll let you Google the park’s site for very specific directions, as they are a bit complicated. The miniature train and the lido make it a worthwhile effort if you are taking children on a picnic, though. They also have events weekly throughout the summer that make this a destination that adults and children can enjoy together.

Come along with me…London calling…

Jul, 2010 19

drink/eat, pubs Big on Charm: Small, Hidden Pub in Kensington

Although London pubs can be found up and down lanes and streets, large and small, this London pub is in a bit of an unlikely location off Kensington High Street in  West London. 60 seconds walk from Kensington Hight Street Tube station, nestled in what looks like a typically residential neighborhood, you will find the Scarsdale Tavern, a pub of gracious Georgian design. Located at 23a Edwardes Square W8 6HE, this pub is especially treasured by the locals who call it their own. Lucky them, as it offers so much atmposphere inside and on its terrace. It’s absolutely perfect for catching a Spring, Summer or Fall sunset while having a “happy hour” of your own making at the end of your London day.  

It’s pub food/bar menu which, while not offering shockingly unique cuisine,  does offer very decent” pub grub” and a few appetizers to have with your drink. 

First glance at the Scarsdale’s exterior, and those on the hunt for cozy, eclectic, non-touristy places to eat, drink and hang out under the stars will think they have found a tiny slice of pub heaven. One of the quaintest pubs in London, it  just happens to have “good ales and a wine list that dips into the old world and new” as one reviewer noted. 

 Another reviewer of the Scarsdale wisely noted that this is not the place to go for gourmet, many courses type of dining, but rather: a good pint, a nice glass of wine, a bar snack, or some “pub grub” all of which they do admirably.  But, without a doubt, it is the atmosphere, at this hiding-in-plain-sight pub that will draw you back. 

TO GET THERE: The  Scarsdale Tavern is literally a 60 second walk from the High Street Kensington Tube stop. Google the name of the pub and the first thing that comes up is a very close-up map that takes you from the Tube right to their door. I happened upon it one evening and knew it was something I had to share. You will love it.

Come along with me….London calling….

 

 

May, 2010 26

getting around, know how Exclusive…Your Personal Black Cab Driver While in London

Readers of this site have access to their own, personal Black Cab Driver available to them while in London. Read on… 

There isn’t a nicer way to get around London than by a Black Cab. As I’ve mentioned in the Getting Around Section, Black Cabs are the way to go when it comes to taking taxis. Black Cab drivers are licensed and registered and reliable. Each driver is a credit to London and is highly trained to know  the hi-ways and by-ways of the city like the back of their hand.

 A cab driver that I know has offered his services through this site and has given his direct contact information for you to make arrangements with him. Mick is a born and bred Londoner who is proud of his profession and shares his love of being a cabby with one of his brothers. The two brothers are one of 11 children (!) and they have lived and worked in London for most of their lives. 

Mick has kindly offered his services through this site which makes a great deal for you. An agency can arrange private cab drivers, but with a large fee attached that makes it a less attractive and affordable option. Dealing with Mick is a good way to go as his rates are fair and he takes obvious pride in showing visitors around his city.

 Mick’s Rates:  ½ day (4 hours) or 1 whole day (8 hours) being ferried around London @ the rate of 25 pounds per hour**

 Rates from Heathrow: One Way~ 55 pounds**

                                               From/To Heathrow~ 100 pounds**

** Mick says that a 5%-10% tip is nice, however, it is never expected.

TO CONTACT MICK DIRECTLY: Dial from the US :  01144 782 518 2164,  Dial from London:  0782  518  2164

 NOTE: when dialing from London, you leave the 0 that is in bold and underlined. Please also note that when dialing from the US you leave that 0 off.

To make your arrangements from the US: and if you don’t have an international dialing plan, you can find international calling cards for as little as $5.00 @ Costco, BJ’s, Rite Aid, Walmart , etc. Dial the 800 number the card provides, then dial as above.

OR MICK’S E-MAIL: He can be contacted through his wife’s e-mail @ janettebutler@hotmail.com

To phone from London: consider renting a cell phone as suggested in the previous post (also located under Know How), or telephone from your hotel.

If you have trouble reaching Mick, please contact me and I will help if I can. Please note that he will be out of the country 6.July through 13. July. 2010.

Come along with me….London calling….

May, 2010 26

know how Give Me a Ring…. renting a cell phone in London

Solution: I love travel solutions and here is a good one: why not  rent a cell phone in London to aide in making phone calls for dinner reservations, to connect with business associates or to order a taxi? As London is so vast and sprawling, having a phone if you are running late for a reservation or are lost is an excellent idea.

Sadly, there are fewer and fewer of the fabulous red phone boxes around London; plus, they are costly and using them requires the correct change.

