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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

Tube Travel Tips for Tourists

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Dear Tourist,

Please don’t get me wrong: I appreciate you roaming around London, exploring the many places and events that the capital city has to offer. However, dear tourist, London is also a city that houses Londoners. They aren’t actually looking for things to do in London: they just have to get from A to B every day.

It is summer and you flock to London in groups, with your backpacks on; there is no air conditioning on the Tube and so before we all get overheated, here are some tips for Tube travel:

  1. Please avoid travel during peak-hours, when all the commuters are struggling to get on the train: The Big Ben will still be there and the Changing of the Guards doesn’t happen til 11am anyway.
  2. Check before you travel, there are often railworks during the weekends which means you have to find an alternative route with the  TfL-site .
  3. Oystercards on yellow circles to open the gates, paper tickets are to be inserted into the gates.
  4. Take off big backpacks, this will prevent you from knocking anyone out when moving into the carriage. If paranoid about getting pick-pocketed: it is the backpack that makes you stand out as a tourist-target.
  5. The carriages at the end and the beginning of the train are usually the emptiest: this is why you are encouraged to move along the platform.
  6. Doors on the Tube will open automatically. However, on the Dockland Light Railway (DLR) you DO have to press the button to open the doors, same goes for any of the Overground lines.
  7. Don’t stop at the end of escalators, in front of the entry gates or in the middle of the walkway. If you have to check your map, move to side and let other people pass.
  8. Stand on the right side of the escalator as people will pass on the left. This means you can not stand side by side, but if you hold your small child in front of you, you can still make sure s/he doesn’t fall down.
  9. Mind the Gap when leaving the carriage: a lot of stations are old and the gaps are because of the different dimensions of the modern trains to the old platforms.
  10. When waiting for the train stay behind the yellow line: it’s not big, it’s not clever and you will only cause delays if a train hits you!

Thank you for reading and happy travels London tourists! If this Tube traveling overwhelms you, remember you can always take a London tour with a hop-on-hop-off bus…

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Jack the Ripper Tour in London: a great dark, cold and rainy night

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When is the perfect time to go on a Jack the Ripper tour in London? In a dark, cold, awfully rainy night, of course! This is the extreme weather we found when trying out the Jack the Ripper tour by Premium Tours, on Sunday evening. The tour started perfectly on time at 5.40 pm at the Grosvenor Victoria Hotel. We were a total of 8 people – not a small number considering the season and especially the rain! We know that during summer the group can grow as big as 40.jack the ripper tour spitafields

As usual, it’s the guide who makes the quality of the tour. We were lucky: Derrick, our guide (not the inspector! ;) was quite perfect: a perfectly radiophonic voice, low-pitched and clear, a good rhythm, a vivid narration full of macabre and scary details, and some always-working jokes. Besides that, he was attentive to the group needs, careful not to leave us too much out in the rain and adjusting the walking tour accordingly. continue reading

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Christmas Shopping Adventures 3: London and Beyond

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I know that Christmas shopping can feel like a daunting annual ritual, especially when conducted in a bustling city like London!  With Pantomime season around the corner and Christmas just a day away, families are already flooding Central London to get into the Christmas Spirit.

This goes for visitors and Londoners alike: why not add some variety to your usual Christmas shopping routine by embarking on a special Christmas adventure? Here are some ideas: continue reading

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Last Minute Halloween Costume Shops in London

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For those of you on a mad dash to construct a fabulous last minute Halloween costume for that raging, fun fancy dress party you are attending on Friday, with one objective in mind—to win the (presumably alcoholic) prize for having the BEST COSTUME—I am here to help you…and help you fast! (Whew! Relief!)

If you haven’t seen it already, I wrote a blog last week about Halloween costume shops in London (or Fancy Dress shops in London—whichever term you prefer. You see, there is this British girl in my office (a British girl…in my London office… imagine that…) that refuses to celebrate Halloween on the grounds that it is a “poor excuse for American kids to rob our homes of candy.” What a drag! She’s not invited to my party—that’s for sure. British kids, get your fancy dress on and celebrate with your Yankee brethren. I just know how much you love fancy dress!)

Right, so back to helping you score that perfect last minute costume. My blog last week covered a few costume shops in West London, and though I vowed to visit fancy dress shops in East London, I must admit that I never made it past the vaguely Eastern part of Central London… because I got lost on my way to Bethnal Green, like a tourist. But I did manage to visit these shops:

1. Angels, near Tottenham Court Road tube.

Angels, to be quite frank, was my worst nightmare. Their Argos-style catalog/stock room approach is, in my opinion inefficient and irritating. The catalogues are full of misleading images…i.e. heavily-endowed blonde women, sporting next-to-nothing variations of service-industry uniforms and fairytale gowns…and the costumes are cheap, most of them slutty. However, if you are planning to score a costume on your lunch break today, this is one of the few costume shops in central London. You can probably find something in here—as long as you don’t mind not trying on your costume before you buy it.

