Posts Tagged ‘London’

A Stay at the Dorchester in London

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 Classic luxury is the vibe at the Dorchester

On my recent trip to London, my husband and I decided to go the classic luxury route and booked a stay at The Dorchester when we found a “pay for two nights, stay for three” deal in the Offers section of their website.  I’m a fan of the brand and am particularly fond of The Hotel Eden in Rome and had a great experience at their sister London property 45 Park Lane.

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Flowers in the lobby

The Dorchester oozes serious classic luxury. From the oversized floral arrangements in the lobby to the butler delivering a spot of tea from room service, this hotel has all old school London trademarks, without being boring or stuffy. The service is top notch, and friendly. The doorman even entertained me with stories from when he lived in L.A. for a few years during the 80s.

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The living area of room 810

We were upgraded to Park Suite and to say the room was large is an understatement. The living area was huge, with a dining table that worked as a desk for two, and a large seating area with overstuffed couches and chairs. It was clear the room could be joined to the adjacent room, so the suite was suitable for families, or executives traveling with assistants that want both proximity and privacy.

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The fire exit map at the Dorchester

The fire exit route map on the door was unlike one I’ve ever seen before. It lacked room distinctions, because the property can combine rooms various ways to accommodate guests, whatever their clients needs may be.

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Left: This Asian cabinet housed the minibar Right: a bold mix of patterns

The bedroom was also generously sized. Suite 810 was also blissfully quiet, thanks to double-paned windows. The dreamy bed was easy to sink into and hard to get out of since it was so comfortable. Maybe that’s why I never made it to the hotel’s gym during my stay?

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Succulent centerpiece on the table of Suite 810

The Suite overlooked Hyde Park and had an enormous dining and living area that closed off entirely from the hallway leading to the bedroom. There was a powder room off the hall next to the living room, so the master bathroom still had privacy.

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Oversized comfy couches in the living area of a Park Suite at the Dorchester

The Dorchester knows that it’s the little things that make a hotel feel like your home away from home. From the Champagne welcome amenity to the delicious shortbread biscuits in the minibar, I never wanted for much during my stay.

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Orchids in the London morning light

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The gleaming marble master bathroom

The master bathroom had loads of marble, dual sinks, great light for getting ready and a fabulously deep soaking tub.

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A peek inside the minibar- filled with with British classics

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Fresh roses in the suite area

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The gorgeous fruit basket (and Champagne) were the welcome amenity

My husband and I found our favorite feature of the hotel was the sleek and contemporary Bar at the Dorchester. The space was cool and felt casual and sexy, and had a large list of classic cocktails.

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The Bar is a great spot for variety of cocktails, including an inspired Gin & Tonic

I went for an unusual gin & tonic suggested by my waitress. The Bar also had a nice menu and the succulent olives were some of the best I’ve had outside of Italy. The bread pudding was a standout.

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The bread pudding served in the Bar at the Dorchester

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Royal Salute on display at the Bar at the Dorchester

High end whisky, including Royal Salute Scotch, makes it feel like a lot of very big business deals get done (or at least celebrated) in this bar.

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Left: Salmon at lunch at the The Grill Right: A spot of tea from Room Service for breakfast

The Dorchester has newly renovated The Grill restaurant and it’s gorgeous. Filled with Murano glass chandeliers and fine cuisine, it was a joy to just sit in the room during lunch and breakfast. I did not try the hotel’s more formal three star Michelin Alain Ducasse restaurant or China Tang.

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Champagne in the gorgeously renovated Grill

If you’re interested in a prime Mayfair location and classic luxury, the Dorchester is a classic for a reason. If you can’t stay overnight, come check out the flower-filled promenade for high tea or have a drink at the Bar.

My husband feels more comfortable at the more sleek and contemporary 45 Park Lane next door, which is closer to our own personal aesthetic, but he very much enjoyed a few days at this London Classic.

The Dorchester
Park Lane, Mayfair
London, W1K 1QA

Suites and Rooms Reservations: +44 (0) 20 7317 6530
Fax  +44 (0) 20 7629 8080

Rates from $650.38

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Where To Go For Sunday Roast in London: The Ship

 

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Pork Roast for Sunday at The Ship

I was recently in London and made plans to get together with expat friends on a Sunday. They suggested we meet at The Ship in Wandsworth for Sunday Roast. My friends are foodies and we’ve never shared a bad meal. I’m always game to try something new, and I was excited to head to a new area of Southwest London I had not yet explored.

