Best of 2023, Part II

Top 10 posts — Part II

The best of the best from 2023

5. Beat jet lag — 4-stop route to keep you awake

4. Belgravia in Bloom — In case you miss Chelsea in Bloom

3. Convenient Top Theatre Eats — 5 minute (or less) walk away

2. Coronation Treats, Tipples & Teas — What to buy and where to go

1. Flowers on Film — Chelsea in Bloom is London's largest free flower festival

It's never too early to start planning for 2024!

Best of 2023

Top 10 posts — Part I

Checking out 'new' places or visiting old ones from a different vantage point were popular themes this year:

10. Boatloads of fun — Take advantage of these boat experiences
9. Bright Spaces Surrey — 4 top places in Surrey as it gets darker and darker

8. Free Rooftop Views — 7 stops in 1-1/2 hours

7. Pancake Day Specials & More — Some of the best and most unusual pancakes worth trying

6. London Walks — Enjoy these four walks while you can

Best of 2023 — Part II will feature the best of the best from 2023.

London-themed Gifts

For £35 or less

Gibsons : London from Above Puzzle — £14.99
Gibson is an independent, family-owned company is one of the oldest of its kind in the UK. Illustrated by Phil Dobson, the aerial perspective includes 75 historic landmarks and sights in London (a summary of these can be found on the back of the box). Although it is only 500 pieces, the combination of small pieces and details makes it a bit more challenging the expected to put together.

Fortnum & Mason : Trio of Teas — £16.95
Founded in 1707, Fortnum & Mason located in Piccadilly is considered to be London's oldest department store. Three of their most popular loose leaf teas: Afternoon Blend, Early Grey Classic and Royal Blend are included in this taster pack (25 g of each).

Accessorize : London Umbrella— £18
Accessorize is a fast fashion brand with 150+ stores in the UK. The umbrella features London’s iconic landmarks and transport and is both compact and lightweight. Since it is made from recycled materials, it is even environmentally friendly too.

Harrods : Landmarks Card Holder
— £22
Harrods is a luxury British retail institution known throughout the world. This card holder with intricate designs of London landmarks includes three slots - just enough for a driver’s license and a credit card or two along with a handy zippered pouch for cash.

Emma Bridgewater : Union Jack Mug— £25
Established in 1985, Emma Bridgewater is the largest pottery manufacturer based in the UK. Her mantra is 'the necessity of getting the thought and design absolutely right'. The classic Union Jack mug with red and blue bunting on the inside edge is the perfect size and weight for a cuppa anytime.

Bonus : Order now for 15% off and free shopping for orders over £50.

Harrods : Small Logo Bag — £35
The well-designed ‘shopper’ bag from Harrod’s Signature Collection is both functional and fashionable. The outside is waterproof and wipes clean while the inside includes a magnetic snap closure and a zippered interior pouch.

Tip : Accessorize, Fortnum & Mason and Harrods all have shops at the airport that tend to stock London themed items - making it easy to pick up gifts that won’t be counted as a part of your luggage allowance.

Gift giving that won’t break the bank!

Favorite coffee table books

Despite an increasingly digital world, coffee table books remain popular. Here are four of my favorites:

Love London — This book features 200+ black-and-white and color photos of iconic London sites and day-day-scenes accompanied by quotes about London. Compiled by famous photographer, Barbara Chandler, described by the Evening Standard as the sharpest eye in London.  What’s not to love?

London in Bloom — Notable photographer, Georgianna Lane, captures all things floral in the capital. The book includes stunning full-color photographs of London’s floral markets, florists, gardens, parks and more. If there is nothing better than London in the sunshine, it’s on another level when it blooms!

Bonus : Lane has two other similar books - 'New York in Bloom' and 'Paris in Bloom'.

London Sketchbook : A City Observed — Over 150 pencil drawings and watercolor paintings by Graham Byfield grace the pages of this beautiful book. The informative text is broken up by architectural renderings of full facades to the smallest of details. Such a wonderful way to see London in a whole other way!

Bonus : Byfield had done similar books for Cambridge and Oxford and further afield (Amsterdam, Bali and Barcelona).

Keep Calm Carry On While there are no photos in this book, it is full of timeless, uplifting mantras, proverbs and quotes. It is hard to imagine a World World II poster by the British Ministry of Information would still be popular and hold meaning today.

It is nice to know as much as things change, there are some things that stand the test of time!

Bright Spaces Surrey

4 top places in Surrey

While London has high up spaces with city views, Surrey boasts ones with expansive views at ground level.  Here are four of my favorites:

Garsons (Esher)
Kew Gardens (Richmond)

Petersham Nurseries (Richmond)

RHS Garden Wisley (Woking) —

Hope you find a bit of light (out of the elements) in London or Surrey between now and Winter Solstice Friday, December 22!

Bright Spaces London

6 top places in London

This time of year is always hard in the UK as the days get shorter and shorter and the sun sets earlier and earlier — leaving less than 8 hours of daylight towards the end of December.

