Jo Caird

Correspondent

  • London, England, UK

Born and brought up in London, Jo Caird is a correspondent who covers the city for Forbes Travel Guide. She writes on travel and the arts, reporting on a range of issues relating to the international culture scene, including theater, visual arts, film, literature, food and drink. Her travel stories, city guides and arts features appear regularly in newspapers, including The Guardian, The Independent and The Sunday Telegraph, and magazines, such as The Economist, Condè Nast Traveller and World of Interiors. Caird is never happier than when exploring her native city, except perhaps when telling people about the things she’s discovered there.

  • On July 31, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are London’s best house museums?

    Behind their modest exteriors, London's house museums conjure up bygone eras in the city's history and offer fascinating insights into the lives of their former owners. If you're looking for a more intimate museum experience than that available at the city's national institutions, step this way...

    Sir John Soane's Museum
    Architect and parliamentarian Sir John Soane built this house between 1792 and 1824 and gradually filled it with an eclectic collection of art, architecture and antiquities. It's been open as a museum ever since and is the sort of place you can visit again and again, getting something new from it each time. It's quietest first thing in the morning but at its most atmospheric on the monthly candle-lit evening openings.

    Charles Dickens Museum
    A short walk away in Holborn is the house occupied by 19th-century author Charles Dickens between 1837 and 1839. It reopened in 2012 following a major renovation; as well as the addition of a proper giftshop and cafe, this refurbishment allowed the curators to restore the house to its former Victorian glory, as it might have been in Dickens' day. Letters and portraits complete the picture.

    Sherlock Holmes Museum
    Another great literary figure to have a house museum dedicated to him is Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective and his ever patient companion Doctor Watson lived at 221b Baker Street and the team behind this museum have created a shrine to him on very nearly that exact spot (the museum is actually at number 239). Fans of the stories, and of Victoriana in general, will love the intricately styled interiors and waxwork recreations of well loved scenes.
  • On July 30, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are the best palaces to visit in London?

    For a glimpse of royal life past and present, you can’t beat London’s palaces, especially this year, the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Here are three not to be missed.

    Buckingham Palace
    The public rooms of the Queen’s London residence are now open to visitors for the annual Summer Opening (through September 29). Explore the 19 State Rooms including the Picture Gallery and the magnificent ballroom – which this summer is home to a display of robes and uniforms worn by the Royal Party during the Queen’s Coronation ceremony on June 2, 1953, as well as the jewels Elizabeth II wore that day.

    Kensington Palace
    You can’t visit the Kensington Palace home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their new baby George (their 21-room house is known as Apartment 1A), but you can see many other areas of the sumptuous 17th-century mansion that borders Kensington Gardens. Highlights include the State Apartments of Queen Mary II, William Kent’s elaborately painted King’s Staircase and the fascinating Victoria Revealed exhibition about Queen Victoria, England’s longest reigning monarch.

    Hampton Court Palace
    The home of King Henry VIII provides a compelling recreation of life in Tudor England. From the enormous kitchens, which used to feed up to 600 people twice a day, to the extraordinary Great Hall and the world’s oldest surviving hedge maze, there’s enough going on to occupy a whole day, particularly for family visitors.
  • On July 26, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    Where are the best Vietnamese restaurants in London?

    If you're looking for Vietnamese food in the capital, your best bet is the East London borough of Hackney, home to a considerable proportion of the city's Vietnamese community. Vietnamese people first settled here in any significant numbers following the reunification of Vietnam in 1975. It is thought that there are around 33,000 Vietnamese in London today.

    Kingsland Road is home to dozens of Vietnamese eateries catering mainly to revellers on their way to the bars and clubs of nearby Shoreditch. The most popular among them have queues out the door on Friday and Saturday nights, but turnover is so fast that you rarely need to wait very long for a table. Many of them are bring-your-own-bottle affairs, though most are also licensed to serve alcohol too.

    Three to try are Sông Quê (134 Kingsland Road, E2 8DY; 020 7613 3222), famous for its grumpy staff and enormous menu; Viet Grill, a classy option offering more innovative meat, salad and fish dishes; and Huong-Viet (An Viet House, 12-14 Englefield Road, N1 4LS; 020 7249 0877), a cheap and cheerful restaurant in a community centre a few minutes north of the main Shoreditch drag.
  • On July 25, 2013
    Shitika Anand is now following Jo Caird
  • On July 25, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are London’s best nature experiences?

    London may offer the ultimate metropolitan experience but life in the capital is about more than the merely urban. Visitors seeking to reconnect with nature will find plenty of opportunities at the following sites and attractions.

