Should you go see ‘The 39 Steps’ at the Criterion Theatre?

Going to the theatre is always a must when you are in London. There is a show for everyone – musicals, drama and comedy – which makes the experience even more incredible.

Image source: Official Theatre
Image source: Official Theatre

The Criterion Theatre, a beautifully restored Victorian building in Piccadilly Circus, is undoubtedly one of the best to visit. The theatre is currently home to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 The 39 Steps, which has been recreated for the stage.

Based on John Buchan novel ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’, the show follows the story of protagonist Richard Hannay as he tries to prevent an organisation of spies from stealing top secret information.

The classic spy thriller consists of four actors playing 139 roles – they comically switch from playing police officers to train passengers and many more in the 100 minute performance. The show has been a success so far with The Guardian saying it was ‘clever, very funny and brilliantly acted.’

One of the most memorable performances was by Richard Galaska who played Richard Hannay. Galaska had an excellent stage presence and the audience were humoured by his portrayal of the character. If you are visiting London, I would definitely recommend buying tickets to see The 39 Steps at the Criterion Theatre. It is an excellent show.

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Is organic food overpriced?

Groceries in supermarkets are divided into two groups: organic food and conventional food. Products with organic labels are often two or three times the price of products in the other group, which begs the question, is organic food too expensive?

Image Source: tinyoranges
Image Source: tinyoranges

Take a Sainsbury’s branch in London as an example. Organic skimmed milk is £1.06/ltr, while the conventional product is £0.78/ltr. It is more obvious when comes to meat, with organic unsmoked bacon being £20.00/kg and the basic version being half the price of it.

It is clear that the price is quite a bit more expensive compared to conventional food. Because of this, people usually complain about organic food, branding it overpriced. However, I disagree. Here are my reasons:

  • The way organic food is produced is different to conventional food, as it is more natural and healthy. In organic farms, man-made fertiliser and pesticides are prohibited. Instead, they use manure, crop rotation and biological pest control to produce food.
  • The cost of producing organic food is much higher than conventional food. Farms that want to produce organic food should be certified by organic control bodies (CBs) first, which means they have to pay certification fees and pass the inspection. The annual cost of certification is different from one CB to another. For example, Soil Association, the largest organic certification body in the UK, requires farms to pay at least £585 annually. Besides, “the intensive management and labour used in organic production are frequently (though not always) more expensive than the chemicals routinely used on conventional farms,” said by Organic Farming Research Foundation.
  • Organic food contains more nutrition than conventional food. An international research team led by the University of Newcastle found that “organic crops, such as fruit, vegetables and cereals, and crop-based foods are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants than non-organic crops”.
Image Source: oursbodyhealthy
Image Source: oursbodyhealthy

I believe the price is reasonable, however, I don’t think we must buy everything in organic. Conventional food is also produced with restricted standards, the dosage of fertilizers and pesticides are under control, so we don’t need to worry that conventional food will harm our health. And in my view, what really matters is our health. It is important to have a healthy balance of eating different food, such as vegetables, fruits and meat.

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Yueer Wang/ Opinion

Tucked down a quiet side street

There are plenty of wonderful places to visit in London, but sometimes you have to look a little bit harder to find them. Nestled between Covent Garden and Leicester Square is a small but wonderful model car shop, which I was introduced to on a trip to central London with a few friends.

Image source: St Martins Models
Image source: St Martins Models

Tucked down a quiet side street, it was away from the hustle and bustle of the main roads. Despite it being a tiny shop, it was packed to the ceiling with products. From model Formula 1 cars to mini rally machines and prototypes, it is a fantastic place for automotive and motorsport enthusiasts to visit.

I couldn’t afford to buy anything – prices for these kind of models have increased significantly over the last decade or two, unfortunately – but I loved looking around, and it was great to chat to the owner, discuss our plans for the future (we are all freelance motorsport and F1 journalists) and hear his stories.

The shop is called St Martins Models and I would definitely recommend visiting if you are a fan of motorsport or cars. There are plenty of models to look at and to buy, as well as books. One of my favourite products from the shop was the Dijon Legendary Duel set, with models of Rene Arnoux’s Renault and Gilles Villeneuve’s Ferrari, recreating their iconic 1979 French Grand Prix battle.

London is full of little surprises and it is often worth heading down these little, quiet side streets. You may well find a gem.

