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.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Making Ticket Payment easier on London Transport

Contactless Payments is one of the latest innovations to be introduced to public transport in London.  In the past you needed to buy paper tickets.  Then, when Oyster card was introduced, you only needed to tough your Oyster card to the sensor on the bus or at the station entrance.

Now making contactless payments makes your travel even easier.  Before long you will be able to pay using your Credit or Debit card which is automatically detected, rather than use the Oyster card.

A great advantage will be, as when you use Oyster cards, after you have used up a certain amount of money for a travel on a particular day, you won't be charged any more.

For instance, the maximum you will pay for bus travel will be £4.40, so that any travel after your fourth bus ride of the day you won't need to pay any more.  For Monday to Sunday travel, the maximum you will need to pay is £20.20, the same as a weekly Bus and Tram pass.

Hopefully, this greater ease in paying for travel, and the convenience of having a maximum amount you will need to pay on any day or week, will encourage more people to take advantage of public transport in London.  Further advances to be introduced by Transport for London will be welcomed.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Major Community Cycling Event in London and Surrey

Over the weekend we had lots of rain from the remnants of hurricane Bertha.  Nevertheless the RideLondon cycling event went ahead, and despite the sogginess over parts of Sunday afternoon, the day was undoubtedly a great success.

Altogether around 60,000 cyclists competed over the two days along roads which had been specially closed in London and the neighbouring county of Surrey.

The climax to the weekend was the finish over the 86-mile route of Adam Blythe who is the national circuit race champion.  Sir Bradley Wiggins also took part, although unfortunately his finish was a bit further back.  Nevertheless it was great to see him competing again.

The event director, Hugh Brasher, declared the festival to be "a fabulous celebration of cycling".  An indication of its success is that this year, despite the stormy wet weather, 25% more people finished than in 2013.  This makes it surely one of the most important sporting events in the world, particularly in terms of numbers of people actually participating.

Boris Johnson went so far as to assert that RideLondon "has cemented its status as the world's premier mass-participation cycling event".  He was so positive that "for all the families and kids who've hopped on to the saddle, to the elite athletes and enthusiastic amateurs who've battled through driving rain, it's been a fantastic advert for cycling and for our city".

It would be interesting to know the number of people from outside the UK who make a special trip to London for this event, just as they do for the Triathlon which was staged recently in East London.  One more feather in the cap of (sporting) London?  I think so!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Newest Bridge for London in the East End

Now this is definitely not the most imposting bridge in London, but nevertheless will be useful to many people over the coming years.

It is situated immediately next to Canning Town station, to the east of Canary Wharf and south of Stratford.  It is designed for pedestrians only, and will give access to a virtual island in an almost complete curve of the River Lee, shortly before it meets the Thames.

Initially it will be mainly used by workmen to gain access to a large housing development site, although it is possible that it will also be used by people wanting to visit the sales office.  As you can see, the bridge has been positioned well above the level of the river as boats will be passing beneath on a regular basis, and it has been necessary to take into account the rising of the water level due to tides.

There will be an impressive City Island development on the other side, designed to be a "12-acre micro-Manhattan joining commercial and creative neighbourhoods".  By the time the site has been fully developed there will be 1,700 new apartments, outdoor spaces, waterside parks, bars and restaurants, artist studios, boutique shops, a school and a private residents' club.

It promises to be a highly attractive place to live, particularly for anyone working in the immediate area or at Canary Wharf.  It remains to be seen whether it will attract many artists, although there is already something of an artists community at Trinity Buoy Wharf, just a short walk away and directly overlooking the Thames.

At this stage, as far as I know, none of the apartments has been put on the market.  I'm sure they will be high-priced, but for many people it will be worth paying extra for all the attractions of the location and the development, and to live in such a unique situation.

Friday, 8 August 2014

London - Fascinating Views from Maps of the City

One of the most amazing ways to see London is from close inspection of historic maps of the city.  Too much we take the current layout and structure of London for granted, and don't take into account how it has evolved over the last two thousands years.

If you are want to get further insights into how London has changed, then I recommend an exhibition soon to take place at Oxo Tower Wharf, a short way east of Festival Hall on the South Bank.  The exhibition runs from 4th to 8th September 2014.  This is part of September's Totally Thames festival which will emphasise the key role that the Thames plays in London life.

The maps on display cover a 450 year period, showing the changing and enlarging landscapes.  The first available map dates to 1572, and there are also three printed visual surveys of the capital from 1746, 1799 and 1827.  There is even a contemporary map of underground London, produced last year, which no doubt which have many curious features for people looking at it in a hundred years time.

Even if, up to now, you haven't had a particular interest in maps, this exhibition will nevertheless give you a new understanding of how London has become the way it is.  You can learn more of the London Maps exhibition, which includes a slideshow of some of the maps to be included in the exhibition.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Boats Tours of London's Olympic Park Waterways

There have been plans for boat tours of the Olympics Park for a long time .. and now they have come to fruition.  You can see proof above, with a substantial passenger boat passing by the Aquatic Centre which had been used for the 2012 Olympics swimming and diving events.

For the most part the boats will be travelling up the Waterworks River, which extends from south of the Aquatics Centre, northwards to the Velodrome and on to the Broadcasting and Media Centre.  Sights along the way will include the Olympic Stadium, the Orbit, and Copper Box.

Both sides of the river are lined with a wide range of attractive greenery, with a particular feature being the reed beds.  These have encouraged occupation by a variety of birds including herons, coots and swans.  If you are lucky you might be able to spot a cormorant.

The boat tours last around 45 minutes, and run three to five times a day.  Cost for adults is £8, and children £4.  At present the tours are expected to run until the end of August, although I'm sure there will be some demand from passengers after that date.  It would be great if some boats could come up all the way from the Limehouse Basin, immediately adjacent to the Thames, as was originally planned.

These boat tours are another welcome addition to the range of activities available in London, and will help build visitor numbers to the city still further.  Apart from anything else, there will be plenty of excellent photograph opportunities, and friends and relatives are sure to be impressed by the images.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Moving West to East in London

There can be no doubt about it: the 'centre of gravity' in London is moving from the western, typically more upmarket side of London, to the eastern, traditionally more working side.

Sure the west is still prospering, and generally speaking property prices and rentals are much higher in most parts of west London than in the east.  However gradually people are beginning to like particularly parts of east London more, and in the future many people will actually prefer to live there.

