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Every year in September, the city hosts an Open House Event. Over 600 buildings throughout the city open up to the public. During the event we have the opportunity to take a sticky beak behind closed and often locked doors. Some of London's most iconic buildings such as The Gherkin and London City Hall are on the list.

It was London City Hall that piqued our interest this September. We had decided to make the Thames Festival, which coincided with the Open House Event, our priority. Some of the Flickr group were on the ball and managed to do both the Thames Festival and the Open House Event. Easy enough to do as London City Hall is located on South Bank next to the Thames. Clever Flickerites!

After viewing photos of the interior of City Hall, I decided it was a building I must visit. The facade is quite distinctive, but the most striking feature is inside. An unusual but beautiful spiral staircase winds its way through the core.

Luckily, I didn't have to wait a whole year before I could pay a visit. City Hall hosts an Open Weekend once a month. Last Saturday, Natalie and I trundled off to the City of London to have a peek inside City Hall and admire its spiral staircase.

Spiral StaircaseReflectionsSwirls


More photos on Flickr

Some interesting facts about London City Hall:
  • Billed as a Green building, it is designed with the environment in mind.

  • The building is a curved, almost spherical shape which minimises the surface area and heat loss of the building. The building has 25% less surface area than a cube of the same volume.

  • Heat generated by computers and lights is recycled. Deep floor plans allow for the collection of heat at the building's core, which can then be redirected.

  • There is no air-conditioning. Ground water is extracted from bores and used to cool the building. (I'd love to know if this works. It was extremely warm in the building when we visited. This was on a crisp Winter's day.) This ground water is recycled and used to flush the toilets.

  • Solar panels have been installed on the roof to further reduce the building's electrical consumption.
I'd love to have a look in the Gherkin. Must try and remember for Open House next year (if we are still here... )

jess - 5th Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: london nablopomo photography nablopomo07 explore_london


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I really love the bus stop signs in the UK. They provide more information than just a listing of buses that stop at that particular stop.

Each sign has a location identifier on it, whether it's a local landmark or the nearest cross street. It makes life so much easier when catching the bus. If you pay attention to the signs you know where to get off. The signs also indicate which direction the bus is travelling. So, it's easy to find out which stop you need to stand at. It's also extremely useful for orientating yourself when you leave an underground station. Just check out the bus stop to figure out which direction you need to walk in.

Sometimes, it's the small things that count.

jess - 4th Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: london nablopomo nablopomo07 love_london


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Theatre and the Arts seems to be drawing my attention at the moment. Last week, Natalie invited me to a charity preview of Elizabeth: the Golden Age. The tickets were a little expensive but the profits went to Breast Cancer Research.

At the end of the evening we decided it was well worth the ticket price.

  • We saw the movie the day before it premiered at Leicester Square.

  • We were offered champagne on arrival. I never turn down a free glass of champagne (or three free glasses of champagne.)

  • After the film we were treated to a talk from the film's Costume designer and Make-up director.

  • On departure we were given a goody bag with a t-shirt, movie soundtrack and a block of chocolate (score!).

The film was enjoyable and beautifully shot. The costumes were amazing as well! I often wondered where certain scenes were filmed. Usually, I was trying to figure out where the scene was shot so I could visit it one day. (This is why the Filming Locations link on IMDB is invaluable.)

In the talk afterwards, the costume designer mentioned that the film was historically inaccurate. Even though I've learned a lot about English history in the past year or so, I didn't up the errors. I've now gone and read a bit more about the Spanish Armada and Sir Walter Raleigh. The filmmakers have rearranged the timeline and embellished some events to spruce up the story. The lesson I guess is to learn history from books and not from Hollywood movies. (Although, in my case it's history by the way of Wikipedia.)

The costume designer also mentioned that although Elizabeth appears in a blue dress in the film, this would not have been the case. She didn't explain this comment though so I had to do a little research.

