Sweet Valentine . . .

Sweet Tooth Tours

If you are looking for more than a box of chocolates for Valentine's Day, a Sweet Tooth Tour may be just the thing. Founded in 2017 by Le Cordon Bleu pastry chef Lynne Staartjes, Sweet Tooth Tours highlight London's best sweets (bakeries, chocolate shops, gelaterias), savories (cheese mongers) and more.


Our custom 2-1/2 hour walk featured the history and stories behind 'hidden gems' in Belgravia, a luxury residential area in southwest London. The route included stops for a savory ham and cheese waffle at a stylish café, an eclectic macaron tasting at an exclusive French pastry shop, artisan cheeses at a British cheesemonger and decant chocolates at a London chocolatier. Despite the relatively small portions along the way, we found ourselves unable to try all the varieties of chocolates on offer.

In addition to her Signature Belgravia Tour, Lynne offers a Sugar & Spice (a savory version) and even Gluten-Free & Vegan Tours. And if these are not quite what you are looking for, Lynne can arrange bespoke experiences, including:

- scone baking class in a luxury Knightsbridge apartment,
- visit to London’s bakeries by Rolls-Royce,
- and even a day trip to the best patisseries in Paris.

The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.  It is no surprise that Sweet Tooth Tours has received accolades from Conde Nast Traveller, The Guardian and Town & Country to name just a few.  How sweet indeed!


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Hamilton tickets starting at £20

Booking until May 25th

The annual London theatre New Year Sale promotion is popular with 40 shows starting at just £10 until February 15th. Although not part of the official list, Hamilton recently announced tickets for as little as £20 for Monday, Wednesday and Thursday matinee shows until May 25th.

Tickets are a steal compared to Broadway where ticket prices start at $235 (nearly nine times more than in the West End) – thanks in part to an innovative paperless ticket system. No physical tickets are issued ahead of time and patrons must present photo ID along with the payment card they booked with. Thus, virtually eliminating scalpers – an industry first.

Who could have known when Hamilton opened on Broadway in 2015 just how relevant the production would be today? A diverse London cast pays homage to the role immigrants play in the history of great nations. The West End production won seven Olivier Awards in 2018, including 'Best New Musical'.

Lead original cast members Jamael Westman (Hamilton) and Rachelle Ann Go (Eliza Hamilton) have continued with new cast announced in December. At 6’4”, Jamael Westman adeptly plays the larger than life, albeit lesser known, of America’s founding fathers. The story follows Alexander Hamilton’s humble beginnings to his meteoric rise; not unlike that of Westman making his West End debut.

While the set is surprisingly minimal, the carefully choreographed hip hop moves and clever rhyming rap lyrics are not. With an open run and affordable ticket prices at the beautifully refurbished Victoria Palace Theatre, Hamilton is set to continue breaking records and inspiring a new generation of theatre goers.
www.hamiltonmusical.com/london/+44 2078 342781
Victoria Palace Theatre, Victoria Street, London SW1E 5EA


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Best of 2018 — Part II

Top 10 posts — Part II

The best of the best from 2018

5. Terrace Dining — Finally time to enjoy Surrey’s footpaths and of course outside dining along the way
www.londonviasurrey.com/2018/05/terrace-dining.html

4. Pancake Day — Falls on Shrove Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras or 'Fat Tuesday' in the US - where to get your fix
www.londonviasurrey.com/2018/02/pancake-day.html

3. London Theatre Sale — Tickets starting at £10/seat for over 45 shows until February
www.londonviasurrey.com/2018/01/london-theatre-sale.html

2. Poppies are back — And where you can still view them
www.londonviasurrey.com/2018/11/poppies-are-back.html

1. Sunbury expands to Sandown — Biggest antique market bigger and better than ever
www.londonviasurrey.com/2018/03/sunbury-expands-to-sandown.html


And this list doesn't include two other top posts Best of 2017 and Best of 2017 — Part II in case you need more inspiration to explore London and Surrey.

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Best of 2018

Top 10 posts — Part I

Here is a look back at the top 10 posts from 2018.  How many have you done?

