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Green spaces are the perfect way to escape London’s busy streets and towering skyscrapers – no matter the season, you’ll always find a beautiful garden to explore. Parks and gardens cover approximately 35,000 acres of London and the surrounding areas, so a calming stroll will never be too far afield (pun intended). Unlike many of London’s other attractions, it’s parks are open to the public and entrance free of charge. Whether you fancy a picnic, an open-air performance, a gentle stroll or a more intense workout, London has no shortage of spaces to satisfy your needs.
From some of the most famous Royal Parks to other more secluded areas, here are our top outdoor spaces to explore in London:
- 1. Hyde Park, Kensington
As one of the largest Royal parks, the 142 famous acres of greenery please thousands of visitors each year. With over 4000 trees, many winding lakes and a rose garden, Hyde Park is perfect for a stroll, cycle or some rowing. The massive Serpentine lake, popular for swims with swans and ducks in summer, and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain shouldn’t be missed either.
- 2. Kensington Gardens, Knightsbridge
Originally opened in 1841 alongside its neighbour, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens is ideal spot to unwind in central London. The vast green grasses make for the best picnic spots and the Princess Diana playground is sure to keep children entertained for hours in the summer.
- 3. Regent’s Park
This Royal park is the home to the London Zoo, an open-air theatre and proudly offers London’s largest outdoor sports ground. There’s always something to see here, from giraffes and tigers to some classical Shakespeare, to a football or cricket match.
- 4. Greenwich Park, Greenwich
Not only is Greenwich park the oldest Royal Park, but it’s probably the most well known. More than 30 movies have used Greenwich’s iconic hillsides as the perfect London backdrop; walking to the top of the hill reveals breathtaking views of the Thames and the cityscape below. Apart from being a movie destination, the 183 acres are a haven to deer, fox and over 70 types of birds. In addition, this park is home to the Greenwich Meridian Line which defines Longitude Zero (0° 0′ 0″) which divides the earth into 2 hemispheres.
- 5. St. James’s Park
This park is a wonder for sightseers as it provides picturesque views of Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the London Eye. St. James’s Park also provides superb bird watching opportunities – in 1664 a Russian ambassador donated pelicans to the park, which now have formed a celebrated colony which are fed daily at 2:30 pm.
- 6. Hampstead Heath, Dartmouth Park
Only 4 miles from central London, the view from the top of Parliament hill is so beautiful that is protected by law. Between the hills, ponds, woodlands and playgrounds, Hampstead’s unmanicured grasslands are unique and welcomed among dog walkers and outdoor enthusiasts.
- 7. Isabella Plantation, Richmond
The distinctive and unusual rhododendrons and azaleas bloom into bright shades of pink and red in April and May, creating a shocking contrast against the deep greens of the surrounding woodlands. If an icey swim in the ponds seems unappealing, a climb up King Henry’s mound is well-worth the trek for the spectacular view of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
- 8. Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington
For a more gothic and spooky experience, the damp and overgrown woodlands surrounding the Abney park cemetery are great for exploration. If the 200-year-old, derelict chapel in the centre isn’t of interest, guided tours and woodworking courses are also on offer.
- 9. Hill gardens & Pergola, Hampstead
For a fairytale experience, the luxurious and immaculate gardens and pergolas give a peek into 20th-century garden parties. In the 1900s famous politicians and philanthropists would make use of this space to host grand events for the super-rich. Now, slightly overgrown, a gentle stroll between the exotic fauna transports you to another time.
- 10. Chiswick House & Garden
The regal flowers and pathways which surround Chiswick house have been the inspiration of other famous gardens around the world like Central Park in New York. Every January, the park comes alive at night with brilliant lanterns and illuminated sculptures in the Magical Lantern Festival which celebrates art, heritage and culture.
The growing aviation industry has a large impact on climate change, producing more CO2 emissions than any other method of transport. The efficiency of aircraft, therefore, does not only cost the environment, but also the passenger through their airfare. In order to restrict the total global warming to its 2-degree limit (whilst the demand for aircraft seats rises 5% annually), investments have been made into the economical consumption of fuel in aircraft. New developments in aircraft technologies have made improvements to the range of flights per unit of jet fuel, thereby reducing flight costs: the less fuel burnt per flight the cheaper the ticket for passengers.
