Category Archives: London breaks

London breaks

London breaks. Short breaks and weekend breaks to London with West End theatre tickets and hotel room included.

Pompeii Exhibition London – Mary Beard on R4
Greenwich Tall Ship – 4 Masted Juan Sebastián de Elcano
London breaks with theatre show and hotel

London breaks. Short breaks and weekend breaks to London with West End theatre tickets and hotel room included.

Pompeii Exhibition London – Mary Beard on R4

Mary Beard on Pompeii Exhibitions

There was an interesting short “Points of View” programme by Mary Beard on Radio 4 this morning about the attitude of people towards the displays of dead bodies from Pompeii at the exhibitions. She explained how the casts are made by pouring plaster of paris into the cavities in the lava rock left by decayed real bodies which were originally captured and buried by the molten lava flow from the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79. So in a very real sense, these are not bodies but casts, reproductions of the shape of the bodies, and in some cases they are in fact modern recasts made from the original 19th century casts.

Casts of the Victims of Pompeii

There is no doubt though, that they do impart a strong emotional reaction in people when confronted by the postures adopted by families about to be engulfed by hot lava together. There’s also a dog which evidently died still tied up, straining at the leash in a vain attempt to escape. Her point was that plaster casts of people who died 2000 years ago don’t inherit some kind of right to privacy, which is probably not contentious now, but was an idea that was knocked about when these kinds of exhibitions were first put on show.

Pompeii  Guard Dog Mosaic

Pompeii Guard Dog Mosaic

British Museum Exhibition

It’s no so much a point of view as a kind of trailer for the British Museum exhibition which is coming in March 2013 until September called “Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum”. If the publicity is starting already, and it is, then this is going to an event that everybody gets to know about, and therefore quite a lot of people will want to go and see. So I suppose there will be queuing around the block again for timed entrance tickets, as happens with any major exhibition in London these days. Some people will even make a point of visiting London especially for the purpose of going to see the Pompeii exhibition as the highlight of their weekend break, by coach or train usually. Londoners themselves will mostly assume it’s too busy and not worth queuing up for, unless there is some kind of “speedy boarding” pass they can wangle through corporate entertainment expenses or something like that. Mary Beard herself had been to a similar but no doubt smaller show of artefacts from Pompeii in Malibu California and observed some reactions from visiting families, presumably Americans. When the children cried “erghh!! are these dead bodies real?” they were told variations of “Yes but they died a very long time ago so it’s alright” or “No, they are just models” which Mary argued were both true.

Pompeii itself

Then she went on to talk about the reaction to much earlier displays of the casts from Pompeii in the previous two centuries, and some interesting anecdotes about the state of the archeological buildings at Pompeii itself, which had been rebuilt twice, once after second world war bombing by the British, and therefore are kind of models or reconstructions themselves. Why did the British bomb Pompeii in World War 2? Was it because the enemy were hiding munitions there as a kind of cultural shield, and therefore it became a valid military target, or was it part of the strategy of demoralisation of the population that was adopted by both sides during the conflict ever since it had been proven to work in Guernica in 1937, but that’s another story, a song that has been sung.  The exhibition of Life And Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum is still to come, roll on the summer!


BBC R4 A POint of View : Mary Beard On Pompeii :

British Museum : Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum

TBM London Breaks : Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum

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Greenwich Tall Ship – 4 Masted Juan Sebastián de Elcano

Some interesting ships can be seen docked in the Thames, such as the Greenwich warship a couple of years ago. This weekend brought a Spanish Navy training ship, the four masted tall ship called Juan Sebastián de Elcano which is one of the largest and oldest tall ships still operational.

The video was taken from onboard one of the Hurricane Clipper river boat catamarans which provide a commuter service as well as sightseeing on the river Thames and now accept Oystercard onboard for payment as well as pre-paid tickets.

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London breaks with theatre show and hotel

London breaks

What is it about the grand hotels and theatres that makes London breaks ever popular? Something more than just the convenience I’m sure. Old fashioned style, social aspiration, romance maybe? The anonymous but attentive service combined with an expectation that everything you could possibly need will be there ready and waiting, or easily conjured up via room service. Modern life is relentless and for the most part let’s be honest, it can consist of following a series of rather dull routines so you don’t have to be an art intellectual or wealthy bon vivant to feel attracted by the idea of just one or two nights break in a smart central London hotel as a complete escape from the same old four walls, kitchen, relatives and other humdrum at home.

The West End

It’s not that I have any illusions as to what the image of London conjures up in many people’s minds. It’s a great big, busy, noisy city where the citizens are often tired and frazzled from over-stimulation, pressure and travel. They’d like a break too! London as a capital is nothing like Paris, Edinburgh or Cardiff and there can be resentment that so much political, financial and cultural leadership seems to be assumed to begin and end in London. That’s unfortunate in some ways, but then the sheer weight of population, history and connection gives London a momentum that cannot be ignored. Regional theatre may be more innovative in its creativity, and perhaps more intimate in the performance but it’s only when a show makes it to the West End that the bigger name stars can be attracted and the investment comes in for the stunning sets and longer runs. It’s the same story for music, fine art, dance etc. So people come on short breaks to London to see the best shows and soak up the West End atmosphere.

London Theatreland

London breaks in theatreland street name signs

You see, London’s theatreland is quite a small area in the central part of the city which is a stamping ground not just for Londoners (many of whom may not go there for months on end) but for all people from every city, village and nation. On any day, weekend or midweek the culture vulture crowds are present in large numbers, ambling about in groups or couples, plenty of singles too. The lights and buzz hold an attraction for young people as much as the distant familiarity does for people who have been visiting London occasionally for one reason or another over decades. And much of theatreland has not been spoilt. That’s because the classic old theatre buildings themselves have been classed as grade two listed, both exterior and interior. So even when there is a poor year for theatre bookings, as happens from time to time, they cannot be pulled down or turned over for a completely different use.

London Map

This first map is just to give an idea of how London breaks up into distinct geographical areas with the red central area so much smaller than the great connurbation where the majority of Londoners live and work.

London breaks map

And theatreland is only a part of that centre. Arrival by intercity train for London hotel theatre and train breaks will mean a short journey from one of the famous mainline rail terminals into the centre and then you may not need to venture outside again or set foot in a tube or taxi until it’s time to return home, as long as you book a hotel which is inside the zone.

Getting to the Theatres

Here’s the street map of London Theatreland clearly showing each of the Theatres by name so it’s easy to find your way around. The same goes for the Hotels and restaurants which can be booked for pre-theatre meals, often very reasonably as part of a show, hotel and travel deal.
London Breaks theatre street map

Top Musicals

  1. Oliver!
  2. Phantom of the Opera
  3. Dirty Dancing
  4. Joseph
  5. Billy Elliot
  6. Sound Of Music
  7. Hairspray
  8. Lion King
  9. We Will Rock You
  10. Grease
  11. Jersey Boys
  12. Blood Brothers
  13. Mamma Mia!
  14. Les Miserables


* God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza (ART!) with Ralph Fiennes, Tamsin Greig (Black Books, Green Wing, Love soup and Debbie Aldridge from The Archers)

* The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie still going strong decades later – who dunnit?

* The Vortex by Noel Coward with Felicity Kendal

Pre-Theatre Dining on London Breaks

Overall, London simply has a wider selection of fine international restaurants than any other world city. You can pre book as part of a London theatre and hotel breaks package, or just wander round for a short while until you are tempted. So ‘bon appetit’ and enjoy your capital.

Stumble London Breaks Stumble It!

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Thanks for reading Andy Roberts articles about London breaks on the DARnet Blog