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Hilton Come Dream With Us Sweepstakes

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Hilton is offering a sweepstakes contest with the top prize consisting of a five day and four night trip for two to the London Olympics. The lodging is provided by the Waldorf London which is located near the West End theatre and Covent Garden. Other prizes include a trip for two to San Jose for the US Olympics gymnastics trial. Registration is found at this link, and there are additional entries provided for each night you stay at a Hilton hotel through October 31, 2011.

https://www.hiltonhhonors.com/enroll/OlympicSweeps2011.aspx

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Written by chitownflyer

July 28, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Posted in Hilton, London

Why London Rocks

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This is a trip report detailing my eight day trip to London In January 2011. I flew United Business class via IAD to LHR and stayed at the London Hilton Metropole. I saw several West End plays including Mousetrap, Deathtrap, and Birdsong. A favourite undertaking is to experience the fine dining at London’s excellent restaurants, so I enjoyed a couple of meals at the Ivy and lunch at J Sheekey. I also strongly urge you to go have high tea at London’s top hotels like the Clairidge or Dorchester. These dining experiences may lighten your wallet, but there is no equivalent in America and much of the rest of the world. Finally, I like going to London after the New Year to shop the sales and get good tea and fine English clothes. Once you experience English clothing and tailoring, the only other clothing that can compare is Italian clothing. The English specialty is obtaining fine fabrics, such as Loro di Piana wools and silks, and then applying their expert tailoring to it.

The start of the trip is marked by flying United’s new Business class on the 777. It is the same Business class found on the 747 and 767; however, I think United made a flawed cabin layout by creating a 2-4-2 configuration which means four people sit in the middle section of Business class. United should have either staggered the seats or made a 2-3-2 layout as currently exists on their old 777 Business class seats. Luckily, the middle seat area was not an issue for too many passengers on this flight as there were some empty seats. Here are some pictures of the new 777 C cabin.

The middle section of the 777 C cabin.

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The two seats of the located near the window which are the best seats on the plane.

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Some people have raised the issue of forward or rear facing seats when flying. I do not find this to be an issue. I only want to forewarn flyers to make sure that the magazine rack is locked, as you see the metal divider in the picture above lying horizontally in front of the magazines. The first time I flew in the new cabin a couple years ago, the rack was unlocked, and the magazines flew out all over the seats and floor as I was sitting in a rear facing seat upon takeoff.

The nice part of the trip is getting a good meal. Here is the menu for the flight:

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I had the salmon appetizer

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For the main course, I had the chicken.

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For desert, I had the cheese plate.

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For breakfast, I snacked a bit on the fruit and yogurt plate.

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I quickly clear customs and retrieved my bag. I like this vending machine after clearing customs, it sells SIM cards so one does not have to pay US mobile operators obnoxious roaming rates while traveling.

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In order to use a SIM card, you must have a SIM enabled phone that is unlocked. At a minimum, you should have a quad band GSM phone that works on the four bandwidths of 850, 900, 1800, and 1900. For 3G service, you should have a 3G pent band phone to work on the 850, 900, 1700, 1800, 1900, and 2100 bandwidths. The quad band GSM phone is all you really need unless you will be doing a lot of data tasks while traveling, but then it will run up your bill, as data is charged by the kilobyte. The benefit of using a SIM card is being able to have a temporary carrier which will allow for inexpensive phone calls and texts. I use Lebara which is available in many countries in the world, and I can call from the UK to the USA for about 11 cents (7pence) a minute and make local calls for around 20 cents a minute. The reason I detail this information is so readers will see the difference between Europe and much of the rest of the world and how their cell phones work in different countries. In the US, people buy phones from a carrier, and they are then tied to that carrier. In the rest of the world, people often buy their phones unlocked, and then select which provider or pre paid Sim card carrier they wish. The benefit of the no contract phone is that you buy whatever phone you desire, select the service, and then are NOT bound to any specific carrier. In other words: Freedom rocks!

ATT locks it customers phones, but they can be unlocked at some mobile phone stores, but this may void your warranty. When the iPhone first came out, there was the story of the guy who visited Europe and rang up a $20,000 phone bill by leaving his iPhone turned on and to receive updates. I use TMobile service, and they will send you the unlock code for your phone but you still have a contract each time you get a new phone with them, or you may pay full price for the phone without a contract. I do not like the idea of ATT ordering TMobile’s customers around when the merger will be compete, but I hope the merger does not happen, as TMobile is a good provider.

