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Giving Thanks in 100,000 Steps: London & Barcelona Sure, the Subject of this thread may not make any sense now, but it will at the end, I hope... And while there are lots of TRs about London, I hope I can add something useful to my fellow DDFer's, particularly when it comes to the hotels we stayed at (related to Shabbas)

Intro: Background, Flights & Hotels

Last December my wife and I knew we wanted to go away somewhere warm. As beach lovers, we decided on Cancun for the Thanksgiving weekend.

I had selected the perfect flights: Wednesday afternoon from New York - Miami and then an early morning flight from Miami to Cancun on Thursday. This would give us a full day Thursday in Cancun and the rest of the weekend. For the way back I was fortunate to snag the Sunday evening direct Aeromexico flight (I believe it was 6:00 PM departure). These flights were perfect! Neither of us would miss any work and we'd be able to maximize our time on the ground.

But, this TR isn't about Cancun.

A few months after that, the spread of Zika to much of Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean put a hamper on our plans. So we cancelled (along with other trips to Puerto Rico and St. Martin).

What to do?

Having only been to Europe once before (Paris), we thought about heading back there. But where? end of November can be pretty chilly in lots of cities in Europe. Europe that's closer to the Mediterranean, while it would be warmer may have more rain and some activities/attractions in cities like Monto Carlo, are closed as it's off-peak.

So we decided on London - and that was it. No intra-European flights or returning tickets were booked yet.

And our decision to go from London to Barcelona would only come about a week before our trip.

Flights

There are lots of reviews for both of my flights, so I won't really cover that here. I know some people (myself included) enjoy reading method to the madness of booking so I'll include some of that.

JFK - LHR on Virgin Atlantic
Cost x2 Passengers, Business: 125,000 Delta SkyMiles and $11.20 in taxes.

Hard Product: I found VAs hard-product to be really underwhelming. While it is definitely different than most other carriers lie-flat, it was a bit narrow and I found the configuration to be odd. The only nice part is that the beds come with a mattress pad making the seat softer to lay on. Oh, and as someone who is 6'2" I did like how the footwell wasn't as narrow as other carriers - most likely because it is at the end of the pod which faces the aisle.

Soft Product: We had excellent service throughout the flight by a lovely cabin member, which often makes the entire experience. The kosher food was eh - Bornstein, I believe. I am a big fan of their Herschel amenity kits.

LGW - BCN

Well... I didn't realize getting to Gatwick was such a schlepp (more to come), but we flew easyJet for about $45 per ticket from Gatwick to Barcelona.

BCN - JFK - ORD

Cost x2 Passengers, Business: 100,000 Alaska miles and $106.12 in taxes and fees.

While I could have used less valuable AA miles, of which I have many, AA charges more in taxes (I believe almost double) for this route. Plus, I was able to have JFK as my "stopover" and continue to Chicago in a few months from now on the same ticket.

Hard product: I know that the reverse herringbone is many peoples favorites configuration and there's really nothing to complain about. Solid flight. It was also a day flight back to the U.S. so I spent more time watching movies than sleeping, though I find the footwell to be a bit narrow.

Soft product: The kosher was provided by World and More (somewhere from France) and was really underwhelming and lacking. My service was a lot worse than my wife's. We were in the middle (D & H) and had different flight attendants.

Hotels

London - Three nights at The Edition London
Cost: 3 Ritz Carlton Certificates

Pros
Location: really an incredible location in the West End, right by Oxford Street. It is located about 7-8 minute walk from the Oxford Circus or Tottenham Court Road stations. Plus, if you enjoy shopping there's no better spot than Oxford Street.

Shabbas: Right of the bat, this hotel is Shabbas friendly. They were able to place me on the 3rd floor (of seven). The engineer was able to disable the lights in the closet and mini-bar area. The lights are NOT automatic and will stay on even if you come and go from the hotel.

