London in 8 Hotels

I recently went on a work trip to London. Hard knock life, right? During my stay, I did a couple of hotel tours to better be able assist my clients with their future trips to London. I included some pictures and summaries below. Enjoy!

No. 1 The Mansions

This hotel is London location, with Texas space! Minutes from shopping and Earl’s court tube station, The Mansions is positioned in a charming neighborhood. If you stay here, you don’t have to sacrifice a fantastic location for privacy. The rooms in this hotel are apartment style, and come with a kitchenette, as well as a washer and a dryer. Although there are a couple of room options available, like a studio (with a murphy bed) or a double, the room category most worth talking about is the multi-bedroom suite. If you are travelling with a group or a large family, these suites can accommodate up to 7 people. Moreover, the rooms are so spacious. Each one of those rooms was bigger than my entire Vancouver apartment.

The highlight: The bed. During my trip, I stayed in this hotel with fellow travel agents. Although I haven’t slept in a twin bed since the day I wrote my final university exam, it was the best sleep I had in awhile.

Grange Hotel Tower Bridge

The Grange is modern and slick. The hotel is lit in purple. All the rooms have wood wall furnishings and purple undertones. This hotel has fantastic amenities, including a pool, a spa, a gym, and hot buffet breakfast. It’s has a fantastic location, close to the tube and beautiful London sights. Grange would be a great accommodation option for business travellers.

The highlight: The elevator ride! The glass elevator has views only parallel to the London eye. While going up to your room, you can enjoy looking at the Shard, the Gherkin, and other marvels of London architecture.

ME London

This hotel can only be described with a Kanye West lyric. The ME is Vegas on acid…but in London. Once you enter the lobby, you instantly forget everything you know about London. Tea and Georgian housing? Nah. The ME is about champagne service and trippy lighting. The location is fantastic, and the hotel is relatively new (only 2 years!). It’s perfect for anyone who came into a ton of money at a very young age (I am looking at you, Silicone Valley CEOs), or for anyone who ever thought London is just not his or her speed (buckle up!).

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The highlight: I don’t want to favor this hotel, but there were two. The first was the view from the open roof patio. It was genuinely one of the favorite moments of my entire life. The manager had to practically pry me off it. The second was drinking champagne in the reception area in the shape of a pyramid, which played beautiful movie projections on the walls. This must be what drugs feel like.

Rubens

In Rubens, you are royalty for the duration of your stay. This hotel faces the back entrance to the Buckingham Palace, and some people have even seen the Queen walking her CORGIS in the area (I am more excited about the corgis). This hotel houses many of queen’s guests, so can someone please tell Lorde that she can be a royal if she stays at Ruben’s? There’s really an infinite amount of things to say about this hotel. Each room is unique, with a color theme and luxury fabric on the wall. The owner is a chef by trade, so the buffet breakfast and snacks at the Leopard champagne bar are exquisite. This hotel is steps away from all the major attractions, including Big Ben, Piccadilly Circus, and Downton abbey. Most importantly, 70% of Rubens guests are repeat clients because their service and attention to guests is unparalleled.

The highlight: Champagne bar! I like champagne, I like leopards, I like starring at the back entrance of the Buckingham palace. This is obviously the reason why Rubens Leopard champagne bar is both popular with the locals and the tourists.

Hotel 41

This hotel is right next door to Rubens and has the same owners. It’s a super luxury hotel, with highly personalized service. The rooms are classic black and white, with luxury sheets and stylish décor. Your every wish is a reality at this hotel. For example, we were told a story about a hotel guest who forgot his tickets to Wicked in the room and called the hotel devastated about potentially missing the show. The hotel sent a concierge to meet the guest with their tickets, a mini bottle of champagne, and chocolate covered strawberries. When the guests returned to their room Wicked themed cupcakes topped with a pastry witch has awaited them. Also, this hotel invented gin and tonic ice cream!

The highlight: Hotel 41 warms up your slippers and pajamas for you during turn down service!

The Royal Horseguards

Royal Horseguard has left me speechless. It is the perfect combination of the past and the future. It houses a wine cellar, which has a sealed tunnel to the parliament built by Winston Churchill himself! It also features one of the oldest marble staircases in the world, which was hit by a bomb during World War II, but luckily left almost undamaged. Located a couple of floors up from the Royal Hordeguards is the Secret Intelligence Service, so you could be sharing your space with the next James Bonde. The rooms are beautiful. Some with close up views of the London eye. The sheets are the same brand as the Queen’s! How often could you say that you sleep on the same sheets as the Queen of England?

The highlight: The division bell! As many government officials go to the Royal Horseguards for lunch, the hotel has a division bell rung during division, calling for an immediate vote.

Citadines Trafalgar Square

Citadines rooms look like an Ikea catalogue, which is a good thing! The rooms come with a kitchenette, which is perfect for longer stays. It’s also 2 minutes from Trafalgar Square. This hotel is great for younger people or small families looking for a cozy stay and a central location, without breaking a budget. The rooms include a dry breakfast.

