London Bound and Living the Life of Luxe!

Written by admin on March 13, 2006 – 4:03 pm -

In spite of being president of a website about France, it would be a lie if I said there weren’t times I have a hankering to hear English being spoken all around me. Not that I necessarily understand the “Queen’s” English but not everyone’s perfect. It’s nice to go to the theater and take a walk in Hyde Park, hit Fortnum and Mason, visit the “old Tate,” the British Museum and wander in and out of the Mews that evoke twinges of nostalgia for Boston.

Last weekend, I climbed aboard the Eurostar between the two cities. Passengers need to remember to bring passports since they’re traveling across two countries’ borders. This feels somewhat strange since the train ride takes only 2 hours and 40 minutes. But as the train races along, you’ll see definite changes in scenery within France and once you cross through the “Chunnel.”   Looking out the window gives an abbreviated bird’s eye view of how different the neighboring countries are when it comes to housing, agriculture and scenery.

The trip will be 20 minutes less when the new UK terminal opens in 2007. To buy a ticket, access:  Rail Europe There are so many options when it comes to tickets (the same as planes) but if you choose to spoil yourself and travel business-premier, you’ll be served a full meal at your seat. You can even specify the menu in advance if you have special dietary needs or preferences. If you’re holding a rail pass, you can travel throughout the EU for a fraction of what it costs were you buying individual tickets.

Arriving in London always comprises an element of culture shock. Climbing into the ever so British traditionally black (or sometimes, covered by ads) cabs, that are being modified to conform to EU emission standards, makes visitors realize that life in London isn’t cheap unless they use public transport. All taxis accept credit cards as if the drivers are accustomed to hearing people gasp at the last click of the meter. And if you don’t immediately adopt the habit of looking in both directions of the road, you could be dead before you arrive at the hotel to check-in.

But one doesn’t pull up to the ever so elegant The Dorchester trailing luggage behind you. Guests have to make the right appearance since this is one of London’s extremely elegant palace hotels. It’s the type of place people gravitate if they’re doing big-bang deals or want to see and be seen.

The rooms (with the exception of the top floor where the bigger-than-life roof deck suites are situated) have been redone with taste and elegance. Some of the public areas are still in the process of being renovated. But the work is slated to be finished by the end of the year.

Renovation is quietly taking place and the Dorchester will have a new super-ritzy spa in addition to a new bar and a tres chic store within the complex. In the meantime, guests luxuriate in the lobby where breakfast is served (the smoked salmon is some of the best ever and a relative bargain at 13 pounds) to high tea and cocktails.  The atrium/lobby (with its comfortable banquette seating) attracts people from all over the world in addition to neighbors who wouldn’t let a day go by, when they’re in Mayfair, without stopping by for a cup of tea or one thing or another. During breakfast, I sat next to a woman who religiously comes to the Dorchester for her breakfast kippers once a week.

The Grill dining room has been renovated. It’s very red and reminscent of King Arthur’s Knights. People may not love the décor but hey do love the standing rib roast and Yorkshire pudding…..served from a silver trolley and ever so traditionally British.

The rooms are glorious and large. If your taste runs to elegant chintz, contrasting upholstery and conservative and yet not stuffy décor, you’ll like it here. There are patterns on top of patterns but none are the “in your face – the decorator was here spending billions.” The hotel’s design wreaks tradition and cabinetry that weren’t retrofitted circa yesterday. Rather, it has been lovingly restored from when the property was converted into a hotel 75 years ago.

Enough details about the hotel.  What type of people stay here?  Nigel Bolding, Director of “The World’s Best Hotels” says that people are traveling more and demanding higher levels of service as well as accommodations. This is especially true of business travelers who can’t take the chance things will go wrong when they’re conducting business. The number one request among business travelers is requiring high-speed Internet. My guess would have been gym facilities but no. And it’s not as if you can jog everyday in London.

Bolding explained there’s a new influx of rich clients to go around. Russians and people from other countries have and spend money when they travel. This is certainly true for the Japanese and Americans aren’t bad when it comes to dropping big bucks. It’s not as if many New York City hotels are actually cheap.

Studies have been done showing that people spend a larger proportion of their incomes traveling and the trend is definitely on the rise. 2006 appears to be the year that Italy will win the tourist tally  – but that could change since so many bookings are being done on-line via the Internet and people aren’t planning anywhere as near as far ahead as they used to in the past.

What’s essential is that people are traveling and seeing different parts of the world and it’s becoming easier to go from one country to another without spending days in transit.

Get up and go — and you don’t have to stay in a “palace” hotel even though it’s nice!

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