This April-in-review blog post is brought to us all by Sue Hillman of It’s Your London touring company.  Providing custom tours tailored to your personal interests, they will help you make the most of your time in this phenonemonal city. (For more information, see our previous blog post as well visit www.itsyourlondon.co.uk)

Your review of April 2010 covers the biggest sporting event on our street, the London Marathon, a couple of unusual tours,  a wonderful flower market, a sound installation based on the River Thames and a couple of restaurants – of course!

The build up to the marathon is amazing as the streets become full of runners grabbing any time before work or after work and during their lunch time to pound out the miles. Then, the day before, the roads start to be roped off and the preparations around the finish area take over the Mall and St James’s Park.   I was there on the day for several hours as I volunteer for Water Aid to raise awareness of their good work (bringing clean water and sanitation to the millions who still don’t have these essentials www.wateraid.org).  I nearly lost my voice as there were so many brave souls to cheer on and the amazing ones who wear costumes to make it even harder. Over 30,000 runners set off and it’s a long, long way….. They go past some wonderful sites, including Tower of London, Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace but I doubt they get to enjoy these! Here are a few photos to give a feel of the day:

There are unusual ways to see town, and I decided to have a go on a ‘Duck Tour’, a road and amphibious tour. The ‘vehicles’ were built in 1942 and used in D Day to land troops so are very robust and very well maintained we were assured!  The tour sets off from just by the London Eye and heads through Westminster to the M16 building where we changed over from driver to pilot and splashed down the slipway into the Thames.  The boat rides very low in the water so the experience of the Thames is really unusual. Then back on dry land and we returned to the Eye. Good fun and the jolly guide gives you information on the way as well as encouraging you to shout ‘quack quack’ at passers by!

Feeling a rush of energy I took a cycle tour and the very helpful Nathan who guided me around so I felt safe as a non cyclist. He offers full day tours but for me he did a few hours around the center of town starting from London Bridge.  It wasn’t too busy and I really enjoyed the experience except for the getting off at the end and suddenly feeling a bit stiff. Photographic evidence supplied!

As the weather warms up and the sun comes out, a trip to a wonderful Sunday market is required to stock the garden and fill the vases. At Columbia Road flower market they have plants as well as flowers and a few streets are closed off and packed out with stalls selling a beautiful bright riot of colour.  The prices are amazingly reasonable and we got jasmine, clematis and huge bunches of flowers. The crowds were tricky to navigate with arms full of plants but the mood was so happy and the pubs and cafes were spilling out on the streets which are also lined with great looking small shops.

Somerset House was hosting a sound installation called River Soundings by Bill Fontana which was really interesting. You get to walk around underground passages not normally open to the public and which are lined with speakers giving you the sounds of the Thames, waves lapping, water gurgling and popping. There are subterranean storage areas with photographs projected onto the old brickwork and you go right under the building at one point. Hard to describe so a few photos to help but well worth a visit – and it’s free!

April was Michelin star month for restaurants with a trip to Quilon, Indian cuisine, Hibiscus and The Ledbury, both French. These three restaurants have 5 stars between them and very nice too. Michelin star places can be very imposing and formal but these were not at all like that so I recommend them – especially the French ones.

Much more was happening in April but that’s probably enough for one blog post!

Sue Hillman

www.itsyourlondon.co.uk