Take a Rail-holiday Vacation in the UK

Have you ever thought of taking a railway holiday but then thought better of it and decided on something else instead? Well here is a unique idea for those who want to experience what it would be like to live on a railway train, or at least a portion of it. Railholiday Vacations out of the United Kingdom has done just such a thing. This family owned company decided to restore railway cars and rent them out to people who want to experience it and surprisingly it has taken off in a big way.

In 1995 the company restored what is referred to as “The Old Luggage Van” and the demand was so overwhelming that they then added another called “The Travelling Post Office” to their St. German’s location. They also have a second location in Hayle where they have added the St. Ives Bay SK2 carriage. The popularity of the Railholiday seems to have taken off since its inception in 1995.

The company may only offer three railway cars, but they seem to be doing a booming business. The Old Luggage Van in St. German’s station currently offers accommodations for four (this will change in later 2011) and is perfect for a small family or a couple. This is the rail car that kicked off the business and proved to be so successful that they then added on the other two cars. The Travelling Post Office is also located in St. German’s along the rails which makes access for trips during the day a feasible reality, plus the ambiance of the old railway carriage makes for a lovely holiday spot.

The St. Ives Bay SK2 carriage is located in Hayle and offers a trip back to a different time, a slower time without all the hastiness of today. This carriage is currently split into two vacation areas sleeping 6 and 8 respectively or for larger families or perhaps a large group of friends the rooms can be open to accommodate them all. Locally there are many things to do and things to visit during the peaceful days of your vacation.

For those who always wanted to ride the rails or for those who just think it would be fun to stay in a converted train carriage, this is the place for you to enjoy your holiday.

The Millennium London Hotel Mayfair London, United Kingdom

Travelers to the UK looking for a base camp in the center of London will enjoy accommodations at the Millennium London Hotel Mayfair. The landmark hotel is located minutes from both London Gatwick Airport and London Heathrow Airport making it an ideal choice for the traveler who wants easy access to the city.

Located at 44 Grosvenor Square in the neighborhood of Mayfair the Millennium Hotel London Mayfair is close to major London attractions, fine dining, entertainment, excellent boutique shopping and the popular area of Soho. Guests are also only a few blocks away from the Bond Street Tube station making transportation and seeing the area easy and effortless. The Millennium London Hotel Mayfair is also very close to the American Embassy.

The Millennium Hotel London Mayfair was previously an 18th century mansion and home to royalty. Much of the historic charm of the hotel has been maintained over the centuries making it a favorite choice of many who visit the city. Onsite amenities include a business center, fitness facility, a restaurant, bar and lounge and more. The Pine Bar at the hotel is popular among locals and tourists and is beautifully designed.

Guest accommodations at the Millennium Hotel London Mayfair are quaint and comfortable with over 300 rooms from which to select. The rooms are all accentuated with antiques and feature complementary decor that includes patterned wallpaper, heavy drapery, rich woods and more. Guests may select from among standard or superior rooms with in-room amenities including satellite television, in-room safe, mini bars, and internet access for a fee, air condition, fine linens and more.

Travelers planning to travel to London, United Kingdom can reach the Millennium Hotel London Mayfair can reach the property by flying directly into the London Gatwick Airport or London Heathrow Airport and take ground transportation to the hotel. Both airports are approximately 30 minutes from the Millennium Hotel London Mayfair.

Review: Road Chef UK Motorway Services

One of the United Kingdom’s Top Three Motorway Service Stations

Growing up in England, on any road trip, my parents and I always stopped off at a motorway service area. Also known as service stations, when I was a kid these places were shabby, rundown and often not that clean. Fast forward a couple of decades and companies like Road Chef now operate some of the best motorway service areas in the world. So good in fact that on my last trip to the UK this year, I spent so much time in Road Chef motorway stations I was seriously considering getting a hotel room there.
What are Road Chef Motorway Service Areas? – Similar to an American rest stop, British Road Chef motorway service areas (service stations) are located slap bang next to the UK’s major motorways (freeways) all around the country. If you’re in need of a a bathroom, a coffee, some food, a bit of a change of scenery or even an inexpensive hotel rooms, these service areas have all of this.

Road Chef is one of the top three companies in the country that run motorway service areas and, although I enjoyed what the other two companies provide too, I still think Road Chef is the best.

