Gabrielle was right, dreams really can come true. As part of this week’s Reader Takeover, Time Out Tastemakers told us the one thing they’ve always wanted to do in London. Then we made it happen…
Be a zookeeper for the day
Shona Read and Lizzie Williamson
‘I’m not a morning person, but I was so excited about my day as a keeper at London Zoo that I arrived 20 minutes early for our 8am shift. The day involved cleaning and interacting with ten different animals, all hosted by an actual zookeeper. We started with de-dunging the Bactrian camels’ paddock, but the highlights were hanging out with the meerkats and feeding the giraffes. I was surprised by how strong they are. I would love to do it again.’ Shona Read ‘Our day at the zoo was so much fun I barely noticed we were working. I loved meeting the cheeky Humboldt penguins – 80 of them! – while giving their pool a scrub. They were real characters, chasing us and trying to nip our trousers. We also visited the hairy armadillos and went behind the scenes at the aquarium. One of my favourite bits was tickling the Galapagos tortoises. They are magnificent creatures, who are so calm and friendly.’ Lizzie Williamson
Want a go? London Zoo runs Keeper for a Day experiences for £240 per person.
ZSL London Zoo, Outer Circle, Regent’s Park. Camden Town tube.
Have a staycation at The Savoy
‘I can’t imagine anyone who’s lived in London hasn’t heard of The Savoy. It’s the oldest luxury hotel in Britain. When we arrived, we got upgraded to a junior suite that came with a personal butler! He greeted us at our room and offered to make us tea. Later, we made our way to the American Bar. I ordered the best whisky-based cocktail I’ve ever had. The next morning, we went for breakfast at Kaspar’s at The Savoy. In any other hotel, I’d just get out of bed, wash my face and waltz downstairs to eat, but because this was The Savoy, we got dressed up. We sat next to a guy who was quoting “Hamlet” and he mentioned how he had just made his first £100 million. It really gave us an insight into how the other half lives. Truly an amazing experience.’
Want a go? Rooms at The Savoy start at £450.
The Savoy, Strand. Charing Cross tube.
Learn how to make chocolates at Paul A Young
‘I’d had my eye on some of the classes at Paul A Young for a while but never thought I’d get to have a one-to-one experience in the kitchens. I arrived at the Wardour Street branch at 3pm on a Tuesday where I was greeted by Paul himself. After donning a fetching white lab coat and hairnet, I was introduced to the rest of the team, who were busy tempering, making ganaches, filling moulds and wrapping mouth-watering morsels. I then spent the next hour with a chocolatier, who taught me to decorate moulds with beautiful bronze powder, temper chocolate on a cold marble slab and (messily) fill moulds, covering my hands in chocolate in the process. It was surprising to see how little specialist equipment they use: I’m pretty sure I saw a builder’s heat gun being used to melt chocolate off moulds. The whole team agreed there is such a thing as too much chocolate – they barely touch the stuff when not at work.’
Want a go? Hannah’s class was a one-off, but Paul A Young runs regular group workshops.
Paul A Young Fine Chocolates, 143 Wardour St. Tottenham Court Rd tube.
Go behind the scenes at the National Theatre
‘I’ve always wanted to look behind the scenes at the National Theatre as it’s one of the biggest and most exciting theatres in London. My friend and I met the tour guide at the stage door, and he took us into all three theatres and around the workshops. It was incredible to see things that had not been made public yet. We learned that the NT’s 13 dressing rooms are numbered 00-12 because of actor superstitions. Actors play pranks on each other across the windows of the rooms. For example, Michael Gambon and Ian McKellen (aka Dumbledore and Gandalf) shot each other with water pistols.’
Want a go? Daily backstage tours cost £10.
National Theatre, Upper Ground. Waterloo tube.
Have afternoon tea on the red B Bakery bus
‘I’ve always loved afternoon tea. My two boys usually avoid joining me for it, but my youngest was interested in the bus tour – especially if he got to fill his belly while doing it. We boarded the B Bakery double decker at Victoria Bus Station. On the top deck were booths laden with bite-sized treats. There was a good range of savoury rolls and a colourful array of sweets: lemon meringue, chocolate cupcake and trifle. We travelled around London past all the big sights. The highlight for me was the Horse Guards at Buckingham Palace; they were changing over as we went past.’
Want a go? B Bakery runs Afternoon Tea Bus Tours costing £45-£63 per person. Book at london.b-bakery.com.
Eat dinner at the top of The Shard
‘Going to the top of The Shard has always been on my bucket list. Who doesn’t want to eat dinner with amazing views of London? My friend and I started our night there by sipping movie-themed cocktails at Gong on the fifty-second floor, the highest bar in Western Europe. I had a George Lucas mix that involved magnets – it actually floated! But the highlight was the view: I could see the entire city skyline and London Bridge and the Tower of London perfectly. Later, we went down to the thirty-fifth floor to eat at Ting. The service was excellent and I had the best duck egg of my life. There were even phone chargers in the toilets.’
Want a go? Book a table at Ting.
The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street. London Bridge tube.
Walk the red carpet at a film premiere
‘When I arrived at the premiere of “Murder on the Orient Express” at the Royal Albert Hall, I felt like a million dollars. I was mesmerised by the brightness of the lights, the press, the screaming fans and the beautiful people walking the carpet. I got my picture taken by the VIP photographers, then Kelly Brook walked up the carpet in front of me and I braved asking her for a selfie. That photo was the highlight of my evening. I walked past Michelle Pfeiffer, cleared security and – with a glass of sauvignon blanc in my hand – my friend and I proceeded to our seats. The all-star cast then came to the stage to introduce the movie. The evening was amazing.’
Want a go? It’s not quite a premiere, but head to the Royal Albert Hall’s glam ‘Films in Concert’ series.
‘Murder on the Orient Express’ is out now.
‘I first heard about Up at The O2 when I went to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers there a few years ago. I thought: I have to do this. I arrived at “base camp” where I was given shoes, a jacket and a harness. Going up isn’t hard. You’re walking on what feels like a circus tent – it’s bouncy and soft. Once at the top. I could see as far as Crystal Palace. On the walk down, our guide pointed out some seals on the river bank – I had no idea they were in the Thames! Afterwards there was a great feeling of accomplishment, knowing I had finally done it!’
Want a go? Tickets for Up at The O2 start at £30.
The O2, Peninsula Square. North Greenwich tube.