He who is tired of London is said to be tired of living. But maybe he (or she) really only needs a good night's sleep.
"Shall I arrange for a tea tray to be sent up, then?" inquired the Langham London’s accommodating general manager upon my completion of the check-in process. After eleven hours on an airplane and several more on the road, they were sweet words indeed, assuring me that I had selected yet another gem to add to my personal collection of London hotels.
I started "collecting" London hotels on my second visit, when I was more concerned about price than ambiance. (On my first visit, during my post-college backpacking grand tour, I stayed free with a friend in the suburb of Hampstead, where my host's charming old flat overlooked the heath. I've never been able to beat that price or ambiance.) On the second time around, my husband and I, giddy with the prospect of leaving our two children behind with Grandma while we frolicked sans famille abroad, called the modest Ridgemont Hotel b&b two months ahead and made a reservation. We lodged there in the Bloomsbury section of London for our entire five-night stay.
Years later, on my third visit to London, Grandma and our 12-year-old daughter accompanied us. This time we splurged and spent our first two nights at the elegant Langham London (about which Grandma still raves: "Now I know how the other half lives.") and the subsequent four nights back in now-familiar Bloomsbury at the Crescent Hotel--another budget-friendly spot. (On that trip the exchange rate grew worse each day, and we literally gagged on prices. It was so bad that we four actually found ourselves in Chinatown sharing two pot stickers by cutting them in half, refusing to accept reality and pay approximately $5 for two more.)
My next visit was on a layover during a journey home from having personally delivered my now-teenage daughter to a family in Spain, where she was being hosted for a month. My husband and I spent two nights in the upscale Stafford and two nights at the more modest Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel, the latter located in what has become our favorite section of town--Bloomsbury.
Elaborating on this pattern, on my most recent foray into London, I actually stayed in four different hotels: two over five nights upon arrival, then after returning from a tour into Scotland, two more hotels over two nights before departing for home. And I can now attest that though it is quite exciting to arrive in London twice on one trip, it is even more exciting to arrive four times.
In a city with thousands of hotels, it is presumptuous to say one is the best. However, it is possible to say one is your personal favorite. Or, like me, you can just keep adding new conquests to your own "collection." Whether you prefer to return time and again to the familiarity of the same hotel, or whether you prefer always to try something new, I think you'll find a hotel in my personal collection that intrigues you.
So, luvie, do print out this article and stick it on your 'fridge right now--you never know when you'll be going to London on your way to or from somewhere else.
Playing My Game: Changing Hotels
Booking a memorable lodging in London is quite easy and, if you're selective and/or lucky, affordable. Here are a few guidelines:
●If you want to stay in a famous luxury hotel but you are also on a budget, reserve it for your first two nights only, switching to a lower priced lodging for your remaining nights. Usually you arrive quite tired, and this allows you to take full advantage of relaxing in elegant surroundings. A second night is also a good idea, or you most likely will succumb to that peculiarly American phenomenon of "if its Tuesday, it must be Belgium" and forget where you've been. (Personally, I like to stay at least two nights in a hotel anywhere, whenever possible, so that I can "imprint" enough details in my maxed-out memory center to recall the experience later.)
●On the day you switch hotels, plan your itinerary so returning to your old hotel in the afternoon to pick up your suitcases is convenient. I've never had any problem leaving my bags at the desk until late afternoon.
●When making reservations, ask about packages. Oftentimes a budget-stretching special rate that includes the VAT and breakfast can be had even in the more expensive hotels.
More hotels I’ve loved
The Portland Hotel
The Kingsley by Thistle
The Montague on the Gardens
Carole Terwilliger Meyers blogs at Travels With Carole.
Ms. Meyers is also the author of “Miles of Smiles: 101 Great Car Games & Activities”
copyright 2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers; updated 2020