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Where to shop, eat and ice skate like Jimi Hendrix?

That’s what Jimi Hendrix once said of London. Things here certainly moved fast for him. On the plane over from New York on 21 September 1966, Hendrix’s new manager Chas Chandler decided to change his protege’s name. By the time he touched down in London, Jimmy Hendrix was Jimi Hendrix. It would cause all sorts of problems on the gig bills in his new adopted home. Later the same night, Hendrix had already played an impromptu set at the Scotch Club in St James’s and met a girl named Kathy Etchingham, who’d become his girlfriend for much of his life in London.
London was the place that would make Hendrix, and ultimately, kill him, aged 27. Ahead of the opening of the Handel and Hendrix House on 10 February, here’s a tour of Hendrix’s London.

Queensway Ice Rink
How does a guy like Jimi Hendrix have fun when he first gets to London? Ice skating of course.When Hendrix and Etchingham decided to try out Queensway Ice Rink, neither had been skating before. Here’s an extract from Etchingham’s memoirs, Through Gypsy Eyes: “At the rink they had trouble finding a pair of boots big enough for Jimi’s size 11 feet. They managed it eventually and he tucked his flares in and we set off. Within seconds of hitting the ice we were lying in an hysterical heap, weak with laughter. The other skaters just had to make their way round us as we rolled around trying to pull ourselves up on one another, only to lose our footing and come crashing down again.”

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This was to be the first of many visits that Jimi and Kathy made to Queensway Ice Rink. You can still go there now.

One Stop Records on South Molton Street was where Hendrix shopped for vinyl; it stocked all the latest imported US LPs and it’s likely he would have bumped into another regular customer, John Peel, often to be found sifting through the stock for tracks to play on his radio show — at the time called Top Gear. One Stop Records is no longer around, but the HMV on Oxford Street — where Hendrix bought classical recordslike The Planets and Handel’s Messiah — is.

As for getup: it isn’t difficult to picture Hendrix flouncing around the market stalls on Portobello Road, flares billowing in the wind. He came here often to buy jewellery for his stage costumes, one of his prized possessions being a ring made with a George V silver threepenny bit from the first world war. A greater stretch of the imagination is required to picture the rock star shopping for curtains in John Lewis on Oxford Street. But in July 1968, this is exactly what he and Kathy Etchingham were doing: they picked out a pair of turquoise velvet ones.

23 Brook Street, Mayfair
The curtains Hendrix had gone for were for his and Etchingham’s new pad at 23 Brook Street, Mayfair. Soon, the pad was visited by everyone from George Harrison to the Bee Gees to Steppenwolf to Eddie Grant. Hendrix was careless when it came to handing his phone number out, and had to keep changing it, as fans got hold of it so easily. An article from Melody Maker on 4 March 1969 describes the flat at Brook Street thus:

“A lifelike rubber rat stared at the TV in Jimi Hendrix’s top floor flat just off London’s Bond Street. A stuffed panda sat on the floor wearing a green hat and what seemed to be a teddy bear in the last stages of malnutrition hung from a nail in the wall. Over the bed a Persian rug served as a canopy, giving the effect of a four-poster. A large Roland Kirk type gong stood near the bed and most available surfaces were covered with guitars, assorted electronic equipment, transistor radios, a fine projector and a vase full of feathers.”

The flat, famously, was next door to where George Frideric Handel had lived for much of his professional career. Handel, similarly to Hendrix, had come to London to reinvent himself, and to find appreciation of his art. There were differences between the two geniuses though: it’s unlikely Handel spent his down time watching Coronation Street and playing Scalextric. Now, Hendrix’s legacy is about to be cemented, as the Handel House Museum becomes Handel & Hendrix in London.

Hendrix’s landlord at 23 Brook Street was also the proprietor of a restaurant on the ground floor called Mr Love. The rock star frequented the restaurant, and as he became more well-known and increasingly reclusive, often had dinner sent up to the flat. His regular order was steak and chips, a bottle of Mateus Rose and a packet of 20 Benson & Hedges. Another eating haunt of Hendrix’s was the Indian Tea Centreon Oxford Street. He loathed bland English food, and found sweet solace at this place, where he could get a chicken curry for five shillings or a meat curry with dahl for four shillings. It’s not there any more, although you can get a similar cheap feed at the Indian YMCA in Euston.

