Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Leonardo at the National Gallery

 The National Gallery has pulled a blinder. It has laid out an exhibition of such beauty that it will be hard to beat for a long time. Nicholas Penny, the Director of the Gallery and Luke Syson the creator of the exhibition should be praised and thanked for their work and skills.
 There are only 15 paintings by Leonardo da Vinci in the world, and here are 8 of them. There are only 50 sketches, and here are 33 of them. OK the Mona Lisa has stayed in France but this is not such a loss – I have always thought that the name is more beautiful than the face and that Leonardo has painted many better pictures. One of them is the portrait of Cecilia Gallerani who is all over the catalogue and the posters. She was Ludovico Sforza’s mistress from the age of 15 and as she turns to smile you can see how she would catch any man’s heart in her hands. She was very beautiful and just 3 metres away is her very cross rival - Ludovico’s wife. There are many theories about why Leonardo painted her with an ermine including a play on her name and as a symbol of her purity This matters very little – take a closer look at her veil and her necklace and you could be looking at a model in a magazine today. It is a stunning display of Leonardo at his most human and most personal. He recognised that beauty is timeless and that it should be celebrated in art as well as in reality. This is a goddess painted by a god.
Towards the end of the show is a newly-discovered Leonardo called Salvator Mundi that emerged in America relatively recently. It is a mystery how it got there but there is no doubt that this is the genuine article owned by an unnamed syndicate of investors – a spectacular return on a relatively small investment. Quite a find! Almost as spectacular as Nicholas Penny’s discovery of a Raphael behind the door in the passageway of a Northern castle – it raised $40 million for the lucky Dukes.
I am afraid to say that if you do not have a ticket then you can only get in by queuing 3 hours from 6 am. Is it worth it? Yes. But if you are too cold for the queue then go for our Covent Garden walk.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Bloomsbury Festival

Regular readers of this blog will now that Bloomsbury is one of my favourite parts of London. So I was very pleased to read about The Bloomsbury Festival which is happening this weekend (21st - 23rd October). The festival celebrate contemporary and historical Bloomsbury, featuring readings by poets Wendy Shutler and Stephanie Gera, a session on the Philosophy of Wine Tasting, and an evening of theatre and cocktails at RADA.

It all sounds like a lot of fun and most of it is free so do check it out. You can find out all about the festival here.

Afterwards, why not try one of our walking tours? Covent Garden is just around the corner from Bloomsbury and you can explore it in about an hour. Our walking tour can be found here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Paris Without A Reservation

One of the great pleasures of Paris is the food. It's a cliché, of course, but it's no less true for that. But if you're visiting the city to eat well, you face a dilemma. Do you book several weeks in advance or do you throw caution to the wind and chance finding a decent table at a decent restaurant at the last minute? Food writer Fiona Beckett has written this fascinating  post about surviving Paris without a reservation on her blog Food and Wine Finds showing that not only is possible but that it is fun too.  You can read Fiona's post here

If you're in Paris don't forget to check out our audio tours of the city. You can find out more information at

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Shoreditch Vintage Fair

If you're a bit of a fashionista then this weekend's Shoreditch Vintage Far will be right up your street. There will be stalls there with clothes for men and women and you can get your hands on some real bargains. Plus, if you want to give your house a vintage feel you can pick up some great furnishings and homewares too.

Afterwards, why not explore the nearby City of London with our StrollOn Guide?

You can find out more about the fair here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Natural History Museum

Located close to South Kensington Tube, the Natural History Museum is one of London's most interactive destinations. If you've ever wondered about insects, bears, dinosaurs or butterflies, you will want to visit this magnificent museum. It's free to visitors and there are lots of must sees including skeletons of a T-rex, Brontosaurus and Triceratops and, in the mammals section, you can see a huge blue whale. If you want to know more about the museums highlights please click here

There are also several temporary exhibitions available to visitors and though there is sometimes an entrance fee these often offer you a rare chance to glimpse some of the more esoteric parts of the museum's collection. You can find out more about what's on here.

If you're inspired by the museum to take a walk around London please check out our site where you can get your hands on the best audio tours of London.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Scandanavia Show

If, like me, you found yourself addicted to The Killing (the original, that is, on BBC 4) you may be interested in The Scandinavia Show this weekend. Taking place in Earl's Court you will get to explore some of Scandinavia's best exports, including getting the opportunity to quiz the stars of The Killing (where does Lund get her jumpers from?). If that isn't your thing, you may want to visit cooking demos from Scandi chefs Signe Johansen and Trine Hannemann: the food of the north isn't all herrings and meatballs after all. You can find a full programme of events here Tickets start at £8 if you book in advance.

And, if you want to explore London afterwards do check out our site for some great walking tour ideas.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

10 Cases

If we were in Paris, we'd be spoilt for choice for simple wine bistros. In London it's a bit harder to find a spot to settle down in to enjoy a good glass of vino though and this is where 10 Cases have stepped in. Situated on Endel Street, near Covent Garden, 10 Cases has a very simple premise: they serve only 10 bottles of red wine and 10 bottles of white wine (there is a glass of rose and a glass of champagne available too) and they only ever buy ten cases of each bottle so when the cases run out they introduce a new wine to the menu. It's genius really because you get a great selection that doesn't swamp you. And, because you can buy by the carafe, you can try something quite different without getting stuck with a huge bill.

Though wine is the main focus here, there is also a small but very good selection of food available. There are three starters, three mains and three deserts so the choice is limited but that doesn't matter when the food is so good and, at around £15 for a main course, it's excellent value too. 

