Maybe you’ve been telling yourself you’ve been doing alright in lockdown. Walking the same route around the park everyday isn’t so bad. You’ve got to know your Tesco Local security guard, that’s nice. You even get excited about doing ‘movie and takeaway night’ on a Friday. It’s fine: a bit like living in the suburbs. Maybe you’ve even thought about moving to the suburbs.
But you and I both know that deep down something is brewing within you.
Have you been starting to feel a bit… weird? A little twitchy? Like your internal chemistry is crying out for something vital and life-giving?
What you could be jonesing for, friend, is London. Proper London. Open London. The London where you eat Pret for dinner on the tube between work drinks and a Tate Late. The London where you have three birthdays to attend in different corners of the city on the same night. London with the tourists and landmarks and really good culture and food.
There’s only one way to be sure though. Take this helpful quiz, designed by the Time Out staff, to determine if you are indeed having London withdrawal symptoms.
1. When someone mentions a Tube station do you automatically calculate what changes you’d need to make to get there, even though you haven’t taken the Tube in eight months?
2. When the bins next to your local KFC gets tagged by an extremely half-arsed graffiti writer do you find yourself standing in the road, appreciating it like the vital street art it definitely is?
3. Is the perennially under-dressed bottom half of your body bitter because the top half gets to wear shirts sometimes?
4. While you’re still confident that you could ‘do’ an escalator, you’re not sure if you could just step onto one without looking anymore?
5. Can you no longer even remember the five basic types of London Tourist? (If not, they are: Spanish backpackers in Camden searching for Amy Winehouse’s home; Primark Pilgrims; fans of BBC’s ‘Sherlock’; Italian lads called Matteo getting sucked in by two-for-one deals in Shoreditch; old couples silently eating spaghetti in Angus Steakhouse before a matinee.)
6. Moreover, does the thought of Angus Steak House no longer inspire derision, but instead a hard-won sense of respect for a legendary London brand that would actually be quite nice to visit now, probably?
7. Do you now remember Shoreditch as a kinetic, fashionable hub for media disruptors instead of a desultory roundabout, popular with hen nights and misinformed students?
8. Do you walk past a shuttered pub – literally any pub – and think ‘ooh, wouldn’t it be nice to go in there?’
9. Could you no longer say with any deal of certainty what Tube lines connect at Liverpool Street?
10. Ever have a dream about any of the staff in that Pret A Manger by your office? Yeesh.
11. Six quid for a pint of beer in a room full of friendly people? Woof! Absolute bargain!
12. Have you visited Canary Wharf in the last few months and walked around the skyscrapers as a day out? And did it legit feel like being on holiday in another city, rather than an arduous schlep around probably the most soulless bit of London?
13. Ever find yourself clambering to the front of a socially distanced crowd in Victoria Park, to catch a glimpse of a busker ‘doing’ Hozier’s ‘Take Me To Church’?
14. Have you sat down in the evening to a hearty, richly spiced meal that you’ve spent an hour preparing, only to wistfully reminisce about inhaling a Five Guys between work and a show?
15. Can you even remember the last time you chuckled at the name Cockfosters?
16. That photograph on your camera roll of Waterloo Bridge at sunset? You’re thinking of posting it to Instagram aren’t you? Unironically.
17. When your old regular bus whizzes past you as you take your daily walk, do you have to stop yourself from smiling and waving, as if at an old friend?
18. Have you recently opened up the government’s map of live Covid cases, zoomed out a bit from your postcode and thought, ‘Oh that’s right, my neighbourhood is in London!’?
19. Do you sometimes wonder how that super-enthusiastic Jesus-loving evangelist outside King’s Cross is doing?
20. Do you ever open Citymapper to plan hypothetical journeys that at some point you might want to take? Do you then feel an overwhelming, crushing sadness that can only be extinguished using red wine or Disney’s ‘Moana’?
21. Have you started to imagine that were the city to reopen tomorrow you would immediately do a hedonistic tour of all the most vital bars and clubs in Peckham and Hackney, even though you know full well that young people make you nervous and the music they play is just noise anyway, really?
22. Do you miss ‘the hustle and bustle’ of Oxford Street?
23: In an attempt to recreate the anarchic, feel-good atmosphere of a Prince Charles Cinema screening, have you started throwing spoons at your TV?
24. Have you in the last six months purchased a deep-fat fryer in an attempt to ‘rustle up’ your own spin on Chick ‘N’ Sours’ ‘Disco Wings’, only to use it once, burn your wrist and then abandon the project?