The Scotch Club was the beginning of a crazy ride for Hendrix. In 1967, he played a slew of London gigs including Chislehurst Caves (he’d been here the year before too, when an onlooker fuzzily remembered “What a strange place… I think he played Hey Joe”), the Orchid Ballroom in Purley, the Brady Boys’ and Girls’ Club in Whitechapel, Soho’s Flamingo Club and Hampstead Country Club at Belsize Park. Famously, Hendrix is supposed to have written Purple Haze in the dressing room of the Upper Cut club in Forest Gate, although this was never substantiated. Certainly the track was recorded at De Lane Lea Studios and Olympic Studios, both in London. Most of these venues have since been lost to the sands of time although Chislehurst is still open to explore (well worth a visit, although don’t expect any Fender Strat solos now), and Olympic Studios has reverted to a cinema.

By the second half of 1967, Hendrix was playing bigger venues — a couple of which still exist. In September 1967 he played the charity concert at the Royal Festival Hall in aid of the Liberal International Anti-Racialist Appeal Fund. In 1969, Hendrix had really battened down the hatches, and played only two official London dates, both at the Albert Hall. Due to tensions in the group, and dodgy engineering, the first of these was a “disaster” — the second, somewhat better. These were the last gigs Hendrix and his band would play in Europe. Just over a year and a half later, he died of a drug overdose at the Samarkand Hotel in Kensington.
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Published in UK Sightseeing

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5 Ways To Tell When You’ve Become A Real Londoner

List of what it takes to be a real Londoner….

Try to be clever to avoid a public transport snafu and still get caught out

Signalling problems on the Central line? No problem: you don’t need Citymapper to work out an alternative route, you’re a real Londoner. You deftly swerve away from the station entrance (you’re so real you don’t even need to approach the barriers to know there’s a problem), jumping on a bus that will connect you to your destination. Except then the bus breaks down. Congratulations: now you’re a real Londoner.

See Will Self
Will Self is our Woody Allen. If you haven’t seen him on one of his regular perambulations, you’ll see him in the pub or perhaps a Pret. Do not, however, engage him in conversation unless you have a dictionary handy.

Have a close encounter with a tube mouse
We don’t mean ‘see one on the tracks’. Any tourist can do that. We’re talking about having one run across your foot as it emerges from a hole in the wall next to where you’re standing; we once heard of a friend of a friend who had one disappear up his trouser leg. Extra London points if you don’t squeal like a small child during your close encounter of the furry kind.

‘Sarf of the river? At this time of night?’

It’s a cliche about cabbies not wanting to venture into the mean streets of Wandsworth or Nunhead after midnight, and it’s a cliche largely because it doesn’t happen often. But it does happen. It’s particularly annoying when the cab’s gone 30 yards and hit an inexplicable wall of traffic and the driver’s clearly thought ‘bugger this’.

A fiver no longer seems extortionate for a pint

It wasn’t long ago that one of Londonist’s number was glumly predicting the ubiquity of the five pound pint in central London. We’re not quite there yet (unless you’re a habitual drinker of Meantime; though now we come to think of it, it’s been a long time since we had a pint of Stella or Peroni. How much does one get stiffed for that these days?) but, as that meandering tangent shows, it’s not uncommon. The real Londoner doesn’t make a fuss about this. The real Londoner suppresses a wince and vows to switch to drinking bitter.


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Published in UK Sightseeing

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How Not To Pay Twice When Your Bus Terminates Early

It’s a familiar scenario: the bus has terminated early or broken down and everyone needs to pile off. You’re travelling on Pay As You Go and you’re furious that you’ll need to pay another £1.50 to finish your journey. But wait: did you know you should get a transfer ticket from the driver?
We’re willing to bet that many people don’t know about this — particularly given how few will go see the driver before disembarking. It’s very simple: the driver will give you a paper ticket that is valid for any other bus within an hour of being issued. (You used to have to get a bus on the same route but, as London Reconnections explained in 2013, that was changed to make things a little simpler.)

It’s only fair to have a system that doesn’t penalise passengers for a disruption that isn’t their fault, but it’s not something that gets much publicity. We thought we’d do a little something about that and share a tip to make travelling around London a bit cheaper. And less annoying. Occasionally.