After my first TMobile Motorola phone, I started buying my phones unlocked directly from the manufacturer, and I have not had a contract since 2005. I simply place my TMobile SIM card into the phone, and I have service. In the past, I had Motorola phones, but Motorola stopped selling unlocked phones online, so now I use Nokia phones for several reasons. They are unlocked, do not require a contract, and their N8 line of phones has an excellent camera with 8-12 megapixels, a Carl Zeiss lense, and a Xenon flash that enables even professional photographers to take pictures, and it removes the need to carry around a stand alone camera. The phone also shoots video as well and has a host of other features. I currently use the N86, which can be seen below.

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The current model is the N8 with a 12 megapixel camera and it is a touch phone. It can be bought for around $400-$450 from Amazon or Nokia direct http://www.nokiausa.com/. Other Nokia phones also offer good cameras, but the N8 line is the big Kahuna of them all.

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The current N8

For speedy access into London, the Heathrow Express goes from the airport to Paddington station in 15 minutes. If you are staying in Mayfair, Marble Arch, or the Edgeware Road- Maida Vale areas, the Heathrow Express saves you time. The Hilton Paddington is right in the station, and one can take a cab to the Trafalgar(Hilton) or Hilton Park Lane as well. The other option for going into London is the Picadilly line, but this can take from an hour to 85 minutes. The Hyatt Churchill is also a short cab ride away near Marble Arch. I stay often at the Hilton London Metropole, as it is a 7 minute walk from Paddington to the hotel. You exit the train station onto Praed Street, turn left and walk for 5-7 minutes a few meters before the big street crossing of Edgeware Road. Here is a link to save on 2nd class fare on the Heathrow Express and buy your tickets online: http://www.heathrowexpress.com/ana

I recommend taking 2nd class fare, as 1stclass is not worth the extra money for a 15 minute journey unless you find a discount code that makes it a good value. See this Flyertalk thread for the Heathrow Express: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/u-k-ireland/900258-heathrow-express-promotion-codes.html.

Here is the exterior of The Metropole.

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Hilton Golds and Diamond have access to the Executive Lounge for breakfast, afternoon tea, and evening drinks and canapés. They also receive free internet access which started in October 2010, and this is a good value becuase the the daily rate for internet access is £15.99($26.40). I received a superior room in the west wing which had been recently remodeled.

Photo of the room.

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Another photo of the room.

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Shower and bathroom.

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Here is the view from my room.

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The great benefit to staying at the Metropole is the location of the hotel. It is located right on Edgeware Road which provides access to the many buses and 2 separate tube stations: the Edgeware Road Bakerloo line and the other Edgeware Road tube station for the Circle and District lines. I like to go to the West End for theatre and Jermyn Street and Saville Road for shopping, so the Bakerloo line is only 5 stops to Piccadilly where I can reach these places. I recommend buying an Oyster card, so you can then either place money onto the card or buy a daily or weekly tube pass and not have to continue to buy single journey tickets.

What I really like in London is the great theatre, excellent dining, and good shopping. The English have some of the finest quality clothing and cuisine in the world. During this trip, I saw three plays. Mousetrap is an Agatha Christie play, and it is the longest running play in London with showings for more than 40 years.

Deathtrap is a very unique play that was once a movie starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeves and performed at the Noel Coward theatre. The acts and ending of the play become quite twisted, and I do not want to give the story away, but I highly recommend seeing the show if you have the opportunity. A review of the play, can be found http://www.suite101.com/content/deathtrap-top-comedy-thriller-noel-coward-theatre-london-review-a270223

 This is photo of the Noel Coward theatre.

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The final play I saw was Birdsong which is about a young English man who falls in love with a married French woman, and then their relationship is thrown into upheaval by World War I. A review of this play performed at the Comedy Theatre: http://www.whatsonstage.com/reviews/theatre/london/E8831285714028/Birdsong.html.  

This is the billboard for the show.

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Theatre in the UK is like nothing else in the world. It is an old tradition and a great past time that is not easily replicated anywhere else. In some cities in the US, theatre is prominent, but I highly recommend travelers to London and the UK to see a few plays. Half price tickets for shows may be found at Leicester Square on the day of the show. The only problem then becomes you do not have enough time to see them all! I missed out on seeing an ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde, Yes Prime Minister, and When We Are Married amongst others.