This ongoing change has come about for a number of reasons.  The development of the business location of Canary Wharf, a few miles to the east of the City of London, has encouraged people to live closer to where they are spending most of the day.  This has been helped by the building of dozens of high-rise luxury apartment buildings.  These are particularly popular if they have river, or even canal, views as everyone likes to look over water from their living rooms.

The Olympics being staged at Stratford helped a lot too as this event brought about the regeneration of one or two square miles of previously run-down land.  At the same time, the massive new Westfield Shopping Centre was built: with almost 300 stores and 70 bars and restaurants: this has meant that people living in the general area no longer need to head into the West End for their shopping.

And this remaking and improving of the East End is ongoing.  The next focus will be on the Royal Docks where large-scale business parks are going ahead, along with luxury apartment developments.  With the famous Earls Court exhibition centre due to be demolished within the next year, the ExCel Centre which overlooks the Royal Docks will monopolise the staging of exhibitions in London.

Plenty more can be written about future developments in East London, so look out for future posts on specific topics.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

London's West End Theatres continues to Sparkle and Excite

If you are a lover of theatre, particularly glossy musicals, then there is nowhere better in the world than London.  And just now there is plenty new on offer if you have already been to many of the most popular productions here.

For example, there is a one-off performance of Billy Elliot the Musical starring Liam Mower playing an Older Billy (he is considered to be too old to be playing the original part now).  This will be at the Victoria Palace.  What is particularly exciting is on that particular night the production is being screened live to various cinemas, so you don't need to buy a ticket to the actual live performance as these will be particularly difficult to obtain for that performance.

Kerry Ellis will be returning as the Wicked Witch to Wicked as Willemijn Verkalk is having surgery and is needing to withdraw from the production.  Hopefully she will be able to resume the role before too long.

That very famous musical Phantom of the Opera is welcoming to the cast Liam Tamne who made such an impression on the BBC TV show The Voice UK, even though he didn't quite win.  He will be playing the part of Raoul, starting from the 1st of September.

As it happens, various productions are moving between theatres.  The distinctive Urinetown is transferring from St James Theatre to the Apollo in September.  Great Britain, which sends up the political establishment, the police and the press has done surprisingly well in the National Theatre and so will be able to play to larger audiences at the Royal Haymarket theatre from September.  Similarly Forbidden Broadway is upgrading from Menier Chocolate Factory to the Vaudeville Theatre.

So there are regularly new developments in London's West End, which partly explains why it remains so popular with large numbers of people from around the world.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Making the Most of the River Thames in London

For a long time Londoners almost did as much as they could to ignore the Thames.  It was associated with pollution, mud, and gritty port areas.  They would cross the river over the many bridges, hardly looking upstream or downstream.

Over the past couple of decades the Thames has become much more popular, and is now very much valued, particularly by visitors to London.  It still looks very dirty: the continual rising and falling of the river levels due to the tides mean the bottom of the river is continually being stirred up.  However the water now has little pollution and a wide variety of fish and other water life occupy the river.

The Thames is being increasingly used for transport.  There have always been rather tatty cruise boats to take tourists for outings on the river.  However over the past decade or so there has also been a fast growing river transport business for professional people travelling to and fro work.  This business is likely to continue to grow over the coming years.

Also large numbers of people are now wanting to live in accommodation, mainly upmarket apartments, which have direct views of the river.  Major developments are coming about from around the Brentford area, over the river from Kew Gardens, as far to the east as Woolwich.  The latest major, and very expensive residential development is around the Battersea Power Station: it is very easy to pay one or two million pounds to a luxury apartment there.

But the river is being made much more accessible to everyday Londoners and visitors as well.  These days you can walk virtually beside the river from its origin west of Oxford all the way to Woolwich and beyond.  There are many attractive sights along the way including beautiful countryside, Windsor Castle and Hampton Court.

I would encourage anyone to see and enjoy as much of the Thames as you can, although I have to admit that I don't walk alongside it often enough myself.  This video will give you some idea of what the Thames has to offer you in London.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Making the most of your Leisure Time in London

If there is one thing that you can be confident about regarding London .... there is more to see and do here than in any other city in the world.

For instance, coming up later this month will be the Notting Hill Carnival, the biggest street party in Europe, and in many ways as good as anything elsewhere in the world.  Many people will have been preparing for this spectacular event for months already, and I'm sure they will be becoming increasingly excited as the weekend draws near.

Of course there is all the theatre and arts to keep you busy .. if you have a particular love of culture.  In London you are certainly spoiled for choice.

And it can be interesting and pleasant enough just to wander around.  If you don't already know London well, then I definitely suggest the walk between London Eye and Tower Bridge, and a few hundred metres beyond.  There is an amazing amount to look at along the way, on both sides of the Thames river, and you can easily enough take a break at the very popular Tate Modern gallery.

You can be a bit more adventurous in your walking, and explore different parts of London.  For instance, what about going to a part which you have never seen previously, and try to find as much of interest as you can.  Alternatively, buy one of the many books of walks around London, and follow the prescribed routes, reading about the places of particular distinctiveness along the way.

Or, if you are not feeling particularly energetic, go to a nearby park and enjoy the relaxing experience of absorbing your feelings of the natural surrounds.  If you have children, they will definitely enjoy running around, making the most of their greater freedom.

This summary has only touched on some of the things you can see and do in London.  In later postings I go into more detail on different aspects to encourage you to make the most of London.

Here's a video of Notting Hill Carnival: see if you can feel the excitement.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

London Developments - Proposals costing up to £1.3 Trillion by 2050

It seems there are no end to the further developments that London requires to stay ahead of the game.  A report has just been released which maintains that more than a trillion (that's a thousand, thousand million!) needs to be spent to cater for the increasing population.  This spending is required for transport, technology, energy and other types of infrastructure.

For instance, there needs to be new train systems such as a south London metro, and ideally an outer ring railway line, probably underground.

Other transport recommendations include a new hub airport, Crossrail 2, an extension to the Bakerloo line, the Inner Orbital Road Tunnel, 200km of cycle lanes, and new river crossings.

There needs to be 50,000 new homes built a year, even though this will be incredibly difficult to achieve, and most of these homes will be far to expensive for the majority of people to live in.

It would be nice if, somehow, if 22,000 of open space can be found.  The only way this can be achieved is if thousands of factories are demolished, and not many remain now.

Boris Johnson is right behind this report (did he have any influence on its content, I wonder?) and declared "This plan is a real wake-up call to the stark needs that face London over the next half century".  He added "Without a long-term plan for investment and the political will to implement it, this city will falter".

A key aspect of the report is a prediction that the population of London will rise by 37% to more than 11 million by the middle of the century.  It will be definitely a challenge coping with this population increase.

