Tag Archives: London

Ocean Liners Speed and Style – V & A Exhibition 2018

The romance of the golden era of cruising is something most of us can now only imagine. So, I was honoured and thrilled to be invited to the private view of Ocean Liners Speed and Style at the V & A last week.

This new exhibition is being sponsored by Viking Cruises, and gives an insight into the history of some of our most loved ocean liners through the decades. If, like me, you love the elegance, grandeur, opulence and extravagance of cruising, you will be in your element.

It’s not all about the glamour though. The curators have also shown the dangerous aspects of cruising in those days. Items on display include belongings that have been recovered from wreckages or salvaged before disaster struck. These include a Cartier tiara saved from the Lusitania which sank in 1915, and the the exhibition’s final piece is a panel fragment from the first class lounge on Titanic, where the ship broke in half. (See bottom of page for video)

Ocean Liners Speed and Style Photo: Piers Macdonald

As you step inside the V&A’s Ocean Liners Speed and Style exhibition it feels like you have travelled back in time.

The collection consists of over 250 objects spanning the years 1850 – 1970. A simply mesmerising exhibition that covers all aspects of the ocean liner, including engineering, safety and design, promoting and advertising through the eras to high society lifestyle and fashion.

Ships featured in the exhibition include; Queen Elizabeth, QE2, Titanic, Bremen, The Great Eastern, Canberra, Normandie, Queen Mary, Olympic, France, Lusitania, Mauretania, SS United States and more.

Advertising and Promoting The Ocean Liner

An enviable 1:48 scale promotional model of Queen Elizabeth made for Cunard in 1949, is the magnificent centrepiece of the first room at the exhibit. The walls are adorned with posters advertising grand voyages. This one (above) offers a first class return ticket to Australia for £140. Sounds affordable until you realise that would be over £7000 today. The ports of call from London would typically be, Gibraltar, Toulon, Naples, Port Said, Suez, Colombo, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane. So that is proof that cruising is much better value for money these days as for as little as £3,000 more you can see the whole world.

“The Largest Steamers In The World” poster for Olympic and Titanic, White Star Line 1911.

A selection of posters adorn the walls of the exhibition. Our obsession for the ill-fated Titanic is well catered for with plenty of pieces to capture the imagination.

Eerie: This poster advertising the first sailing of the Titanic that tragically never happened.

The Geeky Bit

If you are more interested in the technical side of things, there is a lot for you to get your teeth into. An entire section is dedicated to shipbuilding materials, engines, propulsion, hull design, speed, safety and comfort. Detailed design drawings and models of engine systems will captivate and fascinate you.

Politics and War

Footage of Adolf Hitler walking the decks of the Robert Ley in 1939, and details of how ships were designed to be able to quickly convert into armed merchant cruisers, serves as as a reminder of how important these vessels were in times of political unrest.

Glamour and the Grande Descente

The Grand Staircase on Olympic, with the Honour and Glory Crowning Time panel in situ c.1911

Making an entrance was an important part of the cruise culture for the First Class passengers. The Ocean Liners grand staircase leading into the dining room, was the perfect place for them to show off their most fashionable evening wear. This pre dinner ritual was often referred to as the Grande Descent.

Ocean Liners Speed and Style Photo: Piers Macdonald

There is so much to see at the exhibition that I haven’t even touched half of what is there, but go and see it for yourself. This really is a charming, fascinating and enjoyable exhibit that will appeal to all ages. I am already planning a return visit with my son.

Ocean Liners: Speed and Style will be open from 3 February until 17 June 2018, at the V&A in London. It will then move to the V & A Dundee opening on 15 September 2018 until 24 February 2019.  Please purchase your tickets in advance to avoid disappointmen and are available at vam.ac.uk/oceanliners.

