What could be better, when staying in London for business or pleasure, than al fresco dining in one of the capital’s abundant picnic spots.

This is a quintessential English experience.

Which means your picnic is best served from a wicker basket, on a tartan rug and should include fine finger food and chilled beverages.

Curled up sandwiches and a flask of British “bricklayers tea” will not suffice. A true English picnic should be brimming with delicious morsels, as carefully prepared as any in-door culinary extravaganza.

There are blogs elsewhere on Merino Hospitality’s website to help you to narrow down a great location for a picnic in London, including the city’s stunning royal parks and hidden gardens. But what should you include in a London picnic to make your meal a special occasion?

You may be delighted to learn that if you are enjoying a relaxed break in central London accommodation, there are plenty of places to buy a ready-made picnic. Complete with a wicker basket to keep!

Fortum and Mason Hamper

If you want a London luxury picnic that will be an unforgettable feast, then look no further than this world-famous store.

A Fortum and Mason picnic hamper could include the “ultimate banquet” for £320, which includes caviar, lobster, beef wellington, handmade chocolates and fine wine. Even the lovely picnic rug, seasoning shakers and glasses are provided.

Fortum and Mason also have a range of less costly hampers too, including a signature cool bag with containing a champagne and strawberries ramblers picnic for one.

Harrods Hamper

Of course, globally renown store Harrods also offers hampers of top notch food for picnic pleasure in London. This includes options to select your own contents from the unmissably wonderful Harrods food hall, with its banquet of world delicacies and delights.

Deli Delivery

Staying in serviced accommodation in central London also puts you close to a smorgasbord of wonderful deli shops, many of which deliver. You could select your own delicious finger food for your picnic, whether its luxury delicacies, sushi, vegan cuisine or even a detox feast in the fresh air.

Local produce

If you are staying in well-equipped and centrally located Merino Hospitality accommodation, you also have a great selection of shops and markets selling fresh produce nearby. That means you can start the fun by compiling your picnic in your kitchen.

There are several London shops that sell picnic supplies; wicker baskets, cool boxes and picnic cutlery and plates.  This includes John Lewis, a retailer offering a great selection of picnic equipment including a handy rucksack for if you want to explore London before you break for lunch.

Traditional Picnic food ideas

When putting together your own London picnic feast you might want to include some traditional British favourites.

Scotch eggs are boiled eggs surrounded in sausage meat and then seasoned bread-crumbs.  These British delicacies really have to be experienced while you are in London.   You won’t find these savoury treats anywhere else.

The British love their pies too – often meat ones like steak’n’Guinness – covered in a shortcrust or puff pastry. Mini pies are perfect picnic nibbles. Or you could include mini Cornish Pasties – a semi-oval meat and vegetable favourite and another uniquely British snackable food.

For dessert there are few sweet treats more iconically English than fresh strawberries and cream.

For a wonderful history of picnics and more inspiration, the BBC has compiled lots of interesting information here.

Picnic Hacks

Let’s face it picnics can be tough, there are so many different components that need to align in order to ensure success.   Once you decided on your picnic kit and established that the weather will be sufficient you still have to deal with insects, potential injuries, food storage etc etc anyone of these can impact the success of your picnic.   We ran a quick poll around the office and came up with these ‘hacks’ that I hope you might find helpful.

    1. Dips always go down well at a picnic and can be stored in seal tight jars in your picnic basket, then served with strips of cucumber, carrots and pepper. Jars are also handy for mini personal salads or desserts.
    2. To avoid having a sharp knife (avoid accidents!), pre-slice apples, cheese, watermelon and so on, then seal them in plastic boxes in a cool bag to stay fresh.  The image below demonstrates a great way to keep apples fresh but easily handled by everyone.

    1. Mason jars are great for no spill drinking glasses or to seal up chopped items too.
    2. Put soft drinks or water in the freezer the night before your picnic. Then when you put them in your basket or bag, they not only stay refreshingly cold they also help to keep the rest of your food chilled.
    3. Frozen grapes are great to have along, to pop in to your fizzy wine. Not to be used in children’s drinks though, as they represent a chocking hazard.
    4. England – just like everywhere – does feature pesky insects. So, take cupcake cases to slip on top of drinks glasses and some handy netting or a paper cloth to place over your food spread. Shops in London also sell food covers – pyramid or domed shaped devices to protect food when you are outdoors.
    5. If you are worried about being overwhelmed by fly’s another great trick is to add 4-5 tarnished pennies to a glass of water (or 3) and place around the food.  It requires a PHD to understand ‘why’ but it works so that’s all that matters.
    6. Use wax paper and kitchen cord to bind sandwiches and hotdogs to ensure they don’t fall apart en route.  This is especially handy for baguettes.
    7. Muffin cooking trays can be quite handy for transporting and serving things like devilled eggs or condiments for burgers or hotdogs.

  1. Pop some baby wipes in your picnic bag and antiseptic hand gel, to cope with sticky fingers and to clean up children before they sit to eat.
  2. If there is a chance the grass may be damp (and there are no handy picnic tables) opt for a plastic backed picnic rug. Or take along a separate plastic sheet to place on the ground.   Ironically a shower curtain works brilliantly for this and they are easy to find.

