Thursday, 11 February 2010

Reading/ Writing - Secret London

One of my students in Buenos Aires was planning a trip to London so I found this list of things to do in London on the Timeout website. The list is a bit different from the normal touristy ideas - it feels more like a guide to 'Secret London' which gets the students interest. Endless vocab to explore too.

It's perfect for a skim reading exercise. Get your students to just read the titles and then to pick the ones that catch their eye. They can then read these in more detail and explain them to their group or the class.

For a follow-up you could get the students to write a secret guide to their city - get them to pick 5 things that you wouldn't find in the tourist guides.

More London lesson ideas to follow soon.

Things to do in London

1. Pre-brunch Bloody Mary

Start the day with a well-made Essex breakfast. Hotel bars are often a better bet as they’re usually quieter than your local boozer and house some of the city’s most artful cocktail makers. Try Claridges or the Coburg Bar at the Connaught for its relaxed vibe and comfy leather and velvet interior. Or for a more hardcore prescription, head to the excellent Providores & Tapa Room where the Bloody Marys are made with lemon, coriander and a devilish lump of wasabi. You have been warned.

2. Sun spotting in Hampstead

Nothing will make you feel better about crawling out from under the duvet than watching the sunrise over London, and there’s no better place to do it than Parliament Hill (although south Londoners will inevitably put in a claim for Greenwich). Once you’ve basked in its splendour – and if you’re feeling adventurous – it’s a short hop to Hampstead ponds for an invigorating dip.

3. Junk shopping in Holloway

Nag’s Head Covered Market on Seven Sisters Road (next to Morrisons) is a proper, rough-round-the-edges retail experience. It specialises in secondhand goods, so if you get there early, you can pick up bargains ranging from old vinyl to mostly working toasters.

4. Sunday service at St Martin-in-the-Fields

If you want to inject a little atmospheric worship into the proceedings, experience Holy Communion in the spectacular St Martin-in-the-Fields. Or for a reminder of London’s multiculturalism, visit one of the afternoon services for the Chinese community: at 1.15pm there’s a service in Mandarin, and at 2.15pm there’s one in Cantonese.

5. Get your heart racing on the river

The Nike Bridges Run is an informal group run around Battersea Park and Chelsea Embankment, suitable for all standards, with three- or five-mile routes. It’s a great way to train up to one of the regular 5k or 10k races held in the capital, or just to get your heart pumping so you’re ready to tackle the rest of the day. Run starts at 9am.

6. Instant karma in Holland Park

Head to the serene milieu of Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park. The bridge at the foot of a waterfall is one of the city’s most peaceful spots; the perfect place to atone for the night before.

7. Disco roast in Shoreditch

If you like your Sunday lunch with a side order of electronic music then head upstairs at the newly opened East Village where local DJs spin house, breaks, hip hop and funk tracks while hungry ravers tuck into fairly priced roasts.

8. Get steamed up in the city

Ironmonger Row Baths is a superb choice for those with a hangover. Inside, you’ll find a huge pool, Turkish baths, plus bodyscrubs and massages from £5 (Turkish baths and bodycrubs women only on Sundays).

9. Time travel in Kensington

Linley Sambourne House in Kensington, where from 1875 Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne lived with his wife and two children, provides a chance to visit a late-Victorian, middle-class home that has survived largely unchanged. Get down there and see how they used to do Sundays.

10. Art house cinema in Soho

Skip the latest Hollywood mush by taking in a double bill at the arty Curzon in Soho. On Sundays, talks and Q&As often follow films while swish snacks and continental lagers are served at the downstairs bar.

11. Get political in Westminster

The People’s Picnic is a weekly gathering in Parliament Square to demonstrate against the provisions of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 that restrict protest within 1km of the Houses of Parliament. Expect a diverse range of protesters singing songs, playing guitars and debating politics – and eating. It’s free to join in, so make yourself some cheese sandwiches, fill the Thermos with hot tea and get down there.

12. Take a climb in the Square Mile

The Monument is one of London’s most overlooked tourist attractions – a big advantage on Sundays when everyone else is cramming into the obvious museums. Nip into Sir Christopher Wren’s tribute to the Great Fire just before it closes, clamber up the 311 steps, and be rewarded with a giddying view across London.

