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Christmas party London, London Christmas lights and the most Christmassy experiences in the capital

Christmas party London, London Christmas lights and the most Christmassy experiences in the capital

London is simply sublime at Christmastime. It’s Christmas party London-style season, November through December. There’s London Christmas lights and many Christmassy experiences. Here’s a few things you shouldn’t miss:

Christmas party London

You can go to hotels, clubs, bars, markets – just about anywhere for a Christmas party London experience.

We were lucky enough to be invited over to Camden for the launch of FEST’s Christmas party London events. Take a look:

 

More places to relish in London’s Christmas spirit: 

Harrods Christmas Grotto

Knightsbridge tube
A Christmas escape for Children, that leaves parents free to also escape… to do some shopping! It’s festive, magical and very Harrods. Various events happening throughout December. More at: harrods.com

 

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and Santa Land

Marble Arch tube
This gorgeous, annual one-stop Christmas spectacular includes rides, circus-like attractions, markets that sell sweets, Christmas treats and traditional German crafts and of course an ice rink. More at: hydeparkwinterwonderland.com

 

Westfield ice skating and grotto

Shepherd’s Bush tube / Stratford tube
There’s nothing that feels more like Christmas than spending a day in the warmth, shopping at Westfield London or Stratford City. Santa’s in store too, and there’s an ice skating rink – makes for a wonderfully spirited day out.

 

Southbank Centre Christmas Market and Winter Festival

Waterloo tube
A traditional German-style wooden hut market along the river – so charming! Toys, gifts, food, drinks – internationally inspired. Also features the Designers Makers Christmas Market, with over 50 British designers selling jewellery, ceramics, textiles, homewares and prints. More at: southbankcentre.co.uk

 

 

A Covent Garden Christmas

Covent Garden tube
The historic market piazza plays host to innovative digital installations, a super-sized LEGO snow globe, entertainers, festive lights and displays. More at: coventgardenlondonuk.com

 

Christmas Arcade at Somerset House

Temple or Covent Garden tube
The divine Somerset House‘s West Wing overlooks a lavish ice skating rink, and the setting features a Narniaesque corridor bedecked in lights and foliage. Dozens of airy rooms are occupied by pop-up-shops with an emphasis on British-made wares, so you’ll find the likes of Brora cashmere, Murdock grooming products, BoBelle London bags and leather goods.

 

 

Harry Potter Walking Tour

Indulge in a magical Hogwarts Christmas with a guided walking tour (also includes a boat ride) that takes you through Leadenhall Market and other Potter filming locations.

 

Christmas at Kew Gardens and Hampton Court Palace

Richmond tube
Christmas at Kew Gardens is family friendly in a magical woodland setting, includes a Victorian carousel and vintage rides, Santa’s grotto, boutique Christmas market and live music. Over at Hampton Court Palace, Henry VIII’s favourite ‘haunt’, not to mention a fabulous place to visit, there’s a divine ice skating rink in the front courtyard.

 

Christmas lights in London

Christmas lights by night

Famous throughout the world, each year there is a different theme throughout the city’s festive streets. Brave the chill and jump on an open bus sightseeing tour during the evening, taking in all the classic sights including Harrods, Oxford Street, Piccadilly and the Tower of London all dressed up in their Christmas finery.

 

Where to stay: The Wellesley, for a little Christmas luxury

 

The Wellesley is set within prestigious Knightsbridge, and provides easy access to all the Christmas experiences listed above, and much more. It is not yet a year old following extensive renovations which transformed the property from musical venue to luxe townhouse hotel. Gatsbyesque glamour sets the tone, and this boutique property is worth the dollar outlay if you’re seeking luxury alongside unparalleled service while in London.

The Roaring Twenties carry on at The Wellesley through cleverly considered interiors like crystal chandeliers, original artwork, mirrored panelling and lavish cream and gold colour scheme. It’s also a romantic building for anyone keen on being immersed in history − indeed it used to be the site of the original Hyde Park Corner tube station in the 1920s, and telling architectural signs are evident upon the exterior of the property and from within.