Ocean Liners Speed and Style Photo: Piers Macdonald

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May-Fair Lady

It’s easy to get yourself out of bed when you know you are have a luxurious lunch at the Dorchester Grill Room to look forward to. If you haven’t been to the Dorchester Hotel, it is located on Park Lane in Mayfair, opposite Hyde Park. There is valet parking on site, so we just pulled up, got out of the car and walked straight in. Look for the huge Plane Tree (named one of the Great Trees of London) towering outside the front of the hotel, you can’t miss it.

One of the great Plane trees of London outside The Dorchester Hotel

Ain’t Misbehavin’

I thought I had high expectations of the most prestigious and expensive hotel in London, but these were surpassed the moment I emerged from the revolving door into the lobby.

The revolving door leading into the marble lobby at The Dorchester

Retired doorman of 50 years Ted Whitcombe, has seen some of the most famous stars and royalty arrive at the hotel. In an interview in 2008 he recalls “Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin had brought cases of rare Jack Daniel’s but were asked to leave because they were misbehaving with women in the corridors. They went to the Savoy and never came back for their case. It took us ages to get through all that booze.”

Afternoon Tea on The Promenade

The Promenade at The Dorchester is famous for it’s afternoon tea

On entering the lobby you find yourself standing at the entrance to the promenade adorned with green and white blooms. We had arrived early so we walked the length of the promenade to find a coveniently located cocktail bar at the end. A refreshing gin and tonic was the order of the day, and although it was midday and quiet, within ten minutes the bar was buzzing with businessmen and ladies that lunch, as well as the occasional hotel guest.

The Grill Room

Designer Bruno Moinard worked with the Grade II Listed gold ceiling and doors to create a contemporary elegance.

Grade II listed gold doors at The Dorchester Grill Room

An ornate hand blown Murano glass chandelier hangs from the grade II listed gold ceiling in The Dorchester Grill Room

Food That’s Better Than……..

Yes, I’m not going to say it, but it’s true. I must have sounded like the lady in the Herbal Essences advert with every dish I tried (who remembers that?). It was a gastronomic delight as I worked my way through the recommendations made by Arthur, our charmingly French waiter with good looks to go with it.

I grilled him (excuse the pun) on the source of the ingredients for every dish. Since they boasts on their website of the use of finest locally sourced ingredients where possible, I wanted to know the origin of the food.

We selected the set menu which is amazing value for money. An à la carte menu is also available.

The set menu is amazing value for money.

Bon Appétit

A selection of bread includes their own recipe stilton bread. Arthur proudly informed me that some guests of the Dorchester Grill Room come to the restaurant purely because of this bread. I don’t know what they do to that bread, but with a smattering of butter, it is dangerously divine.

The Grill Room’s freshly baked stilton bread is dangerously divine

Raw and cooked beetroot and goat’s curd salad complimented with a lovely french dressing

Delicate chicken liver terrine with red oignon chutney

The 24 hour braised Scottish beef just melts in the mouth

The Dorchester Grill Room have created a sweet soufflé menu which is the first of its kind in London

Michelin Chef Alain Ducasse’s protégé, Guillaume Katola is the executive chef leading the talented Grill Room team. Thanking him for a delicious meal, he insisted it was a combined effort and gave credit to his Pastry Chef, Ludovic Cuny and the rest of the team. We were honoured to be taken for a tour of the kitchen which is so big it is on two floors has an escalator to take you down to the lower level.

Chef’s Table

If you are looking for an immersive dining experience, you can book a meal at the Chef’s Table. This is located on the lower floor inside the kitchen. The glass windows are frosted, but with the press of a button they become transparent. The entertainment for the evening is a front row seat at the creation of your meal.

A unique dining experience inside The Dorchester kitchens at the Chef’s Table

The Girl Who Had Everything

Elizabeth Taylor was a frequent guest at the hotel in the 60’s and 70’s, so much so that it was like her second home. It was during a stay in the rooftop Harlequin Suite that she received news that she was to become the first actress to be paid $1 million, for her role as Cleopatra.