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Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: Heaven on Earth

  • 10334478_10202586122950119_1581360480841145585_nLocation – Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AB
  • Getting there – Tube: Kew Gardens, Train: Kew Bridge, Ferry: Kew Pier
  • Prices: Adult £15, child free
  • Opening hours: 9.30am-6.30pm Apr-Aug, earlier closing Sep-Mar

Are you planning a getaway trip for this weekend? I’d recommend Kew Gardens, where visitors can enjoy the charming beauty of nature. I was impressed by the popular short story ‘Kew Gardens’ by Virginia Woolf. After reading it, I had the desire to visit Kew Gardens in the future and fortunately I have managed to do just that. In fact, it was the first time that my friend and I had visited a garden in London.

My friend was worried about the visit, as he was afraid he would have nothing to do there. However, the fear soon turned to happiness and it proved to be one of the best decisions of the year so far.

The Kew Gardens is in zone 3 of London, situated next to the River Thames and around 10 miles from the centre of the city. You can get there easily either by tube, train, bus, car or even by river boat!

It takes only 30 minutes by tube from Victoria Station and seven minutes walk from the Kew Station to the gardens. And guess what? You might find some nice cheap places for afternoon tea along the way.

10309512_10202586122230101_341472820143591831_nDespite the fact that ticket prices are a bit expensive. An adult ticket is £15.00, but it is free for children under 16. However, after you “swallowed” that, a whole “wonderland” is in front of you with the combination of royal institutes, trees, flowers and delightful seating areas.

10407919_10202586122590110_5084153591491036354_nKew Gardens is set within a beautiful landscape that has many layers of history. For example, The Princess of Wales Conservatory has five different climatic zones including a lovely orchid section.

The Kew Palace is where the Royal Family spend some of their time, and this is where The Royal Botanic Gardens began. Also, there’s a pagoda with entrance fee of £3.50 if you want to climb to the top. If you have children, I highly recommend the Kew Gardens as it will be a great place for both you and them to explore. There are baby change facilities, and also a free fountain to keep water bottles topped up.

Image source: Phoebe Nguyen

Kew has plenty of stunning exhibitions such as the famous orchid exhibition. The best time of the year to visit is in the summer, when the flowers are in bloom, with thousands of brilliant shades and colours. However, Christmas at Kew could also be a magical experience as well.

For more information, please visit the official Royal Botanic Garden, Kew’s website at: http://www.kew.org/

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Review/Phoebe Nguyen

Boris bikes scheme set for red rebrand

The ‘Boris bikes’ scheme is turning red after Santander was chosen as its new sponsor, beating Coca Cola and replacing Barclays.

Image source: TfL/Getty Images
Image source: TfL/Getty Images

The £43.75-million sponsor deal will mean more docking stations, more bikes and discounts for customers of the bank. The current deal with Barclays ends this year, after the company confirmed in 2013 that it would not be renewing its sponsorship.

10 million journeys were made using the scheme in 2014. £2 per day of £90 per year fees mean it is a cheap way of travelling around Britain’s capital. The red rebrand will take place in April and 100 new docking stations will also be installed.

There are currently 11,500 bikes and 748 docking stations around London. The seven-year deal will also see Santander extend its “cash back” credit card to include annual fees and hire charges for using the scheme.

You can find out more about the ‘Boris bikes’ scheme here. Enjoy this post? You can like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter to keep up to date with Your London Guide.

8 Apps Every Londoner Must Have

The saying ‘there’s an app for that’ has never been more true. Apps are used for all aspects of our

Image source: iTunes
Image source: iTunes

lives. Work, entertainment, eating out and connecting with friends are just a few examples.

There are even apps specifically for London, to make the experience of living in the city even more worthwhile.

Here are Your London Guide’s top eight apps you should download if you are moving or staying in the city:

Citymapper

Plan journeys from destination A to destination B in a few seconds. Citymapper will give you alternative options for walking, travelling in the car and all London transport methods, such as the Tube. The app also tells you how long the journey will take and even estimates how much it will cost.

Tube Exits

This app predicts which Tube carriage you should take and where to stand so you can leave the station as soon as possible. It is useful if you are in a rush or simply hate being stuck in a busy tube station for more than five minutes.

