Countdown to London

“As a foreigner in London, I like that there are so many other foreigners.”
David Sedaris

How lucky are AAC CPA and I?

For the 3rd time this year, we’re on our way to London. This trip came about thanks to a blog entry by The Points Guy a few months ago giving us the skivvy that fares were being slashed to Europe over the holidays. If you happened to be an AARP member (reminder: you don’t need to be 50 to join AARP, just sayin’) and, for instance, went through the AARP website to a dedicated British Airways link, you automatically got a $400 per person discount. Added to that, we cashed in some Avios miles to save even more money.

How could we not go?

TRAVEL TIP: The Points Guy

In the event, we’re leaving early Sunday morning, will arrive early evening local time, Heathrow Express our way into central London and be at the Shangri-La at the Shard in time for a late supper with our friends A & K, who will have arrived the day before. As I said, how lucky are we?

We also got lucky with a special promotion through the AmEx FHR program. Although we’d already booked a return visit to the Shangri-La, it turns out that, thanks to AmEx, you can pay for 2 nights and get the 3rd for free. Our awesome AmEx travel agent, Veronica, was happy to rebook the reservation so that we could take advantage of this offer. The only fly in the ointment is that we’re planning to be in London for 6 nights, and the hotel refused to let us use the promotion twice on this visit. Other hotels do it all the time but not the Shangri-La. Good thing it’s a really nice hotel or we’d be very miffed. (Well, maybe we are, just a wee bit.)

Shangri-LaTime for a return visit to the Shangri-La

TRAVEL TIP: AmEx FHR Program

TRAVEL TIP: Once you’ve booked your hotel reservation(s), go back every so often either to the hotel’s website or the AmEx FHR website and check for better deals. I’d say that there’s an excellent chance that you’ll find a lower rate or, even, a promotion like the one we’re taking advantage of next week. If you have the forbearance (and the time, of course), you may end up saving significantly on your hotel bill.

“In London they don’t like you if you’re still alive.”
Harvey Fierstein

Before we pulled the trigger on the airfare deal, I checked to see if we could score tickets to, arguably, the biggest theatre deal in London this fall: the revival of Funny Girl at the Menier Chocolate Factory. At the time, I went to the theatre’s website to check on availability and found that tickets didn’t go on sale to the general public until the following day. Call it my cultural sixth sense, but I decided that I had to get tickets right then so, for a modest donation to the Chocolate Factory, I was able to select prime seats (well, in a 188-seat theatre, I guess that ALL seats are prime), for a little more than tuppence. Having taken care of that task, we went ahead and booked the air tickets. Thank you, AARP; thank you, British Airways; thank you, Avios miles. (And thank you, Chocolate Factory!)

And, wouldn’t you know, when general public seating opened the following day, the entire engagement sold out within 2 hours!! The Chocolate Factory had never seen anything like it. Ever!!

So even if you can’t obtain tickets at the Chocolate Factory to see the show, don’t despair – before it even started previews, a transfer to the West End was announced! And, if you’ve never been to the Chocolate Factory, you really should pay a call. It’s a great space and some amazing productions have started there.

Chocolate Factory

CULTURE TIP: Menier Chocolate Factory

CULTURE TIP: Funny Girl at the Savoy

“London is too full of fogs and serious people. Whether the fogs produce the serious people, or whether the serious people produce the fogs, I don’t know.”
Oscar Wilde

As usual with our visits to London – I believe that this will be our 14th time there – we tend to book up heavily on the cultural side of things. This visit is no exception: 3 shows on the West End, the aforementioned FG at the Chocolate Factory, our first ever Panto (Cinderella at the Hammersmith), and another venue new to us: a Candlelight Christmas Eve Concert at the Royal Albert Hall. (AAC CPA has promised not to scream at the climactic part of the concert a la Doris Day in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.)

Doris Day
Doris Day or AAC CPA? You be the judge.

Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall

“London is a roost for every bird.”
Benjamin Disraeli

In between all the culture, there’s the eating. We’ve booked some fun meals at some of our old haunts, and I’ll be reporting on them as merrily we roll along. We’ve also been invited to join A & K for a holiday dinner with A’s family, as they reside in Merry Olde. We’re very flattered to be part of their family for that special evening.

The other fun thing is that, on Christmas Night in London, the very final episode of Downton Abbey will be telecast and we’ll be there to see it. (Don’t tell anyone, but we’ve already seen the final season and it’s GOOD! Shhhhhhhh!) We’re a bit sorry to see the series go, but it seems to be ending on a high note.

Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham
What would Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham say?

I’ll try to post a couple of entries while we’re across the pond to let you know how it’s going.

In the meantime, I hope that all of you are enjoying a happy and healthy holiday season.

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Countdown to London

  1. Hi Jeffrey, for getting Amex FHR free night offers like you did with the Shangri-La, you do have to stay on top of them, as they come up all the time. To help people be alerted to new ones, I run a newsletter called FHRNews that emails the new offers for a region when they appear.

    Here’s a Free Night trick that might help – if both of you have an Amex Platinum card, split the stay into 2 sets of 3 nights. Each will get the free night when the offer is 2 for 3. This works for Authorized User cards, which cost $175 per year for up to 3 cards.

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    1. Hi Tom: First of all, thanks for the great comment and for sharing FHRNews with us – What a great idea! Excellent suggestion about getting the supplemental AmEx Platinum card. Usually, the property will allow a 2nd free night, based on a 6-night stay. In fact, other hotels in London were accepting that promotion, but not the Shangri-La. We hadn’t felt the need to have a 2nd card until this very stay. In the long run, it would have saved us an extra night’s charges. Interestingly, when we first requested the promotion, the hotel didn’t have a king-bed in our category, so it appeared that we might have ended up in twin beds for the entire stay. As it turned out, we have a great AmEx travel agent, and she fixed it up for us. We try to play all the angles on the AmEx platinum and maximize the benefits whenever possible, but now I’ll be sure to check out your newsletter to insure that I’m not missing out on anything. Thanks again and happy holidays!

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      1. Sadly, as you found out, not all offers are repeatable. Amex doesn’t indicate this on their site, but I do indicate it when you look a hotel offer on my site.

        The main benefit I get from an Authorized User card is that my wife gets Priority Pass for herself, so I don’t need to pay to get her in to airport lounges when we travel.

        I do need to get back to London. I lived there for 9 years many moons ago, but have not even visited in 10 years!

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  2. Hey Tom: Yes, indeed. At least we got the one free night. And had a marvelous week in London. We were so lucky to be there 3 times this year, the 1st two visits were at either the beginning or ends of transAtlantic crossings on Queen Mary 2 and Crystal Serenity. Yes, ships and sea days are a passion. But you should definitely get back to London – it’s a happening place and so much fun. Best wishes for a happy new year.

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