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Britain’s first - and only - female Prime Minister, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, passed away earlier today, aged 87, following a stroke.
As tributes from the United Kingdom and around the world are coming in, both CNN and BBC are reporting Baroness Thatcher passed away at The Ritz London, the classic hotel on Piccadilly we recently discussed. She had been staying here “since being discharged from hospital at the end of last year” according to the BBC, having suffered poor health for a number of years, and retired from public speaking since 2002.
An enormously influential figure in both British and worldwide politics, Thatcher was Conservative Prime Minister between 1979 and 1990. We couldn’t possibly do justice to her legacy and accomplishments here, so we’ll point to the BBC obituary for those wanting to read more.
[Photos:Daily Mirror/The Ritz London]
Those of you who have a major sweet tooth and a love for hotels would have had your dreams come true a few weeks ago in London, where Tate & Lyle Sugars (the UK’s largest cane sugar brand), created the world’s first (pop-up) hotel entirely made from cake.
A team of 14 cake makers labored away for more than 2,000 (that’s two thousand) hours to bake and 900 hours to decorate eight “tasting” rooms in celebration of the launch of Tate & Lyle’s “Taste Experience” range of golden and brown cane sugars.
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The InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) sold the luxurious, 447-room InterContinental London Park Lane to an affiliate of Constellation Hotels last week for about $460 million, building upon a fire sale that's been going on for the past decade. Since 2003, IHG has sold 191 hotels, at a rate of about 19 hotels a year, for a $6.1 billion profit.
They made a pretty penny on the Park Lane property, too, flipping it for 62% more than its December 2012 book value, by selling it to a Middle Eastern private investment group, and continuing a trend of Middle Eastern investment in London.
Recently, Qatar purchased Harrods department store and helped to finance the construction of the Shard skyscraper.
IHG says the profits will be used for "general corporate purposes," which we figure will include champagne parties, backstage passes, and pillow fights involving supermodels. Seriously though, we see big numbers thrown around all the time, so we're always more focused on the practical questions, like, will anything change as far as the consumer is concerned?
Having shown you the hotel’s top-end Prince of Wales Suite, we’re following up today with the details on our stay at The Ritz London, including, lo and behold: free WiFi. At the Ritz. Who would have thought that?
Check In & Room Reaction
We walked the few steps from Green Park tube station to the Ritz and were checked in and personally shown to our room within minutes. We’ve seen almost the entire spectrum of room categories at the Ritz, from cozy entry-level Superior Queens to the top-end suites. Layouts vary, as do color schemes (pink, yellow, peach, and blue). Bathrooms are where you're most likely to see evidence of the hotel being constructed over a century ago, when having a private bath was a novelty, so you may want to inquire, depending on your preferences, for a bathtub or a separate shower.
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We love a good hotel bathtub, especially when it has a view. During a recent visit to the London’s InterContinental Park Lane, we spotted a worthy entry for our Bathroom Tuesdays in the hotel’s lofty London Suite.
With its soaring two-story windows, this suite – and its bathroom – takes full advantage of the hotel’s vantage point on Hamilton Place, overlooking Hyde Park Corner and the gardens behind Buckingham Palace. Time it right, and you can watch the mounted Horse Guards pass underneath Wellington Arch right from the tub. More of a shower person? Not to worry, you’re covered too.
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We've recently written about sneaky hotel fees that are creeping onto our bills, but we'd like to think people are paying attention to obvious actions that will result in hefty charges.
That's why our eyes nearly rolled out of our heads when we read this little ditty in the New York Post and Entertainmentwise.com about Heidi Montag, Spencer Pratt and their $5,000 laundry bill courtesy of the Dorchester in London.
According to the stories, the clueless couple, who were in England filming "Celebrity Big Brother" last month, sent four suitcases worth of clothes to the hotel's laundry service after running out of outfits to wear. The tab for their newly-washed threads? £3,500 ($5,000).
This apparently boggled Pratt's mind--"We were totally flabbergasted," he was reported saying, and upon returning to the States, he attempted to do some math with a writer and like most travelers, lamented on the power of the pound.
After fantasizing about its $400 vintage cocktails, we recently had a chance to check out more of The Ritz London to see how one of the city’s grandes dames measures up against all the competition that has flooded in during the Olympic year (a tide that, incidentally, shows no sign of abating in 2013).
But before we get to the full details of our visit, we’ll first take you inside the hotel’s top-end accommodation, the Prince of Wales Suite. Set within William Kent House, the extension of the main hotel facing Green Park, HRH the Prince of Wales could almost wave at Buckingham Palace if he chose to stay the night.