Another activity of mine is to enjoy fine dining in London, as it has some incredible restaurants. One of my favourite restaurants is the Ivy which has a long and coveted history having served Winston Churchill and Ian Fleming amongst other luminaries.

Ian Fleming

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Winston Churchill

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The Ivy is located close to Leicester Square and is open for lunch and dinner, and it is right near the theatre performing the Mousetrap..

Here is a night time picture.

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The Ivy menu.

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Here is the wine list.

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I started with the Tuscan bean soup with a tomato base, and it was very good.

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For the next dish, I had the fish of the day which came with an excellent squash side dish.

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To finish, I had the rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb for desert which consisted of three different types of small rhubarb dishes, and it was heavenly, as food at the Ivy always is.

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I also dined a second time at the Ivy and enjoyed the cod and another fine desert before seeing the play the Birdsong.

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My favourite dish at the Ivy is pudding, and both the chocolate pudding which comes in a bowl and is a meal in itself and the sticky toffee pudding are incredible. I had the sticky toffee pudding which was excellent as usual.

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From the wine list, I wish for readers to know that the Lebanese vineyard Château Musar is excellent, and the Musar Jeune was a great introduction to Lebanese wine.

Another restaurant which I like is J.Sheekey which offers a great prix fixe menu on Saturdays and Sundays for around £25. I also dined there, and it is owned by the same ownership as the Ivy.

For starters, I had the bream soup which was excellent and then followed by fish.

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For desert, I had the Rhubarb torte which was excellent and very different from American rhubarb, and it was not tart, but not too sweet either, making it a very unique flavour.

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I have often enjoyed lunch and dining at J.Sheekey, but this occasion became unplesant due to the actions of a table seated in the dining room. There was a group of 8 to 10 people celebrating some event, and they decided that they should be loud raucous, boisterous, and rude. The decibel level was very loud with their conversations bouncing off the walls and drowning out other’s conversations. Furthermore, the men at the table kept repeating the F word every two to three minutes as if it made them more masculine. In all of my dining experiences in the UK, I have never seen such unacceptable etiquette. I might expect to see such behaviour in a pub during a football match, but then again, I have seen much better behaviour and less noise in pubs than exhibited by this group. Hopefully, this was a one off, otherwise, I will change the location of my table the next time I go to dine irrespective of restaurant.

At all times of the year, London is great for shopping. I always like to visit Jermyn Street and walk Saville Row to see the fine shops.

Jermyn Street location of Thomas Pink and Hackett.

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Jermyn Street location of Dunhill

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Fortnum and Mason is the provider of foods to the royals, and the store has wonderful teas, mince pies, and biscuits. One can even enjoy high tea in their tea room and fine dining in their restaurants.

Fortnum and Mason exterior.

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Fortnum tea room.

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Window displays at Fortnum during Christmas and the New Year. The best part is the after Christmas sales.

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I also walked along Saville Row which has some of the finest clothing and tailoring in the world.

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Gieves and Hawkes has good ties and belts, and their suits are excellent as well.

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Hardy Amies designed the dressed and clothing for the royals in the 1970s. I was able to buy two suits there one year for £50 each, as they were exiting their ready to wear line. The funny part is the alterations, cost twice as much as the suits themselves!

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After eight busy days, I returned how to the US in United Business class from LHR-IAD. I took the Heathrow Express train again to the airport. For a 12:00 pm flight, one can take the 9:30 train and have more than enough time to check bags, visit the Star Alliance lounge, and get to the plane.

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For the flight home, the plan was the old configured 777, but it was not heavily booked, so it made for an open and pleasant flight.

United 777 C cabin.

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I had the chicken dish.

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Sandwich and scone snack before arrival.

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I used my Global Entry kiosk upon arrival which makes flights into Washington Dulles so much more easier and enjoyable. If you do not have it, then you could be waiting in line for quite a while as United has as many as 20 afternoon arrivals at IAD each day, and there are not enough customs and passport control agents to go speedily through the entry process. For arrivals into the US, I highly recommend obtaining Global Entry, and the $100 fee for the program is worth all the time you will save. Further information on the program can be found at http://www.globalentry.gov

Written by chitownflyer

April 25, 2011 at 6:14 pm