Germany Memories and History

I’m passionate about London and its history and its architecture, however another country I am passionate about it Germany. Also exceptionally rich in history culture and Berlin is a beautiful representation of this, with equally amazing architecture.

Berlin

This weekend sees the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I can’t believe its been 25 years, I remember watching it on TV and although I didn’t understand then what is was all about, I do now, and more fully understand the consequences, and implications it has had for Germany.

Last week I visited a gorgeous exhibition at the British Museum Germany Memories of a Nation.  It covered 600 years of German history and displayed some incredible artifacts including a bible translated and inscribed by Martin Luther,  Napolean’s hat from the battle of waterloo and some incredible German art.

It took you through the countries complex history right up until 25 years ago when the wall fell and Germany was reunited 25 years ago

Berlin Wall

Its an incredible interesting exhibition and will run at the British Museum until the end of January.

You can find out more information about the exhibition HERE, the BBC also has some great info on the exhibition and Germany history which is worth a look at.

If you love Germany as much as I do, then you will love the Christmas season too, don’t forget that the German Christmas markets will open at the end of the month and I can highly recommend both the Southbank market and of course the wonderful Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park, as well as the stalls, they have some amazing German beer halls, it makes for a great night/day out, and I for one will be making the most of these fun events over the winter season.

Viel Spaß!

Fireworks in London

The history of London Fireworks

We’re entering into a season of historic celebration in London, as the temperature drops the autumn colours that appear the parks are as colourful as the November skies ..it’s firework season (and my favourite time of year).
fireworksWe all remember the reason, celebrating King James I’s survival following Guy Fawkes’ attempt on his life and parliament.

Throughout the 1600′s and beyond fireworks were used to celebrate and commemorate not just Nov 5th, but coronations, achievements at war, summer pleasure gardens, and general high society parties, such as those held in the squares of Marylebone by the famous socialite Elizabeth Montagu.

RoyalFireworks
The picture above (one of my most favourite), shows fireworks along the Thames opposite the now lost Whitehall Palace in 1749, they came choreographed with Music composed by Handel.

Fireworks were big business and with it came danger and tragedy.  Most famously the event of  12 July 1858 at Waterloo, when two fireworks factories exploded, killing 6 and injuring 300 as fireworks exploded in all directions causing injury and havoc.
But still we love fireworks and still we celebrate 5th November, and the capital is a wonderful place to see them.
Talking of historic celebrations and fireworks make sure you head into the city this November 8th for the Lord Mayor’s show.This 800 year old event when the Lord Mayor of  London (not Boris) leaves the City of London and heads up to Westminster to swear allegiance to the Crown.   Its full of pomp and ceremony and has a carnival atmosphere.

Among the flotillas look out for London’s ancient guardians Gog and Margog.  And just to top off it off there will be fireworks on the river at 5pm!   To find out more go to www.lordmayorsshow.org

Beautiful Holland Park

London is lucky enough to have a whole array of beautiful parks, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Regents Park. But one beautiful often missed green space is the delightful Holland Park. Nestled to the west of the city, just a short walk from Holland Park station (surprise surprise) this gorgeous walled park has more of a feel of a landscaped stately home than a public London park.

Holland Park

It has the impressive history to go with it too. The park orginally formed the gardens of the grand Holland House. First built in the late 1500s back then the park stretched over 500 acres, all the way to the Thames (today it is 50 acres not a bad size for a city park). In the 1600s the house was expanded and built up into a grand form, even famed Jacobean architect Indigo Jones had a hand in its design (his beautiful gates can still been seen in the park today). So impressive was this mansion that for a long time the house was nicknamed “Cope Castle” after Sir Walter Cope its first famous resident.

The castle also had a whole host of famous residents and visitors across the centuries. Early on it was said that King William III stayed here when the London smog became too much for him.

IMG_3115

In the 1800s it was the headquarters of the Whig party, and poets writers used to drop by including Dickens and Byron (who famously met his lover lady Caroline Lamb here). And of course there was the writer Joseph Addison who lived and died here in 1700s.

The castle was grand both inside and out with impressive décor. It could have been a museum for all its quirky titbits lying around including (it is said) a pair of candle sticks belonging to Mary Queen of Scots, a locket which held strands of Napoleon’s hair, as well as halls decorated with numerous famous paintings.