What Will You Find at a Road Chef Service Area?

Of course, it depends on which of the 27 Road Chef service stations you stop at. All have similar amenities, but some are simply bigger service stations than others so offer additional things the smaller ones don’t.

Each Road Chef service area though has basic amenities every driver on the UK’s roads might want to take advantage of.

Toilets

Each Road Chef location has enormous toilets in a couple of locations around the facility. They’re constantly cleaned, so lovely to use, and there are plenty of sinks and childrens’ diaper changing (nappy changing, as the Brits call them), if you’re traveling with small children.

Restaurants and Cafes

Each Road Chef has contracts with certain restaurants and cafes, so the places you can eat or grab a coffee at are consistent at every Road Chef.

Companies include Subway, where you’ll get that typical American sub sandwich with loads of choices of fillings, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and a restaurant called Hot Food Co, which serves excellent British food like fish and chips, steak pie and chips, full English breakfasts and other hearty filling food. There’s also The Burger Company, if you’re looking for a better burger than McDonalds, and RestBite, a mini supermarket where you can pick up wrapped sandwiches, salads, mini meals, soup and a whole range of inexpensive kids’ meals.

With any of the restaurants, you can eat at one of the tables in the main area of Road Chef, or you can take it to go and eat it in the car. Just remember to pick up plastic knives, forks, spoons and paper napkins before you leave.

For coffee, you’ll find several Costa Coffee stalls and coffee shops all over each Road Chef service station and the coffee is excellent. Or, if you want a cheaper latte, cup of tea or hot chocolate, most of the other restaurants and food outlets serve it from vending machines which, surprisingly, is quite delicious.

Shopping

Road Chef is great for picking up a newspaper, magazine, book, candy, chocolate, CDs, stationery and travel items as they all have fully-stocked W.H. Smith retail stores.

In many of the Road Chef service areas, you’ll also find Fone Bitz stores, where you can buy a new cell phone or phone accessory, or a Wi-Fi dongle if you need internet for your laptop, as well as other laptop accessories you may need on the road.

Free Wi-Fi

Speaking of Wi-Fi, every Road Chef location also has free Wi-Fi. It’s fast, secure and sign-up is as easy as going online and giving them a valid e-mail address. Takes all of three minutes and you’re set up and web surfing.

Days Inn Hotels

Fourteen Road Chef locations around the UK also have Days Inn Hotels right next door, so if you’re long-distance driving or driving late into the evening, pull off the road and spend the night. You can eat dinner at one of Road Chef’s restaurants, buy a newspaper or a book at W.H. Smith, grab a Costa Coffee latte to take back to your room, then settle in for the night for a good sleep.

Road Chef’s are open 24 hours a day. They’re clean, incredibly comfortable, safe and convenient. We also found the staff at every cafe, shop and Road Chef service area to be extremely pleasant, friendly and helpful.

Driving around the UK and need a rest? Stop off at any Road Chef service station. You’ll absolutely love them.

Review: Apostrophe Cafe at Gatwick Airport, London

Small Boulangerie Chain Serving Good Coffee and Delicious Sandwiches

On a recent trip through Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal, we were amazed to find the independent boulangerie and coffee chain, Apostrophe. Not your typical terrible airport fare, Apostrophe serves excellent coffee, delicious baguette sandwiches, omelette-filled croissants and pastries and, unlike most coffee shops, everything is cooked or grilled on site while you wait. If you’ll be heading to Gatwick’s South Terminal, give the rest of the cafes a wide berth and order something at Apostrophe instead. It’ll get you in a great mood for your upcoming flight.
What is Apostrophe? – A small British-owned independent cafe and boulangerie chain, Apostrophe currently has around 14 locations in and around London. Known for its Italian coffee and incredible sandwiches, Apostrophe started with just one branch in London in 2001. It’s grown every year and finally branched out to both Heathrow and Gatwick airports, and travelers have been thrilled ever since.

Where is Apostrophe at Gatwick?

You’ll find two Apostrophe locations at Gatwick Airport. One smaller one before you go through security at Gatwick’s South Terminal and a second on the second floor of the International Departure lounge, once you’ve checked in and gone through security gates. The second Apostrophe is a large open-plan contemporary cafe with comfortable seating, wooden tables and benches and a large counter where you order your food and drinks.

