Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The British Museum - Afghanistan Exhibition

Today's post looks at the spectacular new exhibition being held at The British Museum - Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World.

The exhibition showcases some beautiful pieces from a beautiful country, that has unfortunately been ravaged by war over its recent history. Located on the ancient silk roads between India, China, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, Afghanistan has been influenced by many cultures over the years.

The exhibition follows a timeline of Afghanistan's history, dating back to several thousand years BC, right up to the present day.

"Nearly lost during the years of civil war and Taliban rule, these surviving treasures reveal Afghanistan's ancient culture, its immense fragility and its remarkable place in world history" (British Museum)

The treasures featured include: pottery, glassware, sculptures, coins, statues, jewellery and possessions of travellers from along the ancient silk trading routes. There are brightly coloured pieces of glassware that were influenced by ancient Egyptians in their design and a magnificent golden crown that is pictured at the start of this post.

The exhibition begins with a video that portrays the beauty of the country as well as some of the more poignant images from recent times. It does however provide a fantastic overview of the country, its history and the lengths that its people will go to, to protect their ancient treasures.

Although not large in the physical sense, the exhibition does showcase a large number of items. I visited the day after it opened and in my opinion, the time slots given for admittance should have been spaced a little further apart. There is an obvious route to follow round the exhibition, but don't expect to pop in for a quick look as it can get quite busy.

To access the exhibtion entrance if you use a wheelchair, mobility scooter or cannot manage stairs, use the lift at the back of the round Millennium building that stands in the centre of the museum's grand foyer. Once inside, the exhibition is all on the same level and there is a different lift at the end of the exhibition, past the gift shop, that can take you back down to ground level.

The cost to visit the exhibition is: Adults - £10 Children - FREE Disabled Visitors - £8 Carer - FREE.

To access the museum itself if you use a wheelchair, mobility scooter or cannot manage stairs, there are 2 lifts, 1 either side of the entrance steps that will lift you up to the entrance level. For more information on access, please call the museum's Access and Equality Manager on 020 7323 8506.

This is a fantastic exhibition and one not to be missed. It runs until 3rd July 2011.

Please feeel free to leave a comment and to follow this blog. Thank you once again for supporting disability access in London.

COMING NEXT - Spring in the Royal Parks
COMING SOON - Love Never Dies, The National Gallery

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Royal Afternoon Tea at The Cavendish

Welcome back to Access London, thank you once again to all my readers. I am pleased and proud to say that this blog has been recognised on Twitter last week and awarded the Bronze Helper Badge. Thank you very much to @twithelpme for this award.

Whilst this blog is about London, its amazing sites and attractions and the access it provides to those with disabilities, I would just like to take a moment to say that my thoughts are currently with all of those in Japan after the terrible earthquake they suffered last week. After finding out my own family were safe out there, I have been thinking of others who are not.

Today's post focuses on Access London's recommended hotel for 2011, The Cavendish, and in particular, the splendid Afternoon Royal-Tea that they are running to celebrate Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding next month. Throughout the whole of April, you can enjoy a touch of Royal-Tea at this stylish, central London hotel in anticipation of the Royal event.

The Cavendish is located on Jermyn Street, Piccadilly, in the heart of London (it can be found opposite Fortnum and Masons). If you are disabled, there is a drop off point and accessible entrance to the hotel located on Duke Street Saint James's. From reception, you can take one of the lifts up to the first floor to the welcoming and relaxing lounge area. This is where "A Taste of Royal-Tea" will be served. Once in the lounge, it is all on one level, so they are no access issues in this venue.

Not only can you enjoy this tasty and stylish afternoon tea, but for the whole of April, you can enjoy it for the spectacular price of just £15 per person.

A touch of Royalty is not new to this fantastic hotel: "The Cavendish has a rich history of serving Royalty. Our former proprietor Rosa Lewis - the famous British chef who ran the hotel from 1902-1952 - cooked for several Royal occasions. Her clients included Queen Victoria's son Edward VII and Winston Churchill's family" (Ciaran Fahy, Managing Director at The Cavendish).

The staff at The Cavendish are some of the most warm, welcoming and friendly in any London hotel. The service is impecable and every effort is made to cater for individual needs.

The Royal-Tea includes:

Traditional scones, Cornish clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam


Smoked Salmon Sandwiches
Cucumber Sandwiches


Traditional fruit cake with Royal icing
Victoria sponge
William's pear and almond tart


A selection of Katie's chocolate truffles

As you can see, the menu follows a traditional and Royal theme as you would expect when celebrating a lavish Royal wedding.