Sadly in the 1900s it became quite unloved and un-lived in and then in 1940 was almost completely destroyed in an air-raid. Its remnants have been beautifully kept and as you walk around you can still see some of its grandeur. If you visit today scenes of the original mansion can be seen on prints around the venue.

Holland House

In 1878 historian Edward Walford described the house

“Although scarcely two miles distant from London, with its smoke, its din, and its crowded thoroughfares Holland House still has green meadows, sloping lawns and refreshing trees.”

150 years later this is still the case the remains of the house still make a grand centre piece, alongside landscaped gardens most notably the Japanese garden, complete with roaming peacocks.

Japanese Gardens Holland Park

This park has a different feel to the other London parks, its beautifully peaceful. Rather than a wide open public space, it has lots of nooks and crannies you can hide away from the crowds in.

And if this description of fanciful society living takes your fancy you can experience it for yourself as the eastern wing has been turned into a YHA – you couldn’t find more historic (and budget) accommodation in London if you tried.

I can’t recommend a visit to this park enough, one of the overlooked gems of London.

London’s Fifth Plinth

We all know about London’s 4th plinth in Trafalgar square. Kept  free for many years, and today temporarily donned with the infamous Blue Cock.  But did you know about London’s fifth plinth?  Well that’s what I like to call it. Hidden away in a corner of west London, sandwiched between the central line track and the A40 is the Vanguard Storage facility, Perivale.  But as locals will know, it is also home to a delightful array of ever changing displays. Just recently there was a full size Dr Who Tardis (my favourite) and now to commemorate the anniversary of WW1 an authentic Mark IV Tank now sits atop. vanguard 3

Last year they erected a Hawker Hunter WT555 fighter jet (much the excitement of my plane enthusiast visitor, as we whizzed passed on the Central Line). Vanguard2

They’ve also featured a mini Big Ben, a giant Snoopy, and a giant Santa (who had to be taken down once or twice to avoid being blown back to lap land in the gale force winds!). Vanguard’s ‘plinth’ is definitely one of London’s secret gems, a drive up the A40 will take you past, or a trip on the Central Line (look out the window between Hanger Lane  & Perivale – also home to the famous Art Deco Hoover Building, now a Tesco).

Vanguard But if you can’t make the trip out to zone 4, you  can keep up to with their fabulous displays (and the company’s 50th anniversary celebrations) on Instagram and Twitter.

London’s lost Pleasure Gardens

London comes alive in the Summer, everywhere you go there is something to do, a festival, a performance, a concert, sport, fireworks. With the creation of the 02 Arena and the London Eye entertainment like this could be considered a modern creation. However, if you visited London 400 years ago you would have seen many of the same sights (just with less tech and advertising). For 400 years ago London was at the height of Pleasure Garden entertainment.

Pleasure Gardens were areas of great entertainment, fayres,  outdoor theatre, operas, sports, they had it all. Originally designed for nobility in major cities across Europe, they soon became the jaunt of commoners. By the 1700s many of the gardens were closed and sold off for development as the city expanded, however small remnants of gardens can still be found…

London had 6 pleasure gardens over the years, the largest and most famous of these being the Vauxhall Gardens, Ranelagh, and Marylebone.

Vauhall_Gardens_fun
Vauxhall Gardens (originally named Spring gardens) was one of the first, stretching out along the Southbank of the Thames it opened in 1661 and remained for 200 years. It was famed for its romantic walks and its stunning central Turkish rotunda (pictured above). In 1769 Handle performed in the gardens attracting crowds of up to 12,000. Today a tiny section of the gardens remain as the unassuming Spring Gardens Park.

Ranelagh Gardens Chelsea was also located on the river. It opened in 1746 attracting a more classy clientele, it also had an impressive rotunda, which Canaletto painted in 1754. It was also famous for its masquerade balls which would go on until 4 am. Fulham football club in its early days used the garden as its home ground. Today the gardens still exist but are far less grand. Some of the ground was given over to the Chelsea Hospital, other parts are used for the annual Chelsea Flower show held last month.