The Wellesley attracts a high calibre of clientèle, but is accessible for anyone seeking a night or more of pure indulgence. The hotel is conveniently situated for shopping, up-market bars and a wander around Hyde Park. Beautifully restored in Art Deco style with a contemporary twist, The Wellesley is a feast for the senses, offering the discerning traveller copious luxury surprises and outstanding personalised service.

What we loved!

  • Live jazz that was in the hotel’s divine Jazz Lounge which boasts brilliant acoustics thanks to the venue’s musical roots.
  • The delicious cocktails on offer in the Crystal Bar.
  • The beds!
  • Marble bathrooms and Hermès toiletries.
  • Courtesy Rolls Royce chauffeur service.
  • Fast, free WiFi and dozens of free movies available on-demand.

Dining and recreation

The Wellesley features several spaces for indulging, including the enthralling Jazz Lounge with its grand piano centrepiece; the award-winning Crystal Bar which boasts a large selection of fine cognac, champagnes and whisky, and the opulent Oval Restaurant where a delectable Italian-inspired menu is on offer.

Best room

The spacious 4-bedroom penthouse set across levels six and seven, with scenic views of Hyde Park, and featuring heated marble floors, heavenly bathrooms, balconies and a fire place.

The Wellesley, 11 Knightsbridge, London
Hyde Park Corner tube
thewellesley.co.uk

Do you have a Christmas experience tip for visitors to lovely London? Let us know in the comments

 

More Christmas

One of our favourite Christmas experiences was at the Cologne Christmas markets in Germany. Take a look around for yourself 

London secret walks – Rotherhithe to Tower Bridge

London secret walks – Rotherhithe to Tower Bridge

I enjoyed some time off from my day-job yesterday and remembered the merits of working for myself. That is, the freedom to wander and work from wherever I please. On on this particular day that took me on one of the best of London secret walks, along the Thames path around Bermondsey. Lovely!

Not that I didn’t miss my work friends, on the contrary, they don’t realise how much I value them. As any independent contractor will verify, working on your own all the time can be a lonely business.

I’ve never had the chance to really indulge in this kind of down-time in London though. Usually if I had time off it was because I was chasing employment or contracts, and I never allowed myself to chill out and explore!

But with a pay-cheque coming in, this time I was happy to indulge in the surprises of London’s beautiful old back streets without any worries.

London secret walks – Rotherhithe to Tower Bridge

Yesterday was a crisp winter/spring cross-over day, where the sun was shining brightly.

It was chilly but divine; ideal for taking a stroll along one of the best London secret walks.

 

Charles Dickens describes such a day perfectly in Great Expectations:

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

 

Thames walk: London secret walks

 

What I wanted to share with you, is my favourite thing to do in London when I have a spare bit of sunlight – the Thames path walk around Bermondsey.

 

London secret walks – the Thames path

This section of the Thames path walk weaves its way around the back streets of zone one (the city), along the water and into central London where Tower Bridge dominates the landscape, as it has done for around 130 years.

Our friends Barry and Paulo introduced us to this vibrant area and secret London walk.

Many of the great London secret walks can be had around Bermondsey, Southwark, from London Bridge, around Southbank and across Tower Bridge to the extraordinary Tower of London or lovely St Katharine Docks.

I recently worked out that my favourite wander of them all is accessible via the London Overground (train) from where I jump on at Dalston Junction.

It’s just a 12 minute ride up the line to Rotherhithe. From here, you are only a fifteen to twenty minute walk away from Tower Bridge, but a world of magical experience from the tourist grind.

 

London secret walks – Thames walk London Tower Bridge Shard sunset

 

London secret walks, my route along the Thames path

Start at Rotherhithe

Head to the Overground (orange line) station of Rotherhithe in East London.

No, I still can’t pronounce it, but it’s now one of my free-time go-to destinations.

Turn left out of the station, and then left again immediately at the first street, Railway Avenue (next to the station).