London’s Hidden Gardens

May 30th, 2018

England’s capital city is richly served by a tapestry of beautifully designed and maintained Royal Parks. It also has many other natural spaces, meaning that around 47% of London is green!

One organisation has even put a value on this “priceless” green space. Apparently, London’s parks and other pockets of greenery have the equivalent of £91 billion of economic value.  That’s because they are so important to health, social resilience and tourism.

For many London visitors, the joy is to journey on roads less travelled, to find the city’s hidden gardens.

Random Beautiful Flower

Here are just six of London’s green spaces that generally only locals know about.

Chelsea Physic Garden

This intriguing title refers to a little oasis of calm and tranquillity tucked behind walls, on the banks of the River Thames. It’s the oldest botanic garden in London and home to over 5,000 species of medicinal, edible and herbal plants.

The original purpose – when it was planted in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries – was to teach apprentices which plants healed and which ones poisoned. Being by the river meant plants from around the world could be transported there easily.

This makes it a fascinating spot for anyone interested in gardening, but also wonderfully soothing as a hidden green space too.

Phoenix Garden 

This is also away from the busier routes and locations, providing the perfect spot for quiet contemplation or a relaxed picnic.

It is situated off Charing Cross Road, so it is popular for lunch time breaks from nearby offices. However, its lovingly maintained conservation makes it a wonderful green retreat for everyone to enjoy. You can even hire it for private parties.

Camley Street Natural Park

This urban oasis of plant life is currently the subject of major investment and will be re-opened in Spring 2019 with a brand new visitor centre.

It will be well worth a visit during your London holiday or business trip next year.  Sandwiched between two of London’s busiest railway stations and the Regent’s Canal, Camley Street Natural Park provides a patchwork woodland, grassland and wetland habitats. It includes ponds, reedbeds and marshes teeming with wildlife – including butterflies and birds.

Japanese Roof Garden

Okay so this one is not so much green space, as tranquillity space.

As you wander the city’s wonderful streets, you will be largely unaware of the glorious gardens above your head. Londoners have been creative in carving themselves space to relax and breathe on hotel, office and apartment buildings.

The Japanese Roof Garden at SOAS University of London is the perfect example.  A short walk from Merino’s colonnade properties.

On the garden’s granite water feature is the character for Forgiveness, which is the theme of this beguiling spot.  It was crafted by using Japanese garden design ideas, adapted to thrive in the British climate.

It’s a wonderful place to visit for meditation while in London. It also houses artistic activities for its neighbouring Brunei Gallery and outdoor theatre performances.

Rembrandt Gardens

Continuing the link between nature and art, the Rembrandt Gardens in Little Venice are well worth a visit too. One of the attractions is well thought out seating, that provides the perfect vantage point for a picturesque canal side.

This decades old green space has delighted locals for some years, but it gained its current name and some interesting tulip plants in 1975, when the City of Westminster was linked with the City of Amsterdam in Holland.

St. Mary’s Secret Garden

With a title like that, this beautiful and accessible community garden had to be on the list.

One of the things that makes this spot in Hackney, London, so special though, is that it is lovingly maintained by gardeners who have special needs. It is also a safe, friendly place for people in the local community to enjoy inclusion, alongside the joys of gardening.

Random Beautiful Flower

For more local information and insights, please contact the team at Merino Hospitality.  We are always happy to share out knowledge and love of the city, with guests at our discrete and private serviced accommodation in central London.

The world’s most prestigious and colourful horticultural event is only days away.

Once again, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is set to bedazzle visitors with a vast array of floral displays and innovative gardening ideas.

From Tuesday May 22nd to Saturday May 26th, tens of thousands of people will flock to this part of London to wander amongst the fabulous exhibits, take part in Gardening Question Time and pick up the best tips and products for their own outdoor projects.

There will be 500 exhibitors and landscapes on the 23-acre site, including Show Gardens, Artisan Gardens and Fresh Gardens. The Great Pavilion will house around 300 displays and stands.

So how did the Royal Horticultural Society nurture and grow the Chelsea Flower show, into this globally recognised event?

 Seeds are sown

The origins of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show were a one tent event in 1862, in the organisation’s garden in Kensington. Known as the Great Spring Show, it proved a hit and recorded a £88 profit.

The show became an annual fixture, and in 1913 moved to the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, to acquire more space.

This much anticipated event for gardeners and horticulturists continued during the First World War. However, it was forced to halt some years later, when The Second World War meant the land was needed as an anti-aircraft site.

The Chelsea Flower Show resumed in 1947 and gradually grew to be the wonderous event it is now.

Floral facts

There are many interesting anecdotes and kernels of information branching off with the Chelsea Flower Show.

One is that “shows of flowers” only started to appear from 1948! Until then it was planted gardens then everyone came to look at.

The focal point of the event is the fabulous Pavilion – large enough to house 500 London buses – which officially opened in 2000. Before that, the show was supported by what was officially recognised in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest tent. Once it became redundant, the tent was recycled in to 7,000 aprons, bags and jackets.

