Apex Hotels Blogs

Chef's Smoked Fish Pate

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Darren Thomas, Head Chef at Apex City of London Hotel in London, tells us how to make one of his favourite dishes on the Addendum Restaurant and Bar menu.

This smoked mackerel pâté makes a delicious starter with crusty bread, or can be served as a dip with crackers or bread sticks at your next party.

Smoked Mackerel Pate

Darren's smoked mackerel pâté recipe

Serves 4

To make the smoked mackerel:

2 large fresh mackerel
Sprinkle of coarse sea salt
Zest of half a lemon and half an orange

Buy the mackerel from you fishmonger and fillet them. Sprinkle the fillets with coarse sea salt and the lemon and orange zest and leave for 2 hours. Wash the fillets, pat dry and place in a smoker. Hot smoke the fish over oak chippings for 15 minutes then take out to cool down. Pick over the smoked mackerel fillets to remove the skin and bones.

Alternatively, you could use shop bought smoked mackerel.

To make the pâté:

250g smoked mackerel
110g low fat cream cheese
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon of prepared horseradish cream
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Flake the smoked mackerel. Place the mackerel and the low fat cream cheese into the bowl of a food processor and blend well. Transfer the mixture into a medium bowl and mix in the lemon juice, horseradish and cayenne pepper, and season to taste. Place this mixture into a loaf tin lined with cling film and press down firmly. Chill down for several hours before serving. You could serve this with crackers, bread sticks, toast or fresh crusty bread.

Sensational Robots

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Robot – The Fantasy and Reality (2 June - 30 September 2012)

Just 15 minutes walk from Apex City Quay Hotel, Dundee Science Centre is one of the city's premier visitor attractions. Entertaining over 60,000 visitors a year, it is the only UK science centre based on the five senses. Dundee Science Centre brings science to life in dozens of imaginative ways, from moving a ball with the power of your mind to morphing yourself into an ape - you'll discover science is anything but boring!


This summer, Dundee Science Centre brings you a new and exciting exhibition all about robots! Featuring cutting edge technology and engineering, the show is split into two areas; Fantasy and Reality.

In the Fantasy part of the exhibition, you'll get the opportunity to meet fantastic robots and cyborgs from film and television shows Mars Attacks, Iron Man, Star Wars, Red Dwarf and more.

But that's not all - in the Reality part you'll experience real robots. Play with robotic pets and be entertained by Robothespian (pictured above): the only interactive humanoid, life-size robot of its kind in Scotland.

For more information, visit the Dundee Science Centre, Sensation website.

Edinburgh Jazz Festival

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival (20 - 29 July 2012)

Leading us into the main summer festival season, the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival promises great concerts, free outdoor gigs and a carnival atmosphere - including, in fact, an actual carnival.

Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival

It's now 34 years since the Jazz Festival was set up by a local jazz fan and musician, Mike Hart. It started as a small scale affair, scattered around a few of the city's pubs, but in the following decades it has grown to attain international recognition in the jazz world and has become a popular part of Edinburgh's festival calendar. No other jazz festival in the UK has such a long history.

Since its inception, it's grown beyond its roots in traditional jazz. Expect a varied programme, with talent from around the world across a range of sub-genres, but with a keen eye for quality throughout. "All killer, no filler", as the saying goes.

If you usually associate jazz and blues music with moody basement clubs, think again. The festival brings music out of the venues and into the streets. This year, there will be a carnival on Princes Street and around Princes Street Gardens on 22 July. The historic Grassmarket area, home to the Apex International Hotel and the Apex City Hotel, will host a free street party with samba bands and performances on several jazz and blues stages - an event that's always popular with visitors and Edinburgh locals alike.

It's still too early to reveal any details of the programme - watch this space - but one event has been announced: Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. The diminutive piano man can call on some top notch musicians when he puts a band together, including some outstanding vocalists, and he knows how to put on a show. This will be entertaining, crowd-pleasing stuff.

London 2012 Festival

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London 2012 Festival (21 June – 9 September 2012)

2012 really is the year where all eyes will be on London, and the city has the global spotlight like never before.

London .. one amazing year

The £52m London 2012 Festival is the largest festival the UK has ever put on, bringing over 10 million opportunities to the country. Yes you heard correctly 10 million opportunities – that’s over 12,000 performances and events going on throughout the summer. It's the hottest ticket of the year and is definitely going to be a showstopper, where most of the events taking place are FREE. The London 2012 Festival is a once in a life opportunity and is set to be the largest cultural celebration of our lifetime!

Leading artists from all over the world will have the chance to share and be part of something amazing. Performances created by over 25,000 artists will come together to celebrate the grand finale of the Cultural Olympiad - a program of celebrations and events that have been running since 2008. You can enjoy everything from free concerts, to art exhibitions, to Shakespeare plays, to dance performances, to outdoor carnivals. Whether you love fashion, dance, food, music, carnivals, theatre, art or film, you’ll find something you and the family can get involved in – this is one iconic 12-week festival that you have to experience.

With the likes of Damon Albarn, Plan B, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Jude Law, Leona Lewis and Mike Leigh, it’s no wonder the festival has been called ‘A summer like no other’ as it promises to excite, ignite and thrill Londoners and visitors throughout the 12-week period of celebrations.

“Here in London, we want to create a summer like no other, so that Londoners and visitors, wherever they are in the capital, come away feeling they have been part of something exhilarating, a unique moment in time the like of which they could get nowhere else”. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

London 2012 celebrations will be taking place across the UK, so look out for events and tickets in your area.

Dundee July 2012

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What's on in Dundee in July 2012?

Event of the month


Robot - The Fantasy and Reality (until 30 September 2012)

This summer, Dundee Science Centre brings you a new and exciting exhibition all about robots! Featuring cutting edge technology and engineering, the show is split into two areas; Fantasy and Reality. - Sensation Science Centre, Greenmarket, Dundee DD1 4 QB - Find out more in our Sensational Robots blog post.