It’s just a short walk to the end of this street, where you’ll end up right on the Thames, and on the doorstep of the fascinating Brunel Museum.

Last summer when we passed by here, the tunnel was open underground and we crawled down a man-hole to below the street where there was a fab light-show art installation being exhibited!

 

Walk along the riverside – just head towards the bridge!

My Google map above might help you out (start at the blue star and follow the red markers into the city).

Essentially you can explore what is called ‘The Thames Path’ which travels past some terrific old buildings.

This includes what I understand is the oldest pub on the Thames, the Mayflower. Apparently, to avoid paying mooring taxes, Captain Christopher Jones tied his ship up alongside this pub and people boarded here before the Mayflower sailed to Plymouth to pick up the remaining passengers and then continued on its historic voyage to America in 1620.

There’s always been surprisingly few people down this part of the world when we’ve dropped by. We’ve taken many visiting friends on this walk because it’s historical and pretty.

 

Serenity in central London

Who would have thought you could experience such nostalgia in a peaceful setting in central London?

This was the first chance I had to walk it on my own, and as haunting church bells rang out from St Mary’s, I couldn’t help but think about about all the lives that had passed here before me.

 

Perhaps if I close my eyes I could be transported to any space in time when this place was bustling with trade, markets, sailors, religious folk mingling on the church’s steps, and kids in newsboy caps and scruffy neck-scarfs running barefoot in the street. Just imagine what it might have been like…

 

Water laps against the old buildings, crows cry out and seagulls squawk, but the sound of tourist chatter is nil.

Every now and then the warehouse conversions open up to vast and amazing viewing spaces, like the spot just past a pub by the name of Angel, which is opposite ruins of King Edward’s manor.

Here you can gaze up and down the Thames, with all of London’s famous landmarks in sight.

It’s breath-taking whether the sun is out or not (though it can be windy and a bit chilly on a cloudy day).

 

Thames walk London city view cityscape: London secret walks

You can’t really get lost at this point, because while there’s construction going on, you just need to walk adjacent to the water. Follow the Thames Path signs towards Butlers Wharf; there’s an underpass where eventually you will find more people congregating around Tower Bridge.

I like to stop and people-watch from a perch at All Bar One (free WiFi and yummy tapas here too). But you can easily continue meandering along to the bridge and then across towards the Tower of London.

The experience is ‘secret London’ at its best, and I feel so privileged and grateful to have the chance to get to know this energising old city intimately.

 

Thames walk Tower Bridge: London secret walks

 

Do you have a favourite walk in London? Please do share in the comments so we and other readers can check it out!

 

Quieter walk along the other way from Rotherhithe

PS if you want to take a look at this area but would prefer to hang out in a quieter spot rather than walking towards the city, we discovered a lovely large and comfortable pub that’s about a five minute walk from Rotherhithe station. Turn left and go directly down Salter Road until you come to the Thameside YHA.

Across the road from there, positioned on a nice patch of land by the water is The Salt Quay, a good place to eat, chat, blog and soak up some atmosphere. We had a good old gossip with Jordan Lea and Rachael at this very place last summer.

Find out more about London’s Thames path on TFL’s website here.

6 of the best London views (free or under £5)

6 of the best London views (free or under £5)

It seems no matter where you look in London a crane isn’t too far from sight. Construction is cranking at a frenetic pace, with new skyscrapers and tower blocks quickly altering the cityscape. Contemporary architecture boasting eccentric names means unique structures like the Shard, ‘Gherkin’ and ‘Walkie Talkie’ now rub shoulders with older smaller cousins like St Paul’s Cathedral, Monument and London Eye.

There is one thing most of these structures have in common – they’re expensive if you want to enjoy their views! So, here we have presented some of our fave alternatives that are free or inexpensive to enter.

6 of the best London views free or under £5

Walkie Talkie building Travellivelearn

Walkie-Talkie building (20 Fenchurch Street)

The Walkie-Talkie is one of our ultimate go-to destinations when family or friends arrive in London. The viewing platform is called the Sky Garden and it’s set over three storeys of elegantly landscaped public gardens.