13. Roller stroll on the Serpentine

Their team mantra is to put the ‘ha ha’ back into group skating. Sunday Roller Stroll sees up to 100 skaters meet on the east side of Serpentine Road and set off on a six- to eight-mile supervised roller hike around the capital. A new route is planned each week and can be viewed on their website. All welcome.

14. Ride London’s only steam railway

The museum is housed in a nineteenth-century pumping station and contains the famous Cornish beam engines, which used to pump west London's water supply. On Sundays you can ride the Hunslet steam locomotive ‘Cloister’.

15. Pay your respects at Kensal Green

Every Sunday you can join a fascinating tour of the first great London Cemetery at Kensal Green, final resting place of Blondin, Trollope, Thackeray, the Brunels and two children of George III. Tours on the first and third Sunday of the month include an exploration of the catacomb (under-12s not admitted).

16. Nose around a Georgian house in the East End

The special tours of Dennis Severs’ House immerse visitors in a unique form of theatre. Guests are escorted, in total silence, into candlelit chambers from which, apparently, their eighteenth- and nineteenth-century inhabitants have only just withdrawn. Powerful historical sensations and a family saga add up to a magical journey through time. Unsuitable for children.

17. Visit the Hoxton Pony about tea time

Cocktails in china cups? No this isn't Prohibition-era Harlem, it's just the way folk round these parts drink tea. As well as the self-cooling infusion jars dispensing 'tea', you'll find berry muffins, cinnamon cherry cake and, of course, an assortment of sandwiches. Served for groups of 4, 8 or 12, prices work out at £10 per head. Booking ahead recommended.

18. Play an indoor par four in Soho

If you don’t fancy trekking out to the suburbs for a game, Urban Golf in Soho may just be the future of city golf. Its hi-tech simulators let you play 50 of the world’s most famous courses without leaving W1. There are also lessons on offer, as well as food and drink, served in the ‘clubhouse’ bar.

19. Meet the folks in Clerkenwell

Live acts play a mix of country, Americana, bluegrass and bluesat this unashamedly folk-oriented Clerkenwell pub which hosts a folk night on the second and last Sunday of every month.

20. Heckle comedy legends at Picadilly

They may not be new to the London scene, but the Comedy Store Players are reliable friends when it comes to Sunday night entertainment. You’re guaranteed a beer-splutteringly hilarious demonstration of wit, improvisation and sheer silliness, featuring such towering figures as Paul Merton, Josie Lawrence, Neil Mullarkey and Richard Vranch (who may or may not be on piano). Best of all, the audience are positively encouraged to get involved (although if you decide to be rude, be prepared for some of the most ruthless heckle-repellers in the business).

21. Come down in Camden

Skinny-jeaned students descend upon the Lock Tavern en masse on Sundays, lured by the cosy black couches, warm wood panelling downstairs, the open-air terrace, decent hodge and the unpredictable after-party vibe.

22. Wet Yourself in EC1

Weekly after-party of dirrrrty electro, minimal and booty-shakin' bootlegs for the capital’s chemically inclined job seekers and footloose students.

23. Jazz on the Thames

Take in famous London landmarks on this atmospheric river jaunt where a three-course meal is served to the sound of old jazz hands playing Frank Sinatra and George Benson classics.

24. Find Jesus at Soho’s church of rock

Everyone is welcome to this weekly meet-up of God-botherers with the tortured souls of the capital’s goth, metal, doom and punk rock scene. Asylum Weekly Fellowship meeting has a strict no-preach policy and instead provides a forum to discus current affairs in a biblical context while occasionally throwing in some free (fair trade) scran, film screenings and live music.

25. Canal boat trip in Little Venice

Jason's Trip navigates the picturesque route along Regent's Canal from Little Venice, through Regent's Park, on to Camden Lock and back again. The boat is more than 100 years old and the trip, which includes a live historical commentary, has been a feature on the canal since 1951.

26. Picnic at Morden Hall Park

This beautiful former deer park and ancient hay meadow with an extensive network of waterways and impressive avenues of trees is perfect for family picnics. The old estate buildings house a National Trust information centre, a garden centre, and the Snuff Mill Environmental Eduction Centre (open Apr-Oct on the first Sunday of each month, with free family explorer packs available for loan).

