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London’s Soho District – a Hub of Theatres and Entertainment

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Located in the heart of London, Soho is a thriving hub of entertainment of all kinds. Historically, the area has had something of a shady past, but in recent times the district has become a major draw for Londoners and tourists alike, seeking theatrical entertainment and some of the city’s finest entertainment.

soho palace theatre

Soho’s famous Palace Theatre, just one of a number of entertainment venues in the area

The growth of Soho

Back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Soho was famous for all the wrong reasons. Rather than the kind of above-board entertainment for which the area is now rightly well-known, Soho was a notorious destination for people seeking entertainment of an altogether less family friendly variety. Brothels and other accoutrements of the skin trade were plied from the many shops and bars in the area while bawdy shows took place in a number of the theatres and music halls in the area.

Pre-theatre entertainment

While the Palace Theatre is the jewel in the crown of the performance venues in Soho itself, there are plenty of other ways in which visitors can find entertainment in the district while visiting. The area has become well-known as a destination for drinkers and diners, offering up-market restaurants and bars for the well-heeled visitor. The area makes the perfect place to stop for a pre-theatre drink or dinner.

As a centre for media and the arts, the area is often thronging with media types enjoying long lunches or post-work drinks. Soho is the home of many film and television companies and is served by Sohonet, a super-fast fibre optic communication system that connects the visual effects and post-production companies that have sprung up in the area with the UK’s biggest film and television studios in Shepperton and Pinewood as well as production centres across the globe, allowing work to be done on the product of filming done out of town without the need to transport film from one location to another.

The area is also well-known for its gay-friendly atmosphere. As London’s unofficial gay village, Soho has a range of gay bars and clubs that offer an experience for just about every taste. Wherever a gay couple may choose to eat or drink in the area, they will be welcomed openly without as much as a raised eyebrow.

Visiting the theatre

Although the Palace is the main theatre actually situated within Soho, London’s West End surrounds Soho and is easily accessed from any of the bars and restaurants in the district. Nearby Covent Garden has a large number of big-name theatres with popular plays and musicals on offer throughout the year.

soho theatre

The Soho Theatre

For something with a little more variety, the Soho Theatre offers a varied programme of cabaret and comedy as well as theatrical productions. On the fringes of Soho you will also find the Prince Edward Theatre, arguably the most stylish of Soho’s venues with its art deco styling, which shows a programme of hit musicals throughout the year and is currently hosting Jersey Boys before taking on Miss Saigon in May 2014.

Conclusion

A thriving destination for entertainment of all kinds, Soho is a vibrant and exciting place to visit during any stay in London. All kinds of tastes in theatre, music and dining are catered for, and you could not hope to find anywhere in London that is more laid back and easy going. Whether you’re going out in Soho or starting out here before heading further up west, it’s a great place to get any London party started.

 

Image Credits: Wikipedia 1 & 2

London Helicopter Tours – Great Views over London

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As people look for new ways to see the sights of London, a number of different ways of exploring the city have sprung up and the pleasures of sight-seeing can now be experienced from many different angles. The traditional bus tour has been supplemented by walking tours, river cruises and even a tour that encompasses both without changing vehicle! However, there are few more unique ways to see London’s biggest points of interest than by flying overhead on your own helicopter tour.

Taking to the skies over the city on your own personal tour gives a once in a lifetime experience for long-time London lovers and newcomers alike.

Size and scale

One thing it’s very hard to get a feel for at street level in any city, London included, is the scale of the place and how the various parts of it inter-connect. Walking through the winding streets can leave the visitor pleasantly lost and with aching feet, but with no real idea of the amount of distance that’s been covered in the process.

The public transport system is no better at helping people gauge places in relation to one another, as London Underground maps present a schematic rather than proximity and buses and taxis snake around the city to find the most expedient way from one place to another rather than joining the dots.

Taking to the sky can help give a real sense of perspective to the city and spot sights in relation to one another.

A different perspective

There are, understandably, parts of London that look a good deal different from above than they do from the ground. What can close up feel incredibly densely packed with buildings can suddenly take on a more spacious air when viewed from high above the streets.

Taking a flight over the London Docklands reveals a very different picture to the one seen from the ground. While it can feel somewhat claustrophobic to be amongst the high-rise buildings around Canary Wharf and Canada Water, from above the area is an archipelago of small islands that look spaced out and almost Venetian.

london docklands above

London’s Docklands viewed from above

The same is true around the Royal Parks. The densely-packed districts around Hyde Park, Green Park and others can be deceptive and few people explore the parks sufficiently to appreciate their true scale. A tour at dusk can bring the space into sharp relief as the dark patches contrast with the bright street lights in the surrounding areas.

