London and Paris – January 21 – 28, 2015

Having just returned from my most recent trip to London and Paris I look back with fondness at the new friends I made and the unique experiences I took part in. I had the pleasure of traveling with my husband on this journey. We had an extraordinary itinerary that started and ended in London with a two-day jaunt to Paris in between. There is a reason for this back and forth business which I will explain in a bit.

Our hosts for the first few days in London were Ellen Freschauf and Cory Landolfe with Selected Escapes. Selected Escapes represent several amazing hotels in London and the surrounding areas including The Athenaeum, St. Pancras Renaissance, 23 Greengarden House, Cliveden and Chewton Glen. Ellen and Cory are a delight!

Upon arrival at London Heathrow we where whisked away by private transfer to The Athenaeum where we spent our first two nights. This hotel has an amazing location at No. 116 Piccadilly directly across the street from Green Park. The Athenaeum surprised and delighted me in many ways. It is a gem of a hotel in a great Mayfair location.

The Athenaeum is quintessentially British: discreet, personal, friendly, interesting, quirky, down to earth and brilliant. The name was first used over 150 years ago in 1864 when the building was bought by the Junior Athenaeum Club as the ideal spot for entertaining. Around the corner, where their apartments are located, life started even earlier in 1720 when John Downe first built “Down Street”. It was rebuilt in the 1890’s and transformed into beautiful Victorian townhouses.

The hotel was regenerated in the 1930’s as a luxurious Art Deco apartment block, retaining the name The Athenaeum. The Rank Organization snapped it up in 1971 and transformed it into an iconic hotel and installed their movie stars there whenever they were filming at London’s famous Pinewood and Ealing Studios.

The hotel’s accommodations offer Mayfair style with contemporary furnishings. The Superior room category is a bit small for more than one person so I would recommend a Deluxe room as a starting category for couples.

The Park View rooms are bright and quite lovely with views over Green Park. The Suites are truly luxurious, with generous spaces offering both open plan layouts and separate sitting rooms. The “Rooftop Suite” is a spectacular three-bedroom accommodation with an amazing view of the city.

The Athenaeum also has 18 contemporary luxury apartments. Guests enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi, full complimentary mini bar, same-day laundry, and 24 hour room service. The apartments are serviced twice daily with maid service.

The hotel has an amazing Whisky Bar that offers over 300 whiskies. They have the largest selection of blends in any hotel in London!

The knowledgeable team hosts Whisky Socials, Whisky & Cheese pairing parties and Private Whisky Tastings. Our group had the luxury of experiencing this first hand.

The Restaurant specializes in contemporary interpretations of traditional English dishes. If you don’t see what you want on the menu, ask for it and they will cook it for you. The dining area offers a friendly, intimate atmosphere.

The hotel has a small spa and gym that cover the basics of beauty and fitness needs. If you are looking to venture outdoors you can borrow one the hotel’s complimentary bikes and go for a ride in the park. You also can borrow a kite (again, complimentary) and chase it around the open areas of nearby Hyde Park. Guests can leave the hotel with complimentary birdseed and a borrowed blanket to sit in the sun and feed the birds.

Our first full day in London started with a guided morning walking tour of Mayfair. Mayfair is located in central London by the east edge of Hyde Park in the borough of Westminster. It is recognized as one of the city’s finest residential areas and one of London’s most attractive villages. Mayfair takes its name from the May Fair, which took place in the borough from 1686 to 1764. Mayfair is home to some of the finest shopping establishments in London.

That afternoon we toured 23 Greengarden House. Their luxury-serviced apartments are a great spot to call home for longer stays in the London area. They are located on St. Christopher’s Place, which is a car-free, tree-lined street with chic designer boutiques. Londoners use the name to refer to the central square and the surrounding street too – it’s a mini village. These central west end apartments are steps away from so many things to do and see.

23 Greengarden House offers one and two bedroom-serviced apartments that are available for short and long stays. They provide daily maid service Monday – Friday and offer same day laundry and dry-cleaning services. Guests have complimentary gym and spa privileges at The Athenaeum. All apartments have fully equipped kitchens and washers/dryer. They will provide arrival food baskets on request and complimentary food shopping service.