Infinite Jest (23 June 2012 - 26 August 2012) - Infinity is a tough concept for the human mind, but it's one we find ourselves drawn to. This intriguing exhibition, featuring three artists from around the world explores infinite loops, circular narration and möbius strips - Dundee Contemporary Arts, 152 Nethergate, Dundee DD1 4DY - www.dca.org.uk

A Wild Life: An Audience with Steve Backshall (2 July 2012) - Wildlife expert Steve Blackhall was last on our screens in his BBC series Lost Land of the Volcano. The Sunday Express called him "the next David Attenburgh" and his CV includes a spell as Adventurer in Residence at the National Geographic Channel, so he'll have plenty of stories as he comes to Dundee for this illustrated talk about his encounters with exotic wildlife - Caird Hall, City Square, Dundee, DD1 3BB - www.cairdhall.co.uk

Alfie Boe (11 July 2012) - Compared to other tenors in opera, Alfie Boe's rise to fame was as unconventional as some of the projects he's taken on since. He had years of conventional opera training and early dabblings with traditional opera, including a production in 1999 with Scottish Opera, before starring in Baz Luhrmann's Broadway production of La bohème. Since then he's had hit albums, sung in West End smash hit Les Misérables 25th Anniversary concerts, collaborated with Robert Plant and become a YouTube sensation by singing in Matt Lucas' kitchen. See the hugely popular singer in what will probably be a sold-out tour - Caird Hall, City Square, Dundee, DD1 3BB - www.cairdhall.co.uk

Factory Skatepark Annual Fun Day (21 July 2012) - The Factory has a long history in Dundee, from its initial home in an abandoned factory warehouse (now Dundee Contemporary Arts) to its current fantastic purpose built building. Charity-managed, it's a vibrant part of the local community and every year it hosts a fun day for all ages with bounces castles, climbing wall, face painting and maybe even some skating - Factory Skatepark, 15 Balunie Drive, Dundee, DD4 8PS - www.factoryskatepark.com

Scotland's Countryside Festival (28 - 29 July 2012) - There aren't many festivals to which you can take your dog and your ferret, but then this does call itself "Scotland's Friendliest Festival". This is real family entertainment with an emphasis on country pursuits. The events are unusual, even bizarre, but they're all the more charming for it. Watch The Drakes of Hazard's Indian Runner Ducks navigate an assault course. See dare-devil horseriding display team The Devil's Horsemen - legendary Hollywood stunt riders and horsemasters with credits including Game of Thrones and Merlin. View some of the 1300 vintage cars that will visit over the weekend. Or learn how to throw an axe. There will also be markets hosting a huge range of food, drink and craft producers, so you needn't leave empty handed - Glamis Castle, Angus, DD8 1RJ - www.glamis-castle.co.uk

Dundee Running Adventure Marathon and Half Marathon (29 July 2012) - Following Dundee's Green Circular Route over mixed and hilly terrain, this is not the race for you if you want to beat your fastest time. It's the big race in Dundee's running calendar, though, and it's very popular. If you want a challenge then you'll certainly find one to suit, whether it's in the marathon, the half marathon or the 3-person relay - Camperdown Park, Coupar Angus Road, Dundee, DD2 4TF - www.eventfull.biz/dramhalfdram.html

Edinburgh July 2012

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What's on in Edinburgh in July 2012?

Event of the month

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival (20 - 29 July 2012)

Edinburgh's world class festival of blues, jazz and a hint of world music is now in its 34th year. The programme hasn't been released yet, but expect legendary jazz musicians alongside rising stars, free outdoor concerts and colourful parades - Find out more in our Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival blog post.

Peppa Pig's Treasure Hunt (4 - 5 July 2012) - See the popular cartoon pig and her friends brought to life as puppets. The last show, Peppa Pig's Party, was a sell-out success, so book early if you want your kids to see this one! - Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson St, Edinburgh EH8 9FT - www.fctt.org.uk

Taste of Edinburgh (6 - 8 July 2012) - In the pleasant, green, city centre parkland of the Meadows in Edinburgh, this three day food festival serves up Celebrity chefs, pop-up restaurants and gourmet produce to sample and buy. If you want to do more than eat, drink and be merry, there are also masterclasses and workshops so that you can pick up some tips from the pros - The Meadows, Melville Drive, Edinburgh - www.tasteofedinburgh.co.uk

Catherine the Great: An Enlightened Empress (13 July - 21 October 2012) - As Empress of the Russia Empire during what was considered its Golden Age, Catherine the Great was one of history's greatest art collectors. This major exhibition - exclusive to Edinburgh - features more than 300 works from her collection, illustrating her tastes, interests and achievements - National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF - nms.ac.uk

Starlight Express (3 - 14 July 2012) - The classic (and possibly only) musical on roller skates thunders into Edinburgh. Andrew Lloyd Webber fans will rejoice; anyone doubting the show's pedigree should take note that this is one of the longest running musicals in West End history - Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AA - http://www.atgtickets.com/venue/Edinburgh-Playhouse/243/

High Flying Birds (17 July 2012) - Ex-Oasis guitarist, songwriter Noel Gallagher has a new band. Rumours of a radically different sound to Oasis may be exaggerated, but his gift for crafting a catchy tune is apparently still in place. Come and judge for yourself in the most spectacular venue in Scotland - Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill, Edinburgh, EH1 2NG - www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/index/events/events_promo2.htm

Olly Murs (20 July 2012) - The dust will barely have settled after High Flying Birds' gig when X-Factor runner up and chart success Olly Murs rolls into town. A third album is in the pipeline, with writing due to start in April, so an early preview of new material is a possibility - www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/index/events/events_promo2.htm

Madonna - World Tour 2012 (21 July 2012) - Believe it or not, in a career spanning 23 years as an entertainer, this will be Madonna's first concert in Scotland. She's touring a new album, "MDNA", but we'd be surprised if she didn't play a few classics, too - Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, EH12 5PJ - www.livenation.co.uk

Hitchhikers's Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show... Live! (21 July 2012) - Douglas Adams' much loved and wholly remarkable books actually started life as a successful radio series. Now those programmes have been adapted for the stage, with the original voice actors in their roles. It's been applauded by critics and fans alike and since this is the last date on the tour it's not to be missed. Breaking news also reveals that for the Edinburgh show, bestselling author Neil Gaiman will be the voice of the book - Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AA - http://www.atgtickets.com/venue/Edinburgh-Playhouse/243/

London July 2012

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What's on in London in July 2012?