Tube Map – London Underground

Image source: iTunes
Image source: iTunes

This really is an essential app for those of you who are planning on travelling around London on the Underground.

You are able to plan journeys, view the tube map and check the status of each tube line, to see if there are any problems, closures or delays.

Check out our review here.

Uber

A reliable taxi service which allows you to request and pay from your phone. The app will connect you to an Uber driver in minutes. Uber is a safe yet quick method of travelling around London for a low cost.

Dice

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Image source: iTunes

The app offers the best gig prices for artists performing around the city of London.

The app also provides you with information about future gigs and performances.

You can book tickets for performances and events straight from your phone with no additional costs or fees.

Dojo

Suggests places to go and things to do in London. The app has categories – eat, drink, pop ups, get cultured, night out, date night, get healthy and markets – so you can personally plan your day out.

Hype

Image source: iTunes.apple.com
Image source: iTunes

Similar to Dojo but recommends events in specific areas. The app is useful if you know which part of London you want to visit but unsure about what to do.

Hype has examples of restaurants, bars and shops in three areas – East (Shoreditch, Dalston, Hackney), Central (Soho, Oxford Street and more) and North (Camden)

Time Out

Everything you need to know and are interested in will be on Time Out. The app has a variety of categories – museums, film, art – which will cater for different interests. The reviews are beneficial if you are indecisive on where to go this weekend.

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Racing around the streets of London

A Formula 1 race around the streets of London has been on the wish lists of many for quite some time. The pinnacle of motorsport has graced the city’s streets several times before, but only for demonstration runs and PR opportunities.

Image source: FIA Formula E
Image source: FIA Formula E

Last year it was revealed that motorsport would be allowed to take place on the streets of Britain, with new laws being put in place to allow local authorities to close public roads and stage racing events. It is a step in the right direction, and a F1 race in London would be quite a spectacle.

However, with the sport’s current home in Britain being the classic Silverstone circuit, don’t be getting your hopes up. But move over Formula 1, because a new single-seater series has hit the track and will be racing around London this year.

FIA Formula E is a fresh, all-electric championship that burst onto the scene last year. Four races have taken place so far, with the inaugural season starting in September 2014 and ending this June. It will conclude in London with two races around a street course in Battersea Park.

Despite plenty of room for improvement, Formula E has got off to a positive start, with some exciting racing. The Battersea Park track was recently announced, as was the news that it will be a double-header season finale taking place on the 27 and 28 June.

Image source: FIA Formula E
Image source: FIA Formula E

“Formula E is set to be a superb addition to London’s sporting calendar,” said Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. “The atmosphere will quite literally be electric and Battersea, which is already booming with the buzz of regeneration, will be alive with the excitement that this new, world-class event will no doubt spark.”

I have really enjoyed Formula E so far and I’m looking forward to seeing how the series develops in the future. Sure, it isn’t perfect. But very few things are at the very beginning. Racing in London is certainly a big boost, and I expect it will be an exciting weekend. The track layout looks decent enough. With street layouts, scope is always very tricky, but the organisers and designers have done a good job.

Ticket details have yet to be confirmed, but motorsport media are reporting that numbers will be limited to 30,000, with some free tickets being given out to children and the lowest price for adults being £10. If this is the case, then it will definitely be something for Londoners to look into attending. Even if you are not a fan of motorsport, it is a cheap day out and will enable you to experience new things.

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Review: Ottolenghi Addiction

“Could you please walk faster? Or we will be waiting for a long time,” my friend Macy shouted at me without turning back. I knew she couldn’t wait to eat in Ottolenghi, which she says is a “legendary restaurant”. As I tried to catch up, I wondered what makes the restaurant so special. Why is she addicted?

Image Source: Fionatree
Image Source: Fionatree

I thought I might miss the restaurant, as the tiny building is located down a quiet street in Notting Hill (it also has branches in Islington, Nopi and Belgravia). However, piles of desserts in a beautiful window stopped me. It was obviously Ottolenghi.

“Waiting in a queue is a must if you want to eat here,” my friend explained. The restaurant has a quiet and cosy ambiance, with chic white decorations. However, what amazed me most is that it has just one table, a communal table which is only able to serve 10 people at a time. I thought we might be forced to wait for half an hour or more to be seated, but luckily, we got there at the right time.