Here are six of my favorite bright spaces in London (all of which just happen to have good food):

The British Museum (London)

Duck & Waffle (London) —


Searcy’s at The Gherkin (London) 
Sky Garden (London) 
The Wallace Restaurant (London) 

Next up Bright Spaces Surrey . . .

Pre-Halloween Fun

With Christmas decorations already in shops and Halloween falling on a Tuesday, some themed events in Surrey are kicking off well before Halloween:

Chessington World of Adventures : HOWL’O’WEEN (October 7 & 8, October 14-30 Dail) — Chessington will feature a FaBOOlous family-friendly event complete with entertainment , fancy dress competitions and rides.
Early saver discount £37
Tip : Book in advance to save on regular £52 44 1372 731657
Leatherhead Rd, Chessington KT9 2NE

Polesden Lacey : Adventure Cinema (October 13-15) — Polesdon Lacey will host the UK’s largest outdoor cinema. Adventure Cinema will present a series of Halloween-themed movies, including The Lost Boys (October 13, 7:30 pm), Hocus Pocus (October 14, 6:45 pm) and Ghostbusters (October 15, 6:45 pm).
Tickets start at £15.50 (adult), £9.50 (child), excluding fee

Claremont Gardens : Enchanted Claremont Trail (October 14–29) — The wandering witch is back - help find the hidden items on a spooktacular scavenger hunt.
FREE admission for members, £11 (adult), £5.50 (child)
+44 1372 467806
Portsmouth Road, Esher KT10 9JG

Hampton Court Palace (October 21–29) — Henry VIII’s famous haunted palace includes family-friendly Ghost Stories (11:30 am, 12:30 pm, 2:30 pm and 3:30 pm (~20 min) and Halloween Trail.
FREE for members; Tickets start at £26.30 (adult), £13.10 (child)
Hampton Court Way, Molesey, East Molesey KT8 9AU

Denbies Wine Estate : Spooky Halloween Train Ride (October 23-27)— Dembies ride through the vineyard after dark inclidr a Halloween passport to tick off creepy crawlers you see.
Tickets are £5.50 (adult), £9.50 (child), includes free tea or coffee
Bradley Land, Dorking RH5 6AA

With the sun setting earlier and earlier each day - the spookier things get!

Concert Alternative

There is more than one way to see, hear and experience your favorite songs of today and yesterday — all for a fraction of the cost of a concert ticket:

Mamma Mia! (1999) — Mamma Mia! is a musical based on the pop songs of ABBA, a popular Swedish band. It is the sixth longest-running show on the West End.
Tickets start at £15
www.novellotheatrelondon+44 3444 825151
Aldwych, London WC2B 4LD

Jersey Boys (2004) — Inspired by the success of Mamma Mia!, one of the original Four Seasons band members developed this documentary-style musical. Winner of 65+ international awards, Jersey Boys documents the 1960s rock’n’roll group’s history and music by each of its four band members.
Tickets start at £25
Tina : The Tina Turner Musical (2018) — The real-life musical accurately traces the life of Tina Turner since she was involved in all aspects of the creative process. With Turner’s passing in May, the musical has been extended until September 2024.
Tickets start at £20
14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY

ABBA Voyage (2022) — With group members in their 70s and no plans to re-group, virtual avatars (aka ‘ABBAtars’) as they appeared in 1979 are featured on stage using original vocal alongside a live instrumental band.
Tickets start at £21.50 2079 288933
Pudding Mill Lane, London E15 2RU

Taylor Swift : The Eras Tour (2023)— If you are like thousands of other Swift fans, who have missed out Eras Tour tickets June – August 2024, you can snag a movie theatre seat instead before the show even arrives in the UK. The Eras Concert tour movie will be shown on Friday, October 13th at Everyman, The Light, Odeon, REEL, Showcase and the Vue cinemas.
Tickets are £19.89 (adults), £13.13 (children and seniors)

With The Eras Tour movie on track to becoming the highest-grossing concert film of all time — likely a sign of things to come!

Heritage Open Days

September 8-17

Founded in 1994, Heritage Open Days is England's largest festival celebrateing heritage, history, community and culture. This year's theme 'Creativity Unwrapped' is presented by National Trust with support from the players of People's Post Code Lottery features over 5,300 events and experiences around the theme of 'Creativity Unwrapped' — many of which that usually charge admission.

The robust website allows you to 'Design your day' by searching via post code, towns, county, date, key words and/or in-person/virtual events. Here are just a handful of highlights in London and Surrey:

  • British Library (Conservation Open House) Saturday, September 9 11- Noon, 1 - 2 pm, 2:30 - 3:30 pm
  • The Chocolate Museum (Maya chocolate demonstration and tasting) Saturday, September 16 10 am & Noon
  • The Guards Museum Saturday, September 9 10 am - 3:30 pm
  • London Bus Museum (Heritage Routemaster Bus Route 38 between Victoria & Hackney) Saturday, September 16 10 - 5 pm
  • Two Temple Place (William Waldrof Astro's London Estate Office) Sunday, September 10 & 17 10 am - 4:30 pm

  • Surrey
  • Box Hill (Literary walks and talks) Sunday, September 10 & Wednesday Setpember 13 11 am
  • Kingston Guildhall Saturday, September 9 & 16 10:15 am, 11:30 am, 1 pm, 2:15 pm
  • The Lightbox September 8-9, 129-16 10:30 am - 5 pm, September 10 & 17 11 am - 4 pm
  • Polesden Lacey Saturday, September 9 & Sunday, September 10 Gardens 10 - 5 pm, House 11 am - 3:30 pm
  • Runnymede Air Forces Memorial Saturday, September 9 11 am - 3 pm

  • Plan and book now for the best selection!

