London’s top 5 restaurants

According to TripAdvisor, there are 17,144 listed restaurants in London. It’s safe to say that we will never go hungry, though in this day and age, humans have never been so picky about where to eat out. Where we choose to go depends on the circumstances really, whether we’ve just finished work and can’t be bothered to cook, whether we want to take the family or a loved one out for a treat (to avoid cooking), or whether it is simply a spontaneous decision as you walk past a nice looking and smelling place (which is a great solution to not cook). We go to restaurants because we want to munch out on something that we wouldn’t normally have at home in a different environment where we are served by others and that’s the beauty of it! So, out of London’s thousands upon thousands of restaurants, where are the best places to go? Here are TripAdvisor’s top 5 in the city.

We’ll start with number 5: Green Pea. Yes I know the name isn’t very exhilarating and I promise they serve more than just green peas. This restaurant is located in Trafalgar Road and is the place to go for some traditional English/Irish homemade food that does not fail to impress! Popular courses include the mouth-watering Roast Dinner, Steak and Guinness Pie, the Lamb Shank and the Vegetarian Parsnip Sausages. The food is said to be absolutely delicious and given in decent sized portions for those who might have skipped lunch or are looking for value for money. The atmosphere is warm, homely and friendly with fantastic customer service. Green Pea has a firm 5/5 rating as well as a Certificate of Excellence with great comments all down the board. And that’s only number 5!
Number 4 is the complete opposite to Green Pea’s concept. The Marianne restaurant is in Chepstow Road, Notting Hill and is quite a bit more ‘up market’ and is more ideal for special occasion dining. In other words, it’s fancy. The owner herself, Marianne is an exceptional chef, cooking for A-list celebrities and she competed on Masterchef – The Professionals, so you know you are in good hands. The first and most notable feature of this restaurant is that it is very small, tiny in fact. Though believe it or not, this has proven a delight to customers and it has been described as intimate, cosy and stylish. The menu is definitely something very special. Serving European and French cuisine, the Marianne changes its menu daily using fresh and seasonal ingredients for a high quality presentation and taste. The choice of a three or four course menu can include Steamed Turbot, Rennes Pigeon (don’t worry it’s not a pigeon from off the street… hopefully) and Veal Fillet, all of which are served with some French extras that I couldn’t understand, but they sure sound delicious. The food arrives in not the biggest portions, but with exquisite presentation for an elegant evening meal. The Marianne has had a total of 141 reviews on TripAdvisor so far, and all but one are excellent or very good; not bad at all!
We move on now to number 3 and the competition is heating up as Gordon Ramsay enters the scene. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea opened in 1988 as Ramsay’s first solo restaurant and is unsurprisingly up there in the top 3. The style is again high standard and modern French with a variety of different menus to choose from. Popular prestige dishes include the Ravioli of Lobster, the Cotswold Lamb and the Isle of Gigha Halibut (I have no idea what that is but it sounds like a fish). The cuisine of this restaurant is of an award winning standard with only the finest and freshest ingredients for a classic yet modern French taste. The service from staff has also been particularly noticed by customers as very attentive, welcoming and impeccable, noticing mistakes and problems ‘before they even have a chance to occur’. Wow, waiters that see the future, service doesn’t get better than that! The surroundings are formal as expected, but intimate with a pleasant ambience which is again ideal for a special celebration. With 1,003 excellent TripAdvisor reviews, who can possibly beat this?
Our penultimate entry is thankfully not another one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, but a pub! The Andover Arms in Hammersmith is ranked number 2 on TripAdvisor and has been named ‘a hidden gem’. This charming pub is guaranteed to pleasantly surprise you with its settings, service and tasty English dining. Upon entering you are greeted with a warm crackling open fire, quirky Persian rugs and Edwardian portraits that really set the scene of a traditional 1870s pub. A glossy mahogany bar serves fine ales, beers and other refreshing drinks and the menu is sure to get your taste buds tingling. The famous Beer Battered Fish, the flavoursome Grilled Swordfish, scrumptious Cumberland Sausages and succulent Rump Steaks plus many more delicious dishes spoil you for choice at the Andover Arms. Reviews say the food is cooked to perfection and the quantity will never allow you to clear the plate. The atmosphere is fun and vibrant with chatty and friendly staff who clearly show pleasure in their job roles, providing a memorable experience for customers.
So, we have reached the number 1, the top dining venue in London, the perfect place to eat out, the restaurant of all restaurants. *Cue tense music* this restaurant in Chelsea offers modern and contemporary British cooking balancing luxury with simplicity. With culinary experience from famous capitals of the world and THE freshest ingredients from a kitchen garden, this restaurant is a must. Choices of wines, cocktails and champagne are just the start of your unforgettable meal. Mains can include English Rose Veal, Native Lobster and Yorkshire Lamb and don’t even get me started on the desserts! Apricot Tart, Lemon Chiboust with Pumpkin Ice Cream and a British Cheese Selection, it’s just too good to be true. The dining room is inspiring with a bright interior and beautiful shades of pale green, ochre and ivory. The service is formal, polite and friendly with professional staff who take pride in their work and dedicate themselves to serve as best as they can. I can happily announce that the winner of TripAdvisor’s top 5 best London restaurants is, The Five Fields. A place where expectations will not only be met, but exceeded and a place where you can experience true fine dining in style. The most highly recommended restaurant on TripAdvisor, it is just not acceptable to say no!
Bank Holiday weekend has just gone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself and what better way to spend your time than visiting London and exploring its rich heritage and culture, such as attractions, events and these very restaurants! And don’t forget, you’re always welcome at the Georgian House.

