London Digital Art Trail

Must-see art experience of the year

Art of London has teamed up with National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Academy and broadcast partner Sky Arts to present the Augmented Reality Art Gallery. From now until the end of the month, some of the most popular paintings can be viewed outdoors through a free augmented reality app.

To get started download the Art of London : AR Gallery on iOS or Android. In the app you will find a map detailing the trail throughout the West End, from Orange Street to St. Martin’s Lane, Leicester Square through to Piccadilly Circus, around St James’s towards Piccadilly. Once you locate an Art of London plaque, scan the QR code with your phone and you’ll be able to view the painting on the wall through augmented reality.

The 20 stops include Malala Yousafzai by Shirin Neshat (Orange Street), Bathers at Asnieres by Georges Seurat (130 Jermyn Street) and Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh (Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly) from the National Gallery and Sir Tom Jones by Duncan Shoosmith (114 St. Martin’s Lane) and Sir Ian McKellen by Christian Hook (Wyndham’s Theatre) from Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year. There is also a digital map to explore other arts and entertainment offerings in the area.

Screenshot by Author of Art of London

Catch these classic paintings before they disappear!
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Organic September

September 1 — 30
Organized by the Soil Association, Organic September is a month-long British campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of organic food and farming, which include: 1) supporting biodiversity and wildlife; 2) helping to combat climate change; 3) the highest standards of animal welfare; 4) reduced exposure to pesticides; and 5) food as it should be, and food you can trust.

Some of the healthiest places to eat in London and Surrey are:

  • Borough Market (London)
  • Daylesford (Multiple)
  • Farm Girl Cafe (Multiple)
  • Orangery Tea House at Garsons (Esher)
  • Ottolenghi (London)
  • Petersham Nurseries (Multiple)
No better time to de-tox from the summer and have something delcious to eat at the same time!

BONUS : Watch the eye-opening Netflix documentary, 'Kiss the Ground', to learn about newfarming practices designed to combat climate change and perserve the planet.

For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

Bank on holiday fun

Despite the unpredictable UK weather, three ways to enjoy the last days of summer:

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to . . .
...Picnic at a palace
Buckingham Palace — Buckingham Palace is once again open to the public this summer. While tickets to get inside have long been sold-out, tickets are still available to visit Buckingham Palace Garden and picnic on the lawn. Refreshments can be purchased on-site or bring your own.

Book before 3:45 pm and add-on a Garden Highlights Tour, includes guided visit of the the rose garden, summer house and wildflower meadow. Tickets are £16.50 adults, £15 student / senior, £9 children under 16 (5 and under free) or a family ticket £42 (2 adults and up to 3 children). Garden Tours are an additional £6.50 / person. Limited availability through September 19th 3031 237334
Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA

Try your hand at . . .
...Sketching like the masters
National Gallery — As part of London's Inside Out festival, National Gallery is displaying life-size replicas of some of its most famous paintings, including Botticelli's Venus and Mars and Van Gogh's Sunflowers outdoors on Trafalgar Square.

They are also offering free drop-in Sketch on the Square drawing sessions. While all the artist-led sessions are booked, daily drop-in sessions are available on a first-come, first-served basis. No need to worry about inclement weather either, since sessions are moved inside the Piggot Education Centre, as needed.
+44 2077 472885
Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN

And should the forecast change, you can still . . .

...Sing in the rain without getting wet
Singin' in the Rain — Following sellout runs at Chichester Festival Theatre and London’s Palace Theatre, this is the last chance to catch the special summertime return of the classic Singin' in the Rain at Sadler's Wells Theatre. With tickets as low as £15, it's a perfect way to stay cool, dry (unless you are in the first few rows) and sing your heart out. Through September 5th
Rosebery Avenue, LondonEC1R 4TN

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Hampton Court Flower Show blooms on

The world’s oldest and largest flower show, RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival, runs through Sunday July 11th. The summer showcase takes place for the first time since 2019 during its usual time-frame, while the more widely recognized Chelsea Flower Show shifts to September for the first time in its 108-year history.

During the pandemic, gardening has been the second most popular lockdown activity behind watching TV and one of the most searched terms in Google in the UK. With many citing health and well-being benefits, it is not surprising that nearly half (45%) of the UK population are gardeners. In addition to highlighting innovative gardens and featuring stalls selling plants, tools and gardening accessories, the event will focus on the impact of environmental changes.

