30 September 2014

London's top 10 fabulous fountains

Wandering round London last week I was struck by how many fabulous fountains we have, so I thought I would take you on a little tour around my top 10 favourites.  I couldn't choose between them as each one is lovely in its own way, so they are not in any particular order. Have a look, see if you agree and let me know!

Trafalgar Square
This iconic square has some of the best known fountains in London with the backdrop of the National Gallery and when you next visit take a look at the less obvious figures spouting water inside the east fountain. 

The South Bank
This is a seasonal one and is very popular as this photo shows. It has 4 'rooms' separated by water and an outer square of water and they go up and down so you can hop between them. Lots of very wet people, some in swimming gear, others just jumping in fully dressed for the fun of it!

More London

Leicester Square
I have included this one as it has been under construction and then under repair for so long it was wonderful to see it emerge at last this summer.  William Shakespeare looks at home in the centre.

 Kensington Palace
It's easier to hear than see the fountains when you visit the sunken garden at Kensington Palace. The gardens are stunning and the gentle sound and sight of the central fountains give the area such a peaceful feel. 

This is an unusual fountain as for most of the time there is just a pool of quietly flowing water across the area and then every 15 minutes for just 15 seconds steam pours out from the base of the trees.Try to catch it at night when the lights in the pool are stunning.

Granary Square
The spouts in this square are on a complex pattern of changing heights and colours especially at night. During the day they brighten up a concrete square and have many visitors running up and down, including this Alsatian!

Somerset House
This is another fountain that is constantly changing its height and power. Being in the centre of London it is really popular and on a sunny day you will find families here with full beach gear settling in and watching the kids have a great time. 

 Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Another 'here it is and now it's gone' fountain as you will see in these photos. It's new this year and is certainly attracting the crowds who are now enjoying all kinds of entertainment is the former home of the London 2012 Olympics. 

 St James Park
I love the shape of this fountain in the green of the royal park just next to Buckingham Palace. Definitely not one for jumping in and enjoying!

What's your favourite London fountain - have I missed it out? Let me know.

Bye for now,

10 September 2014

Ships ahoy! The Tall Ships go sailing out of London

It was a glorious sunny day in Royal Greenwich for the last day of the Tall Ships Festival. I chose this day to visit as all the ships were due to assemble and sail past Greenwich's historic waterfront and head out to sea down the Thames. 

Royal Greenwich is packed full of top visitor site and is a UNESCO world heritage list. Time itself was invented here - well the Greenwich meridian was - there's the Maritime Museum with the coat Nelson was shot and died in, there's the Royal Observatory, the Painted Hall and so much more.  But yesterday was all about the tall ships. 

London was hosting a 4 day Tall Ships Regatta for the first time in 25 years and 50 ships gathered Greenwich at was the final port for the race from Falmouth on the south west coast of England, a race which started on 31st August.

The sail past itself was a magnificent sight as ships of so many shapes and sizes glided past serenely and off to sea and more unknown journeys and potential battles with the oceans. I loved the huge white Polish ship which had the massive groups gasping in amazement as it came close by, and the wonderful old style warships were evocative of how the Thames may have looked in the 16th century. 

Here is my selection: 

What a wonderful sail past, I hope you enjoyed it too.

Bye for now,

27 August 2014

Notting Hill Carnival 2014: 2 seasons in 2 days!

Was it the chilliest and wettest August bank holiday Monday ever recorded? It certainly felt like it as the rain poured down and soaked us to the skin but did it wash out the Notting Hill Carnival? Of course not! The crowds braved the weather and the dancers in parade carried on as if being completely drenched was perfectly normal for them.

As a resident of Notting Hill I've been going every year for 12 years now and have never seen a day like it. The forecast was ominous and on the day the weather websites told me there was a 90-100% chance of rain and the temperature would hover around 15-16 degrees (or 59-61 if you prefer). So we donned our rain macs, our sturdy shoes and headed out like the brave Brits we are. And there it was, the carnival, carrying on like nothing was wrong and we had a great time. Naturally rum punch was required for medicinal reasons and a couple of well earned breaks back at home to dry out were a local's privilege!  I was so happy to hear the mesmeric drumming of the group I see every year and always try to find them in the parade to follow their wonderful rhythmic beats. There they were, dripping wet but drumming up a storm hour after hour - well done guys!

Not very encouraging for Carnival day 2

My favourite drumming group

Carnival Sunday had been an altogether different scene with sunshine and warmth so here is a series of pictures from a day of t-shirts and flip flops - a more traditional carnival look.The first day of carnival is billed as family day and the emphasis in the parade is on the brave kids who walk and dance alongside the floats hour after hour and withstand the hundred of photographers asking them to smile - well done kids!

This was the 50th year of carnival, or so the T-shirts said, but was it? Exactly when carnival started is a matter of some debate as is finding the person to take the honour of setting it in motion. Two women seem to be the most likely candidates: Claudia Jones and Rhaune Laslett.  Claudia staged an indoor carnival in 1959 and further events followed until 1964 when she died. The original event was held in response to the Notting Hill race riots of 1958 to help heal these wounds and focused on the Caribbean community.   In 1966 the first outdoor event was held in Notting Hill organised by Rhaune and was a multi-cultural celebration to bring the diverse communities of the area together.   So, just where 50 years comes from is anyone's guess but carnival is not the place to be asking picky questions but the place to go with the flow so let's carry on with more photos to enjoy.  The theme this year was the steel pans and there were great floats of pans treating us to their distinctive sounds.

I'm always sad to see the end of carnival as it is such a great event to visit and also seems to signal the end of summer. This year's rain seemed to be telling me that summer really was over and it was going to soak me to prove that point! 

If you've never been to carnival, put it in your diary for next year and make sure you come along and join the fun.

Bye for now,