An Interview with: The Orbit

By Go City Expert

In the run up to the (highly) anticipated opening of the ArcelorMittal Orbit at the Olympic Park, we thought we’d get some ‘on-the-ground’ insiders info and ask some of the nitty gritty questions you’d all love to ask. Speaking to Uzma, an original East Londoner and a supervisor at the Orbit, she gave us some tips and hints on some of the best things to see at The Orbit and how to plan for a day out at the Olympic Park. Having experienced the 2012 Games, she has seen it all! What is your favourite thing about the ArcelorMittal Orbit? I love that whether people love it or hate it, they know what it is. It was a focal point for the London 2012 games period and will be in the centre of the Legacy. My most favourite thing about the ArcelorMittal Orbit is its ability to transform a person’s mood from before they enter the lifts to when they come out on the platform. The light and the view just hits you and everyone looks around in amazement. This part of London doesn’t have any similar observation points, so it’s nice that it engages visitors and their perspectives. Describe the view from the top? It’s great! You can see as far as 20 miles on a clear day which means you can see the Crystal Palace transmitter, Wembley Arena, Alexandra Palace and Shooters Hill. The amazing concave mirrors allow you to see the skyline from various different angles, too. What landmark on the horizon is your favourite? Definitely St Paul’s Cathedral – I love how it is nestled amongst all the more recently built buildings – its dome stands out a mile. If you had a Top Tip for any visitor, what would it be? Spend some time at each of the mirrors on the upper platform. Have fun and play with them – move around, jump up and down and if you’re visiting with another person, split up and try and find each other’s reflection and have your camera ready! How long does it take to climb the stairs down from the viewing platforms? At a constant steady pace it takes 10 minutes but can easily be done in 5 minutes! What other things are there to do in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, if you had to plan an itinerary? There’s so much and definitely something for everyone. I am a big fan of the Art in the Park, which is scattered all over – some pieces are easy to find and some need a bit of searching, but well worth it. It would also be a great idea to go for a swim in the London Aquatics Centre and have a cycle at the Lea Valley VeloPark. The Park is also a great spot to have a picnic amongst the beautiful parklands and exotic plants. Surprise us with an interesting fact about The Orbit? Did you know just 4 people and 1 crane constructed the ArcelorMittal Orbit’s superstructure from the pre-fabricated steel star nodes? What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever been asked by a visitor? A few rumours went around before the ArcelorMittal Orbit opened for the London 2012 games and almost everyone that visited asked if there was a restaurant ABOVE the upper platform. Someone once asked me for “a sack”, seeing the puzzled look on my face they explained ‘yknow – for the helter skelter, like they give you at funfairs’... they were slightly disappointed to find out they would have to tackle the 455 steps on foot! The Orbit opens on Saturday 5th April – a date in everyone’s calendars! Well worth a visit, it’s London’s most eagerly awaited attraction and a must-see when you’re in the capital. Get ahead and save money with The London Pass – get free entry and save £15 saving you the hassle of pre-booking or waiting in line to buy the tickets. Click here to find out more...

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Interview with: Best LDN Walks Royal Tour of London