We wait with interest to see what comes about in London over the coming years.  One thing's for sure .. lots of money will need to be found, somewhere or other, to fund all these extensions and improvements.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

London 2012 Olympics - Legacy Developments at Stratford Site

These days the legacy that the Olympics will leave behind after the event is very important.  Indeed the relevance of useful legacy is one of the key considerations that the International Olympics Committee (IOC) uses when choosing the cities to stage the Olympics in coming years.

There can be no doubt that London has scored highly on this criteria, with the most obvious post-Olympics uses to be seen at the main Olympics site in Stratford.

Some of the sporting structures such as the Basketball arena and the Water Polo facilities have already been removed.  Also the large side 'wings' of the Aquatic Centre, capable of holding 16,000 spectators to view the swimming and diving events, have been removed.  The Aquatic Centre can still seat around 2,000 spectators for periodic events, and the two Olympic-size swimming pools are very much valued by both local people and champion swimmers who train there.

The main Olympic Stadium, where the Opening and Closing ceremonies and most of the athletics events were stated, remains.  For it to better serve future requirements the seating capacity has been reduced from 80,000 to 60,000 and it will soon be the home ground for West Ham football club which is relocating from Upton Park, a few miles away.

The Copper Box is again available for a variety of indoor sporting events, and is particularly popular with basketball players.  The Orbit, that red curving metal structure which towers over the Stadium, is now one of London's key landmarks and a must-see for many visitors to London.

The Olympic Park is a much valued addition to East London, and it is very pleasant to walk along the canal-side paths.  There is an amazing range of plants to see, and everything possible is being done to encourage wild-life to live there.

The Press and Broadcasting Centre is being turned into an i-City, with digital businesses in particular being encouraged to base their business there.  Already British Telecom (BT) Sport has taken over part of the Broadcasting Centre and is using this for the online transmission of football game coverage.  Loughborough University is setting up its Business School there, and I have no doubt that within a couple of years the one million square feet of office and studio space will be fully occupied.

Lastly the Athletes Village has been turned into valuable residences for the local community, and already many hundreds of people have taken up the opportunity to live in such a unique location.  There they have the Olympic Park virtually on their door steps, the enormous Westfield Shopping Centre is just a short walk away, and the area is very well connected for public transport.

All in all the Olympics have left a wonderful legacy for London, the 2012 host city, and I'm sure the Games will be appreciated long into the future.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Extending Public Transport in London

A feature of London at present is the continuing expansion and improvement of public transport services.  This particularly applies to the trains, although buses and river transport are being enhanced as well.

The major project at the moment in Crossrail.  The Crossrail works have already been covered in another posting at this site.

There are a couple of other rail developments taking place which, while of nothing like the scale of Crossrail, nevertheless will make train travel that much more convenient.

The first is for a new branch of the Northern line from Oval station to a site very close to the massive Battersea Power Station developments.  The intermediate station will be at Nine Elms, a previously run down part of London which is now having major renovation works.   This station will be particularly convenient for employees at the new American Embassy being built nearby.  There is even talk of this extension eventually being extended to serve Clapham Junction station, but there are no firm plans at this stage.

On the other side of London, in the east, the Overground line is being extended.  Currently this branch starts at Gospel Oak, on the border of Hampstead Heath, and takes a curved route through parts of north-east London to terminate at Barking Station.  As extensive residential building work is taking place at Barking Creek, the other side of the A13, the Overground line will continue from Barking to a station much closer to the Thames.  At this stage I haven't seen firm plans for the extension.

Then, around 2019, it is likely that initial construction works will take place for the Crossrail 2 line, running from the Wimbledon area up to Alexandra Palace, or further still to Tottenham.  This will be an exciting development, and will complement the route take by Crossrail 1 nicely.

It's all go in London!

Visiting London for a Holiday - All the Choices available!

Surely London particularly stands out for the variety of things to see and do for any visitor to London.  This applies to anyone visiting for a holiday, as well as visitors who are working during the day but still want to see something of the city in the evenings and on weekends.

There are the usual sights popular with tourists, such as museums and art galleries.  London has some of the very best museums in the world, without any doubt, and there are plenty to choose from, even if the British Museum is the highest priority.  The three museums in South Kensington, Science, Natural History, and Victoria & Albert (V&A) are certainly worth checking out.  And there are still plenty more to be investigated.

While the art galleries in London are not the very biggest in the world, they are certainly some of the best.  The National Gallery is centrally located on the edge of Trafalgar Square, and has a wide range of art and a pleasant ambiance for you to enjoy your viewing.  The Tate Modern is highly popular, particularly with lovers of modern art, although I personally find the Tate Britain more appealing.

For evening entertainment, you can do any better than London.  There are more theatres and concert venues than anywhere else in the world, and it is usually surprisingly easy to get tickets for most performances, and prices are usually less than you would expect to pay elsewhere.  The musicals are particularly popular, and any visitor is spoiled for choice as there are around 18 musicals being staged.

And there is plenty to choose from in the way of music concerts as well.  The most famous series of concerts is the Proms, around 80 concerts held in the Royal Albert Hall every summer.  Younger, and often older people as well, will be drawn to the O2 Centre for regular concerts by the biggest name performers.  There are lots of smaller concert venues as well.

Arguably one of the most attractive features of London is simply the ease and pleasure of wandering around.  There are lovely parks such as Hyde, Green, St James and Regents parks virtually in the centre of London.  Travel a few miles to the north and you have the magnificent Hampstead Heath, or west to the edge of London for Richmond Park.

And any time in the afternoons or evenings it is pleasant to 'chill out' on the South Bank.  The spectacular London Eye is still very popular, almost a decade and a half after it was first built.  In the area there are usually plenty of performing acts (buskers) to entertain and amuse.  It was worth looking around inside the Festival Hall as it is open all day, and there are usually exhibitions of interest inside.

So, if you are visiting London, whether for a holiday or business, don't worry .. there's plenty to keep you amused!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Exciting Developments planned for the Royal Docks

At one time the Royal Docks in East London were busy handing freight shipping from around the world.  Then, when container ships became too large to come so far up the Thames River, the area went into steep decline.  As a result, the neighbouring suburb of Canning Town was considered to be the poorer area in the whole of the UK.

However since the beginning of the new Millennium there have been many major advances taking places around the Royal Docks.  The ExCel Centre is the largest exhibition in London, and has the potential to expand still further.  At the eastern edge of Royal Albert Dock a new campus for East London University has been growing over recent years.  A particular feature is the extensive indoor sporting facilities.  City Airport, sandwiched between Royal Albert and King George docks is busy busy busy!

