Friday, 5 September 2014

What's Special about the ArcelorMittal Orbit?

For a start it's stunning to look at, either from up close or from a distance.  From the base it towers high into the sky.  From afar, the whirling curves seem a little weird, but cleverly intertwined.

With a height of 114.5 metres it is an imposing structure, and can be seen from many miles away.  From the top viewing levels you can see the various sporting venues of the adjoining Olympic Park, as well as distinctive buildings such as the Shard, BT Tower, the Gherkin, Canary Wharf, Big Ben, the O2 Arena, and the nearby cable car over the Thames.

To make it easy to take in the long-distance views, there are interactive screens using gigapixel technology.  These enable you to interpret the views, and learn the story of the ArcelorMittal Orbit.  You can zoom in on the panorama, and commentaries are given in various languages.

There is even more to come as you leave the top level viewing platforms.  As you descend the 455 steps to the ground, you will be immersed in found-sounds of the unique London soundscape.  This needs to be experienced in real time: a description here fails to replicate the experience.

At the base of the Orbit is the Podium, home to EastTwenty bar and kitchen.  Here you can order pastries, light lunches, sandwiches and snacks.  There is even a delightful range of cakes which are made daily on the premises from fresh produce.

Opening hours of the Orbit are 10am to 6pm (April to September), and 10am to 4pm (October to March).  Ticket prices are £15 for Adults, and £7 for Children.  There is a special Concession price of £12 for students and senior citizens.  You will find that the Orbit experience is certainly worth the cost.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Olympics 2012 Legacy - Extensive green Park in East London

These days it is considered crucially important that when a city is chosen to host the Olympic Games it is able to prove that the event will leave a valuable legacy.  This is certainly the case with the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London where the athletics, swimming, cycling, and various other sports were staged.

Already around 3 million people have visited the park, at this stage mainly for recreational purposes.  Even though the main stadium won't be again open for public visitors until the Rugby World Cup in 2015 there are plenty of other venues to visit.

The Aquatics Centre has been open to the public for several months now, and anyone can go for a swim there for just a few pounds in cost.  You might even have the good luck to see Tom Daley practise his diving.  The Copper Box regularly hosts indoor sporting events such as basketball and handball.  There is a cafe as well.  And cyclists are taking advantage of all the facilities of the Velodrome, for cycling both indoors and outdoors on the mountain biking and BMX courses.

Next month the site will be hosting the Invictus Games with wounded, injured and disabled service men and women from 14 countries around the world competing.  Prince Harry is very much involved in this event, and I'm sure it will prove to be very popular.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit is also open to the public, and from there you get excellent views of the surrounding park and stadium, as well as towards the City of London and Canary Wharf.

So if you are in London, either living here or visiting, it is certainly worth checking out all the attractions and features of the new Olympic Park.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

London considered by Forbes to be the most influential city in the World!

The US financial information provider, Forbes, has announced London to be ahead of rivals such as New York and Paris on a range of economic criteria.  These include the amount of foreign investment, concentration of company headquarters, and ease of travel to other global cities.

View of London with Parliament House, London Eye and City financial district
London has definite advantages over other cities.  As the capital of the English language, it is a important media centre and advertising source.  It's cultural, legal and business practices can be said to define global capitalism: it helps that the Industrial Revolution started just 120 miles or so to the north-west of London.
It is beyond doubt Europe's top technology startup centre, with around 3,000 recent businesses set up, and Google will soon be making Kings Cross the base for its largest office away from Silicon Valley.
In May of 2014 Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC)had similarly given London leading position in a Cities of Opportunity classification.  A study had declared London to be "technologically on top of its game", with with important software and multimedia development and design businesses located here..  
So another couple of feathers in the cap for London.  There will be more posts on business advances in this city over the coming weeks and months.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Swimming 623 feet high in the London Shard's Shangri-La Hotel

If the idea of having a spectacular swim, on the 52nd floor of a luxury hotel, with wonderful views of London ... then this will be perfect for you!

Swimming Pool on 52nd floor of Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard, London

The Shangri-La Hotel, situated between floors 38 and 54 of the Shard in London, opened to the public just a few months ago.  And now the swimming pool, the highest in western Europe, is available to anyone staying at the hotel.  Admittedly you will be needing £450 per night for a room, but for many visitors to London this added feature will be a decisive factor in their choice of where to stay.