What Does Apostrophe Serve?

Bored with the usual airport fare I see at most international airports, every time I’ve traveled through Gatwick I’ve been amazed at what good food the British manage to serve, and Apostrophe is even better than most.

With a large menu that includes various baguette, croissant and other bread sandwiches with lots of choices of filling, there’s also croissants stuffed with various omelettes, pastries, savory baked goods, soups and stews and a great selection of muffins and cakes. All you do is order at the counter, even pointing to which particular sandwich you want, and your sandwich will be grilled for you and your other food prepared while you wait.

We ordered ham and cheese sandwiches on white baguettes and large non-fat lattes. The sandwiches were grilled while we waited and, in literally less than five minutes, we had the toastiest and tastiest grilled ham and cheese sandwiches I’ve ever eaten at any airport anywhere. The lattes too were large, rich-bodied just like I love them, and really hit the spot. In fact, my latte was so good, I drank the first one in three minutes flat and ordered another.

Price-wise, Apostrophe too manages to deliver

For a large grilled ham and cheese baguette and a large latte, the total price was just over 5 pounds 50p ($8.70), not too steep and quite inexpensive compared to most airport food around the world.

Apostrophe at Gatwick Airport serves a great meal, snack or dessert in a casual, contemporary environment a little away from the noise of the main airport departure area. If you enjoy something a little different, and don’t want to suffer through the usual expensive, cardboard airport food, Apostrophe might just be your spot.

Afternoon Tea in London

Formal or Casual, the Choice is Yours

Part of the whole experience of visiting London is having afternoon tea. Many American’s refer to this as high tea but that is incorrect. High Tea is not the same thing as afternoon tea. A high tea is a full meal and what most people want in the afternoon is a light meal. So this is about where to have afternoon tea in London. If you want to dress up and have a formal tea, there are plenty of places where you can do just that.


Putting on the Ritz

Located on Piccadilly, the Ritz Hotel is known for its afternoon tea. You can feel quite comfortable dressing to the nines if you want to for tea. I have to admit, I have never had tea here, it is just too formal for us but just walking by the lovely Ritz makes you realize that it is one swanky place.

Tea Dance at the Waldorf

Having said the Ritz is too formal for me, I have to admit that we did attend the afternoon tea dance at the Waldorf and it was amazing. It isn’t just about the wonderful tea, sandwiches, pastries and scones, though they are all delicious, it is about watching women in flowing dresses and men in dress suits twirling around the dance floor while you sip your cuppa. We were on the balcony level looking down on the dance floor. You can of course join them and we did for one dance but frankly we were a bit outclassed. It was however an amazing experience. It was like seeing the England that you thought existed but know really doesn’t.

Tea at Harrods Georgian Restaurant

I have to admit, this is one of my favorites. There is a piano player, the sandwiches are lovely and the pastries are to die for. They are miniatures of the ones they sell in the food court and they are generous with them. Mind you, the price you pay for tea at Harrods is a bit over the top but you really should do it at least once.

Saint Martin in the Field Café in the Crypt

Having afternoon tea at St. Martin is a very informal affair. It won’t be served on a tiered tray, you will pick up the pieces of your tea in the cafeteria line and carry them to your table. In spite of that, it is wonderful because this has to be one of the most atmospheric places in the world to enjoy a sweet and a cup of tea. I try to never miss the opportunity to stop here when I am in the area.

Richoux

Richoux is another of our favorite places to stop of afternoon tea. There are several very convenient location around London of this great little restaurant and there will surely be one close by wherever you may be at tea time. It is a simple sort of restaurant with a nice selection of options at very reasonable prices. You can choose a traditional tea or a cream tea depending on how hungry you are.

Orangery at Kensington Palace

This is my new favorite place for tea. It is a lovely location on the grounds of Kensington Palace right at the edge of Kensington Gardens. It is beautiful with great views, lots of light and most importantly spectacular pastries. We have an amazing afternoon tea here and I will surely return again when I am next in London.

If you happen to be at just about any museum in London during tea time, stop by their restaurant. We have had a very nice afternoon tea at many of them including the British Museum and the Museum of London.

You may not want to have tea every afternoon while you are in London but if you do there are plenty of choices. I am still looking forward to trying afternoon tea at Harvey Nichols and at Fortnum and Masons.