Visitors will need to be fully vaccinated or show a negative covid test and practice physical distancing. In case you can’t make it to the show or get a ticket (starting at £63.75) since attendance is limited, here are this year’s medal winning gardens. 2031 666000
A308, East Molesey KT8 9AU

Two more ways to get your flower fix:

Save the Date : September 20th — 25th

Chelsea in Bloom, ‘Extraordinary Voyages’, Chelsea

Save the Date : September 21st — 26th

Chelsea Flower Show, Royal Hospital, Chelsea
Tickets starting at £66.75 8452 605000
Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, London SW3 4S

Mark your diary and book now to avoid disappointment!

For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

Wimbledon returns

What to expect this year and next

After being cancelled in 2020, Wimbledon is back. It is the only Grand Slam played on grass and the only one to be on hiatus for two-years. Coupled with the tournament being on track to be the wettest in 15 years, this year’s event has certainly been different and full of surprises — especially on the women’s side where most of the top-seeded players have been eliminated.

Attendance has been limited to 50% for Centre and No. 1 courts (expected to be at 100% for semifinals and finals), 75% for other show courts and iconic Henman Hill is limited to 50% too. Ticket holders have been required to show proof of covid status upon entry and wear face masks while moving about.

There is no overnight camping out for tickets or the famous Queue, nor reselling of tickets within the grounds. With players staying in London and no courtside autographs allowed, spectators will not have a chance to interact with players or celebrities that usually stay in Wimbledon village.

Regardless, the return of the first, oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament is a welcome.  On-site, strawberries and cream is being served in sustainable cardboard containers and reusable cups are being introduced — hopefully the few changes that will remain.

If you were not fortunate to get tickets, you can still catch the elaborate displays in Wimbledon and enjoy other special offerings in honor of the tournament:

— Wimbledon Afternoon Tea £90 (served with Laurent-Perrier Brut NV or PimmsRoyale) 2076 298860
Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HR 

The Ivy Café Wimbledon
— Wimbledon Cocktails £9.75 (three different Pimm’s infused cocktails), Tennis-inspired melting bombe £8.95 2030 96933
75 High Street, Wimbledon Village SW19 5EQ 

. . . And then there is always next year

In anticipation that Wimbledon will be fully back to normal, enter the Wimbledon Public Ballot for the 135th anniversary tournament by joining myWIMBLEDON for tickets June 27-July 10, 2022:

It is not too early to save the date!

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Kids Week is back

Tickets on sale June 30th

After a year off, Kids Week is back. This year's promotion will be for kids 17 and under since theatres were closed due to covid last year. Also, instead of one full price ticket and one free kids ticket; it will be two half price tickets (additional children will still go half-price).

Organized by the Society of London Theatre, the promotion will extend the entire month of August for 35 shows, including:

  • Disney's Lion King
  • Les Mis : The Staged Concert
  • Mamma Mia!
  • Singin' in the Rain
  • The Play That Goes Wrong
  • The Tiger Who Came to Tea

    For the best selection, pre-pick your show dates and be online Wednesday, June 30th at 10 am when the tickets are released. After a year off, tickets are likely to sellout fast!

  • For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    Snag Sunbury Antiques soon

    Next Tuesday will only be the sixth time Sunbury Antiques Market at Kempton Park has welcomed guests since last March.

    For 40 years  the country’s most popular antiques fair has offered free admission and parking — until now that is.  To control the number of guests, they have had to introduce a staggered admissions fee (6.30 am — 8.30 am: £10, 8.30 am — 10 am: £5).  Free admission to all after 10 am and free parking is still available.

    If Covid restrictions were not enough, there are added complications.  This includes limiting operations to primarily outside and a smaller indoor building.  Stallholders are also dealing with the fallout of Brexit, including custom declarations.  These are slated to go into full effect January 2022.

    While it is still unclear how this will impact the 700 stallholders, it is likely prices will go up.  A summer visit to Sunbury may be your best bet for unique new and vintage goods. In addition to the first and last Tuesday of the month, Sunbury Antiques has added an extra date at Sandown Race Course (admission and parking remains free at this venue) on Sunday, August 15th.