New technological advances in aerodynamics have the greatest impact on fuel efficiency; the inclusion of winglets on aircraft can result in a 6% decrease in fuel emissions as these devices found at the tip of the wings create additional thrust. Moreover, technology still in development such as ‘blended wing bodies’ are expected to reduce fuel consumption by up to 27% as well as a 15% weight reduction. NASA expects such designs for commercial craft could be available by 2035.
Beyond changes to the physical design of aircraft, techniques can be applied in-flight to reduce the amount of fuel consumed. Studies have shown that strategic navigation through imperfect weather can impact how fuel is saved: avoiding rough winds and storms by using a ‘flexible navigation system’ that makes use of real-time data can diminish CO2 emissions by 1.4 tonnes per flight.
Modern aircraft that consider weight and reduced air resistance are becoming more common as a result of their clear advantages in fuel efficiency. Airbus and Boeing, with a combined market share of 88%, are introducing slightly smaller, highly fuel-efficient craft to compete with their flagships (the A380 and 747 respectively). Boeing has announced its new ‘737 Max 10’ craft with greater range, capacity and cost efficiency. The 737 Max 10 promises great fuel savings as a result of engine and aerodynamic advances; the Max 10 is said to be 12% more efficient than the current 737s. Additionally, Boeing claims that this craft will incur 5% less operating costs compared to its greatest competitor the Airbus A321neo.
Much like the 737 Max 10, the A321neo is a single-aisle craft, considered the workhorse of airlines. As these smaller crafts are now capable of crossing the Atlantic and carrying more passengers, their efficiency and lower operational costs are attractive for common routes offered by airlines. The A320neo claims to be the “most advanced and fuel-efficient” aircraft thanks to their new-generation engines and “fuel-saving” devices located on its wingtips. Airbus asserts that their neo range boasts 15% less fuel-consumption than the regular A320s.
Larger, quad-engine craft like the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 are gradually being phased out due to their larger fuel consumption caused by their greater wing weight and smaller engine-fan diameter. Hence these modern, twin-jet, aeroplanes are now preferred by airlines as their lighter bodies are capable of the same range of the aforementioned heavier craft, with far less fuel consumption.
With more than 50,000 aircraft expected to be in service by 2040, the significance of fuel-efficient technologies used by aircraft are not only important for the increasing impact aviation has on the planet, but the cost-efficacy of flying in general.
I’ve been to Seoul Airport a total of eight times, this is likely more than the average person on earth. My arrivals are short and sweet almost always making my way through immigration peacefully on to the bus ticket counter, and then on to my final destination. This is the boring part of the airport, generally. However, on departure, it is a wholly different story – this airport is world-class and I have only ever had one better experience (and that marginally so) at Singapore Airport.
Seoul Airport has an ice rink. Let’s stop right there. My home city didn’t have one, a city of a few million, and then this airport has one! When you add the fact that they have a film theatre, a driving range (a little way off), the typical restaurants, free-to-use massage chairs, and the all important, famous-to-Korea jim jil bang you realise it is a super duper airport. The jim jil bang is quite simply a glorified sauna and spa where you can soak to your heart’s content in jacuzzi type pools of varying temperature. Add in a shower, some other nice things, and you have the perfect recipe for prepping your body for a long haul flight – something I have really wanted over and over again. I’ve showered at Heathrow, at Dubai, and at Singapore Airport but I think the Seoul Airport shower (the free ones this time) were by far the best and that warm water dumping down over your body really soothes and relaxes you pre-flight. You kind of feel like Kolbe beef, actually.
Of course, if that is not enough you can move over to the massage chairs that are free to use (not that common in other airports!) and watch something on the big screen in front of you, one of many. I did this for about 2 minutes before I was bored and wanted to explore more – you only get about four hours maximum in any airport’s “waiting to board” area, and less on the day I almost got bumped up.
