November 2018 - The Stay Club
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Top 5 Alternative London Attractions

Top 5 Alternative London Attractions
by Nina Christopoulou

As I research these articles, I sometimes wonder: has any Londoner actually been to all those places I’ve come across? It seems to me that the sights and activities around the city are endless, and as much effort and dedication as one may put into visiting them all, it’s close to impossible! This week’s post has to do with the alternatives, the types of attractions that you don’t come across when googling “what to do in London”, and the types of attractions that is hard to discover unless you are a local, or… well, a specialist!

1. Freud Museum London

The founder of psychoanalysis fled the Nazis in 1938, and found shelter in a house in Hampstead. This very same house has currently been transformed into a museum, celebrating Sigmund Freud’s legacy and allowing visitors to glance into his personal life. Roam around Freud’s study, gaze at his collection of over 2,000 antiquities and come close to the couch where he examined his patients – or, to put it differently, his patient’s minds. What’s even more interesting about the museum is the fact that it is one of very few places which boast two blue plaques: one for Freud and one for his daughter, Anna, who remained at the house until her death in 1982. The museum currently holds an exciting exhibition: Freud, Dali and the Metamorphosis of Narcissus, for those who are interested in interdisciplinary approaches to the often fragmented understanding of art and science!

2. Maltby Street Market

This Bermondsey favourite is actually a newcomer, having set up shop in 2010. The picturesque location and relaxed atmosphere is ideal for that weekend lunch/getting-over-your-hangover bite, and it’s also one of the very few places in London that still have a strong hold to their warm and friendly character. You can find anything from cool bars to gourmet street food and fresh produce during Saturdays and Sundays, but the market is also open on Friday afternoons all through December.

3. Barbican Conservatory

While Barbican’s reputation proceeds it, Barbican Conservatory is not very well known (quite a shame too!). Roam around over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees and gaze at exotic fish in this secluded and wonderfully unique paradise of greenery! There’s a catch though: admission may be free, but the conservatory is only open during selected Sundays each month and on bank holidays, so have a more thorough look before you head over!

4. Emirates Air Line

I came across this one randomly and the only thing that came to mind was: why have I never heard of THIS before? It seems like an exciting experience, and yet nobody I know seemed to be aware that the Emirates Air Line existed! Somewhere in between the Excel Center and the O2 arena, the UK’s first urban cable car transports a whooping 2,500 people over the river. Offering stunning views of the City, Canary Wharf, the Thames Barrier and Olympic Park, the Emirates Air Line is one alternative attraction not to be missed!

5. Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum

Wimbledon is an exciting venue that has been undoubtedly linked with the history of tennis. However famous the venue itself may be, there’s little talk of the museum which offers a unique insight into the sport. The collection is extensive, with memorabilia dating as far back as 1555 (!!) and one of the highlights is a 360-degree view of the arena from a special viewing platform! This museum is worth the visit for the fans of the sport and curious visitors alike…

Top Things To Do in London This December aka The Christmas Edition

Top Things To Do in London This December aka The Christmas Edition
by Nina Christopoulou

The festive season is upon us, so we put on our reindeer antler headbands, our Santa Clause socks, and started researching all the Christmassy events around London to create the ideal Christmas guide for December! London has been prepping for Christmas since the beginning of November, and we have already covered the basics (you can see more in our November guide), so coming up with new stuff to suggest has been challenging, to say the least! But our merry spirit did not give up on us, so we have put together our best monthly guide yet… Hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed creating it!

10. A Christmas Carol

The Old Vic will host this year’s theatrical performance of Dickens’ beloved classic, and nothing screams Christmas more than the enchanting story of Ebenezer Scrooges’ beautiful transformation. Shows start December 4th and we are looking forward to seeing what this year’s direction will bring to the stage!

