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 April 26, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are the best places to spot celebrities in London?

    From royals and popstars to actors and sports personalities, London is jam-packed with celebrities. Here's where you'll find them.

    Restaurant
    If you want to dine with the stars, The Ivy is a safe bet. Celebrity tastes are constantly changing, with restaurants going in and out of fashion all the time, but The Ivy has been a favourite with London's famous faces for years now. Its location in the heart of Theatreland is a big draw for actors and other creative types – go late in the evening once the shows have come down for your best chance of spotting the likes of Helen Mirren, Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey.

    Bar
    Membership of a top private members' club such as the Groucho or Loulou's may still be the best route to partying with celebrities, but don't despair if you lack the contacts for such a night out. Mayfair bar and club Mahiki is one of Prince Harry's go-to places and has hosted stars including singer Rihanna, actor James Corden and British diving champion Tom Daley.
     
    Area
    Take a stroll through pretty Primrose Hill Village on any day of the week and you're likely to spot one of the area's many famous residents. The original Primrose Hill 'set' included Kate Moss, Jude Law, Sadie Frost, Ewan McGregor and Rhys Ifans but now even more celebrities are calling the area home. Look out for actors Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig, One Direction singer Harry Styles and even Labour Party leader Ed Miliband.
  • On April 24, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are the best souvenirs to buy in London?

    London's famous Routemaster buses only run on two heritage routes these days and black cabs come in all the colours of the rainbow, but bus and cab toys still make wonderful souvenirs of a trip to the capital. You'll find them in souvenir shops throughout the city.

    Still on the topic of transport, the London Transport Museum has an excellent range of gifts available, from large-scale maps of the London Underground to accessories featuring the classic Tube 'moquette' fabric.

    Ale drinkers will enjoy reminiscing about their time in London over a glass of refreshing Fuller's London Pride. Fuller's have been brewing beer in Chiswick, West London for over 150 years and a brewery has existed on the site for more than 350 years. London Pride is widely available at supermarkets and off licenses, as well as on tap in pubs and bars across the capital.

    For those who prefer something softer, tea also makes a fine souvenir (a further bonus is that it won't add much weight to your luggage). Visit an iconic London store such as Harrods or Fortnum & Mason and take your pick of their house blends. Decorative tea caddies make a nice addition.
  • On April 22, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What should I pack for a trip to London?

    What to pack for a trip to London obviously depends on the type of trip you're planning, but there a few items it's best not to be without.

    Changeable weather makes an umbrella or waterproof jacket a must. Many London hotels will lend umbrellas to guests, but these tend to be large, branded affairs so if you don't want to be a walking advertisement, it's a good idea to bring your own. Keep a small umbrella in your handbag, briefcase or backpack and you'll always be prepared.

    That said, it doesn't rain nearly as much here as people would have you believe. We get plenty of sunshine too. If you're visiting between April and November, don't forget your sunglasses, particularly if you're planning on hiring a car at any point during your trip.

    When it comes to footwear, go for something comfortable – you'll most likely be doing a lot of walking. Pack some blister plasters too.

    You'll need a plug adaptor to be able to power devices such as laptops, phones and camera batteries. If you plan to use a smart phone for navigating and accessing online city guides and apps, bear in mind that your battery use will be higher than normal – a spare battery pack might mean the difference between locating that hip new bar and ending up in some horrible dive.
  • On April 19, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are the best business hotels in London?

    Think 'business hotel' and somewhere anonymous and unexciting probably springs to mind. But it doesn't have to be that way, as the following five-star establishments go to show.

    Threadneedles
    Occupying a former bank in the heart of the City of London, this boutique hotel boasts gorgeous period features including a stained glass dome that floods the lobby seating area with light (pictured). Rooms in the listed building come in all shapes and sizes and have all recently been refurbished. The two AA Rosette Bonds Restaurant is one of the best places for breakfast meetings in the City.

    Four Seasons Canary Wharf
    For business travellers looking for a base in London's other financial centre, the Four Seasons Canary Wharf is a good bet. Service is top notch at this modern building on the banks of the River Thames just a 15-minute drive from London City Airport. Guests have complimentary access to the Virgin Active Health Club next door, with its floodlit tennis courts and extraordinary pool overlooking the river.