Notting Hill Carnival – Through the years and what to expect in 2014!

Each August bank holiday since 1966, the famous and truly fabulous Notting Hill Carnival marches through the streets of West London as Europe’s biggest festival of its kind. Ooh la la, I hear you say, this year’s carnival is due to astound yet again with a sassy, sparkly and sizzling performance that is not one to be missed! We’re going to take a trip back in time and see how the Notting Hill Carnival has evolved since all those years ago…

The first ever Notting Hill Carnival took place in January 1959 at the St. Pancras Town Hall and was organised by the ‘Mother of Carnival’ and Trinidadian, Claudia Jones. The carnival was in response to the state of race relations at the time and was held a year on from the Notting Hill race riots. The event was indoors featuring elements of a Caribbean carnival cabaret style, singers, dancers and beauty contests. It was televised by the BBC and was deemed a huge success. A few years later the carnival took to the streets for the first time in 1966, led by a London based West Indian migrant community with the aim to encourage cultural unity. “What started as a street party for local children turned into a carnival procession when Russell Henderson’s steel pan band went on a walkabout around local streets”. Among the early bands to participate were Ebony Steelband and Metronomes Steelband who laid the foundations of the carnival that we know and see today. By 1979 the distinct Caribbean vibe was bringing hundreds of thousands of spectators, though the tensions between police and Caribbean youths caused problems and even riots. There were fears that the carnival would be no more because of this, the press were encouraging a one-sided and negative view on the carnival, but luckily it stood its ground. What you may not have known, is that our very own Prince Charles was one of the famous figures who supported the occasion. In the 70s the carnival was also popularised by various live radio broadcasts, particularly BBC Radio London.

Through the years the carnival has become less prone to trouble and more positively viewed by authorities as a spectacular celebration of multicultural diversity. In recent years it was named the 2nd largest street carnival in the world with up to 50,000 performers and 38 sound systems, that’s loud! In 2002, it was estimated that the Notting Hill Carnival contributes around £93 million to the local economy, not bad for one weekend a year! For the 2011 carnival, technology took full advantage and onlookers could download an app that showed them the carnival route and locations of toilets, food and the sound systems, can it get any better than that?

The 2014 Notting Hill Carnival is set to dazzle again, bringing West London alive with 20 miles of all things colourful and musical. The main parade takes place on Monday 25th August which is guaranteed to astonish you with music at the heart of Notting Hill followed by dancers with the most extraordinarily beautiful costumes. A range of traditional and contemporary music styles such as the steel bands, Reggae, House and more will fill the air. In addition, there will be live performances on stage from international artists! Previous years have seen an impressive line-up of Courtney Pine, Wyclef Jean and my personal favourite, Eddie Grant. Of course, there will also be hundreds of Caribbean food stalls lining the streets of Notting Hill where you can really get a taste of culture. Various exotic recipes such as jerk chicken with rice, peas and rum punch all the way to curries, patties and plantain; I can smell that Caribbean aroma already! If all of this excitement is not quite enough for you, you will be glad to know that it does not end there. There are two official after parties happening to celebrate the carnival with famous and international DJ’s and they are expected to be explosive.

As it is the August bank holiday and we really do not want you to miss out on this enormous event, we are giving our guests a tasty 20% off when they book to stay between the 24th and the 26th August. Situated in West London, we are close to the action and you can have the special weekend that you’ll never forget!

 

For information on the Notting Hill Carnival, see: http://www.thenottinghillcarnival.com/

To see our Bank Holiday Spectacular details, go to: http://www.georgianhousehotel.co.uk/offers/bank-holidays-in-London.asp

 

 

Social media, we can’t live without it!

Let’s start this week’s blog off with a question to get you thinking: which social media website do you think has the most worldwide users? It may be quite obvious, but nonetheless the answer shall be revealed later…

Statistics have discovered that out of the Earth’s entire population, 58% use some form of social network (2012) and no doubt this number will continuously increase. Web-based social networks make it possible to connect people who share interests and activities across geographic borders. Many may think that social media only includes the popular Facebook and Twitter where users keep in touch with friends and family, meet new people, keep up with the news and post selfies. The reality is that there are hundreds of them! The most popular social media sites include Google Plus+, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn which all have different techniques but serve for the same purpose, to connect.