On my penultimate time flying out of Seoul Airport I had this gut-feel or God impressed notion I was going to be asked to relinquish my seat and potentially “miss” my flight so that the overbooked flight could depart with no-one upset – a situation that happens often will all the overbooking of flights, it’s a carefully planned statistical game the airlines all play – and so I arrived expecting this. Lo and behold, it happened! Emirates were asking for 6-7 people to stay an extra night in Seoul in exchange for giving up their seat, and flying 24 hours later. I was so, so happy! Worst case scenario: you get about $50 worth of free duty-free shopping and make the flight. Best case scenario: you stay a night in a hotel in Seoul, explore the city, eat tasty treats, bus in to the airport the next day far more refreshed, and then fly out the next day but this time with a free return flight with Emirates to use at any time in the next year! Super-best scenario: you also get bumped up to business-class the next day! Unlikely, but possible…
All this to say it didn’t materialise and so I bought a load of chocolate and cigars in Dubai Airport, but it was worth the risk, I’d say.
The top 20 busiest airports accounted for 17% of all passenger traffic in 2017; the Airports International Council (ACI) reported a total of 1.5 billion travellers flew in 2017 (a 6.6% increase on previous years). As the air travel market rapidly increases, airports have recognised the need to present their spaces not only as first-world mega hubs for international travel but as welcoming destinations that encourage passengers to stay longer. And while airports continue to facilitate economic growth, their facilities and services are beginning to stretch beyond aviation. Here’s the list of the most-visited airports in the world:
In first place, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) saw 104 million passengers come and go, both internationally and domestically in 2017. With 2,500 flights and 275,000 passengers a day, this unassuming airport is home to such enormous volumes of passenger traffic due to its prime location. Although Atlanta is ranked the 7th most visited city for business, its location for 80% of Americans is only a 2-hour flight away, thereby making it the perfect destination for connecting flights. In addition, Delta airlines (the second largest airline in America) is headquartered in Atlanta and thus many of their flights are directed through Hartsfield-Jackson. It comes as no surprise then that Hartsfield-Jackson will undergo a $6 billion expansion and upgrade to its facilities over the next 20 years.
However, when considering only international travellers, Dubai international airport is the busiest with 89 million international passengers passing through their terminals in 2018. Following a similar strategy to Delta, a large portion of flights are the result of long-haul Emirates flights directed through Dubai, however, there is no shortage of diversity in their high amounts of traffic thanks to the 75 other airlines landing there. Whilst the high traffic volume in Dubai international airport is an economic strategy, the advantageous location between Africa, Asia and Europe makes Dubai a logical pit-stop. Peak traffic is expected in the weeks surrounding Christmas, with up to 100,000 passengers expected per day during the busy holiday period.
The next busiest airports are found in Asia: Beijing Capital International Airport saw 95 million passengers passing through their busy terminals, whilst Tokyo Haneda International Airport saw 85 million travellers in 2017. Asian airports are unique as their futuristic terminals are exciting destinations in their own right. Singapore’s Changi Airport was recently voted best in the world thanks to its wide range of facilities offered; from outstanding dining, shopping and leisure, the 62 million passengers served each year can marvel at incredible art installations, swim in the rooftop pool or wander through indoor butterfly gardens. The East is well-known for their ingenious use of modern technology, of which there is no shortage of in their airports: terminal 2 of Incheon airport in Seoul is known for their use of robots to assist with check-in, boarding, navigation and cleaning.
As the number of people flying grows each year, airports must endeavour to streamline all of their processes to accommodate the sheer weight of passenger traffic. In many cases, this streamlining needs to start on the highways leading into the airport where gridlock is becoming more common and affecting the road traffic in the cities surrounding airports.
Airports are ranked on multiple criteria with customer experience as a main focus. The Airport Service Quality awards determine their winners through annual international surveys; 600,000 surveys were answered in over 84 countries to rank the current best airports. Benchmarks such as value for money, availability of trolleys, cleanliness and layout are all considered. In 2017 it is estimated that 7.7 billion passengers travelled through 343 airports around the world. With no signs of the aviation industry slowing down (up to 300 million air passengers are predicted in Africa in the next 20 years), the incentive of winning the title of the best airport in Africa is growing.
According to the International Airports council the top 3 airports in Africa that service more than 2 million passengers per year are:
First place: Casablanca (CMN). Located 30 km from the city of Casablanca, Morocco is one of the top 5 busiest airports in Africa, serving 9 million passengers in 2017 through 30 different airlines. Its proximity to Europe makes it a perfect airport for common connecting flights to Paris and Dubai. With the 10-year renovations to their terminal 1 set to complete in July, Casablanca airport is expecting even more traffic, particularly through Qatar Airways (a new, exclusive partner of the terminal).