25. Are you fretting about whether your Nando’s loyalty card could actually expire?
26. Does the fact you no longer commute mean you have a panic-inducing backlog of unlistened-to podcasts just sitting on your phone?
Let’s be honest, the fact you’ve taken this quiz and read to the end suggests that you are indeed having London withdrawal symptoms. Our suggested remedy: pootling around Soho on Google Street View with your face pressed up against the screen. And then order some food from your favourite restaurants. Or go on an actual virtual tour of a big gallery.
While Kensington Gardens are open to the public, there was a time when this wasn’t so. The gardens were originally part of Kensington Palace, a royal residence that was once home to King William III and Queen Mary II (now home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge). Today, Kensington Gardens are one of four Royal Parks in London along with Regent’s Park, St. James’s Park, Hyde Park, Greenwich Park, and others. Of course, this pedigree means there are a number of interesting facts about the gardens that are worth exploring as we will show you.
Well before there was even Kensington Palace, what would become Kensington Gardens was part of a vast hunting ground owned by King Henry VIII. In 1728, Queen Caroline asked that it be separated from Hyde Park and it was redesigned into a landscape garden by Charles Bridgeman and Henry Wise. In 1733, the gardens were first opened to the public, but only on Sunday evenings, before eventually opening to the public on the rest of the week in the early 19th Century.
Kensington Gardens covers 265 acres and features a number of different types of gardens such as the Italian Gardens, the Sunken Gardens, and the Allotment, which is a garden run and maintained by volunteers.
The Tail of the Snake
Or the Serpentine, rather. Bridgeman designed the Serpentine lake that runs through much of Hyde Park, but the very end of it runs into Kensington Gardens. Here it changes names and is instead referred to as the “Long Water”. Perhaps the best view of the Long Water can be taken in at the Italian Gardens where you might also see a number of mute swans that like to nest there.
It’s Not Very Funny
One of the markers acting as the border between Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park is the “Ha-Ha”. A ha-ha was designed as a ditch to separate the two parks from one another. The name allegedly comes from the exclamation people would make when they accidentally stumbled into one, since the ditches often went unnoticed until it was too late.
As with its neighbor, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens is home to plenty of statues and memorials. The largest is unquestionably the Albert Memorial, which sits as the southern edge of the gardens. It was unveiled in 1872 and is a Gothic Revival design from architect Sir George Gilbert Scott. The Albert Memorial is quite the towering monument to the late Prince Consort, standing at 175 feet with a statue of a seated Albert at the center.
Orange You Glad to Be Here?
Another of Queen Caroline’s contributions to Kensington Gardens was the Orangery, a building that is over 300 years old and is still used for events and gatherings today.
Never Grow Up
As mentioned, Prince Albert isn’t the only person with a statue in Kensington Gardens. The Gardens were part of the inspiration for J.M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan, and so there is fittingly a statue of Peter located there. It can be found near the Long Water in a spot where Peter lands in the book The Little White Bird. The bronze statue was made by Sir George Frampton, and several recastings exist throughout the world. Installed in 1912, it has been Grade II listed since 1970. Interestingly, Barrie didn’t seek permission to have it installed, though it is now such an important part of the park that people got rather upset when Royal Parks replaced the plinth last year.
In the Movies
Kensington Gardens has been a popular place for filming over the years, and plenty of movies take place there including Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Bridge Jones: The Edge of Reason, Wimbledon, and appropriately enough, Finding Neverland, the film about Barrie’s creation of Peter Pan.
While King Henry used it to hunt deer, Kensington Gardens has seen many transformations and additions in its time. Queen Caroline transformed it into a landscape garden; Queen Victoria turned it into memorial to her late husband, the Diana Memorial Playground was added in 2000 after Diana’s work for children all over the world. If you visit the playground today, you’ll notice Peter Pan as a major influence in its design as it includes teepees and a pirate ship.
Not One but Two
The Serpentine Gallery is actually two galleries: the Serpentine Sackler and the Serpentine Pavilion. Each has a distinct artistic flavor, and they are rarely open at the same time
While a ceilidh might breach all those social distancing rules, a little bit of haggis never hurt anybody. Here’s a selection of meal kits and food orders you can still get to yours in time for a grand at-home celebration of Burns Night this coming Monday (January 25).
