Kids Week – Free theatre tickets

Tickets on sale June 11th

Kids Week is one of my favorite annual promotions where kids 16 and under go free to shows in August with a full price paid adult ticket (they even offer half price tickets for two additional children).  And event better yet it is not limited to a week, but extends throughout the month of August.

Organized by the Society of London Theatre, some of the participating shows offer some unique activities and workshops alongside the productions, including backstage tours, dancing and Q&As. The ‘Kids Go Free’ offer even extends to area hotels and restaurants.

There are 35+ shows to pick from, including theatre favorites:

  • Aladdin
  • Lion King
  • Mamma Mia!
  • Matilda
  • Phantom of the Opera
  • The Play That Goes Wrong
  • Thriller Live
  • Wicked

  • With the added bonus of no booking, postage or transactions fees, tickets sellout fast. For the best selection, pre-pick your show dates and be online Tuesday, January 11th at 10 am when the tickets are released. Good luck!

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    Open Garden Squares Weekend

    125+ gardens across 27 London boroughs

    With support from the London Parks & Gardens Trust, Open Squares Garden Weekend (June 8-9) features 125+ hidden gardens and squares – many of which that are usually closed to the public.
    The gardens range in shape, size and location from rooftops to allotments and from historic buildings to cafés. Beyond the green spaces themselves, there are special activities, including cycle, garden and walking tours, and more are on offer.

    Here are just a few of London’s most famous buildings and attractions that have a garden close by: 1) Barbican, 2) The Gherkin, 3) The Monument, 4) St. Paul's Cathedral, 5) Tate Modern, 6) Tower of London, 7) Victoria & Albert Museum, and 8) Wallace Collection

    A weekend ticket is £10 (12-18, under 12 free), £16 student (with student ID) and £20 for adults. For £4 more, £20 for students and £44 for two adults as part of a joint membership, you can subscribe for an annual membership to London Parks & Gardens Trust.

    Membership benefits include free entry to the Open Garden Squares weekend along with a monthly newsletter, London Landscapes and The London Gardener publications, access to Historic Green Spaces inventory, and discounted member rates for lectures and other events.

    What a wonderful way to support London’s gardens and green spaces!

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    Chelsea in Bloom

    Chelsea Flower Show alternative

    Despite the rain in this week’s forecast, Chelsea will once again be in full bloom. The 14th annual Chelsea in Bloom (May 20-25), coincides with the famed Chelsea Flower Show (May 21-25). Sponsored by Cadogan and the Royal Horticulture Society, this year’s event features a record-breaking 85+ displays.
    Storefronts including retailers and restaurants are creatively covered in flowers and arrangements of all colors, shapes and sizes. Best of all this show is free and open to the public. Award-winning displays are selected by an expert panel of judges along with online voting for a people’s choice award.

    Last year’s Summer of Love theme coincided with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle royal wedding included a double decker bus, cozy bistro seating and a bicycle built for two. Displays utilizing peace signs, Volkswagen buses and 70s color schemes were also popular.

    Beginning on Tuesday, free walking tours leave at 11 am and 3 pm or you can book a rickshaw departing every 30 minutes from 10:30 am-5 pm from Sloan Square. It is also just as easy to do a self-guided one by downloading the online map. If last year is any indication, this year’s Chelsea in Bloom, Under the Sea is sure to impress!

    Bonus : Floral themed drinks, workshops along with complimentary massages and skin analysis will be on offer from floral show participants.

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    Eltham Palace

    Medieval meets modern

    Eltham Palace is an art deco mansion on the site of Henry VIII's childhood home. On the one hand, the Palace boasts a Tudor great hall and 19 acres of gardens, including London’s oldest working bridge over a moat. On the other, it is one of the finest examples of art deco architecture and design surviving in Britain today.

    The stunning interiors and furnishings reflect a masterpiece of design, glamour and allure of 1930s fashionable society. The Palace is reflective of the eccentricities and tastes of its millionaire residents, Virginia and Stephen Courtauld, whose family established the Courtauld Institute of Art. It even comes complete with a room dedicated to the family’s pet lemur.

    Beyond its roots as a medieval royal palace, Eltham has entertained many royals, politicians and socialites over the years and boasts state-of-the-art-modern conveniences for its time.

    It is hard to think of another building in London that is such a study in contrast – a truly unique and unusual place to visit!
    Court Yard, Eltham, Greenwich, London SE9 5QE

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    London's Modern Architecture

    30 buildings in 3-1/2 hours

    London is made up of a stunning array of buildings — ranging from 17th century to present day and everything in between. Insider London’s comprehensive walking tour covers London’s hidden architectural wonders and its most iconic buildings.

    The tour goes through three architectural hotspots and covers thirty buildings, skyscrapers and developments — all in 3½ hours. Learn how the city has been planned and built and get a glimpse of what is in store for London’s skyline.