If you're on our StrollOn walk around Covent Garden, pop in for a glass of wine or a bite to eat. It'll sate your appetite and get you going again. Enjoy their wonderful selection of wine and grub and let us know what you thought below.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hawksmoor Guildhall

In the past we've mentioned that we're big fans of Hawksmoor, a steak restaurant with branches in Covent Garden and in Spitalfields. We're excited because they're about to open a new place in the city called Hawksmoor Guildhall. This is not to be a copy and paste job that simply replicates the dining experiences of the earlier venues and just as Seven Dials feels distinct from Spitalfields, so will Guildhall. They will be serving a very exciting tasting menu that I cannot wait to try. According to (original article here) their new menu will include some wonderful dishes including,
  • Beef tea
  • Tongue (cured and poached) and (ox)Tail Salad
  • Oysters with braised short rib and kimchi
  • Steak tartare - beef vs veal
  • Beef shin macaroni
  • Bone-in prime rib or double t bone, Hawksmoor sausages
  • Beef dripping chips and salad
  • Suet sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream
 Impressive stuff if you're a meat lover!

The Guildhall restaurant will be located on Basinghall Street, between Cheapside and the London Wall. It will make a great stop off on your StrollOn city walk and, after all that wonderful beef, you may need the walk!

Visit formore information.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Carnaby Street - Soho

If you're enjoying our StrollOn guide to Soho, towards the end you'll pass through Carnaby Street. This little road in London became famous in the 60s and was very much at the centre of the changes in youth, music and fashion that shook the period. It gained prominence when designers started to open small independent boutiques along the road. Mary Quant, Marion Foale and Sally Tuffin had shops here. Around the corner, on Wardour Street, a club called the Marquee Club opened and a series of underground music venues like the Roaring Twenties appeared on the street. The bands who played at these venues were soon to be legendary: The Who, The Rolling Stones, Small Faces and more. It meant that you could wander down Carnaby Street and never know how many stars you might run into.

Today the street is no less interesting, though you might not run into a musical legend quite so easily. It's home to some excellent fashion stores like Diesel and American Apparel as well as being home to some great restaurants liks Cha Cha Moon. If you're on our Soho walk make sure you take some time to have a look around some of the shops. They're great fun and you can pick up some wonderful souvenirs in some of the smaller, independent stores.

If you want to know a bit more about Soho, check out our walking tour of the area. It's an amazing part of London full of secrets and history and we explore it all in the guide.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Tate Modern

Following on from our posts on The Globe, I wanted to mention the brilliant Tate Modern on The Southbank. If you're on our Southbank walk you'll pass nearby. You can hardly miss the red brick building with it huge tower as it was once a power station. It was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (his grandfather designed the St Pancras Station) and was built in two stages in 1947 and 1963. The power station was decommissioned in the 80s  and opened as an art gallery in 2000 to exhibit art from 1900 onwards.

There is a wonderful constantly shifting permanent collection at the Tate Modern including works by Picasso, Rothko, Warhol and many, many others. This part of the Tate is free to visit and it's a wonderful way to spend an afternoon or two. At the same time there are regular exhibitions though these aren't free. From October 6th you can see the Gerhard Richter: Panorama exhibition which will be well worth the visit. You can find out more about current and future exhibitions here.

And, lastly, If you want a quick bite to eat, try the restaurant on the top floor of the Tate. The food is excellent and the view is unsurpassed.

Friday, September 2, 2011

London In The Sunshine

Stop all the clocks; some one call the police; the sun - THE SUN - is shining in London and it looks like it will be all weekend! We'll all be as happy as the double rainbow guy above! 

Seriously though, it's great when the weather's like this and, believe it or not, we get a decent amount of sunshine every summer. But when it arrives it is still special so make the most of it and enjoy the weather this weekend. Now is the perfect time to enjoy some fun outdoors. Walking on one of our London audio tours is a great excuse to see the city at it's best in the sunshine. Here are a couple more ideas from out blog though.

The Parks

Summer in London's parks is a real treat. Green and lush, they are wonderful retreats to walk around, meet with friends or just simply lie in the sunshine. Here are some of our posts on London's wonderful parks.


You can find some amazing bargains stumbling around markets. And in the sunshine bargain hunting is so much more fun. Here's our post on The Portobello Road market. It's our favourite in the city.

The Pub

Sometimes, there's nothing you want more than to drink a cool pint of beer and feel the sun on your face. Here's our guide to some of London's loveliest pubs.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Globe

Shakespeare's Globe is without doubt one of my favourite parts of London. Located in Soutwark, on the Southbank, it's a few minutes walk from the Tate Modern and about 15 minutes from Waterloo.

This history of the building is fascinating. Firstly, it's not built on the site of Shakespeare's original globe but it's as close as it can be to that site. It took over a quarter of a century of fund-raising and research to see the current building open in 1997. It was the brainchild of American actor Sam Wannamaker who, unfortunately, died before the construction was completed.

The architects focused on constructing the globe using material and tools from the 16th Century - or as close as possible - so the roof is thatched and the lime plaster mix that coats the walls is made to a period recipe. Today you can enjoy the plays of Shakespeare in this wonderful setting. Each summer season the globe put on a selection of plays and you can either sit or stand to enjoy them. Standing will set you back around £5 and it will give you the most authentic experience. You can find out more about this years schedule here. You can also tour the Globe's exhibition which is packed full of information about the man who wrote such magnificent plays as well as Elizabethan theatre and modern theatre. In the winter, when the Globe itself is shut, it's a wonderful stop off.

If you're nearby to the Globe then, you might also enjoy our Southbank audio tour which will take you around the best sites in the area. You can find out a more on our website.

(Picture Nik Milner)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The City Of London

If you're visiting London for pleasure it's easy to forget about The City but it is a stunning destination packed with interesting sights and sounds. If you're in the area, for pleasure or on business, check out our walking tour of the area. It will take your around some of The City's most wonderful parts.