As you exit the lift you’re greeted by a spacious and airy cafe/bar which connects seamlessly to the outside viewing platform. The Sky Garden boasts wonderful uninterrupted views across London, plus three restaurants if you fancy a meal. Entry is free BUT you need to book your place in advance

Nearest tubes to the Sky Garden: Monument, Bank, Tower Hill, Cannon Street

Monument

The Great Fire of 1666 blazed for three days and destroyed much of medieval London. To commemorate this significant tragedy, Sir Christopher Wren designed the world’s tallest stone column, the Monument.

Monument is 202ft (61.5m) high and is situated 202ft away from the house of Thomas Farynor, who was the king’s baker in Pudding Lane (where the fire started). Climbing the 311 steps won’t you leave breathless but it will surprise with great views of the ‘Cheese Grater’ (122 Leadenhall Street) and Tower Bridge.

Find out more about our visit to the Monument

Nearest tube: Monument

Monument view travellivelearn

Greenwich Park

Dating back to Roman times, the former hunting park of Greenwich offers the best views of Docklands, Canary Wharf and the city of London. Additionally, it is home to the historic National Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House and the Royal Observatory perched on top of the hill. The world-famous prime meridian and home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is only a stone’s throw away. Pack a picnic basket and make a day of it in one of London’s best and most beautiful Royal parks. There’s much to see and do in Greenwich, so we’d suggest setting a day aside to explore. Park entry is free.

Nearest tube: Cutty Sark or Greenwich (or catch a Thames ferry)

Tate Modern

We first discovered the lovely view from Tate’s restaurant when our friend, Nicole, invited us up there for a catch-up drink when we were visiting London as tourists in 2009. We now take our own guests here!

Aside from housing an amazing art collection dating back to the 16th Century, Tate’s positioned on the Thames, and you can make your way to the cafe/bar for free to check out the amazing river view, Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s worth splashing out on a beer or glass of bubbles (like Sarah does) when you’re visiting, and head up at nightfall to see the city sparkle. Entry is free (although special exhibits do have a separate charge).

Nearest tube: London Bridge, Blackfriars, St Pauls, Southwark

Saint Paul's Cathedral Travellivelearn

Emirates Cable Car

If you don’t mind being suspended by a thin cable 90m (300ft) above the River Thames, then the Emirates cable car is a truly memorable experience.

The journey between the Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Dock lasts an unforgettable ten minutes and provides a spectacular setting against the glass and steel of London’s skyscrapers. From the comfort of your cabin, you’re presented with bird’s eye views of the O2 arena, Canary Wharf, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the Thames Barrier. Use your Oyster Card (London transport card) and receive a 25% discount.

Nearest tube: there are several options, check the routes here

Heron Tower

Heron Tower (officially 110 Bishopsgate) is a commercial skyscraper near Liverpool Street station in the city and is home to two of London’s finest restaurants, the acclaimed Sushi Samba and the Duck and Waffle.

Sarah and I have indulged in many a cocktail at Sushi Samba while enjoying the 360-degree views of the city. You can almost touch my favourite building, the ‘Gherkin’. The elevator ride to the top is both terrifying and exciting as it shoots up the side of the building like a bullet train. Entry is free.

Nearest tube: Liverpool Street

Have other tips or a comment to share on the best London views? Drop us a line below…

 

Our first week (back) in London

Our first week (back) in London

I tell everyone I meet how amazing it is to be back in London. I’m so grateful, and I think I’m being rewarded for a positive attitude because it’s been sunny! And hot! Although I could do with it being a few degrees cooler (don’t tell the locals I said that though, they’ll not be pleased with me). Have I mentioned lately that I just love it here?!