Event of the month

London 2012

London 2012 Olympic Games (28 July - 11 August 2012)

It's the biggest sporting event in the world and the most important event we have all been waiting for - the 2012 Olympic Games finally comes to London! Events will take place at Olympic Park in addition to venues all across London, including Earls Court, Hyde Park, ExCel and Hampton Court Palace. - Find out more in our London 2012 blog post.

Wimbledon Tennis 2012 (25 June - 8 July 2012) - The world’s most famous and prestigious tennis event is upon us. Wimbledon is iconic for its green grass and white clothing, making the tradition almost as appealing as the game itself. The 2012 Wimbledon game will see 60 countries compete in five different Championships events. As 2012 is London’s year, all eyes will be on British contender Andy Murray and we will all be behind him 100% to take home the title this July – come on Andy! - The AELTC, Church Road, Wimbledon, London, SW19 5AE - www.wimbledon.com

Wireless Festival 2012 (6 - 8 July 2012) - The Wireless Festival, held in Hyde Park, is a great day out and rivals the UK’s top festivals. A number of top acts have been secured including Nicki Minaj, Jessie J, Calvin Harris, Professor Green and DeadMau5 - with the emperor herself, Rihanna headlining! The festival boasts multiple stages, food halls and bars so you have everything you need for hours of musical fun – but move quick, as tickets are selling fast! - Hyde Park, London - www.wirelessfestival.co.uk

Thai Food Festival London (6 - 8 July 2012) - This is one food festival where you can truly lose your inhibitions and take your taste buds on an exciting, culinary rollercoaster. The Thai Festival is London’s finest, bringing together dishes from Northern Chiang Mai right the way down to the coastal south of Phuket. Enjoy classic Thai favourites or try something new and adventurous such as Moo Ping, and treat yourself to a Thai shoulder and foot massage from of the many traditionally trained specialists. - Ealing Common, Warwick Road, London, W5 3HN - www.visitthaifestival.com

WorldPride 2012 (7 July 2012) - 2012 really is an exciting year for London, as the city is set to host WorldPride 2012. The WorldPride celebrations will spread over two weeks with the main Parade event taking place on the 7 July. WorldPride will be raising awareness and campaigning for the decriminalisation of homosexuality around the world. The iconic, flamboyant and colourful parade is expected to attract over one million visitors. The high street after party will take over Soho once again with celebrations going on all evening. - Soho, London - www.pridelondon.org

Big Dance 2012 (7 - 15 July 2012) - Big Dance is the world’s biggest dancing event, breaking world record after world record - the event has grown to be the most influential dance initiative on the planet. The top five leading London dance companies coordinate the Big Dance to ensure all dance movements and eras are featured, with dancing taking place all over the city. Put on your dancing shoes and tap dance your way down to the Big Dance, you might even tango your way in to the arms of someone famous! - Across London - www.bigdance2012.com

BP Big Summer Screens 2012 (16 July 2012) - One of the greatest opera and ballet open-air events taking place this summer, and best of all - the event is completely FREE! The BP Summer Big Screens is the best way to introduce friends and family to the Royal Opera House, giving them the chance to enjoy the mesmerising world of ballet and opera. - Trafalgar Square and Canada Square Park - www.roh.org.uk/bp-big-screens

Buckingham Palace Summer Opening (30 June - 8 July 2012) - Visit Buckingham Palace and experience one of the world’s last remaining working Royal Palaces. This year will see Buckingham Palace celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with an exceptional exhibition of the dazzling royal diamonds, including a favourite crown of Queen Victoria’s with 1187 diamonds and the famous 18th century bloodstone box made of nearly 3000 diamonds! See the lavishly furnished rooms inside the palace as well as enjoy a guided tour of the Royal Mews. - Buckingham Palace, London, SW1A 1AA - www.royalcollection.org.uk

Madonna at Hyde Park (17 July 2012) - Following on from her hugely triumphant 2009 tour, Sticky & Sweet, the Queen of Pop is back with a new world tour to coincide with her new studio album, MDNA. Madonna will be performing new and old songs and will be joined in Hyde Park with special guests LMFAO. This is one event all you pop princes and princesses do not want to miss as Madge is back in London for one night and one night only! - Hyde Park, London - www.madonna.com

The One World 2012 Exhibition (17 July 2012) - Bringing together representatives of countries from all four corners of the world, including commercial organisations. This exhibition is a must see for all those who appreciate life, diversity and beauty! The Open World 2012 will showcase the varied exquisiteness of landscapes and people from across our magnificent planet and will be a unique event that celebrates the world’s culture, history and beauty. - National Hall, Hammersmith Road, London, W14 8UX - www.oneworldexhibitions.com

Chef's Vanilla Brulee

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Simon Rush, Head Chef at Apex Waterloo Place Hotel in Edinburgh, explains how to make Vanilla crème brûlée with homemade shortbread, which he enjoys baking in Elliot's Restaurant and Bar.

Crème brûlée is a classic, lovely way to finish off a meal with the crisp sugary top and a smooth creamy vanilla custard underneath, not to mention the buttery homemade short bread to go with it.