Entrance to The Harlequin Suite (pic: The Dorchester Hotel)

The Harlequin Suite Master Bedroom where Elizabeth Taylor’s second home (pic: The Dorchester Hotel)

The Harlequin Suite living room (pic: The Dorchester Hotel)

A pink marble bathroom was installed in the second bedroom especially for Elizabeth Taylor. It remains the same to this day.

The original pink marble bathroom installed especially for Elizabeth Taylor (pic: The Dorchester Hotel)

You make your dining reservations at the Dorchester Grill Room via Bookatable. They offer excellent deals on all dining venues at The Dorchester Hotel, including Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, one of only four 3-Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK.

Hotel information:

The Dorchester Hotel, 53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1K 1QA
Switchboard: +44 (0)20 7629 8888.   Reservations: +44 (0)20 7317 6530

Recommended Reading

Christmas Lunch at Coworth Park Hotel

Next Stop Westminster

Last week I had a business meeting in Westminster, so I took advantage and arrived an hour early to take in the sights of Parliament Square.

As I stepped outside Westminster Tube Station, I looked up and saw Big Ben towering above me. It was breathtaking. My appointment wasn’t until two so I had a little time to spare. No excuse for being late around here.

Houses of Parliament

Walking alongside the Houses of Parliament gave me the opportunity to really take in the intricacies of the architecture.

The lovely old lampposts and big wooden doors wreak of days gone by.

Beautiful Golden Gates with stained glass windows.

Audio Tours start from £18.50. For more information about Parliament or to book tours visit the UK Parliament website.

Westminster Abbey

The main entrance to the Abbey is a wonder of art and architecture in itself.  You can get more information and book tours here.

Parliament Square

Big Ben, The London Eye, red double decker buses and black cabs, you know you’re in London.

This statue sits in the centre of Parliament Square. Churchill still keeping an eye on what’s going on. I have a huge fondness for Churchill. Not only was I brought up with my mother referencing his speeches and beliefs, but my late uncle, Carl Foreman wrote the screenplay to the 1972 film Young Winston.

The Cenotaph

The UK’s official national war memorial is located a few steps away from Parliament Square in Whitehall. There are flags on each side of the Cenotaph. Each one is there to represent The Royal Navy, the British Army, the Royal Air Force and the Merchant Navy.

How to Get There

You can get to Westminster by using the District or Circle line or simply stroll across the Golden Jubilee Footbridge from Waterloo Station, and bear left onto Whitehall. This is a pleasant 10 minutes walk. See Transport For London for more information.

Souvenirs

There are plenty of souvenir stands, but I took a little look around the official Houses of Parliament gift shop. This made me giggle.

Find Inspiration at Destinations

The internet is a great place to research destinations for your next holiday.  You have everything at your fingertips.  Sometimes however, it is nice to just be able to chat to an expert and pick up a few brochures.

At the Destinations Show, held annually in London and Manchester, you can spend a leisurely day walking around the exhibits and getting your questions answered by the experts. This year’s expert speakers included Michael Palin, Simon Reeve and Blowfish, the world’s only heavy metal marine biologist. There are plenty of other things to do such as entertainment, food samplings, experiences, competitions and more.

Don’t forget to enter my competition at the bottom of the page.

Czech Baroque

First stop for me was Czech Tourism. Ok so the lure of cold beer was part of the reason I stopped, but I was also interested to know what the Czech Republic had to offer visitors apart from a city steeped in history and stunning architecture.  Well, there are 12 stunning countryside wine trails to start with, as well as cheap local beer which attracts party groups.  Another popular activity is cosmetic surgery. Apparently the procedures are much cheaper in the Czech Republic, and as they have an amazing selection of luxury spas, it seems you get much more value for money than in the UK.

Un-interesting Fact: In 1994 I was working as a Production Runner on a film called Good King Wenceslas. It was filmed just outside of Prague in a place called Brno. Stephanie Powers was in the movie and needed a costume within 24 hours. The cheapest way to deliver it was in person. So off I went for a couple of days to Brno. I was extremely fortunate in being able to have dinner with Charlotte Chatton (Titanic) and the legendary, late Leo McKern (Rumpole of the Bailey).  It was just the three of us and it is an evening that I will never forget.