10. British Holiday Traditions, Part I : Eat — Afternoon teas with a festive twist — in London there is no shortage of afternoon teas to indulge in
www.londonviasurrey.com/2018/12/british-holiday-traditions-part-i.html

9. Frosty Forecast — An hour-long winter wonderland walk worth bundling up for in Surrey
www.londonviasurrey.com/2018/02/frosty-forecast.html

8. Open House London — Free admission, including talks, tours and walks to 800 buildings in September
www.londonviasurrey.com/2018/09/open-house-london.html

7. February Finds — London has half-term covered
www.londonviasurrey.com/2018/02/february-finds.html

6. Dine like Harry Potter – Hogwarts type Great Hall for less
www.londonviasurrey.com/2018/01/dine-like-harry-potter.html


Best of 2018 - Part II will feature the best of the best from 2018.

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British Holiday Traditions, Part III

Eat, Drink & Be Merry

Be Merry . . .
Christmas Crackers have been a British tradition since the 19th century. They were introduced by confectioner Tom Smith who was inspired by French sugar almonds wrapped in paper. While his adaptation of sweets accompanied by a riddle were initially well-received, it wasn't until he came up with a way to make the cracker 'pop' did it gain popularity.

Beyond Christmas, crackers were created to celebrate major events, including The Coronation and The Paris Exhibition. Smith also specialized in exclusive crackers in collaboration with Wedgwood and ones for members of the Royal Family — a tradition that continues.

Today, while Christmas Crackers are still a favorite UK party favor, they can also be found

throughout the world during the holidays as well as other festive events. Typically, crackers are colorfully wrapped cardboard tubes placed at the dinner table.

The crackers 'pop' when it is pulled on either end by two people. For groups of three or more, it is tradition for each person to cross their arms to pull all the crackers at once. Each cracker contains a ‘crown’, gift or toy along with a joke. Similar to advent calendars, today’s crackers can be filled with a wide array of items, including alcohol, chocolate, jewellry, cosmetics and musical instruments.

They can be purchased from high-end retailers like Harrods or Selfridges to your local grocers — a perfect way to start the holiday season or the New Year with a 'bang'!

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British Holiday Traditions, Part II

Eat, Drink & Be Merry

Drink . . .
Mulled Wine is a popular Christmas time beverage made with red wine and spices. The Romans were the first to heat wine in the 2nd century to combat the cold winters. As the Romans conquered Europe, the popularity of mulled wine grew, including the addition of spices for added health benefits and flowers to make the wine taste better.

It is not surprising that interest in the beverage spread in colder climates, such as Austria, Germany (glühwein) and Scandinavian countries (glögg).  Mulled wine became synonymous with Christmas when Charles Dickens mentioned 'Smoking Bishop', a popular mulled wine at the time, in his classic A Christmas Carol.

Today, mulled wine is served warm at outdoor markets and pubs throughout the holiday season. Two places to enjoy mulled wine complete with holiday shopping, include:

The Crusting Pipe (Covent Garden) — Located close to Jubilee Market, the only market in London that is owned by traders. Monday features antiques; Tuesday to Thursday is a general market; and Saturday and Sunday arts and crafts items are sold by 200+ vendors.
www.davy.co.uk/wine-bar/crusting-pipe+44 2078 361415
27 The Market, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8RD


OXO Tower Restaurant (South Bank) — Housed below the

rooftop restaurant with views of the River Thames, are 25+ contemporary designers selling art, ceramics, fashion, photography and other gift items.
www.oxotower.co.uk+44 2078 033888
Barge House Street, London SE1 9PH


If Pimm's is a sign of summertime, no winter season is complete without mulled wine!

Next post, how to Be Merry this holiday . . .


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British Holiday Traditions, Part I

Eat, Drink & Be Merry

Eat . . .
Afternoon Tea is one of Britain's most popular and time-honored traditions. Introduced in the early 19th century, afternoon tea was intended to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner when dinner customarily started at 8 pm.

Today, afternoon tea is usually associated with a special occasion.  It generally consists of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam (interestingly, a 20th century addition) and cake.

In London there is no shortage of afternoon teas to indulge in — a perfect way to kick off the holiday season. Some of my favorite places have put a festive twist on their afternoon — making it even better to re-visit one you love or try a new one altogether.


Biscuiteers
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Brown's Hotel

Hotel Cafe Royal
Hotel One Aldwych — Charlie & the Chocolate Factory

The Ritz
Sanderson Hotel — Mad Hatter’s Tea Party


The Savoy
Watch this space for what you can Drink only this time of year . . .

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