Vanilla Brulee

Simon's vanilla crème brûlée and shortbread recipe

Serves 6

To make the crème brûlée:

1 egg
4 egg yolks
80g sugar
500ml cream
1 vanilla pod

Bring the cream and vanilla to the boil. Mix the sugar, yolks and egg together in a bowl. Pour the hot cream over the egg mixture and mix together, skimming off any froth. Pour the mixture into ramekins and cook in a tray half filled with hot water 100°C for 30-40 minutes or until firm like custard. Take out and cool. When ready to serve, glaze the sugar on top with a gas gun. Serve with homemade shortbread.

To make the shortbread:

175g butter
125g flour
70g icing sugar
70g corn flour

Soften the butter and mix well with the icing sugar. Add in the flours and mix thoroughly. Roll into a long cylinder using silicon paper or cling film, and leave to chill in the fridge. Cut into slices (5mm thick) and bake in the oven at 160°C for 8-10 minutes.

Apex Duck Guide

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If you've stayed at an Apex Hotel, you'll already know that we put a duck in your bathroom every time you stay with us - but did you also know there is a different colour duck for you to collect at each Apex Hotel? Here's a guide to where you'll usually find each duck.

Apex Duck Guide

Two Days in the Smoke

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We recently welcomed Slate4Films to Apex City of London and Apex London Wall, where they filmed scenes for stylish new movie Two Days in the Smoke. A romantic black comedy set in London, it is a fast paced thriller with a splash of romance. Starring Matt Di’Angelo, Lili Bordan, Alan Ford and Jess Fletch, the film follows the rapidly extinguishing lives of a group of people who have no idea their destinies are inextricably interconnected.

Courtesy of Slate 4 Films

We caught up with Location Manager and Production Co-ordinator, Oriana Ornitharis, to find out more about this exciting independent production.

What made you choose Apex Hotels?
A great central location that matched our brief to ‘find a luxury, four star hotel’ and wonderful views from the hotel bedrooms. The room size was ideal for the shoot itself as it was very big with lots of natural light. Plus the furnishings of the room are very contemporary and matches well with the style of the scenes being filmed in the bedrooms. We have also taken out rooms for our hair and make-up team, who have made use of the large desk spaces available! The quiet street location made filming outside perfect for us. The team at Apex have been so nice to us and accommodating, we really couldn’t have completed this film without them. The Crew and Director of Photography are so happy with the location choice and I have definitely met the brief!

How many locations will be used to make this film?
There are around 20 iconic London locations that we have used for the filming of Two Days in the Smoke. These include Tower Bridge, Kensington, city parks etc and we are also filming in Paris.

Courtesy of Slate 4 Films

How long will it take to make the film?
Filming takes 4 weeks – we are on a very tight schedule, and post production will be about 2 months.

When is the film released?
The date is yet to be confirmed, but is due out in October 2012.

Images courtesy of Slate 4 Films. Find out more about the movie by joining them on Facebook and Twitter.

Apex Waterloo Awarded

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Apex Waterloo Place Hotel honoured in the 2012 TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards

We are proud to announce that TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel website, has named Apex Waterloo Place Hotel in Edinburgh as one of the Top 25 Trendiest Hotels in the United Kingdom in its 2012 Travellers’ Choice awards.

Alan Harbisher - Hotel General Manager

The annual TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards honor the world’s best hotels, based on millions of guest reviews from holidaymakers worldwide.

“With the help of millions of travellers around the globe, TripAdvisor is thrilled to recognise the world’s most outstanding hotels with the Travellers’ Choice Awards. Recognising the best of the best based on traveller feedback and reviews, value and quality are the hallmarks of our Travellers’ Choice winners.” Christine Petersen, President, TripAdvisor for Business.

“It’s great to be included in the Top 25 Trendiest Hotels in the UK, especially as this is voted for by guests who have stayed at Waterloo Place. We pride ourselves on high levels of service and it is rewarding for the team to have received this recognition.” Alan Harbisher, General Manager, Apex Waterloo Place Hotel.

Read the latest reviews for Apex Waterloo Place Hotel here.

100 days to the Olympics

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Today marks the official 100 day countdown to the 2012 London Olympics

The London 2012 games are just round the corner with only 100 days to go until the event of the decade begins! The official Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games will take place on Friday 27 July 2012, where the world’s eyes will be on the city capital. Be sure to check availability and see if you can grab one of our last rooms available at the four star luxury Apex City of London Hotel during the 2012 Olympics!

London 2012

The official Olympic countdown clock, unveiled 500 days before the games, can be found in Trafalgar Square. With celebrations taking place all over the city, keep your eyes on our up and coming London June, July and August blog posts, in order to keep up to date with all the activities going on during the summer of 2012.

For those of us that did not manage to get tickets for the London 2012 games, don’t be disheartened, as there will be plenty of Olympic Games that are completely free to watch! These free games include Road Cycling, Triathlon, Marathon and Race Walking where the streets of London will be lined with cheering fans that have come out to support their favourite sporting heroes.

This year will see London host the Olympic Games for the third time, making history for becoming the first city to officially host the Olympic Games three times. Each time the Olympics have been hosted by London, it has been iconic and record breaking – putting London on the map.

It all started at the London 1908 games where, for the first time, athletes paraded under their national flags at the Opening Ceremony. This was also the pioneering year that the distance of the Marathon was set to 26.2 miles, as this was the exact distance from Windsor Castle to the Royal Box in the Olympic Stadium.

The Games then descended on to London for the second time in 1948, after the World War II where London stepped in at the last minute to be hosting city. Again, this was a record breaking year for the Games, as it was the first time the competition was shown on home television!

From the extravaganza of the Opening Ceremony to the thrills of the sporting action, the 2012 games is an event not to be missed as it truly will be an unforgettable experience. Let’s see what records the London games can break this year!

Find out more on the London 2012 website.