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Yorkshire Pudding on top of the pork roast

Sunday Roast wasn’t a tradition I was familiar with, but it sounded fun and tasty. I learned that going out to a pub for Sunday Roast is a thing for Brits. It’s like brunch is to Americans, only with more meat and beer instead of mimosas. The Ship had a few different roasts to choose from– chicken, pork and beef.

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The Ship is also known for their excellent Scotch Eggs

We started the meal with a few Scotch Eggs ((£4.25), which are a pub favorite of mine and they were delicious. When our roasts showed up, we were all surprised by the amount of food. Portions are more than generous. Sunday roast is served with the traditional trimmings- mashed potatoes, vegetables, and topped with traditional Yorkshire pudding. I had the pork roast and my husband went for the beef. We swapped halfway through and gave our thumbs up to both versions.

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We split sticky toffee pudding for dessert

Our friend insisted we finish the meal with sticky toffee pudding. It was drenched in toffee sauce which had a lovely caramelized burn and was served with prune ice cream. One order was enough for all four of us to share.

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The bar at The Ship 

The Ship has a great location along the Thames in an area of London I have never explored before. There is a lovely riverside patio that I’d like to visit again when the weather is warmer.

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The exterior of The Ship Wandsworth

Pork and chicken roasts cost £14.50, beef roast £16.00. The Sunday Roast experience at The Ship in Wandsworth was a great introduction to the tradition. The generous portions, atmosphere, and overall goodness of the meal was also a good value for money.

The Ship
41 Jews Row, Wandsworth
London. SW18 1TB
T: 020 8870 9667
E: ship@youngs.co.uk

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Guest Post: Great Experience Renting a Paris Apartment Using AirBnB

Editor’s Note: Over the past year I’ve become a fan on AirBnb, the service that allows guest to find rooms and properties in 192 countries. I had a positive experience using them in San Francisco, and my friend, Mike, used them to find an apartment in Paris over the summer. When he sent me a photo of his rental and I noticed a lamp I have in my own living room at home, I asked him to write us his experience as a guest post for the blog. Hope you enjoy the read- Jen

Last year, Jen asked me to write about my experiences traveling to London and Paris with my family – wherein we found accommodations in professionally-managed private and corporate apartments.

This summer, our family returned to Paris for an 11-day visit. Our daughter, now 8 years old, was scheduled for one week of “French camp” at a school in the 16th arrondissement; we wanted to find an apartment within easy commuting distance, but which was also situated in a lively, active neighborhood. These constraints ruled out our preferred Parisian apartment service (Guest Apartment Paris) because the journey from their apartments to the camp would have required 35-40 minutes each morning and afternoon. Conversely, Parisian friends advised against staying close to the school in the 16th, which they deemed too conservative, sleepy and staid.

Detail of a few art pieces in the living room

I started searching anew for rental apartments on VRBO, and found myself once again disappointed by their limited search options, opaque pricing/availability details, and woefully bad photos. Not a thing had changed since I had considered using that service four years ago… Aside from the presence of a spunky new competitor to consider: Airbnb.

I had heard about Airbnb since it launched in late 2008, but never had reason to explore its offerings. Its youth serves it well, as the site feels modern and is intuitive to navigate. Click on “Paris” on the front page and you’re presented with various neighborhoods, tagged by areas of interest. Alternately, you can click on “All Listings” and filter to your heart’s content: Lodging type, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, price range, neighborhood, and targeted amenities. Airbnb search listings feature a live-updating map, showing approximate locations of filtered properties, so you can more easily target a specific corner of a neighborhood or access to a métro (subway) line.

Individual listings on Airbnb are generally very impressive. They use a standard rubric for presenting information, the photos are usually very high quality (Airbnb sends photographers to assist property owners with this), maps and street view are available so you can get a feel for the neighborhood, and a calendar of availability is maintained (sometimes slightly out of date, but better than I’ve found on VRBO). Each listing has a bookings feature that will give you an accurate price for the dates of your intended stay – so you don’t have to negotiate that later on with the owner.

