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Archive for london

London’s Secret Garden

By Linda Tancs

Founded in 1673, Chelsea Physic Garden is one of London’s oldest botanic gardens. It contains a unique living collection of around 5,000 different edible, useful, medicinal and historical plants within its sheltering walls tucked away beside the Thames. True to its roots (no pun intended) as a training ground for apprentices in the identification and use of medicinal plants, its medicinal plant display is one of the largest in the world. The theme for 2017 is Weaves and Leaves: Fabrics and the Plants That Make Them. The garden is located between Royal Hospital Road and the Thames Embankment, a 15-minute walk from Sloane Square.

Dino Snores

By Linda Tancs

Want to camp out amongst the dinosaurs in a museum? It’s not just for kids at London’s Natural History Museum. Their Dino Snores for Grown-ups program is offered periodically throughout the year, like tomorrow night. The sleepover includes a welcome drink, live music, a monster movie marathon, three-course dinner (edible insects are optional) and a hot breakfast. You’ll also have the chance to explore the galleries and current exhibitions after the daytime visitors have gone home. Sounds dino-mite to me.

Britain’s Oldest Manufacturer

By Linda Tancs

London’s Whitechapel Bell Foundry is listed in Guinness World Records as Britain’s oldest manufacturing company. How old, however, is a matter of debate. Once thought to be established in 1570 (during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign), additional research has revealed an unbroken line of founders in Aldgate and Whitechapel back to the year 1420 (in the reign of Henry V). Regardless of its age, the world’s best known foundry on Whitechapel Road is responsible for some very big chimes. The largest bell ever cast there (in 1858) is none other than Big Ben, weighing in at 13 1/2 tons. Another famous bell hailing from the foundry is the original Liberty Bell, commissioned by order of the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania in 1751 for the Statehouse in Philadelphia. Other exports followed worldwide.

UPDATE 5/8/17: The foundry, once open for guided tours on select Saturdays year round, is sadly closing its doors. The very last tower bell to be cast at the Whitechapel site is for the Museum of London, to which the foundry is donating many artifacts including old machinery, items to provide a display about bell manufacture and items that the foundry has in its possession pertaining to the making of Big Ben.

Top Stones in London

By Linda Tancs

So what does a famous London cemetery have to do with geology? The answer lies in the rocks, of course. The rocks used for headstones at Highgate Cemetery make it a great place to see a wide range of geology in an urban setting. In the East Cemetery (highly popular due to the burial site of Karl Marx) these include granite, gabbro, larvikite, marble and some limestone monuments containing fossils. Thanks to the range of rocks and stones used as headstones, mausoleums and monuments, the cemetery was voted one of the top 100 geosites in the U.K. and Ireland by The Geological Society. Built in 1839, Highgate was one of Victorian London’s most elaborate cemeteries, with Gothic catacombs and mausoleums in Egyptian and Classical styles. Visitors may roam the East Cemetery freely with payment of an admission charge. The West Cemetery is open to guided tours only. Take Archway, not Highgate, tube.

Journey of a Music Hall

By Linda Tancs

Restored earlier this year, Wilton’s Music Hall in London’s East End is the only intact survivor of the City’s Grand Music Hall era. Of outstanding architectural and archeological significance, the arena has gone full circle—from music hall (in 1839, as an adjunct to an ale house) to mission house to warehouse and back to music hall. In its early heyday, two of its stars, Arthur Lloyd and George Leybourne (Champagne Charlie), were the first to perform for royalty. Extreme poverty in the East End in the late 1800s forced its conversion to a mission house that would last for 70 years. Once the mission closed in 1956, the building saw life as a rag sorting warehouse. When redevelopment plans came calling in the 1960s, the campaign began to save the landmark, ultimately bringing it back to life. The hall gives opportunities to emerging artists and presents a year round program that includes theatre (new commissions and classics), opera, dance, magic, music, cinema, circus, traditional music hall, comedy, puppetry and other art forms.

Portobello Gins Up Interest in Hotel

By Linda Tancs

What could be better than ginning up interest in—gin! The opening of a new gin distillery in London, England, might not garner that much interest but for the fact that you can eat, drink and sleep in it! That’s the idea behind a new hotel from the folks at Portobello Road Gin. Opening in November, the new venue (at Portobello Road, where else) will include not only a boutique hotel but also a gin museum, blending rooms, a Spanish style “Gintonic” bar and restaurant, an actual distillery and the “Ginstitute,” a mixologist’s delight. Better book early for this spirited respite.

The Home of Gin

By Linda Tancs

Beefeater is the world’s most awarded gin, boasting a recipe that’s virtually unchanged since the 1800s. Distilled in the heart of London, the facility is housed in an Edwardian building in Kennington that features original Victorian pot stills and a botanical room. Thanks to a custom built visitors center, you can view the original stills, watch the distilling process and learn about premium gin making spanning over 150 years. And what would a distillery tour be without a wee sample greeting you at the end. Cheers!

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