Tempting Thailand

Next stop, Amazing Thailand. I attended one of the Thailand Roadshows last year. It was held at an amazing restaurant in Guildford, Surrey called Thai Khun. If you get a chance to eat there, you must.

The fruit carvings at the show were impressive to say the least. They were offering Thai massages on the stand as well as a lady playing traditional Persian music on a Khim.

Nordic But Nice

Now that Viking have made their mark in ocean cruising, I felt it necessary to go and get more of an insight into what they are all about. I know they have three amazing ultra luxury ships, but that was it.  So what did I find out? Firstly, and most importantly, they are all inclusive. I know we have to use that phrase carefully in the cruise industry so I will elaborate.

What’s Included:

  • Return scheduled economy class flights from London and selected local airports
  • A guided tour in each port
  • All on board meals including speciality restaurants
  • House wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner on board
  • Music, art, cooking, dance and history classes
  • Tea and coffee anytime
  • 24-hour room service
  • Free Wi-Fi onboard (restrictions apply)

An Alternative Way to Cruise America

Despite being a lady of luxury, the idea of travelling from town to town in an RV, really appeals to me. I guess it’s my beach bum / hippy alter ego.  It seems I wasn’t the only one finding this type of holiday appealing.  After a bit of lurking and two return visits, I was finally able to talk to the representative. Once in conversation, he explained he was out of brochures and business cards. So clearly this has been a successful event for them. If you are interested in finding out more simply go to their website Cruise America.

The World Stages

The Destinations Show has four world stages split into Africa, Europe, The Americas and Asia.  With experiences ranging from rum tasting, Eccles cakes sampling to pan pipes and traditional Chinese dancing, you could really get a sense of the destinations.

Feeling A-Mused

When my two favourite things go hand in hand, I know I am in the right place. Silversea most definitely tick the ships and champagne box.  It was great to finally see a familiar face, as I heard Silversea’s Luke Clarke call my name.

Although I have not stepped onboard a Silversea cruise ship, I couldn’t have acquired CLIA Master status, without being aware of these ultra luxurious cruise ships.  In April this year, Silversea will be welcoming their new ship Silver Muse to the fleet. Spending her first summer in the Mediterranean, some of the incredible ports appearing in her itineraries include Portofino, Venice, Monte Carlo, Saint Tropez and Bordeaux. Silversea have created a ground-breaking 360˚ virtual tour for you to Discover Silver Muse for yourself here.

The Best of the Rest

Other exhibits I visited on the day were Hurtigruten, WWF, Beaches and Sandals, Palm Springs – California, Rocky Mountaineer and Via Rail.

The Destinations Show really does offer something for everyone.  Even if you are not looking to book a holiday, it is certainly a great day out.

Competition

If you found the picture at the top of this page interesting, I have some coffee table Baroque themed magazines to give away. Simply make a comment below and I will contact the lucky winners. I will let you know when the competition is closed.

There’s A Cruise For Everyone

The London Cruise Show 2017, is promising its biggest and most exciting luxury cruise show ever.  If you don’t think cruising is for you, I challenge you to go to the show and see what’s available. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised.

Star Clippers

There are expedition cruises, adventure cruises, luxury cruises, river cruises, family cruises, informal relaxed cruises.  You can choose your itinerary too. So if you want to have lots of days relaxing at sea, or experience a quick overview of many places, or if you prefer to take your time and immerse yourself in the local culture with a few days at the same port, it’s up to you.

If you can’t or don’t want to fly, you can cruise from the UK, choosing to take adult only cruises or family cruises. There are short breaks for a taster to see if you like it, or just a fun weekend away with your mates.

With so many cruise styles and so many destinations around the world, I will eat my hat if you can’t find something that tickles your fancy at this show.

