Upstairs is a cocktail bar with an emphasis on absinthe.
Downstairs, entered via a narrow winding staircase, is a highly entertaining cabinet of curiosities filled with natural history specimens, assorted taxidermy, skulls, marine creatures and a collection of books with titles ranging from ‘A Guide to Faking Exhibition Poultry’ to ‘A Sex Guide for Irish Farmers,’ and “Shopping Center Sex.”
Here are some snaps a two-headed lamb and other snaps from a recent visit:
I’m in London this week for a few days to be part of the judging panel for the second annual Travel Retail Awards program for TRBusiness.
My assignment: evaluate spirits, cosmetics, chocolates, small electronics and other products sold in airport shops.
Tought job, right? But I’m taking the testing and evaluating very seriously.
While in town, I did take the change to stop by the Bankside, a new very fun and “design-forward” hotel in a cool neighborhood on the the south bank of the River Thames. (Sea Containers London, another swank London hotel I’ve had the pleasure of staying in before, is just a few doors down the street.)
I wasn’t able to spend the night at 161-room Banskside (part of Marriott’s Autograph collection of properties), but I did get a tour around the art-filled lobby, a look at a room and a lovely (hosted, thank-you!) dinner in the Art Yard Bar & Kitchen.
While I couldn’t try everything on the menu, I can heartily recommend the dishes I tried, especially the Monkfish Catapanla, (a hearty fish stew for two with several types of seafood), as well as the Pear Parfait and Dark Chocolate Fondant desserts.
The Bankside has several ‘bonus’ amenities that seem unique and/or quite amusing.
Guests find marshmallows on their pillows at turndown. Bars with taps to dispense several types of water (sorry, not beer) are in each hall. And just outside the elevator on each floor is a vending machine where guests may purchase small bottles of pre-made cocktails, wine, liquor and other ‘necessities,’ such as an emergency engagement ring, and handmade sparkly pants.
A few month’s back I was invited – actually, challenged – to visit Paris and London in just four or five days.
“Not possible,” I insisted. But I was willing to give it a try.
Here’s a slightly edited version of the story I wrote for Travel + Leisure with some ideas for how to do it.
To make this fast trip work, fly into one city and out of the
other, and book a seat on the high speed Eurostar train to
travel between the two.
Plenty of airlines fly between the US and both London and Paris
and it is possible to find deals on a one-way or open-jaw ticket using tools on
airline comparison sites or a knowledgeable travel advisor.
British Airways currently offers up to 50 flights from the U.S.
to London each day, depending on the season, from 26 U.S. gateways and will be adding
flights from both Pittsburgh and Charleston to London in April 2019. The
airline allows passengers to cut the cost of flights by using Avios points towards
Air France currently offers more than 150 flights a week to
Paris from 12 U.S. cities and is adding Dallas/Fort Worth as its 11th
U.S. gateway on March 31, 2019. The French flag carrier offers flash fares to Paris (and other
destinations) about once a month, so sign up to follow the carrier’s Facebook
and Twitter accounts.
Eurostar trains make the trip from city center to city center,
between London’s St. Pancras International
Station to Gare du Nord in Paris, in
just over 2 hours for a little as $60 each way. Eurostar ticket pricing
fluctuates like airline tickets, with the lowest prices usually offered for
midweek travel. Be sure to hold onto your boarding pass: it offers 2-for-1
entry to many museums and exhibitions in both cities.
Where to stay; what to do
London, there are lots of hotel to choose from right near St. Pancras International railway station, which is steps from
the British Library and its many free events and
exhibitions. Nearby is the Wellcome
hip and free science and health-themed museum that markets itself to the “incurably
Coal Drops Yard, built in 1850 to handle the eight million tons of
coal delivered to London each year, has been
transformed into the city’s newest trendy destination. Located in King’s Cross,
just a few minutes’ walk from St. Pancras, the shopping and dining center
boasts more than 50 stores, restaurants and cafés, including the flagship store
of Wolf &
gathers cool offerings from independent brands, and Casa Pastor, serving Mexican-inspired tacos,
alongside mezcals, Mexican beers and imaginative margaritas.
For convenience and a
hefty dose of the historic, splurge on a two-night stay at the St.
Pancras Renaissance Hotel, inside St. Pancras station. The “Seat to
Suite” package includes lounge access as well as a concierge escort between your
room and your seat on the Eurostar train, which departs from St. Pancras
If you’ll be heading back to the states from Paris, choose a
hotel in the city center that offers easy access to museums, café and other top
The newly renovated 97-room Renaissance
Paris Vendome Hotel, near the Tuileries Garden and the Louvre in the city’s historic 1st arrondissement
is a good option. Book a breakfast-included package (croissants galore!); seek
out nearby “hidden gems” suggested by the hotel’s “Navigator”; and let the
front desk book you a seat (preferably at the chef’s counter) in the hotel’s
Restaurant, which serves an ever-changing menu of Israeli-inspired
Middle Eastern meals.
You can save time by combining touring and fine dining by having
lunch or dinner at (or on) Ducasse sur Seine, chef Alain
Ducasse’s new restaurant on an electric boat offering diners a 90-minute cruise
on the Seine. Or board the Bustronome, a restaurant
inside a double-decker bus that drives by many of the city’s top sights during
a three-hour tour. (There’s a London version of this as well.)
You may not get your fill of croissants, baguettes, macarons or
other French pastries during a quick two-day visit, but you’ll learn some
professional French bakers’ tricks to take home during a gourmet walking tour
or a French breach-making class organized by a local tour group such as Meeting
StuckatTheAirport.com is usually about airports and airplanes.
But a new joint campaign between the London and Paris tourism bureaus and the folks at Eurostar is aimed at reminding travelers that is much easier, much faster and sometimes pretty darn cheap to get between London and Paris on the train.
I tried it out this past weekend, starting my journey at the posh St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London, which sits on top of the St. Pancras Railway Station.
That’s conveniently the starting point for boarding the Eurostar to the Gare du Nord train station in central Paris.
If, like me, you’re staying in a certain category of room at the hotel, a hotel employee will escort you directly from the lobby, through the fast track ticket and passport checkpoints and directly to your seat on the train.
The journey from London to Paris on the Eurostar train is then pretty darn quick and easy and takes just 2 hours and 15 minutes, including passage through the Chunnel. If I had chosen to go to Brussels instead the journey would have taken less than two hours.
On board, Wi-Fi is free, each seat has power and there’s a fold-down table. A cafe car sells snacks and there’s a meal included for those traveling in business premier.
Like airline tickets, fares can vary widely depending on time of year and even time of day, but during low season I’m told it’s possible to get return London-Paris ticket for under $80.
As a bonus: in Paris, even the standard tickets are good after your journey to gain 2-for-1 admission to many museums.
Traveling from city center to city center saves all that time and hasssle going to and from the airports so it does indeed make visiting bost cities a “why not?” option.
My time in Paris is short, but the Navigator tips offered by the concierge here at the Renaissance Paris Vendome are super helpful in helping me make the most of my time, so I’ll be back later with photos from my touring.