And did you know that gnomes are a “no-go” at the Chelsea Flower Show? Exhibitors have been known to sneak them in and hide them in their foliage.

London is packed full of cultural experiences and is home to some of the world’s most visited and admired museums.

Within stunning buildings, it beautifully presents vast curated collections of items from every era and culture.  Many smaller venue display quirky and specialist artefacts too. This brings the total number of museums in London to well over 170!

They range from the traditional and historic, to snapshots of social history, and to windows into contemporary arts. Some are free and let’s be honest, some are just plain weird!

However, even on the rainiest and coldest days, London has an incredible undercover world for you to explore, within its globally significant museums.

British Museum

No list of ten best museums would be complete without this incredible institution up at the top.

A vast collection of ancient treasures and items with immeasurable cultural significance puts the British Museum high on the “to do” list for millions of London visitors each year.

It’s collections are from across the world and all of time; specimens and antiquities that are unique and unmissable. It’s magnificent glass-roofed Great Court connects you to a series of galleries divided in to historical periods and geographic locations such as Ancient Egypt and The Roman Empire.

One of the key features of the enthralling experience of visiting the British Museum is that it is – and always has been – free of charge.

 V & A

Formally more often referred to as the Victoria & Albert Museum, this Knightsbridge institution is famous across the globe. It houses what is widely believed to be the world’s largest collection of decorative art, design, fashion and textiles.

Well informed and patient staff can help guide you through its 150 grand galleries, spread decoratively across seven floors.  You could find both the historical significance and contemporary context for interior design, clothing and the world of art.

The V&A offers 2.3 million items to look at, so it may take all day! Fortunately, you can break up your browsing with superb refreshment facilities and a particularly tempting shop.

Natural History Museum

Another of London’s most talked about and visited museums, this is one of the most family friendly and interactive visitor attractions in the capital.

Free to enter, the Natural History Museum offers 36 galleries containing a mind blowing 80 million individual items.  This is animal, plant, fossil, rock and mineral specimens from every part of the globe.

It includes everything from the world’s largest collection of coloured diamonds, to highly impressive dinosaur skeletons that will enrapture most children.  There is also ‘Archie’ one of rarest creatures on earth the giant squid and don’t miss the earthquake simulator!

Tate Modern

Even approaching this iconic riverside structure can be uplifting and inspirational. Step inside the architecturally fascinating building and you can soak up the wonders of contemporary art collections from the great and the magnificent.

The Turbine Hall has hosted some of the world’s most memorable and acclaimed works of contemporary art. And the way artists have interpreted this vast industrial space has revolutionised public perceptions of contemporary art in the twenty-first century.”

The free permanent collection housed at Tate Modern includes pieces by the likes of Warhol, Dalí and Hockney, to name but a few.  A visit puts you up close to 800 works of art by artists from more than 50 different countries.

It will be no surprise that five million London visitors pass through the doors of Tate Modern London each year.

National Gallery

If you prefer your art to be a touch more traditional than modern, then the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square offers you 2,300 curated works from world renowned artists such Michelangelo, da Vinci, van Gogh, Rembrandt, Turner, Matisse, Picasso, and Cézanne.

Once more, you may be surprised to find that this world class art museum is free to enter.

The National Gallery also provides a year-round programme of events and concerts, special exhibitions and workshops for those who like to dabble in art creation themselves.

Museum of Brands

There are people who would argue that just as significant in art terms is the creative and innovative imagery and wording used in packaging and advertising through the ages.

Which is why just a few minutes’ walk away from the world-famous Portobello Road Market, you can find this incredible treasure trove of brand, packaging and advertising memories.

It is particularly perfect if you are a fan of retro designs or you love soaking up some nostalgia about your childhood influences.  The Museum of Brands includes product promotional materials from Rimmel cosmetics in the 1890s, First World War food products, 1930s chocolate bars to the must-have toys of the 1970s.

It’s also great fun on a visit to marvel at how politically incorrect advertising used to be too!

Magic Circle Museum

This is one lesser known London museum that can truly be described as offering a magical experience.  Any budding magicians or even those with a slight interest in magic will love the Magic Circle Museum.

While still protecting its secrets and ancient arts, The Magic Circle has curated a fascinating collection of equipment, gadgets, gizmos and historical reference material. It also includes profiles of some of greatest magicians through the years, bringing their entertainment credentials to life. For example, you can see handcuffs used by the world-renowned Harry Houdini but also listen to his voice, recorded for posterity.

Bookings for the “house of 1,000 secrets” museum are by appointment only.

Grants Zoological Museum

Have you ever wondered what 50 Moles look like preserved in a jar?  Or perhaps why scientists used to store specimens in this fashion.  The answers and a treasure trove of other brilliant – slightly macabre – spectacles await for example: The Negus Collection of Bisected Heads, African python skeletons, The Brain Collection and so much more.

The Micrarium is somewhere to come and explore some of the 20,000 microscope slides at the Grant Museum.  Ironically most ‘life’ is smaller than your thumb, Grants Museum felt that the tiny wasn’t being properly represented in modern museums so they converted an old office/storeroom into a lovely back-lit cave displaying 2,323 of the tiniest specimens in the collection.