My London Cruise Show 2017 top picks are:

  • Avalon Waterways
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Princess Cruises
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises
  • Silversea
  • Star Clippers

READER’S TICKET OFFER

I am able to offer my readers reduced price advance tickets to the show with a 2 for 1 offer of just £6. Get your tickets for only £3 each (that’s a saving of £7 off the door price!!) by quoting
‘S&C’ when booking tickets online at www.cruisingshow.com or when calling 
0871 620 4024. (Calls cost 13p per minute plus network extras).

Opening Times and Getting There

 

The Spirit of Christmas Fair – London 2016

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

So on entering the Spirit of Christmas Fair, the first place we came to was the food hall. Healthy chocolate, fine wine, quince gin and toffee vodka were just some of the delightful samples on offer.

Each stall offered generous tasting of their products and I took advantage of this.  Joshua had the sweets and I had the wine, gin and cheese.

Typically British

One particular product that really stood out to me in the drink department, was the Gun Dog Gin.  The bottles were tall and slim which led me to enquire the recommended way to consume it.

The lovely gentleman enlightened me and recommended to add to champagne.  That certainly caught my attention. I asked which one he thought I should try?  “All of them” he replied. So off I went on a little Gun Dog Gin taster session trying a sip of each one (without the champagne I might add).

They were all very sweet which is why you would only add a dash to a glass of your favourite champagne or prosecco.  My favourite by far was the Quince. I love the British element of the product as well with the union jack incorporated into the label.  As well as a great way to add something special to your christmas drinks. these would make great gifts.  You can buy their products at their online store.

Healthy Chocolate

Yes, you read it right. This chocolate has “good stuff” in it. You know like Yakult, only it’s chocolate. Now I don’t really need an excuse to indulge in some chocolate, but now I have a reason to eat it everyday.

I didn’t buy any at the show, but I took a leaflet and bought mine later using their online shop.  Their packs of 14 are great value for money.  They are great stocking fillers, so I ordered a big box of these.

Be A Naked Angel

The Spirit of Christmas was certainly flowing thanks to Naked Wines.  After trying a fair few varieties of wine, I ordered a case for myself.  The wines are reasonably priced and are made by independent winemakers who are able to produce their wines thanks to the Naked Wines funding scheme.  Although you don’t have to join the scheme to purchase a wine at the show, you do get the opportunity to become an ‘Angel’.  Since when did drinking wine make me an angel? Just about the same time that chocolate became good for you. Are you starting to see why I love this show?

My favourite was this Australian Chardonnay ‘The Butterfly Effect’ by winemaker Sam Plunkett.  For more information on the scheme visit Naked Wines

Main Hall

We spent so much time enjoying the food hall.  I met one couple who had just spent £1000 on wine. Clearly veterans of the show, they gave me a tip.  In order to get the most from the show, the couple recommended focusing on a couple of items that you need and bypassing the rest.  For example, they said they had come to get wine, cheese and a Douro River Cruise.

If I’d have known this before, I would probably have had time to visit the main hall properly.  However, as we had already spent alot of time at the Luxury Travel Fair and then in the food hall at the Spirit of Christmas Fair, we were both flagging.

Buy Tickets

Don’t miss the next Spirit of Christmas Fair. Whether you are looking for a serious advantage on your Christmas shopping, or just fancy a day out you can get your tickets here

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An Invitation To The Luxury Travel Fair

First Train Ride Ever

I was thrilled when my VIP invitation to the Luxury Travel Fair popped through the letterbox. This gave me the perfect excuse to take Joshua on his first train journey. The event was held at Kensington Olympia which has a dedicated station.  It was easy from Weybridge with one change at Clapham Junction we were there in no time.

Joshua was fascinated by the train ride, asking questions throughout the journey.

The Luxury Travel Fair

The Luxury Travel Fair was in full swing when we arrived around 11.30.  I was raring to go and meet suppliers of luxury tours and travel.  Joshua was in his pushchair and during the short walk from the station to the venue, he had fallen asleep.

Celebrity Cruises branding for the Luxury Travel Fair, but no sign of the cruise line at the show.

