by Harley Nott
November in London sees Christmas lights beginning to twinkle, cosy scarves and jumpers re-emerging from the wardrobe and the capital’s skies lit by spectacular fireworks displays for Britain’s Bonfire Night.
Bonfires are lit and there are fireworks displays all over London (and the UK) to commemorate the Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up James I and his Parliament on 1605. The plot’s most famous conspirator, Guy Fawkes, (“The Guy”) is burned as an effigy. Although the official anniversary is on the 5th, bonfires and firework displays start up to 2 weeks before and go on for a week after the actual date. More details and history. In central London one of the biggest event is the bonfire and fireworks in Battersea Park. It’s an all ticket event – available here.
The Regent Street Motor Show. Two days earlier, on November 3, the Regent Street Motor Show returns to the capital, for the largest free motor show in the UK. Head down to Regent Street between 10.30am and 4.00pm as hundreds of vehicles, showcasing 125 years of motoring history, go on display in the famous shopping street – free of normal traffic for the day. Be wowed by a huge collection of impressive cars, motorbikes and classic automobiles dating from pre 1905 to the present day and beyond. Find out about the latest low-emission technologies, and enjoy exciting music and dance performances during the show.
The Lord Mayor’s Show. Saturday November 10. The Lord Mayor’s Show has floated, rolled, trotted, marched and occasionally fought its way through 798 years of London history, surviving the black death and the blitz to arrive in the 21st century as one of the world’s best-loved pageants. Over the centuries the Mayor’s journey became one of London’s favourite rituals. It moved from river barges to horseback and then into the magnificent State Coach, and around it grew a splendidly rowdy and joyful mediaeval festival known as the Lord Mayor’s Show.
The London Jazz Festival, November 16 – 25, is the capital’s biggest pan-city music festival, taking place annually in November. Widely acknowledged for delivering world-class artists and emerging stars, the festival continues to take jazz to a massive audience. Presenting 2,500 artists across 60 venues, more than 250 shows take place in London’s best concert halls and arts centres, including the Southbank Centre, Royal Albert Hall, Barbican Centre, Ronnie Scott’s and more.
London Christmas Lights, November 6 – January 6 2019. You know that Christmas really is on its way when Oxford Street is transformed by glittering lights and enchanted shoppers. This year, a competition was launched for new design ideas from designers and architects from all over the world to ensure that the 2018 display is the most spectacular to date. With 40 million visitors expected to come and see the vibrant display, we can’t wait to see how they look.
by Harley Nott
Some London Walks
Sight-seeing tour buses are a familiar feature of all large cities and are a good way to quickly view the major landmarks and get orientated. But to really explore a city you need to be on foot.
This post is about London walks, guided or self-guided.
The company offering the largest selection is London Walks. Every day they have a wide variety of morning, afternoon and evening walking tours. No booking or pre-payment is needed, you just turn up and meet the guide just outside the exit of the designated Underground Station (Tube Stop) at the time stated. It’s £10 for an adult (£8 for over 65s) and children under 15 accompanied by a parent go free. Walks last for about 2 hours.
Rather more off-the-wall is Bowl of Chalk (Cockney rhyming slang for ‘walk’) run for the last 6 years by Jonnie. Walks are on Saturdays (Central London) and Sundays (East London), they last for about 3 hours and at the end you pay whatever you feel it was worth! Jonnie’s walks have been featured in the national press and on television.
A number of general self-guided London walks can be found at the London walks list of Walk In Britain.
Two organisations focus on walks and gardens/parks. City Garden Walks offer weekly walks such as Gardens of The Inns of Court – a walk through London’s historic legal quarter, exploring the glorious gardens and distinguished buildings, and The City’s Secret Gardens – historic gardens and churchyards nestled amongst old and new City buildings – horticulture and history combined. London Parks and Gardens Trust have a dozen or so self-guided walks with free down-loadable audio or pdf guides.
The Regent’s Canal is a key part of England’s canal network, linking the Grand Union Canal with the Thames. Running from Paddington to Limehouse, it’s some 9 miles long and, as the name suggests, dates from the early 19th century. The first section, from Paddington to Camden, opened 200 years ago, the rest of it opening in 1820.
For a short 2 mile walk along the canal the Little Venice to Camden stretch is ideal.
For a longer, weekend, walk try the 6 miles Regent’s Canal towpath from Camden to Limehouse.
And for a real workout walk or run the entire length of the canal.
After your exertions you might enjoy some quiet time in a hidden gem tucked away beside the Thames. The Chelsea Physic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in London and houses around 5,000 different medicinal, herbal, edible and useful plants. It’s well worth a visit.
by Harley Nott
London’s Hidden Gems
London is not just about the major sites: Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye etc. etc. there are also many hidden gems. If you experience one or two of these your visit to London will feel much more rewarding and satisfying.
