Tim Foolery

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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Closing Time: The Tube

I always take public transit when I travel and in London, that’s the Tube.  Saturday night we had dinner with some friends who live in Acton Town on the District and Piccadilly Line.  After a great meal and a decent amount of wine we realized that if we were going to get home without paying outrageous London taxi prices, we’d have to leave.  We left their house around 00h15 and made it to the Tube in about 7 minutes. We hopped on the train heading toward Tower Hill and were shocked about halfway home that the train was stopping mid route and we had to get off.

Many cities around the world have stellar subway systems that don’t operate 24 hours a day (London and Paris to name two). I just haven’t come across one that doesn’t continue to the end of the line. Obviously we were missing something.  We hop off and hurry to another train, luckily we were at a station where we could connect to another line that would get us close to our hotel.  We had just missed the final train. The Tube was down for the night.  Dammit.

Night Bus it is.  We found the night bus stop and spent about 15 minutes deciphering the map and found a bus that would get us close-ish to home.  After waiting another 15 minutes we decided we didn’t want to wait all night so we took a taxi.  We asked for a cost estimate from the first guy and he said it would be about 35 GBP to our hotel. That’s NUTS. We’ll take the bus.

We wait another 15 minutes and realize that is just NUTS too. Back to a taxi. We ask him how much it would cost and he said between 30-35 GBP. Ok, at least they are consistent.  As we pull up to our hotel, the meter read 34.80 GBP.  Pretty good estimate.  A 15 minute cab ride should not cost you $50USD!

Moral of the story: Leave Earlier for the Tube; Stay all night at a friends house; Learn the Night Bus Schedule; or realize it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg to get home after hours in London.

Have you had any late night Tube issues in London? Does the price of a Black Cab shock you? Aren’t the night buses fun?

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Doubletree by Hilton, Tower of London

Our first night in London we stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton, Tower of London (@DoubletreeTOL1). When we decided to book a hotel, we checked all the chains (Starwood, Marriott, Hilton, Accor) – I was even thinking of cashing in some of those Radisson points I earned last year when they would give you 50,000 points for a single stay.  Everything was so expensive, even for London.  The Champions League Final Game was scheduled for that weekend and even the lower end hotels in the major chains were going for several hundred pounds a night. 
I signed up for the CitiHillton Reserve Card last year and one of the benefits after meeting minimum spend was 2 free weekend stay certificates.  Since the Doubletree was going for 299 GBP/night or about $450 I figured this was a great return on investment.  I called up the Hilton reservation line and we were all set.  I could have cashed in 60,000 Hilton Honors points for this reservation, but I value their points more than this – even following their recent devaluation.
Before we left Chicago, I emailed the hotel asking about the possibility of confirming a King Room vs a Queen Room and more importantly getting early check in.  The next day I received a response saying my request had been noted but nothing could be confirmed until arrival.  Of course it couldn’t.  Since everyone and their brother would be in London for the Game, I figured an early check-in was not even a possibility.
We hopped off the Circle Line at Tower Hill and walked the 2 minute walk to the hotel. There were dozens of people outside smoking – I should note that the Champions League final match was between Bayern Munchen and Dortmund.  Two German teams – and we know how the Germans love to smoke.
We go to check in and I hand over my Hilton Honors Gold Card (also a perk of the CitiHilton Reserve Card), my passport and my Amex Platinum.  The woman at reception starts typing without saying a word. I always wonder what they are doing as they continue to type away for minutes on end.  She passes back all my paperwork and says “how many keys”.  We got our room! SCORE!  Showers and a quick nap before we head out to see friends and explore the City.
We were on the 4th floor (technically the 5th floor above the ground since they count the ground floor as zero) so we took our freshly baked Doubletree Cookies to the elevator and made it to our home for the day/night.
We didn’t get a king room, but we did have a very firm queen sized mattress, a couple of chairs, an armoire, a desk and instead of a TV we had an iMac Computer that had cable TV.  The screen was small, but it did in a pinch.
Bathroom with a mildly broken shower door.
Bed with ample bedside plugs
Hardest bed in the free world
Desk with iMac
In Room Armoire
Lobby Bar
Modern Lobby
We each took showers, then took an hour nap and headed out to lunch not returning to the hotel until after 01h30 that night (next morning if you are getting technical).  We were greeted with a nice note from the manager offering us a complimentary drink at the bar, replenishing the complimentary bottled water supply and supplementing it with a bottle of Spanish red wine.  We didn’t drink the wine as we were exhausted and had a big day the next day.  Thinking back, we should have taken the wine with us – live and learn.
We slept pretty well, even though the bed was as hard as a rock and honestly, seemed a bit more narrow than a traditional queen bed.  We got up the next morning and had another shower with great water pressure and perfectly hot water.  The line for the complimentary breakfast in the restaurant was stretched out the door, so we opted to skip that option.
We dropped our luggage off with the hotel bellman and headed out to our previously scheduled bike tour of Royal London.
Would I stay here again?  Not for $450 I wouldn’t, but the location was good as it was very close to a couple of tube stops.  You are a 5 minute walk away from the Tower of London and Tower Bridge and very close to the central business district (quick walk to the Gherkin), but there aren’t a lot of bars and restaurants open on the weekend or if they are open they aren’t open late.  Maybe it was because it was Summer Bank Holiday too.  No matter, with the Tube so close you can be anywhere in the City in just minutes.
A word of caution though. The District Line is horrendously slow. We found ourselves sitting on a stopped train more often than not. My advice, take the district line only as needed. Even though the Circle Line looks like it will take longer, ,at least it runs more frequently and doesn’t stop at the drop of a hat.
Have you stayed at this hotel?  Do you prefer to say in the Tower Hill area of London when you visit?  Do you think London is a good use of hotel points or free stay certificates?

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