Townsend’s Burns Night feast (pictured above)
Don’t just stop at neeps and tatties. Get stuck into a decadent three-course feast from the Whitechapel Gallery’s Townsend. Either side of the trad haggis main course you’ll get cullen skink and rhubarb and ginger cranachan. If you want to take yourself to even higher Scottish culinary heights, add on a Rob Roy cocktail and a fancy Scottish cheeseboard. From £40, serves two. Order for delivery by Thu 21. www.townsendrestaurant.co.uk
Mac & Wild’s haggis taco kit
In a year where nothing is normal, switch up the Scottish traditions and instead have yourself a haggis taco. Highlands-inspired London restaurant Mac & Wild is letting you have a fling with the special Scottish sausage meat, sending out meal kits filled with tortillas, venison haggis, pickled neeps and crispy tattie bits. £30, serves four. Delivery within 48 hours. www.restaurantkitsuk.com
St John’s Burns Night menu
Nobody does weird meaty bits better than St John. That’s why we’re thrilled they’re dishing up a kit complete with haggis, neeps and tatties for two. If you’ve found that in among everything else that’s going on in the world, Burns Night has crept up on you this year, it appears the same thing may have happened for St John. As such, their wee party kit is available a little after the big day so you can embrace a belated address to the haggis. £32, for collection from St John Bread and Wine, Spitalfields. www.stjohnrestaurant.com.
When in Rome, you’ll often hear a Roman waiter say, “Try cacio e pepe!” And often, tourists will not know exactly what that means. But I can assure you that cacio e pepe is one of the best pasta Roman cuisine has to offer – both throughout history and today. And it boasts just 3 ingredients! Cheese. Pepper. Pasta.
Cacio e Pepe history
Cheeses, like Italy, have an ancient history. Pecorino, also known as cacio in Roman dialect, is a sheep’s cheese that was made for centuries on the coast of the Mediterranean, in North Africa, and in Asia Minor. There is evidence that pecorino was consumed 3,000 years before Christ. The art of producing this cheese has been around since the Ancient Greeks, and the Romans spread cheese throughout their empire like Philadelphia on a bagel.
How did the Romans get the Black Pepper?
The second ingredient, pepper, has been around since prehistoric times. The Egyptians even used it: black pepper was found on the mummified corpse of Ramses II from 1212 BC! About 2,500 years ago pepper spread through Greece and then the Roman Empire. It was an expensive and precious spice and was often used as a currency. Alarico, the king of Visgoti in 408 BC, wanted to conquer Rome. Instead, the Romans bartered with this tyrant. In exchange for not invading Rome the king was given 5,000 pounds of gold, a parcel of land and 3,000 pounds of pepper.
Is Pasta originally from Italy?
The answer is: NO! Pasta has been around for a long time as well. The oldest evidence of pasta is from 4,000 years ago when a plate of rice spaghetti was served in northwest China. In those days, the Chinese didn’t have the grains that existed in Europe and in the Middle East. But soon after the Etruscans, the Arabs, the Greeks and the Romans all produced pasta similar to what we eat today. The ancient Romans used the term laganum for dough that was composed of water and flour and was kneaded and cut in strips. This was similar to what we now call fettuccine.
And so, the recipe for cacio e pepe was perfected ages ago. It was a common staple for shepherds who spent months outside herding. Shepherds always carried a piece of aged pecorino, pepper and dried pasta in their bags. Together with a piece of lard to lubricate iron skillets, they had everything they needed to produce a complete and tasty meal.
It was the perfect recipe for many reasons:
Pecorino doesn’t spoil easily, so it was ideal for their long journeys.
Pepper was a spice that generated body heat in cold temperatures, so it protected the shepherds from frigid weather during their night watches
Pasta provided them with the carbohydrates and calories they needed to see their work through.
Cacio e Pepe Today
Many have tried to modify this ancient recipe. Variations exist with Parmigiano, oil and other forms of pasta (like rigatoni or bucatini). But you shouldn’t bother. None of these variations make a pasta as good as the original cacio e pepe.
Cacio e Pepe Recipe
The actual recipe only calls for: spaghetti number 5, ground black pepper and grated Roman Pecorino DOP. While the spaghetti is cooking in salted water, put the grated pecorino and pepper into a glass or aluminum bowl. When the pasta is al dente, take it out of the pan with a pasta spoon, not a colander! (Do not drain the pasta as some of the salted water needs to be preserved.) Add the spaghetti to the bowl with the pecorino and pepper. Add two ladles of pasta water to the ingredients and mix together well. As the pasta is being tossed, the hot water adds a final bit of cooking to the al dente pasta and allows for all the pasta to be uniformly coated with the cheese and pepper. Serve immediately.
The perfect wine to match Cacio e Pepe?