Edinburgh Film Festival

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Edinburgh International Film Festival (20 June - 1 July 2012)

The Edinburgh International Film Festival is a world renowned celebration of International cinema held annually in Scotland’s capital. 2012 sees the 66th EIFF take place from 20 June to 1 July.

Films are showcased in venues across the city at the Filmhouse, Cameo, Festival Theatre and George Square Theatre, along with unique festival events including outdoor screenings, workshops and discussions.

Opening Night – 20 June 2012

It was announced today that William Friedkin’s thriller Killer Joe will be the festival's opening night gala.

Killer Joe - opening night film

From the director of The French Connection and The Exorcist and starring Matthew McConaughey and Emile Hirsch, it is the story of drug dealer Chris Smith. Down on his luck, he hires hit man Killer Joe to murder his own mother for her $50,000 life insurance policy. With barely a dollar to his name Chris agrees to offer up his younger sister, Dottie, as collateral in exchange for Joe’s services until he receives the insurance money. That is, if it ever does come in.

"Killer Joe is about the Good and Evil in everyone, the struggle for our better angels to triumph over our demons. Often lost. The thin line between the policeman and the criminal. It's also a riff on the Cinderella story, wherein she finds her prince, but he turns out to be a hired killer. I would also like to thank the Edinburgh International Film Festival for honouring our film with this screening, uncut. Of a film the Motion Picture Association of America has expressed a desire to censor." William Friedkin, Director.

Closing Night - 30 June 2012

The closing night film has been announced as Brave, the latest Disney-Pixar animated movie. Set in Scotland and featuring a whole host of UK stars, Edinburgh is the perfect place for Brave to make its European Premiere.

Brave - closing night film

The film tells the story of courageous Scottish princess Merida, a skilled archer determined to carve her own path in life. Defying a sacred Scottish custom, she inadvertently unleashes the fury of her family and turns to an eccentric witch for help. The chaos which ensues forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery. With voices from the likes of Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson and Robbie Coltrane, this is sure to be another Disney-Pixar hit.

“Brave will be the most high-profile film ever set in, and themed around, Scotland, featuring Scottish stars. We are looking at a film which comes from the award-winning team behind such box office smashes as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Up, and will create global buzz when it is released.” Alex Salmond, First Minister for Scotland.

A full programme of showings and events will soon be available to view on the EIFF website.

The Tempest in Dundee

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The Tempest at Dundee Rep Theatre (6 - 23 June 2012)

Dundee's Rep Theatre has become renowned for its productions and as its award winning Dundee Rep Ensemble prepares for a new, exciting production of Shakespearean comedy The Tempest, we caught up with director Jemima Levick to talk great playwrights, ensemble casts and Dundee as a significant centre for the arts.

Special offer

Don't miss half price tickets to The Tempest for guests staying at Apex City Quay Hotel & Spa in Dundee.*

The Tempest is thought to be Shakespeare's final play. On the surface it's the story of the exiled and shipwrecked Prospero seeking vengeance on his brother for stealing his rightful place as Duke of Milan. Learning that his brother is on a vessel in nearby seas, Prospero raises a magical tempest to wash the ship ashore and exact his revenge. There's more to the story, though, as the fates of the island dwellers and the ship's various passengers become entwined in a tale of love, friendship, redemption, magic and theatre itself.

Tempest director Jemima Levick talks to us about her latest production.

We're pretty excited about the Rep's production of The Tempest. It's just over 4 weeks away – what stage are preparations at and how are they going?
Very well, it's an exciting piece of work! We're only in the second week of rehearsals so we're only really just getting it 'on it's feet' as we've been discussing it round the table up until now. It's important to ensure that everyone has a literal and functional level of understanding about the text and clear about what exactly they're saying. The designs are all in place now, it just needs to be built!

What can audiences expect from the Dundee Rep Theatre's production of The Tempest?
I'm hoping it'll feel like a fresh look at the text, of the story, the characters and the world in which it's set - a play for today, not just for 1611! I've taken a new look at it in terms of the island dwellers and their relationship to the environment in which they live and the people that arrive on the island. But I won't tell you what that is... you'll have to come and see it!

This is your first time directing Shakespeare. You're no stranger to theatre's great playwrights, having tackled plays by Ibsen, Tolstoy, Chekhov and Tennessee Williams already, but is there something special about taking on Shakespeare?
It's an obvious answer, but the language makes all the difference. Also his reputation! Everyone knows his plays so well. Even the less known ones have been studied and pulled apart by scholars and audiences for many many years. If I had a pound for each person that's told me that this is their 'favourite Shakespeare'...!

Do you have a favourite adaptation of the play, on stage or screen?
I love the Derek Jarman version. It's extraordinary but would never work on stage.

What's it like directing an ensemble company, like the Rep Ensemble, compared to working with actors brought together for a single production?
Essentially with the ensemble you have a shorthand between yourself and the actors and that the company has with one another. They trust each other as performers and so there's far fewer days spent 'getting to know you' than there tends to be when people are brought together. Also, the sheer number of shows that they have under their belt means that they are hugely experienced and so they have technique in spades.

Dundee has a vibrant arts and cultural environment, with the likes of the Rep Theatre, Scottish Dance Theatre, DCA, graphic arts organization NEoN and soon the new V&A. What does it mean to you to live in a city with a buoyant cultural scene? Are there any others you'd like to highlight?
Dundee has many high profile and also hidden arts organisations and venues. It's what makes Dundee such a fantastic place to visit. There is always something going on and never very far to reach. I would recommend that you come and explore Dundee for yourself, you won't be disappointed.

The Tempest runs from 6 - 23 June 2012 at Dundee Rep Theatre, Tay Square, Dundee, DD1 1PB.

* To book half price tickets for The Tempest, you'll need to have a booking confirmation for Apex City Quay Hotel & Spa for a night during the show's run. Call Dundee Rep box office on 01382 223530 and tell them you're a guest at Apex City Quay Hotel & Spa. When collecting your tickets from the box office, you'll be asked to show your hotel room keycard so please bring it with you.