Sarah and Cooper in London

It’s been a jam-packed first week in London as we hunted for accommodation – a task we commenced the morning we stepped off the plane at Heathrow. We’ve been blessed in that we have two beautiful friends, Barry and Paulo, who invited us to stay with them in SE1, not too far from Tower Bridge. This enabled us to not have to worry about expensive hotel fees while house hunting, and we’re so thankful to them for sharing their space with us. We met Barry and Paulo on the Mediterranean cruise we did back in January of 2013 and have been friends ever since, although this was an opportunity to get to know each other much better, and let me tell you, they are two of the nicest people you could ever know. I’m not even saying it because they read this space, in fact, they’ll probably never see this post, but still, we are lucky. They even got us into a new show, The Honourable Womanwhich we’ll continue to stream on BBC’s catch-up viewer online.

Broadway Market

We explored trendy Bermondsey – an area new to Cooper who took to sampling a Guinness in every pub we encountered (he’s on holidays, after all); and indulged at Brick Lane Coffee along this same strip which offers a funky, arty-type atmosphere, nice coffee and fast free WiFi. Another business of note which we found here is Holly & Lil, Handmade in England – a boutique pet store with gorgeous wares and cute dogs hanging out inside for good measure.

We also sampled our way through Borough Market – tip: find the vegetarian Indian curry stand – best curries I’ve had in a looooong time. Delic!!

As Tower Bridge, Tower of London and St Katherine Docks are within a short walk from this area too, we explored across the Thames to where, this very week, moving tributes commemorating the beginning of World War 1 – The Great War – have commenced.

On Tuesday, Barry, Paulo, Cooper and I wandered across for dinner at The Dickens Inn, a divine pub situated along St Katherine Way, a bit of a local secret, even though it’s only a few steps beyond the Tower of London and the bridge. The reason for our journey in this direction though, aside from dinner, is that we wanted to see what’s being called an “evolving installation” by artist, Paul Cummins, and award-winning stage designer, Tom Piper, surrounding the famous Tower of London. Called Bloodswept Lands and Seas of Red, the installation is, in fact, thousands of ceramic red poppies which by 11 November 2014, will be “planted” around the Tower of London, and will number 888, 246 representing all British military lost during the war. The poppies – each uniquely hand-crafted – will be sold off in November and monies raised will be shared between the UK’s six key service charities. –Read more here.

Tip: Head into the area late afternoon so you can view it all as the sun goes down and then prettily lit up into the evening. 

Night fell around 9pm, and the sound of canon fire from outside the Tower of London rung through the air. As we walked across the bridge we could see smoke billowing out from around the river front – a surreal experience in 2014! We then noticed a tower of blue light beaming into the night sky in the distance. We’ve since discovered it originates from Victoria Tower Gardens, and is another of the city’s commemorative nods to The Great War. On closer inspection, the light – called “Spectra”, by Japanese sound and light artist, Ryoji Ikeda, is a square of black matting on which 49 powerful spotlights are beamed upwards into eternity.

Background story and image source: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/aug/05/ryoji-ikeda-spectra-first-world-war-artangel

Background story and image source: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/aug/05/ryoji-ikeda-spectra-first-world-war-artangel

The light was actually launched on the evening of the fourth, when the city plunged into darkness as a mark of respect commemorating the beginning of a terrible and tragic time for families of the period. It will be visible for seven evenings from sun down, and I hope it reminds everyone of how lucky we are 100 years on. “Spectra” is visible for miles across the city, and indeed we can see it from our new place in Dalston, east London.

Spectra from Dalston TravelLiveLearn.com

Spectra and London Eye visible from Dalston – evening view across the East by Sarah Blinco.

All in all it’s been a memorable and wonderful first week back. We’ve now secured a place to live and are gradually catching up with friends. Here are some of our discoveries, August 1 to 7, 2014:

Best free WiFi:
Costa coffee, Shepherd’s Bush
Westfield Shopping Centre, Shepherd’s Bush
Brick Lane Coffee, Bermondsey
Le Ziz Restaurant & Lounge Bar, Dalston Junction
Cafe Route, Dalston Junction

Best coffee:
Brick Lane Coffee, Bermondsey
The random little stand on platform 2 at Highbury & Islington train station

Best food:
Lime Orange, Victoria (Korean cuisine)
Le Ziz, Dalston Junction (Turkish)

Coolest discovery:
Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

Dalston

Our first week (back) in London

Sustainable London leading by example

London is a wonderful world city; most can appreciate this. What’s fascinated me about the place in recent years however, is the technology and progressive engineering that is emerging. ‘Tech City’, within London’s east-end, is the region’s equivalent to Silicon Valley, and home to many of the globe’s great technology companies. Additionally, innovative new structures are erected every year, each designed to better manage pollution and all the issues we generate as avid consumers of…. everything!