Visit London has put together a very good starter list.
Stay with us and SAVE money.
For all bookings made between Monday 25 June and Monday 16 July for arrival dates before Monday 17 September, we’re offering a discount of $100 (£75). To claim your discount quote the discount code DISC100 when you make your booking.
by Harley Nott
Royal Wedding Special
The wedding of Prince Harry (very British) and Miss Meghan Markle (very American) will create yet another strong bond between our two great countries. Many visitors to London – especially from the States – will want to experience things and places with a royal connection.
Visit London – the Official Visitor Guide has put together some useful ideas.
Top royal London attractions
Sample the lives of the kings and queens of England with a visit to these top royal London attractions.
Where the royals shop: Royal Warrant holders in London
Get a taste of royal London by shopping at the same places as the Queen, with these London Royal Warrant holders. Royal Warrants are a mark of recognition for those who have supplied goods or services for at least five years to the Households of HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh or HRH The Prince of Wales.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s London
Explore London like Meghan and Harry with a pick of London spots connected to the royal couple.
More royal London
More royal things to do and see.
Stay in London, save money AND be treated like royalty!
At the Coach House, our London B&B, we still have some availability in June and August, and, if you’re interested, we’ll tell you about our experience at a Buckingham Palace garden party and our several encounters with the royals.
by Harley Nott
“A real English experience”
If you are looking for an authentic English experience, a chance to meet and get to know some locals and are happy with 3/4 star comfort – read on.
Planning a trip to London this year? Before you book your accommodation check out The Coach House.
What makes it special?
You have your own little cottage with your own private entrance, all to yourself (no other guests) set in a charming garden.
You are served a delicious breakfast every day in “the big house” by your hosts – saving money by just needing a light snack for lunch.
You have real “contact with the natives”. Your hosts, Harley and Meena while serving you breakfast, are there to chat, answer any questions about London, UK – or anything else and give you an insight into their lives. They also like to hear about you!
It is excellent value for money – for 5 people it works out at £42 / US$53 per person per night.
The Coach House is mentioned in several London guide books and has great Trip Advisor reviews. It already has several bookings for spring and summer 2018, there’s only one Coach House, so check availability and book now if you want to stay.
Warning. Don’t book if you are looking for 5 star hotel-style accommodation, The Coach House is not for you.
But if you’re looking for a truly English experience, a chance to meet and get to know some locals and are happy with 3/4 star comfort –The Coach House is the place to stay. View our short video.
PS. We also have some 45 London vacation rentals, houses and apartments for 2 to 10 people.
by Harley Nott
How to afford a Christmas / New Year’s Eve trip to London.
Stop Press. Owing to cancellation of a long-standing booking, The Coach House has just become available over Christmas / New Year. This is ideal, self-catering (it has its own kitchen), low cost, accommodation: sleeps 5, 2 bed, 2 bath £200 (US$250) per night. Ideal for a family.
Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a great time to be in London for adults and children alike. There’s so much happening: candle-lit carol services, the Christmas lights, the shows, the pantomimes, ice skating, festive meals, wonderful shop window displays, the sales, the list goes on…….
With the British pound at a low against the US$ (£1=US$1.30), NOW is the time to get the most bangs for your bucks.
You can save even more and make the trip really affordable by staying in a vacation rental rather than a hotel. Not only can you save $$$ by not having to have every meal out, with a vacation rental you get much more space, there’s no need to dress up or “put on a face” to go out of your room, and as an added bonus you get to experience the city like a local.
We still have some availability over the festive period but it’s going fast. Here’s a selection of what’s still available today, but it might not be tomorrow…..
Ref: BRE: sleeps 2, £115 (US$145) / night. Sleek and contemporary Fulham apartment.
Ref: ETW: sleeps 4, 2 bed, 1 bath, £125 (US$155) / night. Great value, modern 7/8th floor flat with private balcony and view of Battersea Park.
Ref: CPM: sleeps 3, 2 bed, 1 bath, £140 / (US$175) / night. Comfortable apartment in quiet attractive private mews.
Ref: CVN: sleeps 4, 2 bed, 1 bath, £165 / (US$205) / night. Ground floor flat in grand London house, moments from Hyde Park. (Available from 28 Dec).
Ref: RTV2: sleeps 5, 2 bed, 1 bath, £170 / (US$215) / night. Modern apartment in Parson’s Green, Fulham. Ideal for a family.
Ref: HAR: sleeps 4, 2 bed, 2 bath, £205 (US$255) / night. Convenient apartment in the heart of South Kensington.
Ref: TKR: sleeps 2, 2 bed, 1 bath, £225 / (US$280) / night. Comfortable, modern apartment in excellent Chelsea location. (Available from 29 Dec).
Ref: CLI: sleeps 4, 2 bed, 2 bath, £275 (US$345) / night. Traditional London pied-à-terre in excellent Sloane Square location.