“No, you cannot try it on, but we give full refunds if it doesn’t fit and you decide to return it,” said the brainwashed saleslady, as I indicated that their last flapper costume (by the way, they are sold out of a lot of costumes, so go in with an open mind!) was not in my size but could possibly fit—I needed to try it on to see. “It’s the same as buying on the internet,” she reassured me.

“This is not the internet, this is a shop.” I reminded her—in case she had, by chance, forgotten. She didn’t like that very much.

Idea: Base your costume around a wig.

Angels had some great fancy dress wigs—I’ll give ‘em that. Everyone loves a crazy wig. In fact, I would say that a wig could quite possibly be the most hilarious, transforming element of a costume. Forget being a specific character…go wig shopping! Grab some bright purple tresses, some face paint to match, an eyeball decal, a horn, and some wings, and voila, you are a ‘one eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater’. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_People_Eater)

Or better yet—grab that amazing mullet, and become an 80’s rocker. Trim the mullet down into a homemade ‘Euro mullet’, and…well I’m going to stop here. After all, I don’t want to offend anyone. ;-)

2. Madword, near Old Street tube.

This costume hire facility—if you can manage to find it (it is hidden down a flight of stairs)—is pretty good. The staff were friendly, and (gasp!) they allowed me to try on several costumes. Who would have thought?

Their range of costumes is extensive—you must go in with a specific idea of what you want…and, importantly, a willingness to fork over a nice-sized chunk of cash. You could score a real gem in Madworld, especially if you are after a costume from a certain time period—they offer both the stereotypical (think: ‘Marilyn Monroe’ dress) and more mundane (think: simple sweater and skirt outfit) fancy dress options for almost every era imaginable.

Idea: Pick your favourite era, and try on all of the costumes in the shop section dedicated to that era.

I am guessing that you probably didn’t live in the 1920’s, and I am also pretty sure that not every single female from this era dressed like a flapper when she went out on the town (I speak from personal experience—I tried on several flapper costumes but found some of the other getups in the 1920’s section to be much more interesting).

See what the fancy dress hire shops have in stock for your favourite era, and be creative!

Happy Searching!

Need more Halloween costume ideas? Just ask me – I’m full of them. Seriously, I’ll respond quickly. Carrie Daniel is officially ‘on call’ for all of your Halloween costume inspirational needs until Friday October 31st at 5pm.

Best of luck to you all. May your costumes win you large quantities of cheap booze and/or some hot dates…

London fancy dress/costume shops:

Angels, 119 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8AE

Madworld, 69-85 Tabernacle Street, London, EC2A 4BA

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Great Contemporary Art Exhibition in London.

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Last week, I stumbled across the most amazing London art exhibition, which I cannot shut up about. Seriously, I’ve already told ½ of my office and all of my friends about it. So, whilst you are out looking for Halloween costumes this week, you must stop by JR’s London art exhibition, entitled ‘28 Millimetres: Women’, near Tottenham Court Road tube station.

Lazarides contemporary art gallery london

The installation is divided into three parts, all of which are worth seeing. I started out in the Charing Cross Road wing of the Lazarides London contemporary art gallery, which is plastered, floor to ceiling, with portraits of the people that JR encountered during his journey through Morro da Providencia, a small, hillside community in Rio De Janeiro.

continue reading

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Chicago musical tickets: Get ‘em while they’re (red) hot!

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I was thrilled last weekend when my friend snagged some discount Chicago tickets—I have wanted to experience ‘London’s sexiest musical’ for ages.

chicago cambridge theatre

Contrary to the widely held sentiment among theatregoers that long-running West End musicals can become overpriced tourists traps, I was highly impressed: I definitely got my money’s worth. I know that musical backwards and forwards—the songs, the scenes, and even the first two minutes of the opening dance number (sad, I know)—and I was on the edge of my seat for the entire show. continue reading

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O2 X Awards and After Party!

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Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the O2 X Small Business Awards and after party with a few of my colleagues here in London. We were thrilled to be nominated for the Technology and Innovation award, and we had a great time!

o2 x awards

Firstly, though, I must say that I had never been to The O2 in Greenwich before—definitely worth a visit! Lots going on in this enormous, climate-controlled, Thames-side dome (it’s so big that you forget you’re actually indoors, which is perfect for London weather).

On any given evening, you’ll find a slew of cinema-goers, leisurely diners (there are 30 odd restaurants), special events attendees, and perhaps, as we did, thousands and thousands of Queen fans spilling out of the O2 Arena…

Our event took place in the brand new, oh-so-trendy Matter night club, where we sipped champagne, enjoyed delicious canapés, participated in on-camera interviews, and mingled with all sorts of interesting entrepreneurs…from eco-friendly fashion designers, to music producers, to Z list celebs (so I’m told)…it certainly was a hip, happening evening for all.