9. Christmas at Kew Gardens

Our recently released Kew Gardens guide walks you through the marvels of the Royal Botanical Gardens, but November 22nd marked this year’s introduction to the festive period with an exciting Christmas makeover. Head to Kew and excite your senses with incredible light installations! New entries to the display are the moonlight Laser Garden and a myriad of glowing boats on the lake – consider us impressed!

8. Winterville in Clapham Common

This merry pop-up is everything you were looking for, and more! Street food traders abound, and their offering has a merry twist – be it chocolate s’mores with nitro-frozen ice cream or festive burgers! The entertainment options are endless and for all tastes, with Roller Disco having caught our attention from the get-go! There are also indoor and outdoor options so that you can protect yourself from the cold when you feel like it’s getting a little too much to handle!

7. Christmas in Leicester Square

Similar to numerous other parts of London, Leicester Square will experience the most Christmassy make-over yet! The popular event is an annual tradition among Londoners, and offers endless fun, food and drinks! The festive entertainment this year is courtesy of Udderbelly, and sounds promising with shows including cabaret, burlesque and obviously Santa’s Grotto! Entry to the market is free but most shows require tickets in advance, so do look up the ones you are most interested in beforehand!

6. Magical Lantern Festival

This Chiswick House and Gardens event doesn’t really need an introduction. Explore the mesmerizing handmade lanterns with an explicitly Christmassy theme, which ranges from Santa Clause to penguins. Once you’ve gotten all the walking and wowing out of the way, you can relax in the street food market and pop-up bar!

5. Christmas by the River

Christmas lodges with food, jewellery, crafts and tons of mulled wine? Yes, please! As if it wasn’t exciting enough on its own, this Christmas Market boasts amazing views of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge (which are very photogenic as well, needless to say!). This one has lots of workshops on the schedule as well, if you want to take your festive experience a step further…

4. Winterland London

This “Alpine Paradise” consists of a setting by the river, reminiscent of a retro ski chalet, and is located in Fulham. Anything from feasting tables to gondolas, chairlifts and bauble filled igloos will be there to transport you to snowy slopes and put you in the mood for karaoke, beer pong and so many more amazing activities! This one is not to be missed!

3. Natural History Museum Ice Ring

So, ice rings in London are quite a big thing! So much so, that it’s possible to come up with 5 locations off the top of your head… And yet somehow the ice ring at the Natural History Museum tops them all every single year. I’ve tried to pin down what exactly it is about it, but cannot be sure… Is it the awe inspiring backdrop of the museum itself? Is it the carousel right beside the ice ring, which gives it that little Christmas edge? Whatever it is, we are glad it’s there every single year!

2. The Peter Pan Cup

December 25th brings one of the most weirdly wonderful traditions. To give you a little insight: since 1864, Christmas Day marks the date when swimmers meet on a race at the Serpentine in Hyde Park. It takes place on the south bank of the lake, and starts at 9 am. But the most curious thing about it is that the Serpentine swimming Club (which competes in this tradition) swims at waters usually below 4C!

1. New Year’s Eve Fireworks

Is there anything more festive than the London night sky lighting up with dancing lights of all colours and shapes? Doubtful! The event is ticketed due to popular demand, but the tickets are budget-friendly at 10 pounds. Moreover, the super exciting thing about this year’s extravaganza is the fact that Big Ben – which has been under renovation for ever so long – will sound once again at New Year’s!

Kew Gardens – The Insider’s Guide

Kew Gardens – The Insider’s Guide
by Nina Christopoulou

One of the most wonderful city breaks you can pick, when you want a breather from normal city activities, is a day trip to Kew Gardens. In the very unlikely scenario that you have never heard of Kew Gardens until now, it’s situated in the South West of London, it’s the largest UNESCO world heritage site in London and it has an astounding 250 years of history. However, in all of its beauty, Kew gardens is also an estate of over 121 hectares! This kind of size cannot be roamed within a day, so we came up with the most comprehensive guide detailing the must-see exhibits… so that the £14 ticket does not go to waste!