Panorama of the living room

Using their search interface, I quickly narrowed down my search to 3 properties. I sent in requests to all 3 owners for our intended dates. The first to confirm definite availability was the one we booked. The apartment we landed at was a great find – just 2 minutes from a metro station, and 5 minutes by foot to the Seine. We were steps away from the Champs-Elysees, and just two blocks from a grocery store. Amenities in the apartment were everything we needed (washer/dryer, dishwasher, full kitchen, wifi, computer/printer, cable TV, DVD player). The decor was lovely, including tasteful furniture and intriguing art. It was situated on an interior courtyard, making the apartment incredibly quiet and protected from the noise of the city and streets. The stated square footage was over 1900 square feet for 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, an office/gym, and large living room. Best yet: We had all of this for $400 per night – the cost of an entry-level shoebox-sized bedroom in most of the city’s brand-name and boutique hotels.

Airbnb takes great steps to increase confidence and trust between property owners and the renters. They verify mobile phone numbers on both sides, encourage linking your profile to “real-life” networks like Facebook and LinkedIn (to show that you’re a real person), and can even offer Verified IDs to those who send in scans of documents like driver licenses or passports. Also, Airbnb renters pay fees directly to AirBnb, which holds funds until one day after you check in. You don’t have to deal with odd forms of payment (wire transfers, money orders) to complete strangers, and you don’t lose out on your money if the listing was false or misleading.

We were blown away by the ease-of-use and the transparency offered by Airbnb. It put our family at ease and made our stay in Paris a true delight.

Panorama of the courtyard outside the apartment

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Navigating London Transportation is Way Easier with the Citymapper App

Night Traffic in London

Night Traffic in London

On my recent trip to London, I found getting around the city much easier once my ex-pat friend turned me on to the highly useful Citymapper App, which helps break down the myriad of transportation options in London and New York City.

Not only is the Citymapper app free (and available in iTunes and Google Play), but it really does help make navigating London by tube, bus, bike or rail much simpler. There is even a cheeky jetpack option– should that be how you roll.

Screencaps from the Citymapper London app

Citymapper is highly useful not just because it gives you the best transportation options to get you to home or work or anywhere you might want to go, but it also gives you estimates for time and tells you what the fare is for your journey. It also gives you weather data and disruption alerts in one place.

The London version of the Citymapper app uses a combination of data compiled from Foursquare with their own database, OpenStreetMaps and Apple maps and combines it into one nifty, user-friend design. Citymapper helps conserve batterylife because it only turns on the GPS when it’s on your screen (with the exception of if you’re traveling by bus, where it uses geofencing).

Shoes on a wire in Camden Town

Shoes on a wire in Camden Town

I loved exploring Camden Town and got back to my hotel using the Citymapper App

You can follow Citymapper London on twitter as @CitymapperLON

The Citymapper app also breaks down New York City’s transportation options, although I have yet to try it. If you’ve used Citymapper, let me know what you think of it in the comments section.

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The Global Entry Trusted Traveler Program Rocks: Why You Should Get It

Big Ben Drive By

The Global Entry Trusted Traveler Program Rocks. You should apply for it (assuming you don’t have a criminal record).

I’ve been a big fan the Global Entry Trusted Traveler program (known as GOES) since I first joined a few years ago, and am convinced that the application fee is the best $100 I’ve ever spent on travel (and it’s good for 5 years).

While the original appeal of the Global Entry was that it allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States, now the benefits of TSA Precheck are good enough on their own to justify applying for it. Global Entry Trusted Travelers get to use the TSA Precheck lane and seriously cuts down on the time spent going through airport security.

TSA Precheck is one US program that just keeps getting better and better. Sure– it’s not a guarantee that you’ll precheck every time you fly, but as a frequent traveler, I’ve seen this program improve by leaps and bounds.

On my last two international flights leaving from LAX, I’ve gotten to use TSA Precheck… and it is AWESOME. I didn’t have to take my computer out of my bag, or remove my shoes and jacket. I got through security in less than one minute. When I arrived at Newark from Heathrow, I got off the plane and headed to the bank of Global Entry kiosks and got through customs in less than 2 minutes. Again… AWESOME.

The Global Entry program now allows children to be members, so there are fewer reasons not to apply. I think it’s worth joining even if you don’t travel abroad two or more times a year. If ever travel by plane and value your time, take the time to apply. It seriously cuts down on the hassle involved with airplane travel. You have to schedule an interview to determine if you’re qualified but it’s so worth it.

The bottom line is if cutting down on the hassles associated with airport security is worth $20 a year to you, you should apply.

Learn more about Global Entry (and if you can qualify for it) by checking out the Global Entry website.

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