On your walk you can see the church All Hallows by the Tower which survived fire of London in 1666. It's stunning to look at with it's algae green spire. It is still open for ministry and you can sit quietly there if you wish.

Then there's the Lloyds of London Building (picture above). The building was designed by Richard Rogers and you'll notice that all the elevators, stairs etc are on the outside. This is supposed to create as much light indoors as possible and there are no corridors either. In other words, it's a pretty unique building. Oddly, Lloyds started in Edward Lloyd's coffee house where groups of business used to gather. They were able to insure ships and that is how it started. Today though it's an insurance market. Everything can be insured here and the Hollywood actress Betty Grable once insured her legs here.

One of my favourite parts of the city is near to Billingsgate market. Billingsgate used to be a fishmarket - you can recognize it by it's huge fish weathervane - but has now been turned into offices. Built in 1876 as London's main fishmarket, at one point it could handle 400 tons of fish a day. George Orwell, author of Nineteen Eighty-four and Animal Farm once worked there too. Nearby is Southwark with it's shops and restaurants. Have a wander around the area and, if you want to see some culture, you can visit the Globe or the Tate Modern.

Hopefully this will give you a taste of the City. It's an interesting place and we hope you enjoy spending time there. If you've want any other tours of London why not visit where you can find out a bit more about our walks.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Coffee, Cocktails and Books - A Round Up!

Over the last couple of weeks we've been blogging about some of our favourite places in London to drink a cocktail, meet for a coffee or find a good book. Here's a quick round up of some of the fantastic places that will supplement your Strollon Walk.

Books Stores

Whether your in Westminster, Covent Garden or West London we've got a bookshop near you.


Love coffee? Read about our favourite coffee shops in London


It's the end of the week. Why not celebrate with a cocktail in the sunshine?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cocktails in London

Who doesn't like a good cocktail? After a wonderful day walking around London there is nothing better than sitting down to a very cold, very dry martini or a clean, crisp daiquiri. So, here is a quick guide to some of our favourite cocktail bars on our StrollOn walks.


Our walk through Soho takes you past some fascinating sites but one addition is the wonderful bar at Bob Bob Ricard with it's deep plush seats, mirrored ceiling and top notch cocktails. Located on St James Street, just around the corner from Polpo, it serves delicious British and Russian food. It's owners, Bob and Richard are Russian and English respectively (Bob owns two thirds hence his name comes twice in case you were wondering). You sometimes have to book tables in advance but often you can walk in off the street. Try their excellent house champagne and some of their special nibbles.

Covent Garden

If you're close to The Royal Opera House (Chapter 18 on our Covent Garden Walk) then you're very close to the excellent Covent Garden Hotel. This is often where stars visiting London choose to stay when they are trying to be discrete and it has an excellent bar, The Brasserie Max. They do some delicious signature cocktails - try their Seven Dials martini, named after the area of Covent Garden the hotel is in: it is a delicious mix of passion fruit and elderflower with gin and orange flavoured martini. Just what the doctor ordered!


You'll find The Cinnamon Club just behind the Houses of Parliament (chapters 1 - 8 on our walk). It's a wonderful restaurant that serves high end Indian food and is well worth visiting if you can. But there's also a wonderful bar in the basement. Unsurprisingly they try and bring an Indian twist to their drinks so check out some of their house specials like Curry Up! Curry Up! which mixes curry nectar with gin and lemon juice. It sounds weird but trust us, it's delicious.

Hopefully you've enjoyed our short guide to some of our favourite bars in London. If you're looking for more audio guides to London visit our website and if you've got any tips, please leave them in the comments below.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The National Gallery

Here's something I didn't know: the National Gallery in London is quite different to most European galleries because it wasn't created by the nationalization of a state or royal collection. The Musee de Louvre was established after the French revolution and was based on the royal collection of art. The Museo del Prado in Spain similarly has at it's heart the Spanish royal collection. The National Gallery though was formed after the British Government bought a small number of painting from the heirs of John Julius Angerstein. The directors continued to grow the collection but, because of it's origins, it has never been as big as some of the European collections. Today it is owned by the British people and entrance to the museum is free.

The building that houses the collection is magnificent. It's facade looks out over Trafalgar Square and was built between 1832 and 1838 by William Wilkins. If you are on our either our Westminster walk or Covent Garden walk you can pop into the museum and have a browse. It's well worth it. My favourite room houses ones of Van Gough's Sunflower paintings. It is stunning and, if you've never seen it before, you have to see it to believe it's beauty.

If you're looking for something to do after visiting the gallery do have a look at our walking tours of Westminster and Covent Garden. They're a great introduction to the area and you'll get to see some amazing sites. Have a wonderful time!

Monday, August 22, 2011

London's Bookshops

We're so lucky in London to have such a wealth of bookstores. The scene above c0mes from the movie Notting Hill which is set, very briefly, in a bookstore in West London. The Travel Bookshop, which writer Richard Curtis based the bookstore in his film on, can be found on Blenheim Crescent and though it is currently under the threat of closure, it is well worth the visit. There is a move by writers and friends of the store to keep it open so, fingers crossed, you will be able to keep visiting it. Here are a couple more stops that should be essential for booklovers.

Cecil Court

There are several bookstores that you should try and visit. If you're on the Strollon walk around Covent Garden you come very close to Cecil Court, a wonderful old street full of bookshops and print shops. It also features on our 60 Minute Stroll too. Cecil Court is home to some beautiful bookshops, such as Nigel Williams' Rare Books which, like The Travel Bookshop, appears occasionally in movies such as Miss Potter. Mozart, who lived on the street briefly in1764, and Johan Christian Bach used to meet here and discuss music. It is a wonderful place to spend some time browsing so make sure that you leave some time if you're walking around London: it is worth it.