Flying lizards, giant starfish, duck-billed platypuses, thorny devils and spiny anteaters, the Grant Museum is home to some Weird and Wonderful Wildlife.

There is a myriad of fun and structured activities for families or adults in groups including ‘Creature Creations‘ when families can flex their creativity muscles by designing and building creatures using paper, markers, scissors and glue.

A great experience for kids and the eternally curious alike.

Freud Museum

Perhaps your historical interest extends more to mental health than surgical prowess.  This is also a great stop off if you are just curious about how people lived in the past.  A visit to the former Hampstead home of the father of psychoanalysis is fascinating.  Although the visit would require a day trip from London, for those interested in Freudian psychology this is a must!

The museum boast a brilliant collection of photo take by and of Freud and his family as well as his library and examples of his collection of antiquities.

The Freud Museum is packed with family memorabilia and antiques. This includes Freud’s writing desk and of course his iconic Berggasse psychoanalytic couch.

Ragged School Museum

For another window in to the past and social history, this lesser known museum is another interesting option. Children will find it particularly great to contrast education now with the past.

This canal side structure used to be the largest “free” school in London. Also known as “ragged schools”, these establishments were the brainchild of Thomas Barnardo, the medical philanthropist who founded the UK children’s charity Barnardos.

A visit to this former warehouse then school shows you not just the history of that movement, but also the general harsh reality of life in London’s East End during the Victorian era.

You can even join in a Victorian school lesson, to get a true historical perspective. But fortunately, no whips or canes are allowed.

If you would like to know more about any of the capital’s 170 plus museums in preparation for staying in our quality serviced accommodation in London, contact Merino Hospitality. We are always happy to provide information to make your stay here an unforgettable part of your personal history.

Museums At Night is an annual UK-wide celebration of the education and entertainment packed in to these invaluable buildings. The original goal was to diversify the museums and offer a more ‘adults only’ experience but this was quickly expanded to include activities for all ages and some specific family events, like Regents Park open theatre performance of Peter Pan.  It’s particularly significant in London, as the city boasts an incredible array of institutions with collections of artefacts and memorabilia stretching back through millions of years.

The Museums At Night festival is being held this year from 16th – 19th of May and includes invitations to explore some of amazing collections housed in London late in to the evening, including many that are completely free of charge.  By combining elements of childhood education with wonderful architecture and specialist activities there is something for everyone.

Museums At Night includes special events and projects to make the festival even more attractive to visitors of all ages and interests. This includes meet and greet sessions with resident artists in some of the hallowed museums of art, and opportunities to see behind the scenes at methodology for curating world famous collections.

The project is run by a charity We Are Culture24 which works tirelessly to bring people closer to culture through innovative and exclusive events and festivals.   “We are a small and dynamic team of writers, thinkers, producers and publishers who love arts and culture, understand digital and believe that cultural organisations have a vital place in a better world.”

The Merino Hospitality team thought this was the perfect opportunity to add a review of some of the best – and quirkiest – museums to our library of lively visitor information for London.   Stay tuned to next week’s blog for this list.

Remember though, it’s all a matter of personal taste. The trick is to find the one that most interests you. If you decide to come to London for Museum At Night you can make your own mind up which fascinating London establishment makes your top ten.

Just like our beautifully furnished serviced accommodation in London, the capital’s museums are always being updated and improved, so why not make a return visit to a long-standing favourite?  The festival also offers the opportunity to explore eclectic Museums all over the country.   What a great reason for a day-trip out of London.

Incidentally, if you wanted to see one of the locations for the film “A Night at the Museum”, then head to The British Museum.

In the video below you can find out more about how you can move from side to side in the English capital. We have also added some extra tips to the information provided from sources like: Visit London and London & Partners that should help you in making the most of your time in the English capital.

 

1 – When visiting any city for the first time, it is perfectly understandable that one might feel intimidated in using its public transport network.  The London public transport network currently consists of Trains, Tubes, Buses, Boats & Bikes!  London offers a very comprehensive public transportation system and by combining the different modes of transport you will never find yourself sitting in a traffic jam in the middle of town!  There are overland trains, underground tubes, double decker buses, commuter boats and public hire bikes.   Each mode of transport is designed for ease of use so there you can always ‘go another way’.   Using the Thames Clipper is a great way to see the city from a unique perspective -the river Thames – and is really quick and comfortable.  Key to ensuring your ease of travel is understanding the different payment methods.   London currently has a complete listing for travel payment options at Transport for London (TFL).

 

One of the best and simplest forms of payment is an Oyster Card there is also the option of using: an NFC-enabled bank card, Apple Pay and Google Pay. While contactless may be the easiest it is worthwhile to confirm that your cards and phone app is compatible to avoid any embarrassment at the ticket barriers.  It is possible to pre-order your visitor Oyster card online so you can have it to hand right from the beginning of your trip – this is especially useful if you plan to get from the airport (Heathrow) to the city by tube.  If you prefer to play ‘fast and loose’ you can get one at any ticket booth (tube or train stations) within a tube stations around the city and recharge it with financial credits (Top-up) at any of the ticket machines located on the network.

