Busting to go to WC

I have a bit of (a weird) obsession with ‘public toilets’ especially historic ones (see previous posts) so I was busting to go to WC at Clapham Common.

I do adore a cheese board, and this one was cheese board/meat board heaven in a heavenly setting.

Sat literally on top of Clapham Common station these converted old toilets perfect that chic shabby look whilst feeling sanitary enough to dive in to the yummy cheeses and meats they specialise in. Lots of dark wood, mirrors and mosaic flooring.  The layout is very good and seats more that you would imagine for a small place.  Even comes completed with curtained booths, perfect for a romantic date.

The night we went, was a scorcher, so it was good to hide underground, however for those who want to enjoy the summer evenings they even have a sizable garden’ area to seat plenty more.

As we sat and enjoyed our wine  (our hostess boasted that they carefully selected the best wines, we ordered the house white, which went down a bit too well) we watched as they chopped charcuterie and cheese and served up plate after plate.  Ours consisted of a range of meats (they did tell us what they were, but I only remember one was rabbit) whatever it was it was exceptionally tasty.  And pretty reasonably priced too.

As far as converted toilets go, this has gone on my ‘favourites’ list.   I am busting to go back, I highly recommend you pay a visit to WC too.

WC From @Telegraph.co.uk

More Info:
www.wcclapham.co.uk

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!

Meet the Londoner Jon Kaneko James

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Jon Kaneko-James. I’m a tour guide and writer, specialising in the strange and macabre. I have my own small company called Boo Tours (www.bootours.com), and I write professionally about history (my first commercial history book is coming out next year with Red Rattle Books). I’m also a tour guide at The Globe.Jon Kenko James
What’s your top London tourist attraction?
Westminster Cathedral (NOT the Abbey!). It’s a beautiful red brick Catholic cathedral in the heart of Victoria. It’s beautifully appointed inside: all gold and marble. It’s one of the most beautiful places I know in London, and if you go up the tower you can get a more interesting view of London than the Eye for about a third the price (if that.)

What’s your biggest London secret?
Shad Thames, just on the South end of Tower Bridge. It’s in the heart of London, and yet (for some reason) there are hardly any people in the pubs, and the restaurants can be significantly cheaper than the rest of London, too (if you know where to look). Not only that, but all the fantastic architecture there makes it a pleasure to walk around.

westminster_cathedral_3

Where can we find Jon?
Boo Tours for some great spooky London insights and  my new site www.jonkanekojames.com  Facebook    Twitter 

 

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

London’s worst kept secret

One of my favourite London Buildings is the famous Post Office Tower, or BT Tower if you like.  It’s a iconic landmark, just around the corner from where work.  I often glance up at it from my office to see what is happening in the world.  From the dancing reindeer at Christmas, to the day it turned blue for Prince George’s birth.  Its  a happy London Landmark and was officially opened by the Prime Minster Howard Wilson on  this day in 1965.

But did you know it is also London’s worst kept secret? 

BT Tower skyline


Because up until just as recently as the 1990′s the Tower was classified as a State Secret and didn’t even appear on maps. Quite surprising for a building that until 1981 was London’s tallest, and can be seen from pretty much anywhere in the city. It’s a shame it’s no longer open to the public, it was closed off following bomb attacks in the 1980s.  But there are always rumours of it opening back up.  We live in hope.

bt tower up

Although you can’t get inside it is worth visiting, as it’s pretty impressive to see from directly under the Tower on Cleveland Street.  It has grade two listing, which protects the building and this includes it’s antenna’s which are now no longer in use.

 A few fun facts:

The tower is 191 m (including it antennas).

Its foundations are 53 metres deep.

Its other official opening was in 1966 by Billy Butlin and Tony Benn

Its high speed lift gets you to the top in just 30 seconds!

In 2012 a super megapixel camera was placed on the top of the tower to snap London.  You can explore the incredible images at  360gigapixels.com/london-320-gigapixel-panorama

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.

Something Personal

A month ago my father passed away (a month ago today in fact).   He died of dementia, which he’d be diagnosed with just a few years before. The last 8/9 months of his life saw a rapid decline, from a happy chappy to a frail man with very limited mobility and unable to communicate.  The last few years has been a difficult journey, but we are lucky that my dad died peacefully having spent the day surrounded by those he loved most.

dad2

One of the enduring legacies he leaves with me is a passion for history and for old buildings. I remember as a kids he used to lecture us on history for hours, and drag us round National Trust buildings, we absolutely hated it! Now I’m older I can’t think of anything I would rather do.

This weekend, very fittingly in his honour, me and my sister are running the British 10K, its described as  the world’s greatest road race route, its like an easy version of the marathon (except if you’re anything like me, a 10k is the equivalent of a marathon!).  It goes past some of London’s most iconic and historic landmarks; Parliament, St Paul’s, Nelson’s Column, Westminster Abbey. Its an opportunity to run down some of London’s most famous roads, Pall Mall, Embankment, Trafalgar Square and of course the Mall!   I’m hoping with so many historic landmarks I will be completely distracted from the pain in my legs.

british10k13

It’s a big occasion, the Race’s primary charity is Help for Hero’s and its an opportunity to honour those who have fought for our country both in this generation and those past, particularly relevant this centenary year. There will be an opening ceremony , including a parade of mounted WW1 Cavalry Officers, and the Military Wives Choir, then the race will formally be opened by the Lord Mayor of Westminster. So if you’re not running it’s definitely an occasion to see.  …And seeing me run a 10k will also be a memorable and historic occasion! :)

When I run on Sunday I’ll be running for Dad, and raising money for  Crossroads Care, a charity very close to my heart. Crossroads are a fantastic charity that support carers, and gave my family vital and much needed support and relief in the final months of my dad’s sickness. If you would like to sponsor me, you are so welcome to do so, and can do at  at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/CelesteandAmanda10K

If you would like anymore info on Crossroads Care go to. If you would like more info the the British 10k go to.

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.

My London Coffee Challenge

Anyone that knows me will know I’m CRAZY about coffee so I’ve decided to embark on a coffee mission. In June I will be documenting 30 days of coffee, bringing you London’s loveliest and yummiest coffee shops.

coffee

So if you want to help me with my mission, Tweet, Insta, FB your recommendations and beautiful coffee pics, I would love to hear from you?

I’ll be bringing you my coffee recommendations via my coffee page LoveCoffee(London), and also on Twitter.

#30CoffeeDays

Its not just the taste, I’ll be looking for…
Quality Coffee
Cozy Coffee
Quirky Coffee
Historical Coffee (shops)
Coffee with a view
Secret gems

So let me know your recommendations, I’m keen to try them all!