Waterstones Piccadilly

The most famous chain of bookstores in the UK is Waterstones and their flagship store can be found at 203 - 206 Piccadilly. It is about ten minutes walk from Trafalgar Square so, if you're on either our Westminster or Covent Garden walks, you can pop right it. The magnificent building used to be a department store called Simpsons but was turned into a temple to books a few years ago. Spread over six floors, there is a wonderful selection of books to read and take home with you. A good tip is the cafe on the top floor which does excellent cocktails and has panoramic views over the city.

Do you have any other bookshops you'd like to suggest? Please do so in the comments below.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


What a rotten day it is today. In London England are taking on India in the final test of the cricket but this terribly weather has pretty much put pay to that. Not everyone is trapped inside though. If you've got to go out or are stuck in the rain, here's a brief roundup things you can do.

The Pub - A few weeks ago we put together this guide to some of London's pubs. If you're in Convent Garden or the City check it out for some recommendations.

The British Museum - If you're central, you could always pop into the magnificent British Museum. Here's our post on it. Or, if you are closer to Trafalgar Square how about The National Gallery. If you're on the South Bank there's the Tate Modern too. And the best thing about all three (aside for their being dry)? They're free!

Coffee Shops - When the rain is pouring and you need warming up, why not pop into a local coffee house to grab a warming cup of something. Here's our suggestions for some of the best coffee houses in London (and not a Starbucks in sight)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tall Ships

One of the blogs I follow regularly is Ian Visits. It's great if you're in London and want to know what's going on. He has just posted this about free tours of ARC Gloria, a training ship in the Columbian Navy, and it looks great. I have always been fascinated by tall ships and have had a hankering to get on one since I was young. Here is my chance. You can visit the ARC Gloria in Deptford until next Monday. Greenwich is a beautiful part of town and you can get a clipper from Waterloo. It's a lovely boat ride along the Thames with some unusual views of the city. It's a lovely thing to do after a StrollOn walk around the South Bank.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Ok, you might not associate Great Britain with basketball but this week this is - hopefully - all changing with the London Prepares Basketball Invitational. We've mentioned London Prepares before in our post about Women's Volleyball and this week it is time for basketball to take centre stage.

Over at Olympic Park in East London the Basketball Arena is open and ready for business. This week, Great Britain is taking part in a tournament featuring Australia, China, Croatia, France and Serbia to test out the facilities. Normally the stadium seat twelve thousand spectators but, in this test phase, there are only around three thousand tickets available. If you failed to get a ticket for next year here's your chance to get a taste of the action. You can find out more about tickets here.

If watching all that exercise makes you hungry for a bit more, than why not try out one of our walks, such as our tour of the nearby City of London. It's packed with information and you'll get to see some excellent sites.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Glorious Tweltfth!

If you're in London this week you are in for a treat. In the UK August 12th is sometime known as The Glorious Twelfth because it marks the start of the shooting season and from then on shooters can happily hunt the Red Grouse, a delicious game bird that makes for a wonderful supper.

If you are in Covent Garden, perhaps on a StrollOn walking tour of the area, then one of your Foodie destinations should be Rules Restaurant. It's situated on Maiden Lane (chapter eight on our walk), a street famous for all sorts of reasons, not least its name which may mean that it used to be a dung heap! Rules is one of the world's oldest eateries. It was set up in 1798 by Thomas Rules as an oyster bar and has remained on the same site ever since. It's customers have included royals and writers, actors and politicians: many a famous face has sat within its walls and ate dinner at a Rules table.

At this time of year the restaurant comes into its strength for it serves some of the best game in London and from now you can get your hands - and your teeth - on delicious roast grouse, tender woodcock or a simple pheasant, all served with the usual trimmings: game chips, gravy and - hopefully - bread sauce! You can see the Rules menu here but it is worth noting that because the supply of game can vary it will not always be available. If you wanted to make doubly sure that you'll get some tasty game birds for your lunch or supper, call ahead.

And, if you need to work up an appetite for your meal, or perhaps walk it off, then check out our wonderful walking tours of London here. Enjoy!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Beach Volleyball!

What with the Olympics being less than a year away it is little wonder that our attention has started to turn to the games. As part of the London Prepares series, there are various sports going on in London over the next few weeks in an effort to introduce us to them and to work out any wrinkles. This week, at Horse Guards Parade, it is the turn of Women's' Beach Volleyball.

If you've listened to our Westminster walk, you will know that Horse Guard Parade is usually the site for Trooping the Colour but, next year, it will be transformed into a beach for the players. This week, to test this out, the Visa FIVB Beach Volleyball International is being held here. Over the weekend you can see the quarter finals, semi finals and finals being played. Check out the schedule here. It's sure to be a fun event and it's a great opportunity to see the sport up close if you haven't been able to get tickets for next year. And, if you're looking for something to do afterwards, try our Westminster Walk which will give you a wonderful walking tour of the area that is filled with history and insight.

The British Library

Following on from my post on the British Museum, I wanted to mention the British Library, an equally stunning destination. Fifteen years ago, the library reading room was housed in the museum but it was tiny and could not satisfy the demand for books. So the library was rehoused in a magnificent building on the Euston Road which now not only holds a vast number of books but also run exhibitions.

It's worth noting that you have to apply for a Reader's Pass to get access to the Reading Rooms and the books but, despite this, the British Library offers a rich experience to any visitor with its exhibitions. At the time of writing you can visit the Out of This World exhibition which will let you explore the weird and not so weird ideas behind Science Fiction. This runs until September 25th but visit to find out what else is on. The Library really is a fun day out.

Of course, if you want to learn more about London don't forget our audio guides which will give you a great tour of London. You can find out more here

Monday, August 8, 2011

Open House London: 17th & 18th September 2011

Ok - this has to be one of my favourite thing to do in London. Every September, Open House London gives you the chance to get inside some of the capital's most iconic buildings and explore. Now most of us don't often get to see inside Kensington Palace or Lloyds of London but, thanks to Open House, we get the opportunity. This year you can even visit the BT Tower if you're lucky because. There will be a ballot which opens between the 15th August and 5th of September - we'll post a link once it's open.

