Tips for Staying in London


I just had a busy three weeks, one week in London, inspecting apartments, a week at the Scottish Travel Show in Glasgow meeting with Ryder Cup officials and the major golf courses so I can book guaranteed tee times for the Old Course at St. Andrews and Gleneagles etc, and then a week on Lewis and Harris Islands in the Outer Hebrides where I am from. I will be doing articles about my Scottish visit later. It was fun meeting with all the fishing and golf experts who I work with.

I looked at several luxury hotel suites, and then many one, two and three bedroom apartments. My staff and I dont sell anything we haven’t looked at and we check them out all over the world, whether it be a villa in Italy, or a home in the South of France. People like an apartment if they are there for several days, or if they have a family with them. I found one complex which has bikes to use in the park, and lots of toys and games for children of all ages to use. We stayed in one which had an amazing collection of items in the fridge and freezer, all free, and replenished daily. Children 12 and under eat free in the restaurant. Great location, quiet street, and beautifully furnished.

I go home regularly, and estimate I have been back 155 times. My sister, a Cambridge University professor, comes in to join me while I work at checking out hotels and we go to the theatre every night. She seems to be in London every week with her husband, a British Rear Admiral, attending black tie affairs at all the luxury hotels. If we are planning an incentive trip or meeting for a corporate account, then I meet with the hotel staff and go over all the arrangements and sightseeing events.

London needs careful planning if you want to watch expenses. The London Explorer Pass is good value, and the Big Bus – a hop on hop off – is excellent for sightseeing and you learn the history of London at the same time. It also includes a River Thames cruise in the price. If you are going to do a lot of running around, buy an Oyster Card from any underground station. This allows you to go on any train or bus at a reduced rate. Price varies according to the number of days you want to use it.

Westminster Abbey is now charging l8 pounds for admission. We went to Sunday service at 11:00 am but it is closed to tourists. I sat next to Dr. David Livingston (I presume) who is buried in the floor of the centre aisle. Try and sit in the choir pews but you have to be there very early to get those seats. If you don’t want to go to communion, join at the end of the queue with your Church Service Program in both hands and bow your head to the archbishop and he will give you a blessing. You are escorted out after the service, no chance to wander around. The Archbishop stands at the door to shake your hand at the end of the service. The Abbey gift shop next door is the best place to shop for London gifts. There is a wonderful organ recital at 5:30 p.m on a Sunday in the abbey. They also have a good cafe there open Monday to Saturday.

Sunday in London is quiet. All shops don’t open until noon, all theatres are closed, except those with children’s shows on,

Take a boat trip to Kew Gardens or Greenwich Maritime Museum, or plan a day’s trip out of London, such as to Bath, Cambridge, Oxford, Stonehenge, or visit the many museums.

Restaurants we go to are usually close to the theatre we are going to. In the Victoria area, Bbar at 41 Buckingham Place Road, and the two restaurants in Rubens Hotel next door are excellent. We love the restaurant on the ground floor of Fortnum and Mason’s department store. The National Portrait Gallery has two good restaurants, must get there before 6 p.m.for dinner, and they stop serving afternoon tea at 5:30 p.m. The Salisbury Wine of the National Gallery has also a good restaurant. My favorite is the Tate Modern Gallery, excellent restaurant on the top floor, spectacular view. You need a reservation.

There is a booth in the centre of Leicester Square run by the Theatre Guild Society which sells tickets for the 74 theatres at a reduced price. Don’t go to the many shops around the square advertising discounts, they mark them up. We got tickets to the Russian Ballet, 75 pounds a ticket, and we paid 20 pounds. You cant get tickets for every show, they had about 12 on offer. We got the concierge at our hotel to get us tickets to the symphony, and paid a booking fee which is worth it if you want to see a particular concert. We tried for two plays, Audience and Peter and Mary, but they are booked solid through the summer.

It cost me 45 pounds and two hours to go from Paddington Station in London on the Heathrow Express train and then on the bus to a hotel at the airport. I think its worth getting a private transfer from your London hotel to your hotel at the airport (a must if you are on an early flight) if there are two or more of you. I found it difficult with heavy luggage on my own.

As the saying goes, When a Man is Tired of London, he is tired of Life.