Our Favourite Cities

This is second blog created from a one minute slot for Fabulous Women. This time I asked everyone to list their favourite city and then a city they would most like to visit.

About a third love London. What a privilege to live in a city so rich in culture and diversity, where else would you get quaint church names like St Andrew by the Wardrobe just a short distance from The Shard and The Gherkin. Where Chinatown and Theatreland live happily with modern chain stores like Next and Primark in Oxford Street and traditional shops like Liberty and Hamleys just round the corner in Regent Street and where Buckingham Palace and our wonderful Royal Parks are not too far from Spitalfields and Portobello Road markets. we have such a eclectic mix of old and modern architecture, shopping, and influences from all over the world making us one of the world food capitals. It really is an amazing city and am so lucky to live here. A 2 night package from Newcastle including rail tickets costs around £160 per person in May for the centrally located Tavistock Hotel in Russell Square.

The second most loved cities were jointly New York and Rome. Both are also on the wish list. New York has increased a lot in price. The most expensive times to go are Thanksgiving , New Year and just before Christmas. Weirdly the best bargains for New York are in the shoulder season, after Easter to June and if you can travel midweek that’s even better. If you get a seat sale combined with a free night eg 7th May 15, direct flights with BA from Heathrow to JFK and 4 nights at Astor on The Park 3 star near Central Park is currently around £700 based on two sharing. The ultimate once in a lifetime trip to visit New York is to fly to New York in First Class, stay a few nights at St Regis, go up the Empire State, take a helicopter trip over The Statue if Liberty and shop until you drop in Bloomingdales and Tiffanys, you can then come home on Queen Mary 2 without worrying about luggage allowance. Of course this would set you back a lottery win but with Transatlantic deals from as little as £599 and some amazing flight deals even this can be affordable.

Rome is surprisingly affordable, even with the new tourist tax that was imposed on 1st September. You have to allow an extra few euros for this. Flights with Monarch or Easyjet are very cheap, so with hand luggage only I could do a couple of nights in November for around £200pp including flights. If you just do one thing while in Rome you must go to the Colosseum. Buy tickets from the Forum for Forum and Colosseum, the queue is shorter walk through the Forum which is definitely worth seeing to the Colosseum. Rome is an amazing city with the most amazing culture and architecture. The most affordable restaurants are around the Trevi Fountain. For the luxury trip take advantage of the BA seat sale. Seats are currently £400 next Easter in Business Class return, stay in a lovely 5 star hotel like L’Inghiliterra, prebook an audience with Pope Francis. A good deal is often Crowne Plaza St Peters, a bit far out, but it has a pool and often has 4 nights for the price of 3. You could also combine Rome with Florence, Venice, Milan or many other places in Italy by rail, air, coach tour or self drive or a combination of these. I can arrange all this for you as a tailor made tour just for you.

Since all the rest have 1 each, I will take one that is in both lists which unsurprisingly is Venice. To do Venice justice it should not be done on a budget, yes you could fly to Treviso on Ryanair and come in by bus and you could stay in a 2 star in Mestre instead of Venice Island but neither would give you the experience that Venice deserves and you will probably be very disappointed. The standard of hotels is not high so even a 4 star on Venice Island will be quite spartan. It is better to treat Venice as a special trip and expect to pay much more for meals and drinks than you would anywhere else in Italy and for 2 nights in Venice it will cost more than 3-4 nights in Rome. If you want a room with a lagoon view then you need to book early. There are very few lagoon view rooms and they are always on request. The best way to save a little without too much compromise is to use ACTV to get you from the airport to the closest stop to your hotel. There are many reasonable hotels just 5 or 10 mins walk from Grand Canal and St Marks Square that are half the price. Something like Cavaletto, Kette or All’Angelo

The top city in the wish list is right on the other side of the world and definitely one of my favourite cities too. If you are visiting Australia for the first time, unless you have friends or relatives elsewhere, most people will make Sydney their first port of call. There are more flights and routes to Sydney so there there tends tends to be more availability to Sydney than to other Australian cities. Although location is quite important, public transport is excellent so savings can be made by staying in areas like Bayswater and Potts Point. Also Travelodge in Sydney are a completely different and superior product to that in the UK and USA. They are considered to be 3.5 star. There are also some decent self catering options eg Oaks for families. Unless you have relatives in Sydney most people only stay a few days. It is a big city, and there is plenty to see and do so it is wise to spend at least 4 nights there or even a week to allow enough time for Blue Mountains and Hunter Valley nearby. If you also want to visit other parts of Australia, it is worth exploring the difference between deals including the flights within Australia as these are often but not always considerably cheaper than buying a separate flight afterwards.

