Tag Archives: Things to do in London

A flight over London with The London Helicopter

A few days ago I reached a milestone birthday….the level of which I won’t go into details :) but suffice it to say it deserved a special celebration….my daughter came through with an amazing gift; a flight over London in The London Helicopter. Just awesome!!!

a flight over london with the london helicopter
The London Helicopter

Flying with the London helicopter had been #1 on my wish list for ever such a long time and I never imagined that this was the birthday surprise. I had planned on being in London for Changing the Guard on the Queen’s birthday on 21 April, so figured I would book myself into a hostel in London for the night before my birthday as well…at which stage I still had no idea I was going on the helicopter….instead my daughter booked us a room in a hotel….which ironically turned out to be right next to the helipad……and as we arrived a helicopter was taking off, causing much excitement for me, and panic for her!! Especially when I immediately uploaded an image to facebook!! LOL

a flight over london with the london helicopter
as we arrived a chopper takes off!

Had I guessed the surprise? Would I guess the surprise?…but no, it just didn’t enter my head that that was what she had planned.  So, before someone on facebook spilled the beans, and before she spilled the beans…as soon as we had checked in she took me downstairs, stood me in front of the sign for The London Helicopter and gave me my voucher.   I was thrilled to bits when I opened the envelope and realised that OMG!!!! we were going in the helicopter the very next day! In truth I was crying, laughing and jumping up and down all at the same time!!!

a flight over london with the london helicopter
3 routes to choose from

The 23rd, my birthday,  dawned grey and cold, but by 11am the sun broke through and by the time of our flight at 1pm the sky was clear. I was chewing at the bit waiting for the time of take-off, we had breakfast and then headed over…way too early, but I was too excited to wait.  We checked in, watched the safety video, slung on our safety harnesses, and cameras in hand we watched the helicopter land.  Then without further ado we were ushered through the door onto the helipad, waved over and running beneath the rotors spinning above our heads, suddenly we were on board and ready for take-off. Of course I had to cause a bit of consternation…I dropped my camera under the seat and couldn’t retrieve it, so the pilot had to get the landing dude to come over and fish it out for me LOL….can’t take me anywhere!!

a flight over london with the london helicopter
strapped in and ready to go go go….lift off!!! Me and my lovely daughter Cémanthe

The flight was amazing. I adore London and to see the familiar landmarks, those many many places that I love so much, and to fly along above the River Thames was truly awesome.

a flight over london with the london helicopter
take off!!!! and already a fabulous view of the River Thames and London!

We flew from Battersea to Greenwich, flying high over the city, spotting landmarks and familiar places, seeing the layout of the city, the green spaces, the many top attractions, and then back again. I was lucky enough to have a window seat so got to see all the landmarks going downstream and all the landmarks going upstream.  Great views all round.

London from the air is just amazing.  The whole flight was great and although it was the length of time it was meant to be, it was over in a flash…it seems like 5 minutes rather than the 20 minute flight we were booked on….it was over way too quickly for me. I actually said to the chap at reception “couldn’t the pilot fly any slower?”…his reply…”If he did, you would fall out the sky!” Uhhmm right! well then

a flight over london with the london helicopter
the London Helipad at Battersea

The young man at reception was lovely, the ground flight attendants were friendly and the pilot was informative.  Not at any stage at all during take-off, the flight, or landing did I feel unsafe or afraid. Fortunately for me I have no fear of heights and the higher the better in my opinion….I’m also a bit of an adrenaline junkie, so thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of the flight.

a flight over london with the london helicopter
a birds eye view from the back of the helicopter

Although we flew quite high, and personally I would have preferred to fly at a lower level, my favourite view was of The Shard, simply because it looked so amazing; quite surreal and almost an optical illusion….

a flight over london with the london helicopter
The Shard, looking like an optical illusion

I managed to record most of the flight…except when I was fiddling with my camera….I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I did :)

 

Click here to find out more about The London Helicopter and go for a ride…..I for one can highly recommend it…..I am most certainly planning a 2nd trip and probably a 3rd…..It’s not cheap by any means, but as value for money….it was to me, worth it’s weight in gold. I am so planning to go again and again……as often as possible 😉

For other ideas of place to visit and things to do in London
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The London Eye

3 days in london, things to do in london, walks in london, waterloo station, southbank, london eye
view of the London Eye from Westminster Bridge

London Eye : The largest observation wheel in the world; the “Millennium Wheel”, or the London Eye was initially erected as a temporary structure. It soon became a fixture, and now draws four million visitors a year.  Daily rides are on offer and on a clear day you can just about see Windsor Castle on the horizon. On any other day and assuming it is not pouring with rain you have a fabulous 360degree view of London.

new year in london at the london eye in london
Fireworks at the London Eye New Year 2013

The view at night is just spectacular and you can pre-book sunset rides too.  Lucky for us the London Eye hosts the New Year celebrations with a spectaular, multi-coloured display of fire-works. The best in the world :) Also to be seen next to the London Eye is the Aquarium.