The Cavendish is one of the most eco-friendly hotels in London, receiving the Most Sustainable Business Award from Visit London in 2010 and three gold stars from the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

Whether you are staying in London or simply visiting for the day, Access London definitely recommends a visit to The Cavendish next month to enjoy their afternoon Royal-Tea, in relaxing and sophisticated surroundings. Afterwards, why not stroll through the park to Buckingham Palace or walk down towards Westminster Abbey to complete your Royal Day?

To make a reservation for the afternoon Royal-Tea and even treat yourself to a night's stay at The Cavendish, please call: 020 7930 2111. Remember, this fantastic price of £15 per person for Royal-Tea is only on offer throughout April 2011.
Visit The Cavendish Website Here

COMING NEXT: The National Gallery
COMING SOON: Love Never Dies, The British Museum

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Rainforest Cafe - Part 2

Welcome back to Access London. If this is your first visit, please feel free to browse through my other posts which include videos, interviews and pictures from: Phantom of the Opera, The Cavendish Hotel, The British Museum and The Gielgud Theatre, plus many more.

As promised in my last post, I had the opportunity recently to interview someone from the fabulous Rainforest Cafe - a fun and exciting restaurant in the heart of London (Piccadilly Circus). To find out more about the restaurant, including viewing a video I took last weekend, please see my last post. So, without further ado, on with the interview....

AL: Who are you and what is your role at The Rainforest Cafe?
MA: I am Mark Ager, Sales and Marketing Manager at the Rainforest Cafe: London's largest family restaurant, located just 2 minutes from Piccadilly Circus.

AL: Can you briefly explain how The Rainforest Cafe is accessible to those with mobility problems and disabilities?
MA: At the time of booking, we ask if there are any mobility issues that we need to be aware of and send across to them an 'Access Statement' that gives instructions of how to access the jungle. If someone just arrives at the restaurant, a Manager will be notified and we provide assistance and advise of the entrance/access point for entry into The Rainforest Cafe. For us to remain compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act, we are only permitted to have two wheelchairs in the venue at any one time.

AL: What is it about The Rainforest Cafe that makes it unique and a great night out?
MA: A fully themed oasis, located in the heart of the West End, with Theatreland on your doorstep. With tropical rainstorms, animatronics and a funky-themed menu, the restaurant is suitable for the whole family.

AL: How would you describe the menu at The Rainforest Cafe?
MA: American European with a wild tropical twist!

AL: Do you cater for vegetarians and those with allergy and free-from diets?
MA: Of course! Our entire menu is highlighted with its suitability for various diets, allergies and intolerances. Our staff are fully trained on this and even when taking reservations we ask if there are any allergies or mobility issues that we need to be aware of. Again on arrival, our Safari Guides (our Waiters!) will ask if it's a special occasion and if there are any allergies that we should be aware of and we can then guide you through the menu accordingly.

AL: Being named after one of the most endangered landscapes in the world, what is The Rainforest Cafe doing to help with the preservation of the world's rainforests?
MA: A lot! Since 1997 and up until December 2010, Rainforest Cafe has made donations to the World Land Trust 'Buy an Acre' Fund to purchase, protect, manage and replant 785 acres of threatened tropical forest in Ecuador. This equates to 785 football pitches or an area almost 2.5 times the size of Hyde Park!

This has been achieved via a number of ways including, a donation from certain dishes on the menu and the money thrown into our 'ponds' is washed and given to the World Land Trust.

We also run Education Tours for schools and frequently do talks about the rainforests and how important they are to the world.

AL: If people visit the Rainforest Cafe to celebrate a special occasion, what can be done to help make it a really special night for them?
MA: We can arrange a cake (currently a Triple Chocolate Layer Cake), get the crew to sing Happy Birthday - this can be done for all ages (my dad of 80 was very pleased about this!) and provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere for everyone. Or, simply, something sparkly in the desert and again the crew can sing Happy Birthday. We do of course offer birthday party packages for the under 12's, which includes pary invites, activity packs and all sorts to make them smile :)

AL: Can you sum up in 5 words, The Rainforest Cafe Experience?
MA: Our tag line is 'A Wild Place to Shop and Eat!' Themed Fun, Central Location, Great Menu, Unique.

