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One thing I learned in writing my book Life at the Top: Inside London’s Grand Hotels (a companion volume to Life at the Top: Inside New York’s Grand Hotels) is that hotels some people wouldn’t consider staying at because they have a reputation for being too expensive, often offer surprising values.
These impressions are wholly apart from the wonderful, once-in-a-life time experience that incredibly posh hotels offer each and every guest each and every visit.
Here are three five-star hotels I recommend for a special one-night stay, for afternoon tea, drinks or dinner.
Located at the corner of Hyde Park, this 95-room hotel (43 are suites) was originally an 1820s hospital built of Portland stone. Now this stunning landmark, like a lavish country palace, is a favorite of Jim Carrey, Leonardo DiCaprio and Madonna.
Rooms are decorated with lush fabrics and Regency period antiques; windows are triple- glazed, cutting out all traffic noises. The hotel, which derives its name from Viscount Lanesborough, who built his country home on this spot in 1719, is part of the St. Regis Hotel group and has the highest ratio of staff to rooms of any hotel in Europe, with 270 full-time employees. There’s even a motion detector computer which tells housekeeping when you've left your room so you won't be disturbed needlessly.
Afternoon Tea ($55), served from 3:30 to 6 in the Conservatory, is so bounteous that you may not need dinner!
TIP: Rent the royal suite and you’ll have access to a chauffeur driven Bentley 24/7, so you can save on bus and taxi fares!
Geoffrey Gelardi, the general manager of the Lanesborough, is a third generation hotelier. His beloved late father was a top executive with Truse House Forte and his grandfather was manager of the Savoy Hotel in London and the Waldorf Towers in New York.
Said Mr. Gelardi, "When one travels a lot, it’s very annoying that every time you want to go on the Internet, you have to fill in your name and your room number and 'I agree to this' and 'I agree to that.' And then the hotel charges you anything from 10 pounds, 20 pounds, 30 pounds! So our whole philosophy at the Lanesborough is based not on 'nickel-and-diming' people -- but on giving great value."
Rates: Singles from $580/night Doubles from $780/ night
Walk to: Apsley House, Harrods, Sloan StreetTube: Hyde Park Corner
The Milestone Hotel
The Milestone is another wonderful, over-the-top hotel with Kensington to its left and Knightsbridge to its right. Overlooking Kensington Palace and Gardens, it occupies two mansions of architectural significance that date back to the 1880s.
Part of the Red Carnation hotel group, The Milestone, both pet and child friendly, has a staff of 100+. Its 57 rooms (12 suites) are not only luxurious but full of character, decorated in styles ranging from African safari to traditional Tudor. There are also six long-stay apartments.
The Milestone periodically runs a special that for every 2 nights you stay in a suite, the 3rd night is free. Its "Showtime Package," which includes full English breakfast, dinner and 2 tickets to a theater of your choice, starts at $680/double.
Afternoon Tea, served from 3 to 6 pm in the Park Lounge and the Conservatory, is $20 for tea and scones and $40 for tea, scones, finger sandwiches and pastries.
Rates: Singles & Doubles from $330/night.
Walk to: Hyde Park, Harrods, Victoria & Albert Museum Tube: High Street or Kensington
The May Fair
The 406-room, 12-suite May Fair, a favorite of Penelope Cruz and Jess Metcalfe -- and going way back, Frank Sinatra -- is between Berkeley Square and Stratton Street. The hotel’s 1927 stone exterior stands in wonderful contrast to the state-of-the-art rooms, each of which is equipped with Bang & Olufsen entertainment systems.
TIP: Ask for a room on the back facing Berkeley Square, one of London’s most beautiful squares. At night it turns into a mini-fairyland when the old-fashioned street lamps are lit.
Afternoon Tea, served from 3 to 6 pm in the hotel’s Amba restaurant, is $17 for tea and scones and $32 for tea, scones, finger sandwiches and pastries.
Rates: Singles & Doubles from $360 Walk to: Green Park, Buckingham Palace, National Gallery Tube: Green Park
The LanesboroughHyde Park Corner800- 999-1828www.lanesborough.com
The Milestone Hotel1 Kensington Court877-955-1515 www.milestonehotel.com
The May FairStratton Street800-333- 3333www.themayfairhotel.co.uk
To order Ward Morehouse’s book, Life at the Top: New York’s Grand Hotels, go to: www.TravelSmartNewsletter.com and click on "Books" in the left-hand menu
Life at the Top: London‛s Grand Hotels, by TravelSmart’s "Checking In" columnist Ward Morehouse III, will be published later this year.
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