27. Guided gallery hopping in the East End

Weekly walks providing guided tours of six to ten current exhibitions showing at the many galleries in the area. Saturday's walk starts at Contemporary Art Projects, 20 Rivington Street, EC2; Sunday's meeting point is VINEspace, 25a Vyner Street, E2. Organised by CommentArt.

28. Harrangue the masses in Hyde Park

A bastion of free speech and one of the capital’s most revered and eccentric attractions, Speakers' Corner is at its busiest on Sundays. Everyone from creationist despots, religious militants and emboldened socialists aim talk of revolutions and damnations at thousands of unengaged tourists.

29. Volunteer for The Food Chain

Started on Christmas Day in 1988, The Food Chain’s Sunday Meal service relies on up to 1000 volunteers to help provide free nutrition to house-bound people living with HIV in London. Help out as a cook, kitchen assistant or use your own car to deliver meals (expenses paid).

30. Organic food shopping at Farmers’ markets across town

Spend the day scouting for well-sourced organic produce at one of the capital’s handful of Sunday-opening food markets. Winner of a Time Out Eating & Drinking award 2008, Alexandra Palace Farmers Market has a mix of hot and cold food; try a juicy grilled sausage from the sizzling pig or coconut milk-basted Mozambican chicken from stallholder Zambeziana.

31. Play bingo with backpackers

Proper old fashioned no nonsense bingo night at a lively north London pub just off Edgware Road. Above the pub is a youth hostel popular with young travellers lured by the 20 per cent student discount on all drinks.

32. Bike Polo on Brick Lane

Take wry satisfaction from hacking the legs of Nathan Barley-type Hoxtonites every week at this urban bike polo meet-up at the top of Brick Lane from 1pm-7pm. Mallets and balls are provided so beginners need only bring a bike –although a heightened sense of irony is also recommended.

33. See world-class theatre on the South Bank

After some grappling with the actors’ union Equity, The National Theatre is piloting a season of seven-day programming from September to January 2009. Performances start at 3pm, but the building opens at midday, offering ample time to take a brunch of buttermilk pancakes, blueberries, roasted banana and maple syrup or eggs Benedict at the often impressive Mezzanine. Plus, £10 day tickets go on sale at 12pm, get there early for the sold-out shows.

34. Slurp oysters in E2

Start the day with a few well-sourced rock oysters served with fresh bread, Tabasco sauce and lemon juice, just a short walk from the bustling flower market on Columbia Road. This quaint back-garden set up can be found in the alley that connects Ezra Street and Shipton Street next to Jones’s equally inviting dairy store.

35. De-junk your house at a car boot sale

Join the scrum for a pitch or have a rummage around one of the capital’s handful of car boot sales. Battersea, Cuffley, Hatfield, Hewitts and Farm and Holloway are all open on Sundays and sell a mix of clothes, antiques, crockery and furniture.

36. Knitting in the West End

Sunday Knit Roast, a new weekly event from the folk at the well-established knitting club 'I Knit London' finds the capital’s glittering kniterati meeting at 12noon at different boozer each week for a sleepy afternoon of drinking, eating and, of course, knitting.

37. Free Brazilian dance lessons on Drury Lane

A Sunday institution named after northeastern Brazil's Euro-Afro indigenous rhythm and its distinctive, sexy dance moves. Get your grind on as Zeu Azevedo and Forrodaki band play live too. Get there early for free Forro lessons.

38. Get your skates on in Brentford

Take up inline skating in Brentford. The four-week beginners’ course will take you from the basics to expert moves. Private tuition is available or join one of their group meetings.

39. Play it square in Kennington
If it’s not raining, you should find a game of boules going on in Kennington’s picturesque Cleaver Square – an easy way to lose a few hours before dinner. The homely Prince of Wales pub provides refreshment for the athletes, with a great range of Shepherd Neame beers (Best and Spitfire among them) and a 16-bottle wine list.

40. Have you picture taken by a professional photographer for free

Prolific London-based photographer Seamus Ryan opens up his east London studio every Sunday and invites the nearby flower market revellers to participate in his ongoing art project, Sunday Shoots. All welcome and pictures of all participants can be viewed on his website.

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