If you are around on Saturday mornings and want to explore some of London's finer markets, I can't recommend any more than Borough market.
Located just off London Bridge, you will find a busy hustle and bustle as tourists and locals alike taste and buy some of the freshest and most well-produced foods in the country. Key tip is to pop to Roast for brunch or a takeaway sandwich. The menu can change daily depending on the market freshness of the produce.
Beat the queues at immigration when returning to the UK by registering for the IRIS immigration passport. Here you can waltz through immigration by getting your iris scanned, waving goodbye to queues. Tip: be careful with any luggage you have. If you are pulling a small suitcase it can often be mistaken for a very small person. There is usually someone to hand who can help you or let you through anyway. At least you tried!
Registration details can be found on the www.baa.com website with locations and opening hours of the IRIS desks (The desk at T3 is just to the right of the immigration check before the shops).
The number of hotels serving Canary Wharf has doubled in the past year with hotels available to suit all budgets.
Located in London's East End both the Travelodge (www.travelodge.co.uk) and Holiday Inn Express (www.holidayinn.co.uk) serve Canary Wharf via a complimentary 15 minute minibus route (usually morning and evenings only). Prices start from around GBP65 and therefore the hotels make a perfect stop for the budget-conscious traveller.
Advantages - cheap and cheerful. Typically relatively new and situated around the Excel exhibition centre so good for attendees to this and Canary Wharf
Disadvantages - Poorly connected to the City (taxi, bus or DLR are your only options) and not much to do in the evening.
Located across the river in Rotherhithe, the Hilton Docklands is not so much in the Docklands as overlooking. Access to the hotel is by free shuttle bus from the nearby Canada Water station (5 min bus ride). Access to Canary Wharf can be achieved via aforementioned shuttle service to the tube and then one stop on the Jubilee line to Canary Wharf or via the boat service which operated throughout the day from the hotel and stopping at the west side of Canary Wharf.
Advantages - Parking can be included in the room rate, prices start from around GBP90 a night. Can be particularly cheap for weekend breaks if you would like to extend your stay.
Disadvantages - Not well connected. Access via shuttle bus to tube or by boat.
For a great dining experience on the Thames in East London, not far from the City, try visiting the Shad Thames area and Pont de la Tour. Great seafood, wine and atmosphere overlooking Tower Bridge. They have both a relaxed bistro and a more formal dining room for business dinners.
The Butlers Wharf Building
36d Shad Thames
London SE1 2YE
Tel: 020 7403 8403
When staying at the super slick and eco-friendly Andaz Hotel (formerly the Great Eastern) in Liverpool, book Urban Gentry - insider tour guides and get a real insight into the fashion (or art) tribes of East London. The hotel also has it's own Reader in Residence to tell you bedtime stories, or read you a precis of the day's news.
Andaz, Liverpool Street
Artisan, at The Westbury Hotel, is one of my favourite restaurants in London. Serving seasonal modern European food, the menu changes regularly. Don't let the fact that it is located within a hotel put you off. The decor is classic, the service is impeccable and the food fabulous. And whilst everything is to a high standard, the place doesn't feel pretentious. I have been there on business lunches, and for dinner with friends.
Fed up with battling with the tube? Not wanting to switch at Paddington? Try the new service from National Express which provides a dedicated stopping service to central London and Canary Wharf. Prices from around £20 (various offers currently available online).
Stuck for internet access? The number of free wifi spots are popping up all around London - particularly in the business areas of Canary Wharf.These have been helpfully mapped on the url below:
...yes there is one. Most people arriving are EU citizens anyway and the non-citizens queue (on the right) is out of bounds, but there is a way. Choose the far right hand queue of the seven or so normal EU queues when you exit the train from the terminals - this is next to the non-EU desks and here there is always double the manning of every other EU queue. Works every time.