Marylebone Gardens was another of the great pleasure gardens, beginning life in the late 1600s the entrance was via the Rose Tavern pub. The gardens were famed for its sport and recreation, most notably cock fighting and boxing (both male and female participants). It was believed highwayman Dick Turpin was also a regular at the grounds. Today nothing exists of gardens, however the entrance to the Rose Tavern is marked by a beautiful period lamppost on Marylebone High Street.

Want to get a feel of London’s olde worlde Pleasure Gardens, head to this year’s Underbelly Festival on Southbank.

Visit London’s most haunted royal home

Just outside London is one of the most beautiful historic palaces; the stunning Hampton Court palace. Built half by the Tudors for Henry 8th (and his numerous wives) and half by Sir Christopher Wren.

hampton court palace

It’s a two faced building and depending which way you arrive you will see two completely different facades. You can’t fail to be impressed with this magnificent palace as you walk up the long driveway to the imposing red brick entrance (with it’s magnificent Tudor chimneys – all 241 of them), whether you’re arriving by train (easy quick journey from Waterloo) or by boat (how the royals used to do it – a leisure few hours along the Thames.

The palace is surrounded by beautiful gardens (which are beautifully landscaped and also contain a large (record breaking) vine, as well as the country’s oldest tennis courts and the famous Hampton court maze. From the gardens you can view the stunning baroque architecture and what seems entirely different building from its red brick front.

hampton court gardens

Once inside there is so much to explore, from the court yards, the incredible kitchens, the magnificent Tudor hall, and chapel, all the nooks and crannies of the the stone walk ways. its easy to get lost here, and it seems when you visit you have the run of the entire place.

But beware who you are bumping into it is also the most haunted of the royal palaces. Allegedly the Henry himself has been seen wandering the corridors, perhaps he was looking for wife number 3 Jane Seymour who has been seen around the building. And his first wife who has been spotted in the now named ‘Haunted Gallery’

There have also been reports of an old woman who can be heard at her spinning wheel. More recently was the strange CCTV footage of a ghostly figure in Tudor dress exiting the building then disappearing.

Haunted hampton court

It might be a spooky place but it is the most beautiful palace in London, I completely recommend a day trip to this stunning place.

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London’s most beautiful cemeteries

Five Spooky things to do this Halloween

Visit Kensington Palace

London’s most beautiful cemeteries

London boasts of some of the most beautiful architecture, as well as the most beautiful parks, but it also has some of the most beautiful cemeteries. You might never think of visiting a cemetery for fun, or for its architecture but it really is a worthwhile day out.

The magnificent Seven
You might think of the magnificent 7 as cowboys but they are actually a group of cemeteries built in the mid 1800s to provide the answer to London’s overcrowded grave yards. Today these 7 cemeteries are famed for their architecture (often grade one and two listed) and their famous interred residents.

Take the most famous is Highgate Cemetery. There are two parts to this one, east and west.  You can visit the West by guided tour only (well worth it) and it contains the famous Egyptian Avenue (below), a beautiful circle of catacombs with a stunning Cedar of Lebanon tree in the middle. Between the two halves they boast of some famous names too from Karl Marx, Douglas Adams, Christina Rosetti, and Jeremy Beadle.

High Gate Cem

Another of these famous 7 is Brompton Cemetery, just a stones throw from Chelsea Football ground, it also has some stunning architecture, and guided tours are available. Amongst big names here are Emmeline Pankhurst (suffragette) John Snow (not the news reader but the guy that discovered the cause and cure to Cholera) and Ernest Thesiger.

All the cemeteries show off unique Victorian architecture, design and imagery and you really could spend all day admiring the tombs stones and mausoleums.

sleeping angel

As well as the big 7, there are also many smaller grave sites to enjoy (yes enjoy) in the capital. Many have been turned into small parks in which you will find local office workers enjoying their lunch (myself included). Often you will find the grave stones bunched up against walls as the urbanisation of London has reduced a once large space into a tiny one. Take for example the minute Marylebone church grounds, just off Marylebone High Street, lovingly restored by the Marylebone Society, it contains a monument to its most famous grave, that of Charles Wesley and family, who lived near by. A plaque also boasts of the original church’s baptism hall of fame including Lord Byron and Horatia Nelson.