We started with fruit smoothies and then looked at the menu, which changes every day and provides the freshest, healthiest ingredients for customers. You can choose from either salad options or a main course and salad option, which is perfect for vegetarians. I ordered traditional beef lasagne as my main course, with roasted potato and slaw with kale as salads.

Image Source: Macy Lin
Image Source: Macy Lin

After I had the first bite of the lasagne, I understood why Macy was crazy about the restaurant. I’d like to say this is the best lasagne I have ever had. The soft noodles with slightly sweet ricotta cheese and juicy beef sauce mixed perfectly together. As for the salad, it completely changed my mind. I’m a person who particularly dislikes vinegar; however, the vegetables and herbs balanced well with the flavour of cider vinegar. It tasted as beautiful as it looked.

Although we were already repletive, the desserts beckoned us from the counter. It has a wide selection of sweet treats, including cakes, bars and puddings.

Without even thinking about my full stomach, I chose a cheesecake with raspberries. Macy also ordered one and packed three cakes to take away. They were all delicious.

The tasty meal cost £50 for both of us. It is quite expensive for two people, but the food was definitely worth every pound that we spent.

I will definitely be returning to Ottolenghi in the future. The food is heavenly delicious and it is healthy too. I may be slightly addicted to it, and I certainly recommend you visit in the future.

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Review by Yueer Wang.

Are theatre tickets too expensive?

Believe it or not, the prices of theatre tickets have been a controversial topic in the UK. Truth be told, your wallet or purse will end up feeling a lot lighter if you want to see a popular production. For example, the average price for a ticket to Billy Elliot on Saturday 28 February is £50 just for a Grand Circle seat, which  is quite far from the stage.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Moreover, if you want a better view from Dress Circle – which is on the first floor of the theatre – you have to pay for £88, and with Stalls seats being around £123. Not cheap, at all. However, although the rising of the ticket prices continues, many modern audiences are still feeling ardent enough about the theatre.

Many people, especially students, can’t afford original ticket prices, myself included. I always try to find and wait for discounts. Actually, I have found that almost none of my friends from my home country of Vietnam have ever seen a theatre production before. They say that they are curious and excited when they see musical or play posters in the tube stations, but not so much when they search to book tickets. In my opinion, theatre tickets are too expensive in London, but it is still a great thing to do when visiting the city.

Image source: Geograph.org.uk
Image source: Geograph.org.uk

So, want to pay less for your theatre tickets? Let me suggest some tips that have worked for many people:

  • Last moment: At the last moment, you can sometimes ‘bargain’ with staff to lower the ticket prices, but you have to make this a little secret!
  • Standby: In the last hour, most theatres have unsold tickets, and they will launch the discounted prices to full-time students, unemployed people or those with disabilities.
  • Pre-booking way in advance: This is how you can still manage the desired dates and your ticket prices. Try to book your ticket one or even two months in advance for better deals.

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Wacky designs submitted for new London bridge competition

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Image source: Wandsworth Council

BBC News recently released plans to build another bridge across the River Thames, which would stretch between Nine Elms and Pimlico.

The £40m cycle and pedestrian bridge is a part of a project to enhance the Nine Elms area and will include two new Northern Line tube stops. A total of 74 designs have been submitted as part of an international competition run by Wandsworth Council.

Expectations of the designs were incredibly high, with some matching them and others falling short as architects showcased their own modern interpretations of the bridge. One of the entries features a large, ripple effect structure which certainly captures your attention.

Image source: Wandsworth Council
Image source: Wandsworth Council

However, some of the designs submitted did not seem appropriate or at all practical. The focus was centred too much around the appearance and look of the bridge, and not on its usability. The Guardian even nicknamed one entry ‘the flaming mouth of Hades’.

It is definitely difficult to imagine the multi-coloured spectacle and elaborate design crossing London’s iconic river, especially in the Nine Elms area.

Wandsworth council’s Conservative leader Ravi Govindia is quoted by the BBC saying: “To succeed, this bridge must be two things at once. It must be a beautiful piece of architecture and a valuable new transport link. This is what our growing city needs and thanks to this competition we now have more than 70 different approaches to consider.”

Entries will be on public display at the ROSE Centre, Ascalon Street, from 1pm to 7pm on the 27 February and 10am to 6pm on the 28 February. So if you are in the area, the designs are definitely well worth a look.