    Chancery Court
    The large, quiet guest rooms at this former insurance offices are a haven from the hectic pace of Holborn, the central London district connecting the City of London with the West End. The hotel's grand courtyard off High Holborn makes a strong first impression and the public areas, including the acclaimed Pearl Restaurant, boast beautiful interiors. The on-site gym is open 24 hours.
  • On April 17, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are the best yoga studios in London?

    Travelling can be a stressful business - why not drop in at one of these top London studios for a spot of yoga to rebalance body and mind?

    Small class sizes and plenty of adjustments from the inspirational teachers make Astanga Yoga London stand out. Hamish Hendry, the studio's founder, is one of only a handful of people in the country certified to teach beyond the astanga primary series, so this is the place to be for experienced astangis visiting the capital. The studio is conveniently located near Euston Station on a street boasting some of London's best vegetarian Indian cuisine.

    For those who like the flow of astanga but want to take things up a notch in terms of intensity, Bikram (hot yoga) is the obvious choice. Bikram Yoga London has four super-heated studios, in the City, Kentish Town, Kilburn and Primrose Hill, all offering drop-in classes throughout the day seven days a week. Get ready to sweat!

    Triyoga, meanwhile, offers a broad range of different types of yoga at its four studios in Primrose Hill, Chelsea, Soho and Covent Garden. Try hot yoga, astanga, iyengar, jivamukti, kundalini and more, plus classes for pregnant women, babies and toddlers. The Primrose Hill studio is a particularly beautiful place in which to practise. 
  • On April 15, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are the best outdoor activities in London?

    London I hope I'm not speaking too soon, but it really feels like spring is here, making this the ideal moment to share my tips for what to do and where to go for outside fun in London.

    Walking
    Now that warmer weather has arrived and spending extended periods outdoors doesn't involve battling the elements (well, less so anyway), walking is a great way to explore the city. Stroll around at your leisure or join a walking tour. London Walks offer around 300 different routes in the capital.

    Cycling
    Hire a Barclays Cycle Hire bike from one of the 15,000 docking points across London. For a longer ride that doesn't involve playing in the traffic, head to Richmond Park, an enormous green space in West London where you can hire bicycles, including tandems, by the hour from Park Cycle.

    Horse riding
    You can also ride horses in Richmond Park (Queen Victoria rode here), but the ultimate location for equestrian pursuits in London is Hyde Park. Rotten Row, the stretch of track running along the south side of the park, was the place to be seen for wealthy 18th-century Londoners. Hyde Park Stables offer group and private rides there today.

    Theatre, opera and film
    Catch a play or musical at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park (from 16 May), an opera performance at Opera Holland Park (from 4 June) or a movie screening at the Queen of Hoxton or Kensington Roof Gardens courtesy of the Rooftop Film Club (from 1 May and 30 April respectively). All except Opera Holland Park are open to the elements, so make sure you go prepared!
  • On April 12, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What is the one must do activity when visiting London?

    London has so much to offer that even those of us who've spent our entire lives in the city are discovering new wonders all the time. I've puzzled over this question for weeks – how can you possibly choose just one thing to represent a place this huge, diverse and ever changing?

    My first thought was the River Thames, but as my fellow correspondents have already provided some great ideas on exploring this magnificent waterway, I'll turn to another unmissable area of the city: Soho.

    Spend a couple of hours wandering around this small central district and you'll get a fantastic sense of why London is the best city in the world. What was once a royal park belonging to King Henry VIII is now one of the hubs of the media and entertainment industry in the capital and a nightlife destination known for its restaurants, bars, clubs and theatres. In the middle of the last century Soho was famous for two things, music and the sex industry, and although it's now neither as avant-garde nor as seedy as it used to be, the legacy of those years lives on in legendary venues such as Ronnie Scott's and the handful of licensed sex shops that remain.

    Browse the stalls at Berwick Street Market, grab a coffee at Soho institution Bar Italia, have a drink in one of the gay-friendly pubs on Old Compton Street (Soho is London's best known gay hotspot), explore Chinatown, catch a West End show, enjoy the sunshine in Soho Square...the list goes on and on. Buzzy, open-minded and always evolving, Soho is London distilled.
  • On April 10, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are the newest shows in London?

    Once For the last few weeks the hottest shows in Theatreland have been The Book of Mormon and The Audience, both of which opened last month. They couldn't be more different – one's a hilarious, irreverent musical about American missionaries in Africa penned by the team behind South Park, the other's a considered drama about Queen Elizabeth II's relationship with her prime ministers starring Dame Helen Mirren – but together they're taking the West End by storm.