Ref: THD: sleeps 8, 4 bed, 4 bath, £330 / (US$415) / night. Spacious modern open-plan house in picturesque old London.
These are really nice properties, not crummy hotel rooms that you’d be paying at least twice as much for! What’s more, unlike Airbnb, we look after you with a full concierge service as well. We’ve been in business and looking after our London guests since 2001, read the reviews on the property pages.
We only have a small number of these great London rentals, when they’re gone, they’re gone so you need to move fast if you don’t want to miss out.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks
There’s still time to get tickets for the famous London New Year’s Eve firework display. This spectacular event takes place on the River Thames, opposite the Houses of Parliament. It’s one of the most spectacular celebrations of its kind in the world. Set against the capital’s unique skyline, if you are in London over New Year it really is something not to miss. To get the best view you need a ticket and there are still a few left. No tickets will be available on the night. Click here to get tickets.
by Harley Nott
Eating Out in London
London visitor surveys have shown that food, surprisingly, only gets a 46% satisfaction rate. This, despite the fact that London has some of the best cuisine in the world, certainly the most diverse.
Many London visitors choose a vacation rental so they can self-cater for some of their meals. But whether you eat out only one or twice, or you go out for every meal, some prior planning will make for a much more enjoyable experience.
London has over 7,000 restaurants covering all styles, cuisines and price ranges. Invariably some will disappoint, some will be over-priced, some will have poor service, some will be over-crowded.
So, rather than take pot-luck and dive into the nearest establishment to where you happen to be at the time, plan ahead, look for the hidden (or not so hidden) gems that will give you a memorable experience rather than just provide fuel. These places need not be expensive, just good.
How to find them? Use a good restaurant guide, here are a few:
Hardens – The Gastronome’s Bible! Generally very reliable, you can search by location, price, type of cuisine facilities, number of reviews.
Square Meal – also searchable by price and cuisine.
You will of course sometimes get good fare from a fast food operator, but you’re more likely not to be disappointed if you do some prior research remembering the old axiom: “Time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted.”
ROYAL BRITAIN – CHANGING OF THE GUARD
The sentries that look after Buckingham Palace are called The Queen’s Guard and are made up of soldiers from the Household Division’s five regiments of Foot Guards. The guards are dressed in traditional red tunics and bearskin hats. Although undertaking such ceremonial duties, these are regular soldiers in the British Army, who serve normal tours of duty in parts of the world such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the minds of the majority of people, the ceremony of Changing the Guard is associated solely with Buckingham Palace but it actually takes place between three locations – Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Palace and Wellington Barracks.
Also known as Guard Mounting the ceremony takes place outside Buckingham Palace from 10.45am and lasts around 45 minutes, with the actual handover taking place at 11am. The Buckingham Palace Old Guard forms up in the palace’s forecourt from 10.30am and is joined by the St James’s Palace Old Guard at around 10.45am. The New Guard then arrives from Wellington Barracks and takes over the responsibilities of the Old Guard in a formal ceremony accompanied by music. The Old and New Guards ‘Present Arms’ before the Captains of the Guard ceremoniously hand over the Palace keys. This symbolic gesture represents the transfer of responsibility for the security of the Palace’s from the Old to the New Guard who will then be The Queen’s Guard until relieved.
The ceremony is free to watch and currently takes place on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, weather permitting. There is no ceremony on days when large events are held in the city centre. The ceremony schedule should be checked on the Household Division’s website before planning a visit. Being a very popular event, it is also necessary to arrive early to secure a spot with a good view.
To check the schedule go to www.householddivision.org.uk/changing-the-guard-calendar
For your London Vacation Rental go to www.chsrentals.com/london
by Harley Nott
London for Free (part 1 of 2)
Unlike the museums and art galleries of most capital cities, in London, among other attractions, they are free!
Well known among these gems are The National Gallery, The Natural History Museum, The British Museum and Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens.
Here are some lesser known, but just as interesting, free attractions:
The Bank of England Museum
It may not explain how the banking profession got into the mess it’s in now, but the museum dedicated to the profession is still worth a visit. Vintage bank notes, art work and antique furniture from the bank make for a small but dense collection. Current exhibitions include one on Gold – and the opportunity to lift up a solid gold bar!
by Harley Nott
Visiting a foreign city is always fun but so much more enjoyable if you have people to stay with, who will look after you well, give you advice on anything you are interested in doing or seeing, but leave you alone to do your own thing. But finding a good and friendly bed and breakfast with a kitchen in London can be a nightmare – you can easily end up in a cheap and nasty down-market hotel, or find yourself living embarrassingly close to the owners of a private house and your fellow guests.
The Coach House, which is in a quiet, safe, fashionable part of town is a bed and breakfast with a difference.
There’s still some summer availability at The Coach House, but you’ll need to be quick.