Christie's is one of two internationally famous auction houses, the other being Sotheby's. Only clients of the auction house seem to be aware of the beautiful and varied works of art you can see at the auction house galleries. Both in the St. James and South Kensington offices you are free to walk in, browse the pre-sale exhibitions with no charge - and, fear not, there's no obligation to buy.
Christie's on King Street holds fantastic modern art, impressionist art and British art sales, as well as countless furniture and jewellery sales.
In South Kensington it's all a little more light-hearted with pop memorabilia, sporting memorabilia, musical instruments, clocks and house sales where you can often pick up good antique furniture bargains.
South Kensington is also famous for its drop-in valuations, so if there's something on your wall, in your attic or basement that you've always wondered about, take it to Christie's for a free valuation.
They're quieter than museums, and somehow much more personal. No ropes or screens to keep you back.
Their website will tell you what's coming up and when. And if you have time, attend an auction - the bigger sales at Christie's are fascinating to watch. Just don't twitch, stretch or fix your hair.
Christie's auction house, King St, St James and Old Brompton Road, South Kensington.
I wanted to recommend my local high street. It's a few minutes walk from the tourist chaos of the London Eye and County Hall but worth checking out.
Walk through the Leake Street tunnel (passing under Waterloo Station) which is has over 100m of graffiti. Artists are free to work here and there's a mix of classic style, stencil, logos, obligatory tagging, one-off scupltures and even knitted graffiti.
Leake Street leads to Lower Marsh with it's daily fruit and veg market, plenty of independent shops, cafes, eateries pubs and bars. Books, bondage gear, London's best classical and jazz CD shop, vintage clothing boutiques, a scooter repair shop/cafe (or is that the other way around?) to a knitters paradise and a train spotters book shop - you can even buy yourself a flute.
Weekdays are a mix of lunching workers and shopping locals. Keep walking and you get to Waterloo Road and The Cut, with the Old and Young Vic theatre
Near London Eye, County Hall, Waterloo Station, Lambeth North tube.
From St. Katharine's Dock, opposite the Tower of London, there's a nice walk to Tobacco Dock or even further, to the Shadwell Basin. For the curious, it's a good way of seeing Thomas Telford's London, and appreciate London's industrial and naval past. Passing behind houses, along a sunken canal, you usually see joggers and people out for a walk. It's a shame Tobacco Docks are closed now, but the 'pirate ships' outside are worth seeing.
From here, carry on to the peaceful Shadwell Basin; turn left to join Cable Street; or turn right and follow the Thames back to Tower Bridge. The streets around Wapping are especially intriguing, and there's a really good Italian restaurant (Il Bordello) on Wapping High Street. If you're not sure of where you are, you can always retrace your steps and the canal will take you back to St. Katharine's Docks.
From the Tower Hotel at St. Katharine's Dock (nearest tube station: Tower Hill), cross the footbridge and join St. Katharine's Way. At roundabout, cross road to reach small reservoir. Down steps and under bridge to join canal. Follow, and just after pirate ships, turn right on Wapping Lane. At the river, turn left onto Wapping High Street. Continue and this will take you back to the roundabout, where you cross over to get back to St. Katharine's Dock.
Divertimenti in London run lunchtime cookery classes. If you're as bad as me at cooking then it's certainly an adventure! Each session covers somethign different - I did a one hour session which covered really quick dinner party meals. You get to taste everything you cook so it's not as if you miss your actual lunch and you head home with a copy of the recipes.
It's cool because you don't have to tie yourself into three months of classes and it gives you a bit of inspiration.
The past week has seen the DLR train connection to London City Airport closed for line upgrades. Before setting off to the airport, it is wise to check online at www.tfl.gov.uk or www.londoncityairport.com to check for travel disruptions. There are replacement bus services in place but you should give yourself an extra half an hour if taking these to allow for delays and traffic
Absolutely delicious Keralan food served in a delightful way. This branch specialises in vegetarian and seafood and we had the feasts in both and both were fab. By 7pm they were turning people away so best to book or get there early.