London June 2012

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What's on in London in June 2012?

Event of the month

Thames Diamond Jubilee River Pageant (3 June 2012) - The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant will be the largest ever to disembark on the River Thames, with over 1,000 boats united together to celebrate the Queens 60th year as the reigning monarch. This flotilla will consist of boats from the armed forces and emergency services, historic boats, steam vessels and wooden launches - all decked out with streamers and Union Jack flags. You can watch the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant for free at any point along the River Thames. - Wandsworth Bridge to Tower Bridge - www.thamesdiamondjubileepageant.org

Celebrate the City (21 - 24 June 2012) - Enjoy some of the Square Mile’s best kept secrets as the City reveals its unrivalled collections, buildings and heritage like never before. From rarely-seen riches such as the Magna Carta to exhibitions of glittering gold artefacts, this event is not one to be missed! Visitors can sneak a peek inside tower Bridge, join the madness of a midsummer street party or soak up a sunset over the Thames. - City of London - www.visitthecity.co.uk

Father’s Day (17 June 2012) - London is beyond doubt, the city where all dads can truly be spoiled this year, whether it is the London art galleries and museums, or the great outdoor gardens and park – there is something for all dads! Book a table at any one of our London Restaurants to celebrate Fathers Day and kids will eat free, plus dad you get a pint on us! - Apex Hotels London - www.apexhotels.co.uk/eat

Taste of London 2012 (21 - 24 June 2012) - A four day summer festival of eating, drinking and entertainment. The top 40 City restaurants will be serving unbeatable alfresco feasts as the famous chefs take their trade outdoors. Take part in wine tutorials, cookery classes and sample food from top London restaurants. - Regent's Park, London, NW1 4NR - www.tastefestivals.com/london

Greenwich and Docklands International Festival (21 - 24 June 2012) - The Greenwich and Docklands International Festival returns this June with a ten-day celebration of theatre and dance. Expect the unexpected this year, with the festival including breath-taking night-time exhibitions, spectacular theatre productions and captivating dance performances. - Greenwich and Docklands - www.festival.org

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2 June - 5 September 2012) - This new production of Shakespeare’s magnificent story ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ will be performed under the stars at London’s Regents Park Open Air Theatre. Packed with magic and humour, the leafy surroundings of Regent’s Park makes for the perfect setting for this romantic tale. - Regents Park Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, London, NW1 4NU - www.openairtheatre.org

Flawless & English National Ballet (1 - 2 June 2012) - At different ends of the dance spectrum, the performance ‘Time if of the Essence’ brings together the two different dance worlds in the unlikely collaboration of English National Ballet and the dance crew Flawless. The show merges together ballet, acrobats and hip hop, uniting the two worlds of dance in one exceptional, dazzling performance. - HMV Hammersmith Apollo‎, 2 Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith, London W6 9 - www.ballet.org.uk

Coldplay (1 - 2 June 2012) - Performing songs from their latest album, Mylo Xyloto, including a spectrum of music genres from R&B to electronic to alternative rock and pop. Marina and the Diamonds will also be supporting Coldplay, making this gig a must see in June. - Emirates Stadium, 75 Drayton Park, London, N5 1BU - www.ticketmaster.co.uk

Henry Moore: Large Forms (1 June - 18 August 2012) - In collaboration with The Henry Moore Foundation, The Gagosian Gallery presents this major exhibition of large-scale sculptures, celebrating the beauty and power of organic forms, symbolic of modern British sculpture. - Gagosian Gallery, 6-24 Britannia Street, London, WC1X 9JD - www.gagosian.com/exhibitions

Simon Amstell - Numb (8 June 2012) - The former host of ‘Never Mind the Buzzcocks’ and award-winning comedian is back with a new stand-up show, taking you through a series of his own personal encounters where he attempts to heal himself in public. - 02 Shepherd's Bush Empire, Shepherd's Bush Green, London, W12 8TT - www.o2shepherdsbushempire.co.uk

Lovebox (8 June 2012) - Each year Victoria Park becomes the hosting grounds for one of London’s finest summer music festivals, Lovebox. Set over 40 acres, this 12 stage carnival will be celebrating its 10th year - a decade of love! - Victoria Park, Grove Road, Tower Hamlets, London E3 5SN - www.lovebox.net

Edinburgh June 2012

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What's on in Edinburgh in June 2012

Event of the month

Edinburgh International Film Festival (20 June - 1 July 2012) - A world-renowned film festival showcasing the best cinema from around the world, as well as new British films. This year will close with a major event: the European premiere of the latest Disney-Pixar film "Brave" - Find out more in our Edinburgh Film Festival blog post.

Oliver! (30 May - 23 June 2012) - It might have turned 50 last year, but this West End sensation is more popular than ever. This production ran for two years in London's Theatre Royal Drury Lane, gathering praise from reviewers and the biggest advance sales ever for a West End show. Now it's on tour, giving Edinburgh a chance to enjoy the show with Brian Conley starring as Fagin - Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 - 22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AA - http://www.atgtickets.com/venue/Edinburgh-Playhouse/243/ - Theatre breaks available at Apex Hotels

Gardening Scotland (1 - 3 June 2012) - Get inspired by gardening and the great outdoors at this national celebration of green-fingered life. With BBC Radio Scotland's Beechgrove Potting Shed team on had to answer questions, show gardens, exhibitions, workshops and family entertainment, this is one of the biggest events in the gardening calendar - Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, Edinburgh, EH28 8NB - www.gardeningscotland.com