    Red and fallow deer roam freely at Richmond Park, while Clissold Park has goats, rabbits, deer and chickens, plus an aviary with cockatiels, lovebirds and more. Hampstead Heath is big enough to make you feel like you've left the city altogether. Nature reserves such as Camley Street Natural Park in King's Cross and former railway line Parkland Walk offer an enormous diversity of animal and plant life and more exotic plant species can be found at Kew Gardens.

    Get hands-on at the London Wetland Centre, which offers activities such as pond-dipping and bat walks, and at the city's urban farms. Mud Chute Farm and Park is one of the biggest in Europe, with farm animals from ducks to llamas. Hackney City Farm is a smaller affair with a fantastic cafe. Both are ideal for children.

    The Sea Life London Aquarium, meanwhile, has touch pools where visitors can get up close and personal with crabs, starfish and rays. Another London institution offering an animal experience is the Natural History Museum: Sensational Butterflies, which lets you wander through a tropical butterfly house holding over 50 species of butterflies and moths, runs through September 15.

    There are even more species to meet at ZSL London Zoo. Among the nearly 20,000 animals that call the zoo home are many endangered species that are extremely difficult to spot in the wild. Daily shows and talks feature spiders, penguins, predatory birds and more.
  • On July 23, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    Where are the best cycle routes in London?

    When it comes to exploring the capital, nothing beats a bicycle. Public transport may get you from A to B but cycling gives you the freedom to stop along the way and experience the quirks that make London unique. Here are three routes to get you started.

    High Street Kensington to Trafalgar Square
    Check out the shops on Kensington High Street and Kensington Church Street, admire St. Mary Abbots, the 19th-century church on the corner where the two streets meet, then cycle east along the high street until you reach the southwest corner of Kensington Gardens. Enter the park for Kensington Palace, the Diana Memorial Playground, the Serpentine Gallery, the Albert Memorial and the Peter Pan Statue. Cross the road into Hyde Park for the Diana Fountain and swimming and boating on the Serpentine. Exit the park at Hyde Park Corner, cycle underneath Wellington Arch and along Constitution Hill until you reach Buckingham Palace. Visit the palace and the Queen's Gallery, then take Birdcage Walk past the Guards Museum, keeping St. James's Park on your left. At Parliament Square, admire the Houses of Parliament before turning left into Whitehall. Keep your eyes peeled for Downing Street, the Cenotaph and the Memorial to Women of World War Two as you cycle up Whitehall before arriving at Trafalgar Square for Nelson's Column, the National Gallery and the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

    The Regent’s Canal from Islington to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
    Access the towpath via the ramp at Danbury Street and turn left towards the lock. Browse at the floating shops and cafes moored on the canal at City Road Basin, then continue past The Narrow Boat pub. A bit further on and across the canal you'll see first Holborn Studios, where all manner of famous photography, film and musician types have worked over the years, then Gainsborough Studios, a housing development built on the site of the studios that produced Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes. Next up is Towpath, a lovely cafe that's open from March to November. As the landscape gets grittier, keep your eyes peeled for street art by the likes of Bansky and Bob & Roberta Smith. Broadway Market, coming up on the left, is great for shopping, including a buzzing street market on Saturdays. A few minutes later you'll find yourself cycling alongside Victoria Park – there's a boating lake not far from the towpath. Just past the park, take the lefthand branch of the canal, then turn left again at the end for the entrance to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

    Parkland Walk
    Finally, for a magical route that's very little known even among Londoners, head to Finsbury Park. This is where you'll find the start of Parkland Walk, a former railway line that's now London's longest nature reserve. Operating for around 100 years from the 1870s, the line is now home to hundreds of species of wildflowers, as well as large numbers of butterflies, mammals and birds. It runs for four and a half miles in two separate sections between Finsbury Park and Muswell Hill. To connect the two, turn right up Holmesdale Road at the end of the first section, then right again onto Archway Road, then right again after Highgate station onto Muswell Hill Road, keeping Highgate Wood on your left. The second section can be accessed from Cranley Gardens, which is the first right turn after the wood. If you're still looking for a challenge at the end of the route, cycle up to the top of Alexandra Park for great views over London.

  • On July 20, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are London’s best long-running shows?

    London's West End is known for its record-breaking long-running productions, some of which have been playing for over 25 years. From large-scale musicals to straight plays, there's plenty of choice out there, with tickets available on the day of the performance for most shows.

    Mamma Mia!, the all-singing, all-dancing musical based on the songs of Swedish pop group ABBA, opened in the West End in 1999 and has since spawned productions all over the world. Set on a Greek island in the run up to the wedding of a young woman who doesn't know who her father is and wants to find out, this is a fun feelgood story with a sentimental ending. Acclaimed British director Phyllida Lloyd went on to make a film adaptation of the show starring Meryl Streep in 2008.