 

 
Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

As you cross Westminster bridge, be sure to stop and take in the views of the river on each side and especially of the Houses of Parliament that back onto the river.

Nearest tube station: Waterloo – Jubilee, Northern and Bakerloo lines. Travel planner

 

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Lines in the Ice: Seeking the Northwest Passage

Lines in the Ice: Seeking the Northwest Passage

a FREE exhibition at The British Library

Extended till 19 April 2015
See why Europeans are drawn to explore the Arctic and, in particular, the Northwest Passage.the british library
Lines in the Ice examines why Europeans are drawn to explore the Arctic and, in particular, the fabled Northwest Passage. Arctic exploration has influenced our culture, changed the societies of indigenous peoples, and had a powerful effect on the making of the modern world.
The exhibition displays early European maps of the Arctic, Inuit accounts of the coming of the explorers, writings from the search for Franklin, early Arctic photography and much more. It also unearths the history of the North Pole’s most famous resident – Santa.
Uncovering the beauty, drama and importance of the Arctic, from the distant past up to the present day.
For further information please visit their website http://www.bl.uk/events/lines-in-the-ice-seeking-the-northwest-passage/
Free
Entrance Hall, The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday http://www.bl.uk/aboutus/stpancras/

Nearest tube station: Kings Cross
National rail station: Kings Cross & St Pancras
Plan your journey: http://www.tfl.gov.uk

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Wellington Arch; Hyde Park Corner

wellington arch hyde park corner
Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner

The Wellington Arch (aka Constitution Arch), built in 1825-7 as a northern gate to the grounds of Buckingham Palace, providing a grand entrance to London, is situated in the centre of the Hyde Park Corner traffic island, a hub for some of the busiest roads in Westminster –

map of hyde park and hyde park corner
a map of Hyde Park and Hyde Park Corner

6 streets converge at the junction: Constitution Hill (south east), Grosvenor Crescent ( south west), Grosvenor Place (south), Park Lane, Knightsbridge (west), Park Lane (north) and Piccadilly ( north east).
Designed by Decimus Burton as a memorial to the Duke of Wellington, the arch was intended as a ‘victory arch’ proclaiming Wellington’s defeat of Napolean, originally topped with an equestrian statue of the Duke, sculpted by Matthew Cotes Wyatt but replaced in 1912 with a work entitled ‘The Angel of Peace’ descending on the Quadriga of Victory (ancient four-horse chariot) by sculptor Adrian Jones; the largest bronze sculpture in Europe.

the angel of peace quadriga of victory
‘The Angel of Peace’ descending on the Quadriga of Victory (ancient four-horse chariot) by sculptor Adrian Jones.
Carscapes Exhibition: the museum inside the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner
Carscapes Exhibition: the museum inside the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner

The arch is hollow inside and housed a small police station until 1992.  Contained within the Arch is the new Quadriga Gallery where you can see one of a series of exhibitions. When we visited we saw the: Carscapes: How the Motor Car Reshaped England

 

 

Besides the arch there are great number of other fascinating monuments on the island: Monument to the Cavalry of the Empire, Adrian Jones, Boy and Dolphin statue, Alexander Munro, The Wellington Monument – a smaller equestrian statue of Wellington (facing Apsley House – the home of the first Duke of Wellington), the Machine Gun Corps Memorial, the Royal Artillery Memorial, the Australian War Memorial, the New Zealand War Memorial, and a statue of Lord Byron (on an island opposite the Wellington Memorial).

Highlights:
The view; its amazing, you can see right along Constitution Avenue……

view from wellington arch hyde park corner
the view along Constitution Avenue from the viewing platform of Wellington Arch

you can enjoy stunning panoramas of London’s parks and Houses of Parliament from the balconies of Wellington Arch and of course you can get a really close up view of the extraordinary sculpture at the top;  ‘The Angel of Peace’ descending on the Quadriga of Victory.

If you’re lucky, the weather is good and time your visit right you can watch the Household Cavalry on their way to Changing the Guard at Horse Guards Parade.

household cavalry
Household Cavalry Horse Guards – mural in the Hyde Park Corner Underpass

The monuments are a fascinating snapshot of British and Commonwealth history.
Once you’ve enjoyed the view and seen all the monuments then head underground via the Hyde Corner Underpass….there are a number of delightful murals on the walls depicting Victorian London and other scenes…well worth the time.

hyde park corner underpass
scenes of Victorian London in the Hyde Park Corner Underpass

Items of note:
“Hyde Park Corner” was used as a code to announce the death of King George VI to the government in 1952.
The 1935 film ‘ Hyde Park Corner’ takes it’s name from the area…where it is set.
One half of the arch functions as a ventilation shaft for the London Underground network.