    No better time to visit — rain or shine! 1932 230946
    Kempton Park Racecourse, Staines Road East, Sunbury-on-Thames TW16 5AQ
    Sandown Racecourse, Portsmouth Road, Esher KT10 9AJ

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    May flowers bloom into June

    While the last few weeks have been wet in the UK, a heat wave is on its way. Catch the flowers while you still can:

    The Valley Gardens Punch Bowl (Windsor) — The 250-acre Windsor Great Park features thousands of azaleas and rhododendrons in every color, shape and size.
    The Royal Landscape, Valley Gardens, Wick Road, Englefield Green TW20 0HNN

    — As a protected species and nearly half of ancient bluebell woodlands are the UK, there is a good chance you can still spot some fields.

    — Considered the new 'British olive oil' and commonly known in
    the US as canola oil can be seen on the side of highways and from above in case you take to the skies this bank holiday.

    Just like the weather, it is hard to predict just how long these will last!

    Cozy and covered dining

    Book now for May 3rd bank holiday

    Despite the easing of coronavirus rules on April 12th, pubs and restaurants are still not able to serve people inside. Between this and given the unusual weather lately, cozy and covered al fresco dining will be at a premium for the upcoming May bank holiday. Six weatherproof options in London and Surrey:

    Chiltern Firehouse (London) — Chiltern Firehouse operates on a walk-in only basis and features an outdoor fireplace. To beat the crowd, head in for a reasonably-priced breakfast early (7 am on weekdays and 9 am on weekends). 2070 737676
    1 Chiltern Street, Marylebone, W1U 7PAG

    Coq d’Argent (London) — This popular French restaurant features panoramic views of London complete with heaters. Ala carte menu available Monday to Friday noon to 4 pm for lunch and 5 – 9 pm for dinner and Saturday 5 – 9 pm. 2073 955000
    No. 1 Poultry, City of London, EC2R 8EJ

    The Ivy Cobham Brasserie (Cobham) — The upmarket brasserie has a beautiful covered garden terrace with heaters. Their all-day seasonal menu (ala carte, vegetarian and vegan) includes light snacks and starters. 1932 901777
    48 High St, Cobham KT11 3EF

    The Mitre (Hampton Court) — Located on the banks of the River Thames, the riverside terrace is covered by a stretched tent, including blankets, fire pits and heated lamps. 2089 799988
    Hampton Court Road, Molesey, East Molesey KT8 9BN

    Radio Rooftop (London) — Situated ten floors up within ME
    London, Radio Rooftop offers iconic views of London's skyline. The open air rooftop can be cleverly covered and heated when the weather doesn't cooperate. Avoid the crowds and minimum spend in the evenings by making a daytime booking. 2073 953440
    ME London, 336-337 Strand, London WC2R

    The Wheatsheaf
    (Esher) — A family-friendly (four-legged ones too!) 200 year-old pub close to Esher Green offers array of ales, daily specials and pub classics. 1372 464014
    40 Esher Green, Esher KT10 8AG

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    Fit for a Prince

    Of the 800 Royal Warrant Holders, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh has granted 35 of them. A Royal Warrant of Appointment can be made to businesses who have supplied highly quality goods or services for at least five years. Once an application is accepted, royal warrants are issued for five years. Those granted a warrant are responsible for displaying the relevant coat of arms of the Royal Family member.

    Among them include Jaguar Land Rover
    — the company that collaborated with the Duke over the past 18 years to customize the vehicle that transported the Duke of Edinburgh's coffin at his funeral.

    If a Land Rover or custom suit by a Saville Row
    tailor are beyond your reach, here are a few more affordable options:

    Boots Opticians
    — Commonly located on High Streets, Boots Opticians has 600 locations throughout the UK.
    Hunters Boot 
    — Established in 1856, Hunter is known for their popular classic boot originally introduced in 1956.

    — Founded in 1860s by William Henry Penhaligon, a barber and perfumer to Queen Victoria.

    With Prince Philip’s passing, his Royal Warrants are now void and the company has two years to discontinue the Royal Arms.  However, since many are also favored by other royals, there is a good chance the affiliations will endure.

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    Afternoon Tea Delivery

    10 springtime teas

    Even though restaurants and non-essential shops remain closed, it is still possible to enjoy an afternoon tea delivered to your door:

    Lola’s Cupcakes
    (Multiple) — Cream Tea Box of scones, strawberry jam and fresh juice for family of 4 (£18.99). Deluxe Afternoon Tea box of sweet and savory treats (baked scones, clotted cream, jam, Victorian sponge cake) for up to 8 people (£59.99).