Our second evening in London we had the pleasure of visiting the Relais & Chateau London office for a cocktail party hosted by Cliveden House and Chewton Glen. As Cliveden House is temporarily closed for a full renovation this was the next best thing. Sue Williams, General Manager of Cliveden House gave us a wonderful presentation on the renovations in progress. Cliveden is on track to unveil the renovation with a reopening by Easter of this year.

Cliveden House is very unique and quite special. The hotel is located in a grand stately home dating back to 1666 – more Downton Abbey than Downton itself! It is set in the heart of the Berkshire countryside surrounded by 376 acres of magnificent National Trust Gardens and parkland. Cliveden has a rich history that included three Dukes, an Earl, the Astors and a Prince of Wales having lived in and owned the house. Guests have included every British monarch since George I as well as Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt. Queen Victoria was famously not amused when William Waldorf Astor, America’s richest citizen, bought this historic masterpiece.

Cliveden’s accommodations include 38 individually designed bedrooms and suites. There is also a Spring cottage with three bedrooms that is set on the banks of the river.

Cliveden recently unveiled a spectacular new restaurant for lunch and dinner that carries the name of its award winning Chef Andre’ Garrett. Michelin-starred Andre’ surprises and delights guests with dishes like Dover sole Veronique and Venison rand-Veneur which is carved at the table.

The Cliveden boathouse is ideally located on a beautiful spot on the River Thames and is home to the Cliveden Flotilla of Vintage. Guests can take a jaunt down the river for afternoon tea, a picnic or a champagne cruise.

Cliveden House is located only 20 minutes from London Heathrow Airport. It is the perfect start or finish to an English Holiday. The Heathrow Stopover Stay Package includes:

  • Overnight accommodations
  • Full English Breakfast
  • Three course dinner in the restaurant
  • Butler’s guided walk around the house
  • Full use of the spa and access to the 376 acres of National Trust Gardens
  • One-way private car transfer in a Mercedes S Class or BMW 7 Series to or from London Heathrow Airport.

Chewton Glen is the sister hotel to Cliveden House. This luxury country house hotel and spa is situated just two hours’ drive from London Heathrow and London Gatwick airports and 30 minutes from Southampton airport and docks. Chewton Glen is set in 130 acres of Hampshire countryside, on the edge of the New Forest National Park and just a few minutes walk from the sea.

Chewton Glen offers 70 rooms, suites and treehouses. The Croquet Lawn Rooms have had a recent update and now boast a rich and eclectic new look best described as English Elegance. The ground floor rooms have washed oak wooden floors while the upstairs Croquet Lawn Rooms enjoy luxurious carpet. Antiques are combined with modern lighting and new furniture and rugs creating a unique look and feel. The views over the manicured croquet lawn from either your balcony or private terrace are fabulous.

The new Coach House Suites are ideal for a restful and peaceful vacation. They have two floors and a semi private garden. They are great for families as all suites have sofa beds.

The 12 Treehouse Suites are built high among the trees of a secluded valley. These accommodations provide a perfect setting for unwinding and relaxing. From their private balcony guests will feel the ultimate seclusion, high above the ground. The interiors let nature in. Huge windows give a panoramic view to the valley beyond. The designer used soft, warm colors and pure, natural materials when decorating these suites. Every need is catered for from food to spa treatments; everything is brought to you.

Chewton Glen offers a wonderful spa, a nine-hole par three golf course, indoor and outdoor tennis and a croquet lawn.

Our second full day in London we started with a visit to the Churchill War Rooms and Churchill Museum located beneath the streets of Westminster. This is the wartime bunker from which Winston Churchill and his government led the defense of the United Kingdom during WW2. We were able to explore the historic rooms and learn about the secret history that took place there. We learned more about the life and legacy of Winston Churchill in the adjacent interactive Churchill Museum.

This afternoon we transferred to the St. Pancras Renaissance London hotel. This hotel was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and opened its doors in 1864 as the Midland Grand Hotel. It is a true architectural masterpiece. After many years of abandonment the building faced plans for demolition. Through the efforts of several visionaries this Victorian masterpiece was saved. After many years of restoration this luxury hotel opened in 2011 and is truly one of a kind.