Best LDN Walks is the brainchild of young owner, manager, director, tour guide extraordinaire, Charlotte Kennedy, who at only 26 years of age has set up one of London's best new walking tours. Aimed at those looking for a unique tour of London with a penchant for the interesting and the unknown, Kennedy praises herself on her signature tour of Royal London which delves into the past lives of the royal family, including their secrets and scandals! Best LDN walks is a great tour of London for those with a family, and especially those history buffs. We went along on one of her Royal Tours and asked Charlotte a bit about herself and what you can discover on her tour of London. What are Best LDN Walks? Best LDN Walks are tours for those people who, like me are obsessively curious and who want a unique, easy going, educational but more importantly awesome time in London. As long as you have a sense of humour then we’ll all get along very well. What can someone learn on one of your tours? You will learn the craziest little facts about the people who have shaped not just Britain but the World. My tour of London is really good for picking up those little facts that you can recite in the pub or with your friends which always make people giggle or spark debate. What parts of London can you explore on the tour? My tours cover pretty much the whole of London. I cover, the older City of London looking at where the Roman City of London began as well as covering The Great Fire of London, the plague, Tower Bridge and The Tower of London. I also have several tours around Westminster, the royal quarter of Pall Mall and St James swell as a few tours centered in The West End, Covent Garden and Soho, not forgetting The East End of London in Shoreditch where we go on street art safari. I like the Naughty London Tour in Southwark which looks at the Tudor Kings and queens and the totally disgusting and hilarious antics everyone got up to south of the river and I even do private trips to Greenwich. What’s your favourite place in London? Favourite place.....ooooh that’s a tough one. It depends on my mood. When I get tired of the noise and smells of London then I head out to Greenwich, have a walk around the painted hall, visit the Gyspy Moth pub for pint then stomp up the Planetarium. I also love the National Gallery, especially on Friday nights I’ll plug in my head phones and stroll through the galleries and hallways. Shopping around Jermyn Street, Mayfair and St James is pretty good, just for the heritage and “British-ness” of the places. The Soho Hotel is awesome for afternoon tea and dinner - it’s this gorgeous boutique hotel tucked away in Soho and it's a great place to go celeb spotting. You never know who you’ll bump into. I do have very specific favourite coffee shops, cake shops and cocktail bars but they are really tucked away and very closely guarded secrets. Bribe me with cake and I might tell you! Tell us a secret about the royals and the scandals of the past? Well if I told you that I’d be giving away my material. The one person I can talk for hours about is King George IV and his terrible marriage to Caroline of Brunswick. He was so fat his tummy hit the floor when he took his man-corset off and she was described as smelling like a farm and swearing like a fisherman! What’s the funniest thing someone has asked on one of your tours? Oh boy, that’s good question! Some people when they come on holiday get, what I call holiday brain (and I get it when I go away so I know the feeling) so things like, pointing at Big Ben and asking is that the Tower of London or asking which side of the River London Bridge is on or asking when the Queen is due to die. I could write a whole funny list of things I’ve asked but I wouldn’t want to offend certain nations! Personally, the funnier, the stupider the questions the better because it brightens me day up. What makes London so fascinating? I think the best thing about London is the fact that there is SO much going on. There is literally something for everyone no matter what you desire. We have so many little secret hidey-holes tucked away and in my opinion some of the most beautiful buildings. London is visually stunning and it’s like a walking museum especially if you go into the City of London it’s where old smashes into new which have given us some great results. So in a nutshell, why should people come on your tour of London.... I hope people will join our tour; it's very fun, very casual, you have a few giggles and hopefully I can give you some suggestions on how to make your trip even better. Plus we go into a really awesome pub which everyone loves! Best LDN Walks tours take place daily at 1pm departing from Trafalgar Square. A short toilet break and time for refreshments will take place half way through the tour. The route could be subject to group size, road closure and special events. Exceptional closures due to adverse weather conditions are possible, advance tour bookings are highly recommended so you can be informed of any such closures or cancellations. A online souvenir photo is included with your free tour with The London Pass, all together saving you £10.00!
Vanessa Teo
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London Pass goes Up The O2

The O2 Dome on Greenwich Peninsula, South East London is one of London’s most exciting venues – and urban structures. Having opened in 2007, it can hold up to 20,000 people and takes the title of the UK’s second largest arena, after Manchester. Now, it plays host to world class acts like Kylie Minogue, as well as tennis champions Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal in various events from sold-out tours to the Paralympics. But spectator-sport aside, we wanted in on the action. Up at the O2 is the O2’s novel adventure which allows you to ‘conquer the summit of London’ and scale the dome, climbing to its summit of 60m. Kat and Lesley from London Pass head office were lucky enough to go and try it out, to tell you all about it! What made you want to go Up at The O2? Kat: I love active sightseeing anyway; I love to climb, cruise, walk and cycle my way around cities so this experience really appealed to me! Lesley: An opportunity to climb such an iconic structure, how could I refuse? I couldn’t wait to try it out. What made you think that London Pass customers might also like the experience? Kat: To begin with I thought it was just an unusual activity that would appeal to people with similar active interests. When I actually did the climb however, I realised that the view from the top is one of the best in London; not only because of how far you can see but also because of where it is positioned you can see every landmark in the city on a clear day – even Wembley Stadium! Then there is something very satisfying about reaching the viewpoint ‘the hard way’! Lesley: London Pass users have access to some amazing, unusual, interesting and educational places. Up at The O2 is all of those things and more. To be outside with the breeze in your hair and to see an amazing 360 ̊ panorama of London. All those skyscrapers... it’s simply incredible. Were you nervous before the climb began? Kat: I think it’s natural to get ‘butterflies’ before doing something like this! Once we’d been briefed and got onto the roof however, we realised that the dome of The O2 would never be more than a few feet below us, which was very comforting! Lesley: I was too excited to feel nervous, I couldn’t wait to get out there. Did you feel prepared for the climb? Kat: Very much so. We had a 30 minute safety briefing before the climb so we all knew what to do before we went out onto the roof. Lesley: Definitely. A safety briefing video that was both informative and entertaining really helped. Plus they kit you out with climbing shoes and either a full jump suit or specialist vest top, to stow away your camera or phone to take photos at the top. How safe did you feel during the climb? Kat: Perfectly safe. The equipment kept us secure; it was very straight forward to use and we had a guide with us the whole time. Lesley: The ‘path’ is made of a trampoline style material – there is a lot of bounce so keeping your feet nice and flat with each step minimises that. There is also a hand rail but I went daredevil and tried not to use it. With the harness set up if you were to lose your footing you’d simply drop to your knees and it’s very easy to get back up. How long did it take to reach the top? Kat: Around 30 minutes. It’s more like a steep walk than an actual climb. It could have been done much quicker but I think we all wanted to savour the experience and so made our way up slowly! Lesley: I don’t remember, the whole experience took about 2 hours from briefing to jumping off at the other end. I kept getting distracted by the view and the novelty of being on the dome of The O2. What was it like at the top? Kat: Breath taking! We could even see the London Pass office from the top! Lesley: Practically, it was nice and level. You can also unclip your harness and walk around to take loads of photos. The view is pretty awesome as you can see the sprawling skyline of London. How does this experience compare to other viewpoint attractions in London? Kat: It isn’t the highest viewpoint attraction in London, but it definitely rivals the best because the views are virtually uninterrupted. Plus this is a very interesting part of London that is under a huge amount of regeneration, the extent of which I never really realised until I was able to look down on it all! Lesley: It’s tricky to compare. Each building has its own merits so I couldn’t pick a favourite, but for this particular attraction I would say the full 360 ̊ panorama is a great feature. How was the descent? Kat: The descent was fun; you get a better feel for the gradient of the climb on the way down! Lesley: Bittersweet, because it’s all over! It’s a bit tougher on the legs coming down and I had to use the hand rail for balance. What is your overall opinion of the experience? Kat: Buckets of fun! Lesley: Genius! Such a clever use of space and very well organised. Would you do it again? Kat: How soon?! Lesley: Absolutely! London Pass holders can get 30% off weekday (Mon-Fri) climbs between 10.00-16.00. To redeem this offer, simply turn up at The O2 and show your London Pass. It's best to arrive early as the climbs are timed slots - so you might have to wait for the next available time if fully booked. Offer valid 1st July - 31st July 2014.
Vanessa Teo
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Weird and wonderful rules of etiquette