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Published in UK-SightSeeing
Tagged under  #bus  transfer ticket

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What’s The Best Way To Get To Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted And Luton Airports?

Hooray, you’re going on holiday! Boo, you now have to get to the airport. There are so many different ways to get to and from London’s airports that it can get a bit confusing — and expensive. Here, we’ve listed the cheapest and fastest ways to get from central London to Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and City airports.

Cheap: If you’ve got an Oyster card and use Pay As You Go, the tube is the cheapest option: £5.10 single adult fare during peak hours, or £3.10 off peak. If you’re paying cash, however, the tube is £6 — exactly the same as a National Express coach from Victoria. Depending on the traffic, the journey time is about the same as well: 50 minutes on the tube from (to pick a central example) Leicester Square to Heathrow and 45-55 minutes on the coach — and less lugging your suitcase up and down steps with the latter, too.

Fast:The Heathrow Express from Paddington takes 15 minutes to get to Terminals 2 and 3, with an extra few minutes on top if you want to go to Terminals 4 or 5. It’s a journey time that rivals the DLR trip from Bank to City Airport as the fastest possible way of getting from central London to an airport, but comes at a price. A single adult ticket costs from £22, making this the winner in the ‘HOW bloody much?’ public transport stakes.

If you have a bit more time and a bit less cash, Heathrow Connect takes between 31 and 49 minutes to travel between Paddington and Heathrow, mainly because it makes some extra stops along the way. An adult ticket costs £10.20 from Paddington and less if you want to travel from, say, Ealing. It only goes to Terminals 2 and 3, though.

Cheap:easyBuses leave from Waterloo and Victoria, and if you book online far enough in advance you can get a ticket for as little as £2. Even with just a few hours’ notice it was possible to get a ticket for £7.95. The journey does take a timetabled 90 minutes, however — and that’s without getting stuck in traffic.

Fast: the Gatwick Express from Victoria takes 30 minutes, give or take (it’s timetabled as 33, accuracy fans). Adult single fares cost from £15.40 (if you take a Southern service, which isn’t technically the Gatwick Express but there you go) to £19.90. If you’re not near Victoria, however, we recommend you investigate the Brighton to Bedford line run by Thameslink. Calling at St Pancras, Farringdon, City Thameslink, London Bridge, Elephant and Castle and a few other stations outside zone 1, it goes direct to Gatwick. The journey from London Bridge takes as little as 37 minutes (changing at East Croydon because of works around the station) and from St Pancras it’s 55 minutes with no changes. It’s cheaper, too: adult single fares from St Pancras start at £10.30 and from London Bridge it’s £9.40. Regular Thameslink commuters will warn you that it’s notorious for delays, though.

Cheap: the cheapest easyBus to Stansted costs £6 and the journey takes over two hours. Prices can rise to £12 for a journey; a price point we suspect has been deliberately chosen as it appears to be the cheapest possible ticket from central London to Stansted on National Express coaches.
Fast: the Stansted Express from Liverpool Street station takes between 45 and 50 minutes. An adult ticket costs £19. You don’t have many options when it comes to Stansted; you very much have to take what you’re given.

Cheap: it’s easyBus again, though for Luton you really need to book online significantly in advance: we had to search 11 days ahead before we found a £1.95 ticket. Still, the most expensive journey (£9.95) is cheaper than the equivalent on National Express. The journey is timetabled to take 90 minutes from Victoria, but takes less time (not necessarily reflected in the price) if you can leave from somewhere like Finchley Road or Baker Street tube stations.

Fast: Get the Thameslink train from various stations through the centre of London — it takes 49 minutes from Elephant and Castle, or from St Pancras you could be at Luton Airport Parkway in as little as 20 minutes. Adult fares start from £15.50, but beware you have to catch a shuttle bus from the train station to the actual airport, which takes 10 minutes and is free so long as you’ve bought a ticket to the airport and not just the train station. (This costs £1.50 more than buying a ticket to the train station, so ‘free’ in this context is open to interpretation.)

Just get the DLR. If you happen to live on the 474 or 473 bus routes you’ve got it made, but otherwise — get the DLR.
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