The fabulous city of LONDON
Now is the time to head to London. The city is enjoying a mass of activity since The Royal Wedding, and into The Olympics. London is always a fabulous time, with plenty to do and see but right now, and heading into the 2012 Olympics, the city has planned loads of special offers and activities.
Yes! It’s the Olympic games but before the first race is won, there are plenty of reasons to pop across the pond.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations
Celebrating 60 years of dear old Lizzy’s reign, the Diamond Jubilee will happen over the first weekend in June of 2012. Fantastic events such as the Epson Derby, BBC Concert in Buckingham Palace, Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral and the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, where a huge flotilla with up to a thousand boats, will be on the River Thames.
Various locations, June 2 – 5, 2012
Celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of literary genius Charles Dickens, Dickens 2012 is a year-long celebration of events remembering one of the most important literary figures of all times. The massive affair plans to “engage millions worldwide” with events and special exhibitions throughout London.
In addition to these unique programs the city has risen above its bangers and mash background and has emerged as a culinary destination. Dining in London is now a source of joy, with interesting restaurants preparing healthy and delicious fare. Shopping, art, and theater are booming and there is so much to do with the whole family. With British Airways offering daily direct flights to and from LAX to Heathrow, the trip is easy to plan and execute.
The Hyatt Regency London — The Churchill is located in the heart of the West End, the hotel overlooks the gardens of Portman Square and is walking distance from some of London’s finest shopping destinations. The hotel is ideal for business or family fun and is within easy reach of the
capital’s main business, cultural and entertainment districts. In a first of its kind arrangement, the hotel is currently collaborating with the Saatchi Gallery, London’s leading contemporary art gallery. Starting in January 2012, the Hyatt Regency London — The Churchill and the Saatchi Gallery will display installations throughout the public areas of the hotel including the hotel lobby, the hotel’s restaurant The Montagu, and The Churchill Bar. Additionally, in February 2012, the duo will open the Saatchi Suite, which allows guest to sleep and interact amongst the art.
Dishoom — located in the newly developed shopping area, St. Martin’s Courtyard, this modern Indian eatery serves tapas-style Indian fare that has become a fast favorite for locals and tourist. The restaurant is always busy and has a “New York” feel with its checkered tile floor and wooden booths. Bring your appetite because everything on the menu is delicious.
Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Mason — after a long day of shopping or visiting art exhibits, having Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Mason is the
perfect way to unwind and recharge. Fortnum & Mason is a famous, historic department store that has been “the Royal grocer” for centuries. Inside the five-story structure, located in the heart of Piccadilly, on the fourth floor is St. James Restaurant, which is the place to go for a classic Afternoon Tea.
FishWorks — located in the Marylebone High Street surrounded by unique shopping boutiques, you’ll find FishWorks serving sustainably caught and expertly prepared fish and seafood. The specials are posted on the chalkboard and the dining room is filled with smartly dressed Londoners. Save room for dessert and try the Eton Mess, a rather girlish mix of pavlova and berries named after the famous boys school.
Opera Tavern — located across from the famous Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in Covent Garden, the Opera Tavern is another hit from the restaurateurs behind Salt Yard and Dehesa. Tapas-style dishes inspired by Spain and Italy rule the menu. The two-story venue is packed with diners enjoying pigs ears, charcuterie, shrimp skewers and squash blossoms filled with goat cheese served in a tempura batter and glazed with honey.
London has a flourishing art scene with exhibits ranging from emerging German artists to a massively popular Leonardo Di Vinci exhibit.
The National Gallery
Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan
This is the must see exhibit of the season! This unprecedented exhibition brings together the most complete display of Leonardo’s rare surviving paintings. Made possible by sensational international loans, this is the first exhibit dedicated to his aims and techniques as a painter. Highlights include a display, for the first time ever, Leonardo’s two versions of the picture known as The Virgin of the Rocks. The first version (on loan from Musée du Louvre) sits facing the second version and viewers can see his change in style from a detailed observer of nature to allowing more of an artistic license of expression.
Through February 5, 2012
Gesamtkunstwerk: New Art From Germany
The Saatchi Gallery, located in the massive 70,000 square foot Duke of York’s HQ building in the heart of London on King’s Road, offers free admission to view exhibits from emerging artists. Currently featuring work from German artists the exhibit ranges from big, bold, sloppy acrylic paintings to odd collections of toys attached to household products spray painted in metallic, to a vibrating mirror. The running theme of the exhibit is examining the “baggage of post-war Germany”.
Through April 2012
London is a shopping mecca and there seems to be no recession in the busy streets and shops. New shopping developments and the gentrification of the East End allow visitors a varied experience.
Carnaby Street is well known as the birthplace of British fashion in the 60s, where the hip and fashionable set opened shops and hung out. These days it contains independent boutiques, global fashion brands and award-winning restaurants. It has come full circle and is back to being at the cutting edge of creativity, drawing those in the know with extraordinary boutiques alongside quintessentially English pubs and cafes.
The power of gentrification has transformed the East End from working class to über hip drawing creative and enterprising locals to start up new
ventures in innovative spaces. The East end comes alive on Sunday mornings with one of the best flower markets in the city; the famous Columbia Road Flower Market. Start off with an egg sandwich and cappuccino from one of the street vendors and then enjoy the wide selection of flowers priced at incredibly reasonable rates. East London Furniture is a sustainability project creating furniture using discarded wood from the local neighborhood. If it’s fashion you are chasing then check out The Laden Showroom where up and coming designers rent booths filled with their stellar creations. The prices are more Santee Alley than Robertson Boulevard and the quality and originality are worth the buy.
For the true London shopping experience head to Regent Street; a long stretch of shopping destinations housed in stunning architecture. The stately, curved street is London’s ultimate shopping destination. Be sure to visit Penhaligon’s for scents crafted using fine and rare ingredients. Prince Charles and his father, Prince Philip, are fans of the quality-focused perfumer. Another high quality merchant located on Regent Street is eyeglass designer, Kirk Originals. Their frames are designed by the married, designing duo, and then hand-made and hand-painted in France. The results are likeable hipster frames that look good on everyone from cool Grandma to teen. Long time catalog purveyor, The East India Company, has opened their first retail store and it’s the perfect place for gifts to bring home. Choose from fine tea, gourmet coffee, chocolate, and artisanal biscuits. They also have an impressive collection of intricate tea sets.
Fitting In & Getting Around
London is about as opposite to Los Angeles as you can get in terms of transportation and dress code. You’ll want to take advantage of the opportunity to fit in with the locals. The dress code is much more “New York” than “L.A.” By that we mean tasteful, dark, elegant — think Prada and Hèrmes. Although you will be walking and using taxis and public transportation, don’t even think about going out in your sneakers. Not a single self-respecting Londoner wears
sneakers on the street — some women have taken to wearing Ugg boots but the majority of fashionable Londoners wear stylish, sensible and more formal footwear. Don’t forget hats, gloves and scarves to brave the chilly temperatures.
Plan a taxi budget for your travels. While the tube is excellent, quick and affordable, cabs are just more relaxing for tourists. Definitely plan a few trips on the tube but for late nights, carrying luggage, and at the end of an exhausting day of sight seeing, rely on the outstanding service of the many black cabs that are available at every corner. The drivers are honest, professional and knowledgeable, and the cabs are clean and large enough for five passengers or lots of luggage.