 Here’s another shocking figure: the total percentage of 18-24 year olds who use social media is… (drum roll please)… 98%! I personally would like to meet the left over 2% and shake their hands as they must have very peaceful lives. This whopping number of young people on social media already demonstrates the importance of staying connected, whether by computer, phone or by tablet. Believe it or not, the UK doesn’t even fall into the top ten most engaged countries which I guess is quite a relief, it’s rather nice to know that we all still go out.

While you take those figures in, let’s explore the two uses of social media: personal and business use. Years and years ago, long before those 98% of internet addicts were born (including me), means of communication were by handwritten letters and putting on your coat to go and knock on your friend’s door. Those days are certainly no more as innovative technology has flourished over the decades and brought us a phenomenon that has taken the planet by storm, the internet. Today, billions of people have social media as part of their everyday lives because of its quick and easy usage as well as its addictive nature. In the time that one could have written a letter and sent it to their long distance amigo in Spain back in the day, you could now send an e-mail to your pals in France, China and Australia in a matter of seconds. Incredible when you think about it, though even I can admit that I take social media for granted every day and I guarantee I am not alone. Not only do I use social networks to connect with close ones, but I also use it to share my favourite photos, listen to music, watch videos of cats doing funny things when I am bored and I also use it in writing this very blog! For me, it’s mostly a pass-time activity, but what else could social media be if it isn’t a pass-time? A very effective marketing tool.

Yes, for businesses worldwide the internet has worked wonders in spreading the word to customers across the globe. Companies can send their product/service viral in minutes and it has never been easier to catch the eye of the consumer as well as receive their feedback. Take the hospitality and tourism business. Hotels, restaurants, and visitor attractions can interact via whichever means of social media they choose and a particular website which you may have heard of is TripAdvisor! Whether you have an account or not, you are bound to have heard of TripAdvisor as it is an essential part of many tourist’s buying choices. Every month, TripAdvisor sees a quarter of a billion users internationally with 57 million accounts (eCornell). The website is more often than not the first point of contact when a traveller is curious about a hotel/restaurant etc. and they are able to get advice from fellow tourists about the place they’d like to go. For businesses, this can be either be very good or very bad. Today’s consumers have more power than ever with Tripadvisor allowing them to have a voice and it’s what they say that can make or break a business. Excellent reviews and management responses mean a better reputation for the business as competition is always rising and it is increasingly important to keep up with it.

Raising awareness is faster and easier than ever as many hotels have their own Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile and Youtube channel to interact directly with their valued guests and encourage new and potential guests to join in. News updates, special offers and photos get the user involved and research has shown that consumers love a friendly Facebook page, so feel free to have a chat with them. Word of mouth soon gets around and before you know it the hotel is Facebook famous! Without social media, many businesses would not be where they are today and so they have a lot to be thankful for.

Remember the question at the beginning? I can reveal that the answer is of course Facebook which currently holds (as of June) 1.32 BILLION monthly users! Wow! To see more of the statistics, go to: www.statisticbrain.com/social-networking-statistics/ and I can guarantee some jaw-dropping figures.

 

Summer in London!

School’s out for the summer! The holidays have finally begun and schools, colleges and universities have kissed good-bye to their long drawn out exams (until next year anyway). The next couple of months are dedicated to relaxation after the hard work the kids have put in all year, unless you are a university student where 7 months hardly counts as a year. London this summer is FULL of activities and events for all ages and here are some personal recommendations of what you can get up to.

We’ll start with the infants, as I am sure any parents reading this are dying for some ideas to amuse their little ones this summer. Well, have no fear! The good news is that many of London’s attractions and museums are completely free of charge, so if you’re thinking ‘it is going to cost me a fortune’, relax! Take the Natural History Museum in Cromwell Road, for example. Nobody can deny that we all absolutely love the huge skeleton of a dinosaur greeting you as you walk through the doors, but over the years the museum has extensively developed and now offers visitors more than ever before.  There are hundreds of exhibits to explore, many of which are now interactive which can keep the kids amused for hours (to a point where you have to drag them away). Star attractions include the Fishes, Amphibians and Reptiles Gallery, the Fossil Marine Reptiles Gallery where you can gaze upon the bones of an ancient Giant Sloth and lastly the meeting of an interactive T-Rex and don’t worry; it may look fierce, but it won’t eat your child. My personal favourite is the chance to stand by a life-size blue whale, the largest creature ever that hangs down from the exhibit ceiling. Talk about feeling small! After your historical day you can purchase special souvenirs from gift shops to remember the exciting day out. The Natural History Museum is a perfect choice for a family adventure where you can all go back in time through centuries. This is just one of many other city museums such as the Science Museum and the V&A Museum of Childhood.

