The last 4 days of my London experience will likely rank among the most incredible few days of my life. As an honored invitee to a Virtuoso and NoteWorthy (a UK based destination management company) event promoting that London and the whole of the UK is open, I was treated to luxury hotel and private tour events the likes of which I have not come close to before. While not everything below is possible for even our clients to enjoy, most of these experiences are attainable when you use J5Travel and our ever-growing connections.
Am I a biased Brit in shouting and screaming that the UK is open? Absolutely.
While we are struggling here with inquiries for the upcoming holiday season as we quote prices for Caribbean escapes that defy regular valuation, I really suggest you consider England NOW. A 5-day to a week trip to London currently and over the holidays will literally cost half the price of an equivalent luxury Caribbean break, and there is so much to do!
Below, is the dynamic group from Gifted Travel Network who I was privileged to share London with. From the left - Kristin Matthews of KM Travel Design, Vanessa McGovern, founder and Chief Sales Officer of Gifted Travel Network, and Carli Fernandez of The Honeymoon Concierge. Then it's me!
How I have narrowed this weeks Top 5 to just 5 is beyond me. We enjoyed 3 or 4 amazing experiences every day during this one of a kind event.
Top 5 - Virtuoso "London Is Open"
1. The Savoy
Our group of 60 top US travel advisors and agency owners was split between roughly 12 x 5-star Virtuoso London properties. At some point through lunches and dinners, I viewed most of these other properties, but the 4 of us from Gifted Travel Network were based at The Savoy. Our amazing host Daniele upgraded us all to River View Suites (below) and our transfer from Heathrow, where I had dropped off my self-drive car was in their Rolls Royce Silver Shadow (above). The Savoy remains a bastion of English class and calm and honestly this was a flawless and amazing stay.
2. Street Art Tour
Saturday morning our small group was totally inspired by active graffiti artist and street art expert, Karim Samuels. After a quick tour of the best of local graffiti art, we even got our own spray cans out to help create a group project. I'm told this is the most popular tour in London for families traveling with teens. Ooh and 55 year old travel advisors!
3. Hidden London (above)
Our Hidden London tour took us to the Jubilee Line station of Charing Cross on the London Underground, except on todays Underground (Tube) maps the station no longer exists. That's not to say it isn't still used...Movies and TV are filmed here including Skyfall and Paddington, and emergency services and police use the disused station for important training. We also explored the elaborate and vast ventilation system of the rest of the underground station that is still in working order.
4. The Coldstream Guards (above and below)
In one of those surreal moments that life deals you just very occasionally this was a "what just happened?" event. The Band of the Coldstream Guards usually only play for Her Majesty, The Queen, but somehow our Virtuoso "London is Open" group received a private performance that included renditions of both the USA and UK national anthems. There is not a person I talked to afterwards who had not experienced shivers down the spine.
Personally, after a very meaningful homecoming trip of nearly 3 weeks connecting with loved ones, both family and friends, I pretty much broke down. To the English, the Coldstream Guard band are simply beloved, and to think after leaving for the USA some 20 years ago, I was able to return and see, hear and feel this so close up was almost overwhelming.
5. HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
On Monday, part of celebrating "London is Open" for US travelers involved a royal engagement and His Royal Highness, Earl of Wessex provided his remarks and welcomed us all back to the UK in the gorgeous setting of the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. There are strict protocols of course surrounding anything royalty focused, including no photos apart from those taken by the official photographer. While Carli and I didn't make the photo above, we were right there next to Kristin and Vanessa, and we were all fully involved in what I estimate to be a 4 minute conversation with HRH. He was charming and very engaged in the importance of what tourism means to the UK, and this was another moment to cherish.
If you're ready to take on your own London trip let us know. I'd love to share some of these incredible experiences with you. Click the button below to get in touch with us.
Be social and follow us on our next travel adventure.
Want our blog posts delivered straight to your inbox? Enter your email below to subscribe to our newsletter.