A glimpse of the unseen

There are parts of the city that simply can’t be seen without taking flight and viewing them from above. The expansive grounds of Buckingham Palace are only seen by a select few every year who are invited to join the Queen for one of her garden parties. The perimeter of the palace is surrounded by very high walls that don’t permit the casual glance at the Monarch’s back garden. Taking a helicopter tour will give the opportunity to see sights that few have witnessed first-hand.

queens backyard

A sneak peek at the Queen’s backyard

It’s also possible that the tour will show other things that few on the ground will be aware of. At the top of some of the high-rise buildings in the centre of London, manicured gardens and even swimming pools and hot-tubs can be seen, showing a different side to the city than most ever see.

Conclusion

For a different perspective on the sights of London, taking a helicopter tour will introduce a whole new point of view. Giving a real appreciation of space and scale, an aerial tour can also offer passengers the chance to get a glimpse of an unseen London.

 

Image Credits: Tab59 and James Cridland

London Duck Tours – Amphibious Fun in the Big City

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There are some really great things to do in London from visiting an art gallery to taking a trip down the Thames and lots of other fascinating things in between. However, one experience not to be missed is a 75 minute road and river trip with a difference, aptly named London Duck Tours and it’s a guided ride through an iconic capital with a difference.

duck tours

Half truck and half boat, a great way to see the capital

A Guided Tour with a Difference

The trip offers everyone a new visual angle on London – and its great fun. The journey is a thrilling experience as people get to ride in a World War II vehicle designed for both river and road use because it’s amphibious. The adventure begins on hard ground driving people through the streets of historic London before taking to the water with a splash.

The ride is fascinating with a tour guide telling lots of quirky tales of the capital as the vehicle coasts past some of the more iconic areas of the city. This naturally includes the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace to name but two, before going down the embankment to the river Thames for a gentle splash into the water. From then on it’s a thirty minute river trip in all its glory again past some of the most iconic and historic buildings that border the River Thames.

London has a lot to boast about, superb architecture and superb pageantry in all its British glory. Viewing it all in this novel fashion makes it an experience never to be forgotten – it’s a huge amount of fun that offers visitors some fantastic and unique photo opportunities of one of Europe’s most photographed cities, all from a funny looking amphibious World War II Duck Truck – definitely one for the virtual scrapbook.

duck tours iconic london buildings

Tour takes you past iconic London buildings

A Great Experience from Start to Finish

The tour starts out right next to the London Eye which has become one of the capital’s more recent iconic sights. The “mighty Duck” then takes to the road with colourful flare past the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Prime Minister’s home in number 10 Downing Street and then on to Trafalgar Square. All the while, the tour guide offers an action packed commentary unlike any you may have ever heard before. Two of the highlights of the tour take you past two of the capital’s most grand buildings, namely Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace.

Then it’s on down to the embankment past the Tate Britain amidst the usual London traffic of red buses and black cabs in a vehicle that was invented back in 1942 ready for the D-Day invasion on France’s Normandy beaches. The vehicle may look a little weird but in its heyday, this incongruous amphibious machine saved thousands of lives.

The splash into the River Thames is fun and it all happens right next to the headquarters of M15. Which leads nicely to one of the themed trips that’s organised called the James Bond Tour. The 30 minutes boat trip down the river is a real adventure and again, offers some great photo opportunities of the capital.

Well Worth Booking a Seat

The Duck tour is hugely popular which means if you don’t want to be disappointed, it’s well worth booking a ticket but this will only be held for you for 2 hours after you have purchased it. The last Duck tour starts according to the time the sun sets, and the rides take place every thirty minutes or so when things are running smoothly. Weekends tend to be very busy which means there are more tours organised to cope with demand.

Conclusion

London is one of the most iconic European capitals and it’s one of the most photographed in the world. Being able to take a tour around this vibrant, historical city in a fun way, makes for a memorable experience. The Duck Truck allows you to take great shots of some of the most impressive buildings in the capital, both on land and from the water to share with family and friends. For a great and fascinating tour of London, it really doesn’t get much better than London Duck Tours – Amphibious Fun in the Big City with a difference!

Image credits: philip bisset and Waterford_Man

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