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We've started a series of what’s trending in hotels these days: What’s Out, What’s In. Do we like what we see? Think it's a dud? You be the judge!
What’s Out: Hotel-recommended city tours
What’s In: Hotel-led cultural immersions
Hotels are taking a lead in ensuring guests remember that they’re actually in a foreign city when they travel. Except for some solid holdouts, gone are the days when you walk into your hotel in Amsterdam, say, and you could just as easily be in Istanbul or Portland. Whether through design details, cuisine or cultural tours, hotels are proudly showing their roots.
The Fairmont Kea Lani Maui offers guests a full gamut of authentic Hawaiian experiences led by the hotel’s full-time Cultural Coach. Not only can you explore some historical sites, you can learn the basics of Hawaiian paddling and the canoe's importance to the culture, the uses of native and non-native plants by the Hawaiian people, plus the history of the Hawaiian language, which you can then try to pronounce what seems to be unpronounceable. Rates at the resort start at $519.
The Goring –- the hotel with the Royal Warrant –- is launching their High Days and Holidays walking tours. Six tailor-made tours, all celebrating special occasions (or High Days in London-speak), were designed by Art History UK’s founder Rose Balston. Art’s on the menu but, as Rose says, “Think juicy tales, conversation, challenging ideas and plenty of hidden corners of London, past and present…” We’re talking tours that include dragons, pagan rituals, ghosts and treason. Does it get any better? Rates for the package start at 595 GBP ($902).
To celebrate its first hotel above a comedy club, Travelodge has rolled out a "loo laughs" campaign at London's new 131-room Bethnal Green location in hopes of keeping its guests entertained at all times. That's right -- there are jokes and cartoons on the toilet paper.
The idea was inspired by the hotel's position on top of British comedian Lee Hurst's Backyard Comedy Club, but it was also backed up by a bit of data. Travelodge ran a survey of 2,000 Britons that revealed 49% of them like to read on the loo.
Based on what we've seen, it doesn't appear they got much professional help with the joke writing, despite its location. The two samples we've seen haven't exactly been side-splitters. For example, Why are men better than dogs? Because they have only two muddy feet to walk into the house. Or, worse: How many men does it take to change the roll of toilet paper? We don't know... it's never happened. Oh, dear.
The last few years has seen a major transformation of London’s King’s Cross neigborhood, an area dominated by the railway station of the same name and its international sibling, St. Pancras. The latter saw the opening of the much-hyped Renaissance hotel (Spice Girls reunion and all), and next month King’s Cross will see its own classic hotel revival with the reopening of the Great Northern Hotel.
Originally opened in 1854, the curve-shaped hotel (to the left in the above picture) is fully integrated in the spectacular redesign of the station’s Western Concourse, which soars like an inverse steel waterfall overhead. Inside, you’ll find just over ninety rooms over six floors, as well as a restaurant, bar, and take-away bakery.
For the past twelve years, the restaurant at London's five-star Claridge's Hotel was known as "Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's." However, after announcing earlier this month that the restaurant is closing down this June, it is fair to say that, by this summer, "Gordon Ramsay" will most definitely not be "at," "near," or "in the vicinity of" Claridge's at all.
That's right: after over a decade, the Financial Express reports the hotel is parting ways with the blond-haired, blue-eyed kitchen nightmare once and for all, declaring it's time "for a new dining direction."
Fair enough. Hotels certainly have to keep things fresh, and one of the most visible ways to quickly size up a hotel is through its restaurant.
The hotel acknowledged Ramsay's contributions to its "gastronomic history," though didn't comment on whether poor reviews had anything to do with the decision.
Meanwhile, ol' Gordy ought to be keeping plenty busy, as it was revealed last month that his popular FOX show Hotel Hell is being renewed for a second season. So while he might be losing restaurants of his own, at least he'll be able to relieve the stress by yelling demoralizing things to poor, defenseless hoteliers. Ah, the circle of life.
For now though, if "Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's" has been on your bucket list for a while, you've got a little over two months left to hop over to London and give that famous beef Wellington a whirl. Save us some leftovers, will you?
Last week, we looked at a number of hotel projects that we fear may have little hope of ever being completed, from Fontainebleau Las Vegas to Pyongyang’s Hotel of Doom. This got us thinking about the long-running plans for Art’Otel Hoxton, over in London’s artsy but increasingly (some will say mostly) gentrified Shoreditch neighborhood.
Way back in the summer of 2010, we reported on protests taking place against the demolition necessary to make way for the hotel on the corner where Great Eastern, Rivington, and Old Street intersect. At the time a 2013 opening seemed ages away, but here we are today, with the hotel still being in planning phase and no projected completion date.