Co.Exist by international business brand, Fast Company, produced analysis on statistics in late 2012 which found London to be among the world’s top six greenest cities, alongside New York, and unsurprisingly, Vancouver, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Stockholm.

The city held firm at number five on Fast Company’s 2012 Top 10 Smart Cities on the Planet, for intelligent use of technology and resources; “Resulting in cost and energy savings, improved service delivery and quality of life, and reduced environmental footprint”. Environmental responsibility is determined by factors such as car ownership, green space, bicycle usage, solar installations, recycling and water consumption − all taken seriously by contemporary Londoners.

 

Loving sustainable London

The city is simple to explore on foot, so with a day to spare I decided to emerge from the Underground and take a look at what makes this place ‘green’, and what’s driving sustainability into the future. Helping me to discover whether we can indeed learn something from operations here was Stephanie from Insider London, an organisation which has recently added another interesting walking excursion − the Cutting Edge Green Tour − to its already comprehensive, personalised guided services that showcase London from street-level.

Following the green success of the 2012 Olympic Games, numerous projects were set into play thanks to newly introduced government funding, to encourage a lasting sustainability legacy, with an aim to better balance our human needs against those of nature. Green spaces within the city’s newer precincts are a must, and my first port of call with Stephanie − Central St. Giles‘ bustling office area − provided an ideal example. This interestingly-designed space features an excellent BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) rating, as 80 per cent of heat in the development is generated from renewable sources (biomass), 60 per cent of rainwater falling on office roofs and into the piazza is collected and used, 100 per cent of cooling tower water discharged is collected for re-use, 90 per cent of demolition materials were sent for recycling, and green roofs and roof gardens attenuate rainfall and heat build-up. Stephanie did point out that there needs to be a balance when it comes to roof gardens − if too much water or maintenance is required it defeats the notion of sustainability, but by the same token, greenery is being added to all major cities now as it defends against smog.

Sustainable London Walkie Talkie Sarah Blinco

We explored the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, which was one of the first buildings in the city to be green retrofitted utilising recycled and regenerated original materials. It features concealed solar panelling too, and an ingenious ventilation system − creating what’s described as ‘the Monroe effect’ − designed to conserve energy usually required to temperature-control museum spaces. The ‘Monroe’ terminology indeed alludes to the famous picture of Marilyn caught crossing an air vent, as this describes how the cutting-edge cooling and heating system provides an even temperature, thus preserving the oldest exhibits, including three horse-drawn vehicles from the mid-19th century.

From a spectacular stand-point on Waterloo Bridge, we discussed the successes and pitfalls of recent additions to the London skyline, the Leadenhall Building, nicknamed ‘Cheesegrater’, Strata Tower, also known as the ‘razor’ for its likeness to an electric razor, and London’s famous Gherkin Tower at 30 St Mary Axe. All new developments come ready-made with simple energy and water-saving benefits, including sensor lighting (turns off when not in use), LED lights, light and temperature monitoring and rain harvesting systems. While these buildings (and the majority of sky-scrapers in London) are now rated quite high on the aforementioned BREEAM scale, another of the clan, the ‘Walkie Talkie‘ building (20 Fenchurch Street), has been re-dubbed, ‘Walkie Scorchie’ because the contractor who supplied the glass has somehow got away with using material that heats up anything in its path; akin to a death ray from Star Wars! And yes, UK journalists have taken to the street to test a theory you could fry an egg within the beams of light emitted from the building, and indeed you can! Then there’s the Strata Tower where although green measures are in play, plans for a more significant level of sustainability didn’t quite pan out. There are three massive turbines at the top of the 147-metre-high building, which were supposed to generate eight per cent of the energy needs within, however, turns out they are far too loud for anyone inside the building to be able to think, and they cause vibration − like a small, incessant earthquake. The design team are to be admired for their idea though, and it’s quite sad it hasn’t worked out as planned. Could it be that other designers perfect such a scheme in the future?