 

It is worth noting that cash payments are not accepted on buses, so make sure that you top-up your Oyster if you want to hop on a Thames Clipper, London bus, Train or Tube. The tube can get very muggy and sticky on hot days, especially during peak (rush) hours.   This really depends on where you are in town, the direction you are travelling and which tube line you are using. Buses often benefit from their own exclusive lanes throughout the city making them more effective in traffic and you can at least take in some of the beautiful scenery London has to offer.  Although buses don’t have air-conditioning with the windows open they are usually quite comfortable outside peak-time usage.

 

2 – When travelling throughout the transport network, stand to the right-hand side of escalators, keeping the left clear for those in a hurry.  This is especially important when traveling down escalators and is implied on stairways as well.   Be aware of others coming up beside you as people may be moving quickly.

 

3 – If you have a question, we will be happy to help! Londoners are usually extremely reserved and unlikely to start a random chit-chat with a stranger.   One of the interesting pecidillos about London is that for a major global city it is extremely quiet, most North Americans are stunned at the tranquillity of the city centre.  Most Londoners can be found engrossed in their phones during travel but as a tourist you are entitled to a “guilt-free pass” so take advantage of it.  Choose carefully and identify yourself as a tourist for best results.   It is probably a good idea to download a mapping app on your phone to get your bearings. Our personal favourites are Citymapper or GoogleMaps.   You should also be aware that Londoners may not engage at all and don’t be offended just choose carefully and make sure you let your ‘target’ know you are not a local.  Sometimes having a foreign accent isn’t sufficient don’t be afraid to mentioning that you are just visiting.

 

4 – As expected in a busy city such as London, queues are everywhere! (queue = line-up). Don’t be surprised to find people even queueing at a bus stop and politely awaiting their turn into the bus. Tourist attractions are especially prone to long waiting times. If you wish to avoid some of these queues, depending on which attractions you wish to visit, is worth looking into getting a London Pass. This combines entrances for various attractions at discounted rates (and even fast track entry at some of them), and other special offers.  The other option would be to sign up with a concierge service for your stay if you are interested in getting access to some great clubs, bars, west-end shows and restaurants.   We partner with Innerplace Concierge.

 

5 – It is worth checking in advance of your trip for any special events happening in London during the dates of your stay. You might not only get more than what you expected from your visit but it will also prevent potential disappointments, as certain places might experience closures and other disruptions that might have a negative impact in your enjoyment.  There are rarely any events that will cause more than 1 day’s disruption to travel around the city.   Even during the London marathon all the tube lines are running so it’s generally only surface movement that is limited.   Another great reason to check for special events is that very often you can pre-register or book tickets and experience something that wouldn’t normally be available to all but the most canny tourists.

 

6 – Quick maths lesson: 1 Pint = 20oz ≈ 0.57L  If you are a light drinker, it is probably well worth keeping that in mind before you order a new round.  For drivers 1 pint = 2 units of alcohol so just one pint can be enough to take you over the legal drink/drive limit.  As a tradition, most pubs will ring a bell at the bar announcing that it is time for “last call” as last orders are being served. Each establishment has a license granted by the government that allows them to serve alcohol up until a certain time, historically that has been 11pm for pubs but these licenses can be extended and often are.  Most pubs will close at 2300 Sunday – Wednesday but most now have extended hours for other days, check at the bar for more information about your favourite ‘watering hole’.   All clubs or discos are licensed into the small hours so you can dance the night away!

 

 

7 – London offers a plethora of free guided walks . London is a city where you can comfortably walk around, particularly within Central London. For instance, our mews houses  have, on a 20-minute walking radius, most attractions and landmarks including King’s Cross/St Pancras International stationBritish MuseumBritish LibrarySt Paul’s CathedralThe CityTheatrelandCharles Dickens MuseumThe Foundling MuseumCovent GardenSohoChinatownLeicester SquarePiccadilly CircusOxford StreetRegent StreetBond Streetthe StrandSouthbank CentreNational TheatreThe National GallerySomerset HouseRoyal Opera HouseRoyal Courts of Justice and Madame Tussauds just to mention but a few. As scientists have found, just a 20-minute daily stroll can considerably improve your health!

 

8 – Cycling certainly is fun but please remember that London is a very busy city and the traffic is dangerous, especially for cyclists. You can hire Santander bikes all across the city for only £2/day and have as many 30-minute cycles as you want.  These ‘nearly’ free bikes are a great way to see London and get around town.   With docking stations located all over the city you can plan and combine trains, bikes and boats.

 

9 – In London and the United Kingdom we drive on the left-side of the road so please keep your eyes peeled for oncoming traffic and, when in doubt, always look both ways just to be sure it is safe to cross.  For people visiting from North America you need to understand that you are forgoing your pedestrian rights.   In principle, pedestrians have the priority over vehicles only at zebra crossings and the vast majority of drivers will stop for you.  We would recommend waiting for the driver to acknowledge your presence and come to a full stop before you proceed. According to the UK Department of Transport there were 3,449 reported pedestrian casualties in 2013 on pedestrian crossings, refuge or central island, and another 2,356 casualties within 50 metres of a pedestrian crossing. London is one of the busiest cities in the world, so naturally things can get ugly so please take care out there and look after your children.