The door is of course automatic but we were able to take care of this before Shabbas and the staff was extremely accomodating with coming up the stairs and opening the door for us. Just note that you should leave your driver's license or passport out of the safe/wallet and easily accessible as they may ask for it to be sure that that it is indeed your room upon entering.

In fact, one of the bellmen is Jewish and he introduced himself to me and helped to arrange all of this before shabbas. He even sent up a care package with napkins, plastic cutlery and salt. They were also able to provided a mini fridge and microwave. (PM me if you want his name).

Staff: Excellent, excellent staff. The EDITION is a lifestyle hotel only recently acquired by Marriott/Ritz. The staff is young and easygoing.

Decor: The hotel lobby is really beautiful. The concierge was explaining that some king (Edward II?) used to frequent the lounge and bar there, making it a popular place with ritzy 30-somethings.

Room: Yes, it is London (and Europe) so the rooms tend to be small. We weren't upgraded and I found the room to be perfectly fine. In fact, if you've ever stayed at the Hyatt Regency Tokyo, it's almost twice the size of that. (Now that's a small hotel). The bathroom was also pretty large. The best part is that it was super clean and smelled great.

Cons
Room: I wasn't obsessed with the room decor... But, then again, it's a lifestyle hotel that is catering to a different group. (I guess when I use points I get spoiled by luxury and with it being part of the Ritz properties, I assumed it would be more luxurious. Can't complain too much - it was free after all!).

Elite recognition: The Ritz card comes with gold status, which is a pretty decent mid-tier status. The hotel does not have a lounge or free breakfast so they make it up by providing upgrades "upon availability". I mean, I do understand that line but it's overused by hotels and of course it can be that nothing is ever available...

Would I stay there again? Maybe. The location is great. A paid night can go for about $500 so it is a good value if you have Ritz certificates and are looking to stay in London. It definitely doesn't feel like a chain hotel, which for many is a nice relief. (In fact, the DW loves distinctive and different properties). It's a distinctive property. The shabbas-friendly-ness makes things easier.


Barcelona - Two nights at the Alexandra Barcelona Doubletree by Hilton
Cost: 153,000 Hilton points for two night

I believe this property standard rate using Hilton points goes for 50,000 a night. We stayed there for two nights (Sunday and Monday). With too many Hilton points, I decided to use points for their King Junior Suite.

Pros
Location: Incredible location only 20 minute walk from the kosher restaurant and downtown Barcelona. It's also 2-3 minutes from the train and a three popular museums/attractions in Barcelona.

Decor: Barcelona is about art/architecture. This hotel really captures that, particularly in the suites (mosaic tile floors??)

View: The room had a indoor alcove with bay windows... Amazing view of the city.

Cons
Staff: I found the staff to be very timid/nervous - I think that this too was recently acquired by Hilton and the staff is not very familiar with frequent guests/HHonors.

Amenities: No mini fridges! (Or so the timid staff said).

Room: I hated the room layout. The bathroom, larger sink and stand-up shower were all in separate places around the room. (Again, it's very boutique-esque which does not make it feel like a chain hotel.)

Would I stay here again? Probably not, no. And everything is automatic in the rooms so probably not the easiest location on shabbas. Though it's disappointing to splurge on a suite and it not really feel like a suite, the location made things really accessible and easy to get to, so I'm grateful for that.


I'll try to post pictures later and a video (can they be embedded into posts?) of the room.

Part II: London Day 1 and 2

November 30, 2016, 11:38:44 AM
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Re: Giving Thanks in 100,000 Steps: London & Barcelona London, Day 1: Off With Your Head! The Tower of London & Game of Thrones


Though I knew that the Heathrow Express would have been cheaper, I was stubborn and decided to cab from LHR to the hotel... Over an $80 and an hour later, we arrived at about 9:00 AM to our hotel in the West End. Unfortunately, the room wasn't ready for us, but there's a large bathroom on the lobby level accessible to all where you can change and freshen up.

Though we BYO-KSML, we were pretty hungry. Not wanting to waste our precious time heading to Golder's Green, we walked over to Selfridges to see what Kitchen 1071 had to offer.