You can find out which buildings you can visit by ordering the guide here and some of the venues need to be booked in advance - there's a list here and booking opens today so you may need to get cracking. All in all it looks like it will be a great weekend. Plus, if you want to add to you experience you can check out our London walks and audio tours. Enjoy

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Coffee in London

Coffee is very important to me. I am afraid I am one of those people who just can't cope with out the stuff and so I make an effort to find the best I can. Walking around London you'd be forgiven for thinking all we drink is Starbucks, Nero or Costa coffees but that isn't so. Recently there has been a flowering of independent coffee houses which serve boutique bean blends that make a delicious change from the usual chain stuff. I thought it would be fun to share with you some of my favourite coffee shops in town for you to try on our walks.


Our Soho walk is a lot of fun but we all need a quick coffee break so, if you're near Soho Square - that is chapter 4 and 5 on our walk - why not pop in to Nude Espresso, a fabulous boutique coffee house on the North East corner. You can' miss it because the shop itself is painted a wonderful bright red colour.

Nude Espresso specialise in blends and the staff will happily advise you on what is best for your taste. Their signature coffee is made with their East 'Espresso' blend and is delicious. They do all the classic coffee house stuff - lattes, cappuccinos, muffins etc - and they do them very well, making their baked goods fresh each morning.

Covent Garden

During our walk around Covent Garden you will have come across Dickens' Coffee shop on Wellington street (in chapter 16). It's a great place but here is an alternative for you to stop off at on your way back.

Monmouth Coffee started roasting its beans in Covent Garden in 1978 but moved the process to Bermondsey in 2007. Today, the store on Monmouth street, serves espressos, lattes, cappuccinos and filter / drip coffees made from the beans it sources, blends and roasts itself. You can sit down here but it's often very busy so take away may be the best option. It really is somewhere worth going out of your way for. Even if you're not a coffee drinker, the smell of the beans is astonishingly good.

The South Bank

I've recently posted a few events you can visit if you're on one of our South Bank tours so if you're visiting for a show or a StrollOn walk and you need a coffee you should check our Cafe Vergnano which is close to Skylon and the Southbank Cenre on Festival Terrace. Coffee always makes me think of Italy - I think it must be the espresso - and Cafe Vergnano is the epitome of an Italian coffee shop. Short, sharp very dark espressos that give you a great hit of coffee and elegant cappuccinos to keep you going if you start to flag. They also serve some great food so its a great place to grab a snack on your walk.

Hopefully you'll get to have lots of delicious moments during your time in London. If you find any great coffee shops, please let us know below.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Audio Posts: Da Polpo and The People's Supermarket

At StrollOn we specialise in giving you audio tours that are full and comprehensive. With this in mind I thought it would be fun to post by audio for a change. So here are two posts, the first about Da Polpo and wonderful Venetian restaurant in Covent Garden (with branches in Soho) and the second is about The People's Supermarket, a wonderful community run store in Bloomsbury. Both are wonderful stop offs after your StrollOn tour around Covent Garden. Enjoy!

Da Polpo, Covent Garden (mp3)

The People"s Supermarket (mp3)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Museum Of 1951

Yesterday I posted about The British Museum but I wanted to draw your attention to The Museum of 1951 because, well, it looks like a lot of fun and, if you've just finished a StrollOn walk along the Southbank, its a great opportunity to find out a bit more about the Festival Of Britain. In 1951 Britain was a bit of a sorry place. The war had ended in 1945 but parts of London were still in ruin (because of bombing raids) and Britain was still paying back its debts from the war. Rationing was still in place for some essentials and there was a general sense of financial unease. Herbert Morrison MP (grandfather of Peter Madelson) and Gerald Barry had an idea for a festival the covered the entire country, that celebrated Britain and it's achievements and that would prove to be a 'tonic' for the country to help give it back its confidence.

There were sites and events the length and breadth of the country, but the Festival's lasting legacy was the Southbank Centre and Royal Festival Hall. Before these were built the Southbank was either derelict or slum housing but the Festival changed all that, turning the area into a centre of culture and a wonderful public space.

The Museum of 1951 is about more than the Southbank though, encompassing all of the elements of the Festival of Britain. If you want to see what London and Britain used to be like, then check this out before it closes on the 4th of September. There are also events tied to the Museum that you can take part in, like Memories and Memorabilia on the 28th August. The museum is free and is sure to make you think.

Top 20 Things to do in London Under £20, Part 2 From A Girl, A Style

Yesterday I pointed out this great post by A Girl, A Style. She's just posted part 2 of Things To Do In London Under £20 and it's definitely worth checking out.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The British Museum

The British Museum is a pretty impressive place. For one thing, it is free. For another, it is one of the deepest, richest collections of antiquity and ethnography you are going to find anywhere in the world. That, in my book at least, makes it an essential stop off point in London.

Admission to the main exhibits has been free for nearly a decade. This means you can move from Ancient Greece and Rome (make sure you check out the controversial Elgin marbles which are magnificent) to Asia and the Middle East in a few steps. In each of these sections there are some real treasures. If you're in the Asian section, please have a look at the Green Huqqa base which is made of such brilliant colour that you will find it hard to believe it is over 400 years old. The trick is to allow some time to explore the British Museum slowly. Serendipity counts in a museum like this.

There are also a series of special exhibitions at the museum. These are not free unfortunately but they are a l0t of fun. At the time of writing, you can visit the Treasures of Heaven exhibit of saints, relics and other elements of medieval European worship (open till October 2011, tickets £12, book here). But keep an eye out here for other exhibits on your trip to London.