 

10 – Think outside the box. London has so many different things, off the beaten path places and activities, that whilst sticking just to the traditional and most well-known attractions is a guarantee of a good time, the little secrets the city has to offer will give you an unique perspective of this amazing and vibrant city.  In the days and weeks before your visit we would always suggest that you spend some time investigating the latest events and opportunities.   Keep your eyes peeled for the little things around the corners and you might even spot a few noses and ears here and there…

 

 

 

 

 

 

There really is nothing more authentically British, than taking afternoon tea. It’s a tradition that dates to when breakfast was a vast meal, and the next time you ate was a gargantuan evening feast. So, a mid-afternoon sampler of food kept English aristocracy satisfied in between.

If you’re not familiar with this long-standing custom, then the first thing you need to know is that we are not simply talking about the drink “tea”, though that features on the menu.

 What’s in an English afternoon tea? 

Afternoon Tea in the UK involves dainty sandwiches, slices of delicious cakes and fancies and often a scone with jam and clotted cream. At one time, cucumber sandwiches (with no crusts on the bread) took centre stage but now sandwich fillings can be just about anything.

The idea is that you are served this delicious choice of finger food in an attractive way, often on decorative cake stands.  You should also preferably eat off china plates, and sip tea or coffee from delicate cups and saucers.  In more recent times, mini picnic benches have also become popular for displaying luscious afternoon teas in England.

So, where can you go in London for the best Afternoon Teas?

Well the good news is there are plenty of options, as this traditional feast of bite-sized delights has enjoyed a massive resurgence in recent times.  Here are the ones that the Merino Hospitality team recommend, as you will get the best, freshest ingredients and as well as the true afternoon tea experience.

 Fortnum & Mason 

This quintessential British store is on many London “to do” lists anyway. But while there, it’s a great spot to enjoy some excellent quality finger sandwiches and highly attraction cakes. The range is unlimited, so you can happily try a bit of everything. You may also want to opt to sample a range of tea blends, and learn how to brew, smell and sip tea for maximum understanding and enjoyment.

Afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason also comes with appropriately relaxing live music as a backdrop, and highly attentive waiting staff. It is essential to book ahead, and you need to add the tea tasting as an optional extra.

Sketch

For an Afternoon Tea venue in London that combines British traditions with a more contemporary feel, then Sketch is a tempting choice.  This highly quirky, 18th-century townhouse has a fabulous bright tea room, that later in the day becomes a popular cocktail lounge. From colourful tea trolleys displaying an artistic array of delicious food and fine tea choices, to discrete but super-polite waiting staff, this is a memorable and enjoyable experience.

However, to really set it apart, Sketch offers the choice of a Caviar Afternoon Tea. With this you have an explosion of creamy flavour from caviar, alongside a range of other mouth-watering menu choices.

Ring ahead to book, especially during high season and Bank holiday visits to London.

Beas of Bloomsbury

Apart from how delicious the food is with a Beas of Bloomsbury Afternoon tea, we wanted to include this venue as you will also be delighted by how little it will cost.  This is also a more casual and laid-back option, in a truly lovely setting – the company has premises at both Bloomsbury and St Paul’s.   This particular Afternoon Tea has been highly commended by TimeOut London, Louis Vuitton City Guide, and the Financial Times, and it also appeared in the Independent newspaper’s listing for the top tea rooms for the whole of the UK.

Reservations are essential but will provide you with a fabulous range of both savoury and sweet delights at a highly affordable price. You could also upgrade to either the Champagne Afternoon tea, or an option that includes a glass of iconic Bottega Gold Prosecco.

Mr Fogg’s

This prestigious London restaurant group is another great choice if you want a “Tipsy tea”. Mr Fogg’s provides a selection of exquisite champagne and gin teas, “for an indulgent afternoon of delectation and pleasure”.

Mr Fogg’s has establishments at various popular London locations, all within easy reach of public transport.  Reservations are essential. You are also advised to leave plenty of time for your visit, to imbibe the “bottomless pot” of spirit or champagne infused tea that comes with your selection of delicacies and afternoon tea favourites.

London afternoon tea bus tour

This slightly eclectic option, perfect for the (super sonic) short stay; enables you to combine the wonderful, unmissable experience of an English Afternoon tea, with sightseeing the country’s truly awe-inspiring capital city.  Everyone loves a twofer!

It really is a slice of history on the move, as you will enjoy your finger food in a beautifully laid out vintage red London bus.  The B Afternoon Tea takes you around sights that include The London Eye, Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament, Hyde Park, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and The Royal Albert Hall.  Mini-quiches, freshly made finger sandwiches, mini cupcakes and delicate pasties are all on the menu for the afternoon tea bus tour in London. The B Bakery company also offers the options of Gluten free, vegetarian and halal Afternoon Teas on its iconic red double decker bus.

