Merriment & Song in Europe

Lisbon was the last stop on Hilton Smith's Christmastime journey in Europe.
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Even though seeing new parts of the world is a strong motivator, old favorites mean familiarity and enjoyment. That’s the advantage I had in holiday visits to London, Paris, and Lisbon. I have been to each of them several times, but they were all worth a return visit. The holiday decorations, exhibitions, and changes were more than enough to stimulate and create a comfortable atmosphere.  
 
Nevertheless, I will concentrate in this article on where I stayed and those new experiences.
 
The flights were in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class on a B787-9 and returning on an Air France A380. Both long-haul flights in business class were fine with food and crews. Both carriers user the older business class seats on this aircraft. For Virgin, March with see their one of their new A350s with new business class seats flying from LAX. For Air France, you will find their new seats now on the B777-300ERs, but I still love the A380s whenever I have a chance to fly on them.               
 
In London, I first stayed a couple of nights in a high-class one-bedroom suite at the five-star Langham Hotel. It is at the beginning of Regent Street and across from the BBC's headquarters. The hotel is traditional with all the modern services. We had access to the Langham Club Lounge on the 3rd floor where the champagne flows like water and there is always something happening. There are several room and suite categories that have lounge access. This is highly recommended.   
 
One night we also stayed at the new Kimpton Fitzroy London on Russell Square. This is the old traditional Russell Hotel Building repurposed and updated but with the historic core design. Kimpton has done a beautiful job with this hotel at more moderate prices for London. This is very close to the British Museum at the West End.
 
The first of two notable dining experiences was the new Seven Dials Market, which is like a smaller version of New York's Chelsea Market. It is near Covent Garden. It also features a unique cheese shop akin to the sushi shops with the conveyer belt. Catch your favorite cheese as it goes by with a wine glass in hand. Also, we had dinner on night at the happening Monmouth Kitchen at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street Hotel. Again near Covent Garden, this unique and flavorful eatery skillfully combines elements of Peruvian and Italian cuisine.  
 
We also had a chance to look at the impressive and new Belmond Cadogan Hotel, lovingly restored in the Chelsea area, and L’Oscar in the Covent Garden area. This property is a bit fanciful with a bird theme throughout this artful and historic building.
 
In Paris, we stayed at the recently re-opened Lutetia Hotel, part of the same Set Group that runs both the Café Royal Hotel in London and the Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam. The listed Lutetia from the 1920s is the only five-star palace hotel on the Left Bank. It now has both new and classic dramatic elements in perfect harmony. I loved the hotel. We even had Christmas Day dinner in the grand Restaurant St. Germain there, which was excellent. The service was top-notch as well.
 
Our final stop was Lisbon to experience the newly reopened Hotel Bairro Alto in the same area and adjacent to Chiado, two of the most interesting and lively parts of this city of hills. (As a newly designated Signature Travel Network property, we will be able to offer added amenities, including daily full breakfast.) The mix of narrow and wider streets, the traditional squares, and the street cars give rise to a vibrant day and night life. This hotel reflects that even with a roof deck bar and restaurant overlooking the city and river. The rooms tend to run small here and the noise can be a bit lively on weekends. You are at the center of it all and the hotel with a bit of whimsical art is the perfect place to discover amazing Lisbon. I had stayed here before the expansion, and it is even better now.  
 
Around the corner is Brassiere Entrecote, which was spectacular, with its signature dish and all the trimmings.
 
There is always something fascinating about Europe. These cities are updating themselves in many ways to remain fresh and compelling among today’s travel choices.
 
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