The highlight: Comfortable, modern furniture inside the rooms.

Strand Palace Hotel

The location of this hotel is fantastic. It’s close to Covent Gardens, Trafalgar Square, and Oxford Street. There are huge department stores and unique shops all around the hotel. There are a ton of amenities, including a business center, an Indian restaurant, a breakfast café, dry cleaning, and a gym. The rooms are quiet small, but who cares when the whole London is your oyster (get it? Oyster cards)

The highlight: The Strand has a bar, which specialized in gin drinks. They even invented a gin tea. How English is that?

Go Native Kensington

This is another apartment style hotel. It’s perfect for long stays because many rooms have washers/dryers, hot plates, as well as dishwashers (no one should be washing dishes on vacation). The location is very quaint and quiet.

The highlight: All the hidden room compartments. The room design is very clean, but the room is like a Rubik’s cube! Many shelves house important apartment appliances, such as laundry.

InvestiCATEon: What movies are playing on my flight?

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Flights may only make up a small portion of a trip, but they can certainly feel like a life time. My favorite plane pass time is catching up on movies. I still remember the movie that played on my very first plane ride…it was Rush Hour. Let’s face it, it’s a classic, and it totally distracted me enough to not be scared. See, in-flight entertainment matters!

I have a loooong flight coming up, and in anticipation of it, I have been debating whether I should re-download the Serial podcast (where is season 2?????), you know, in case there aren’t any good movies playing in the air. BUT as I am flying with Air Canada, in-flight entertainment is no longer a mystery. You can go on their website, and check out what movies are playing on your exact flight!

I am so excited some of my favorites are playing! Trainwreck, Slumdog Millionaire, and Darjeeling Limited.

Fun Fact: Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, JetBlue, and Virgin America were all named top in-flight entertainment airlines!

 

Vacation Auction (Nov 30)

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If you have been looking for an excuse to go on a vacation, I think you might have just found one. Transat is putting in motion a really unique idea tomorrow! A vacation auction.

To participate, you have to follow Air Transat on Twitter, and tomorrow, on November 30th, you will get a chance to bid on packages of your choice. The best part? Transat Auction raises funds in support of a wonderful organization: SOS Children’s Villages.

For more information, click here and for auction rules, click here.

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February Paradise: Azores

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Azores is a cluster of islands west of continental Portugal, but there are really no words to describe the beauty of this destination. It combines nature landscapes that will leave you breathless, finger-licking Portuguese cuisine, and a unique cultural experience away from familiar chains and brands seen everywhere in bigger Europe cities (why is there an H&M on every corner?)

When one of my clients said she wanted to go to Azores, I’m not going to lie..I did not know where Azores were (travel agents are people too!). For us, North Americans, Azores is a bit of a hidden treasure. And Europe, in general, can seem inaccessible. But, if you go at the right time (off season) and stay at the right places, a Europe package can cost you less than an all-inclusive. For example, this is the package I put together for my client.

  • Toronto, ON – Azores flights (direct; 6 hr)
  • Airport-hotel transfer roundtrip
  • 9 nights at a centrally located 4* Talisman boutique hotel
  • $1,181.96 CAD per person (based on 2 people in 1 room)

Are you interested in a custom package? Email me at cate.ciu@flightcentre.ca

A Caribbean Resort Alternative: Cuba Cruise

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I have been to Cuba many many times. It is one of my favorite countries that my heart just totally connects to. So I was pretty excited when I found out that Transat is doing a CUBA CRUISE. During the cruise, you get to visit UNESCO World Heritage sites, national parks, as well as the gorgeous streets, beaches, and mountain paths of Cuba. AND, you do a quick touchdown in Jamaica.

This cruise fits a stricter budget. The rooms are not too luxurious, but……this cruise…..unlike many others INCLUDES UNLIMITED BOOZE, which is a huge deal in terms of your on-board budget if you like to indulge in cocktail or two. The ship also has plenty of amenities, like pools, children activity programs, 3 restaurants, gym, and even a casino! Also, kind of cool, you can add a week long stay at a resort before or after your cruise. If you want to learn more about this cruise, email me at cate.ciu@flightcentre.ca

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Just me lovingly starring at the ocean in CUBA ❤

Tinder on Water: Solo Travel with NCL

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Photo from the NCL website

A recent survey conducted by Sandals found that more people are looking to travel alone. Solo travel has been a bit of a gap in the market and more companies will be serving to this demographic. However, NCL got here first. NCL has Singles cruises for those looking for a captain…of their heart. With cool lounges and activities, it is easier to meet people than ever. The rooms range from studios, like the one above (let’s face, it’s still bigger than my apartment in Vancouver) to penthouses. And where is this ship going? Only the most romantic places, of course: Spain, Italy, Portugal, England, and more! If you want to learn more about this cruise, email me at cate.ciu@flightcentre.ca

A little more about NCL: