London – the big smoke! The capital of an amazing country (maybe I'm slightly biased). I love London although like many Brits – I wouldn't want to live there, the only reason being I think it would lose its shine. Can you believe I was born and have lived in England all my life, I had visited numerous other capital cities around the world yet had NEVER visited London until I was 24! Almost a quarter of a century without experiencing the sights and smells(!) of my very own capital – looking back now that seems crazy and something I would never allow my children, if and when I ever have them, miss out on. I'm now nearly 32 and have certainly made up for missing out for so long. I visit, either with family, friends or with work at least 3/4 times per year. Even though I lived in a major city for 29 years of my life nothing compares to London – it's massive and there is always something to do. Even now I always find something new and exciting to do when I visit; in fact I don't think I have even scratched the surface of what the great city has to offer.
Hotel – I've stayed in quite a few hotels in London so far (and I'm sure there will be many more to come) and all in all honesty have never stayed in a bad one. Your budget is probably the major deciding factor when deciding on accommodation followed by the area you want to stay depending on how much time you have when visiting and what you have planned whilst there. I have therefore decided to recommend one budget hotel and one luxury one.
Budget – (Old Street) Travelodge. This was the first hotel I ever stayed in, in London and have been back many times since. The location from Kings Cross is fantastic, only a 2 stops (to Old Street underground station) via the Northern Line. The Old Street location is great especially if you want to explore the Hoxton/Shoreditch area and observe hipsters in their natural habitat. The hotel itself is in the 'City' so the area is quite quiet at the weekend as the 'suits' disappear home but still plenty of bars and 2 tube stations (Old Street and Moorgate) within walking distance if you want to battle the underground and explore other parts of London. If you are booking well in advance you are likely to get a room for a very reasonable price. I have paid between £29 and £69 a night. For the price you get a clean, modern yet basic room with an en-suite. This is a chain hotel; they are all over London and the rest of the country, so if the Old Street one does not appeal why not check out the others.
Luxury – My recommendation if you've got a bit more cash to splash is The Ampersand in South Kensington. This is a beautiful, boutique hotel with 111 rooms. I stayed here last year for my wedding anniversary – a lovely treat booked and paid for by my lovely husband. It is a hop, skip and a jump from South Kensington Tube Station – you can see the sign the second you come up for air. I have nothing but praise for this hotel, yes the rooms are on the small side but as the saying goes good things come in small packages. Other hotels, both in London and worldwide could take a leaf out of The Ampersand’s book with regards to customer service – it's second to none. South Kensington is a lovely area of London with a number of bars, restaurants and museums all on your doorstep. You are looking at around £200 a night but if your loaded or it's for a special treat I'd say it's well worth it.
Restaurant – this is a tough one for me. My head is saying NoBu but my heart is saying the Ivy. Both of which were visited for special occasions (wedding anniversary/husband's birthday). The rest of the time you're more likely to see me in the middle of Leicester Square ramming a McDonalds, I'm not the type of gal to pay big bucks for a meal on a daily basis. But if you are looking for something special then in my opinion it has to be one of these two. I must admit both were picked hoping we would bump into a celeb, needless to say we didn't but what we did receive in return were high quality meals, good portion sizes, a lovely environment and of course a bill that you have to do a double take at.
Museum – this one's easy – the British Museum! And not because I’m being patriotic, it’s because it’s true. This museum is located in Bloomsbury, London (nearest tube stations are Holborn and Tottenham Court Road – 500m) and is dedicated to human history and culture. It was opened in to the public in January 1759 and has since grown and expanded. There is loads to see and loads to do here and as with most museums you do not have to pay to go in – yes it’s FREE (you do have to pay a small entrance fee for temporary exhibitions) and when in London finding a freebie is always welcome. If you see nothing else whilst at the British museum I’d make the journey simply to see the ceiling of the Great Court – awesome.
Area – for me this has to be Covent Garden, especially in summertime. The street entertainers, the atmosphere, the hustle and bustle of locals and tourists going about their business, I don’t think I ever get sick of it and always migrate to this area when in London. In fact the usual ritual is dinner, drinks, musical/play, more drinks. This area boasts a large variety of restaurants and bars for most budgets which almost guarantees you will find something that takes your fancy.
Site – Buckingham Palace/Big Ben……..Big Ben/Buckingham Palace….argh another tough one but I’m going with Queenie! It is a lovely building (wish I lived there!). ‘Buckingham Palace has served as the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since 1837 and today is the administrative headquarters of the Monarch’ (www.royal.gov.uk). Buckingham Palace is swamped with visitors and tourists at all times of the day and none more so than at the changing of the guard. The guard mounting takes place at 11.30 am (till noon). It is held daily from May to July, and on alternate dates throughout the rest of the year and is certainly a sight to behold and quintessentially British, I just wish Liz would invite me round for cucumber sandwiches on the lawn (*sigh*).
Attraction – my favourite, maybe because it reminds of a Ferris wheel, is of course the (Coca Cola) London Eye!!! Love this crazy big wheel. The views across the Thames and London are unreal especially on a clear bright day. Tickets aren’t cheap – £21.50 for a standard ticket and £30 for a fast track one. Oh and queues can be long, especially in summer…..but it’s so worth it. This attraction is located on the South Bank and easily accessible from Westminster, Waterloo or Embankment tube stations.
So there you go, these are my favourites. Have you visited London – what are your favourites??? I’d love to hear from you, your favourites may inspire my next visit!