    Billy Elliot the Musical made the journey the other way around, the 2005 stage production based on the non-musical film of the same name from 2000. This story of a motherless boy from the north east of England who secretly takes up ballet against the wishes of his father is set in the gritty context of the coal miners' strikes of the 1980s. Featuring music by Elton John, book and lyrics by Billy Elliot screenwriter Lee Hall and direction by Oscar-nominated director Stephen Daldry, it won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical and is a real tearjerker.

    Another option for audiences looking for something with a bit of historical bite is War Horse, a production that began life at the National Theatre in 2007 before transferring to the West End. This stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's novel about a boy and his horse who end up in the trenches during the First World War features innovative puppetry and offers a compelling route into a difficult subject, particularly for younger viewers.

    The longest runner on my list is thriller The Woman in Black, which opened at the Fortune Theatre in 1989. Two actors play all the roles in this still terrifying adaptation of Susan Hill's 1983 novel. The show tells the story of a solicitor who travels to a remote country house to tie up the affairs of a deceased client and discovers that it's haunted by a mysterious woman in black. Expect plenty of tense moments punctuated by the screams of fellow audience members.
  • On July 20, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are London’s best long-running shows?

    London's West End is known for its record-breaking long-running productions, some of which have been playing for over 25 years. From large-scale musicals to straight plays, there's plenty of choice out there, with tickets available on the day of the performance for most shows.

    Mamma Mia!, the all-singing, all-dancing musical based on the songs of Swedish pop group ABBA, opened in the West End in 1999 and has since spawned productions all over the world. Set on a Greek island in the run up to the wedding of a young woman who doesn't know who her father is and wants to find out, this is a fun feelgood story with a sentimental ending. Acclaimed British director Phylidda Lloyd went on to make a film adaptation of the show starring Meryl Streep in 2008.

    Billy Elliot the Musical made the journey the other way around, the 2005 stage production based on the non-musical film of the same name from 2000. This story of a motherless boy from the north east of England who secretly takes up ballet against the wishes of his father is set in the gritty context of the coal miners' strikes of the 1980s. Featuring music by Elton John, book and lyrics by Billy Elliot screenwriter Lee Hall and direction by Oscar-nominated director Stephen Daldry, it won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical and is a real tearjerker.

    Another option for audiences looking for something with a bit of historical bite is War Horse, a production that began life at the National Theatre in 2007 before transferring to the West End. This stage adaptation of Michael Murpurgo's novel about a boy and his horse who end up in the trenches during the First World War features innovative puppetry and offers a compelling route into a difficult subject, particularly for younger viewers.

    The longest runner on my list is thriller The Woman in Black, which opened at the Fortune Theatre in 1989. Two actors play all the roles in this still terrifying adaptation of Susan Hill's 1983 novel. The show tells the story of a solicitor who travels to a remote country house to tie up the affairs of a deceased client and discovers that it's haunted by a mysterious woman in black. Expect plenty of tense moments punctuated by the screams of fellow audience members.
  • On July 19, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are London’s best long-running shows?

    London's West End is known for its record-breaking long-running productions, some of which have been playing for over 25 years. From large-scale musicals to straight plays, there's plenty of choice out there, with tickets available on the day of the performance for most shows.

    Mamma Mia!, the all-singing, all-dancing musical based on the songs of Swedish pop group ABBA, opened in the West End in 1999 and has since spawned productions all over the world. Set on a Greek island in the run up to the wedding of a young woman who doesn't know who her father is and wants to find out, this is a fun feelgood story with a sentimental ending. Acclaimed British director Phylidda Lloyd went on to make a film adaptation of the show starring Meryl Streep in 2008.

    Billy Elliot the Musical made the journey the other way around, the 2005 stage production based on the non-musical film of the same name from 2000. This story of a motherless boy from the north east of England who secretly takes up ballet against the wishes of his father is set in the gritty context of the coal miners' strikes of the 1980s. Featuring music by Elton John, book and lyrics by Billy Elliot screenwriter Lee Hall and direction by Oscar-nominated director Stephen Daldry, it won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical and is a real tearjerker.

    Another option for audiences looking for something with a bit of historical bite is War Horse, a production that began life at the National Theatre in 2007 before transferring to the West End. This stage adaptation of Michael Murpurgo's novel about a boy and his horse who end up in the trenches during the First World War features innovative puppetry and offers a compelling route into a difficult subject, particularly for younger viewers.