The pool measures 10.6 metres long, 4 metres wide, large enough for a casual bathe and maybe a few laps as well.  It is heated to 25C, just right for physical and mental relaxation.

It is right next to huge glass windows, and you are able to see as far as the familiar overhead curve of Wembley Stadium, as well as closer landmarks such as St Paul's Cathedral, Tate Modern, Houses of Parliament, and Buckingham Palace.   Also you can watch the boat movements along a mile or so of the Thames river.

Darren Gearing, Shangri-La executive vice-chairman and hotel general manager declares "I am delighted the Skypool has opened 52 floors up within out signature bar Gong.  The stunning infinity pool, which faces west across the capital's iconic skyline, adds a unique touch not only to the hotel but to London's luxury nightlife scene".

So yet another spectacular feature for London, for the better-off at least.  And, if nothing else, this will attract even more visitors to London, particularly those who will very much enjoy swimming so high while admiring the views.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Extending London's Bakerloo line - Consultations with Public

In September public consultations will begin on extending the Bakerloo line much further into south-east London.  At present the line finished at Elephant & Castle (area named after a local pub!), just three stations south of the Thames.

As south-east London is currently poorly served by Underground train, any extension to the Bakerloo line will be warmly welcomed.  But an appropriate route still needs to be decided.  Below you can see proposed routes.

Extending the Bakerloo line in London
On the map, the Bakerloo line is shown in brown.  There are tentative plans for new stations, or interlinks with existing stations, at Walworth, Southampton Way, Peckham Rye, Nunhead, Brockley and Lewisham.  Stations further down the line could include Hayes and Beckenham Junction.  It could even go as far as West Wickham and Bromley, getting towards the edge of London.

The peak service would have up to 27 trains an hour as far as Catford Bridge, with 15 trains per hour to Hayes, and 6 trains an hour to Beckenham Junction  A cost has been given of £2.6 billion, although this seems rather on the conservative side.

Certainly the proposals for an extension are being encouraged from the offices of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.  A spokesman has declared, "The Mayor believes that south London deserves greater investment in transport infrastructure, which is why he is seeking more control over suburban rail services .. and exploring the possibility of extending the Bakerloo line."

We will just have to wait and see.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Whatever Next for London?: Swimming in the Thames?

It's early days yet, but serious consideration is being given to the idea of having fresh-water swimming pools, actually floating in the Thames.

Already architectural drawings have been produced which show a series of three pools to be located off Victoria Embankment.  One would be a 25 by 8 metre lap pool; another a 5 by 5 metre paddling pool; and the third a 12 by 8 metre plunge pool.  The baths would be attached to the shore by arm-like structures which will need to rise and fall with the tides each day.

The lido would take around 6 months to build, and cost £5.5 million.  Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has already approved a £40,000 feasibility study for this major new initiative, "... a London Lido".  The structure could be built by next summer if planning is approved and the necessary funding raised.

Chris Romer-Lee, co-director of the design company Studio Octopi, asserts "Swimming in them would feel like you were swimming in the Thames without any of the danger of doing so.  We want to create a controlled environment where it is safe to wild swim."

We can only wait to see if this project comes off, but I can't help feeling optimistic.  This would be one more amazing feature for London, and situated very close to the proposed Garden Bridge which, hopefully, will be open in the next couple of years.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Big Increase in Visitor Numbers to UK .. and of course London too!

Yet again there has been a major growth in the number of people choosing to visit the UK, and most of these will at least pass through London.

So far this year, more tourists have visited the UK than ever before.  For example, between January and June, there were 16.41 million visitors, up 8% on the same period in 2013.  Similarly spending reached £8.92 so far this year, a major benefit to the economy.

In June there were 3.18 million visitors, 10% more than in June 2013, surely an amazing and unexpected figure.  It is anticipated that by the end of the year, visitors to the UK will have spent well over £20 billion.

David Edwards, head of research and forecasting at VisitBritain, declared "Tourism is an essential part of the wider success of our economy and these first six months has set us up for what could be another record year for inward tourism".  Helen Grant, Minister for Tourism, said the figures were fantastic, and indicate that the government's tourism strategy is working.  This creates more jobs, and helps the economy generally.

We can only wait for the figures for the whole of the year, but I'm confident that this growth in tourism will continue.  Hopefully more people who have visited will be encouraged to return to see and experience more.  And the recounting of their UK and London adventures when they return to their home countries will encourage friends and relatives to try out the unique experience for themselves.