Any teens to twent-eens out there who are thinking ‘museums aren’t my style, where’s the party at?’ then you should definitely take a look at some of the awesome events happening in the city. As it is festival season, you are truly spoilt for choice from the Somerset House Summer Series to Visions alternative rock festival. Another personal recommendation if I may: this Saturday 2nd August an internationally famous event is coming to Wembley Park. I’ll give you a clue; it involves coloured powder and outdoor music. Got it? Yes, it is the HOLI ONE Festival of Colours this weekend where thousands of youngsters will come together to enjoy an impressive musical line-up alongside getting absolutely covered in every colour of the rainbow! HOLI ONE brings this incredible experience to cities around the globe and it is definitely not one to be missed. Even I will be there! Tickets are still available (tip: Wowcher has got some good deals going). If you don’t fancy getting all this powder stuck in your hair then there are plenty more occurrences to choose from. If you are more into cultural events, how about the Tasty Africa Tasty Caribbean Festival? Delicious dishes from Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana, Sierra Leone and more are coming to Brixton Market from Saturday 9th August where you can grab a tasty meal for just £6! There will also be live music and guests are encouraged to bring along their nation flags, whistles and instruments to enrich the carnival atmosphere. Get yourselves along to this appetising food festival and experience African and Caribbean culture. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

For those of you who fancy a fun day out or a relaxing weekend with that special someone, who needs Paris to be romantic? Hyde Park is one of the most beautiful parks in London and on a hot day, it would be a great idea to simply bring along a picnic and feel the sunshine on your face. You could even hire out a pedalo (because rowing is too much effort) and sail around the city lake. Pedalos are available every hour and are a lovely way to spend some quality time with your other half. For something a little different and perhaps if you’d like a giggle, I would suggest a drink at the mysterious Evans and Peel Detective Agency in Earls Court. It may not sound like your average bar and that’s because it isn’t your average bar. Prepare an imaginative detective case, assume an identity and make an appointment (reservation). Upon arrival, you give the front desk your creative case for them to solve and a menu of exciting drinks and cocktails is yours to enjoy. The role play and sense of story in Evans and Peel guarantees a unique and unforgettable atmosphere and experience, perfect for a couples date night.

I now turn to the other readers of this blog (if you’re still with me). Everybody has different interests and sometimes those interests change through life, but one thing for sure; is that everyone loves a good theatre production! The good thing about the London shows is that there is something for everyone whether you are delighted by dance, moved by musicals or cracked up by comedy. A previous blog I wrote recommends the Lion King at the Lyceum theatre which is a truly spectacular performance, but I shan’t go on about that again. A recent record breaking hit has taken theatre by storm as a little girl called Matilda captivates thousands of audiences. Inspired by the genius that is Roald Dahl, ‘Matilda’ tells the story of childhood anarchy, the power of imagination and a young girl who dreams of changing her life for the better. With a loveable cast, exhilarating music and exceptional choreography, The Sunday Times branded ‘Matilda’ as ‘easily the standout musical of the decade’. It is simply impossible to miss out and there is plenty more where that came from. Top shows include Wicked, Mamma Mia, Warhorse, Thriller, Les Miserables and so many more!

We at the Georgian House have a passion for London and a love for what it has to offer. We always encourage our guests to make the most of their time visiting the city and we enjoy hearing stories of the fun days and nights out that they have experienced. Why wait? Explore and discover London, you will not be disappointed! Below is a list of websites connecting to the venues that have been mentioned throughout the blog, just in case.

 

 

The Tour de France 2014 in London

The Tour de France 2014 is a 3,664km race consisting of 21 stages from Leeds all the way down to Paris. The first Tour de France was staged in 1903 and the race has taken place every year since, meaning this year is the 101st edition. Grand départs in Britain have recently become a phenomenon, starting in 2007 and the Tour has only visited Britain twice before that, so there was much excitement this year in the country. As the race draws to a close the fight for the winning position heats up with Italian biker Vincenzo Nibali in the lead with 4 stage wins.

There are currently no official statistics that show how many spectators came to London to watch their share of the Tour de France, but I can assure you that the city was pretty busy as the cyclists completed stage 3 of the 20 day journey. As London yet again found itself in the middle of an international sporting event, hundreds and hundreds of fans scattered all around the routed parts of London, such as Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and even our neighbour, Buckingham Palace!