    Boatloads of fun

    Take advantage of these boat experiences while the temperatures are still mild:

    Caravel — This small, quaint restaurant located on a converted canal boat serves modern European bistro style food. The combination of delicious food and friendly staff make this a perfect date night or private group dining experience.
    Open Wednesday (Lunch), Thursday — Saturday (Lunch & Dinner), Sunday (Lunch) 2072 511155
    172 Shepherdess Walk, London, N1 7JL

    Lee Valley Water Centre — This white water slalom centre in Hertfordshire was used during the 2012 Olympic Games.  The inflatable boats are designed for Class IV or Class V rapids. Unlike traditional rafting where you pass one rapid after another, they have the ability to send you back through the rapids you just completed.
    £60 / person (minimum age 14)
    London Waterbus — The traditional narrow boat on the Regents Canal stops at Camden Lock and Little Venice. The route passes through London Zoo and windows that slide open for picturesque views. Booking online is suggested — especially on the weekends.
    Starting at £15 / adult and £11 / child

    Thames Rocket — The popular 50-minuted ‘Ultimate London Adventure’ is the original Thames speed boat tour. Departing from the London Eye, the 880 horsepower travels up to 30 knots past London’s famous landmarks and literally above the water at times. Fun you need to hold on tight for!.
    Starting at £54.95 (adult) / £49.95 (child) 2079 288933
    London Eye Waterloo Pier, London 1SW1A 1AE

    Uber Boat by Thames Clipper — Uber Boat is the fastest and most frequent boat service on the River Thames with 24 stops. Major attractions along the route include Big Ben, London Eye, Shakespeare Globe, St. Paul's Cathedral and Tower of London to name a few. Discounted fares are available for Oyster and contactless card travelers and a a 'hop on hop off' ticket is available
    Starting at £3.80

    Whichever one you choose — it's sometimes simply better by boat!

    Beat jet lag

    4 stop route to keep you awake

    With most of the US to UK flights leaving in the evening and arriving the next morning, staying awake to fight off jet lag can be a challenge.

    I have found the best way to adjust to the new time zone is having a packed schedule after you arrive. With the mixed weather forecast, this route includes both indoor and outdoor stops:

    Start at Waterloo Station
    9:45 am departure — 17 min underground Waterloo & City Line to Bank Station and 8 minute walk

    The Garden at 120 (Free) — The award-winning rooftop 15 stories up at 120 Fenchurch Street is the largest pubic rooftop space with 360-degree London views.  There is no pre-booking required to access the lifts following the security scanners
    Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 10 am —  6:30 pm, Saturdays & Sundays until 5 pm
    Walk back to Bank Station and take 10:31 am Central Line to Oxford Circus Station — 22 min underground and 2 minute walk

    Twist Museum (Starting at £23.50) — This unique immersive museum developed by artists, neuroscientists and philosophers challenges how your mind interprets and explores the world around you. The interactive illusions put a 'twist' on what is real and what is not.
    Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 11 am —  8 pm, Saturdays 10 am — 9 pm, Sundays 10 am — 7:30 pm

    Walk to Tottenham Court Road Station and take 12:15 pm Northern Line to Battersea Power Station — 25 min underground

    Battersea Power Station — The Grade II listed station gained worldwide attention after being featured on Pink Floyd's 1977 album cover Animals and has been featured or used as a filming lcoation for movies, music videos, television programs and video games. In 2022, Battersea Power Station was re-opened to the public for the first time after a 10-year restoration project and is considered one of London's newest 'destination' with places to eat, drink, live, work and play.
    Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 10 am —  9 pm, Sundays 12 pm — 6 pm 2081 766500
    44 Electric Boulevard, London SW11 8BJ

    Walk to Battersea Park/Chelsea Gate Stop and take 1:42 pm Bus 44 Tooting — 29 minute ride or 42 min walk for river views along the way

    Rafayel on the Left Bank (£45 for 2) — Enjoy an afternoon tea with a Mediterranean twist at this riverside restaurant complete with a glass of Prosecco or mocktail. Select from calamari, breaded shrimp, duck or vegetable spring rolls and mozzarella sticks along with scones and clotted creaam and jam, chocolate dipped strawberries and cheesecake.
    Served between 2 — 4 pm daily (reservations required) 2078 013600
    34 Lombard Rd, London SW11 3RF

    Return at Waterloo Station
    Walk to Clapham Junction station to take 4:21 pm train back to Waterloo Station

    Since this route does not include major tourist attractions, it will be a bit more relaxing and a good transition to full tourist mode!