Weirdly joint second on the wish list is Buenos Aires. There are some great deals on BA but compared to the rest rest of South America, Argentina is an expensive country, domestic flights are expensive for visitors (Argentinians have special rates) and although accommodation is reasonably priced, again more expensive than most other South American countries, so actually a pre organised small group tour is probably better value in the long run. It is definitely worth going to Ushuaia in the South and going out on a Zodiac to experience icebergs and wildlife. It is best to allow at least 3 weeks to visit Argentina. It can be combined with Neighbouring Brazil and Chile but all three deserve 3 weeks each.

The other second on the wish list is San Francisco. Los Angeles is also on the list so I will pair these together. If doing California as a single trip rather than part of a bigger itinerary it is worth allowing at least 2 weeks to visit California as is so vast.it is advisable to hire a car to drive around California but not while staying in San Francisco itself. Parking is very expensive, an average of around 40usd a night. San Francisco is a very expensive city and difficult to use as a base so for both those reasons, the average stay is 3 nights, Fishermans Wharf is the tourist area and safe but very pricey now and full of very average hotels . Union Square is much more affordable and central and then advisable to hire a car to go elsewhere, east to Yosemite, north to Napa valley or South to Monterey and Carmel. From there you can drive down to Los Angeles. I would recommend spending a couple of nights en route, perhaps Santa Barbara. Los Angeles is an odd city, it is more a collection of suburbs, Hollywood, west Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Anaheim etc. depending whether you like beach, nightlife, theme parks I would suggest an area appropriate to your needs.

Vancouver appears on both lists and certainly in my top ten of cities. Again a little too far to do as a standalone but ideal as part of a bigger itinerary. We combined it with the Rockies and an Alaska cruise. I wish we had spent a little longer there. The Canadians are so friendly and there is so much to see and do. How many cities in the world have a beach, harbour and a mountain in one panoramic view? Stanley Park is beautiful and huge. We did a trolley tour in Vancouver, an excellent way to see the city and one if the drivers has relatives in Notting Hill. I recognised the family name and we have kept in touch. I would recommend visiting Victoria on Vancouver Island by seaplane and also Whistler which can be done on a scenic rail journey.

Seville appears on both lists and it is a lovely city. It is possible for a weekend break with direct flights from Gatwick and Stansted and it is also doable as a day trip from the Costa del Sol. Many combine Seville with other Andulcian cities such as Cordoba, Granada, Jerez and Ronda. It isn’t easy to travel between all these cities by train but car hire is pretty cheap. You do have to factor in an average 20 euros a day in parking fees.

Moscow appears on the love list and St Petersburg is on the want list. Of course these can be done together, either flying in between or by river cruse or by rail. I would use a specialist tour operator because communication is still difficult, they get the best rates on rail and accommodation and they facilitate visas. St Petersburg is easier as many of the Baltic Cruises include It for one or two nights and it enables you to visit st Petersburg without the need for a visa providing you use the cruise company tours. These are excellent value typically visiting Germany, Poland, Tallinn (Estonia) and Scandinavia

Berlin was a favourite city, plenty of flights, both low cost ( easyjet, Ryanair and Air Berlin) and scheduled. Hotels are inexpensive in Germany so even a very centrally located hotel will be reasonably priced and a decent standard. Transportation is still better in West Berlin, the a East still hasn’t quite caught up, but what it lacks in transportation it certainly makes up for with magnificent architecture and excellent restaurants.

Surprisingly only one person named Paris as a favourite city. Flights to Paris are generally cheaper than Eurostar but from London Eurostar is much more convenient. If you book Eurostar early enough 90 days max, you might be lucky enough to get £59 each way but the average return is usually over £200. Even modest hotels are very pricey now and Paris is not a cheap city. The Timhotel chain is worth checking, only 2 star but reasonable

There were a few more that cropped up, Berlin, Paris, Toulouse, Whitby, Vienna and China which I will try to add to this another time

As you can see I am very well travelled and even the places I haven’t been to myself, I have a decent knowledge of or know a man who does. Please feel free to call me on 020 3432 4740 to discuss a trip to your favourite city or recommend a friend to see it for themselves

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