But there is plenty more to come.  The other side of the Royal Victoria docks from the ExCel Centre a new urban lifestyle district is planned.  Almost the whole of the 62 acre site, formerly industrial land, has been sitting empty for a few decades.

Now the area is to be redeveloped with up to 3,000 homes (mostly stylish apartments), a sizeable public piazza, and distinctive 'brand flagship' pavilions allowing major companies from both the UK and overseas to exhibit their products and services.  The site will feature more than a kilometre of water frontage.

A major part of this development will be the revival and renovation of the enormous art deco Millennium Mills, one of the last surviving but disused flour mills in London.  There are plans to turn this into commercial space, attracting a variety of users.   Of the ten storeys, the first two will offer various shops, bars and restaurants, as well as on the roof.  The other eight floors will primarily be dedicated to high-ceilinged office space for technology firms, media and small businesses.

Another major business development overlooks the Royal Albert Docks, proposed by the Chinese company Advanced Business Parks.  Costing well over a billion pounds, there are planned to be 4.7 million square feed of offices and apartments.  Occupants will primarily be Chinese companies who will welcome the opportunity to establish a European base at Royal Docks.  City Airport, with connections to more than 40 cities around Europe, is just the other side of the docks.

So plenty is happening in the Royal Docks, and there will be further reports on developments in future postings.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Glasgow Commonwealth Games following on from London Olympics

Last night I really enjoyed watching the opening ceremonies for the Commonwealth Games being held in Glasgow, Scotland, over the next ten days.

It is tempting to make immediate comparisons with the Olympics events staged in London two years ago.  First of all it has to be said that the Glasgow Commonwealth Games is on a much smaller scale, with just over 70 countries competing.  Also there aren't the major sporting nations such as the US and Russia taking part.  Even the number of athletes from each country participating is significantly smaller than for the Olympics.

Having said that, it looks as though this Commonwealth Games will be a great success.  For the Opening ceremonies they were fortunate to have warm and sunny weather.  There were thousands of performers in the Celtic Park Stadium, generally promoting all the best aspects of Scotland, and particularly Glasgow.  Emphasis was put on Glasgow being a fundamentally friendly city.

Performers included Rod Stewart, famous around the world for going on 50 years, Susan Boyle, and John Barrowman.  There was plenty of humour, and you couldn't help thinking it was almost staged when there was a delay for the Queen's Message to be extracted from the Baton so that she could read it aloud.  And it was a nice touch to have Scottish Terriers leading each of the national teams on its circuit around the Stadium.

So although on a much smaller scale than the London Olympics, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games promises lots more visual entertainment, and I would think many impressive athletic achievements as well.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Further Developments at Olympic Park

The Olympic Park in Stratford, and the area around, are definitely on a roll!  There has just been a public launch to identify suitable designers for a cultural centre to be built at a cost of around £115 million.

The riverside site will create an Olympicopolis (the language is that of Boris Johnson, Mayor of London) with sections for a branch of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), Sadler's Wells theatre, and the Washington-based Smithsonian Institute.  

The design will require a team of architects, master planners, and engineers to create something brilliantly creating, stunningly visual, and yet still deliberately functional.

Nearby will be a new campus for University College, part of London University, which has an excellent academic reputation.  Also in the vicinity will be a range of modern offices for organisations such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and Transport for London which coordinates all the public transport within London.

It seems an ambitious project at this early stage.  There will be a 25,000 square meter exhibition space for the V&A, mainly concentrating on modern design for which the UK stands out.  The 650-seat theatre for Sadler's Wells will also be home for a choreography school and hip-hop academy.

We will have to wait to see what comes about, but this certainly promises to be a further addition to an even more valuable legacy of the 2012 Olympics in London.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Prince George celebrates his First Birthday at Kensington Palace

It seems so recently that the world caught the first glimpses of the newly-born Prince George on the steps of St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London.  However today, Tuesday 22nd August 2014, he is celebrating his first birthday, along with his parents the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The party is to be held at the home of William and Kate, Kensington Palace, to the west of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.  He is even being spoiled with a cake baked by his mother.  His great-grand-mother, the Queen, will be present along with no doubt various other relatives, and maybe even some friends.

To commemorate his birthday, and to satisfy the millions of people around the UK and elsewhere in the world who are fascinated by the royal family, several recent photographs have been released.  They show that he is growing fast, and can already toddle around Kensington Palace, although a close eye needs to be kept on him.

One of these public photos is shown below.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Monty Python's last ... ever .. show at the O2

It had to happen .. last night was the final live performance of the revived and revitalised Monty Python Show.  The group includes John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Terry Jones.  The 10 nights at the O2 were the first time that the classic comedy partners had performed together for 30 years.

Classic sketches performed included The Lumberjack Song, fish slapping, dead parrot, with a singalong finale of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.  Professor Brian Fox, Stephen Hawking and Stephen Fry had cameo appearances.  The same show was also broadcast live at 2,000 cinemas around the world.

The O2 was an excellent venue for the shows, even though having the large audience capacity of almost 20,000 it was necessary for the stage acts to be shown on large video screens.  Built for ambitious public exhibitions in 2000, initially the then Greenwich Arena was not a success and risked being a long-term white elephant.

Fortunately the American production company. AEG, was able to buy it at a bargain price, and it is now far and away the most popular concert venue in the world.  Also many major sporting events have been held there, including the annual ATP tennis events in November, featuring the world's top eight tennis players.

To give you an idea of how the Monty Python performances went, and also so you can see for yourself the scale of the main performance area of the O2, here is a handy video.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Walking in the Olympic Park in Stratford, London

For any local London person, and visitors to London if they have the time, I would definitely recommend checking out the Olympic Park.

This was developed specially for the 2012 Olympics held in London.  Previously the area was mainly used for run-down, low quality, industry.  Part of the area was covered with railway sidings, used for the parking of suburban trains overnight.  Very few people would have even passed through there, unless delivering old car and truck tires for storage, or such like.

In the years leading up to the Olympics the area was completely transformed.  Low lying parts which were boggy and subject to flooding were raised up by massive piles of earth which had been excavated to build the Eurostar train line which was tunnelled directly underneath.

The Lee River and canals were thoroughly cleaned up, and extensive planting of lawns, shrubs and trees took place.  The park was one of the greatest attractions of the Olympics, with many visitors for events at the Stadium, Aquatic Centre, Copper Box, Velodrome, and so on.