Second place: Mauritius (MRU). After undergoing a massive €270 million upgrade which doubled their capacity in 2013, this airport is now easily capable of transporting large volumes to their smaller island. These upgrades were set to improve economic growth in addition to better facilitating their booming tourist industry. At 56,900 square metres, the airport is the largest man-made structure on the island and consequently adheres to certain environmental policies. Hundreds of solar panels, natural lighting, indoor gardens and water-wise systems have all been installed to reduce the airport’s harmful effects on the island.
Third place: Durban (DUR). Known to service the golden triangle of transport between Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, King Shaka International is one of the busiest airports in Africa and as of October 2018, is the only airport to receive direct flights to Durban from London. The addition of this route is aimed to increase trade and business opportunities in Durban through overnight access to Europe. An 11% increase in international travel in December 2018 has indicated that the addition of this direct route is satisfying a large, untapped demand for flights to Durban. This growth saw 553,149 passengers travelling in December alone, consisting additionally of a new peak in flights between Dubai and Durban.
Although not awarded by ACI this year, previous winners Cape Town international airport and OR Tambo take the top spot according to Skytrax, an external ratings firm. Acting as the main gateways, these airports succeed in directing the most passenger traffic to Africa. And now with a multi-billion-rand upgrade investment planned for the terminals in Cape Town and OR Tambo, these airports will only be better equipped to manage the growing air travel industry.
Here’s how Skytrax ranked their top African airports in 2018:
- Cape Town
- East London
- Port Elizabeth
We hope you enjoyed that little lesson in Africa, and more so that you travel there one day soon!
LAX just launched a private terminal for the uber wealthy. $4000 to go through this terminal instead of where all the “plebs” transit. Seems a slight bit ridiculous to do this, considering you would be in the first class lounge anyway if you went through the regular terminal. But, you know how the rich are, if you can pay for something to set you apart, you will.
A brief reminder: this website is all about Heathrow, London, and Air Travel and so we are incorporating this news from abroad to help give Heathrow users and Londoners perspective.
Could such a thing be heading Heathrow’s way? With the expansion plans underway we would know by now if such a thing will happen but for me, it’s less about having the wealth in the UK to generate traffic through this, but more about culture. Americans love their wealth and love to flaunt it; a rich Brit is almost the opposite: slightly ashamed and desperately wanting to fit in and be normal, utterly hating the idea that people would think he or she would assume they are better than the rest. And that is why we love Britain, and the UK, and its people. Also, I am half British, so I am totally biased, just saying.
So much progress has been made in the Airline industry in previous decades that I think what is needed rather is an education of sorts. Educate the people who are waiting in a queue, or at an airport to do two quite paradoxical things:
- Appreciate how far travel has come. How fast, how far, how safe, how incredible it is. That it’s much, much better than ever before and it literally transports you better than any other experience (bar train travel, but that won’t get you over an ocean). Show this visually, demonstrate it with old videos, and safety stats.
- And then secondly, occupy people’s time at the airport. Help them absolutely love it. I personally can’t spend enough time at an airport – there are heaps and heaps of fascinating things to do there – it reminds me of one of my favourite essays by GK Chesterton, most especially the part of ‘small boy complain of having to hang about a railway station and wait for a train’, go and read it here. Get people to love the experience, to write about it, to visit the airport as an excursion, to make it far, far apart from a glorified bus station into a wide-eyed wonderment of modern engineering. A spectacle! I’d far rather go watch planes take off than opera, or a sports match – it’s a modern miracle that we can fly!
All this to say, LAX has started a trend, and it is one that will unlikely be followed by the likes of Dubai and Hong Kong and such, but doubtfully here in the UK. And for that, I am very grateful.
I am so sad to hear of the recent Ethiopian Airlines tragedy. Another in five months, but how many 737’s have gone down in fifty years? I feel the stats aren’t too kind to Boeing when the newspapers put it in the “five months” category but over time (and the huge amount of flights per day) it isn’t perhaps all that bad. Tragic, yes; but statistically… I am not so sure.
