Bee Gees Getting Blue Plaque While Monty Python Passed Over

blue plaqueAny traveler in the UK is familiar with the Blue Plaques. The plaques mark the spot of a famous event or building, or where a famous person has lived, worked, or died.

English Heritage has recently announced that due to government budget cuts, half of the shortlist for new plaques will be canceled, with such big names as Beatles manager Brian Epstein and Monty Python’s Graham Chapman missing out, the BBC reports.

Some forty other prominent people have received the go-ahead, including comedian Peter Sellers and actor David Niven.

Blue plaques help bring context to a walk through UK cities and towns. A stroll through London can show you where Dickens worked in a sweatshop as a child, Marx researched “Das Kapital” and Jimi Hendrix spent his last days.

Other organizations put up similar plaques. The Heritage Foundation and Thame Town Council have announced they’ll unveil a blue plaque for Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb at his home in Oxfordshire. Near my house in Oxford is this blue plaque honoring Sir Roger Bannister, who ran the first mile under four minutes. He helped carry the Olympic torch this year.

It’s a shame some people won’t get blue plaques, but at least they didn’t give one to L. Ron Hubbard.

Empire State Building Lights Up With Olympic Flag Colors

empire state buildingHere’s to the Olympics! New York’s famed Empire State Building is honoring nations competing in London by shining its world-famous tower lights in different colors each night to match the country’s flags. Each of the tower’s four sides will be illuminated in different colors throughout the night for each night through August 12.

This marks the second time ESB has split the tower’s sides with four separate countries’ lights in its history. The building has been lit with colored lights since 1976.

The lighting starts this Thursday with the North and South side representing the USA and the East and West sides representing Great Britain. For a full schedule, you can visit the Empire State Building’s website.

London: 10 Fun Non-Olympics Things to Do

london

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]

Last Minute London Room Needed? Check Flexiroom

flexiroom“Turn your spare room into spare change” is the unofficial motto of new London startup Flexiroom. The start-up has launched an Airbnb-style website that could prove infinitely useful for those visiting during the upcoming summer Olympics in London.

The website provides an online platform for hosts and bed and breakfast operators to sell spare or open rooms for paying guests from all over the world, and offers an incentive for hosts as well. Up to £4,250 of tax-free gross income is allowed each year for people who rent out a spare room or rooms, thanks to an official government plan. This breaks down to £300 tax-free each month.

In addition to its UK focus, Flexiroom offers professional cleaning at no cost to the guest or property for anyone staying over a week.

The properties on the website appear to be affordable, although there aren’t nearly the number of reviews we’ve seen on other sites. This is one site we’ll keep an eye on for future visits.

London Olympics 2012: One year to go celebrated today

London Olympics 2012The 12-month countdown to the greatest sporting show on earth is under way this week as London reaches the one year to go mark for the 2012 summer Olympics. Today, Olympic athletes from across Europe come together at a star-studded day marking the occasion along with fans invited to Eurostar’s London 2012 Olympic celebrations.

Over the last few months, thousands of Olympic fans have entered competitions to win the chance to be part of Eurostar’s ‘One year to go’ celebrations. Arriving from countries including France, and Belgium, competition winners and athletes will be joined by winners from the UK to be greeted by double world champion and Olympic silver medalist Colin Jackson and others then join them in having their foot prints cast in clay as they symbolically mark the first steps on the way to the 2012 Games

“This is such a wonderful opportunity for members of the public to experience the London 2012 Olympic Games firsthand” Jackson told the Hillingdon Times.

.Following a welcome speeches from dignitaries, winners will then be transported to a celebration lunch held at an London restaurant with stunning views over the Olympic Park where Jackson will be their host for the remainder of their unique experience.

As the Official International Rail Services Provider to London 2012, Eurostar will bring hundreds of thousands of sports fans from the continent to London.

Flickr photo by spcbrass