Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Paris home from home

As I mentioned in my last post the reason we selected Le Marais for one of our Paris Audio Guides is that it’s a wonderfully eccentric and eclectic area of Paris.

If you are thinking of heading to Paris for a little light shopping we recommend you look at the site of our good friends at http://www.parismarais.com/.

It’s a great site with lots of information including a wide range of apartments for rent for days or weeks. What better way to visit this great area than to live like a local behind your own front door, so much better than a hotel.

If you are not planning to head out for a while it’s well worth signing up for their monthly newsletter here to keep you up to date.

Sound Advice – added treasures to enhance your walking pleasure courtesy of: http://www.citiesinsound.com/

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Where is everyone going?

I like to keep an eye on what people who are planning to travel think of the cities in which Cities in Sound have Audio Guides.
I was recently looking at the top cities being watched by the subscribers of Trip Advisor which today has 20 Million subscribers.

I see that Three of the Cities in Sounds locations are in the top 10 locations being watched by subscribers including:
· Paris at 3
· London at 6
· Rome at 7
Then I started to dig a little deeper on Paris, Le Marais comes up as the 18th most popular attraction/area which considering the competition in Paris is pretty amazing.

The comments by people who have been there include: “Finally, the real Paris”, others described it as a “charming, perfect location”.
What better way to get under the skin of this wonderful area than to tune in to the Cities in Sound Le Marais Audio Guide.

Our friends in Le Marais have a great web site which complements the walk perfectly. Don’t forget to check it out when you plan your visit: Le Marais – The Art of Living Guide

Sound Advice – added treasures to enhance your walking pleasure courtesy of: http://www.citiesinsound.com/

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Saved ! House by the Thames

Cities in Sound’s ever popular Bankside Audio Guide ends between the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern. As you gaze across at the spectacular Millennium Bridge, look back towards the Globe and you will see three small houses which look very isolated and incongruous.

These day’s old houses survive because they have preservation orders slapped on them by the authorities. Many years ago houses that we would love to see today were torn down in the name of progress.

In her book “The House by the Thames” Gillian Tindall tells the story of one of these three houses, 49 Bankside which was built in 1710.

It survived, escaping demolition thanks to a past residents who put up a plaque claiming that Wren lived here while building St Paul’s. This held off the developers, but now this claim is proven to be false.
Today we can just delight in seeing a bit of old London standing proud and tall on the South Bank of the Thames gazing across at a City skyline which has changed so much in it’s life time.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


No I had no idea what it was either!

But it’s worth finding out and it’s a great place to spend a rainy autumn morning or afternoon.
Mediatheque is an unique collection of film and video archive which you watch in your own little booth with a set of headphones on and it’s located at the BFI Southbank, you may know it as the NFT, beneath Waterloo Bridge.

So when you have finished your trip on the London Eye, with the wonderful Cities in Sound

Flightseeing commentary, or when you have completed our Bankside Audio Guide it’s a great spot to rest weary feet.

And as you know, here at Sound Advice we like nothing more than a free deal when we have completed our Audio Tour of London and this wonderful resource is completely free.
We took the kids and they sat spell bound by an old black and white episode of Dr Who, complete with Daleks, while we watched old news reel film.

Follow this link for a complete list of all the films available from an 1896 film of Blackfriars Bridge to WH Auden’s wonderfully evocative Night Mail via a 1967 documentary about swinging London.

So something for all the family there I think.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Seven connections between Southwark Cathedral and The United States

Pausing your ipod to explore new discoveries is one of the many advantages and delights of an Audio Walk as I was reminded whilst reviewing our Bankside walk.

It was at the peaceful garden at the entrance to Southwark Cathedral that my hand pressed the pause button. Inside the cathedral is bright, certainly built to the glory of God, yet having a warmth and intimacy that is a haven of peace without stuffiness or overbearing formality. I received a friendly welcome from Kandeel Egbe who gave me a copy of The Cathedral Trail, which guides visitors around all areas of the Cathedral including The Retro Choir, the oldest part of the Cathedral dating back to 1215 – 1260.

David Payne, Visitors’ Officer for the Cathedral has kindly sent Cities in Sound.com some useful information in advance of the Cathedral web site relaunch later this year.