A few months ago the park was reopened to the public, and I often wander around different parts.  There are lots of attractive plants, and an amazing variety of types.  There is even a wetlands area for plants which need ponds and damp soil to grow in.  There are extensive gravel paths running the length of the park, so it is easy enough to walk the length of the park, although you are perfectly welcome to wander around the grassy areas as well.

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Olympic Park is the Orbit.  This towering curling structure, painted a rich red, overlooks all of the park, and there are good views towards the business hub City of London, as well as Canary Wharf.  And on the eastern side of the park there is the massive Westfield Shopping Centre, currently the largest urban shopping centre in Europe.

For visitors to London it is very easy to get to Stratford.  Probably most will use the Central or Jubilee underground train lines.  However there are also platforms at Stratford station for Dockland Light Railway and Overground trains.

There are sure to be further posting about the Olympic Park in the future, examining in greater detail particular features of this wonderful park.

This video will help to give you a better visual impression -

BBC Proms music concerts in London 2014

It must be that time of year again: the latest season of the London Proms started last night.  The Proms (shorted for Promenade concerts, as many of the audience are standing) started way back in 1895.  This makes it the longest-running classical music season in the world.

The majority of concerts are staged at the splendid circular Royal Albert Hall, although 12 chamber music recitals are staged at the Cadogan Hall in nearby Chelsea.  At the RAH there will be 76 concerts, of a wide variety, featuring some of the leading orchestras in the world.

This year there are many distinctive performers.  For example, on 29 July Gabriel Prokokiev (grandson of Sergei) will be playing a Violin Concerto.  On 4 August the Tallis Scholars Choir will perform Requiem Fragments by the late British composer Sir John Tavener.  And on 6th September, the well-known conductor Sir Simon Rattle will conduct the Berlin Philharmonic with JS Bach's St Matthew Passion being offered to eager ears.

A few years ago my favourite electric guitarist Jeff Beck, played alongside the famous violinist Nigel Kennedy in a jazz group.  This year the 'pop-group' Pet Shop Boys will be appearing.

A distinctive feature of the Proms is the very reasonable cost of the majority of tickets, much less than you would expect to pay elsewhere.  And the very cheapest tickets are only £5, although these are for 'prommers' who are prepared and able to stand for the duration of the concert.

Then on 9 September, for the highly popular Last Night of the Proms, due to the large number of people wishing to take part in the experience, the concert is actually transmitted to large screens in Hyde Park, a couple of kilometres away.  This enables tends of thousands of people to absorb as much of the concert atmosphere as they can.

If you are unable to attend any of the Proms, the concerts are available live on Radio 3, and as well some of the concerts are broadcast on BBC1 television, and other BBC channels.  As for the Last Night of the Proms, this is broadcast live around the world, to the great delight of music lovers virtually everywhere.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

London Olympics Park open to the Public

One of London's greatest features is the number of parks scattered around the city, some particularly large such as Hyde Park, Regent Park, Richmond Park and Hampstead Heath.  There are many smaller parks with loads of plant life and attractions.

Recently this collection has been joined by another green space, measuring around 200 hectares in all.  This park was specially regenerated for the 2012 Olympics from former industrial land in the Stratford area of East London.  After the Olympics were over, the park was closed to the public for around 18 months while various necessary modifications such as the removal of certain buildings and bridges could take place.

Now that it is open again, any visitor is treated to many delights.  For a start, the park is large and takes 15 to 20 minutes to walk from the northern end to the southern edge.  There is an extensive network of gravel paths, pleasingly lined with a broad selection of semi-mature trees.  The Lee River branches within the park so that two separate sections can be walked along.  There are also some canals so there is plenty of water to add a sense of tranquility.

Buildings remained from the Olympics include the main Stadium, the Aquatic Centre (where Tom Daley is often seen training), the Copper Box, and the Velodrome with various outdoor cycle tracks nearby along with a BMX circuit.

One of the most distinctive features is the Orbit, a stunning curved spiralling structure which is not easy to describe.  Fortunately you can get a good impression of its external appearance, and views from the top, in this video.

Airports for London - Additional Runways urgently needed!

This concern about London's airports is particularly relevant with the bi-annual Farnborough Air Show currently taking place so close to London.  Simply put, London needs extensions to its current airport capacity.

London is distinctive in that it is served by 5 airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, and City).  However only Heathrow has twin runways, and even Heathrow is running close to full capacity much of the time.  When special events, such as a snowfall, happen, then the airport can't cope with the additional demands and there can be major delays to flight departures.

The problem is that no one can decide where this additional flight capacity should be located.  Some authorities want a third, then a fourth runway at Heathrow.  Others think that it is more sensible to build a second runway at Gatwick.  The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is very keen on having a four runway airport built on an artificial island in the Thames, about 30 kilometres east of London.  This last proposal is receiving little support as it would be very expensive, at least £40 billion, and take decades to put together.

Personally I see a second runway at Gatwick as the best option.  There are already detailed plans showing the second runway a kilometre or so south of the current runway, with an extended new terminal building situated between the two runways which would reduce taxiing times.  Gatwick is already well served by public transport, having an adjacent railway station with five platforms handling around 10 trains from London an hour.

A final decision will be made within the next year or two: these enquiry processes usually drag on far longer than they should.  In the meantime, the greater use of higher capacity planes such as the A380 at Heathrow will enable the airport to handle more passengers.  There are proposals for more early morning flights, although not surprisingly these are fiercely opposed by anyone living near the flight paths.  Alternatively, for the time being, both Stansted and Luton could be handling more flights, although neither airport is really suitable for long distance passengers.

Feel free to make a comment if you feel strongly enough about any of these options.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Farnborough Air Show - Update on Sales and Events

So far there have already been significant announcements made, although we are likely to hear much more before the week is out.

For a start, Airbus announced that its twin-aisle A330 passenger jet is due for a major revamp, offering airlines a cheaper alternative to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  Already there has been an order from Air Lease Corp. for 25 of the A330neo, and Fabrice Bregier, head of Airbus, has predicted up to 100 commitments before the end of the week.

A feature of the Airbus 330neo is the new more fuel-efficient Rolls Royce engines.  For its part, the US engine maker GE expect $30 billion of orders for itself and joint venture partner CFM during the Show.  Curiously enough, it also said that it was the right decision for the A330neo to be powered only by Rolls-Royce, its biggest rival in the production of jet engines.

The company IAG, which combines BA with Iberia, has placed a firm order for 20 of the A320neo, worth around $1 billion.  Admittedly this order can be considered to be part of the 100 options which were secured a year ago.  The new jets will be delivered in 2018 and 2019, and are mainly intended for short haul routes within Europe.

There has been some bad news already.  The new F-35 combat jet was due to be displayed at the Show, and would have given some impressive performances in the air.  Unfortunately the F-35 has been grounded since last month due to an engine fire.   Although the Show organisers were hoping that the F-35 could at least be displayed on the ground, the Pentagon had decided that crossing the Atlantic would be too risky as the engines need to be checked every three hours.

There are sure to be more interesting developments at the Show, which will be reported on here.  In the meantime, after an intensive day at work, I'm sure the majority of exhibitors and visitors will appreciate being able to return to London for the night.  There they can take advantage of the luxury hotels, excellent restaurants, and maybe take the opportunity to watch a musical or concert.

Watch a Qatar Airways Airbus A350 XWB strut its stuff!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Luxury Hotels in London - Now and in the Future

There are more 5 Star hotels in London (100+) than any other city in the world, with the possible exception of Shanghai.  Many of these have a wonderful historic background, while others are brand new with every modern convenience imaginable.

Classic hotels include the Ritz, the Dorchester, the Langham, and the Savoy.  Many famous and comfortably wealthy people have stayed at these hotels.  A fairly recent addition is St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, situated in the superlative St Pancras Station which dates from the 1860's.  A feature of this hotel, apart from the magnificent curved Gothic front, is that there is less than 50 metres walk to Eurostar train connections to Paris and Brussels.

There are some major modern developments as well.  For instance, the Shangri-La hotel covers floors 38 to 54 of the Shard building, very close to the Thames and Tower Bridge.  This steeply sloping glass structure is one of the most distinctive buildings in London, indeed the world, and is photographed continually.  Another recent development is the W Hotel on a corner of Leicester Square which is apparently popular with theatrical people, and theatre lovers, as it is virtually in the centre of the West End.

And there are still more glorious luxury hotels being developed.  The former offices of the London Port Authority at Tower Hill are being converted to a hotel and private apartments.  This is no ordinary office building: it is a high-quality historic stone building which is Grade 1 Listed.

On the South Bank, not far from the National Theatre and Festival Hall, the former HQ of Sea Containers is being converted to a hotel.  The curious feature of this conversion is that the building, with direct views of the Thames was originally intended to be a hotel, but became a head office as, at the time, there wasn't sufficient demand for a quality hotel in that location.  There certainly is now!

There is another conversion of the magnificent Arch building at a corner of Trafalgar Square, actually situated the end of the Mall which leads up to Buckingham Palace.   At North Greenwich, situated between the O2 Centre and the Thames, a third (for London) Intercontinental Hotel is being built which will be popular with performers at the O2, as well as people who can be keen enough to travel half way around the world to see their favourite acts live.

So, as will have become clear, London not only has more luxury hotels than virtually anywhere else it the world, it also has many of the most distinctive and classic.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Farnborough Air Show - news and rumours

Although not strictly in London, the Farnborough Air Show deserves coverage in Blooming London as Farnborough is only about 20 miles south-west of London, and most of the exhibitors and nearly all visitors will be staying in London for the event.

With 1,500 exhibitors showing the wide range of products, there are expected to be over 100,000 trade visitors, and almost the same number of the general public with a strong interest in aviation matters.

We can anticipate the big players, Boeing and Airbus, to use the opportunity to make major announcements.  For instance, Boeing is likely to give updates on the long-haul 777X, an updated version seating between 350 and 450 passengers.  For its part, Airbus is expected to formalise plans to build the A330neo, the A330 with more fuel-efficient engines intended to rival Boeing's 787.

At the last Farnborough Air Show in 2012 around $72bn of orders were announced.  Will this figure be reached in 2014, or even exceeded?  We'll know later this week.  Whatever, the Farnborough Air Show is of a truly international scale, with around 68% of exhibitors from overseas.  Significantly, nearly 20 countries will have their own stands, including Norway and Malaysia.

As this is such an important event, bringing large numbers of senior management to London, there will be a further report on Farnborough in a few days times, hopefully with major news items.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Cable Car connecting O2 Centre with Royal Docks

Since shortly before the 2012 Olympics in London there has been a cable car running over the Thames River in East London which has proved to be very popular with visitors to London.

Admittedly this is not of a particularly grand scale, as it covers a distance of probably less than a kilometre.  However it needs to go high above the river, to pass over large boats going up and down, so there are spectacular views of City Airport, the Canary Wharf development, and the magnificent O2 Centre.

Each cabin can hold up to 10 passengers, five to a side facing each other.  Crossing time can be as little as five minutes, although it seems that the controllers can slow this to eight minutes if there isn't too much demand from waiting passengers at either end, so that there is more opportunity to study the views.

On the North Greenwich side there is a Underground station, and the cable car is just a few minutes walk away.  While there you might as well look inside the O2 Centre.  This is easily the most popular concert venue in the world, and can hold up to 20,000 people for performances.  At present the Monty Python revival is playing there.  Adjacent is the Indigo, which can cater audiences up to 2,000.  Circled around the main arena are many bars and restaurants, and a few shops as well.  If you are feeling energetic enough there is a walk right over the curve of the O2 Centre, with walkers being connected to safety lines and accompanied by guides.

On the other side, at the Royal Docks, the Royal Victoria Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station is just a few minutes walk from the cable car.  There are many hotels in this area including a Crowne Plaza, Novotel, Ibis, and moored nearby a recently arrived passenger cruise style boat which has around 130 cabins.  Also close is the ExCel Centre, now easily London's largest exhibition centre, which is worth walking through as it is more attractive inside than outside.

Another feature is the Siemens Sustainability Centre, which is a kind of museum concentrating on exhibitions showing how we can live in a more sustainable world in the future.  There are many interesting displays, and the centre will appeal particularly to children, even though there is lots to challenge the thinking of adults as well.

The cable car is largely sponsored by Emirates, which must be gaining a great deal of useful positive publicity having its name closely associated with the service.  For the time being the cable car is not carrying as many passengers as originally intended, mainly because very few work commuters need to use it.  However particularly during the summer it is popular with tourists, as it allows an alternative perspective of parts of east London.  On warm and sunny days there can be large queues, so it is best to go in the mornings on weekdays rather than at the weekend.

Here is a YouTube video which will give you an impression of the cable car experience, starting from the Royal Docks side, crossing to North Greenwich.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Legacy of London 2012 Olympics

When, at a special event in Singapore in 2005, London was chosen to stage the 2012 Olympics there was great excitement, indeed jubilation!

