International Updates
                 
              Dear Travel Friends,

  I am so delighted to write to you about my annual visit to
London to attend the World Travel Market.  It is my wonderful
opportunity to revisit their great museums and any newly opened or restored hotels.  
London is just buzzing!  Hotels are filled
and there are no obvious signs of any recession.  Last year at this time, one pound cost two dollars.  This year I paid $1.77
per pound at the bank so it is better but prices are higher.  They may not admit to inflation but one wonders how they are
managing.
  I arrived on the day flight which I haven’t done in years.  It’s so much better if you have trouble coping with jet lag.  Usually
I stay in the countryside to recover from the flight and to do some interesting sightseeing.  I belong to
the Royal Oak Society
which is
the American arm of the National Trust, the largest landowner of historic houses and gardens in Britain, which
give you complimentary admission to all their properties and gardens. The luxury hotel,
Cliveden, is one of these that I have
visited. Due to its proximity to
Heathrow and Windsor, it’s perfect for a beginning or an ending to a trip to Britain.  I decided
to stay only in
London this time but spent a full day visiting some wonderful country inns.  Each was readily accessible from
London. These have incredibly beautiful gardens, trees and, of course, architecture.  Great Fosters has a modern, air-
conditioned wing created from an original barn.  Parts of the hotel date from the Middle Ages and has an original moat.  Its
origins are supposedly from a royal hunting lodge.
  One of England’s most charming country-house hotels is
the Vineyard.  They incorporated a country house surrounded by
extensive grounds and gardens but added a spa with a spectacular pool. The decoration and color schemes are just great.
They have contemporary rooms as well as traditional.  The dining room has two Michelin stars and I had a delicious lunch with
great service, lovely china and linens, surrounded by beautiful flowers.  The British owners have vineyards in California and so
they have a huge inventory of California wines, including their own. It is a five-star member of
the Relais & Chateaux group
of hotels.  I loved my visit there and hope to be able to stay at another time.  The most luxurious of the country hotels I visited
was
Stoke Park, a Virtuoso property.  It is surrounded by hundreds of acres of parklands and it operates as a private golf
club with twenty-seven holes.  There are thirteen tennis courts, an exquisite spa with indoor pool, a casual dining room and
contemporary, luxurious rooms in a separate building from the main house.  
The Manor House is beautifully furnished, full of
impressive antiques with huge rooms, a lovely lounge and a stunning dining room. All these hotels are close enough to
Heathrow and London and are perfect for a pre or post London stay or if you are sailing to or from Southampton.
  I am a member of many English associations and museums.  
The Victoria and Albert Museum has an outstanding special
exhibition called “
MaharajaThe Splendour of India’s Royal Courts”.  A member can go right in, even if the exhibition is
sold out.  Every year I have attended their special exhibitions and this one is just outstanding! It will be on until January 17th.
Many of the hotels have special holiday packages and it would be a perfect time to come and take in all the festive events.
  I love to go to
the Queen’s Gallery, located in the back of Buckingham Palace.  It has a permanent exhibit from some
of her huge art, jewelry and furniture collection plus a special exhibit, which right now is the paintings depicting the art of
conversation.  There are scenes of fashionable life in the 19th century.  There is a very large store on the first floor so it is an
easy place if you are gift shopping. I purchased a very pretty clock in a tiny painted china box – a copy of china from the
Royal Collection. When you go you should have your tickets stamped for five free return visits (in one year). One of the most
pleasurable activities in London is
the English High Tea.  Last year I tried the Berkeley hotel, a very charming, five-star
Virtuoso hotel in Knightsbridge.  This year it was Claridge’s – an art-deco, luxury hotel in the heart of Mayfair.  There
was so much wonderful food, we couldn’t even finish!  
The Savoy was famous for tea. We also loved going there for light
food served in their café.  
The Savoy is still closed for a complete restoration and will reopen in 2010 under Fairmont
Hotel
s and is expected to be spectacular.