Scottish Ensemble with Catrin Finch (7 June 2012) - Formerly the Royal Harpist to HRH the Prince of Wales, Catrin Finch joins the UK's only professional string orchestra for the world première of Savourna Stevenson's new concerto for pedal harp and string orchestra. As well as this new work, the programme features pieces chosen to celebrate the historical ties between Scotland and France: Debussy's Marche Écossaise, Danses Sacrée et Profane and Ravel's Petite Symphonie - Queens Hall, 85-89 Clerk St, Edinburgh EH8 9JG - www.thequeenshall.net

Edinburgh Moonwalk (9 June 2012) - Power walking a marathon or half-marathon in your bra might sound like punishment for forgetting your gym kit, but it's actually a huge success story for breast cancer awareness and fundraising. Walkers will raise about £2 million for breast cancer in just this one night, with a theme of Midnight at the Oasis fitting in well with the start and finish next to the Botanic Gardens - Edinburgh city centre - www.walkthewalk.com

Strictly Presents... Dance to the Music (18 June 2012) - Strictly Come Dancing comes to Edinburgh! The stars of Strictly show you what they're capable of without the judges and the rules, including the 2010 champion Kara Tointon and her dance partner - Usher Hall, Lothian Road, Edinburgh, EH1 2EA - www.usherhall.co.uk

Royal Highland Show (21 - 24 June 2012) - Visit one of the biggest events in Edinburgh - more than 180,000 people visited last year, over just four days. On the surface it's an agricultural and livestock show, but really it's so much more. There's gourmet food and drink to be sampled, designer fashion labels on show, children's activities and lots of live entertainment. With so much going on it's not easy to pin down what makes it so special; the only thing way to do that is to go. Frequent buses (no. 98) from the city centre - Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, Edinburgh, EH28 8NB - www.royalhighlandshow.org

CAMRA Scottish Real Ale Festival (28 - 30 June 2012) - Real ale and craft brewing in Scotland is booming, with new independent breweries opening every year. This real ale festival gives you a chance to celebrate the diversity and quality of Scottish beers, with more than 150 to choose from - Edinburgh Corn Exchange, 11 Newmarket Road, Edinburgh, EH14 1RJ - www.ece.uk.com

Dundee June 2012

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What's on in Dundee in June 2012?

Event of the month

The Tempest (6 - 23 June 2012) - The award winning Rep Ensemble presents Shakespeare's final play. The Tempest is a tale of revenge, love, forgiveness and magic, all swirling around Prospero's stormy and shipwrecked exile. Often regarded as his greatest work, the play has been reinterpreted by many, even spawning a classic 1960s sci-fi movie in Forbidden Planet - Dundee Rep Theatre, Tay Square, Dundee, DD1 1PB - Find out more in our The Tempest blog post - 50% discount for guests of Apex Hotels (simply call 01382 223530 with proof of booking confirmation and bring your key card with you on the night).  

This Production (7 April - 10 June 2012) - Dundee born and educated, Scott Myles marks 15 years since his graduation in Dundee with this exhibition of new work at DCA. Those years have been eventful, with his work entering the permanant collections of major modern art galleries around the work including Tate London and MoMA in New York. This exhibition includes site-specific work relating to his time as a skater in Dundee, when the derelict site that is now the DCA was used as a skate park by locals. Alongside the exhibition are a number of related events including artist talks - Dundee Contemporary Arts, 152 Nethergate, Dundee DD1 4DY- www.dca.org.uk

Strathmore Highland Games (10 June 2012) - Experience a traditional Scottish Highland gathering in the beuatiful grounds of Glamis Castle. All the classic events are here: tossing the caber, pipe bands, hammer throwing and more. A great thing about highland games is the community and family aspect: there's something for all ages to see or do, and spectators can event compete in the track and field events - Glamis Castle, Angus, DD8 1RJ - www.glamis-castle.co.uk

London 2012: Olympic Torch Relay (12 June 2012) - A once in a lifetime opportunity to see the ultimate symbol of the Olympics as it's carried through Dundee. As well as the journey of the torch itself in the hands of a few heroes from the local community, there will be celebrations in the town centre - various locations in Dundee - www.london2012.com

Showcase the Street: Moves and Grooves Show (23 June 2012) - Spectacular dance show including streedance, hip hop, breakdance and more, all featuring local young people who've learned their skills from the Showcase the Street charity - Caird Hall, City Square, Dundee, DD1 3BB - www.cairdhall.co.uk

Blazin' Fiddles 2012 (28 June 2012) - Since they formed in 1998, few bands have so completely captured the different styles of Highland fiddle music or captured audiences imaginations quite as thoroughly as Blazin' Fiddles. From gentle and melodic to fast and furious, they demonstrate complete mastery of their instruments and infectious enthusiasm for the music. The achievements of past band members shows just how important they are: Aiden O'Rourke went on to become a founding member of the influential trio Lau, winning the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for best group three years in a row - Dundee Rep Theatre, Tay Square, Dundee, DD1 1PB - www.dundeereptheatre.co.uk  

Parvati the Elephant

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Parvati the Elephant was created for Jungle City, a charitable event of major conservation impact. The event, launched in Edinburgh, celebrated the magnificence of Asia’s endangered wildlife, generating mass awareness of their plight and making everyone smile at the same time. Purchased by Apex Hotels at a charity auction, she is now on display at the Apex Temple Court Hotel in London.

We interviewed the sculptor who created her, Chris Groombridge, to find out more ...

Parvati the Elephant at Apex Temple Court Hotel

How did you get involved in the Jungle City Project?
I was invited to do the sculptures for the Jungle City project through a company that was awarded the contract to manufacture them for the event. I had previously worked on pieces for its forerunner, the Elephant Parade in London.

What was the inspiration behind Parvati?
Parvati was supposed to embody all the characteristics of an Indian elephant with a balance of a friendly warm expression and the graceful power and stature of the animal. Realistic proportions and detail but with an ever so slightly stylised, cartoon edge. The green covering only adds more softness to this appeal.