5 Charlotte Street, London, W1P 1HD. www.rasaresaurants.co.uk tube - Tottenham Court Rd or Goodge St
Wine tasting on your doorstep in London. This fun night at cosy 'local' pub The Alma, is held approximately once a month on a Wednesday evening. Enjoy tutorials for different tastes and vintages from around the world, plus a selection of complimentary nibbles to stop you getting too drunk!
There are just 10 places per evening (book in advance!) so it feels pleasantly intimate - and you really do get to learn about what you're drinking.
All in all, a great, unusual night out in London.
Newington Green Road (North London - Canonbury or Highbury & Islington)
Festivals in London have been cropping up more frequently in recent years. Mostly they're one-dayers, like the O2 shows; or events that run in a series of venues on back to back days, like the Stag and Dagger festival or the Camden Crawl. In a sense these aren't really festivals, more a string of back to back gigs in a typically uptight London gig going atmosphere.
The upside of London festivals is how little it will cost you to get about if you're in and about London. That benefit is massively outweighed by watered down, over-priced festival beer.
My favourite London festival is set away from the centre of town, near Hainault Forest. It's a two-dayer, with super-early bird tickets coming in at £35 (and sadly sold out) and early bird tickets going for £45. The line up this year is pretty solid. A Certain Ratio and The Slits playing amid a veritable horde of young talent, and the vibe of the festival is much more laid back than you get in the centre of town. Being out somewhere green and connecting with nature overnight does tend to chill people out, comparing favourably to being stuck in a grimy, too familiar city setting, wondering if you'll get in to see the band that everyone wants to see in a venue that's probably much too small for the entire festival crowd to squeeze into. Some of last years Concrete and Glass patrons were heard to remark that that was all they saw when trying to get in to TV on the Radio at Koko last year.
Also, while Offset still falls into the weak, expensive beer trap, you can drink as much as you like of what you can bring in to the camping area of the site, which is well served for water and toilets too. If last year's experience is a guide, the campsite isn't a Reading/Leeds style warzone either.
It's on over the 5th and 6th September, near the temperate end of the scorching festival season. In my opinion, it's a cheaper, better alternative to the major festivals. Give it a look.
Fantastic, small-scale festival in London's East End, marking its third year in 2009. I've been to the last two and, despite teething problems in 2007 (not enough toilets and hour-long queues at the bar) and the rain in 2008, I'm predicting that 2009 will see these issues ironed out.
Both years had an exciting line-up of new music, with Bat for Lashes (2007) and Jeffrey Lewis (2008) my highlights. Final Fantasy is my bet for 2009.
The Palm Tree pub in Mile End park is a great venue for a few warm-up drinks.
Hackney's Victoria Park
It is a good way to see how a weekend festival will pan out. Great for children of all ages. If the kids hate loud music, big crowds and mud maybe wait a few years.
Bring picnic, water bottles - lots of wet wipes and waterproofs!
For younger children ensure they have your mobile number on their arm, or on a sticker.
...walking along Southbank is one of the most beautiful ways to see various sites of London.
Starting from the London Eye, overlooking the Thames, Houses Parliament and Big Ben.
The Royal Festival Hall in particular, is an excellent meeting spot and place to chill... sometimes you get art or music for free in the foyer :) and there's a cafe and bar for refreshments!
There are plenty of tourist-friendly/child-friendly restaurants around here, big chains such as: Waggamama, Strada, Giraffe, also a pretty big "eat" (with great sandwiches, juices etc,.) a bookshop and music shop too... plus a regular book market outside the BFI, in the summer various free events outside, well worth checking out this area and just walking, walking, walking...
This is different venue to try when you're in the tourist hub of Covent garden. It houses the Poetry Society and every Tuesday they have an open mic night where aspiring poets read their works as well as a few more established performers and writers. They also have nights where published poets read. It's a lovely place to chill out admist the bustle of London - they serve good coffee and cake and other snacks. Take a book and indulge in some thoughtful repose!
