London Update


London before these winter holidays is so festive and crowded, with shoppers from all over the world. Harrod's was a zoo.  No sign of European budget crises!

London's new Corinthia Hotel is located one block from Trafalgar Square, and near Churchill's War Rooms, Downing Street,  Covent Garden theaters, backing to the Strand. Cross the Golden Jubilee Bridge and you are at London Eye, National Theater and the Tate Modern. It's a ten-minute walk to Regent Street and Picadilly Circus.

The hotel has a storied history. Built in 1885 as London's most luxurious hotel during Queen Victoria's reign, after WW1 it was taken over by the government and became the Defense Ministry, where Churchill had his office.  The newly renovated and reopened hotel has 300 elegant, exquisitely decorated rooms and suites, large marble bath rooms featuring ESPN products, with separate shower. Most rooms have double sinks.  Complimentary in-room wi-fi, Keurig coffee/tea machine, mineral water, and fresh fruit daily. Penthouse suites have amazing views and a few have large roof top terraces. The Royal suite, at 3,200 square feet, goes for 18,000 GBP per night. 

For families I would recommend deluxe Jr. Suites with a small balcony that faces an inner courtyard. These can connect to deluxe double/double rooms. You could have another deluxe room connected and have 2-bedroom suite.

There's a sense of comfortable sophistication, enormous ceilings, lively lobby bar/ tea room, lounge. Great restaurants, wonderful buffet breakfast.
Flower shop and a Harrod's shop. Gorgeous flower arrangements throughout the hotel. Service is immaculate, very attentive staff, and 3 concierges to provide royal treatment. Best ESPN Spa in Great Britain, state of the art gym and indoor swimming pool.

Took the one hour train from Paddington station to Oxford, a charming University town on the Thames. If you reserve the train and purchase tickets with Eurail in advance, it includes seat reservation and is 40% cheaper. Trains run every hour and are crowded.

Oxford is a popular destination for the Brits, and the only hotel available when I made reservations was the Lifton Lodge, a 3-star property near St. Hughes College. Not recommended. Best hotels: Old Bank, Randolph Lodge. My favorite was Parsonage Lodge, and I had the best lunch of our trip there, a Michelin restaurant. It has a Relais Chateau quality, only 30 rooms, always booked, need to make reservations early.

Returning to London we stayed at Marylebone Hotel,  two blocks from Oxford and Bond Street, Regent Streetm and a ten-minute taxi ride from Paddington Station. it's close to the Portobello flea market,  great antique and specialty shops, as well as Selfridge's and Debenham's Department stores. St. Christopher Place (2 blocks) offers large variety of excellent small restaurants. It is the new up and coming upscale London residential and interior design neighborhood. Behind the hotel is London's most famous fish and chips restaurant.

The Marylebone is a boutique hotel, with 257 rooms and suites. Twentieth century classic style, with Art Deco tones. Stylish, comfortable eclectic lounge areas with fire place. Reminded me of the SLS in LA, though not as "kitschy," with more designer mauve and grays.
108 Bar is the most popular hip and happening bar I have seen in a long time. Popular among the locals.

Rooms are small, would recommend deluxe category and higher. Stayed in huge penthouse suite with enormous  pink marble bathroom and large roof top terrace. Separate entrance can connect to deluxe Jr. Suite (736, 738). Not recommended for disabled, has a few steps going up to suite). Perfect for entertainment clients. State of the art fitness center with spin room and classes complimentary to hotel guests (comparable to Equinox), large indoor pool, sauna, steam room and spa. Very friendly and experienced staff. The hotel attracts young professionals and entertainment industry clientele.

Though not usually included, TravelStore can arrange complimentary breakfast daily, upgrade, welcome amenity, and one high tea during stay.

I also visited the Milestone, which is across from Kensington Gardens. It's a beautiful 5-star boutique hotel, with great attention to details. Wonderful welcome. Rooms are small and over decorated in my view, with a bit of a stuffy feel. Small bathrooms. Not for jet set clientele.They offer an excellent pre- and post cruise package.

Grosvenor House Apartments in Park Lane are across from Hyde Park, near Marble Arch, US Embassy, next to JW Marriott.
Elegant large apartments with state of the art kitchen appliances, beautiful large granite bathrooms, small bedrooms. It is your corporate home away from home. The penthouse suites with the terraces overlooking London were amazing. Color scheme is grey, white and black, very stylish but cold.

Food was so-so in the restaurant, and the large lobby restaurant was empty. The whole place seemed deserted. Would not recommend it for single travelers, good for families or entertainment clientele that want privacy.

Josefine Loewenberg