However many people had a negative attitude to the selection of London.  After all, the cost was going to be around £8 billion (something like $12 billion), and there are arguably much better ways of spending the money, such as on schools and hospitals.

Now, July and August 2012 have come and gone, and overall I think we can say that the Olympics were a great success.  Admittedly there were pre-event problems with insufficient people having been trained to maintain security, but fortunately the military forces could be called in at short notice to provide whatever services were required.  The Opening and Closing ceremonies for both the Olympics and Paralympics were both impressive, even if not on the scale of Beijing 2008.  And, surprise surprise, there was little rain.

A key aspect of the Olympics is not only the event itself, but the Legacy.  In the past a lot of money has been spent building expensive structures for the Olympics which get very little use afterwards: probably the best example of this is Athens in 2004.  However extensive planning for the London Olympics ensured that as much as possible could be retained after the event which has definite value for local people.

For example, the Olympics Stadium is currently being reduced in spectator capacity so that it can be used by West Ham football team after 2016, and also used for athletic events in the summers.  The Aquatic Centre, complete with two 50 metre pools, and a separate diving pool, is already very popular with people from the surrounding area, particularly Stratford.  The Velodrome has been reopened, and is being used for both indoor and outdoor training and competitive events.  The Copper Box is used for a wide variety of indoor events, including basket ball and netball.  And the spectacular spiralling Orbit is offering visitors amazing views of London, as well as the surrounding Olympic Park.

And, apart from anything else, the Olympics has helped to revitalise London.  It has attracted more visitors to London, and probably encouraged greater investments in London from overseas companies.  And it has helped to prove that there is no better place in the world in which to stage major sports events.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Google supporting High Tech business in London

Over the past few years there have been substantial efforts to boost high-tech business in London.  For the time being, most of these start up companies are based around the so-called Silicon Roundabout, just north of the City of London.

Now Google is adding its own form of support for these efforts.  It has launched a venture capital fun which will invest in European technology companies, and I guess that a substantial proportion of investment will be with London-based startups.

There is already a Google campus not far from Liverpool Street station in the City where new tech businesses can set up a base.  Hopefully the companies working from these offices are able to get stimulation and develop good networking contacts.  It is possible that some of these businesses will now get direct funding from Google.

The Google Venture Capital fund will be located at offices in the historic Clerkenwell district, not too far from Silicon Roundabout.  Clerkenwell will prove to be an excellent location for these offices as Farringdon station is close, and when Crossrail begins running in 2018 there will be direct train services to Heathrow, Gatwick and City airports.

Google is definitely making a major commitment to London, and the substantial office development planned for next to Kings Cross station is another indication of this.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

How London is attracting more Visitors

There have been recent reports that London is attracting more visitors than any other city in the world.  The Global Destinations survey, commissioned by MasterCard, forecasts that London will have around 18.7 million visitors this year, ahead of rival cities such as Paris, Bangkok and Singapore.

What can explain this growing popularity?  London has many features that simply can't be matched anywhere else.  Even if, on some criteria, other cities have more to offer (Paris for style, Rome for history) overall London has a wide range of attractions which particularly stand out.

Style and history have already been mentioned.  London is offering a wide range of upmarket fashion shops and the annual fashion shows are increasingly popular.  The historical legacy is greatly valued in London, and apart from famous landmarks such as the Tower of London and St Paul's Cathedral, there are many buildings hundreds of years old in central London, and even in the outer suburbs.

There is, arguably, no better city to walk in than London.  I particularly recommend walking beside the Thames the few miles between London Eye and Tower Bridge.  There is still plenty of interest upstream from the London Eye, and further downstream from Tower Bridge.  If you particularly like walking, then you can walk besides the Thames for most of its length.

There are more theatre performances, particularly musicals, and concerts than anywhere else in the world.  The many museums and art galleries are excellent, with the added advantage that a surprising number of these have free entry.

If you like shopping, then London can be considered the shopping capital of the world, with a higher turnover than both Tokyo and New York.  Oxford Street is famous for the variety of shops, and there are now Westfield shopping centres in the west and east of London which are spectacularly large.

London has a wonderful range of parks.  The best known are Hyde, St James and Green Parks.  However Regents Park has a lot to offer with London Zoo on the northern edge.  And Hampstead Heath and Richmond Park are both magnificent in their scale and natural features, even though you have to travel further to take advantage of these natural delights.

Are visitor numbers to London likely to drop off any time soon?  I very much doubt this as new features are being added on a regular basis, and there are regularly major events taking place which will attract people from around the world.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Blooming London - Surely some Mistake?

The principal theme of this blog is Blooming London?  You might be thinking, surely this should be Booming London?

If you are thinking something like this, then you have a point.  London is booming in a financial sense with an increasing number of companies setting up here, and tourist numbers climbing steadily higher.

However I suggest that Blooming London is appropriate in its own way.  When we think of 'blooming' then there is an impression of growing, emerging, colour, spring, healthy living, and so on.  Everyone likes flowers (surely) and the most pleasant aspect of flowers is when they are blooming, fresh and regenerated.

And London is currently blooming, without any doubt.  Business numbers and tourism have already been mentioned.  However there is also a steady development in arts, theatre, culture, science, architecture, parkland, river usage, and so on.

Further postings will expand on this blooming aspect, looking at specific aspects in greater detail.  Let me know if there are any specified features you would like included in this coverage.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Tour de France into London - post race

On the whole, day 3 of this years Tour de France went smoothly enough, despite some spectators standing too close to the path of cyclists with temporary disruption a few times.

The third stage began in the picturesque location of Cambridge, with lots of imposing stone university colleges on view.  Good progress was made through the attractive sun-lit countryside of Essex before the riders entered the outskirts of London.

Very quickly the riders were entering the northern part of Olympic Park, then speeding down roads past the Velodrome, Copper Box, Aquatic Centre, Olympic Stadium, and the iconic red Orbit tower.

From there it was through residential suburbs to the Royal Docks, past City Airport, alongside Canary Wharf where a DLR train had been specially painted with the message 'Va Va Froome', then Tower Bridge and Tower of London, through the southern edge of the City of London, with the Thames on the left hand side, round the corner at Parliament House, up to Buckingham Palace, making one last turn, and then the final sprint up the Mall where the German ride Kittel managed to win a stage for the second time in three days.

The days events went very well, and the few days that the race was run in England turned out to be very successful.  From London's perspective, the main disappointment was the weather.  Earlier in the afternoon it had been pleasantly sunny, but by the time the cyclists hit London there was a drizzle of rain, and the sky was grey and grim.

