Westminster Walk

We took the Tube from Canary Wharf to Westminster, and started the day visiting Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey. With a 2-hour line to go inside the Abbey, we decided to pass. A walk along the Thames sounded more relaxing. After several blocks we took a walk through a neighbor, which ended up being one of the best parts of the day. It was quiet with no tourists or crowds and felt like we were seeing a part of London that was off the beaten path. It was a Westminster neighborhood in the vicinity of Chelsea College of Art and Design. The photos speak for themselves of how quiet and peaceful it was, with great architecture and details. Eventually we headed back to Westminster using the spires of the church as a point of reference.

For a break from walking we rode the tube out to Wembley Park to see Wembley National Stadium, as well as some neighborhoods outside of central London. The tube goes above ground, and while the view from the tracks is not the best, it gave us an idea of what other parts of London looked like. The break gave us new energy to return and walk across London Bridge and on to Tower Bridge, where we finally gave up and rode the water taxi back to Canary Wharf. The dock is located at the hotel, with a great little cafe nearby where we had the best lattes before heading back to the room.

The day was overcast and as a result the sky in all of the photos looks white. I’m hoping for a sunnier day before we leave. I also had hoped to upload larger photos, but with a slow Internet connection and large files, this was the best I could do for now. Enjoy.

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Arrived In London

We arrived in London to weather that is exactly like Oregon – in the 50’s and raining.The weather feels just like home. The cab ride yesterday from Heathrow to the hotel was a bit hair-raising, exceeding any cab ride to date. After several near misses with motorcycles and bicycles, dodging in and out of traffic and listening to a 21 gun salute (cannons that vibrated the cab) as we waited in traffic by Hyde Park, we finally made it to the Four Seasons at Canary Wharf. Along the way we passed Harrods, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, Tower Bridge… and a lot of other sites that flew by.

The Four Seasons is located next to the Thames on the historic site of the West India Quay – the center for Britain’s spice trade hundreds of years ago. After checking into the hotel in early afternoon, we took a break and rested from the overnight flight, and then headed out to walk around the Canary Wharf area. Canary Wharf is a financial district filled with banks and office buildings. While busy during the day when we arrived, it’s  quiet – almost deserted – in the evening. We discovered the underground station for the Jubilee line, which is a 10-minute walk from the hotel, and several promising restaurants.

We returned from dinner thoroughly soaked but had a great time walking through the Wharf. We ate at the Canteen, a contemporary casual restaurant  that serves traditional British food including deviled kidneys, spiced pigs cheeks, mushy peas and scotch egg. We had the fish and chips – it seemed a good way to start our first day in London. On the way back to the hotel we cut through Canada Place office building and ran into a car expo in the lobby. It was filled with high end (Rolls Royce and Bentley), exotic sports (Lamborghini,Maserati, Ferrari) and classic cars. Matt was in heaven and we know Chris would have loved it too. They had a podium where you could sign up for test drives, but we passed. It was tempting though…

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Canary Wharf

Hotel Hunting in Europe

On our upcoming trip to Europe, where to go and what to see is pretty much up to my son Matt since he is responsible for the itinerary. I’m game for anything – except where I sleep. A well rested mom is a happy mom. I’m doing the hotel hunting in Europe – he can have an opinion, but I make the final decisions on this one.

My first criteria for finding hotels is to use hotel credits and frequent stay rewards. The next are safe locations, clean rooms, family run, old and interesting. A good review on Trip Advisor is also a plus. And, I wanted a price range of 100-150 Euros a night. The credits and rewards took care of London (Four Seasons Canary Wharf), Vienna and Ghent. Marriotts in Vienna (Imperial Riding School) and Ghent (Marriott Ghent Hotel) even met the old and interesting criteria – old on the outside but new on the inside – close enough. I wanted to stay at the Four Seasons George V Hotel in Paris but I think our credits would have bought us about 45 minutes in a room there – beautiful and luxurious but expensive. Using Four Seasons credits at the Canary Wharf in London is a great deal by comparison. The Canary Wharf property looks more contemporary than other Four Season hotels we’ve stayed at and it’s also smaller, but no doubt will have same great service they are known for.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered reading about being able to stay in castles in Austria. Why not? What better place to stay in a castle than in Austria and they certainly would be old and interesting. I found two websites (Schloss Hotels and Castle and Palace Hotels) with several listings in Austria. Some castles were beautiful but muc too expensive, however, two looked promising. The first, Schloss Haunsperg, is only 15 minutes outside of Salzburg. One review described it as, “… a fairy-tale castle, with old-world charm, operated by an energetic, gregarious husband-wife team, who seemed to genuinely enjoy their guests.” Plus it was built in the 14th century and had a chapel and a moat. It seems to me every respectable castle should have a chapel and moat. I emailed the owners and their response included, “Thank you very much for your request. We would be happy welcoming you and your son to our castle….” Wouldn’t you love to say that to someone about your home and you actually live in a castle! I booked it immediately – and it was within our budget.

The second castle is an hour outside of Vienna: Hotel Schloss Mailberg. Built in 1146, it has been continually the property of the ‘Sovereign Order of Malta’. Built in the year 1146 – that’s amazing! You could almost feel the history from the photos. According to their website (www.orderofmalta.int), “The Order of St John of Jerusalem is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilization. Present in Palestine in around 1050, it is a lay religious Order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. The Order of Malta is one of the few Orders created in the Middle Ages and still active today.” How often can you stayed in a building originally built for knights? The twin room is 80 Euros and maybe a bit spartan from the photos, but any discomfort is worth discovering the history of the Order. This is also wine country and they have a huge wine cellar. That is worth a few extra points and I booked a room.

You’ll have to wait until we visit the other hotels to hear about them, except for Paris, which deserves a post of its own. Booking a hotel in Paris can be, well … challenging. More on that tomorrow. Thanks for joining us.

 

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