Now I did my research before hand and I assumed I'd find a pop-up type venue or a small stand. I was disappointed to see that Kitchen 1071 a little section of the cooler. The kind staff at Selfridges was able to point out the section. As is typical, nothing was really breakfast food but we managed with some Cliff bars and bagels/salmon. In short, the site is nice, but a bit misleading!

From there we started our day and headed over to the nearest Underground Station - the Bond Street station. We purchased two Oyster cards with 20 Euro each. (As an aside, boy do I wish the Subway in NYC was contactless - those cards are amazing. And so is the Tube).

Our first stop was Trafalgar Square. Though we had no intention of checking out the various free museums located near the Square, we though it would give us a good place to start - and it was close to us.




Some cool looking mermaid.

From there we hopped on the Tube again and took it a few stops to Westminster to see the Big Ben. Though it was beyond freezing near Westminster and the bridge, we got some cool pictures and. And of course, we saw the famous phone booth. Be warned: There is a line. A long one. And people take 100s of pictures and don't care. But hey - at least there's a line!


Winston looking at Ben.

It was already about 12:00 PM and we were ready for some of the other sights... First on our list was the Tower of London which showcases the Crown Jewels. Admission is 23 pounds per person, which is a lot. Usually I'd be satisfied with taking pictures outside of it, but I know a bit of the history... And wanted to see the Crown Jewels. We paid for admission and waited over at the nearby Starbucks to snag some free wifi and a break from the cold.

At around 1:00 PM the tour - which is included in the price of admission - was set to begin. Our tour guide - Marc/k - was incredible. These tours can be pretty boring and long winded, but this was excellent. I think British people would call him "cheeky". He made the tour and the history fun and come alive.


Marc/k, our 'cheeky' Beefeater (excuse the Snapchat filter).

The tour ends off in the cathedral within the fortress, so feel free to walk away as they end there.

From that we headed into the Crown Jewels (self-guided) which were really unbelievable. And immense. (And make Kim Kardashian's diamonds look small.)

Finally, we concluded the Tower of London tour by heading to the cafe to warm up and find some kosher food! (There are kosher chocolate bars. That is all  ::)).

Now, this was the best part of my day and perhaps the whole trip. Because in walks none other than Charles Dance - wait who's that?! TYWIN LANNISTER FROM GAME OF THRONES.


'Off with your head' never rung more true  ;D ;D ;D!!

I fanboy'ed for a few minutes and then let him go... but it was pretty cool and he was a nice guy!

After warming up (and freaking out), we walked over to the Tower (London) Bridge. I found the self-guided tour interesting. As we were there around sunset we got some good views. These didn't capture so well on an iPhone 6s or 7, but I think it's worth going up for the view. Do keep in mind that they're doing construction on the bridge (the part where people drive, I guess?) so you have to walk up and around a roundabout way.



The Tower Bridge is definitely worth a stop.

From there we went back to the hotel (via Tube, of course), and unfortunately, fell asleep for 30 minutes. Not because we missed much time from activities but it only makes you feel worse when you're that tired.

We took the Tube to Golder's Green and went to La Fiesta.

While I don't have pictures, I wasn't very impressed. I ordered the beef skewers, my wife ordered the small steak. I found mine to be very meaty - like almost too meaty. I think the restaurant is over priced, the portions are tiny and the service was just eh... It also bothered me that they charge 12% gratuity regardless. (I thought this was the norm in London until we went to Isola Bella the next day where it wasn't. Hey - at least I didn't pay gratuity twice!).

The highlights? Excellent chicken empanadas and creme brule.

Day 1 was excellent, only giving us a small taste of London and wanting much more...

Total steps taken: 20,662

November 30, 2016, 05:15:32 PM
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Re: Rome Master Thread DW and I are thinking about going to Rome in August.

I've heard lots of attractions / restaurants are closed.

Is this true all of august, or just late august? and applies to kosher locations as well?

TIA

May 17, 2018, 04:34:38 PM
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