Across the road is the well-known Hyde Park Corner Screen; Burton’s Screen which forms the Hyde Park Corner entrance to Hyde Park and on Park Lane is the Queen Elizabeth Gate.

Queen Elizabeth Gate
Queen Elizabeth Gate

Ownership of Wellington Arch was transferred to English Heritage in 1999, the arch contains three floors of exhibits detailing the history of the arch and is now open to the public (for a fee).

For more information about the arch:
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/wellington-arch/

Nearest Tube Station:
Hyde Park Corner – then cross the road.
Green Park and a short walk.
Victoria Station and quite a walk.
Hyde Park corner is also within walking distance of Piccadilly Circus along Piccadilly, a great walk that takes you past the famous Fortnum and Mason Store, the Royal Academy of Art, St James’s
Church Piccadilly and much more. Be sure to look out for the clock on the facade of Fortnum and Mason’s.

Many buses service the area on the way to and from Victoria Station.   Plan your journey: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/

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3 things to see in the area:
Apsley House

rose garden hyde park corner
The Rose Garden at Hyde Park Corner

The Rose Garden and Rotten Row at Hyde Park
Green Park and Buckingham Palace

Aldwych Underground Station Tours

aldwych underground station tours
Aldwych

A brilliant opportunity to visit one of London’s disused underground stations…what will we find….back in 2013 my daughter and I booked ourselves onto one of the Aldwych London Underground Station tours run by the London Transport Museum …

I love the hidden aspects of London and the fact that there is a whole world beneath our feet, much of which goes unnoticed and unseen by millions of people every day.  I found this tour to be suitably informative, interesting, on the slightly spooky side and I’m sure there are a few ghosts lingering in those tunnels and on the platforms; in a word: terrific!!! 

aldwych station underground station tours
Keep It Under Your Hat!!! this is a super tour!

If you want to book for one of these tours, you’d do well to keep a close eye on their website, the tours are VERY popular and usually booked up well in advance http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/events/events-calendar#aldwych

Deep below the streets of London lie the disused platforms and tunnels the disused Aldwych Underground Station. Usually closed to the public, London Transport Museum have arranged dates for public tours to take place.

The station was originally named Strand as it was built on the site of the Strand Theatre, but was later renamed to Aldwych meaning ‘old village’.

aldwych station underground station tours
Strand Station on Strand is one of the London Underground Stations that are closed

Aldwych is one of London’s mysterious places, holding secrets and memories of London’s forgotten life and work underground. It opened to the public in 1907 was never heavily used as originally intended and closed nearly 100 years later in 1994. The station has had a varied history; it provided shelter to Londoners during the Blitz and has been used for film shoots including Patriot Game, Mr Selfridge and Atonement.

The tours started on 7 November 2013 and involve groups of up to 40 people being escorted by volunteer tour guides into the ticket hall and then down to the platforms and inter-connecting walkways – including some that have very rarely been seen by the public.

aldwych station underground station tours
Halt…who goes there?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

....roll up, roll up....and book your tickets here...
….roll up, roll up….and book your tickets here…

Tickets
£25 adult (£20 concession) check for latest prices. 

Tickets must be booked in advance by booking online or calling 020 7565 7298.  Please do check their website or your ticket for their latest T&C’s. 
All tickets include a free entry to London Transport Museum to be used within one month of the stated Aldwych station tour date and 10% off items in the Covent Garden shop for up to a month after their visit (on production of a valid ticket).

Important access information

  • aldwych underground dtation tours
    this non-working lift….you can see why access would not be via this baby…

    Access to the platform is by staircase only and there is no working lift in operation. 160 stairs connect the ticket hall level to the platform level – there is no step-free access.

 

 

  • Visitors should wear sturdy shoes. Guests wearing open toe sandals, shoes or high-heels will be refused entry due to a health and safety requirements.

    aldwych underground station tours
    wear sturdy shoes… :)

I so enjoyed this fascinating look at the workings of the forgotten underground, the tunnels and passages seemingly heading off into nowhere……

aldwych station underground station tours
time to go?….this Way Out!!!

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Things to see in the area:
old entrance to Strand Station – on Strand
Two island churches:
St Mary le Strand
St Clement Danes
The Royal Courts of Justice
Somerset House
Courtauld Gallery

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