Access London would like to offer a huge thanks to Mark Ager for taking the time to answer our questions and also to all the team and safari guides at The Rainforest Cafe for helping us to enjoy a fun and unique evening.

To make a reservation at The Rainforest Cafe and/or to discuss any Access requirements, please call: 020 7434 3111.

COMING NEXT: 'Royal-Tea' at The Cavendish to celebrate the Royal Wedding
COMING SOON: Love Never Dies, The National Gallery

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Rainforest Cafe - Part 1

Welcome back to Access London everyone. Thanks once again for your continued support, it really does help to spread the word about better access for those with disabilities in London.

Today's post is on The Rainforest Cafe - a really fun, tropical rainforest themed restaurant in the heart of the urban rainforest of London. The Rainforest Cafe can be found on Shaftesbury Avenue, just behind the Trocadero Centre.
This entrance leads straight into the Cafe's shop, a great place to visit whether you are going to be dining there or not: with a crocodile and waterfall to your right upon entering and parrots flying above your head, this is a fantastic place to pop into when in Theatreland.

The cafe itself is beneath street level, down a flight of stairs. However, it can also be accessed by an alternative, disbaled access entrance. I would advise booking or ringing the Cafe in advance so that you can be met by a member of staff who can then take you around to the accessible entrance. This entrance needs to be accessed from the front of the Trocadero and a guide will take you round there. Once inside the Trocadero you will be guided through a series of lifts and passages until you reach the lower ground level of the cafe. On this level, you will be greeted by the Cafe's Tropical Experience: fish tanks, jungle, animatronic apes, parrots, butterflies, lizards, streams, waterfalls, frogs and the occasional thunderstorm!

The staff are all extremely helpful at the Cafe and can even tell you the names of the tropical friends that dine beside you. The menu is fairly vast and I would definitely recommend trying one of the cocktails here (non-alcoholic ones are available for younger explorers). The cafe is child and group friendly (although please be aware that they can only accommodate 2 wheelchair/scooter users at any one time due to Health and Safety Laws). There are accessible toilets on the lower level too. The menu itself is well set out, giving you information on vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose-free and low calorie options.

As mentioned above, every 30 minutes or so, the cafe recreates a Rainforest Thunderstorm with sound effects and lightening - but don't worry, you won't need your umbrella!

This is a fun and entertaining night out for the whole family, groups and couples and so centrally located that it makes the perfect location for a late afternoon dinner pre-theatre.

Here is some video I took when visiting.

To make a reservation at The Rainforest Cafe and/or to discuss Access arrangements, please call: 020 7434 3111. You can also visit their website to check out the exciting menu at: href="">

Please check back tomorrow as Access London has an exclusive interview with the Marketing Manager from The Rainforest Cafe. Feel free to leave a comment and follow the blog.

COMING NEXT: Rainforest Cafe Part 2
COMING SOON: Love Never Dies and The National Gallery

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Phantom of the Opera & Her Majesty's Theatre - Part 3

Welcome back to Access London. Firstly, we would like to say a big Thank You for your continued support of the blog, it means a lot and we really appreciate every one of our readers.

Today sees Access London's final post in its series on Phantom of the Opera. To read more about the show, the access to Her Majesty's Theatre and an interview with the Phantom himself, John Owen Jones, please see out previous posts.

Access London recently had the privilege of interviewing Sofia Escobar who is currently playing Christine Daae in Phantom at Her Majesty's.

Sofia, who was born in Portugal, has played Maria in West Side Story and also performed as Christine as part of the 10,000th performance of Phantom at Her Majesty's.

AL: London is home to actors of many nationalities. Why did you choose London in particular to come and study and perform?
SE: I chose London because of its diversity, its rich cultural life and also because of the reputation of the school I went to, Guildhall School of Music and Dance.

AL: Christine Daae is one (if not the) biggest female roles in musical theatre. What most attracted you to the role?
SE: Christine really is a dream come true for an aspiring musical theatre performer. In my case it's one of the most complete roles: it combines everything to a very high standard - the wonderful music, the dancing and the acting, supported by an amazing script makes Phantom of the Opera the success that it is, running for almost 25 years.

AL: What did it mean to you being part of Phantom's 10,000th performance?
SE: It was surreal to be onstage with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Michael Crawford. It was a moment I'll cherish for the rest of my life. It was unbelieveable and a real honour to have been part of it.

