Thank you to Simon and Susan for a wonderful report on their recent trip to London and stay at two new sister hotels, The Soho and The Haymarket (also sister to Crosby Street Hotel, opening in late September in New York City):
“A trip to London in August is absolutely perfect because most city dwellers leave to vacation elsewhere. The city is busily quiet. Hotel and restaurant reservations can be made last minute. Cabs were easily available and the drivers were all in a good mood. This laid-back vibe was evident when we arrived at our first hotel, The Soho, located in an action-packed, fashion-forward neighborhood near Piccadilly, Covent Garden and Regent Park. It is a great central location.
All of the staff members were amazing, friendly and knowledgeable, pros at making you feel no request was an imposition. This hotel has beautifully designed common rooms for relaxing, having a few drinks, and meeting people. The use of fresh, bold colors and folk art mixed with traditional and contemporary pieces made all the rooms a joy to relax in. The restaurant and bar served interesting, British modern cuisine. We opted for room service of Dover Sole and Spaghetti pecorino and black pepper which was excellent. The bathroom is large and has an excellent shower head that makes taking a shower here a real pleasure.
The bar scene at The Soho is hip and the varied tapas menu made it a popular hot spot every night. There is a 24 hr. hotel gym that is small but well-equipped, and was my personal oasis in the mornings. On the negative side, there is no business center in the hotel.
In sum, the hotel is for real people who are not looking for the richness of Four Seasons, The Mandarin, or other costly hotels. We usually stay in 4-star and 5-star hotels. They are great but you pay a lot for it. This was almost as good and 50% less!
The Soho area is quite interesting, to say the least. It is very bohemian, used to be the red light district, and is enjoyed by a vibrant gay and lesbian social scene. It’s not for judgmental types at all. But if you love people watching, don’t miss exploring this neighborhood. It is also within close walking distance to many attractions, such as the British Museum, Oxford and Bond Streets, Carnaby St, Regent Park, Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden marketplace.
After four days exploring city sites, we took a two-hour train trip to Bath famous for it’s ancient Roman baths. Getting
out to the countryside was refreshing, and this small city lived up to our expectations. We booked a room at the Royal Crescent Hotel, a Relais & Chateaux property, and architectural gem built in 1700′s. Upon arrival, we were upgraded to the Braydon suite, charming and sophisticatedly decorated. The restaurant has an excellent fine-dining reputation, but we opted for a late-night sandwich and martini. A visit to the Roman baths was interesting but crowded.
Back to London and booked into the Haymarket Hotel, sister property of Soho. It is in the Trocadero area, new, design-oriented with a breathtaking swimming pool. You will save $500 a night by not going to the first class hotels and you will enjoy it more.
WHAT WE LOVED: The 90-min facial by Suzanne at the spa in the Soho Hotel, although “hotel spa” is misleading. It was a two-room treatment section off the gym.
The swimming pool…surroundings at the Haymarket…”High Breakfast” which was served like High Tea only with breakfast finger foods.
WHAT WE DIDN’T LOVE: The concierge at the Haymarket, whose name is forgotten, seemed to be in-training, so he steered us to long lines at Buckingham Palace, instead of reserving tickets for us.
Once is enough for the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, although kids would love it and my 24-yr old was entertained, especially by the freaky creatures.
SKIP: The tourist barge boat which we took for an hour was a little informative and helped with orientation, but too touristy with people
DON’T MISS: Seeing theater performance of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, one of the hottest shows in London and incidentally a great show. Paul, our concierge, was able to procure orchestra, aisle seats last minute at a very reasonable price ($100 per ticket).
A shopping visit to Harrods and Liberty of London, a Victorian masterpiece, for cool, stylish clothing and accessories.
Taking a side trip to Garrett Street for lunch. It is in the East end/ Hoxton area of London. It is a street of outdoor vendors with all types of ethnic food and we went there for lunch. You have a choice of a roasted hog, paella, Thai food, Italian, fruit, cakes … everything. Colorful, and you sit down and eat wherever you can! Great food and fun. We had dinner at Les Trois Garcons, in the Hoxton area, and was excellent — and, again, colorful.
WISH WE DID BUT DIDN’T HAVE CHANCE: Too numerous to list, but for starters the Tate Modern and south shore of the Thames. Kew Gardens was on my list everyday, but we didn’t get there. I would have combined this with a visit to Richmond and a stop at Wimbledon Museum of Tennis. I should have hired a private yacht to sail up the Thames just to take in the architecture and bridges. I missed a picnic in Hyde Park, shopping Portobello and Kings Road, High Tea at any of the fantastic hotels. Oh God…missing all of this feels tragic. Lots of reasons to return in the future.
CHECK OUT:. Flying upper class Virgin Atlantic. Flat bed in wide upper galley: so private, food service when you feel like it, hi-tech, and comfy black pajamas. The airport lounge serves a complimentary buffet meal (4 courses) and alcoholic beverages, very artsy and libraryish. Heathrow hosts the flagship lounge which is amazing. Search for special VA internet deals – the total cost of of our flight RT was $2,100 pp — flew upper class outbound & premium economy on our return midweek. The plane was empty.”