  The shopping in
London is wonderful. Unfortunately with the dollar being so low, it’s more expensive than it should be for
Americans.  A huge shopping center has opened called
Westfield London, accessible by public transportation, billed at the
“ultimate shopping experience”.   It’s a supposed paradise for the shopaholic.  I went to
Harvey Nichols – London’s version
of Saks Fifth Avenue but on a smaller scale, which has a popular café that is very noisy and crowded.  I chose the quiet
restaurant, which is lovely and has an a-la-carte menu, which I prefer.  
Harrod’s is just too huge for me but should be a part
of your visit to
London, especially the food stalls.  The only other place that can compete is the “Ka-da-we” in Berlin.  
Also visit
Fortnum and Mason which is a wonderful, mid-size store.  The first floor has an elegant food hall.  All the
salespersons are dressed in formal clothes that fit the atmosphere.  Upstairs they sell clothing and accessories and there are
several other dining areas as well.  The stores open at noon on Sundays.  
Sloane Street and King’s Road have branches of
all the shops now.  
Burberry has opened a new store there and closed their historic Regent Street location and put the
building up for sale. In the years that we were collecting antiques, we visited London’s antique markets. There is one for every
day of the week.  My favorite was
Portobello Road on Saturday mornings.
  There are so many superb day trips from
London that one week here is never enough.  If you like antiques spend a day in
Brighton and enjoy the Lanes.  There are lovely little villages nearby and, of course, the Royal Pavilion - a gem which the
Prince of Wales had created for his mistress.  You can stay over or just visit for the day, the same for Bath, Cambridge,
the cathedral towns, the Cotswolds and Oxford.  In the charming village of Chipping Camden we once rented a
restored cottage which was an interesting alternative to staying in a country inn.  
The Inn there has been restored and is now
a
Virtuoso property. I’ve stayed in Broadway a number of times which is one of the villages that has won the annual title
Most Beautiful Village in England”.
  November in
London brings Remembrance Day, similar to our Veteran’s Day.  It’s also a festive month with the Lord
Mayor’s parade
, an antique car parade from London to Brighton. Many restaurants offer a Thanksgiving dinner for American
visitors.  Every month has special events to look forward to.
Dining in
London has come a long way and is now as fine as anywhere in the world. The  Rocco Forte Hotel chain of five-
star hotels restored the beloved
Browns and its Albemarle Restaurant is one of the best in London. This chain just won an
award as the top hotel group in the world.
  I inspected a number of hotels, as I do each year.  
The London Inter-Continental Hotel re-opened last year after a
multi-million dollar renovation.  It is fully contemporary with extremely comfortable rooms and lovely public spaces.  The café
is re-done with an open kitchen and cooking demonstrations.  The executive lounge is the largest and most complete I have
ever seen – they even include a hot breakfast which is unusual.  It is a
Virtuoso hotel so we can offer Virtuoso amenities
including a guaranteed upgrade.
  I arrived on a Saturday night and on Sunday there are too many choices for brunch!  The sales manager said that they also
have a wonderful Sunday brunch. I also inspected some
London apartments.  These are great for families, two couples or
longer stays. This time I chose
the Mayfair area which is upscale and very central.  One I particularly liked on Charles
Street
was the owner’s apartment with three bedrooms and two bathrooms – very pleasant.  The apartment is located near
the English Speaking Union, located in a beautiful old building, some lovely hotels for dining and a great little movie
theatre. Nearby is
the Shepherd’s Market Place, an area filled with a variety of shops, pubs and restaurants. On one
London visit we took an apartment next to the market and visited almost daily.  Please contact us if you are interested in an
apartment or house as well as hotels.
  London has so much to offer!  In May, I hope to once again attend the Chelsea Flower Show, considered the best in the
world. As a member of
the Royal Horticultural Society you can purchase tickets prior to the public and also attend special
member pre-opening days.  Please let us know if you are interested. Why not do a
Queen Mary crossing one way, visit the
countryside, attend the show and enjoy
London for as many days as you can?  As you know, there are some tremendous
specials out there in hotels and cruises.  So please call us for the latest!
  We urge you to travel – to learn, enjoy and create wonderful memories.  Let us help you plan and reserve your next
adventure.
  With our very best wishes for a wonderful Holiday Season and a great New Year,