    The longest runner on my list is thriller Woman in Black, which opened at the Fortune Theatre in 1989. Two actors play all the roles in this still terrifying adaptation of Susan Hill's 1983 novel. The show tells the story of a solicitor who travels to a remote country house to tie up the affairs of a deceased client and discovers that it's haunted by a mysterious woman in black. Expect plenty of tense moments punctuated by the screams of fellow audience members.
  • On July 18, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are the best traditional pubs in London?

    A visit to London just isn't complete without a drink – a pint ideally – in a traditional pub. The following are some of the best around.

    Central
    You can hear the crowd of drinkers that congregates outside The Lamb and Flag long before you turn the corner into the Covent Garden alley the pub calls home. From the narrow downstairs snug, a rickety staircase leads up to a dining room-style first floor with comfy leather banquette seating. As well as a range of beers and ales on tap, there are a large number of whiskies to choose from, making this a cosy place for a warming winter tipple.  

    City of London
    The most impressive feature of Fleet Street drinking den Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (145 Fleet Street; 020 7353 6170) is probably its vaulted cellars, but the higgledy-piggledy corridors, ancient panelling and snug sittings rooms are worth a mention too. Rebuilt just after the Great Fire of London, the pub boasts a remarkable roster of literary patrons, including Charles Dickens and Y.B. Yeats.

    North
    The Spaniard's Inn is the perfect place for a pick-me-up after a long walk on nearby Hampstead Heath. It's one of London's oldest pubs, dating back to the 16th century. The wood-panelled interior has a homely feel, or you can relax in the sunshine in the enormous beer garden.

    South
    Tucked away down an unremarkable looking Southwark side street, The Boot and Flogger (10-20 Redcross Way; 020 7407 1184) is the sort of place you don't find unless you're looking for it. Some might argue that Southwark is in central rather than South London, but as this eccentric place is a true hidden gem and it's technically south of the river, I'm including it here. The abundance of wooden barrels behind the bar evoke The Boot and Flogger's past as a wine merchant, as do the range of wines on offer by the glass.

    East
    The Dove manages to combine trendiness with traditional charm, its exciting international beer offering and cool staff making a nice contrast to the old school interior – all dark wood and nooks and crannies. There's no garden but drinkers spill out onto the pavement of Broadway Market all year round. Punters playing board games make for a convivial atmosphere.  

    West
    The grandparents of wartime prime minister Winston Churchill used to frequent this Kensington pub, which was renamed in his honour after the end of the war and is now full of fascinating Churchill memorabilia. Dozens of hanging baskets adorn the exterior of The Churchill Arms, creating a blaze of color on the corner of picturesque Kensington Church Street.
  • On July 16, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    Where are the best places to hear live music in London?

    London has a top class venue specialising in practically every genre of music you can think of. Major gigs tend to book up in advance, particularly at the smaller venues, but if you're in the mood for live music, there are always plenty of last minute options.

    Jazz fans will love historic Soho establishment Ronnie Scott's, nearby Pizza Express Jazz Club and avant-garde Dalston venue The Vortex. The Wigmore Hall and King's Place are both worth a visit for their chamber concerts, while the Barbican, Southbank Centre and Royal Albert Hall all boast excellent auditoria for large-scale classical and pop gigs. When it comes to small to mid range pop and rock concerts, iconic venues The Garage in Highbury, The 100 Club on Oxford Street and the Jazz Café in Camden all welcome important British and international groups. Koko, the O2 Brixton Academy and the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire are great examples of traditional proscenium arch venues presenting the best of rock and pop. And for folk music, Cecil Sharp House, the headquarters of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, is the place to be.
  • On July 15, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are the best places for a late-night snack in London?

    You're in London, it's late and your belly is rumbling. Never fear, there are lots of options for midnight snacks in the capital.

    Tokyo Diner
    Tucked away in the heart of busy China Town, Tokyo Diner is open until midnight 365 days a year, and although it's often packed, you'll rarely have to wait more a few minutes to be seated. The simple menu comprises sushi, sashimi, curries and other hearty rice dishes. Prices are very reasonable and there's no tipping allowed. 

    The Troubadour
    The Troubadour in Earl's Court has been an institution on London's dining and culture scene since it opened in the 1950s. The downstairs venue has hosted acts including Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Paul Simon and is still going strong today. At the restaurant – which is open until midnight seven days a week – you'll find a wide range of European and British dishes.

    Beigel Bake – Brick Lane Bakery
    Beigel Bake (159 Brick Lane, 020 7729 0616) has been delighting hungry East London revellers for over 35 years now. Open 24 hours a day, its specialty is hot salt beef bagels with gherkin and English mustard. Classic smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels are another favourite. It's takeout only, but no one will judge you for tucking in to your late-night treat as soon as you get out the door.
  • On July 10, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are the best art house cinemas in London?