1. The Waterlily House

Much like Monet’s creations, The Waterlily House has a fairytale element to it. It is an undoubtedly impressive glasshouse, which boasts a beautiful pond full of waterlilies. In case you are unimpressed by the idea of waterlilies, perhaps the fact that this pond hosts gigantic Amazon waterlilies, which are able to withstand the weight of a small child, might persuade you it’s well worth the trip.

2. The Hive

This experience does not fit your average botanical display, with an audio visual stimuli that is directly linked to nature. Confused? Let’s clear it up for you: The Hive is constructed from 170,000 individual aluminum pieces and has a thousand lights and speakers embedded within. The entire construction is linked with the activity of a nearby beehive, therefore digitally “echoing” the hustle and bustle of a bee colony, and immersing you in their life while making a statement about the significance of bees in our ecosystem. The multi-award winning construction was introduced in the UK’s pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo, and commonsensically consists the most popular attraction at Kew, so you should make it a top priority when visiting!

3. The Palm House

If you are an avid user of Instagram, it’s probable you have come across this architectural marvel on numerous occasions. The iconic Victorian building dates as far back as 1844, and is home to a mesmerising collection of tropical plants. One thing is for sure: you will feel as if you have been transported outside of London! For an added touch of magic, the pond and ornate flower beds in front of the Palm House create a scenery not to be missed.

4. Temperate House

Another beautiful structure (yes, Kew is full of those as you may have guessed by now!), Temperate House is huge (the world’s biggest Victorian glasshouse to be precise) and home to temperate zone plants. The most impressive aspect of this exhibit is the large selection of rare and most threatened plants, which – in the framework of climate change – is also a testament to the crucial role that Kew plays in safeguarding rare and threatened plants from extinction.

5. The Prince of Wales Conservatory

The moment you set foot in this conservatory, you are left wondering what kind of exotic destination it reminds you of the most… The jungle-like construction is perfection, and a walk through it will let you gaze at many tropical plants, cacti and orchids – with the most impressive among them being the carnivore plants. Fun fact: way back in 1985, Sir David Attenborough buried a time-capsule of basic food crop seeds and endangered species under the conservatory. In an interesting experiment in evolution, the time-capsule will be opened in 2085, at a time when many of the plants will be either rare or extinct!

Top Things to do this Thanksgiving in London

Top Things to do this Thanksgiving in London
by Nina Christopoulou

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird, and not the eagle? Did you also know that Americans eat 46 million turkeys each Thanksgiving? A holiday with many fun facts, Thanksgiving has been introduced to many more countries than the US by now, and it makes sense that we are eagerly awaiting for a chance to stuff ourselves with turkey every year. In case you were wondering where you should be stuffing yourself with pumpkin this year, we have a pretty cool list for you below:

1. Christopher’s

One of London’s favourite American restaurants, Christopher’s could not be missing from this list. The three-course extravaganza they have in store is delicious and Thanksgiving approved: The Chanterelle mushroom soufflé and pumpkin pie especially caught our attention!

2. Cocotte

Cocotte has given a little twist to our normal Thanksgiving celebrations, with a Thankschicken menu available from November 23rd to the 26th. As evident by the name, their menu boasts rotisserie chicken instead of turkey, and they also have an awesome spritz Thanksdrinking cocktail!

3. Balthazar

This one has its roots in NYC, so it was impossible that it wouldn’t have had something good cooking for Thanksgiving! We were sold on gingerbread-spiced cocktail, but the three courses that come after it are equally as thrilling!

4. The Blues Kitchen

With various locations to choose from, The Blues Kitchen offers a Thanksgiving meal with a live band that will accompany your dinner until 1 am. Buttermilk fried turkey, twice baked mac-n-cheese and obviously some New Orleans gumbo for starters will fill up your stomach and make you enjoy the music even more than usual!

5. 34 Mayfair

This grill is infusing its menu with a few Thanksgiving options this year, and we are looking forward to trying them! Roast turkey with cranberry stuffing, New England King Crab and corn chowder and our personal favourite: pumpkin pie with pecan and maple syrup!