AL: Which scene or song is your favourite to perform in Phantom?
SE: It's hard to say because they are all so beautiful but having to choose one I'd pick 'Wishing' because of the intensity of those words, anyone who has ever lost someone will know exactly what I mean.

AL: If you could choose any other role to play in musical theatre, what would it be?
SE: There are a number of parts I'd still love to play in my career. I really can't choose just one!

AL: How do you prepare yourself before a show?
SE: I usually arrive to my dressing room very early. I like having time to prepare. I do my make-up and hair and start warming up my body with stretching exercises and then vocal warm up. I also like to have time to really focus on the part.

Access London would like to offer a huge Thank You to Sofia for taking the time to talk to us. We hope you enjoyed hearing what she had to say as much as we did.

Phantom of the Opera is a 'Phantastic' night out and Access London would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the whole cast and crew at Her Majesty's for all their hard work and also to all of the front of house staff who are some of the friendliest and helpful in the West End. To book tickets, please call: 0844 412 4653. To book access tickets, please call: 0844 412 4648.

Access London will be posting about the amazing sequel to Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, very soon.

In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment and to follow the blog, there is lots more to come!

COMING SOON: The National Gallery, The 39 Steps, Love Never Dies, The Rainforest Cafe

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Phantom of the Opera & Her Majesty's Theatre - Part 2

Welcome back to Part 2 of Access London's posts on the fabulous Phantom of the Opera. To read more about the show and also the access to Her Majesty's Theatre, please see our previous post.

Phantom of the Opera opened in London in 1986 with the Phantom played by Michael Crawford and Christine by Sarah Brightman. Since then many amazing actors have taken the parts of these wonderful characters and spent time making the role their own. Previous Phantoms include: Peter Cousens, Dave Willetts, Peter Polycarpou, Earl Carpenter, Ramin Karimloo and Scott Davies. The role of Christine has since been played by: Rebecca Caine, Rachel Barrell, Leila Benn Harris, Robyn North and Gina Beck.

The current cast sees the amazingly talented John Owen Jones reprise the role of the Phantom, having played the role previously between 2001 and 2005. Christine is currently being performed by Sofia Escobar and Raoul by Will Barrett.

Access London had the 'Phantastic' privilege to ask the Phantom himself, John Owen Jones, a few questions recently - so here's what the man behind the mask had to say.

AL: Phantom is a huge role in musical theatre and has been played by some amazing actors. What attracted you most to the role?
JOJ: I thought it would be interesting to explore the reality of a person who's basically a sociopath. It was unlike anything I'd ever done before.

AL: In your opinion, why do you think audiences fall in love with Phantom of the Opera and come to see it time and again?
JOJ: Probably because it's one of the most perfect theatrical experiences that you can have - the music, the story, the design, the direction....

AL: Phantom has lots of technical elements and special effects. Do you have a tale to tell of any mishap during a show?
JOJ: Many things have gone wrong but, one that I remember vividly was when the boat broke down and we had to 'walk on water' to reach The Lair!

AL: You have played two of the biggest roles in West End Theatre (The Phantom and Valjean). If you could choose any other musical role to play, what would it be?
JOJ: Sweeney Todd, Billy Flynn in Chicago, Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, George in Sunday in the Park with George....

AL: How do you prepare yourself before a show and going on stage to perform?
JOJ: I do a gentle vocal and physical warm up and then I listen to heavy rock music - Very Loud!

Access London would like to offer a huge Thank You to John Owen Jones for taking the time to talk to us and we hope you all enjoyed hearing what he had to say as much as we did.

John also performs alongside other West End stars (of Phantom fame) in The Three Phantoms concerts. To find out more and to see when future events are taking place, please see John also has an amazing self-entitled solo albumn out. To find out where you can buy or download the albumn from, please see You can also follow John on Twitter @johnowenjones

John is in Phantom of the Opera until September 2011, so please go and watch him, Sofia and the rest of the cast perform this 'Phantastic' show. For tickets call: 0844 412 4653. For Access tickets call: 0844 412 4648.

Access London continues with Phantom of the Opera for one last post tomorrow, featuring another special interview, this time with Sofia Escobar (Christine Daae), so we hope you will come back and join us for that.

Finally, here is a short video that was filmed during Children in Need 2010 where you can see John performing the famous song from Phantom 'The Music of the Night'.

Please feel free to leave a comment and follow us.

COMING NEXT: Phantom of the Opera Part 3 - Christine's Interview
COMING SOON: The National Gallery and The 39 Steps