With an amazing outside terrace and views across London this is a fabulous place to come and spend a few hours, taking photos and having lunch or in the evening a glass of wine.
The Sky Garden is 'pubilc space' so admission is free, but you must book in advance as they have a limited number of time slots. Also these time slots go QUICKLY so as soon as you can I would suggest getting online. You can of course always book a table for lunch or dinner at the restaurant via the same website.
The outdoor terrace is where I took the shots below of the River Thames and Tower Bridge. The indoor shots show the plants being misted and the coffee bar / wine bar area.
The Sky Garden 20 Fenchurch Street London EC3M 3BY
Top Shop personal shopping
You can book this service several weeks in advance, which is what I did for two young relatives visiting London. You get to try on an assortment of pre-selected outfits without the crush of the Top Shop crowds, and the best thing is - it's complimentary. (although obviously the aim is to get you to spend money.)
I had sent measurements and a photo in advance so when we arrived for the appointment a selection had already been made. The selection can be tailored to specific requirements, a wedding outfit, holiday wardrobe or just advice for a new season.
In the women's Personal Shopping area there was a lot of mirrors, comfy sofas, coffee and cup cakes. The boyfriend and I made ourselves comfy while the niece went off to the dressing room. The selection that had been made for us was already perfect with only a few tweaks necessary. The outfits had already been accessorized with costume jewellery and shoes, everything was covered. We had a budget of £150 and walked away with 2 dresses, 2 skirts, 3 tops and a necklace. No individual item was overly expensive and there was certainly no pressure to spend heaps of money.
In the men's area upstairs (chesterfield sofas, masculine industrial chic with beers!) the shopper offered to make a selection and bring it to us or to take the boyfriend around the store. We opted for the accompanied walk around the store and this also enabled the shopper to make a selection that wasn't too outrageous as he could see an immediate reaction to colour on the boyfriend's face! This appointment was also successful with the purchase of a smart jacket, two pairs of casual trousers and 3 shirts. We spent a little over the £150 budget but that was mainly due to the price of the jacket.
Everyone left happy, there were no shopping meltdowns, no dramas, no queuing for changing rooms or trying to find a size.... all shopping experiences should be like this.
If you shop at Top Shop or have chidden who need their wardrobes updating I'd highly recommend making an appointment.
Thank you very much Top Shop Personal Shopping team !!
Top Shop Personal Shopping is available at many stores.
We were at Top Shop Oxford Circus, London.
The big plus side to this is also the surge of cool restaurants and bars in these buildings with fabulous city views. Reservations for dinner are usually necessary as is smart dress but this is a great way to get a birds eye view of this amazing city.
My personal favourite is Aqua Shard. There are so many things I love about Aqua Shard that I've written a whole review about it. As a viewing point alone it takes some beating. The bar is buzzing with beautifully dressed people drinking fabulous cocktails. The view is amazing. If you are here on a clear day and get to see one of the spectacular sunsets over the city it will certainly be one of the hi-lights of your trip. You can just come for drinks (which are very reasonably priced) or you can book a table for dinner at either Aqua Shard - British or Hutong - Chinese.
Also in the Shard is the Shangri-la hotel. I have not been here yet but there is also a bar on the 52nd floor - you need a reservation as it's quite small. You could even spoil yourself on a hotel room here !
Sushi Samba in the Heron Tower has fabulous views and wonderful cocktails. On the 38th floor and with outdoor terrace Sushi Samba is one of the hottest locations in The City. You need to reserve in advance for dinner but not the bar, however it gets VERY busy. Make sure you are dressed smartly and be prepared to spend your hard earned cash. It's certainly not cheap!
Vertigo at Tower 42 has changed hands since I was there a while ago and is now 'London's highest Champagne Bar'. They only serve drinks and tapas so it may be easier to get in her than some of the other places. You need to reserve in advance online. And as with Sushi Samba and The Gurkin will probably need to bring ID with you and may be subject to airport like security.
Searcys at The Gherkin is normally members only, however they occasionally open their doors to the public. It is worth checking their website if you are in town and can't get a reservation in any of the others.
I have eaten here and also been into the bar a few times and if I'm honest it's my least favourite of the London towers. The bar is incredibly noisy due to the terrible acoustics of the building. When we ate in the restaurant about 6 months ago we were very disappointed with both the service and the quality of the food.
Even if you have been to London many times before, the ever changing skyline with the new buildings that appear to grow at an alarming rate ensures new things to explore on almost every visit.
For the purpose of this blog post I am going to assume you are alone in London for a few days. As this is a position I find myself in often it occurred to me that lots of other expat wives may also find themselves in cities alone while their husband heads off to the office / meetings. If you are taking advantage of this type of situation then what a great city to be in to do it !!
I lived in London for just over 14 years so I have the advantage of being familiar with the tube, busses and the oyster card. Despite having many friends who live here I still feel a little like a tourist when I visit, mostly because I now have free time to do the touristy things !!
When you arrive in London the first thing to do is to get yourself an Oyster Card. Pre-load it with money and you can use it on all the busses and tubes - simply tap it on the card reader and off you go !! You can’t use cash on the busses in London and queuing for the ticket machines in the tube would test the patience of a saint. The octopus card is definitely the way to go!