Onlookers dressed up for the occasion, baked themed cakes and even decorated their own bikes. Canary Wharf and the Royal Docks were said to be the best spots to watch Le Big Race. The event was also broadcasted on large screens at Trafalgar Square, Green Park and the Olympic Park for fans who didn’t fancy waiting in the crowd. It was all very exciting for London, though unless you were watching the action of the Tour de France on the screen, it was a matter of ‘now you see me, now you don’t’ for those who travelled to witness the speedy cyclists whizz past as they competed for glory in the annual race.

I spoke to a friend of mine who told me their story of how they stood at the front of the barrier waiting in anticipation for the race to come past. “The build-up was immense”, he said, “Everyone was buzzing in excitement and couldn’t wait to cheer on the racers.” It all sounded like a wonderful experience and a fun day out. “Then, the cyclists came and within 10 seconds, they were gone.” I laughed in surprise! But then, when you think about it, what did we expect? The cyclists were hardly going to stop and pose for photos and have a rest, so of course it was over so quickly! Nevertheless, the positive and uplifting atmosphere was a key part of the event and even my friend said the trip was well worth it, even if there wasn’t time for a quick ‘selfie’. Brit biker Mark Cavendish has described the London ride as ‘incredible’, which gives us a lot of hope that the Tour shall be coming to the city again in the future.

On a more serious note, even though it is just a bike race, the event was overall very costly for many areas (except Essex who got away with not paying anything) with budgets for technical requirements, event delivery, marketing and more. But, to look on the bright side, estimates say that the sporting bonanza will boost the UK economy by £100m. Hopefully, a lot of this will be contributed by an increase in bike sales!

This year’s Tour de France sadly says ‘au revoir’ this week and we would love to hear about your experiences and see your best photos of the special event, wherever you were on the route. Feel free to leave comments!

Positive economic and environmental effects of the London 2012 Olympics

Now that the Brazil World Cup 2014  has come to a close (finally I can get the TV remote back), talk of the Rio Olympics 2016 has already arisen.  Millions of enthusiasts from all over the world will arrive at the city to spectate sports from swimming to cycling, athletics to archery and witness the crowning of the next world champions, just like they did two years ago.  At this moment in time it is relatively unknown how the Olympics will affect Brazil in terms of the economy, environment and tourism. This week’s blog discusses how the London Olympics (that took place in what seems like last week) had a positive impact on the already busy city.

The cost of hosting the London 2012 Olympics came to a grand total of almost £9 billion. Yep, that is money that I never knew this country had. This huge figure was nearly thrice the original budget of £2.4 billion, just to make it sound even more shocking. However, it is easy for us to say that it was a waste of money, but was it? Perhaps the massive spend up was well worth it! The Olympics saw 685,000 international spectators, indicating that tourism went through the roof during the games…

For the services sector, tourist demand particularly for air travel, accommodation and public transport was extremely high. For example, the London Underground carried 60 million people at the time of the games alongside large increases in flight bookings and river transport which were also recorded. British Airways flew 3.3 million more passengers in 2012 than in 2011! This alone can easily demonstrate the effect of the global event on the everyday services of the UK and London as tourists from around the world were eager to not only experience the Olympics, but also to experience the city. As predicted and hoped, tourists did not hold back in enhancing their trip by spending their money, helping to lift us poor unfortunate souls out of the recession. Data has shown that tourists who visited for the Olympics spent double the amount of money than other visitors, suggesting that the event had a significant influence on tourist spending, and a good one. Hotels, theatres, shops and restaurants saw what was called the ‘Olympic effect’ and generally received a rise in clientele. The economy was not quite sitting pretty, but comfortably enough to call the Olympics an economic success; even now it is long over!

It seems that all venues (the main stadium, the Velodrome, the Aquatic Centre and the Copper Box) currently are, or planned to be part of the London legacy, continuing to prove the original billion pound construction project a success. The Copper Box, for example was the venue for fencing, goalball and handball during the games. There was not much hope for the box to survive post-Olympics, but he pulled through, now hosting events from heavyweight boxing to pop concerts! A process to carry on the legacy involving all of the venues will soon result of the opening of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as the largest city park in Europe. So thankfully, London has not let it all go to waste and fingers crossed that these developments and transformations will give our economy a further lift.

Some of you may have thought at some point that the construction and hosting of the games was not only expensive, but must have certainly had a negative effect on the environment. Pollution of the atmosphere, building on natural surroundings and using non-renewable materials, surely it was the worst thing we could possibly do environmentally. Well, you are wrong! Yes, from the start the London 2012 Olympics was created to be the ‘greenest ever games’. Sustainable construction led to the site receiving certification for its recycled and sustainably sourced construction materials, with 98% of construction waste effectively reused, recycled and recovered. For major venues including the Velodrome, two thirds of all wood was sourced from managed plantations, limiting deforestation. Even the main stadium was constructed from recycled steel tubing and cables. I could go on till Christmas!