6. Big Easy Covent Garden

This Covent Garden joint is bringing you the classic Thanksgiving menu, and a second one with a twist! The Lobster Fest menu sounds promising, with a choice of either a whole lobster, a lobster roll or a lobster mac-n-cheese! Top off your three-course meal with either banana cream or pumpkin pie!

7. The Breakfast Club

It’s time to visit the brunch favourite for a dinner that will have you drooling in no time! Somewhere in between US comfort food and Thanksgiving classics lies the Breakfast Club’s Thanksgiving menu, full inclusive of butternut bisque, turkey roasted in beer and bacon and of course pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream!

Top Things To Do in London This November

Top Things To Do in London This November
by Nina Christopoulou

Ever so close to Christmas time, November is always filled with dazzling activities for all Londoners to enjoy. The conundrum is, which ones should be at the top of your list and which ones should be left for the next year? We are here to help with that (as per usual) and have gathered only the most amazing upcoming events for the month ahead… Ready, set, go!

7. Regent Street Motor Show

This free and incredibly awesome event pays tribute to the automotive history in the most impressive way possible! November 3rd marks the day, when an array of impressive historical vehicles flood Regent Street and create an unparalleled spectacle. Music, dance performances and motorcycle stunt shows complete the event!

6. Bonfire Night

November 5th marks a citywide celebration, in remembrance of the Gunpowder Plot that fell through, when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. The impressive firework show that is orchestrated on the night of November 5th is one not be missed. Visible from every part of the city, the go-to spots for a clearer view are Battersea park, Southwark and of course the Lambeth fireworks at Brockwell Park!

5. EFG London Jazz Festival

Music enthusiasts brace yourselves cause this one is going to be good! From November 16th to the 25th, the festival promises 10 days of jazz infused fun that has been ongoing since 1992! Gigs are planned at venues of all sizes, from the Royal Festival Hall to King’s Place or the Purcell Room, so you are bound to find something to suit your own unique jazz-y taste!

4. Lord Mayor’s Show

This one is quite the royal event, dating back to the royal decision to allow the residents of London to elect their own mayor in 1215. The procession takes place between Bank and Aldwych, with a stunning 140 floats, 7,000 performers and many more in store for the over half a million people that flock to the parade! So save the date (November 10th, that is).

3. Tour the London Christmas Lights

London evokes its Christmas-y spirit from early on, and the Christmas lights around the city are definitely one of the best aspects of the upcoming holiday! Consequently, one of the best activities throughout the year would definitely have to be roaming around the sparkling streets of London (always in good company). The must-see spots are the Carnaby Christmas lights, which never seize to amaze with their vibrant colours, the Covent Garden lights that simply spruce up the already magical Covent Garden setting and of course the South Bank lights that will make you smile endlessly… Of course the Oxford and Regent Street lights are a given, and same applies for the Piccadilly and Bond Street sparkly extravaganzas that take over any Londoner’s Instagram feed from early on!

2. Wintertime at Southbank Centre

The Southbank Centre will transform once more, giving you extreme Nordic vibes along the Thames. With a variety of events, free and ticketed, it is bound to get you into full blown Christmas spirit! The appropriate seasonal foods and beverages will obviously be available, with a Christmas Market to get you in the Christmas shopping mood and plenty of other fun surprises ranging from choir performances to A Vintage New Year’s Eve Party (… but let’s save that one for later…)

1. Hogwarts in the Snow at Warner Bros. Studio Tour

Are you ready to experience a studio tour of your Harry Potter favourites with a Christmas twist? Check out the Gryffindor Common Room and Boys’ Dormitory decorated for a full blown and very festive Hogwarts experience that you do not want to miss. Hogwarts in the Snow will take place on Saturday 17th of November and Sunday 27th of January and it’s wise to book as much in advance as you possibly can!