The design mingles Victorian elegance and splendor with contemporary style and service. The lobby of the hotel was once the very place that Victorian high society entered the hotel in horse-drawn cabs. The hotel is attached to the St. Pancras Train station.

We started our brief overnight stay with lunch in the Booking Office Bar and Restaurant. Breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner are offered along with an array of punches and mixed drinks created from lost recipes from the Victorian era.

Following lunch we embarked on a tour with the hotel’s historian. This tour is available upon request to guests of the hotel. We learned about the design elements of this amazing building.

We had a lively dining experience that evening at The Kitchen Table located within The Gilbert Scott Restaurant and Bar. This is an elegant British brasserie and bar located within the St. Pancras named in honor of the building’s original architect, Sit George Gilbert Scott. They offer British classics utilizing the best of British produce.

The spacious arc-shaped Kitchen Table is located in the kitchen and seats up to 10, and is surrounded by walls of wine.

The St. Pancras Renaissance has 245 guest rooms, including 38 beautifully restored and updated Chamber Suites. The hotel’s Barlow bedrooms are contemporary and located in the newest part of the building. They are moderately priced when compared to the Chamber Suites. The Chamber Suites are amazing and well worth the additional cost. These opulent suites are housed within the original Victorian hotel building, which for much of the 20th century was known as The St. Pancras Chambers. These Suites are richly decorated with lavish furnishings, high ceilings, ornate moldings and expansive windows.

The Chamber Suite Guests have exclusive access to The Chambers Club. The Chambers Club Lounge is open daily from 6:30am to Midnight. Guests enjoy hot and cold breakfast items, snacks, afternoon tea and early evening canapés. Hot, cold, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are also available. The Club does maintain a Smart Casual Dress Code and welcomes children aged 12 and older. Chamber Suite Guests also received a Euro 100 hotel credit. Access to The Chambers Club and the additional hotel credit offer an amazing value for Chamber Suite Guests.

Guests staying in the Chamber Suites can begin or end their journey in style with the “Suite to Seat” Eurostar VIP Transfer Service. St. Pancras is London’s only hotel to have permission to take passengers through security, bypassing any queues and onto the train. Dedicated Valets escort guests and their luggage directly from their suite to their Eurostar seat in less than 30 minutes. We had the pleasure of experiencing this Suite to Seat VIP Train Service first hand both on our way to Paris and back to London two days later. It was a true luxury experience all the way around. The Eurostar transfer service can either be arranged prior to guest’s arrival at the hotel or upon check in. A 24-hour notice is needed to arrange the transfer.

On the morning we were leaving for Paris we had packed our bags and left them in our room while we headed to the Chamber Club for breakfast. We had advised the hotel concierge upon our arrival of our Eurostar departure time for the following morning. While we leisurely enjoyed our breakfast the hotel retrieved our bags from our guest room and met us in the Chamber Club 30 minutes before our train’s departure time. We were escorted through a “no-wait” security line then headed directly to catch our train. Our butler, having his own rail security clearance, assisted us with loading our luggage onto the car where we found our seats. The entire process from the Chamber Club to our seats on the train took 15-minutes. It was a true luxury experience.

Two days later we returned to London and the hotel Valet was waiting for us with a smile and luggage cart in hand at the door of our rail car when we disembarked from the train.

Eurostar offers three different classes of tickets on their trains. The Standard Class ticket does not include in-car service. There are a variety of meals, drinks and snacks available onboard at the bar buffet. Standard Premier provides a light meal and drinks served at your seat and you are upgraded to an extra spacious and comfortable seat. Business Premier is the only class of ticket that offers an Express Check –In, closing 10 minutes before departure instead of the Standard 30-minutes before departure. Business Premier Travelers are served a three-course gourmet meal and drinks at their seats. Business Premier Travelers have exclusive access to the Business Premier Lounge. Additional Business Premier Amenities include complimentary magazines and newspapers, taxi booking service and electrical outlets for charging devices while traveling. Standard Premier and Business Premier seats are shown on the top and Standard Class seats are shown on the bottom.

