My almost 3-week visit to England began with a 3-night stint in London and together with a golf tournament and a grand tour to visit friends and family I will be looping back twice more to the capital city, finishing with a rather special 4-day Virtuoso event.
So what's it like traveling to UK right now, I hear you ask? Well you have to jump through these hoops, but every process has gone smoothly and not taken up too much time:
- PCR or Antigen test to be taken within 72 hours of departure from USA.
- You must be vaccinated.
- UK locator form to be completed with details of ALL accommodation for first 10 days in the UK.
- Day 2 Covid test MUST be booked in advance and also added to the electronic locator form.
- Another PCR or antigen test must be taken within 72 hours of return to USA.
Most higher end hotels in London will arrange for the Day 2 test to be self-administered in your room, and this is what I did (photo below), but there are numerous, if somewhat expensive options all over the country. You do not have to quarantine while waiting for the result.
My trip has started spectacularly well, and I feel that I am appreciating so much more everything I am experiencing due to the unprecedented last 18 months. I am incredibly grateful to be here.
Top 5 - My First London Weekend
My first night in London was spent with my 2 best friends (above). I had to thank them for their unflinching support through the last 18 months. Our biweekly Zoom calls were a very large part of me remaining inspired to push on with J5Travel when it was perfectly reasonable to question it's very existence.
Dave and Stu spout nonsense for a lot of the time, but come up with pearls of wisdom just enough for me to be eternally grateful for their presence in my life. We truly celebrated our friendship in some style at Kerridge's Bar and Grill which is set within the beautiful Virtuoso property, Corinthia Hotel. Thank you chaps.
2. Brown's Hotel (above)
My first night was spent at Brown's. The hotel is a true British Classic yet has a very calm and modern vibe. This is the first of several London hotels I will be visiting and it's going to be so interesting to compare and contrast the nuances between them all. There's no doubt I will be even better informed to make the right recommendations for our London bound clients.
I'm going to have to be careful with hyperbole as this was my first hotel of many on this trip. In essence though, I absolutely loved it. It has history as the oldest hotel in London. Rudyard Kipling finished The Jungle Book here and the eponymous suite is a beauty! Alexander Graham Bell made the first recorded successful telephone call from a ground floor room used today for meetings. Teddy Roosevelt was married here. Donovan's Bar is very cool indeed and Charlie's for the full English breakfast was at once traditional and refined. Service in every area of the hotel is beyond exemplary.
3. Egerton House (above)
It feels like it's been a 3-year journey to reach Egerton House. I've had a wonderful relationship with Red Carnation Hotels for all that time, and sent several very happy clients their way. Finally I get to experience the leading boutique hotel (28 rooms) in London for myself, and it absolutely lived up to the billing.
An example of their service level that seems to be instilled in every member of staff...
Over 2 years ago I had a conversation with my main contact at Red Carnation, the incomparable Melissa. We happened on a discussion about what I missed from England.
Pretty much at the top of my list was the breakfast cereal, Shreddies (below).
Fast forward to my stay, and lo and behold at my first breakfast, the waiter asks me if I'd like "my Shreddies". And there was another box waiting for me in my room. It's 4 days later and they are nearly all gone.
4. Harrods (below)
I worked at Harrods when I was just 19 years old and it taught me how exceptional customer service was the difference maker in the retail environment they try to create every single day. I had some amazing experiences, including meeting Princess Diana with a very young William and Harry in the toy department where I was stationed for the 15 months I spent there.
What I learned is now so relevant to how I run J5Travel and I believe it's our service that is the biggest differentiator.
I always pop in whenever I visit London and yesterday I strolled every floor aimlessly. Happy to argue with anyone who doesn't think this is the best department store in the entire world.
PS. It's just a 5 minute walk from Egerton House.
5. Afternoon Tea
Egerton House gets its second shout-out as my afternoon tea there was divine. I planned admirably for the famous tea service, not eating lunch and not booking a dinner. Both very wise moves and a definite future client hot tip. The whole event is usually themed to match one of the special exhibitions at the Victoria & Albert Museum which is just around the corner. Their top exhibit at the moment is Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, so my tea was based around Alice in Wonderland.
Afternoon tea remains a must-do on any visit to London and I'm not sure it can be much better than here.
Yes, this was tea for one and I did go for a lie-down afterwards.
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I love travel and I love travel planning just as much and I am proud to be building a team as passionate about exploring the world as myself. It took me a very long time to align my career with my undeniable passion for exploring, but now I and the team are here for you. Your personal travel tailors - award reservation and luxury custom itinerary experts. We provide a bespoke service, imagining and creating itineraries for independent minded families and groups.
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