A well-known white from Lazio that is balanced, structured, and full-bodied will create a nice contrast with the saltiness of the cacio and the spiciness of the pepe. This wine is Falesco – Poggio dei Gelsi – Est! Est! Est! di Montefiascone D
In the glass this wine is a straw yellow color and has reflections of green. It smells of hints of white flowers, specifically hawthorn and wisteria, white musk, and mature pear, pineapple and golden apple. The aroma is intense, clean and pleasant. It is also well balanced and has a hint of minerality.
The flavor corresponds well with its bouquet. Poggio Dei Gelsi is smooth, harmonious, and finishes with medium persistence. The aftertaste hints at both plum and almond.
Poggio Dei Gelsi is a blend of 40% roscetto, 30% trebbiano and 30% malvasia grapes.It has 12.5 % alcohol.
Do you want to learn how to make Cacio e Pepe from a top-class chef? Francesco from the glorious Spirito DiVino restaurant is waiting for you in our online experience!
UPDATE (January 15): In an effort to stop as-yet-unidentified new strains of the virus entering the country, the UK government today announced that all travel corridors would be removed temporarily from Monday (January 18) until at least February 15.
All incoming travellers must now provide a negative test result from within the past 72 hours and quarantine for ten days (or five days if they take another test at their own expense and it comes back negative).
Over the past six months, you likely will have heard about the UK’s ‘air bridges’ for quarantine-free travel to around 60 countries. For anyone eager to get out and explore the world again, it sounds like the stuff of lockdown-induced dreams.
Look closer at the details, however, and your options don’t seem quite so expansive. Just because the UK has opened up a ‘travel corridor’ with a country – removing a mandatory self-quarantine period on arrival back to the UK, and revoking the official advice against travel – doesn’t mean you’re welcome there.
In fact, in many cases, countries on the UK’s safe-travel list still have their borders closed to international visitors and no flights available. In other places, you’re free to travel but you’ll still face a quarantine of up to 14 days on arrival. And since a new, more transmissible Covid-19 variant first detected in the South-East of England was found to have spread across the whole country, many nations have now suspended flights to and from the UK entirely.
Meanwhile, growing concern over another more infectious strains circulating in South Africa and Brazil has led to the UK banning travel altogether from several African countries, all of South America and Portugal. New rules aiming to curb the spread of new strains also require travellers to the UK to present a negative test result from within the past 72 hours on arrival.
(Note also that under the new nationwide lockdowns in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, overseas travel is not allowed except for ‘essential’ reasons such as for work or education.)
So the question is: where can you actually go, and not have to quarantine either when you land or when you return home? Here are all the countries and territories currently open to UK travellers, along with information on flights, testing, and health and accommodation forms you may have to fill out.
Antigua and Barbuda
This Caribbean archipelago is allowing in Brits, but you must complete an accommodation form in advance and a ‘health declaration’ form on the flight, as well as provide a negative test result from within seven days of arrival. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are running direct flights.
You must fill out a ‘health declaration’ form before departure and present a negative test result from within the past 72 hours on arrival. There are no direct flights.
As of October 25, the Maldives is now on the UK’s ‘travel-corridor’ list. All international visitors must present a negative test result from within 96 hours of arrival. British Airways is already running direct flights. Note that all non-tourist arrivals (such as residents, work visa holders and returning students) will have to quarantine for ten days.
There are no quarantine restrictions. All travellers will, however, be required to bring a negative test result from within the past five days, and take another test on arrival and self-isolate for 24 hours while awaiting the results. There are no direct flights.
Brits arriving on the Caribbean island must provide a negative test result from within the past week. There will be further temperature checks at the airport, and you must spend your entire stay at an ‘authorised’ hotel. BA is running direct flights from London.
Turks and Caicos Islands
As of November 14, the British overseas territory has joined the UK’s ‘travel-corridor’ list. You will have to provide a negative test result from within the past five days on arrival, along with valid health insurance and a completed ‘travel authorisation’ form. There are no direct flights.
An up-to-date list of all UK ‘travel corridors’ can be found here. But remember that, as in the case of Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Croatia, France and Turkey, the British government may choose to reimpose restrictions at a few hours’ notice, meaning you could still have to quarantine when you get home. Note also that rules may differ slightly for travellers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Certain ‘high-value’ business travellers, along with journalists, sportspeople and performing arts professionals, should also be aware that, as of December 5, they may no longer need to quarantine on their return from any country.
Remember, many countries are still warning against all non-essential travel and some are quarantining all overseas arrivals, including their own returning citizens. Check all the relevant restrictions before you think about travelling.