Another of my favourites and most interesting is Post Man’s Park, hidden behind ‘Little Britain (yes it is a real place) just a short walk from St Paul’s and Barbican. This small park/former grave yard has an interesting Victorian memorial to ordinary people who lost their lives in heroic ways. It features young people, fascinating stories its a moving place and a most see for any visitor to London.

postmans park

Another of my favourites and slightly larger than the other inner city ones is Old St Pancras church, this ancient church boasts of some greats such as John Soane, one of London’s greatest architects (in my opinion) he designed his own mausoleum which later became the inspiration of the red telephone box. Also here is the memorial of Mary Wollstonecraft (who used to be burred here). It is believed her daughter Mary Shelley and lover Percy Bysshe Shelley planned their elopement here. Another interesting feature is the Hardy Tree, an old tree surrounded, with numerous grave stones. It was loving named after the author Thomas who worked here and was in charge of moving the graves to create space for the railway being built just behind the church (the now famous St Pancras/Kings cross).

Hardy Tree

There are so many interesting grave yards, and cemeteries in London, full of history, fabulous architecture, quirky history, and wildlife, don’t be too spooked to miss out on these London gems.

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Five spooky things to do this Halloween

The London Oscars

 

5 spooky things to do this Halloween

The spooky season is upon us; with Halloween around the corner here is my tips for scariest things to do in London this autumn.

Boo Tours

Join London’s premier ghostly tour guides for a spooky tour through the streets of our ancient city. Discover the ghosts of medieval London; the witch trials, rivers of blood and the demons of Clerkenwell.
October 18th bootours.com

Vampyre lecture

If you love your vampire fantasy fiction, your True Blood and Twilight check out St Pancras Old Church (just behind St Pancras Station) who will be hosting a vampish lecture on 2nd November. Experts will be speaking on the author of the Vampire genre John William Polidori, who is actually buried at this very church. This beautiful church also boasts of many other spooky literary connections; Thomas Hardy worked here moving graves, before embarking on his great literary career, and Mary Shelly (author of Frankenstein) used to regularly visit her mother’s grave (the great Mary Wollstonecraft) here. 6pm Saturday 2nd November sosstpancras.org

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Coffee in the crypt

st martins in the fields

If you’d rather relax and have a coffee, how about a spooky coffee in a crypt. The former crypt of London’s St Martin’s in the Field’s church at Trafalgar square, has been transformed into an atmospheric(and rather yummy) cafe. Enjoy a latter or lunch under the stunning brick vaulted ceilings, whilst admiring the tombs stones under your feet. Keep an eye out for some posthumous guests such as Nel Gywn (King Charles II’s former lover) and Sir Christopher Wren’s wife and young child who are said to buried here. http://www.stmartin-in-the-fields.org/cafe-in-the-crypt/

Stay at a haunted hotel

If you’re feeling brave why not stay at one of London’s famous haunted Hotels.

How about the Georgian Grange Blooms hotel in West End , haunted by Mr Cummings a guest who likes to hang around the lounge reading, and a chambermaid who thinks she still works there. Be careful who is ruffling your bed covers in the dead of night.

langham hotel

Or how about the famous Langham Hotel near Oxford Circus, formerly entertaining the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mark Twain, but today it’s the German Prince who allegedly threw himself out of a window that now likes to frequent the hotel along with a glowing florescent ball that awakes guests of room 333 in the dark of the night.

Find out more at www.spookyisles.com/2013/08/langham-hotel-haunted-in-the-heart-of-london/

Haunted Pubs

If a night in a haunted hotel is too daring for you how about a drink at one of London’s many haunted pubs. Take the Prospect of Whitby, Wapping, for example. One of London’s oldest riverside pubs, established on the site where the city used to hang smugglers and pirates, you can enjoy your pint over looking the very noose (ok it might not be original, but its eerie all the same). The Prospect boasts of being the most haunted pub in England.

Or head out east to the Bow Bells pub, who’s resident ghosts likes to flush the toilets whilst you’re sitting on them.

If you liked that read this
www.spookyisles.com/2013/02/5-haunted-pubs-to-visit-in-central-london/

The Oscars of London

We all love the glitz & glamour, but which Oscar nominees, and winners were filmed here in London.  Check out my top nominees and their revealing London locations.

 

Elizabeth The Golden Age 2007

Won Best Costume

Nominated for Best Actress (Cate Blanchet)

Winner Most Historic London Location 2013

Elizabeth the Golden Age filmed at Greenwich Royal Navy College (not the only Oscar winner to do so – scenes of the Iron Lady were also filmed here). A stunning location and one of my favorite days out in London. The real Queen Elizabeth was actually born here, in the original Greenwich Palace in 1533. Built in the 1400s this beautiful river side palace housed royalty, most notably the famous wife killing King Henry VIII. It was sadly demolished in the 1700s and replaced by the equally stunning royal naval college. It is said that an Oak Tree in the grounds is the very oak tree that the young Henry and Elizabeth played in as children.

Closer 2004

Nominated for Best Actor in a supporting role (Clive Owen)

Nominated for Best Actress in a supporting role (Natalie Portman)

Winner Most quirky London Location 2013

In 2004 a few British greats turned up on the nominee list but Closer was a standout. The opening is set in Postman’s Park, not far from St Paul’s. The park contains a memorial to people who died in heroic circumstances, and contains plaques and their fascinating stories. These include that of Mary Rogers who died when the ship she worked on sank in 1899, she gave up her life jacket for another passenger. Then there is 60 year old signal man William Goodrum who died (1880) whilst saving a colleague from being hit by an on-coming train. But perhaps the most moving is 11 year old Solomon Galaman who saved his little brother from being run over (1901). The inscription includes his sad dying quote “Mother I saved him, but I could not save myself.”

Alfie 1966

Nominated for Best Actor (Michael Caine)

Nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Vivien Merchant)

Nominated for Best Original Song (Alfie - Bert Bacharach)

Winner Best view in London 2013

Turn back to 1966 and another classic London film was nominated for Michael Caine’s leading role in Alfie. For his final scene they chose one of the best viewing spots along the Thames, Waterloo Bridge (named unsurprisingly after the Battle of Waterloo). It was built in the 40s and was the only bridge along the central part of the Thames to be damaged by war time bombing. It’s situated on a bend in the river so is a great little spot to snap west at the houses or parliament and London Eye, and north up to St Paul’s and the Shard. It also features in that other great British classic Bridget Jones she crosses (commutes rather) across this bridge with a huge smile on her face, after a night with Daniel Cleveland!

The King’s Speech 2010

Won Best Picture

Won Best Actor in a Leading Role (Colin Firth)

Won Best Screen Play

Won Best Direction (Tom Hooper)

Winner Best Summer Spot 2013

(Also nominated for Best Actor in a supporting Role (Geoffrey Rush), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Helena Bonham Carter) Best Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Music, Sound Mixing – I was just far to lazy to type all those out individually)

 

 Not long until the summer, I promise, and when it arrives you will find me chilling out in the beautiful Regents Park for most of it. But right now it looks exactly like its Oscar nominated scene in The Kings speech. As Bertie and Lionel stroll through the park on a misty chilly morning. Quite accurately the park is just a stones throw from Lionel’s real life office on Harley Street. Today (as then) Harley Street is famous for it’s elite doctors, and medical practices, and still attends to the needs of the Royals. Lionel has long left (obviously) but his practice at 146 is marked by a blue plaque. Interestingly enough the office they used for Lionel’s practice in the film is on the street directly parallel to Harley,  Portland place (number 33 to be exact).

Skyfall 2012

Nominated Best Cinamatograpy

Nominated Best Music/Original Song (Londoner Adele!)

Nominated Best Sound Editing

Winner -Most impressive London Location 2013

My final is our great hopeful for 2013… Skyfall, famously shot in London, starring our beloved underground among other greats. One of the government buildings featured is one of my favourite buildings (I know I always say that) 10 Trinity Square. It’s an impressive looking building, one of those you know has to be important. Situated just next door to the Tower of London, and Tower Bridge and opposite the river and City Hall, 10 Trinity Square was opened by Prime Minister Lloyd George in the 20s. Its an impressive building and is part of the Tower of London’s World Heritage site. It was originally home to the Port of London Authority, and entertained UN general assembly in 1946. Today it houses an insurance company with plans to turn part of it into a hotel – it is equally as impressive inside as on the outside. Both the inside and out was used for scenes in the movie.

For a quick overview of movie London locations check out this cool Underground Map produced by TFL in 2010.