We've all heard the stories. You get off a long-haul flight, queue at immigration and when you think you're finally there... you discover that your suitcase has been damaged in transit. Whilst cursing under your breath may make you feel better. Remember that you can actually claim back off the airlines and get them to replace the suitcase. Make sure you fill in a claim form and ideally keep the receipt for your luggage and take photos to prove its condition. Full details can be found on the relevant airline's website
Claim counter at baggage collection
If you are in London for the weekend, try out Sunday brunch at Blue Elephant, Fulham Broadway (around a 15 minute tube/taxi ride from central London). Here you can experience some excellent Thai cuisine in an elegant setting. Various 'stations' have chefs preparing your food in front of you. The cost is GBP25 + service and is well worth the discovery!
Many long-haul Asian and transatlantic flights land early in the morning. Whilst this is not so much a problem during the week, on Sundays I've found myself waiting outside the locked underground station waiting for it to open (with no information to go by and no one around to help), particularly when my flight lands early. To save you some time and worry, here are the details:
First tube - Heathrow T 1,2,3
Sun - 0553
First tube - Heathrow T 5
Sun - 0558
Note the first Heathrow Express trains are: T5/T1, 2, 3
Sun - 0503/0508
Note first T4 departure is 0553 on Sundays
Note the first Heathrow Connect trains are: T4/T1, 2, 3
Sun - 0607/0613
It's a little-known fact but if you are a BMI gold card holder, and are flying on Virgin Atlantic (any class) out of London Heathrow, you are able to use their award-winning Virgin Atlantic clubhouse. The clubhouse is world-renowned with a beauty therapist, hairdressers, full bar and restaurant and games area. Those who want to bring in a guest may look at the virginholidays website where guest passes can be purchased for £60.
Despite a change in regulation which technically brought the end of tax-free shopping at UK airports for persons travelling within the EU, electronics chain Dixons continues to offer tax-free prices to all travellers, regardless of their destination. The Dixons Tax Free shops are a great way to pick up a bargain (saving 17.5%) without having to worry about different power suppliers, warranty and import duty issues that may be associated with buying abroad.
Whilst the range is limited, they do offer a number of key brands including Apple iPods and major electronic brands. Large items can even be delivered to your home address or picked up on your return. Pre-ordering is available by phone and details of products can be found on their website - www.dixonstaxfree.co.uk.
I would recommend that you pre-order or check availability before you fly. It saves a lot of time and they can get stock in from different terminals if required.
An funky little baby and kidswear shop based on trendy Brick Lane that sells clothing for cool but cute kids, so you won't find any fluffy baby grows or pastel colours here! A perfect kidswear shop for the Shoreditch area, without being too super cool. For parents who want their kids to dress a little like them and show a bit of attitude.
162 Brick Lane
London E1 6RU
020 7247 4949
An east London based vintage shop, just off ultra fashionable Brick Lane, with a fondness for 80s fashion in particular. Expect George Michael earrings, Mickey Mouse caps, colourful shell suits and glam Joan Collins garb. You get the picture?
Items flying off the shelves have included ski goggles, Knight Rider annuals, electro-age musical instruments among other weird and wonderful things.
Recently spied browsing the rails have been Peaches Geldof, The Mighty Boosh and The Black Kids. No longer their little secret!
I Dream Of Wires,
68a Cheshire St (Off Brick Lane)
London E2 6EH
020 7739 4481
11am - 7pm every day
Tube: Liverpool Street / Aldgate East
Not famed for its quality Japanese food, London has only a handful of good Japanese restaurants. If you want to step away from the pretentious or expensive, then try Brewer Street, just north of Exit 1 at Piccadilly station. Here you will find a number of Japanese restaurants and a Japanese supermarket. My personal recommendation would be for Ten Ten Tei (apparently one of the first Japanese restaurants in London). The small and cosy interior is supported by good quality food at reasonable prices. Main meals are around GBP10 and set menus from GBP15.
Exit one from Piccadilly station. 56 Brewer Street, London, W1F 9TJ
0871 332 28399
It's a little known fact but BAA operated airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Edinburgh and Glasgow to name a few) offer a money back/price guarantee on goods purchased at their airports. This can be great when faced with the uncertainty of picking up a bargain at the airport or waiting to you get to your destination to see if things are cheaper. To qualify, you just need to purchase using BAA's loyalty card - Worldpoints. Sign up online for bonus points and easy registration www.baa.com/worldpoints
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