The Business Premier Lounge has a business center, all day food and beverage offerings and is a very comfortable place to conduct business or simply relax prior to train travel.

When we arrived in Paris we were met by our driver and privately transferred to the Hotel Plaza Athenee. The newly refurbished Hotel Plaza Athenee is a proud member of the Dorchester Collection and is the epitome of Parisian luxury. Spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower are visible from several of the hotel rooms and suites. The hotel has been welcoming guests since 1913. Boasting a fabulous location on Avenue Montaigne, the hotel is surrounded by designer fashion boutiques and restaurants.

The hotel has five restaurants and a bar providing different atmospheres to suit all moods. Alain Ducasse, world-renowned multiple Michelin-starred chef, oversees all the hotel kitchens. In his Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee restaurant guests experience a unique culinary concept amidst a stunning ceiling of crystal. In contrast, the listed Art Deco Le Relais Plaza is a chic Parisian brasserie, which hosts popular jazz nights.

Europe’s only Dior Institute is another hotel highlight offering exclusive spa treatments in a stylish setting.

The Hotel has 154 rooms and 54 suites uniquely decorated with a wide variety of style ranging from elegant classic Parisian to contemporary furnishings. We had the pleasure of experiencing one of the hotel’s Eiffel Suites. This was one of the highlights of our trip. We never left our suite upon arriving as we only had one special evening to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime view. As if looking at a painting, our suite overlooked the Eiffel Tower through a silver-framed window.

We headed out early with our driver and guide the next day. We had only one full day to spend in Paris on this trip and wanted to make the most of it. Our tour included stops at the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arch de Triumph and the Louvre.

We visited the famous “three ladies” at the Louvre.

Our second and last night in Paris was spent at Le Meurice, another opulent gem of the Dorchester Collection. Le Meurice is ideally located in the heart of Paris adjacent to the picturesque Tuileries Gardens and is within walking distance of a host of museums, high-end shopping and restaurants.

Combining 18th century opulence with contemporary chic Le Meurice embodies the perfect French palace hotel. Located between Place de la Concorde and the Louvre, Le Meurice is ideally situated for visiting the finest art that Paris has to offer. Salvador Dalí was a regular visitor and today the hotel still enjoys a close relationship with many artists.

Each of the seven floors has a distinct style, with beautifully appointed rooms and suites decorated in the style of Louis XVI, featuring exquisite Italian marble bathrooms.

Guests can choose fine dining at Restaurant Le Meurice overlooking the Tuileries Garden or Restaurant le Dali located under a monumental canvas on the ceiling. Bar 228 provides an intimate atmosphere with deep leather armchairs and dark woodwork.

We headed back to London the next morning. We were in for a real treat! Our Expert Guide Sally Strange with NoteWorthy met us at the train station. NoteWorthy is an amazing group based in London that creates unique, British experiences. They use their personal relationships and expert knowledge to deliver unforgettable experiences that cannot be found in a guidebook or on the internet. I asked for a half-day Mystery Tour as we had seen all of the major sites in London. Sally took us to unique places and neighborhoods we had not visited such as Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and the Borough of Chelsea.

Following our tour I was delighted to stop by the NoteWorthy office and say hello to Nicola Butler, Managing Director at NoteWorthy and her amazing team.

Our last night in London we stayed The Milestone Hotel. This Red Carnation hotel is located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea directly across the street from Kensington Palace.

The hotel features 44 guest rooms and 12 suites all of which have unique décor with immaculate attention to detail.

The Milestone has six luxury fully furnished apartments adjoining the hotel. Each apartment has a fully equipped kitchen including fridge/freezer, dishwasher, microwave, cutlery and china. On request the hotel will provide a fully stocked Welcome Hamper with all the items on a guests shopping list.

Guests can enjoy a true fine dining experience in Cheneston’s Restaurant. The Park Lounge has received numerous awards for their Afternoon Tea. Stables Bar provides an intimate setting for delicious cocktails and nibbles.

Our last morning in London we enjoyed our final English breakfast then we were whisked away by a NoteWorthy private driver headed for the airport. It was a wonderful week full of fun people, unique experiences and true luxury.

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