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

Your London Relocation review of February 2010 is rather different from usual as I spent most of it in Africa! I was lucky enough to take a big trip by road from Cape Town to Victoria Falls and had a wonderful time seeing amazing scenery, beautiful animals, great sights, blue skies and starry skies and it was hot, hot, hot!

I’ve attached just a few snaps at the end to give you a flavour of southern Africa but will turn my attention herefirst and let you know what the remaining week and a bit of February’s been like.

A weather update to start with. Returning from the heat of Africa to the on-going winter in London was a real shock although everyone kept saying that it was much warmer than it had been. Snow was still falling all around town, tho’ not in London itself, so much so that a long awaited visit from a friend in Oxfordshire was cancelled as they were snowed in and that’s only about 30 miles away! Since then we’ve been rained on, daily, so thank goodness for lots of indoor things to do!

The weather was kind to us all for the big celebrations for the Chinese New Year as we welcomed the year of the Tiger.  The area from Trafalgar Square through to Soho was packed with visitors and residents enjoying the explosion of red lanterns, firecrackers, Chinese music and the massive choice of restaurants packed into that small area. There are also the dancing dragons who visit each business in the area to bring them good luck by eating the salad left hanging for them, accompanied by huge drumming! The Chinese have been here since the earlier 19th century and the UK has one of largest Chinese populations in Europe – our long association with Hong Kong having a major impact here.   The focus of Chinatown is Gerrard Street and the local council have marked the area with bilingual road signs and you can’t mistake where you are even on a normal day as there is a massive arch and more Chinese restaurants than you could ever get through.  I’ve attached a few photos to give you a flavour of the day and the area – it really is a fun time of year to be there.  London is brilliant in this way, the world comes to us and sometimes a day out can feel like you’ve travelled far away!

One of my favourite shops is the Travel Bookshop, made famous by the film Notting Hill and I rarely visit there without buying something as my bookshelves will testify. They have all the guide books and travel literature you could ever want, and maps and CDs. For the movies buffs here’s a little Notting Hill the film info – this shop was the inspiration and you certainly get that feeling when you go in. However, the interior filming took place in a studio and the shots from the inside of the shop onto the street were taken in Portobello Road, round the corner from the Travel Bookshop itself as you can tell when you look out from the actual shop. This doesn’t stop the constant stream of tourists taking their photo in front of the shop (here’s a photo but without me in front of it). As well as selling lovely books they have just started a series of talks from travel writers so we went along to hear Hugh Thomson tell us about his book Tequila Oil Getting Lost in Mexico. It was an interesting and entertaining session so I bought the book (of course), got it signed and found out that tequila oil is a drink to be avoided at all costs for one’s health, the word tequila really is a clue here!

Gallery preview evenings are another joy on a winter’s evening. Muse Gallery on Portobello Road was hosting Justin Piperger’s new work. There were big bold colours, some cartoon works and others which incorporated household items like clocks and tea towel holders! I wasn’t really sure about it all but loved a couple of the big bright pieces and the prices were reasonable but money is a bit too short after the big trip to even start thinking that way….

One more outing to report was to see the Noisettes at the Roundhouse in north London.  The Roundhouse is a fascinating building and derives its name from its shape, a round building which was formerly a railway turntable shed,  somewhere that steam engines could be turned around as they could not run well backwards as happens now.  Over the years it has had many reincarnations as an arts venue. Fingers crossed the current one seems to be working. It’s great for large scale events and I’ve been there to see amazing shows like one where the acrobatic group used the space on the walls and under the roof for their performance, while the audience stood, with some trepidation, in the centre of the floor space in the dark waiting for someone to fall on them! The Noisettes are high energy and fun with a good range styles  but mostly a rocking sound. Their lead singer Shingai Shoniwa is a human dynamo and hard to photograph as she never stands still!  The other photo is of the amazing Roundhouse ceiling.

March’s blog will be back to normal and I’m looking forward to a bumper month.

Here, as promised are just a few photos from Africa:  Cape Town, Namibian sand dunes, elephants, close up to a cheetah, lions and there are so many more…..

Sue

www.itsyourlondon.co.uk