To sum up, there may be arguments against the Olympics being a success for the UK, but they cannot outweigh the benefits that London has seen thanks to the famous event. Tourism numbers rose and the economy got a facelift whilst protecting the environment. I think we did a jolly good job. Do you agree? Do you think Rio 2016 will experience a similar effect? Feel free to drop a comment. Thank you for reading!

Campaign to cut UK tourism VAT

Fact of the day: the United Kingdom currently takes 8th place on the list of most popular tourist destinations in the world…

VisitBritain confirms that overseas visitors spend on average a whopping £20 billion a year on visiting the UK and together with domestic tourism, the UK tourism industry is worth £127 billion a year and creates jobs for three million people. Impressive, right? It is evident that tourism plays a huge role in providing growth for the UK and its economy. With world famous heritage, extraordinary landmarks and a vibrant cosmopolitan culture, the UK stands strong and continues to attract domestic and international tourists annually. However, a recent high-profile campaign has brought to light some very concerning issues regarding tourism in the UK.

No doubt we have all heard of the dreaded VAT, the tax that is paid with every good that is sold so that money flows into the government. Nobody likes paying taxes of course, but at the end of the day, it is needed in order to play it’s part in the economy. On the other hand, we conducted a survey with participants from the UK and around the world and discovered that 70% said that UK accommodation is more expensive than the rest of Europe and 74% would stay longer in London if the hotels were cheaper. Also, it was revealed that 74% did not even realise the significant differences between tax in the UK and in the rest of Europe. What are the differences? Well, this is where the Cut UK Tourism VAT campaign comes in.

Take European countries like Portugal, Belgium and Holland for example. These popular tourist destinations charge a small 6% VAT on their hotels, holiday camps and tourist attractions and if I do say so myself, this is a very appealing offer to overseas visitors. On the contrary, the UK’s high VAT of 20% for all domestic and international holidaymakers brands the country as one very expensive destination. Looking at the massive difference in percentage, these other European countries are considered more affordable places to travel to and as a consequence, many UK tourists are drawn to flying abroad than to take a vacation in their own country. In addition, international tourists are being discouraged to visit Britain because of its high price and those who do visit are less inclined to spend their money, thus the UK is not benefitting from tourism exports as much as it could be. For every two overseas tourists visiting the UK, FIVE UK travellers jet off abroad thus leaving the country running a £17 billion deficit, not good!

Tourism expenditure accounts for approximately 6.1% of the UK’s total employment, calculating an estimate of 1,794,400 full time jobs in the industry (VisitBritain). This suggests that tourism employment is sensitive to what visitors are spending in the UK. To put it simply, the more tourists spend, the more jobs that are created and vice versa. The campaign is trying to communicate that reducing the UK tourism VAT will lower accommodation prices, this will encourage more tourists and more spending which will therefore lead to more job opportunities and a good boost in the economy. Makes sense doesn’t it? 

The Cut UK Tourism VAT campaign which aims to have the 20% chopped down to 5% is supported by over 500 brands such as Thorpe Park, The British Hospitality Association, and Marriott Hotels.  It even has over sixty politicians agree that this action will make the UK more competitive as a destination. London’s best-selling newspaper The Sun, backed by numerous MP’s have assisted by launching the ‘Give Us A Break’ campaign, attempting to get the convincing message through to Chancellor George Osborne who is undergoing more and more pressure to respond. The campaign leaders are passionate and determined, communicating with tourists all around the world to raise awareness and join the movement. Anybody can join up, especially through social media such as Twitter (@CutTourismVAT) with the hashtag ‘StickYourVAT’ and Facebook where the matter is always in discussion. Cutting tourism VAT will make your stay in the UK 15% cheaper.  Will you help to drive the campaign to success?

See http://www.cuttourismvat.co.uk/ for more information on what could be a breakthrough for Britain and feel free to leave us a comment telling us your views on the subject.

Celebrating the Brazil World Cup 2014 in London

The Brazil World Cup 2014 finally kicked off on the 12th June for a month of football madness and has had millions of us footie fanatic Brits rooting for our home and other teams from around the world. Even me, I may prefer to catch up on Eastenders and Coronation Street than watch a football game, but nonetheless the big old England flags are out of the attic and hanging outside my window! So, how has Brazil come to London? How has the city been celebrating this globally famous event and how can YOU celebrate with it?