Afterwards, if you want some more culture, why not take one of our audio tours of Covent Garden? It's one of London's hottest spots and you can learn about everything from its history as a market to it being a centre of 18th century prostitution.

What To Do In London For Under £20

I stumbled across this lovely blog called A Girl, A Style and her post about things to do in London for less than £20.00 It's pretty comprehensive and in the comments section there are plenty of other ideas too. Enjoy!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Markets in London: Portobello Road

When I first moved down to London there were two markets everyone talked about: Portobello Road and Camden. These days Camden is pretty dull these days - it used to be fashion forward but no it's a bit cheap. Portobello Road Market however keeps going from strength to strength.

Ostensibly it is an antiques market and, at the Notting Hill Gate end, you will find a series of antique shops whose wears will spill out onto the street everyday, but particularly on market days. As you move further down though you will come across food stalls, record stalls and fashion stalls. If you want to pick up some vintage shoes, dresses or jackets this is the place to go. The stock is continually refreshed and you'll stumble across some real steals. Leather is particularly good to look out for here because it always has that lived in look.

Don't feel shy when dealing with market stall owners - they expect you to haggle so give it a go: it's all part of the fun. After your shop for bargains check out The Fat Badger, a gastropub with great selection of British food and beers. It's cosy and fun, but keep in mind it's toward the Westbourne Park end of Portobello Road.

The best days to shop are Friday and Saturday when the market is can get quite busy. Make sure you take some cash too as the stall holders don't take cards. And, if you want a break, you can hop on the central line at Notting Hill Gate and head to Tottenham Court Road where you can enjoy our walk around Soho.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Visiting Parliament

If you haven't ever visited The Houses of Parliament you have missed out on a wonderful experience. The Palace of Westminster, as it is properly known, is home to the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two legislative chambers in the British Parliament. There has been a Palace on this site since the 11th century and, until 1512 it was the official residence of the English monarch. A fire destroyed much of the building that year but it was still home to Parliament. In 1834 a much larger fire destroyed the building almost entirely. The only structures that survived the fire were St Stephen's Cloister, Westminster Hall, the Jewel Tower and the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft.

The present building was designed by architect Charles Barry. Construction started in 1840 and took it took more than thirty years to complete the neo-gothic masterpiece. During recess, when MPs and Lords return to their constituencies, the palace is open for tours. The summer recess has just begun and so the you can take a guided tour of the Palace during the week and on Saturdays. There is more information here.

As the seat of Parliament it sits at the very heart of government and a trip to the Palace give you a wonderful chance to explore the surrounding area. If, after your tour of Parliament, you take the StrollOn Westminster walk you will get to see Downing Street, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace as well. We hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Vintage At Southbank Centre

I learned about the Vintage Festival on twitter today. It looks like a lot of fun. It's going to be a big three day party celebrating style and fashion from the 1920s to the 1980s. Along with stalls, there will be music, film, art and design so it sounds like there will be plenty for everyone. In the evening there will be a Vintage Revue featuring electronica, soul and British Hits and they'll be feature sets from DJs Jo Wood and Daisy Lowe over the festival. Quite a weekend! It's not free, but you can get tickets here. If you want to see what they are doing Festival Hall itself click here.

The Southbank is one of London's liveliest areas and so if you want to explore it a bit more please check out our Southbank walk which will give you a great sense of the area's history.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Pub

The Pub is one of the glories of England. According to Samuel Pepys they form the country's heart and London is well supplied with these essential arteries. On a warm summer's afternoon, there is nothing better than sitting in a sunny pub garden, with a pint of cool beer; and in winter you can always find somewhere snug, far away from the biting cold, to enjoy a drink and to warm yourself up again.

Pubs in London have some astonishing names: have you ever wanted to drink at Finnegans Wake? There are five according to Peter Ackroyd. Or how about the George Orwell? You can find that in Islington. There are still plenty of traditionally named pubs too: take any walk around London and the chances are you'll be taken past a Three Lions, Queen's Head or Green Man. Some are better than others though so here is a short list that you should try and visit when you're in London.

The Engineer

This pub is currently under threat of closure but a local campaign is trying to keep it open. It's small and intimate, with light, bright spaces to relax in. It serves good food, including that pub classic steak and chips, and some delicious beers. Our favourite is Meantime Pale Ale which is very light and crisp with a slightly floral nose. It's a perfect summer drink.

The Lamb and Flag

Reputedly, this is London's oldest pub. It can trace it's roots back to 1623 when a pub on this site received its first licence. It's served some very famous people, including Charles Dickens, and John Dryden was attacked by thugs hired by the Earl of Rochester outside. These days it's much safer and you can enjoy a pint of IPA or Young's Bitter in peace. It's worth visiting upstairs where there is a bit more space though.

The Eagle

Foodies outside of London may have heard of this pub in Farringdon because it's famous for being the first Gastro Pub. These maybe ten and penny now but when The Eagle opened in the early 90s it was revolutionary. The food, which is cooked in an open kitchen next to the bar, is still delicious and is inspired by European cuisine: it changes regularly. Look out for plump, herbed sausages served with puy lentils, roasted hake and tender grilled lamb. It's a perfect place to meet friends in and enjoy a leisurely lunch or dinner.

The Ten Bells

This famous pub, situated in a grade II listed building, used to be where the prostitutes Annie Chapman and Mary Kelly would drink until they were murdered by Jack the Ripper. It has appeared in several movies and tv shows but is still worth a visit. It's tiled walls and dark wooden bar hark back to a different age. Today it is full of young trendy Shoreditch locals who visit to enjoy it's atmosphere and decent selection of beers.