22 Betterton Street, WC2
Tube: Covent Garden
An oasis of peace in central London! Keiko's massages are well described by a friend of mine as "a cross between psychotherapy and spa". Wide range of treatments from Balinese rituals to CACI and green peel facials are delivered in a lovely, spacious and fragrant treatment rooms.
64 Marchmont Street,
020 7837 9156
As an enthusiastic and regular traveller, I love to make use of all modes of transport when travelling. Train journeys are so much more than getting you from A to B, they allow you to see the local environment, save money, reduce carbon emissions and if you are lucky, you may get to meet some locals and get a great insight into real life. My top highlights and tips to train travel around the world are:
1) The bullet train (Shinkansen)
Japan's iconic bullet train lives up to its reputation. Fast, clean and always on time, the bullet train (Shinkansen) travels up and down Japan's main rail network, transporting you from hub cities like Tokyo and Kyoto in a matter of hours. Trains travel at speeds up to 300 kph and are a great travel experience. The city to city centre network means that they can be time saving as well, much quicker than travelling via Japan's notoriously remote airports.
The downside is that train travel can be very expensive, particularly at today's exchange rates. A single ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto starts from GBP100! However, there is a solution... if you are a visitor to Japan then before you travel you should get yourself a Japan Rail Pass. Available in 7, 14 and 21 day flavours, you can save a huge amount of money if you plan to travel more than a couple of times on Japan's rail network. A 7 day Japan Rail Pass costs around GBP235 at current exchange rates - just slightly more than the price of a return journey.
More details can be found at www.japanrail.com/JR_shinkansen.html
Your local travel agent or www.japantravel.co.uk can sell you a Japan Rail Pass
Remember, you have to get a Japan Rail Pass before you leave for Japan and it must be validated once you arrive in Japan. My recommendation is that get yourself a reserved ticket whenever you travel, as services can get quite busy at times. You can get reservations just 30 mins prior to travel. When you get to the Shinkansen station, go to the ticket office and ask for a reserved seat or go to the English speaking Tourist Information centre in the main stations for further help.
One additional tip, if travelling with a group of friends, also note that the seats also spin around so that you can sit face to face. Just place your foot on the lever under the seat and spin (thanks to a local passenger for showing my friends and I this!)
London to Paris in just over two hours? Yes we can with Eurostar departing from the newly redeveloped London's St Pancras station. The grandiose building solicits great thoughts of the history and romanticism that is linked with a train travel. Train travel for this popular route is recommended over air travel as it is quicker, cheaper and all the more comfortable. There are different classes of service available depending on your desires and travel times. My personal recommendation is to double check the price of leisure select ticket - the business class travel for leisure travellers. It often is available for just a small supplement and adds to the journey experience with food and a shorter minimum check-in times. The great thing about the Eurostar is that it goes straight into Gare de Nord, right in the heart of Paris. Here you can join the metro system and get to wherever you want in Paris.
My top tips would include being flexible with times to get the best deals and consider visiting some other of France's cities like Lille which offer an interesting alternative to Paris. Also try and avoid restaurants near the station, they tend to be more catered for tourist but as a result more expensive and less authentic.
Book tickets on www.eurostar.com but also look out for special offers.
3) Maglev - Shanghai
I had to end the tip with the world's fastest train. Shanghai's Maglev airport train shoots you across 30km at over 500 kph - the world's fastest. Take it for an experience rather than ease, unfortunately it doesn't take you right into the city centre but the station is well connected by taxis which wait around the station.
A one-way ticket is just around GBP5 so well worth the experience.
Hope you enjoy your train journey.
This week's heavy snowfall has reminded me of the fragility of the UK transport system. When weather is bad, it's worth remembering to check your airport's website to see if your flight has been cancelled or not.
BAA, operator of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted (www.baa.com) offer a flight text service to keep you informed on the status of your flight.
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