The Georgian court, such as that of Kensington Palace, was a ruthless place that decided whether or not you were ‘of favour’ at that particular moment in time. ‘Courtiers’ could tell how fairly they stood in the eyes of the King/Queen by either being dismissed with a turned back or being greeted with a nod. Courts were filled with ‘wannabe’ socialites and those who wanted to distinguish themselves in the eyes of the upper class and although it was much harder to climb the social ladder up, you could fall to disgrace in a mere heartbeat. In this dog-eat-dog world where whispers behind people’s back were a permanent undercurrent, it was a game to be played; and for all the melodrama and make up, everyone knew the rules and how to play along. From Queen Anne’s Orangery at Kensington Palace to the high court of King George the rules of etiquette began to form and became a steadfast unwritten legislation to obey. Starting in 1704 - the notion of dining etiquette was born at Queen Anne’s luxurious greenhouse, the Orangery at Kensington Palace, to entertain guests outside Whitehall. With a theme of 'the more, the better', the Queen’s tables were ornamented with every utensil to serve a different purpose highlighting the wealth of the queen and the disposable-ness of their lifestyles. At a ‘normal’ formal gathering at Kensington Palace, you might expect to drink out of 9 different wine glasses, a variety of different cutlery from stilton spoons to oyster prongs. It was in the 18th century, in fact, that the buffet style fell out of fashion to be replaced by elaborate meat-based dishes served over a number of courses, of course ending with a huge lavish desert platter involving moulds, plates, platters and trays – to further show off the extensive silverware that was in possession of the Queen at Kensington Palace. Now, what to wear to a dinner such as this? The women would wear a ‘mantua’, a wide dress spread out over wide hoops at the skirt, while the top was a tight laced bodice and corset, highly uncomfortable, with elaborate ruffles at the sleeve. As the 18th century progressed, so did the dresses as they go wider and wider with every fashion. Accessories consisted of a fan and a lady’s best jewels while gentlemen should wear a wig, embroidered suit and sword (which you could hire upon entrance!) with a flat hat under the elbow. You might think this was all a little extreme, and it is, to our standards (the women’s outfits were so impractical that they had to step sideways through doors!), however back then it was the height of high fashion and was just as important as your ticket into the court – no dress, no entry. Queen Anne’s court at Kensington Palace was only the start of such Georgian rules. Another one of women’s secret weapons was her fan; brandished like knives they could warn away mistresses, threaten enemies and even flirt with other men, all in silent secrecy. This code language was already in place by the 1720s and it is visible in the grand staircase frescoes of the women at Kensington Palace by William Kent who are all rebuffing suitors with their coded movements. Court etiquette extended just as far into the realm of the men, too. Vying for a place in the sacred ring of people around the king it was every man for themselves when it came to the inner court and you needed to get your elbows out if you wanted a chance of making an impression. Men would throw punches and be very underhand to get a chance to impress the king – oh the irony. It was even recorded that despite appearances, these courtiers could have just as easily gate-crashed a party with the right clothes on as having received a cordial invite. So it's not surprising there was a huge falsity in the behaviour of the court, from poor hygiene concealed in expensive clothes and wigs to forced smiles and accents. Should you have fallen out of favour with the king, having been shown his back, this side-lined group named themselves the Rumpsteak Club in order to console their fall from grace. Furthermore, the fact that this group annoyed the king added fuel to the fire with some members remaining in court despite being unpopular. It was common for women after these events, especially elaborate feasts at Kensington Palace and the like, to go home straight to bed, while the men would stay out and network among the clubs and coffee houses of St James’s. Some things never change... Visit Kensington Palace this summer with The London Pass and make the most of entry without further payment, as well as entry into the Fashion Rules exhibition where you can explore the modern monarchy's etiquette and fashion and take part in the family festival the Glorious Georges. Find out more, here...
Vanessa Teo

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