Saint Lucia Tourist Board had a great stand and were running a competition to win a holiday.  As if that wasn’t good enough, once you had entered the competition you were given a free cocktail token.  It seemed rude not to indulge, and after all it is all part of my research as a luxury travel agent.  I took one sip and decided I should take my time with it.  It was strong!

Wandering off, rum cocktail in hand, I spotted Head of UK Sales for Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Paul Beale. The stand was very busy, but Paul kindly made time to say hello to me and we had a brief chat.

Then I saw the lovely Louise Craddock, Regional Sales Manager for Oceania Cruises on their stand. She was busy chatting away to visitors who were eagerly clutching a brochures, so I didn’t stop.

The Champagne Bar, I couldn’t resist a cheeky glass of bubbles.  Just as the bartender popped the cork, Joshua decided to wake up.

Prepared with the distractions of a fruit shoot and a packet of mini cheddars, I knew I had little time to enjoy my Louis Roederer.

As expected Joshua wanted to explore, so it was time to go next door to check out the Spirit of Christmas Fair.

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Where My Passion for Flying Began

A Flying Start

When I was a child, my Dad worked as a baggage handler for British Airways. He used to wear a uniform that, to me, looked the same as the one worn by the Captain.  Sometimes Mum and I would have to drop him off at the BA building at Heathrow.  Seeing the aircraft flying so low and the sound of them, left me awestruck.

My first experience of flying was an 11 hour transatlantic to LAX in a smoke (tobacco) filled British Airways DC10 back in 1976.  I was a proud member of the Junior Jet Club and I would usually get the opportunity to go into the cockpit to meet the Captain and First Officer.  The Captain would fill in my Junior Jet Club book for me to keep a record of the flights I had done.  I still have it all these years later albeit a bit battered and bruised.

Getting My Wings

I didn’t go into the travel industry until 2009 when I worked a 6 month contract flying as cabin crew with bmi.  I had always wanted to work onboard an aircraft and after reading this book by Richard Branson;


I took his advice and it worked!  This was me a few months later.

I loved the training, although it was always shadowed by the stress of wondering if we would pass the final exams.  We had fun and made friends along the way though.  Unfortunately this poor guy didn’t make it.

I remember the first time during my training when I actually got to step on a real aircraft, I was so excited!

I still love to fly, especially take off, and have many friends who are still working as crew.  If you have always wanted a job in the air, here is a great link to get you started. Cabin Crew Jobs

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A London Retreat – Kensington Roof Gardens

Events at Kensington Roof Gardens

I have been to the legendary Kensington Roof Gardens for a night out with family and friends and absolutely loved it.  So, I was interested to know what the venue would be like for a corporate event.

Getting There

Kensington is not in the congestion charge zone, so there is no need to pay for that.  There is a local NCP who were charging £35 for parking.  Then I came across this site which directed me to the The Copthorne Tara Hotel, Kensington. They provide 8 hours secure parking for just £25.  It was easy to find, close to where I wanted to be and the staff were very friendly.  The atmosphere in the hotel seemed nice,  and would be worth considering for somewhere to stay in the future.

The Venue

When you arrive at Kensington Roof Gardens, you need to take the lift to the 7th floor.  This takes you to the entrance of the club and location for corporate events.

The bar is conveniently located to your left on entering and was set up with teas and coffees for the delegates.  Usually the club is one big room, however for events it is divided into two areas.

Once the morning session was over we went had the opportunity to network and stretch our legs.  Outside in the gardens, I found a haven of tranquility amongst the hustle and bustle of London.


After a lovely barbecue lunch outside in the heated Spanish Gardens, the conference continued. The afternoon session was broken up with a break for coffee, scones and mini doughnuts.
Cocktails and canapés were served in the Spanish Garden, with a talented Caricaturist from wickedcaricatures.com on hand, both provided with compliments by eBay.  I certainly enjoyed the day learning so much about online publishing and e-commerce from leading experts, partnered with a stunning venue with first class hospitality. It was a great networking event and good to meet people in non travel related industries.