    Highlights include:
    1) London’s tallest and most cutting edge skyscrapers
    2) the latest addition to Tate Modern
    3) the controversial eco-building loved by some but also named the “Worst New Building”
    4) futuristic walkways intended to cover all of London
    5) the influence of Roman London, St Paul’s Cathedral and WWII on London’s current layout, and St. Paul’s

    Instead of looking down or straight ahead, you’ll quickly find it is worth looking up!
    +44 2071 831055 3rd Floor, 207 Regent Street, London, W1B 3HH

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    Living Lush

    Bigger and better than ever

    From humble beginnings in 1995 with their first store located in the small seaside town of Poole, UK, Lush Cosmetics now boasts 900+ stores worldwide. The company is known for ‘fresh handmade cosmetics’ that are 100% vegetarian and cruelty-free.

    Despite the growth and popularity of the brand, Lush has maintained their no frills packaging and try before you buy sales approach. It is probably not surprising that the company also endorses a Pay-It-Forward scheme that invites staff to give away products to customers at their discretion.

    To keep ardent fans (also known as ‘Lushies’) wanting more, Lush offers a customizable bath bomb subscription service and incentivizes customers to recycle used black pots (for every five empty pots returned, customers can claim a free Fresh Face Mask). Not to mention, true to their ‘fresh’ slogan, all their products have a limited shelf life.

    If trying out products in their oversized sinks and labs is not enough, you book in-store and after hour parties at their various store locations. Adult gatherings can include skincare consultation and massage, foot or arm treatment. While kids parties involve interactive activities, such as a scavenger hunt, trying a face mask and making your own bath bomb. Of course, there will be time and money (included in the cost / person) to spend on the shop floor at the end of the event. You’ll head home refreshed, revived and ready to replicate part of your experience at home.

    Exactly 20 years to the day, the flagship Oxford Street store was opened in 2015. At the time, it was the biggest Lush store in the world, complete with hair lab, listening booths and dedicated party area. Not to be outdone, the Lush Liverpool store opened last month is now the largest and its expanded offerings include an in-store florist, perfume library, salon and spa — along with exclusive products not available in other stores or online.

    If history is any indication of what the future will bring — my guess is Lush will only get bigger and better with time!

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    Sony World Photography Exhibition

    800+ images from around the world

    Somerset House will once again host the Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition April 18 - May 6. The 12th annual display will include over 800 award winning, shortlisted and commended images selected by photographers in four categories (professional, open, youth and student).

    The Awards are free to enter and drew a record-breaking 327,000 entries from around the globe. The images cover a diverse range of categories including architecture, culture, documentary, landscape, portraiture, sports, street photography, travel and wildlife. The judging is done by industry experts with the goal of recognizing the best in contemporary photography. 

    Beyond the $30,000 total prize fund, photographers have had their works featured in major publications and gone on to be represented by major galleries and institutions.

    Some of my favorite images from 2018 included the large scale, expressive Horsestyle by German photographer Wiebke Haas and the humorous Like Owner, Like Dog piece by Norway photographer Krister Soerboe. US photographer Wenjie Qiao managed to capture the 'once-in-a-lifetime' Solar Eclipse Sequence while Megan Johnson's poignant image Still earned her 'Youth Photographer of the Year' honors.

    Advance booking is recommended since a limited number of day tickets will be available to purchase at the venue.

    Ticket Prices:
    Weekday ticket (Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays) £10
    Weekend ticket (including bank holidays) £14
    Concession ticket £8
    Lunchtime weekday ticket offer (Monday to Friday, 12 to 2pm) £5

    Opening Hours:
    Monday to Friday 10am to 9pm (last admission 8pm)
    Weekends 10am to 8pm (last admission 7pm)

    After visiting the exhibition, if you think you have what it takes – submissions for the 2020 Sony World Photography Awards opens June 1, 2019.
    +44 2073 060055 Strand, London WC2R 1LA

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    Walk The Line

    London's first sculpture walk

    The Line is London’s first sculpture walk established by art dealer Megan Piper and the late urban regeneration expert Clive Dutton OBE. The outdoor exhibition of sculptures takes place along the waterways of East London (one of London’s best kept secrets) and takes around three hours to complete. It features modern and contemporary art – many that have been hidden from public view between Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and The Greenwich Meridian.

    Here by Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead is in fact located on the Greenwich Meridian (zero degrees longitude and the starting point of every time zone in the world) and marks the 24,859 mile distance around the earth and back.

    Many of the large-scale pieces, such as Liberty Grip by Gary Hume is sited in such a way to encourage viewers to engage with the art. This bronze sculpture is based on the arm of a store mannequin and even includes pink at the end of each limb.

    While others like Quantum Cloud by Anthony Gormley can only be viewed at a distance either on the foot path or from the Emirates Air-Line above.

    In case you are wondering just what you are looking at, the pieces are all well-marked and labelled.  For example, Abigail Fallis' DNA DL90 is a monumental arrangement of shopping trolleys* fashioned into a DNA double-helix sculpture and alludes to how consumer culture has become part of one's genetic makeup.