From the helicopter where were shots of many recognisable landmarks, with excellent views into the grounds of the Tower of London, but the sights would have been more attractive to potential visitors to London if the weather had been sunnier.

Hopefully many people watching the race unfolding on tv screens around the world will have been surprised to see how beautiful much of the English countryside is, and how stunning so many of the historic and modern buildings in central London, not to mention the extensive green parks.

When will the Tour de France next have stages in neighbouring England?  We want you back!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Tour de France passing by major London developments

Today (7th July 2014) the Tour de France race is proceeding through London.  Along the way the cyclists, their attendant teams, and the eyes of millions of onlookers (both local and watching via TV around the world) will see some of London's major developments.

The third day stage starts in Cambridge.  By mid afternoon the cyclists will have entered London, and heading in a south-west direction at high speed.

The first significant development along the route is a Stratford, main site of the 2012 Olympics.  After the Olympics were over much of the site needed to be cleared, although the stadium, Aquatic Centre, Copper Box (for indoor events), and the magnificent Orbit structure have been retained.

At the Olympics site, work is shortly to get underway on many residential and office developments.  Organisations such as Transport for London and the Financial Conduct Authority are set to open head offices in 2018.  A new campus for the well respected University College is being built a stones throw from the stadium.  There will even be a new branch of the Victoria & Albert Museum, intended mainly for modern design.

The next major developments along the route are at Royal Docks.  Around £1 billion is being spent to build an asian business park, catering primarily for Chinese companies which need a European base.  Extensive residential developments are taking place nearby, including the Royal Wharf which will have a 500 metres Thames frontage.  The cyclists will pass directly over the tunnel for the Crossrail service, as they race past City Airport.

A few kilometres to the west, Canary Wharf will get a lot of attention.  The highly distinctive new Crossrail station is nearing completion, and this is close to Wood Wharf which will serve as the next major stage of the Canary Wharf development, mainly catering for smaller businesses instead of major financial institutions.

As the cyclists head further west they will briefly see historic Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, before continuing past the City of London, arguably the main financial centre in the world.  Many office developments are taking place, including a substantial new London base for Bloomberg.

Over the next few minutes the cyclists will be riding close to the Thames, passing London Eye on the south side, and then rounding the corner at Parliament House.  Continuing on, they will have Buckingham Palace on their left before turning into the Mall with green parks on both sides for a final frantic dash for the finishing line.

Anyone watching will derive a great deal of excitement from seeing the cyclists compete at their athletic limits, and at the same time see many of London's most historic sights and impressive new developments.

Battersea Power Station Restoration and Developments

A major redevelopment program has recently begun to revitalise the Battersea Power Station and the surrounding area.  Initial works to clear the area and put in power and water services began in September 2013.  The first two fixed cranes have appeared on the site, and work is fully underway to make a first class residential, office, hotel and retail location.

The Battersea Power Station is arguably London's most famous industrial building, and it featured prominently on the front cover of a Pink Floyd album.  Arguably, for the time being at least, it has taken second place to the Tate Modern Gallery, itself a former power station located in the centre of London.

Altogether an investment of close to £8 billion will be required, with the project being handled by a Malaysian developer.  There will be five blocks of apartments designed by the American architect Frank Gehry, although other architects such as Normal Foster will be involved in later stages of the design.

The main high street will be known as Electric Boulevard, to be lined with shops and restaurants.  Apart from the extensive new residential buildings there will be a 167 room hotel, a theatre, and library.  The majority of the work is expected to be completed in stages between 2019 and 2022.

The power station is probably best known for the distinctive chimneys at each corner of the main building.  As these are currently not in a solid condition, they will be removed and replaced by replicas.  All efforts are being taken to ensure that the whole development, overlooking the Thames, will be particularly valuable and appreciated.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Crossrail developments in London

Good progress is being made with the ongoing development of Crossrail.  This service will connect Reading and Heathrow Airport to the west of London with Shenfield and Abbey Wood to the east of London.

The sections between Paddington station and Stratford (on the upper east side branch) and Whitechapel and Woolwich Arsenal (on the lower east side branch) are below ground.  At this stage nearly all the tunnels have been bored, although sections between Farringdon station and Whitechapel are still to be completed.

The Crossrail service will serve a very important role in adding to the passenger capacity of public transport in London.  Trains will consist of 12 carriage, carrying up to 1,500 passengers, and at peak times will be running every two or three minutes on the central sections.

Crossrail will also enable people to travel more easily around London.  There are many major interchanges with other Underground, British Rail and bus services, particularly at locations such as Paddington, Farringdon, Stratford and Canary Wharf.

Work on Crossrail started around 2008, and it is anticipated that full services will be up and running by 2018.  If you are in London, it is particularly interesting to see the excavation and building works being carried out at Tottenham Court Road station, and Canary Wharf.

If you want to learn more about Crossrail, a Kindle book is available.  Please ignore the negative review: although the material for the book was mostly taken from the Crossrail web site, all the text has been appropriately selected and reworded.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Building a Garden Bridge over the Thames

There are exciting plans to build a new bridge over the Thames.

This will have several distinctive aspects.  For a start, it will not be possible to cross the bridge by car or bus.  The bridge is primarily intended for use by pedestrians, although possibly cyclists will be able to use it as well.  And, distinctly, most of the bridge surface area will be taken up by plants.

This bridge, expected to cost around £150 million to build, is the brainchild of Joanna Lumley, the comedian.  The design is by Thomas Heatherwick.

Stretching around 1,200 feet, the bridge will connect Temple with the South Bank, situated between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge.  Construction is due to begin in 2015, with completion in 2017.

People will have the opportunity to wander around the bridge as they cross from one side to the other, stopping now and again to admire the plants and maybe talk with other people who are enjoying the unique river crossing.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Growth of Technology Firms in London

An increasing number of high-tech firms are setting up in London.  Apparently over the past few years many thousands have established themselves, and this is likely to continue in the future.

For the time being these companies tend to base themselves around the so-called Silicon Roundabout, just north of the City of London finance district, and bordering on the East End of London.  However as rentals are rising in that area, more companies will be moving further east, or even to Croydon in south London.

There are various reasons for the popularity of London as a place to do high-tech business.  It helps to be close to the City, where there is plenty of funding ready to be invested.  Also it helps to have similar kinds of companies grouped together, so they can network more easily and help each other grow.  And finally London is a very attractive place for these ambitious go-getters to live.