Samantha Brown’s “Passport to Europe – London Now”

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Samantha Brown does a great job touring the world and her trip to London during her “Passport To Europe – Season 1, Episode 2, London Now” series is no exception. Here are some highlights of the video.

Samantha starts out her trip in Berkeley Square (pronounced Bark-lee) and points out two publications which she recommends wholeheartedly: The “A-Z” (pronounced A to Zed) and “TimeOut London”. The A-Z is a must have – even for people who live in town! I had one in my car, my briefcase, my desk drawer, my kitchen at home and my bedroom! It is a fantastic and accurate street look-up guide which will get you out of a jam in more than one occasion – I guarantee it! It’s a bit daunting to use at first but you’ll quickly get the hang of it. (By the way, Londoners often refer to their Post Codes when describing the location of their homes, etc. That’s because the post codes actually tell you where something is. For example – the West End is the “heart” of London. So guess what the post code is? W1. I lived in Chelsea for a time which is south and west of the west end. So my post code started with SW.)

Next, Samantha travels via the London Underground – or tube. (We in the U.S. refer to the underground as the Subway. But in London, a subway is an underground WALKING passage so make sure you ask for the Undergound or the tube if that is what you want!) The Underground is very easy to use and their maps are world famous for their simplicity and design. Each line has its own color and changing trains couldn’t be easier. The Underground runs relatively smooth and on time although it’s not unheard of for a track to be out, etc. So if you bring a laptop with you and you need to be somewhere on time, you may want to check their web site to be sure everything is on schedule. Samantha points out that if you need assistance, ask someone in a blue shirt. You can buy tickets in the kiosk or in the vending machines. You can purchase a one-day Travel Card and use it all day within zones 1 and 2 and on the underground and/or buses.

If you take the tube to Waterloo, you’ll be on the south-side of the Thames and at the entrance to the London Eye – the largest observation wheel (Ferris wheel) ever built. You can purchase online in advance. This is a fantastic ride and a great way to see London. It takes 1/2 hour to get through a complete circle and runs until 10:00 p.m. and as Sam points out, you can even reserve it for a cocktail!

Samantha goes to some of the more touristy spots from the Eye – starting with Leicester Square (pronounced Lester). As she says, this is a main meeting place with movie complexes and mega shops. You can also find the “TKTS” booth for half-priced theater tickets. The theaters are just a few blocks from here; mostly on Shaftsbury Ave. Just a short distance from here is Picadilly Circus with its “carnival-like” atmosphere and Madame Tussaud’s where you’ll “que up” for quite a while to pay your GBP 22.00 to get in. You can pay GBP 25.00 to skip the line or, if you’ve got a group of 6 or more, get in fast through the group line. Also check the London Eye site for a double-attraction ticket for Tussaud’s (link below).

From here, Samantha heads back to her hotel at the Atheneum. Technically in Mayfair, the hotel is located on Picadilly and right down the street from Park Lane, Hyde Park, and Hyde Park corner. Right across the street is Green Park and the fabulous shops, restaurants and theaters of the West End are a stone’s throw away. This is a fabulous 5-star hotel with every amenity and comfort you can imagine.

Samantha chose to stay in one of the Atheneum’s “flats” or apartments. With a private entrance, a sitting room, bedroom, kitchen and bath – all donned with style and comfort in mind – you will be truly pampered in luxury. There’s even a spa at the hotel with a full-service hair salon, scrubs, massages, nail treatments and more. If you really want to exercise, there’s a gym with everything you need to keep in shape or just go out the door and head to one of the parks for a run. The Athaneum has it all.

The rates for this 5-star gem will run from $259 to $500 for a “superior” to a “parkview” room and around $750 to $950 for an apartment per night. Make sure when you make your reservation that the rate INCLUDES taxes and fees. The U.K. has a super duper sales tax called the Value Added Tax – or V.A.T. for short. It’s 17.5%!!! (If you buy anything there and take it with you, you will get a refund form but this doesn’t apply to hotels.)

More Great Stops From Samantha Brown in London:

  • Notting Hill – Trendy area with the famous Portobello Road market and antiques shopping. Not to be missed!
  • On-Street Toilets – Super clean and easy, these facilities are 2nd to none. Don’t be afraid to use them. Each time someone exits the cubicle, the toilet is automatically washed and sanitized.
  • Fast Food London Style – Tiffinbites (Taken from the Indian lunch box name “Tiffinbox”) where you pick what you want, take it up to the counter where it is heated up and served with fresly-made Indian bread. Very good. Indian food is very popular with the Brits. Don’t be afraid to try it and if you don’t know what to order, just ask!
  • Southbank and Bankside – The Millennium Bridge – this relatively new footbridge takes you across the Thames not far from St. Paul’s and over to the Tate Modern – a must see art museum for 20th and 21st Century artists.
  • Wine Tasting – Vinopolis gives you the history of wine and wine tasting. Grab a glass and hop on a Vespa motor scooter where you’ll go on a virtual tour of wine country on the windscreen! Fun.

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write by Latifah

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