Walkie Talkie building London Sarah Blinco

Back on street level, we discuss improvements made to the likes of the Southbank Centre, Royal National Theatre and London Eye which boast upgraded energy-saving ventilation systems and LED lighting. The new Blackfriars Bridge has been hailed “the sunniest bridge in the world” courtesy a roof made up of 4400 solar panels, which means it is apparently the largest solar bridge in the world, and the bridge produces enough clean energy to power about 50 per cent of Blackfriars transit station’s needs. Also worth a visit is the Southbank Centre Roof Garden − one of the city’s best-kept secrets − an oasis which features fruit trees, wild flowers, herbs, stunning views and a cafe and bar.

Wandering around we notice a few of London’s new fleet of electric buses ferrying commuters between central city stops. The new vehicles have three doors rather than two, which is not only more energy efficient but means additional staff score jobs as one more person is needed to man each bus (at the back end). Cycling is becoming more popular by the year here, particularly following the implementation of the ‘Boris bike’ and its hire system originally inspired by the city of Montreal in Canada, and one that has since rolled out around the world. New and improved ‘cycle highways’ are encouraging commuters to re-think costs that can be saved by cycling, not to mention the reduction of our carbon footprint and personal wellness benefits. Free, super fast electric car charging stations are now also located around the city, so you can plug in, nip into Marks & Spencer (M&S) for some groceries, and be on your way, petrol-free.

Sustainable London OXO Tower Sarah Blinco

Speaking of M&S, did you know it is one of the greenest retailers in the world? Just a few of the innovations the organisation has implemented since its 2007 Plan A eco-agreement are all lights in stores are now LED, plastic shopping bags come at a cost, their operations are carbon neutral and no rubbish is sent to landfill − it’s all recycled or composted. M&S also engage local British suppliers, recycle plastic bottles into polyester which is then used in some of its clothes lines, and sell fair-trade product. Another high street example of an eco-friendly retailer is Lush, who promote a ‘naked’ policy − no packaging where possible, which saves water, energy and transport costs. There are not too many liquid products sold at Lush, and a few of the company’s innovative items include tooth tabs (an environmentally-friendly alternative to toothpaste) and ‘hard’ hand-cream and body butter which looks like soap but rubs off and melts into the skin. The colourful and quirky Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden is an interesting place too, as the precinct hosts some of the UK’s leading independent organic and natural health retailers, including the famous Neal’s Yard Remedies which was founded quite ahead of its time in 1981.

View outside Walkie Talkie building London Sarah Blinco

Of course, mistakes have been made here, and there’s always room for improvement. In London that is particularly highlighted when it comes to water conservation, where the city struggles due to ageing and leaking pipes. However, plans are underway to address the issue, and citizens are behind the push. London has been internationally recognised for sustainability innovations such as congestion tax and its robust transit system. Importantly, because players at the top of the game are setting an example and encouraging sustainable lifestyles − gardens, cycling, conserving energy and recycling − the people are following suit. From my perspective, on my ‘home front’, many Australians are doing their utmost to lead the charge, but there are many others falling behind because of laziness and a poor attitude to sustainability portrayed by many regional councils. One would assume it would be harder to get people to act on a larger scale, such as that of a city like London or New York, but evidently it is entirely possible. And I think that’s a great message for all of us − no matter where we live − moving into the future.

While in London I also took the wonderful, informative and fun Quirky Walking Tour with Helen from Insider London. Two enthusiastic thumbs up if you’re seeking a better way to learn about this interesting metropolis. 

 

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