As you won’t be doing the driving, there are options for alcoholic additions, including a Gin Afternoon Tea on board.  Most afternoon teas involve more food than you could eat in one sitting.  But these are some of the best “leftovers” for you to enjoy later when you return to ‘Your home in central London’.

 

Staying in London with your children provides you with an incredible choice of places to visit, activities and fun pastimes.  If you fancy something different why not consider getting out of London to explore the beautiful English countryside.  Using well situated and centrally located service accommodation in London puts you near main artery roads and railway stations which can help you escape the city at a whim.

Here are just five options for making memories on family day trips from London.

Warner Bros Studio Tour London

This is paradise for Harry Potter and JK Rowling fans and is located just north of Watford about 30 – 45 minutes by train depending on where you are in London.

It’s where the massively popular Harry Potter films were made, so it is now home to an unmissable exhibition. See the film sets for yourself and learn some of the special effects secrets. Explore the Hogwarts Express steam train, from Platform 9¾.

Set adjacent to the working film studios where all eight Harry Potter films were made, the Studio Tour offers visitors the unique opportunity to explore two soundstages and a backlot filled with original sets, animatronic creatures and breathtaking special effects.

Whether you are a Gryffindor or Slytherin you will find loads of excitement at for every ‘house’ at the WB Studio Tour.

Brighton Beach

Make your way from urban London to this leafy Sussex seaside destination, and you will be following in the footsteps of hundreds of years’ worth of adventurous Londoners.   Located 1 hour by train from South London, the journey through the south downs is lovely and exciting.

Brighton is a truly colourful and lovely British seaside town, with fascinating architecture including the iconic Royal Pavilion. It has quirky shops around The Lanes and an interactive museum. For family days out from London, the beach is a great option in good weather. There is always something going on.

Brighton Palace Pier has been through the wars (literally) but at 1,722ft long and acknowledged as the finest pier ever built, we now offer traditional seaside balanced with the excitement and pace of the modern day. Find out here how history has helped us to become who we are today.

From live entertainment, to superhero days, firework displays and music festivals, we’ve got the lowdown on everything going on. Why not tie in an event with a visit to Brighton Pier for a weekend packed to the rafters with fun.

Arundel Castle, West Sussex

If you are feeling truly adventurous this trip is up to 2 hrs but on arrival for anyone unfamiliar with the Majesty of a true ‘Castle’ the trip is well worth it.

If you have explored London as a family and fancy another interesting slice of English heritage, then head out to clamber around this 1,000-year-old castle.

There are many steps – so sensible shoes are a must – but the views are worth it. You and your children could see costumed storytelling, falconry and archery demonstrations too, as well as joining in year-round special events at Arundel Castle.

Legoland Windsor

The global phenomenon that is Legoland!  Exported from Denmark, these simple building blocks and their theme park have touched almost everyone on earth.   Travel to Windsor is easy (It houses the Queen’s favourite castle!) it’s about 1-1.5 hrs from central London.

Kids across the world know the magic of Lego, but the whole family can have fun at this extensive and packed theme park. It includes 4D movies, 55 rides and attractions, lots for toddlers to do and of course an elaborate mini world made from Lego bricks. Older children will love the Lego Star Wars Miniland Model display.

Please make sure to keep your shoes on; as anyone who has ever stepped on lego with bare feet can understand!

Hampton Court: Magic Garden

Anyone planning excursions while staying in London should add Hampton Court to their list, as it is a truly splendid 16th century Tudor palace.   Only 1 hr by train outside central London.

King Henry VIII’s (“Two beheadings out of six wives is too many”) home outside London.   This palace provides a brilliant mix of the historic and combines it with modern entertainment in a fun and engaging manner.

For family fun days from London, it offers The Magic Garden, a wonderland of play equipment for kids.  There are smoke snorting dragon, high towers and thrilling slides. There is a great water feature too, so you may want to take a towel on your day out from London.

Kids can let their curiosity and imagination free, blow off some steam and make great memories during your London holiday or short break.

For more ideas and details, feel free to contact the team at Merino Hospitality. We make families welcome at our discrete and beautiful furnished serviced accommodation.

DiggerLand: Kent

For something completely different, why not take the family to Diggerland.   If you are looking for fun-filled, action-packed family day-out… you need look no further than DIGGERLAND.   Located in MEDWAY VALLEY Leisure Park just a short drive from London.  Diggerland have a selection of great  rides & drives for guests of all ages including: Spindizzy, Mini-Tractors, Groundshuttle and Dig-a-Round, as well as Go-Karts and Dodgems.  Diggerland Kent provides some spectacular views across the River Medway of Rochester and its historic, 11th century cathedral and the 12th century castle.   A great way to grab a ‘snap’ of this brilliant vista is to take it from 50 feet up in the Diggerland Skyshuttle… don’t forget your camera!

Where else in the world would you find such a rich source of literary heritage and inspiration, than on the streets of London?  Whether your tastes lean towards JK Rowling, Shakespeare or anything in-between; England’s capital city has sights and information to enable you to soak up a wide range of experiences.