It is a great time to be visiting Britain as you can really experience the World Cup fever in cities like London, as many special events bringing Brazil and London together have been occurring and are yet to take place locally. On the 12th June, the start of all things football, Trafalgar Square lit up with the colours of yellow, blue and green as the Ministry of Sport, the Ministry Culture and the Embassy of Brazil in the UK invited Londoners to come and enjoy a Brazil-liant (I admit that one was not my idea) samba party! Live DJ’s, dance lessons, drumming, capoeira and more. There was even an inflatable football pitch for the kids alongside a wide range of activities for the families; it really was the perfect day out. All this fun and games would have surely built up some appetites and so street stalls selling Brazilian’s favourite snacks and soft drinks made from tropical Amazon fruits pleased the party goers as the event went on. This all-day football fiesta really got the party started and don’t panic if you missed it, there is much more happening in the area…

Also keeping up with the World Cup enthusiasm is the Gallery Soho, London’s Boutique Event Space. For the duration of the World Cup, the famous gallery is hosting ‘Boteca Brazil’ which includes samba demonstrations, capoeira and even some cocktail and cooking classes to give you a taste of Brazilian cuisine. It is a fantastic opportunity to experience the tournament in a real Brazilian atmosphere, so pop by any day as tickets can be bought on the door as it is set to be the most exciting cultural event in London.

Even the pubs of London are making the most of the thrill! In Hoxton Square, Zigfrid von Underbelly (or Ziggy’s in the regular’s language) is not missing a second of the excitement and has set up both its floors with DJ’s and sound systems, Brazil-inspired drinks, food and cocktails and Ziggy’s has even made its own ale in celebration of the World Cup! Last but not least, there are three double sided screens and two more thrown in behind the bar so you don’t miss a goal when you order that cocktail! A perfect way to end your long working day and a great venue to watch the biggest football event on Earth.

If a party is not your way of celebrating the World Cup then have no fear, how about getting your football-fix without having to travel to Brazil (or be around Londoners trying to be Brazilian)? Visiting London’s football stadiums can help you to really appreciate the hard work that Brazil took on to host the event and to imagine the sheer pressure that the football players agree to when surrounded by thousands of spectators. Wembley Stadium, Emirates Stadium and Stamford Bridge are some of the biggest venues in sport, some holding over 90,000 seats. An experience to remember as you can take the footsteps of football legends and feel what it is like to be on the pitch with all eyes on you, rather than in the crowd with the player’s eyes on the ball.

There is something for everyone this World Cup season, so there is simply no excuse not to celebrate this spectacular occasion. From parties to pubs, stage shows to sightseeing, you can immerse yourself into the festivity whichever way you want. After all, it is only happens every four years (Hurrah for those who want their TV’s back)!

 

 

How to win Eurovision (or at least not come last)

When it comes to Eurovision, there are four types of people in the world:

  • Those who love it (me)
  • Those who hate it
  • Those who say they hate it, but secretly love it (I reckon most people)
  • Those that will watch a couple of the songs, but steer clear of the voting process… because there’s only so many country’s greetings we can sit through.

Let’s face it, whether we are passionate about music, culture and entertainment or we are just looking for a laugh, Eurovision is great for you to sit back on your Saturday night in with pizza and popcorn and watch the musical mayhem occur as over the years, the show has brought us some wonderful, weird and wonderfully weird performances.

If there is one thing the United Kingdom is good at in the contest against the rest of Europe, its coming last. And each year it is becoming less and less surprising. So what do we do about it? What is the KEY to having a winning performance Eurovision? As Eurovision’s biggest fan, I have extensive experience in obsessing over the show and may have some tips for the UK in order to save us from that dreaded ‘nil points’ (in the French accent).

First and most notably, when looking back at past winners, each song has an either brilliantly or annoyingly catchy tune. This can be a cleverly written chorus such as the 2012 winner, Loreen of Sweden who sang her powerful song ‘Euphoria’ which took votes by storm with its unavoidably catchy, but meaningful chorus. On the other end of the scale, it is possible to even have a winning chorus consisting of three words: ‘La La La’. Yes, proudly demonstrated by Massiel from Spain in 1968 the song included the note ‘La’ an impressive 138 times, which miraculously won Spain the crown.

Next is a factor that we can all admit has been creeping in through the years, and that is the singer’s appearance. Ladies’ dresses are getting tighter and men are starting to layer on the fake tan in attempt to win the pretty picture vote from Europe. Over the years it has been evident that the ‘sexiest’ country gets the votes (and don’t even get me started on Poland’s entrant this year).  However this may be slightly contradicted with the example of this year’s winner Conchita Wurst of Austria. Besides the singer’s unusual appearance, he/she took over the show in a daring sparkly fitted gold dress and low and behold, the song was a winner. This goes to show that it is always good to make an effort, which is probably why Engelbert Humper-whats-a-namey and Bonnie Tyler were remodelled with the beautiful Molly Smitten-Downes who came a respectable 17th place. Finally some improvement!

Step 3, do NOT try to be funny. There is simply no chance of humour going well for the UK in the contest and so we should stay well away from it. Take the group Scooch for example, competing in 2007 with ‘Flying the Flag’, attempting to give off a cheeky, humorous vibe that actually turned out to be far too cheesy and in some places a little … child-unfriendly, to put it nicely. Scooch accepted their spot in the hall of shame as they finished in a sad 22nd out of 24. Oh dear.