    Once, which opened this week, may not be prompting quite the popular fervour of the productions I've just mentioned but don't be fooled – this is a show to get excited about. Like Mormon, Once comes to London fresh from a Broadway run, where it won a huge haul of Tony Awards, including Best Musical.  Unlike Mormon, however, the show's creative team all come from this side of the pond, making the London opening something of a homecoming. Directed by John Tiffany (the man behind 2006 hit Black Watch), designed by Bob Crowley and adapted for the stage by Enda Walsh, Once is a tender tale of a Dublin busker and a young Czech woman brought together by the music they love. The show has garnered fantastic reviews, so snap up some tickets before everyone else does.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What language is spoken in London?

    London is a hugely diverse city, with hundreds of languages spoken by its approximately 8 million inhabitants. The most widely used is of course English, but around 22% of residents have another mother tongue. The most common other languages you'll hear in the city are Polish, Bengali, Gujurati, French, Urdu and Arabic. The 2011 Census revealed that over 100 languages are spoken in 30 of London's 33 boroughs, meaning that this astonishing diversity is to be found right across the capital.

    But this variety isn't the only notable feature of London's linguistic landscape. Listen closely to the English spoken by the natives and you might hear some unexpected things. If someone told you to 'use your loaf' for example, or described a friend as having 'huge plates', would you understand what they meant? Probably not, because deciphering both these phrases relies on a knowledge of Cockney Rhyming Slang, a form of phrase construction that developed in the East End of London in the 19th century. The slang involves substituting a word with a short phrase that rhymes with it. The rhyming word is then dropped. Thus 'head' becomes 'loaf of bread', then just 'loaf', while 'feet' becomes 'plates of meat', then ultimately 'plates'. There are hundreds of examples, with new variants evolving all the time, but only a handful are used in common parlance these days. So now you know – why not get on the dog and tell a china about it?
  • On April 8, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What language is spoken in London?

    London is a hugely diverse city, with hundreds of languages spoken by its approximately 8 million inhabitants. The most widely used is of course English, but around 22% of residents have another mother tongue. The most common other languages you'll hear in the city are Polish, Bengali, Gujurati, French, Urdu and Arabic. The 2011 Census revealed that over 100 languages are spoken in 30 of London's 33 boroughs, meaning that this astonishing diversity is to be found right across the capital.

    But this variety isn't the only notable feature of London's linguistic landscape. Listen closely to the English spoken by the natives and you might hear some unexpected things. If someone told you to 'use your loaf' for example, or described a friend as having 'huge plates', would you understand what they meant? Probably not, because deciphering both these phrases relies on a knowledge of Cockney Rhyming Slang, a form of phrase construction that developed in the East End of London in the 19th century. The slang involves substituting a word with a short phrase that rhymes with it. The rhyming word is then dropped. Thus 'head' becomes 'loaf of bread', then just 'loaf', while 'feet' becomes 'plates of meat', then ultimately 'plates'. There are hundreds of examples, with new varients evolving all the time, but only a handful are used in common parlance these days. So now you know – why not get on the dog and tell a china about it?
  • On April 6, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    Where is the best architecture in London?

    The great glory of London's architecture is its variety. While European capitals such as Paris and Vienna were transformed in the 19th century by massive citywide modernisation projects, London's architectural evolution has been a rather more organic affair. The result is a rich mish-mash of styles, with Roman walls, medieval streets, Tudor palaces and 21st-century skyscrapers all jostling for space and attention.

    Architecture fans will therefore have a field day wherever they wander in the capital. The trick is to cast your gaze upwards, as many of the city's architectural delights are to be found above street level. Look up from the mundane shop fronts of Holborn, for example, and you'll find statues adorning the tiled rooftops. This type of charming surprise is available all over town.

    If you want to focus on one area in particular, Spitalfields has a lot to offer. The tall townhouses lining these narrow streets were home to Huguenots fleeing persecution in France in the 17th century, while Old Spitalfields Market is an impressive example of Victorian engineering. Meanwhile, the spire of Christ Church, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor in the mid-1700s, makes a thoughtful contrast to the modern skyscrapers of nearby Bishopsgate.
  • On April 6, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    Where is the best architecture in London?