It’s easy: BHRC (British Hotel Reservation Center) has locations in Terminal 3 (most US flights, other than British Airways flights arrive here, Terminal 5 (British Airways) as well as North and South Terminals at Gatwick airport. PLUS they have locations at these train stations in Central London: Victoria, Paddington and St. Pancras.

 A large majority of US flights go Heathrow Terminal 3 and finding the BHRC kiosk for phone rentals there could not be simpler. As you leave the immigration area where your passport is checked, you walk out into the Arrivals Hall. Walk about 10 feet out into the hall and turn and look over your right shoulder. The BHRC kiosk is there.

 Generally speaking, you can, using a major credit card, rent a cell phone for your stay for a 100 pound returnable deposit. Then you can buy usage time for as little as 20 pounds and for any additional amounts in 20 pound increments.

 There is also the option of renting just a sim card for your US cell phone that will allow it to work in the UK. 

 THE SYSTEM IS SIMPLE: Leave the deposit, buy some minutes, return the phone at the same place at the ARRIVALS hall and collect your deposit before you proceed to the departure hall when you are leaving London.

 TO CONTACT BRHC in advance of your trip: http://www.bhrconline.com/

 

Come along with me….London calling…..

May, 2010 16

music CONCERTS in LONDON 2010

LONDON MUSIC 2010 

 

JUNE

Supergrass-Farwell Tour @ London O2 Academy Brixton Thursday 6.10.2010

Tickets: www.gigsandtours.com

Crowded House @ Hammersmith HMV Apollo 6.8.2010 thru 6.10.2010

Tickets: www.livenation.co.uk

Chris Isaak @ O2 Empire Sunday 6.13.2010

Tickets: wwwlivenation.co.uk

Nora Jones @ Hammersmith Apollo Tuesday 6.22. 2010

Tickets: www.gigsandtours.com

Pearl Jam @ Hyde Park Friday 6.25.2010

Tickets: www.hardrockcalling.co.uk

Paul McCartney (plus special guests) Sunday 6.27.2010 @ Hyde Park

Tickets: www.hardrockcalling.co.uk

Jackson Browne (w/David Lindley) @ Royal Albert Hall Tuesday 6.29..2010

Tickets: www.bookingsdirect.com

Tony Bennett @ Royal Albert Hall Wednesday 30.June.2010 and Thursday 1.July.2010

Tickets: www.royalalberthall.com

 

JULY

Pink (with the Ting Tings) @ 2010 Wireless Festival, Hyde Park Friday 2. July. 2010

Tickets: www.bandsintown.com

Crosby, Stills and Nash @ Royal Albert Hall, Saturday, 3.July. 2010 and Sunday 4. July. 2010

Tickets: www.bookingsdirect.com

LOVEBOX FESTIVAL! 16-18 July. 2010, in Victoria Park

Performers include: Roxy Music (and Bryan Ferry will join them)

                                         Dizzee Rascal

                                        New Young Pony Club

                                       Riva Star

                                      Mark Ronson and the Business

Tickets: www.lovebox.net

See Facebook:  Lovebox Official

 

AUGUST

 

SEPTEMBER

 

OCTOBER

Jean Michel Jarre @ O2 Sunday 10.October.2010

Tickets: www.bookingsdirect.com

Jeff Beck @ Royal Albert Hall Tuesday 26. October. 2010-05-16

Tickets: www.bookingsdirect.com

 

NOVEMBER

Andrea Bocelli Friday 12.November.2010 @ the O2Arena

VIP tickets available @ www.markbutler.co.uk

Tickets: www.livenation.co.uk

 

DECEMBER

Paul Weller @ Wembly Arena Friday 10. December. 2010

Tickets: www.theticketfactory.com/paulweller

Come along with me….London calling….

May, 2010 16

culture A Museum Dedicated to the City of London..and it’s FREE

Another revamp for another wonderful place: the Museum of London, one of the world’s largest urban museums. Located in the part of London known as “the City”, this is the perfect place for an afternoon, perhaps taking along children from ages 5 and up, I would think .

Explore the decorative arts, prints, maps, dress and fashion, oral histories, archaeological finds from along the Thames River, etc…. all London-centric, representing ancient times to the present. All there for the observing and interacting with every day of the week.

20 million pounds later, and in May 2010, the museum is ready to show off it’s treasures and revitalized exhibits that include a mock up of  a prison from the time of Dickens and  the Lord Mayor of London’s gilded coach.

OPENING TIMES: Everyday (except Christmas Eve day and Christmas) 10:00 am until 6pm, with the last entry allowed at 5:30. It is free, but like most London museums, free it is, but a donation of your pocket change is most appreciated.

TO GET THERE:  St Paul’s Tube stop on the Central Line or Barbican or Moorgate Tube stops on the Hammersmith and City or Circle line. The museum’s website offers a map to the museum from these Tube stops, which can be enlarged: http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/English/

Free culture. You have to love it.

Come along with me….London calling….