This is just a small selection of London's pubs. If you have any to recommend let us know below. If you want to enjoy a walking tour of London, you can find out more here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hyde Park

One of the first things to say about Hyde Park is that it is huge. It is bigger than the Principality of Monaco for example. But don't be daunted. It is easily accessible and a great place to enjoy the sunshine.

If you are in London at the right time, keep an eye out on the concerts and gigs in Hyde Park. It is host to some amazing artists including Arcade Fire and The Killers. There are also other events, including an outdoor cinema. It's worth visiting this page to find out what's going on so that you can plan your visit accordingly.

Parks are for relaxing though and for enjoying the feel of the green grass beneath your feet and the sun on your face. If you want to collapse after one of our strolls around London why not hire a deck chair? You can out more about hiring here. You can also swim in the open air Lido if you want to. There is something liberating about swimming in the open air and it isn't something we get to do very often in London. The sun on your back while you glide through the water is a wonderful feeling. Find out more here. Just don't forget your trunks!

If you're looking for more to do in London, why not check out our London Strolls? You can find out more on our website

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Regent's Park

Regent's Park is one of my favourite parts of London. Located south of Camden and Primrose Hill, it links the North West London. You can walk from Camden Market to Lord's Cricket Ground, home of the game and the M.C.C., if you want but you don't need a reason to visit Regent's Park.

We've mentioned the park before, in this post, but here are a few more tips about this wonderful place. It is home to London's Zoo, where you can see a range of animals during the day and, if you're visiting in the summer, at night too. You can boat on the Regent's Park lake too. The lake, in the South West of the park, is a lovely way to spend a summer's afternoon: you can row safely and easily and bask in the summer sunshine.

But, if this is all a bit much for you, why not take a picnic and sit in the sunshine for an hour or two? If you can face the walk, there is an excellent deli to the north in Primrose Hill. Melrose and Morgan will provide delicious pork pies, thinly cut hams, freshly baked bread and some tart artisan cheeses. It is worth visiting for some supplies but there are plenty of supermarkets dotting the edge of the park. A picnic is one of the best ways to relax in a park, so take some time and enjoy it.

If you want something to do before or after your visit to Regent's Park, why not try one of our strolls? You find out more about our audio guides here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hemingway in Paris

One of the oddities of Paris to my mind is that it was the centre for American Modernism as much as European Modernism in the early twentieth century. In late 1921 Earnest Hemingway arrived in Paris with his new wife to be the foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star.

Paris was a shock: it was cheap, it was full of beautiful women and you could drink legally there to boot. Earnest met his fellow American writer Gertrude Stein who introduced him at her salon where he met Pablo Picaso, Joan Miro and other modernist artists. He also ran into another American writer, Ezra Pound, who was just finishing his edit of The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot. It hard to imagine the artistic electricity fizzing through the city, but in places like Saint Germain Du Pres you can still feel an echo of it on the air.

The Paris Hemingway new is not that different to the one we visit today - he spent so much time living in the Latin Quarter, which is still full on winding side roads and cafe's that spill onto the pavement. Some of his haunts included Les Deux Margots (we mentioned it in this blog post) and The Brasserie Lipp. This is a wonderful Alsatian restaurant, serving simple ham and onion tarts and great piles of Choucroute Garni - sauerkraut, served with smoked sausage, ham and pork. Sitting here with a crisp glass of Riesling you could be almost imagine Hemingway walking in.

Do check out Hemingway's Paris if you can. It is beautiful. And if you need anything else, why not try out Sixty Minute Stroll? You can find out more about the Left Bank, seeing Notre Damn and learning about the Revolution.

Monday, July 4, 2011


Recently we've been focusing a bit on London but that's simply because London's home. At StrollOn though we cover cities across Europe and so this week I thought it would be fun to focus on Paris.

Paris is the city I would live in if I could. It's beautiful, glamorous and, well, very French. There is nothing like a stroll around Saint Germain Des Pres, one of the older parts of the city. Unlike the Right Bank, this little nook on the left bank still has some of the medieval streets and byways running through it that used to be part of Paris. It is also the academic heart of the city with the Sorbonne nearby and plenty of bookshops. If you're in Saint Germain Des Pres here are three places you should make part of your visit:

Les Deux Magots

This cafe on Rue Saint Germain Des Pres used to be a haunt of Hemingway, Picaso and Sartre. It may be a bit more touristy now but it is still a lovely place to sit and enjoy a cafe noir whilst Paris walks past you.

Shakespeare and Company

This small, ramshackle bookshop is one of literature's most important venues. It used to be owned by Sylvia Beach who was a passionate Modernist. She used to let the occasional impoverished author sleep in the store when they were down on their luck and went to extraordinary lengths to publish James Joyce's novel Ulysses. The shop closed during World War II but was reopened in 1951 and still sells books and holds literary events. If you're in Paris, you can find out more about the schedule here.


There are two Pollain Bakeries in Paris but the one at 8 rue de Cherche-Midi is my favourite because it feels timeless. The smell of freshly baked bread, sour-dough and croissant is irresistible. Inside, the staff are friendly and helpful and will introduce you to all sorts of new things. Try their pain au chocolat if you can: it's the best breakfast in Paris.

You can find out more about walking around Paris on our website and, as ever, please let us know your tips about the city below.

Monday, June 27, 2011

London's Parks

The parks of London are one of the city’s glories. Like lungs, they let us breath by pumping oxygen into the air and no trip to London would be complete without a ramble through some of the Royal Parks like Hyde Park or Regent’s Park. Here then are some interesting facts that you might not know about the parks of London.
  • At 253 hectares, Hyde Park (when combined with Kensington Gardens) is bigger than Monaco.
  • Hyde Park, Green Park, Buckingham Palace and St James’ Park form a chain that take you from Kensington Palace to Horse Guard’s Parade in Whitehall.
  • Hyde Park was once a hunting ground for Henry VIII and wasn’t open to everyone until 1637 when Charles II turned it into a public park.
  • Green Park was once a notorious duelling venue.
  • St James’ Park is the oldest of the Royal Parks in London and used to belong to Eton College.
  • Regent’s Park’s real names should be The Regent’s Park but this is rarely used.
  • The Official Residence of the American Ambassador is in private land in Regent’s Park
  • Regent’s Park was originally supposed to be where a palace and series of villas would be built for the Prince Regent (later George IV) and his friends but this plan was only partly completed.
  • Regent’s Park became a Public Park in 1835, initially for only two days a week.