    Warren House
    (Kingston) — Traditional Easter Sunday Afternoon Tea with sandwiches, scones, pastries, and teas for collection (£24.95) or delivery (+£5).

    Ham Yard Hotel (Multiple) — Traditional (£30), Spring Cocktail (£40) & Sparkling Afternoon Teas (£170 for 4) includes finger sandwiches, sausage rolls, scones, clotted cream, preserves and cakes.

    OXO (London) — Afternoon Tea for 2 includes selection of sandwiches, Bailey’s panna cotta, scones, clotted cream and jam (£40).

    (Multiple) — Afternoon Tea for 4 includes scones, lemon curd, strawberry jam, ream and an assortment of miniature cakes and sandwiches (£42).

    The East India Company (London) — Wicker Easter Hamper with milk chocolate raspberries, shortbread & clotted cream biscuits, and loose leaf tea (£55).

    sketch (London) — Five different Spring Afternoon Teas (original, vegetarian, pescatarian, champagne, cocktail) arrive in a pink jewelry case (£55).

    (London) — Bee Happy Hamper includes English Tableware Company’s products combined with Twinings teas (£55.25).

    Fortnum & Mason (London) — Wicker Easter Hamper includes chocolate Easter egg, loose leaf caddy, Simnel biscuits, jelly carrots, raspberry & rhubarb conserve, pistachio & clotted cream biscuits and nougat chocolate eggs (£100).

    Hotel Café Royal : Cakes & Bubbles (London) — Afternoon In includes two signature desserts along with bottle of Grand Reserve champagne (£100).

    With teas of every size and budget — consider it a much-deserved treat for making it through a year of a global pandemic!

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    Gifts for Mum’s Day

    March 14th and beyond

    In the UK, Mothering Sunday is different each year since it is linked to Easter and determined by the lunar calendar.  The UK's Mother's Day is held on the fourth Sunday during the period of Lent. 

    This year’s holiday happens to coincide with when the first UK coronavirus lockdown took place (March 16th). While a one-plus rule went into place March 8th, for many it will mark a year of not being able to see and spend time with Mum.

    With the Government's advice that people continue to keep their distance, there are two gifts to let Mum you are thinking of her everyday:

    Emma Bridgewater Plate
    — Emma Bridgewater's Mother's Day Everyday 6-1/2” plate with green cabbage white butterflies. Well-priced at £12.95, you can buy one for all the Mums in your life.
    Fortnum & Mason Tea — Limited edition Mother of All Teas Caddy is filled with 400 silky tea bags of Fortnum & Masons famous Royal Blend. While it is priced on the high-end of £195, it works out to less than 50p a cup.

    While your gift may not arrive in time for Mothering Sunday, you can be early for Mother’s Day in the US — the second Sunday in May (May 9th).

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    Mardi Gras & More

    Mardi Gras falls on Shrove Tuesday (February 16th), the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent (a period of 40 days of fasting).  While there will be no parades this year, there are still ways to celebrate:

    Despite cancellation of New Orleans signature event, the spirit of Mardi Gras will still be on full display . .
    Mardi Gras for All Y'all is inviting everyone to tune into a 4-1/2 hour online show complete with carnival, celebrities and musical performances.  All three segments will be re-broadcast on February 16.

    Po' Boys
    Based on 1920s New Orleans legend of the Martin brothers who gave free food (meat and seafood on french loaves) to striking tram workers who became known as Poor Boys or Po'Boys . . .
    Poor Boys
    (Kingston) —
    Inspired by the Martin brothers, this Kingston restaurant started by two brothers features build-your-own Po Boy sandwiches and other New Orleans street food favorites. Available for carryout or delivery

    Traditionally, pancakes are an ideal way to use up fatty ingredients like eggs, milk and sugar. While there will be no public Pancake Day races this year, you can get your pancake fix at home . . .

    Breakfast Club The Pancakes At Home Kit comes with pancake mix, double cream, tasting toppings (vanilla essence, salted caramel chocolate ganache, cherry compote, ginger snap & macadamia nut granola crunch, dark & white chocolate chunks, maple syrup) and tea towel.  Serves 4 for £40.

