10 Stunning And Iconic Shots Of London

With the 2012 Olympic Games only a few days away, we wanted to celebrate the beauty of London through unique photographs of the city’s iconic images and sites. While the Tower Bridge is a must-see attraction during the day, it’s even more worthwhile at night when it sparkles against a golden moon backdrop. Moreover, pictures of Big Ben at sunset, the city skyline reflected on the River Thames and an old-fashioned black and white photograph of the Houses of Parliament all pay tribute to this stunning city.

For a more visual idea of these beautiful and iconic shots, take at look at the gallery below. Looking for more London inspiration? Check out:


[Above image via john.purvis; Gallery images via Big Stock]

London: 10 Fun Non-Olympics Things to Do

London is in a state. At this point in the labored lead-up to the Olympics, many Londoners would probably tell you, if pressed, that they would prefer that their city not be hosting the Olympics in the first place. The tenor of the local press has been largely negative – sluggish immigration processing at Heathrow, security firm screw-ups, anticipated traffic and public transit delays, and a general crankiness have all contributed to the overall mood. Of course, many Londoners are looking forward to the big shebang, which begins on Friday. They’re just quieter about their feelings.

Beyond the Olympic pageantry, London is still London. This week, the city is actually threatening to be glorious, with summer appearing finally to have arrived. Here are ten suggestions for taking advantage of summer 2012 in London: new amusements, old standbys and summer specials.

1. Ride the Emirates Air Line (£3.20 with an Oyster Card; £4.30 flat fare). Opened in late June, the Emirates Air Line sails across the Thames in East London, traveling a distance of one kilometer at a maximum altitude of 305 feet. It’s gimmicky but fun – literally a cheap thrill.

2. Eat at Shrimpy’s. Reservations at the sister restaurant of Bethnal Green’s fantastic Bistrotheque have been tough to get, which is no reason not to try to get in. Tip: The bar seats walk-ins.

3. Go to Bristol. Bristol is a cute, hilly city, right next to charming Bath but with much less expensive hotels, about an hour and 45 minutes from London by train. Advance round-trip train tickets can be purchased for as little as £20.

4. Take an Unseen Tour. These tours, led by homeless and former homeless Londoners, reveal corners and aspects of the city that don’t make it into most tourist literature. Most tours cost £10.

5. Visit Broadway Market on Sundays. East London’s best weekend market sells fresh produce, artisanal organic food and various essential hipster lifestyle goods every Saturday; during the Olympics, the market will also operate on Sundays.6. Enjoy free entertainment. Through the end of September, More London Free Festival, a popular festival will provide free quality amusements at the Scoop. Through August 5, the focus is on theater, with performances Thursday through Sunday. Music takes over as primary focus from August 8 through 31, with free performances Wednesday through Friday.

7. Take a nap under a tree at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. This beautiful park with plenty of tree cover is a stone’s throw from Soho. Best of all, it can be nearly empty on weekend afternoons.

8. Look at photographs. Another London, an exhibition of international photographers capturing the capital, opens Friday July 27 at Tate Britain. Admission is £10.

9. Walk Regent’s Canal. Start at Limehouse and walk until you’re ready to rest. The canal’s path is particularly lively on weekends. It passes through some of London’s most dynamic neighborhoods, too. Stop at Towpath Café in Hoxton for a delightful snack.

10. Find summer inspiration elsewhere. Tired of London, Tired of Life is a wonderfully suggestive blog with daily activity ideas. Londonist is good, too.

[Image of Regent’s Canal: Ewan-M | Flickr]

Video Of The Day: Ramadan Iftar Feast, Olympics Edition

Tomorrow, July 20, thousands of Muslims will wake up around the world and begin a month-long fast for the occasion of Ramadan. From sunrise to sunset, they will abstain from eating, drinking, and smoking, while breaking the fast with lively Ramadan iftar feasts at night. This year is special as it will coincide with the London Olympics, and UK mosques will be welcoming people from all over the world from every faith (or lack there of) to join in the celebratory feasts. If you are visiting London, you can learn more about the Ramadan holy month or join an iftar. You can visit www.iftar2012.com for more information.

If you’d like to share your travel photos or videos with us, add them to the Gadling Flickr pool or post a link below.

View Art By Olympians In London During This Year’s Games

While we all know Olympians are excellent at sports, there are many that are apparently also skilled artists. Art of the Olympians Museum and Gallery, a gallery based in Fort Myers, Florida, features art created by former Olympic superstars. Luckily for those attending this year’s Games, Art of the Olympians will travel to London from July 25 to August 13 for the 2012 Summer Games to present a free public exhibition.

Art of the Olympians is a nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire visitors “through the power of art, sport and the Olympic ideals.” Started by four-time consecutive Olympic gold medalist in discus, Al Oerter, the initiative is now driven by more than 70 international Olympic artistic athletes. Today, the organization is run by gold medalist track and field legend Bob Beamon.

The exhibition will feature Olympic memorabilia, artwork by Olympians and opportunities to learn about an athlete’s personal journey.

To see some of these sport-inspired pieces done by Olympic athletes, check out the gallery below.


[Image via Art of the Olympians]

Inside Stanfords: The World’s Best Travel Bookstore

London is a dangerous city for bibliophiles. The city has a ridiculous wealth of great independent bookstores and if you’re a compulsive book buyer like me, you might give your credit cards quite a workout. My first literary stop in London is always Stanfords, the legendary travel bookshop that’s been patronized by everyone from Michael Palin and Bill Bryson to Ernest Shackelford and Dr. David Livingstone.

U.S. bookstores typically have small travel sections that are mostly filled with guidebooks, but in the U.K., shops feature a much wider selection of travel writing. I’m like a kid in a candy shop at Stanfords, which has three floors filled with tens of thousands of books and maps. Even the floors are covered in giant maps – the ground floor is covered with the National Geographic map of the world, the first floor with the N.G. map of the Himalayas and the basement with a giant A-Z map of central London.The shop is organized by country; so if you’re planning a trip to Korea, for example, you can find guidebooks, travel narratives and fiction pertaining to that country in one spot. Even if you aren’t planning a trip, it’s the kind of place that nurtures curiosity and inspires people to travel. Chris Powell, the company’s Chief Executive, said in the interview that follows that Stanfords must reinvent itself as an Internet-led travel information service in order to survive in an era when people are buying fewer books and maps.

I accept that reality but I hope Stanfords doesn’t change too much because, to my tastes, it’s just about perfect as it is.

How old is Stanfords?

It was founded by Edward Stanford in 1853 in Charing Cross, very close to where our flagship store is now, and we moved to our present location in 1901. There are about 80 shareholders in the business now but until last year, James Stanford, the great grandson of the founder, was chairman of the board. He retired in November. Michael Palin is also one of our shareholders.

And did it start out as a travel bookshop or a general interest bookstore?

It was actually one of the first suppliers of U.K. Ordinance Survey maps.

And it’s now the largest travel bookshop in the world, correct?

As far as we’re aware, that’s right. I don’t think you’ll find anyplace else that has three full floors of maps, guidebooks and other related books and gear about every country around the world.

We have about 110,000 product lines in our system, but maps are always being revised and updated, so we have about 35,000 products in the store. One of our bestselling items is actually a shower curtain with a map of the world on it.

And it’s not just books and maps, but also travel gear.

Correct. We’re known for travel books and maps but we’re trying to change our mission a bit at the moment. We’re known as the world’s largest travel bookshop, but obviously bookshops are suffering in the U.K. just as much as in America. Guidebook sales and map sales are decreasing thanks to eBooks and Google maps. We’re trying to change Stanfords into an Internet-led travel information group, a bit like Trip Advisor, but not as focused on hotels.

If you go to our website, we’re adding country information and blogs. We’d be very interested in blogs from your readers. The Internet is the future for retailers so we want to turn the shop into more of a travel emporium.

How will that play out?

Most of our customers are travelers, so we can supply them with guidebooks and maps, but we’re extending the range of travel accessories. We’re trying to become more of a one-stop shop for travelers. I don’t mind if we’re not selling books in 20 years time but we’ll keep the good name of Stanford’s going in travel information and accessories.

We also rent out space to travel companies in the basement. Last month we had the Swiss Travel Center down there. If we have travel agents in house and can show people photos of destinations, and perhaps have videos playing as well, it can help people decide where to go.

What I love about the shop is that I don’t necessarily have to be going anywhere. I like the way the shop is organized by country, so if you want to learn about a given country you can find not just guidebooks about it, but also travel narratives and fiction pertaining to that country. I have to imagine that Stanfords has inspired a lot of trips over the years.

Absolutely. But commercially, to keep this place going we’ll have to extend the model and have more pictures in the store. The retail environment here is very difficult and we’ve had the worst June weather in history. People are coming in to browse, but the reality is that they are buying fewer books than they used to.

Travel sections in U.S. bookstores are much smaller than the U.K. and our publishing houses publish fewer travel narratives. What do you chalk that up to?

I’m married to a New Yorker and I love the Strand bookstore, which is a fantastic shop. I don’t really know why we have more travel books. We’ve pinched one of your writers – Bill Bryson is living here.

Quite a few famous travelers have visited your shop prior to their journeys, is that right?

Well-known figures such as Dr. Livingstone, Ernest Shackelton, Amy Johnson, Cecil Rhodes, Florence Nightingale, Sir Wilfred Thesiger and Michael Palin have all started their journeys at Stanfords. The fictional character Sherlock Holmes bought a map from Stanfords in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles.

In the U.S. a lot of people treat bookstores as showrooms. They go to browse, but they buy on Amazon or other sites. Is it the same in the U.K?

I don’t think we’ve seen a lot of that. People come in to get maps and books and buy other things as impulse purchases. But I do think our future is as an Internet-led business.