How long did the sculpture take to complete?
The design took several months of making and adjusting macquettes (small models) before approval was granted. The full version took about two weeks to sculpt in clay (below) and probably the same to mould and cast by a separate team.

Parvati sculpted in clay, before being moulded and cast

What are your thoughts on where she ended up?
I am so pleased that she has ended up in a space where she can be enjoyed; not shut away in a collection. After all these animals should have a right to space and it looks like she has been granted a grand one!

What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on an application for a joint proposal for a sculptural trail project for some woods in Hertfordshire. This, if approved, will involve workshops with the local community using natural materials. I have also just finished a large commissioned piece of architectural detail for a palace in Qatar.

Celebrate Scotland

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Today's post comes from Laura Matuszak, a professionally qualified Scottish Blue Badge Guide. Through her company Celebrate Scotland you can get a tailor made tour anywhere in Scotland.

With a musical theme, here she gives us five reasons why she loves Scotland and her job as a Blue Badge Guide so much.

Edinburgh, Scotland

My Heart’s in the Highlands

Song lyrics written by Scotland’s National Bard Robert Burns who originated from Ayreshire in the south west of the country. I have toured with many visitors to top sights in the north of Scotland such as Loch Ness and Culloden. However, I am lucky enough to be based in the stunning capital city of Edinburgh, home of the Edinburgh International Festival and a UNESCO City of Literature. I appreciate the whole of Scotland and all there is to Celebrate!

Up in the Morning Early

... and often late to bed as well! No Tour is ever the same and I am able to adapt my skills, knowledge and professionalism to suit any type of tour. I have been working within the tourism Industry since 1997 and have experience of many varied interests groups: from Student Foresters to Harry Potter enthusiasts of all ages! My particular specialities lie in catering for anyone who appreciates Scottish music, music generally, language, culture and a little bit of fun during their adventures! I have an ability to communicate the above knowledge and entertain people from all over the world whilst striving to maintain and develop high standards of customer service.

Scotland the Brave

Everybody loves the spirit of Scotland but there's so much more to it than haggis, bagpipes, kilts and tartan! Scotland is truly unique and takes credit for being the birthplace of world famous whisky, golf, poets and inventors whose inventions changed and shaped the modern world. Some of the world's most cutting edge arts, architecture, fashion, design and engineering work can be found in Scotland. From north, south, east to west it is a country bursting with pride, history, style, culture, landscapes, seascapes, food, drink, festivals, music, fascinating people and much more.

I Belong to Glasgow

I don’t officially, but as the largest of Scotland’s seven cities, Glasgow, a UNESCO City of Music, home to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, host of the 2014 Commonwealth Games and with excellent conference facilities, it is a vibrant destination well worth a visit for travellers of all ages and purposes!


This was the name given to what is now Scotland by the Romans and it was made famous in this song by contemporary Scots singer Dougie McLean from Perthshire or ‘Big Tree Country’. Wherever you end up in the world, Scotland will always remain in your heart!

Scotland truly is an inspirational place to visit for the 21st century traveller! To book a Blue Badge Guide you can contact Laura Matuszak at laura@celebratescotland.biz or follow @Celebr8Scotland on Twitter.

Chef's Beetroot Pasta

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Andy Lorimer, Head Chef at the Apex European Hotel in Edinburgh, tells us how to make Beetroot Tagliatelle - his all time favourite dish when he dines at Metro West End.

Andy enjoys making (and eating) this dish as the fresh homemade pasta is colourful and the garlic mushrooms and Parmesan cream gives the dish a fusion of great flavours. Add some chorizo to this dish to give a smoky flavour.

Beetroot Tagliatelle

Andy's Beetroot Tagliatelle Recipe

Serves 4

To make the pasta:

50g plain flour
1 egg
50g beetroot
salt and pepper

Blitz together beetroot and egg then pour into the flour. Leave in fridge to rest until it starts to harden. Use pasta machine to roll out the pasta, then through cutter to make tagliatelle.

To make the sauce:

1 clove of garlic
50g mushrooms
half pint of double cream
Parmesan shavings

Slice the mushrooms and garlic. Put into a pan with a splash of olive oil, add the cream and reduce. Add Parmesan shavings and season to taste. Boil water in a pan with a pinch of salt. Once boiling, add pasta and cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain the pasta then toss through the sauce. Serve whilst hot.

Wedding Planning Tips

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Louise Beattie is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Angus, Scotland. She has photographed brides and grooms at venues all over the country, including our very own Apex City Quay Hotel in Dundee. We asked her from some wedding tips to help couples planning their big day.

Louise Beattie Photography

After a wedding I like to ask brides and grooms for any thoughts and advice they would like to pass on to couples planning their wedding - I remember how daunting it was planning my own wedding!

There are usually common themes such as choosing supportive bridesmaids, scheduling far more time than you think you need for getting ready and enjoying every moment as the day passes so quickly.

A lot of couples say that the biggest surprise for them on their wedding day was just how emotional they were, far more than expected, and to have some tissues handy.

Carolyn recommends buying a month by month wedding planner and keeping it up to date so that you do not miss anything.

Louise Beattie Photography

Another good piece of advice is to wear your wedding shoes around the house to make sure they are comfy on the day. (Did you know that you can buy heelstoppers to stop your heels sinking into the grass if you will be outside on your wedding day?)

Heath advises that grooms should have someone check their speech to make sure they have thanked everyone (he missed his sister, who has taken great delight in reminding him ever since!), whilst Colin recommends that grooms become involved in the planning and not leave everything to their wives to be.

Advice given for couples with young children was not to expect too much from them - if they feel under pressure to be 'good', chances are that they won't be. Have plenty of things to keep them occupied, making them part of the ceremony if you can.

I hope that some of the above tips might be helpful to you as you prepare for your wedding day.

Images © Louise Beattie Photography, all rights reserved. Hair and Make up by SC Make Up Artistry. Bridal dress from Diane Lynne Bridal Design, Dundee.