    Crepeaffaire The Pancakes in the Post comes with six pre-made crêpes £14.50 or a box of pancake mix (makes ~10) for 10.  Both come with Nutella, strawberry & toffee sauces, as well as sprinkles, marshmallows and Oreo pieces.  Add 50p for vegan and gluten-free box.

    Fat Tuesday may actually end up being Fat February!

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    Ring in Year of the Ox Online

    Beginning February 12th

    While public celebrations have been cancelled due to the pandemic, it is still possible to celebrate Chinese New Year virtually in London and beyond:

    London (February 14) London usually boasts the largest Chinese New Year celebration outside of Asia, but this year's celebration has been moved online. The London Chinatown Chinese Association (LCCA) will have an online and live (Freeview UK - Channel 8, Sky - Channel 117, Virgin Media - Channel 159, Youview 8) broadcasts beginning at Noon feature dance and musical performances.

    New York (Through February 16) — With an estimated 90K-100K people, Manhattan's Chinatown has one of the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere. To celebrate the Year of the Ox, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will host a daylong festival of performances, activities, exhibitions and workshops on February 13 10 am to 10 pm and other activities through February 16.

    California (February 20-21) — San Francisco is home to one of the oldest and most established Chinatowns in the US. While the the iconic Chinese New Year Parade (named one of the top 10 in the world) is cancelled, the city will host a one-hour special on Facebook live that gives a behind-the-scenes Chinese New Year moments 4:30 — 5:30 pm followed by a special on KTVU Fox 2 at 6 pm (rebroadcast at 9 pm and February 21 3 pm) sponsored by Southwest Airlines.

    Texas (Through February 26th) — Houston is home to two Chinatowns — with 'Old Chinatown' located just East of Downtown Houston and one in Southwest Houston, which opened in 1983. Asia Society of Texas Center will release virtual arts and crafts, cooking and performances content through February 26 and Chinese Community Center will host cooking, educational and performance programming through February 13.

    With Chinese New Year officially lasting 16 days, there is plenty of time to celebrate — 新年快乐! Xīn Nián Kuài Lè!

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    Snowy Surrey saunter

    Hour-long walk worth bundling up for

    Start at Cafe Menta and walk up Esher High Street towards Moore Place and take a right onto the public footpath just past Hill House. Moore Place Golf Course will be on either side of the path. Continue down the path until you reach a fork in the path. Proceed down the right hand side path down a steep hill. At the end of the hill you will reach West End Lane.

    Take a left on West End Lane and when you reach the fork in the road stay to your right to Winterdown Road. West End Pond on your left is the central focal point of the small village of West End.

    On the way, keep an eye out for the colorful ornamental cabbage. These plants are used by gardeners to provide a shot of color during the winter months before spring flowers emerge. And in fact, they get brighter as the temperature goes down.

    If you are lucky, you may see spider webs covered in ice crystals. Once the snow melts a bit, you may see patches of snow drops and blooms of daffodils, a sign spring is on its way.

    Don't wait to head out — if you have lived in the area long enough, you know it is likely to go as quickly as it has come!

    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

    Adapted from original post February 27, 2018.

    Bridgerton on location

    Surrey and beyond

    Less than 30 days after its release, Bridgerton has 60 million plus viewers and has already been renewed for season two. The period drama has enjoyed popularity similar to Downton Abbey. While the show is based in London, most of the filming has been done outside the city. Below are just four of the 100 UK film locations used:

    Grosvenor Square : Royal Crescent
    (Bath) — The series of signature 30 Georgian architecture townhomes placed in a crescent shape is a stand-in for Mayfair, London where the Bridgerton siblings, Featherington families and Siena live.

    St James' Palace : Hampton Court Palace
    (East Molesey) — The exterior of Queen Charlotte's home was filmed at Hampton Court Palace, a Grade I listed building built in 1500s for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Henry VIII’s church officer.

    London Park Scenes : Windsor Great Park
    Painshill Park (Cobham) — The London parks of Battersea Fields Hampstead Heath, Hyde Park and Rotten Row were filmed in other locations, such as Windsor Great Park while Primrose Hill and the Botanical Gardens was represented by Painshill Park.

    Unfortunately, due to current Government restrictions if these places are not ‘local’ to you — you will need to wait to visit them. But if you are in the area, you may get lucky and catch filming that begins in March.

    Otherwise, there is always Netflix now or later this year when Lady Whistledown will pen her Society Papers once again.
    For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App