You can find out more about the parks mentioned above on Wikipedia:

If you want to find out more about walking in London please click here and if you have any tips please do leave them below.

Friday, June 24, 2011

London In The Rain!

Like it or not, London can be a wet place. The weather in England can be glorious but, more often than not, it is more unpredictable than anything. They say that rain has shaped the British though and whilst other countries, with long, hot summers and warm winters are better at sport (rugby, cricket and football mainly), the Brits boast intellectual heroes instead who attained their position through hard work in the library or the lab. They had, the theory goes, focused on pursuits that didn’t require warm weather to succeed.

This though is little comfort to visitors who find themselves drenched in London. But, what can be of comfort are the city’s many indoor attractions. So, depending on where you are, here are some ideas about where you can go when the rain starts to fall.

The South Bank

You're spoiled for choice down here, so it’s a great place to go if the weather is looking a bit unstable. One of the most unusual spots though is the British Film Institute. It’s home to some really interesting material and shows some amazing movies, both classic and modern and it is the perfect place to hide from the wet.

Covent Garden

Again, there are plenty of places to find cover here but one of the most interesting has to be The London Transport Museum. You almost certainly will have been on the tube at some point and most people forget that is has an amazing history so why not find out more about it.

Buckingham Palace

Even if you’re royal the rain can get in the way so why not visit Westminster Abbey which is just nearby to the Palace. You can explore this historic building, see poets corner where peole like Chaucer and Dickens are burried, as well as see the venue where Prince William and Catherine Middleton were married. If it dries up, and it will, you can explore the area properly. Why not try this app guide to the Royal Wedding to give you some idea of where to go!

With any luck your trip to London will be dry but, even if it is, you should still make some time to visit the venues we’ve suggested. As ever you should also try some of our walks which you can find out more about here. And, if you want to make any suggestions, please do so below!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wimbledon 2011

So it’s Wimbledon time again. Prepare yourself for strawberries and cream, Pimms and the occasional shower if your in London to visit SW19. There are a few interesting facts to remember about The Championship, Wimbledon as it is properly known:
  • It is the only Grand Slam event still played on grass, the original surface for tennis
  • It has been held at The All England Club since 1877
  • Brame Hillyard was the first man to wear shorts at the event in 1930
  • The longest ever match was between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut in the first round in 2010. They played for 11 hours and 5 minutes. The final score was 6–4, 3–6, 6–7(7–9), 7–6(7–3), 70–68 for a total of 183 games and the last set lasted 8 hours and 11 minutes
You can find out more fun Wimbledon facts here and here.

If you can’t get a ticket or have some downtime between matches, you have a great chance to explore London properly. If you’re stuck for ideas, check out Hyde park if the weather is nice. You can walk through the lush greenery, follow the Serpentine or go an listen to some at Speaker’s Corner. And, if it rains, there’s always the Serpentine Gallery, one of the best galleries in London for contemporary art.

Don’t forget to try one of our walks as well. These will give you a great tour of London! If you’ve got any other places to suggest, feel free to comment below!

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Here's a fact that not many people know: the word Soho was hunting cry used when this small area of London was used by Henry VIII to go stag hunting. For some reason the name stuck and today Soho is a wonderfully vibrant section of London, between Regent's Street and Charing Cross Road.

In the 1960s though Soho was a byword for seediness, with its sex shops and prostitutes. By the 1980s though, things started to change and now the sexshops have been by and large sidelined by cool Manhattan style restaurant, bars and the offices for TV companies. Yes you will still see the occasional sign for a Model (ie Prostitute) but your more likely to find a good bar first.

There are plenty of places worth checking out in Soho. The most famous right now is The Box which is a regular stop of point for celebrities. But the smaller venues are a lot of fun too. Try The Soho Arts Theatre Club, a small friendly bar modeled on a New York speakeasy that will let you dance until 2am. If you want something more civilized you could try L'Escargot, the restaurant which introduced the French delicacy of snails to England and which used to farm them in it's basement. You can still try their traditional dish today and it is delicious.

Lastly, if you're into music then you may have heard of Ronnie Scotts, one of London's great jazz venues. It can be tough to get in so here's an alternative: The 100 Club. Located on Oxford Street you'll be hard pushed to find a band that's not played this intimate venue. Listing can be found here on the websites:

Ronnie Scotts

The 100 Club

And if you want to experience a great walk around Soho to take in its history, you can listen to our StrollOn Soho Walk. If you've got any tips don't forget to leave them below!

A World of Audio guides, Walks and iPods

About StrollOn

Hello and welcome to StrollOn, where we produce audio guides and audio tours of London, Paris and an ever-expanding list of major european cities. We have also developed our free city overviews and "Hot spots" (individual audio commentaries for individual sights and attractions). Whichever product interests you we simply ask that you select the relevant audio guide or audio tour on our website and download the mp3 files onto your iPod or other mp3 player, thereby turning your iPod into your "GuidePod".

As you will see from the this blog, we are a new company, providing recently developed products on our website. We've set up this blog so that we can tell you all about us as you join us from our infancy. And we are actively looking for feedback, both on the website and the blog. We don't want you to help us simply to become the biggest, but we do want you to help us become the best walking audio tours company.