    The rise of digital projection technology means that what was once a stark divide between mainstream cinemas and independent picture houses is much more of a blurred line these days. You can now see a range of art house movies, foreign films and documentaries at even the most commercial of exhibitors, but London's historic independent cinemas are still the bet best for an all round alternative movie experience.

    The Electric Cinema, in trendy Notting Hill, is one of the UK's oldest indy cinemas, having opened to the public in 1910. Now run by Soho House, it's much more comfortable than it used to be and even features an onsite diner too.

    In North London, the Everyman Hampstead is the place to be for art house movies. The group that runs it now has 10 cinemas, but this is the one that started it all, pioneering luxurious touches like sofa seating and waiter service. Another really special member of the portfolio is The Screen on the Green in Islington, a single-screen picture house that in 1976 hosted The Sex Pistols with support from The Clash and the Buzzcocks.

    Not far away, in Dalston, is the Rio Cinema, a grand building that opened as a purpose-built picture house in 1915. Unusually among small London screens, its auditorium is set up like a theatre, with stalls and a balcony. Down south, meanwhile, the Ritzy Picturehouse has a buzzing bar, making this a great hang-out whether you're seeing a film or not.

    In central London, the Curzon is your best bet. Its six branches – my favourites are in Mayfair and Soho – specialise in European and art house movies. The nearby Prince Charles Cinema offers an eclectic programme that include infamous singalong events and marathon screenings.
  • On July 10, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are the best art house cinemas in London?

    The rise of digital projection technology means that what was once a stark divide between mainstream cinemas and independent picture houses is much more of a blurred line these days. You can now see a range of art house movies, foreign films and documentaries at even the most commercial of exhibitors, but London's historic independent cinemas are still the bet best for an all round alternative movie experience.

    The Electric Cinema, in trendy Notting Hill, is one of the UK's oldest indy cinemas, having opened to the public in 1910. Now run by Soho House, it's much more comfortable than it used to be and even features an onsite diner too.

    In North London, the Everyman Hampstead is the place to be for art house movies. The group that runs it now has 10 cinemas, but this is the one that started it all, pioneering luxurious touches like sofa seating and waiter service. Another really special member of the portfolio is The Screen on the Green in Islington, a single-screen picture house that in 1976 hosted The Sex Pistols with support from The Clash and the Buzzcocks.

    Not far away, in Dalston, is the Rio Cinema, a grand building that opened as a purpose-built picture house in 1915. Unusually among small London screens, its auditorium is set up like a theatre, with stalls and a balcony. Down south, meanwhile, the Ritzy Picturehouse has a buzzing bar, making this a great hang-out whether you're seeing a film or not.

    In central London, the Curzon is your best bet. Its two branches, in Mayfair and Soho, specialise in European and art house movies. The nearby Prince Charles Cinema offers an eclectic programme that include infamous singalong events and marathon screenings.
  • On July 8, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What new dance shows are in London?

    Dance fans are spoilt for choice in London: from classic work by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House and English National Ballet at the London Coliseum, to contemporary dance at Sadler's Wells and The Place, plus performances at smaller venues across the capital, there's always plenty to choose from. Here are my top tips for the coming weeks.

    First up is New Movement Collective with NEST, a site-specific promenade performance in a disused 19th-century chapel in the centre of town. The venue was formerly home to an iconic London nightclub but has been closed since 2010; this production sees its relaunch as a performance space. NEST is inspired by Homer's Odyssey and involves not just dance but live music, animation and interactive lighting design. July 15-24.

    From July 29 to August 17, the Bolshoi Ballet will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first visit to the Royal Opera House with a season that includes Swan Lake, La Bayadere and The Sleeping Beauty. The renowned company, one of the world's oldest, has been embroiled in scandal in recent months: its artistic director, Sergei Filin, was the victim of an acid attack in January, said to have been arranged by one of the company's lead dancers angered by what he saw as a culture of favouritism within the company. This controversy notwithstanding, the London season is sure to offer some spectacular ballet theatre.

    More traditional ballet is on offer care of Cuban superstar Carlos Acosta, who will be appearing at the London Coliseum July 30 through August 4. Carlos Acosta – Classical Selection will see the sexiest dancer in the world perform pas de deux from the classical and neo-classical canons, including extracts from Mayerling, Winter Dreams and Requiem. He'll be joined by past partners and Royal Ballet principals including Marianela Nunez and Nehemiah Kish.