Southwark Cathedral is renowned for the link to John Harvard the Founder of the famous Boston Ivy League College but there are 6 more links between the Cathedral and the USA and thanks to David I am able to bring them to you.

A gentle reminder… the Cathedral is a place of worship, please respect this, turn off your iPod and remove your headphones whilst you are in the Cathedral.

On every hour there is a two-minute break for prayer. This time for quiet reflection is an oasis of calm in the normal hurly burly of London life.

Visitors are asked to make a ‘voluntary donation’ to assist in the maintenance of this historic building.

Wonderfully peaceful and perfectly positioned on the Thames side of the Cathedral The Cathedral Refectory is open every day. Stop and refresh yourself before switching back on the ipod, heading on towards The Globe Theatre and more of the delights of our Bankside walk.

Southwark Cathedral Web site can be found at:

So here they are: Seven connections between Southwark Cathedral and the USA:

1. John Harvard

The baptismal records for St Saviour’s Church record that the son of parishioners Robert and Katherine Harvard was baptised here on 29 November 1607. He was given the name John. Robert was a prominent businessman who had a butcher’s business in Pepper Alley and was also warden of St Saviour’s.

John lost many family members, including his father, in the Southwark Plague. His mother Katherine went on to remarry, possibly twice more. However, after the death of both his mother and elder brother, John and his wife, Ann, left for Massachusetts in 1637. He died of consumption in 1638 and left half his estate and his library of books to the proposed new college, now known as Harvard University.

The Harvard Chapel in the Cathedral commemorates this ‘godly gentleman and lover of learning’.

2. Oscar Hammerstein II:

Inside the Chapel there is a plaque to Harvard-educated Oscar Hammerstein II. Oscar fell in love with the English Cathedral Choral tradition and would regularly visit the Cathedral and take the head boy of the Boy’s Choir to lunch with him. He gave the Cathedral Choir an endowment and two of the choir members are, to this day, known as the Hammerstein Chanters.

3. John La Farge

The window in the Harvard Chapel is by the New York stained glass artist, John La Farge. It was commissioned and paid for by Joseph Hodges Choate (1832 -1917), himself a Harvard graduate. Choate had an illustrious career in law, and headed many organisations, including the Union League Club and the Century Association. A life-long Republican he was appointed Ambassador at the Court of St James’s in London in 1899, where he worked closely with John Hay, Secretary of State on the territorial treaties between the US and Britain concerning Canada.

The main subject is the Baptism of Christ, alluding to the baptism of John Harvard in the church in 1607. This depiction is after Nicolas Poussin.

On the upper left are the arms of Harvard University and on the right those of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where Harvard studied. In the centre are the Royal Arms, as they appeared between 1415 and 1603; however, the supporters and crest are of a later period, probably dating from the restoration carried-out in 1948.

4. Charles Morton

In 1686 Charles Morton, son of Nicholas Morton, rector of St Saviour’s (now Southwark Cathedral) emigrated to Massachusetts, where he became Fellow and Vice-President of Harvard.

5. Mahomet Weyonomon

On 22 November 2006 HM The Queen accompanied by HRH Prince Philip visited the Cathedral to unveil a granite boulder from Connecticut in the churchyard to commemorate the Sachem Mahomet Weyonomon.

The story goes back to an entry in the Daily Journal for August 11th, 1736:

On Sunday last about one o’clock in the Morning died of the Small Pox, in the 36th Yeare of his Age, Mahomet Weyonomon, Sachem of the Tribe of the Mohegans in the Province of Connecticut in New England. He was Great Grandson to the famous Sachem Uncafs or Onkafs, who took part with the English upon their firft fettling of that Country. He was very decently interred laft Night (from his Lodgings at Mr Midhurst’s in Aldermanbury) in St Mary Over’s Burial-place.

The background to the story is the familiar colonial tale of settlers appropriating the land belonging to the original native population. In this case it was the tribal lands belonging to the Mohegans in Connecticut. When the settlers first took the land, Mahomet’s grandfather Oweneco came to England to petition Queen Anne. The Queen ordered a commission who found in favour of the Indians that they were unjustly deprived of their lands and the governor and company of the Colony of Connecticut was ordered to return the lands. Not only was this ignored but further encroachments took place. to the point where the Mohegans were unable to subsist on the remaining territory.