Reading this article on The Guardian made me wonder we all know Boeing will survive; it is likely state backed. Surely it is?! Without them it would just be Airbus (and super-dodgy Chinese planes) and we all know that the world needs perfect competition.
Every now and then I buy The Monocle. An expensive magazine, and full of things I cannot afford, it is a rare treat. However, for my annual leave this year I departed with nine books, a full copy (or two) of the FT, and The Monocle. I devoured each page and each article but I truly loved this editions insert – a really super brochure on Turkish Airlines, and their recent “revamp”. They are really going full out!
I read a little more on it here, and my wife (a marketing whizz) said that Turkish Airlines (let’s call them TA) would pay a huge fortune to have such a feature. I wondered why, but, after reading through it I am now a huge fan of the airline! They are set to have the biggest (or close to) the biggest hub in the world, and their east meets west geography has this psychological effect on you: namely that it literally does bridge east and west and that is just what an aeroplane is meant to do: connect those two worlds.
I’ve always loved the East. And the West. And even the Middle East. Now I feel I can love it all when in Istanbul – they say the city is like a New York meets the Middle East – as the city spans so much archaic culture yet is so modern and vibrant. I will have to see for myself one day…
That said, I was dreaming about a dream job (as one does at 4pm in the work day) and figured that being the Marketing Director for a huge firm like Turkish Airlines would be epic! Ethiopian Airlines, Singapore, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, BA – one of the big ones, that would be a dream. However, with this Monocle insert I can see that the person at the helm is already a very wise marketing guru and for now all I can do is learn and grow in my skills. One day I will have my chance but until then I shall just be in awe of the airline industry and continue with this here blog.
We went to Cape Town airport the other day, back in December while travelling in South Africa and up to Durban, on the east coast of the country. Although Africa doesn’t have amazing airports compared to those in the first world, there are some that are still beautiful and lovely to behold, if not world-class. Cape Town Airport was one of these!
It was pretty seamless when arriving, immigration was a cinch, the people friendly and it felt very safe, which is an obvious concern for most foreigners landing in Africa.
Crossrail is ambitious. Ambitious but necessary. As lung like London expands it leaves little room to breathe on a subway near you. Hence: Crossrail. We all know this, but let’s take a step back and appreciate just how far we have come.
Many eons ago (like 150 years) some legendary engineer started going underground with our transport needs. Very clever man (I forget his name) and viola! We now have a tube system. All great cities worldwide have them now. And they shuttle us across the suburbs, and we pop up at random (unless you are one of those who plans things and aims for something – I personally can’t quite work it out without visually seeing it before, as on a bus) and it always seems like magic when you appear someplace wholly different to that suburbs or borough before and you wonder: “How did I get here!?”. You got here via magic thing called the London Underground!
The time that passes underground seems bizarre and surreal and otherworldly. Like a minor miracle, you don’t quite cognitively acknowledge it – you believe it is real, but your science half of your brain (is it left or right) subtly disputes it’s authenticity. Your other half is rejoicing and jumping around and saying “Life is so cool!” and when they merge, they battle and draw a truce and you walk glumly off the platform and focus your attention on where you can get the flat white closest to you… oh how quickly our mind moves off the magnificent down into the mundane…
Crossrail has been brilliant in that it has forced us to recognise that what we have in London is incredible and how far we have come is, again, incredible. Now, like a crown on the top, it is becoming even more … super-fantastic (I couldn’t write incredible for the third time, that word would have been too watered down). The new stations, the new lines, the brilliance of linked lines, the decrease in time to Heathrow, how it has affected Heathrow airport because it’s now even more popular to catch a train there and fly out from Heathrow than pre-Crossrail, and just the general greatness of such a feat of engineering – and mostly locally done, I might add.
So, next time you step out, and step in to a tubular train take stock of how marvellous this city of London is, and how fortunate we are in this year of 2019.
I feel sorry for adults. One look at them standing next to a child at an airport and you realise that with all their years behind them, they have missed something. Or lost it. A train station is no different, or a canning factory, or a dry dock. A child will stare in fascination for hours, asking a hundred questions – or perhaps just standing quietly in awe – whilst an adult will over skim over the wonderous plethora of on-goings and mentally tick off “Train station. Please where trains arrive and leave. Place where I must catch my train by 14.10 or I shall be late, and then angry.”