You can also find out about a few other film locations in my other blogs

Anti Valentine’s Day London

Anti Valentine’s Day London – 10 Top things to do 

Oh no it’s February you know that that means… if you’re single you face the misery of a lonely February 14th, if you’re not single you face the trauma of an expensive -’must impress her’ February 14th. Who invented this thing anyway?

Well the good news is ‘Anti Valentine’s Day’ is now an official catch phrase, one that will lead you to some great ideas for expelling those Valentine’s blues. And I have brought you exactly that.  So here are a selection of the best Anti Valentine’s things to do in London this year!   I have a little something for you,  whether you want to shun the whole day, or if you are hopefully going into the day dreaming of a future love; This post is for you! 

And now for something completely different..

If you want to get a million miles away from Valentine’s Day you can’t get much further than outer space. Head up to the beautiful Greenwich Observatory for a ‘Night with the Stars’. Check out some amazing constellations in the Planetarian then take up the opportunity to have a gaze through their famous 18 tonne Victorian telescope. Booking essential.

If you’d rather to drink under the stars, than watch them, but it seems a little too cold  for that then head over to my favourite rooftop bar, The Queen of Hoxton. This winter they have taken their roof top drinking experience one step further by installing a wigwam on the rooftop. Perfect for classy quirky after work drinks.*

Prefer a bit of horror to romcom how about a night in an underground bunker dodging zombies. For the ultimate scary anti Valentine’s check out Zombie Battle London (ok you’ll have to wait until March for this one, but you can spend the 14th Feb watching zombie movies in training). Guaranteed No couples!

Looking for Love 

If this V day isn’t what you expected, but you’re hoping next year will the pefect one, then how about these cools ideas to help you find true love:

St Valentine’s Ritual Magik Night in Covent Garden Let Jon -the ritual-master-magick-practitioner-Kaneko-James, captivate and inspire you with a full St Valentine’s evening of practical ritual love magick and spells for the romantic year ahead.

Guys increase your chance of finding Miss Right and impressing her in 2014, sign up for a ‘Men in the Kitchen master class’, learn to cook a three course feast with a Victoria the award winning chef. Now boys look away for one second (…psst girls! Victoria has classes for you too…).

If you’re ready to jump in and find love right now, maybe try it the old fashioned way. 

Remember the old days when the boys sat on one side of the room and girls on the other and he shyly looks over then glances away until eventually he boy runs over and whisks her on to the dance floor; you can now relive that at  the Vintage Dance Club Valentine’s Tea Dance. They also have a pre-dance workshop too for a bit of waltz & Tango tuition.*

Perhaps you have your eye on that someone special and want to wow them with the the most impressive dinner date ever! Check out the secretive Gingerline for an imaginative date. Described as a ‘clandestine dining experience’ you find out the location 60 mins before dinner, then you are led to the location where a themed feast awaits. It’s not just food its crazy entertainment. You can find out more and book on the website.*

Mending broken hearts

If you’re trying to recover from Heart-Break (a serious medical condition) Valentine’s day can be tough, but I prescribe a trip to the the University of London for their Mending Broken Hearts seminar.  Guest speaker Roger Corder, author of The Red Wine Diet and Professor of Experimental Therapeutics at Queen Mary’s medical school, will discuss the benefits of wine and chocolate for the heart, a perfect antidote for Valentine’s Day (you can’t go wrong with Red Wine and Chocolate).

The Greatest Love story ever told

If you’re a romantic at heart and plan to celebrate the day date or no date, how about discovering what is  (in my opinion) the greatest love story ever. Head to Kensington Palace and experience the love story of HRH Queen Victoria and her beloved Albert. They are running a special Valentine’s day tour, but even if you miss the tour be sure to check out the beautiful Victoria Revealed exhibition.

And finally head over to Prince Charles Cinema for the ultimate power- chick-flick-classic–bitter-sweet romance, the beautiful Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Showing on Valentines day, booking recommended.

So there you have it, my run down of the best Anti Valentine’s things to do in London!

*Disclaimer I can’t guarentee there won’t be lovey dovey couples there, sorry.

If you’re want more info on any of my top 10 here are the links…

Gingerline dining experience  http://www.gingerline.co.uk/

Prince Charles Cinema http://www.princecharlescinema.com/