There are several apps you can download on your iPhone with the tube map or you can go old skool and pick up a paper version at any station.
If it's your first visit to London you might want to tick all the boxes on the sightseeing list. An open top bus tour is the easiest way to get a good overview and you can hop on and off at all the sights that interest you. Most peoples first visit to London doesn't normally allow for visiting too many sights in any kind of detail, but if you have been here before then you might want to fine tune your trip and look into some of the amazing - and free - exhibitions that the London museums and galleries have to offer.
I personally love the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum just a hop skip and a jump away from each other. You can tie a visit to these with the 'must visit' on many tourists list - Harrods. Why not visit the food hall (or the one in Harvey Nichols next door) and pick up goodies for an impromptu picnic in Hyde Park.
Another favourite of mine is The British Museum. Not only is it an architectural treasure but it also contains treasure - literally. The Treasures of Tutunkamun and the new 3D mummy exhibition alongside the huge amount of other exhibits contained in this spectacular building should keep most visitors amused for hours.
The area around the museum is pretty miserable in terms of places to eat and drink but don't despair - Russell Square tube station is close by and the London Underground will have you on the South Bank or in Covent Garden before you know it.
A little planning in advance will not only ensure you get to see the sights you want to it may also get you some nice advance discounts on tickets and will certainly get you better seats at any shows you want to see. Speaking of which - why not pop along to an afternoon matinee of a west end show? Especially ideal if you and the husband have differing tastes. Worth bearing in mind is that The Royal Opera House in Covent garden sells tickets to dress rehearsals for 'friends' of the Opera House. If you are an opera lover then the friends membership could prove to be a worthwhile investment. I bought a membership for the V&A and have more than got my money's worth in just two visits.
The last thing I suggest is signing up for the Time Out mailing list several months in advance of your trip. There are often visiting exhibitions that may require advance booking or have timed entrance especially at the weekends. also you can keep an eye on any concerts and shows that are coming up.
Ganache Macaron - Learning to Make Macarons
I arrived at 10am and was greeted by Paul and Audrey. Their small bakery was already in full swing making hazelnut and chocolate macarons, and I jumped at the chance to taste one.
These were being made for an Estee Lauder company event. Ganache Macarons have produced these delights for lots of big companies and events, and they are very, very good at it!!
These were being made for an Estee Lauder company event. Ganache Macarons have produced these delights for lots of big companies and events, and they are very, very good at it!! I had chosen two flavours that I wanted to make in advance and so a small work station was set up with all the ingredients I needed.
I chose 'Raspberry Ganache' and 'Coffee and Brandy' as my 2 flavours. I figured once I knew how the extra liquid/alcohol would behave I could adapt the Coffee and Brandy recipe to use Lemoncello, Cointreau or Malibu for future experiments. (my family and friends are going to love me even more now) The 'lesson' was with Paul who patiently explained all the process and ingredients to me. Explaining how they only use natural flavours and powdered colours (which gives more vibrant colour to the finished product).
We quickly set to work making the fillings. While these were cooling in the fridge we got started on the most temperamental bit - the Macaron shells. These are fussy little things who don't behave themselves if there is ANY deviation from the recipe (so it is more like rules).
After a short time, which very much depends on the oven, the little treasures were ready to come out.
We let them cool down and then paired them up so both sides are the same. The last step was filling them with the ganache mixture, then we neatly packed them into little boxes that I would be sharing with my husband and friends over the next few days.
They can be kept for up to a week in an airtight box in the fridge, and can also be frozen.
Mine didn't last this long strangely enough !!
The bowl they are whisked in has to be completely clean and dry, the eggs should be aged, when they are whisked they form stiff spikes that don't droop, when you mix in the almond flour and sugar you should do it with 15 (ish) turns of the bowl... That last bit is the only 'ish'.
When they were mixed Paul taught me to pipe them and then we let them rest to form a skin before going into the oven. This skin helps them to form the desired 'feet' at the bottom.
This is probably the step I had rushed in my earlier attempt and one of the list of reasons my Macarons have always failed
Don't be fooled by anyone who tells you that these little bite sized treats are easy to make.
There are lots things that can go wrong with almost every step of the process.... I guess thats why you need to consult a finance expert before you commit to buying a box... well at least in Switzerland you do.
I discovered Ganache Macaron online when looking for cooking classes in London. They were very prompt to answer my emails and 'tweets' and thy had an impressive array of flavour options. I made what my husband would call and 'investment' and booked a private class at their East London bakery.
I absolutely loved this class and would highly recommend it for anyone with a passion for these little treats. Its a great birthday present for a loved one - where of course you will reap the rewards too, and could even be a good company team event. My husband and friends LOVED the Macarons I made during my 3 hours at Macaron Ganache and are all looking forward to me practising with new colours and flavours. These are going to make me very popular indeed !!
Their website can be found by clicking on their name below. If you want to buy you can do so via an online food delivery company as they don't have their own outlet.
Ganache Macaron 402 Railway Arches, Mentmore Terrace, London E8 3PH
Want to subscribe to my site and receive notifications of new posts... fill in your email address just below..