Thankfully, the children of this earth (those not addicted to their smartphones) remind us each time the absolutely fascinating show going on before our eyes. Just how on earth does a plane take off? A huge hunk of metal weighing in at many tonnes lifts off the ground with simply air? Air! Air weights nothing. Air passing under a wing somehow catapults (not literally) that plane into the sky. With all those passengers. And their baggage. And their stories. Those last two often well interlinked. And a child gets it, but an adult: perhaps not.
As long as I can remember I have always found the airport a fascinating place. How does all the baggage end up on the right plane. How do they pack it? How do they sort it? If yours goes in last does it come out first? Is there a moral leaning there as set out by the airports company because, that isn’t really fair, is it? Maybe it is the captains choice – it’s “his” plane after all, or hers #moderngendernorms – or could it be those packing the plane, or the person checking in your baggage. Maybe they suss you out, based on your politeness, the warmth of your face, your smile, even your level of attraction… Who knows? But I do wonder.
Just that train of thought, and a million questions arise. One bag, one route, one destination, one hundred thoughts spring up. And this really is what we were made to do – to question, to think, to ponder, to debate, to imagine… and that is just how flight was born. We saw birds fly and someone wondered: is this limited to our feathered friends? Or can we fly? Icarus into the sun. Those Wright brothers into the future. And apparently some Koreans (this is a side story, where that nation believes they invented modern day flight).
All this to say, never lose your wonder. If you are in danger of doing so, find a child that has been brought up properly and then watch them watch. See what intrigues them. Allow them to question every little thing. And partake in their wonder of the world. It may not be an airport for you (I happen to have a fascination with transport, and engineering, and such – stay tuned for writings on Crossrail, in London) but whatever is your poison, delve deeper, and enjoy. And please, pretty please may it be something that goes beyond a fictionalised story on a wide screen.
Thank you, I am out.
PS. I feel guilty that I did not write this from an airport. Next time!
Don’t allow long layovers and flights to derail your diet. A healthy traveller is a happy traveller, and greasy fast-food or vending machine snacks don’t have to be your go-to meals.
Today’s Love your layover series article features some of the best healthy food delights Heathrow Airport has to offer. Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, allergic, or intolerant, Heathrow has something to offer. Here are our top picks:
Pret A Manger
This health conscious, sustainability-focused fresh food store is any health foodie’s dream. They prepare their food on-site daily, which guarantees its freshness. Pret offers a wide range of vegetarian, vegan, wheat- and gluten-free options (including vegan desserts and snacks!). They serve coffees and other warm drinks, juices, smoothies, wraps, salads, sandwiches, baked treats, and hot and cold breakfast items.
Where to find them:
- Terminal 3 (before security): Opening hours: 06:00-22:00.
- Terminal 4 (after security): Opening hours 06:00-21:00.
- Terminal 5 (after security): Opening hours 05:00-last departing flight.
If you love Asian-inspired food, look no further than Itsu. Founded in Chelsea, London in 1997, Itsu is all about fresh, nutritious meals on the go. They offer plenty of gluten-free options, as well as low-carb, vegan, and vegetarian meals and snacks. Think sushi, Asian bowls, noodles, soups, smoothies, and breakfast pots. Their food is freshly-prepared every day, and to minimise waste, they sell many dishes at half price before closing time. Bonus!
View their menu here.
Where to find them:
- Terminal 5 (after security): 04:30-last departing flight
EAT offers a wide variety of freshly-prepared foods that taste good and leave you feeling good. With an emphasis on using seasonal produce, many of their menu items change weekly and seasonally. They serve coffees, soups, hot pots, sandwiches, salads, breakfast pots and porridges, and hot and cold drinks. Their menu also offers several vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.
View their menu here.
Where to find them:
- Terminal 2 (after security): Opening hours: 05:00-last departing flight
- Terminal 3 (after security): Opening hours: 05:00-21:00
The best part? All three of the above outlets offer in-flight picnic services, so that you can enjoy fresh, healthy food throughout your flight. Visit the Heathrow Airport website for more details.