Jess Deepak O2 X Awards

I learned last night that I am definitely not privy to the happenings of British celebrity culture; however, apparently this girl (the host of the awards ceremony) is one import chick:

Holly Willoughby O2 X

So…there’s you celeb snap for the week.  Enjoy!

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Mahiki’s Famous Treasure Chest

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My sincere apologies for the delays in posting photographs—I’ve been having some technical difficulties…

If you missed yesterday’s blog about Mahiki, which is, apparently, Prince Harry’s favourite London night club, you can read it here.

Right, so I’ve decided that a photograph doesn’t do Mahiki’s signature concoction much justice, but, nonetheless, here it is:

Mahiki Treasure Chest London

…those straws are about to do a lot of damage!

Crazy, right?

End story: Mahiki is a fantastic venue for a hen party or a stag, if you can foot the bill?

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Prince Harry, Part II: Mahiki Madness

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I was pumped when my close friend from college announced that she would be having her “hen party” (British term for bachelorette) at MAHIKI (reportedly Prince Harry’s favourite club).  We thought for sure that we would have some royal/celeb sightings at this famous London hotspot.  What geeky American tourists we are…

You know, in all honesty, we could have seen Madonna, Harry and the Dalai Lama by the time we finally hit the dance floor…that is, after emerging from our tropical “submersion” in champagne-filled treasure chests, flaming booze lava fountains and enormous conch shells, spilling over with red rum fruity goodness…

But let’s back up for a minute…

Mahiki Hens: the adventure begins…

9:33 pm:  Eleven, dolled up twenty-somethings arrive to the door of London’s most famous club.  One sparkling bride-to-be, flanked by eight fellow Americans, one Canadian and two authentic “hens” (only one Brit and one Aussie in attendance…but we called it a hen party anyway…). Three are giggling, one is hobbling on crutches (me), and two are scheming re: the fact that we have missed the free entry cut off time by 3 minutes—how to get around this?

9:34 pm:  “Ten pound entry fee, five hundred pound minimum per table” asserts chic, blonde woman at door. 

I repeat, woman at door. We definitely aren’t getting around this…

9:35 pm: Julia Allison, long time friend of bride-to-be reveals her true colors as celeb. mag columnist and lifestyle/entertainment guru.  So much for her night of undercover debauchery with the girls.  Julia flashes biz card, dishes PR schpeel to chic blonde woman, who, after 38 seconds of conversing with Julia, officially loves us.  “Such lovely girls…’ she coos.  Free table, complementary drinks—yes, yes can all be arranged.

We’re in.

9:40 pm:  We are escorted to a large, tropical bungalow-esque table by a camp cabana boy waiter.  We keep our eyes peeled for Harry and co.

9:50pm: Against our better judgement, we order THE TREASURE CHEST (pictures to come ASAP).

10:00pm: THE TREASURE CHEST arrives, filled with ice, fruit, an unidentifiable concoction of hard liquor and 11 straws.  A pirate queen’s dream come true.  Camp cabana boys pour champagne into chest.  We assemble into a giggling circle and sip.

10:10pm: Still sipping…

10:20pm: Still sipping…

10:30pm: Is this a bottomless chest?

Circa 10:40pm: Cabana boys arrive with two flaming “volcanoes” of booze.  And, of course, 11 straws.  We’ve just (barely) finished our treasure chest, and the bride is drunk.  My fractured foot is, magically, “all better!”……

??:??pm: Cabana boys return with two of  the largest conch shells I have ever seen, filled with red, fruity mystery punch.  One of which is now the centrepiece of the bride’s work desk back in Oxford.

??:??pm: Dance floor…

Circa 12:15am: Bride and her crew from Oxford realize that they are not going to make it to the station in time for their 12:15am train home (why they booked a 12:15 train, I will never know….).

??:??am:  … ???

Right, so, in conclusion, Mahiki is an absolute blast; however, I will probably never be able to go there again: I’ll never be able to top our amazing hen party adventure—I’ll never again receive the same, superb degree of service (thank you, Julia!)…  

Well…maybe I’ll go when I get married.  Or next time Harry comes to town.  Or both, if you catch my drift? J

 

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Jess celebrates 2 years with isango!

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We held a small do last week to celebrate Jess’s two years with isango! Fearless in Biz Dev, she also nearly brought the ceiling down with her enthusiastic champagne popping technique.

Jess celebrates with champagne

Of course, the prospect of a little bubbly on a Thursday afternoon has got the rest of the isango! team thinking of other causes célèbres to announce: a sunny afternoon, a British Olympic medal, an upcoming bank holiday!

Some of us will be off to Edinburgh, Norway, Hastings, and the rest will simply enjoy an extra day to cook, drink wine, and enjoy the Notting Hill Carnival.

Where will you go and what will you do? Let us know!

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