You could pick out your favourite authors and concentrate on guided tour groups to explore their homes, work-places and muses. Or you could imagine yourself in the stories themselves, by visiting locations connected to these great characters; visit Baker Street to see the world of Sherlock Homes, “It’s elementary, dear Watson”

London literary pub crawls

National trust owned The George Inn, which dates to the 16th century and was once frequented by Shakespeare, and then Charles Dickens. It is just one of a wide range of drinking places connected to famous authors.

Nor surprisingly then, London offers organised, guide-led literary pub crawls. For those unfamiliar with the concept of a pub crawl, it’s a British leisure pastime to visit a few different drinking places, while enjoying a stroll between each one (not a literal crawl).

Self-guided tours

You can also enjoy self-guided tours of London to visit sights connected to both authors and the fictional characters they created.

For example, one of the more recent additions to this is a “Platform 9¾” sign and other literary props at Kings Cross Station, which creates the perfect photo opportunity for Harry Potter fans.

You could also choose to take a 2-3-hour self-guided literary tour around Hampstead and along Hampstead Heath.  This will allow you to explore another beautiful area of London and some great London green spaces as well as the properties formerly owned by such literary giants as A. A. Milne and Evelyn Waugh.

Literary London tours with a guide

Here are many guided tour options around London for those who love fiction or poetry – or both. They can take you on a weaving exploration of some of London’s most historic streets and alleyways, in search of landmarks associated with such well known authors as Samuel Pepys.

Or, you could take a Harry Potter Black Taxi Tour in London or a London Bus Tour dedicated to the boy wizard.

There are plenty of museums and other attractions in London for book-lovers too, including the fascinating Roald Dahl Museum and Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition.

Bloomsbury

This region of London deserves special mention as it is well known to many in literary circles.  Hours can be spent hunting blue plagues all over this lovely area of London.  A special treat for guests staying with Merino is the ‘doorstep’ access to some of world’s top literary figures.   You might be aware of the influential Bloomsbury Group, a group of English writers, artists, intellectuals and philosophers who met to discuss their work and beliefs in their private Bloomsbury homes. The group’s most famous members included individuals such as Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster and Lytton Strachey. The 1920’s was a booming time for Bloomsbury, Virginia Woolf was publishing her most popular modernist novels, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell had extraordinary exhibitions and E. M. Forster wrote A Passage to India, one of England’s highest regarded novels on British imperialism in India. Another great author who lived in Bloomsbury was Charles Dickens, known and treasured all over the world with his remarkable work such as Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and The Pickwick Papers. He resided at 48 Doughty Street during the1830’s with his family, where he paid £80 rent a year. Today, the address is a museum, just across the street from the Merino offices, where the literary interested can step inside the home of this writer and social critic. In addition, other notable inhabitants of the neighbourhood include Mathama Gandhi, Charles Darwin, Bob Marley, Ricky Gervais and Charles Dickens.

 

The London Arts Scene

March 27th, 2018

London’s crown as the Arts capital of the world shows no sign of slipping.

Merino was fortunate over the winter to have a celebrity stay with us.  This maestro has been involved in music, ballet and even opera.   We felt it would be important and worthwhile  to have a look at London’s Arts scene.

Though funding for the Arts has been squeezed in recent times, the London powerhouses have risen to the challenge and continued to make the English capital a leading force across all genres. In fact London leads the way for all the UK Visual Arts sector, which as a whole accounts for 30% of the global art market.

The best of the past and contemporary Arts

Much in common with other aspects of this fascinating city, London has managed to mesh together its historical arts perspective, with achingly modern offerings too. While The Globe Theatre has painstakingly reproduced the original Shakespearean experience, if you prefer Contemporary Performance Art, The Tate Modern is where many pieces have their debut.

Music menu

London’s rich track record for nurturing music talent continues with its provision of over 17,000 music performances each year. It’s 300 plus high calibre venues include the enviably successful O2 arena.  With the festival season starting soon, the countryside around London soon becomes alive with music as well.

Out of the streets

Though it’s home to opera and ballet companies in demand worldwide, London has always found ways to make the arts accessible to the man and woman on the street too.  This includes some 250 arts festivals, many inspired by the Notting Hill Carnival which attracts near one million people a year. There are street performers throughout the capital year-round. However, Covent Garden in particular, is a hot bed of both quirky and high quality “impromptu” performances.

Cream of Comedy

If comedy is your thing and you haven’t been to London, then the joke is on you, as the city attracts top names to perform in its arenas. Some of the biggest names in entertainment also test their material in the city’s pubs and comedy clubs too.   Comedy nights and acts can be found in every area and region in London.   For those looking for something a bit more involved there are numerous plays that highlight the wonderful acerbic wit found on our wonderful island.

All the world’s a stage

No whistle stop tour of London’s prestigious Arts offering would be complete without mentioning the theatres clustered in to part of the city. The glamour of Broadway is echoed in London’s West End. Did you know, though Broadway has more seats than its UK counterpart, London’s West End attracts more theatre visitors?

After the final curtain?

There literally is tempting arts performance every night of the year in London, which means visitors will never been disappointed.
Whatever your taste or pleasure there something for everyone in the vibrant London Arts scene.

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