    The great glory of London's architecture is its variety. While European capitals such as Paris and Vienna were transformed in the 19th century by massive citywide modernisation projects, London's architectural evolution has been a rather more organic process. The result is a rich mish-mash of styles, with Roman walls, medieval streets, Tudor palaces and 21st-century skyscrapers all jostling for space and attention.

    Architecture fans will therefore have a field day wherever they wander in the capital. The trick is to cast your gaze upwards, as many of the city's architectural delights are to be found above street level. Look up from the mundane shop fronts of Holborn, for example, and you'll find   statues adorning the tiled rooftops. This type of charming surprise is available all over town.

    If you want to focus on one area in particular, Spitalfields has a lot to offer. The tall townhouses lining these narrow streets were home to Huguenots fleeing persecution in France in the 17th century, while Old Spitalfields Market is an impressive example of Victorian engineering. Meanwhile, the spire of Christ Church, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor in the mid-1700s, makes a thoughtful contrast to the modern skyscrapers of nearby Bishopsgate.
  • On April 4, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    Should visitors rent a car in London?

    The short answer is: no, absolutely not.

    You might think that because London is so sprawling, driving would be a good way to get around, as it in some of the major US cities. But you'd be wrong, because while the city is enormous, the majority of its top hotels and attractions are very centrally located. You can explore a a great deal of the centre on foot and public transportation is almost always the best way of reaching the more out-of-the-way places too (see What is public transportation like in London? for more information).

    Traffic in the capital is better than it used to be, since the introduction of the Congestion Charge (drivers entering the 'Congestion Charge zone' between the hours of 7am and 6pm Monday to Friday must pay a daily £10 fee), but driving is still usually the slowest way of getting around. Parking can also be a challenge, particularly in the daytime, when eagle-eyed traffic wardens lie in wait for unsuspecting drivers.

    The only reason I would consider renting a car in London would be for trips out of the city. But even then, nine times out of ten, I'd recommend taking the train.
  • On March 29, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are the best concert venues in London?

    When it comes to high-profile concerts – both classical and contemporary music – it's hard to beat the Royal Albert Hall. This gorgeous Victorian building, which overlooks Hyde Park in Kensington, hosts the famous BBC Proms each summer as well as a year-round programme of big names, from world-class orchestras to the likes of Eric Clapton, who will be playing there in May.

    The Barbican and the two venues at the Southbank Centre, the Royal Festival Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall, are also excellent large-scale venues.

    For more intimate gigs, LSO St. Luke's offers a unique acoustic and extraordinary atmosphere – you'll find it in a historic church on the outskirts of the City of London. You'll find traditional concerts here, but also some more left-field gigs.

    A venue loved by jazz afficionados is The Vortex Jazz Club in trendy East London. As well as jazz there's world music and folk too.
  • On March 28, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are the best food gifts to buy in London?

    If you've got the self-control to make it home with the food items you buy during your stay in the capital, then your friends and family have a treat in store. If such self-control is beyond you, simply tell your loved ones that their gifts were confiscated by customs – just make sure there are no stray crumbs in your luggage to give the game away.*

    As a huge cheese fan, my number one tip has to be Neal's Yard Dairy, the UK's best known fromagerie. You'll find cheeses from 70 farms around the UK and Ireland at the company's branches in Covent Garden and Borough Market. Among the highlights of the extensive list are the Isle of Mull cheddar and stichelton, one of England's few unpasteurised blue cheeses. The staff are knowledgeable and friendly so don't hesitate to ask their advice on what to try and buy.

    Tea isn't strictly a food, of course, but it would be criminal not to include such a crucial symbol of Britishness in this list. Fortnum & Mason have been selling the stuff since 1707 so you can be sure you're buying the best. There are over 100 blends available, many of them in gorgeous decorative caddies. Alongside tea, the famous Piccadilly store sells other great food gifts ideas such as confectionary, jams and biscuits, as well as hampers for travellers in a particularly generous mood.

    Finally, if you're from a country that will let you carry home meat products in your luggage, then The Ginger Pig's pork pies are a must. Thick-crust pastry, succulent pork (the company gets all its meat from Yorkshire) and flavoursome jelly make up this classic British snack. Visit The Ginger Pig counter at Borough Market or one of the company's stores – there are branches in Shepherd's Bush, Marylebone and Hackney. Their chutneys and preserves make a great accompaniment, so consider adding them to your gift list too.

    *On a more serious note, it's worth pointing out that many countries restrict which foods and drinks you're allowed to carry in with you, so check before you buy.