    There is also a handy online map and directions making it easy to start and finish from multiple points depending on what your time allows.

    The Line is on track to become a world class sculpture walk (or cycle) to enjoy – a far cry from the 
    pirate corpses that once hung in cages as a warning to criminals!

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    Dine with Mum

    Mothering Sunday March 31st

    Dandelyan — Located within the Sea Containers house along the River Thames, Dandelyan at Mondrian London features a colorful and tasteful art deco interior. The award-winning bar was named the World's Best Bar and and not surprisingly home to the World's Best Cocktail Menu. With stunning views of the river, it is a perfect place to stop in for a drink or book ahead for Dandelyan's 70s inspired four course Wyld Tea complete with four botanical cocktails.
    Request a table on the far end of the bar with a view of St. Paul's Cathedral 2037 471063
    20 Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PD, UK

    Portrait Restaurant — Housed within the National Portrait Gallery adjacent to Trafalgar Square, The Portrait Restaurant boasts one of the best views of London.  In addition to traditional afternoon tea and set lunch menu daily, they also offer a well-priced pre-theatre menu (Thursday - Saturday) and special pricing on restaurant and exhibition ticket packages.
    Request a table for two along the bay of windows - left for a view of London Eye or right for view of Big Ben 2073 060055
    National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, London, WC2H 0HE

    Radio Rooftop — Situated ten floors up within ME London, Radio Rooftop offers iconic views of London's skyline. Avoid the crowds and minimum spend in the evenings by making a daytime booking. Afternoon tea is a special treat on the open air rooftop that can be cleverly covered and heated when the weather doesn't cooperate.
    Request a table for two along the balcony edge ✆ +44 2073 953440
    ME London, 336-337 Strand, London WC2R

    In case these don't match what you are looking for, check out Affordable Teas with a Twist and Perfect Pairings for more Mum-friendly options.

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    The Watts Gallery

    Tourist Destination of the Year

    Recognized as the 2018 Tourist Destination of the Year by the Surrey Business Awards, The Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village is an ‘arts and crafts gem’ located in Compton, Surrey. The Gallery is dedicated to George Frederic Watts, one of the greatest Victorian era painters and considered England’s Michelangelo. It is one of the few UK galleries devoted to a single artist and features 100+ paintings and sculptures – many on a monumental scale.

    G.F. Watts was married to Mary Watts an acclaimed artist, founder of the Compton Pottery and creator of Watts Chapel. The couple lived and worked an increasing amount of time away from London at Limnerslease (‘Limner' word for artist and 'lease' meaning to glean hope for the future), their home and studio located nearby.

    It was here where Mary taught terracotta classes to the local villagers who created the tiles that decorate the Chapel. The Chapel itself was funded by sales of commissioned portraits painted by GF Watts.

    Today, guests can visit the Gallery and Chapel and guided tours of Limnerslease. The gift shop located in the former Compton Pottery building features a tasteful collection of products ranging from books, clothing and jewellery to housewares, including replicas of Compton Pottery terracotta pots.

    With so much to see and everything within walking distance, the tea shop is a perfect place to stop for homemade soups, sandwiches and salads and of course afternoon tea.

    Another charming place to eat before or after a visit to The Watts Gallery is The Withies Inn — just a 4 minute drive away. Who knew such a small vilage could have so much to offer!
    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    Seven Sisters Cliffs

    UK natural wonder

    Seven Sisters Cliffs are often confused with the White Cliffs of Dover, a series of iconic chalk cliffs covering the narrowest part of the English Channel. The White Cliffs located at the Port of Dover played an important role during World War II by deterring invaders.

    The Seven Sisters Cliffs are particularly striking because they can erode naturally, revealing bright, white chalk surfaces, while the White Cliffs of Dover are impacted by the port (the second busiest one in England) and growing vegetation. As such, Seven Sisters Cliffs has been featured in place of their more famous counterpart in films, including Atonement and Robin Hood : Prince of Thieves.

    Not surprisingly, the best way to experience Seven Sisters is on foot. While the 5-mile hike is a challenging one with steep hills (look closely at the photos for the people to get a sense of just how high the cliffs are). Needless to say, you will be rewarded with spectacular views throughout.

    Parking for £4 / car is available at Seven Sisters Country Park Visitor Center in Seaford (post code BN25 4AD). Towards the end of the route, there is a National Trust property at Birling Gap with toilet facilities. From there you can walk to the Crow Link Car Park and catch the #12 bus for £2 / person. The bus runs every 10 minutes back to the Seven Sisters Country Park Visitor Center. Alternatively, you can continue hiking another 3.5 miles back to the Visitor Center.

    Of course, if you were really inspired (and the weather cooperated), you could continue on the South Downs Way, a 100-mile walking trail that leads all the way to Winchester!

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    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!

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App