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By Melanie Lahmann

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Three Days in London with Kendra Thornton

US TV travel expert Kendra Thornton recently spent three days rediscovering London with the London Pass. Here she shares her experiences with the London Pass Blog. It was great to be back in London! I like to think I know the city well, but I had not visited for several years, and London seems more vibrant than ever. I took a daylight flight across the Atlantic for the first time in my travels, something I’ll recommend to every US traveler in future. It meant that after a very comfortable night at the Berkeley Hotel in fashionable Knightsbridge, I was wide awake and ready for my first day out and about in London. Day 1 I headed first for Westminster Abbey, familiar to most Americans as the wedding venue for Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011. Some of Great Britain’s most famous historical figures, including novelist Charles Dickens and scientist Sir Isaac Newton, had the honor of being buried here, but for me the big draw was getting within a few feet of the altar where Wills and Kate tied the knot. Everyone wants a photo of that spot! Close by are the Churchill War Rooms. During World War II this underground warren was Winston Churchill’s secret headquarters, and from here he would hold conversations with President Roosevelt to plan each move in the war. The Transatlantic Telephone Room is tiny - probably the world’s most historic closet! After getting the all-important tourist shots (as Chevy Chase would say, “Big Ben! Houses of Parliament!”) I rode a few stops on the hop-on, hop-off tourist bus that’s now included with the London Pass. I like to do this whatever city I’m in; what better way to travel between attractions and learn as you go? I grabbed a bite to eat on the South Bank of the Thames - a popular hangout for Londoners on fine summer evenings, but a convenient lunch spot on a rainy sightseeing day for me - and jumped on the Underground heading for the last attraction of the day: Kensington Palace. It’s the London home of William and Kate, and Prince Harry has an apartment here too. Sadly none of them made an appearance, but I found plenty to admire in the spectacular King’s Staircase and the beautiful Sunken Garden in the Palace grounds. And don’t miss the Fashion Rules Restyled exhibition of royal dresses worn by Princess Diana, Princess Margaret and the Queen herself. Day 2 For day one I’d stayed pretty close to my hotel, checking out the west London sights. Now it was time to head east. Taking the Tube across the city once again I arrived at the Tower of London. I had visited before but the Tower never fails to impress - nowhere else in London do you get quite the same sense of history mixed with danger. If you’ve got a London Pass you get to skip the lines too, which can be a real boon at busy times. Once you’re inside, the first thing to do is make friends with a Beefeater! These famous and colorfully outfitted characters are actually the Yeomen Warders of the Tower, and they are a mine of information - I joined one of their regular tours and learned so much about this fortress, which was originally built on the orders of William the Conqueror. Did you know this year marks the 950th anniversary of the Norman Conquest of Britain? I could have spent the whole day enjoying the Tower, but time is precious when you’re on a flying visit. So I took a quick walk over to another famous London landmark: Tower Bridge. I guess every tourist gets a photo of this but I actually went inside this iconic Victorian structure for an absolutely unique London view: through a glass walkway and down to the River Thames 135 feet below! Reassuringly, the glass is strong enough to handle the weight of an elephant, but it was still a strange experience to gaze down at my own feet and see both road and river traffic rushing by beneath them. The great thing about this part of town is that there are so many attractions to visit, all within easy walking distance. Heading back west along the south side of the river I passed the Second World War battleship HMS Belfast and the 13th-century Southwark Cathedral. Right on the doorstep is the foodies’ paradise of Borough Market, with all kinds of healthy and indulgent treats waiting to be tried. Despite forbidding clouds (that London weather!) the rain held off long enough for me to enjoy a take-out late lunch in the Cathedral gardens. Southwark, I learned later, is a part of town with many associations with Charles Dickens. But for my final stop of the day I was heading even further back in time to the days of England’s finest writer. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a faithful reconstruction of the writer’s own playhouse which burned down in 1613 when a cannon misfired during a performance. It’s an open-air theater, as were all such Elizabethan venues, a point which was not lost on me when, on cue, the London skies opened once again. Taking the hint, I headed back to the hotel to plan my evening! Day 3 The last day, and time to get adventurous. That meant leaving central London and heading more than 20 miles west of the city centre to the Royal Borough of Windsor. On the agenda: Windsor Castle. But once again, there was much more to experience. The London Pass comes in handy for Windsor - you get free travel from Paddington, which is the main rail station in west London. On arrival, the castle dominates the town. I took care to arrive well in time for the traditional Changing of the Guards ceremony, something you can catch most mornings at 11am as the guards march from the town’s High Street, up the hill and into the castle. I spent a great couple of hours exploring one of the Queen’s official residences. More than 900 years old, Windsor is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, and it’s still Her Majesty’s favorite weekend retreat. The State Apartments are a treasure trove of lavish Royal furnishings and works of art, but the undisputed highlight for me was St George’s Chapel: breathtaking and majestic, several British monarchs were laid to rest here and it is hard to think of a more appropriate place. The castle aside, Windsor is the kind of quaint English town you never want to leave. In fact, it’s two towns, Windsor and Eton, separated by the river. I found plenty of great options for lunch, from traditional English pubs to al fresco restaurants. But there was only one way to round off a great day out of town. The character of Windsor, and I think of London generally, is shaped by the Thames. So it seemed only right to get out on the water on a Windsor river cruise, available at a discounted rate for London Pass holders. From the river I got a magnificent view of the castle, as well as Windsor racecourse and the world-famous Eton College, whose students have included Princes William and Harry, Homeland star Damian Lewis and Hugh Laurie of House fame. As the river boat made its way back to the dock I found myself regretting my choice of an early morning flight back to Chicago. I had seen so much in London, and yet I had barely scratched the surface. Another day, even another few hours, would have been so valuable. Goodbye, London. I enjoyed every minute of it. Even the rain. And next time, I won’t leave it so long....
Vanessa Teo
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10 Shakespeare Facts We Bet You Didn’t Know

"Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon 'em." Born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564, William Shakespeare is arguably the greatest playwright of all time. Generations of schoolchildren have - sometimes begrudgingly - studied his plays. Theatre lovers around the world turn out to see them come alive. But what do we actually know about his life? Check out some interesting Shakespeare facts we bet you didn't know. And if you can't read, or simply hate reading, why not go see for yourself at the Globe? Crazy Wordplay According to the folks at the Oxford English Dictionary, Shakespeare introduced almost 3,000 new words to the English language. As well as completely original words, he changed nouns into verbs and verbs into adjectives. Through combining existing words in new ways, as well as by adding prefixes and suffixes, he also gave new meanings to existing vocabulary. In fact, the term ‘box office’ was coined at the Globe theatre. Presumably, their ticket office was a box, or box-shaped. Sounds comfortable. Translations Through The Nations Shakespeare’s plays have been translated into dozens of languages and performed around the world. There's even Shakespeare in Klingon. Surely as beautiful as originally intended. Famous translators include Catherine the Great, who translated The Merry Wives of Windsor into Russian. Thanks, Catherine, you truly were great. And the first president of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, translated two plays into Swahili. Plague Poetry An outbreak of the plague in Europe closed all of London’s theatres between 1592 and 1594. Since there was little demand for new plays, Shakespeare instead turned to poetry, writing many of his much-loved sonnets during this time. Turns out the plague was responsible for at least one good thing. Not sure if that outweighs all the...plagueness. But it's something! Names In The Stars Several moons orbiting Uranus are named after characters from Shakespeare plays. The likes of Titania, Oberon and Puck are plucked from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And Ariel and Miranda from The Tempest. So there you go. Bet you didn't know that fact, did you? No. You did not. Birds Of A Feather The first starlings were imported into the US in 1890 by Eugene Schiffelin. Schiffelin was such a Shakespeare fan that he imported all birds mentioned in his plays. Well, at least the ones that didn't already exist in the United States, at least. From Playwright to Copyright Copyright didn’t exist in Shakespeare’s time, so scripts had to be carefully guarded. Actors often only got their lines once the play was in progress, courtesy of lots of careful cues. In fact, many of Shakespeare’s plays weren’t formally published during his lifetime. Perhaps they banned ink, quills and parchment from the audience, too? Otherwise, any old clever clogs would simply take notes and get rich. Shakespeare Or Shakespear..? No list of Shakespeare facts would be complete without some questions regarding the name. The first English dictionary was published in 1604 and only contained 2,449 words (none beginning with the letters W, X or Y). During most of Shakespeare’s lifetime, spelling was not standardised - he even signed his name inconsistently. In fact, there are no records of him ever having spelt it "William Shakespeare", as we do today. Stirred, not Shaken? No, that sounds silly. Lend Me Your Quotes Shakespeare is the second most quoted writer in the English language. Unsurprisingly, only the Bible is more popular. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Shakespeare wrote close to a tenth of the most quoted lines ever written or spoken in English. “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” Will-i-Learn Over a million visitors come to the Stratford-upon-Avon theatres of the Royal Shakespeare Company each year. This is in addition to 530,000 children and young people who take part in the Company’s education work. Globe Today, Gone Tomorrow The Globe Theatre in London is built near the site of the original Tudor building. That's because it sadly burned down in 1613. Like the original theatre, it has three levels of seating as well as the ‘pit’. The original theatregoers who paid just a penny to stand and watch a performance were called ‘groundlings’ or, in summer, ‘stinkards’. Lovely... Love the Bard and all things theatrical? Be sure to pop by Shakespeare’s Globe for an incredible behind-the-scenes look and tour of the iconic playhouse. A reconstruction of the original Elizabethan playhouse built in 1599, Shakespeare’s Globe is a timber frame building with an open-air stage, maintaining the authentic feel of Shakespeare’s time. [qzzr quiz="380509" width="100%" height="auto" redirect="true" offset="0"]
Dom Bewley
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Things to Do in London When it Rains

London having bad weather isn’t a myth, it rains a lot, so really there's never been a better excuse than to hole yourself away in one of the many great attractions in the city. From art galleries, to museums, indie cinemas and West End Shows, we've compiled a list of our favourite things to do in the city that mean you can leave your brolly at the door... Check out the latest exhibition From 11th February, the highly anticipated Vogue 100: A Century of Style is opening in the National Portrait Gallery, showcasing the remarkable range of photography that has been commissioned by British Vogue since it was founded in 1916. There are over 280 prints from the Condé Nast archive and international collections on display for the first time to tell the story of one of the most influential fashion magazines in the world. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMa1OpirRwk[/embed] See a West End Show The best thing about the colder weather is it gives you an excuse to stay warm and inside, so what better reason do you have than to enjoy a matinee show mid week, followed by dinner and drinks. Our Concierge site offers hot tickets at discount prices so you'll finally be able to see the Lion King and Les Mis like you've always dreamed. Failing that, go backstage at the National Theatre, Royal Albert Hall and Shakespeare’s Globe which offer daily tours, to open up your eyes to what goes on behind the scenes... London's Markets Get a feel for London's unique boroughs by visiting the wide range of markets in the city. From Notting Hill's Portobello, to Shoreditch's Spitalfields Market, not to mention Camden Lock and Borough Market for the foodies. All of them have been modernised and are under cover so you can wander around the stalls and stables and stay warm and dry, whilst picking at your fair share of local produce and exotic food stalls along the way. Make sure you check their opening times as some vary and some are weekend only. Go to the Cinema Forget super-sized popcorn and sticky floors, head for something more indie and upmarket for a rainy day. Curzon Cinemas around London are some of the best to relax and unwind in with roomy, comfy chairs, a great selection of treats and even a bar, where you can enjoy the more artsy, European new releases. The Everyman in Hampstead and also on Baker Street is another alternative which provides an individual experience as an independent cinema network. They show smaller films as well as the blockbuster films of the moment but with a luxurious flair. Go to the Pub This is a no-brainer solution and is most Londoner's answer for a rainy day: find a pub with a fire, get all of your friends together and spend the afternoon with a pint (or two). There are plenty of cosy pubs in London, from the old man pubs in Soho, to the historic watering holes in Greenwich, just ask a local for some directions and you'll be well on your way to drinking your way out of the cold!
Vanessa Teo

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