We all like a good ballad sometimes. A slow and sometimes sad song about how the singer’s partner has traded them in for someone else (probably because they are on Eurovision) and I admit some of these songs can be very moving. But my advice is to go for something upbeat, especially if your song is towards the end when everyone is getting a bit bored, their backs are starting to ache and their spirits need some lifting. So first, get some dancers and choreography that show you mean serious business. Take the 2009 winner Norway’s performance, the singer Alexander Rybak was surrounded by his three male dancers/acrobats which put on one hell of a show. The dancing was effortless and the tricks smooth as silk, I could not keep my eyes off of them somersaulting around like they do it when they get out of bed in the morning! Second, have a multi-talented singer: someone who can also dance or play an instrument etc. Not only will viewers be far more impressed by the talent, it will make the performance ten times more interesting than one person standing at a microphone faking tears and singing their break-up song while we’re waiting for the party to start.

Finally I have one last tip for Eurovision competitors and that is to have a clear theme to your song. When I mean clear, I mean to make sense and to capture the audience’s attention, WOW them with something they have never seen before. This tip may have been introduced before, however interpreted perhaps the wrong way. Examples of utter random themes include our neighbour Ireland’s 1984 entry which was a truly enthralling performance about an airport terminal, or Luxembourg’s 1980 attempt to sing about a penguin (which was portrayed by a rather unhappy looking man in a penguin suit, poor guy). My personal favourite is Turkey’s song about petrol in 1980, probably the only ballad I really enjoyed:

“Oh lovely petrol my dearest petrol it is you, you I need,

Petrol, oh lovely petrol…” You get the picture.

Not surprisingly, none of these rather strange songs took the crown. So the key here is to by all means give something different, just keep it sane.

To sum up, in order to walk away with your head held somewhat high from Eurovision, it is important to have a catchy tune, look like you’ve made an effort, avoid cheesy humour, keep it upbeat and don’t weird out your audience unless your song is a winner. Until next year my fellow Eurovision friends, let’s keep our hopes high for the UK because at the end of the day, we need a miracle.

The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre – An adventure on stage!

“This acclaimed production has been seen by over 65 million people around the world” (Lyceum Theatre). Have you seen the Lion King at the London Lyceum Theatre? I have… three times!

I am a regular theatre-goer and a huge lover of musicals, from Wicked to Legally Blonde, you name them! But of course, each individual has a different taste in theatre shows. Which performances a person attends can depend on their interests, their career, family life or other factors; but you are guaranteed to find something for everyone in big old London with over 100 theatre venues dotted around the city.

Personally, I have a long history in performing arts and so I have always been a huge fan of every aspect of the arts: dance, drama and musical theatre. As a youngster back in school, a school trip brought us to see the newly launched production at the Lyceum Theatre, The Lion King. I was unsure about my expectations at first, mainly because apart from Cats, I had not come across an animal themed musical and had no clue as to how much the performer’s costumes will actually make them look like wild animals!

The Lyceum Theatre is truly magical. The exquisite detail of the interior absolutely blew me away and the sheer size of the auditorium was quite something. I would recommend spectators to sit up on the centre of the balcony as it was a perfect view. The following two times of seeing the show, I sat in the stalls and unfortunately had a restricted the view of some parts of the stage, however they can be cheaper seats.

What can I say? Whatever my expectations were, they were no match for this incredible performance. There are simply no words on my part than can describe this production other than SPECTACULAR. The acting, dancing and singing was of an exceptionally high standard as well as the physical setting and the costumes which were beyond impressive. The story follows the original novel closely with all of the most popular songs including ‘The Circle of Life’ and ‘Hakuna Matata’ which the audience, especially the kids, can sing along to with their favourite characters. There were many moments that made me smile, laugh, sing, clap and even well up with tears as this wonderful performance truly captivated me. So much so that I went to see the same show two more times and would happily go again!

Seeing the show again enabled me to look further into the finer details of the production, such as the costumes and how the actors use the costumes as a part of their character. A particular character, Scar (the bad lion), had a very interesting costume. For example, the actor wore a very large mask that, with a pull of a lever at the side of him, came up and down from above his head to over his face. This part of the costume was well interpreted into the actor’s movements, making him appear to be the suspicious and scheming lion he is. Moreover, animal portrayals such as giraffes, elephants, leopards and more were astonishing in their creation and the actors incorporated them cleverly into their performance.

I was left dumbfounded all three times after this fantastic production and so I most definitely recommend The Lion King to absolutely everybody. Families, couples or whoever just wants to see a top quality theatre show! If you think this is for you, visit: http://www.lyceum-theatre.co.uk/ to find out how you can book your tickets. Believe me, it is well worth it.