Unusual things to do in London this year

Posted by admin | Posted in England, Europe | Posted on 20-06-2011

Quite a lot of us are now opting to search online for the best deals in London or unique things to do. If you are thinking of visiting the big smoke this summer and you need a bit of inspiration then here are a selection of things to do in the city that you may or may not have heard about before but are certainly all fun!

Greenwich and Docklands International Festival Jun 24-Jul 3 – This annual festival of outdoor art, dance and theatre is an date for the diary of fun! Taking place at the Old Royal Naval College, St Alfege Park, the Isle of Dogs, Woolwich , Canary Wharf and Mile End Park.

Thames Festival 2011 Sep 10-11 – This yearly event in London is located between Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge and is an action packed weekend of entertainment. Stay for the whole weekend and on the Sunday evening Victoria Embankment and Blackfriars Bridge close to transport to allow for a display of fireworks from a barge on the Thames.

Tent London Sep 22-25 – Now in its 5th year and located in Brick Lane, Tent London is a festival of designers and design collectives from more than 18 countries displaying cutting-edge design and digital installations.

Cancer Research UK: Shine Sat Oct 1 – This annual night time charity walk through London in aid of Cancer research is a 26.2 miles walk starting at 7.20pm and is cetainly a worthwhile experience.

Lord Mayor’s Show and Fireworks Display Sat Nov 12 – The Lord Mayor of London’s show is a display of marching bands and floats from across section of Londons diverse communites. The procession begins at 11am with an aircraft flypast at Mansion House.

If any of these events have interested you, you will be pleased to know that accommodation in London comes in all tastes and budgets and there really is something for everyone. You can get great deals on London hotels by doing your research online first and booking a room in advance,

York, Leeds and 2 Nights in an Etap Hotel

Posted by admin | Posted in England, Europe | Posted on 13-07-2010

I have come to a certain point in life when I am reaching out for the more relaxed things in life, you slow down a notch and swap places like Ibiza for York and Ayia Napa for Leeds. Is it because I’m turning 30 – no It’s really because I’m a cheap skate and wanted a jolly in York with my friend and they were doing a deal on the train tickets.

So last weekend I went away with my old old old friend Helen. We stayed for one night in York and then two nights in Leeds. And for anyone that’s interested this is the summary of our whistlestop yet fun packed tour.

York

Ok what is there to say about York, it’s seriously breathtaking – a must to see at least once in your life and a complete tourist Mecca. We were there on a Friday/Saturday and on the Saturday morning I could barely move down the streets for tourists. It was like swimming against the tide at one point – If I was going back again I would go midweek when the only people about are the elderly and unemployed and you can walk without having to sidestep every two minutes. Having said that we loved the place and definately recommend it.

We stayed at – the Ibis hotel which is about 10 minutes from the old area of York (outside the city wall), but two minutes from the train station. Which was handy when you feel a bit ropey the next day and just want to get on the train. The Ibis is mega cheap, we ended up with a room each and Helen for some reason ended up with a disabled room on the ground floor. Bit of advice, if you’re staying there don’t get a ground floor disabled room as they are really noisy and the room is wired like the crystal maze, so one wrong move and you will set an alarm off.

What did we do?

1. The National Railway Museum – If you’re secretly a bit of a train spotter, or feel like you should be carrying a flask of tea and sandwiches in an ice cream tub then head along to the national railway museum. I was in my element, Helen was not – but it was free to get in so she couldn’t complain.

2. Kennedys Bar– York is blessed with more historical buildings than you can shake a stick at, but is lacking in any ‘style bars’ and coming from big shot town’s like Glasgow and Edinburgh ;) we demand this – so a tip off about Kennedys cocktail bar from a friend was a welcome blessing. The bar itself is great, head up to the roof terrace (below) and you can soak up the sun, however don’t be surpised if they ask you how to make a Margarita.

3. York Minster – We never went into this, but you can take in the beauty of this incredible building from the outside.

4. Fudge Kitchen – Ok we broke the bank in this place and bought some fudge, but after you’re plied with free fudge from the shop assistant you would too.

Things that we walked right past included –
Jorvic Viking Centre – queue as long as an execution and as tacky as Kerry Katona’s knicker collection.
Bettys Tea Room – again a queue like an execution and overpriced sticky buns.

Leeds

Not really sure why Leeds was factored into our break other than I was there ten years ago and had a pint at a pub by the railway station so it seemed like the logical place to go. However Leeds didn’t disappoint.

We stayed at the Etap hotel which is very handy for the town centre – the draw back is that it is £38 a night for a room so it doesn’t separate the wheat from the chaff and you get what you pay for. My room was ‘basic’ and did the job. The en-suite was a toilet in a cupboard and the sink was next to the bed. The furniture was screwed onto the walls and I was half expecting vinegar tits from prisoner cell block H to walk in on me. But weighing it up, it’s a room, it’s somewhere to lay your head and at £38 a night who cares. One tip about this hotel is that at the weekend it is 99.9% made up with people wanting to get steaming so keeping the noise down late at night does not appear to be factored in, take a pair of ear plugs with you or some valium and you will be out like a light.

What did we do?
Ok I said we were cheapskates actually we are not, we just wanted to save money on the accommodation so we could spend more on food, booze and shopping.

On the first night we had a drink in Malmaison – they do great cocktails. We then got a hot tip from the waitress that the place to head to is the Brewery Wharf which I guess is like a mini docklands. We ate in Cafe Guru which was a rather uber cool Indian restaurant, the food was excellent and I didn’t get diarrhea so it gets my seal of approval.

Two bottles of wine later we staggered along to the City Inn, and managed to wangle our way up to the bar on the top floor. They do amazing cocktails and there is a great view across the city so it is worth the £8 a drink price tag…

On the second day we went to Harvey Nichols for brunch. They do a set menu and the food is devine! Harvey Nichols is located in the old Victorian Quarter so not only is it a beautiful place but there are some amazing shops nearby too. I would say this is probably the best part about Leeds (for me anyway) – they have great shopping, so if you want to give your credit card a workout head to Leeds.

And that’s about the size of our weekend. We skipped any tourist stuff because we were too busy shopping and drinking! It went buy in a flash, but 3 nights with your best friend shopping, eating, drinking and laughing has to be good for the soul so go and do it!

Other top cheapskate tips include
Make sure you print out a plethora of restaurant vouchers so you can get a deal with virtually every chain reataurant in York and Leeds. You won’t use them, but it’s good to fill your bag with coupons just on the off chance.

If you are taking the train from York to Leeds – you need to buy two single tickets :( instead buy a return from York to Bradford. It’s cheaper and you can get off at Leeds!