"During Elizabeth's reign, indigo as a dyestuff grew more and more popular. It was widely available and inexpensive, easy to transport in the form of dyecakes, and relatively permanent compared to many other dyestuffs of the time. As a result, it became a popular dye for the clothing of servants and others of a lower station. Soon, the color blue itself became associated with the state of servitude. As such, it is a good choice for someone wishing to dress as a maid, cook, or other type of servant." -- from elizabethancostume.net



jess - 3rd Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: london nablopomo film nablopomo07


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Finally we are starting to take advantage of our proximity to the West End. A couple of weekends ago we finally went to see Spamalot. It's been on our list of things to do since it opened in September last year.

Natalie snapped up some tickets from some English rugby fans who had decided to watch the Rugby World Cup final instead. I wonder if they were satisfied with the transaction? They lost around 20 pounds each on the tickets to watch England lose the cup (ah! sweet revenge.)

Andrew and I had both been looking forward to the production as we're keen Python fans. Andrew, more so; he can quote the film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, word for word. The production is based on the film so we had high hopes for an enjoyable evening.

Unfortunately, we were disappointed by Spamalot. Maybe our high expectations were our undoing. The whole thing seemed a little stale and was like a big university revue, with a better budget. Well, a university revue where you already knew all the jokes.

I think this reviewer sums up my thoughts nicely (maybe a bit harshly):
"...[Spamalot] systematically reverses everything that made the original funny. It is one big revue of cliches. The laughs are easy and unearned... Spamalot is the gaudy climax of a long, unfunny tradition of post-Python exploitation - books, action figures, video games - that treats the old material as a series of slogans to be referenced without doing any of the work that made the lines so original in the first place." -- Sam Anderson*

All things Python are hastily cobbled together with little new material. Always Look on the Brightside, the Fish Slapping dance, and the Finland song all make an appearance. There is a new song called "You won't succeed in Broadway..." which pokes fun at the Jewish. Obviously a joke designed for Broadway audiences as I didn't find it funny at all. Oh, and we heard the worst comedic French accent from the actors playing the French soldiers.

I did find their references to the World Cup Final, which was being played as we watched the show, quite funny. The Knights who say "Ni" turned into the Knights who say "'Ecky-ecky-ecky-ecky-pikang-zoop-boing-goodem-zoo-owli-zhiv... would you like to know the score?"

But now I'm just sounding ungrateful. The tickets were my birthday present from Natalie. Thanks Natalie. I did enjoy the evening! A chance to complete a London goal, a great meal of Okonomiyaki, a few giggles and good company were more than enough for me to rate the evening as a "great night". It was certainly better than watching the rugby.

Some photos of the Okonomiyaki from Abeno Too:



Asahi Black Abeno Too
Cooking Okonomi-yaki Condiments
Okonomi-yaki Dancing flakey bits

*Anderson, Sam (2006-06-21). And Now For Something Completely Deficient.
Slate.com.

jess - 2nd Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: london food nablopomo theatre nablopomo07 explore_london


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Silly me, I've signed up for NaBloPoMo again. Can't remember what it is? Well, it's National Blog Posting Month. Last year someone in the blogosphere decided to commit to posting an entry on their blog every day for the month of November. Members of the blog world love a challenge so we all joined in too. I remember it being a bit of a struggle but still lots of fun. I'm sure it was great for you guys because you had an entry to read every day (even if it was an entry of dubious quality.) Despite the difficulty rating, I've signed up again this year.

NaBloPoMo seems to be easier if you have a theme to run with. Along with the normal entries about daily life, I've decided I'll post entries along the theme of "I like living in London because...". I'm determined to absolutely love living here this time. My entries might just put me in the right frame of mind.

(Although, there may not be that many entries on my I HEART London list. I have lots of other stuff to blog about too. We've just returned from a 7-day holiday in Italy. Surely that counts for a few entries. Also, in November, we've booked a mini-break to Poland. That's good blog fodder too. Time will tell.)



jess - 1st Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: nablopomo nablopomo07


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