So in 1735 Mahomet Weyomon accompanied by John Mason, his son Samuel and Zachary Johnson came to London to petition King George II for restoration of their lands. They lodged in the City in the Ward of St Mary Aldermanbury. But before they could present the petition the whole party died of smallpox. The city authorities were happy to bury Mahomet’s European companions in the City but Mahomet had to be buried in the churchyard of St Mary Overie. It was quite a common custom at that time for burials to take place at night and we may imagine what a dramatic spectacle when the body was brought by torchlight over London Bridge.

At the simple unveiling ceremony in November, present with the Queen was the tribal chairman Bruce Two Dogs Bozsum and other members of the tribe. An audience with the monarch that failed in 1735 was finally achieved.

6. Sam Wanamaker

On the right of the memorial to William Shakespeare, is a memorial tablet to the American actor, Sam Wanamaker, who was the driving force behind the building of the present Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on Bankside. His ambition was achieved despite opposition at the time from local councillors, who did not want it to become a tourist attraction! How times have changed! Unfortunately, did not live to see his dream become a reality, dying before it opened its doors to the public.

7. Southwark pottery exported to the British Colonies

Within the Archaeological chamber which can be viewed in Lancelot’s Link (the internal glazed street) on the north /river side of the complex, are the remains of a 17th century pottery kiln. It was in 1614 that an application was made to make pottery ‘after the manner of Fiansa’ (Florence). Part of the old ‘fratree’ of the monastery was used as a pot house and colour house. The kilns were uncomfortably close to the church walls and a small fire in the 18th century ensured that the pottery was finally closed. Southwark Delftware (i.e. tin-glazed) was in production before it was made in Delft. Its distinctive yellow and blue colouring was popular in the American colonies and one of the largest collections of it is at Williamsburg, Virginia.

I am very grateful to David Payne for allowing me to use this information and for supplying some pictures. I returned to my Bankside walk re-invigorated after my break in the peace of the cathedral.

© David Payne, January 2008 - The photographs used here are reproduced with the kind permission of the Dean and Chapter of Southwark.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Borough Market – Now 3 days a week

Borough Market – Now 3 days a week

Borough Market (London SE1) should be on everyone’s must do list. Even when the market is quiet, the local streets are likely to be familiar as they are frequently used as locations for film and television productions.

Until recently, however, those wishing to sample the finest produce and the buzzing atmosphere at the food market would have to visit on a Friday or Saturday…

Reviewing our Bankside Walk I paused (10 a.m. Friday) at the Only Organics fruit and vegetable stall and met Paul who runs the stall with his partner Harriet.

Paul gave me some tips on the best times to visit the market. On Saturdays the market opens at 9.00 and gets really busy around 11 a.m. with crowds peaking at lunchtime when it can be a jostle to get a leisurely look at what is on sale. So…

Get there at opening time for a traditional English (or vegetarian) breakfast followed by great food shopping!

Friday is a quieter day with the “calmest” time between opening at 12 and 1 p.m. and then after 3 when the lunchtime surge of locals and tourists has eased.

Paul also gave me the great news that around 30 stalls now open for trade on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. so even more opportunity to discover this treasure!

Check out the Borough Market web site for more details at http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/

Sound Advice – added treasures to enhance your walking pleasure courtesy of: http://www.citiesinsound.com/

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Evensong at Westminster Abbey - Arrive early and get the best seats

15.45 and Westminster Abbey’s main West entrance was closed. Guided on through Dean’s yard by my audio walk I found the entry to the cloister, I discovered that the main entrance would reopen at 16.30 offering free entry for sung evensong.

Helpful Vergers pointed the way as a queue forms by large blue gates to the left of the nave. Early, and close to the front of the queue, at exactly 16.30 I was shown to my seat, actually in the choir stalls, an honour extended to the first 100 visitors.

With 30 minutes before evensong, there was time for contemplation and the chance to study the magnificent carving and gilding on the stalls. Evensong began at 17.00 prompt, the choir surrounded us, lifting my spirit in song and allowing the imagination to wander to Coronation day, viewed from the best seat in town.

Look out for the marked seats in the back row for Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada, for a real special experience.

Check out the Westminster Web Site and click on the “What’s on” feature on the Abbey Web site for Evensong times:

Sound Advice – added treasures to enhance your walking pleasure courtesy of: