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Modest hotels and other London travel information from the Chicago Tribune, September 15, 2002

London sleeps

Good rooms at a price are hard to find in this pricey city. We went hunting and found 20 -- all for under $150

By Carolyn McGuire
Tribune staff reporter

September 15, 2002

LONDON -- We were on a mission. Go to London and find at least 15 quality hotels where two can stay for $150 or less a night. That's right. Not 150 pounds, but 150 dollars, including breakfast and tax (the dreaded VAT, a.k.a. value-added tax at 17.5 percent).

It took 10 days, but we succeeded. In fact, we found 20 worthy candidates that met our bang-for-the-buck challenge.

Figuring the pound's power--currently a pound is worth about $1.56--meant no hotel could cost more than 96 pounds. And, the room had to meet our "standards": a bathroom inside (en suite), good bedding and lighting, clean surroundings with some charm and style (decor and furnishings), a friendly staff and a location in a reasonably convenient neighborhood. (Notice we didn't mention elevators. We will.)

In other words, a subway stop (Brits call it the Tube, or Underground) had to be within walking distance--with as few stops and line changes as possible (London has 11 lines)--to popular tourist sites, restaurants and shops.

Day after day we walked and walked, rang lots of doorbells--and found a lot of places we can't recommend for one reason or another . . . shabby lobby, shabby rooms, unpleasant smells, unfriendly staff.

In all, we visited about 50 hotels, saw dozens of rooms and stayed at four places in four parts of London. Our research was a mere blip on the hotel radar screen, considering there are 1,233 hotels in London and 161,235 beds, according to the London Tourist Board. Before the trip, we spent hours on the Internet looking at dozens of Web sites that specialize in budget hotels. We looked through a lot of books. Being familiar with London from past visits, we steered clear of upscale neighborhoods like Mayfair and St. James's, home to expensive hotels where our budget for a week's stay could easily be spent on one night in a hotel like the Ritz or the Dorchester.

Which brings us to our 20, and though they call themselves hotels, they're mainly bed-and-breakfast accommodations in that breakfast (continental or English) is included in the rate. Most places are small, with several exceptions. And, most do not have elevators or air conditioning, features that are tough to find in this price category. Usually staff will help bring luggage to rooms.


This area known for literature, art and learning is home to the British Museum, London's most popular attraction. Bloomsbury's literary roots were made famous by the Bloomsbury Group of writers (Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey, among others) and artists (Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, etc.) who lived in the area and were active from the early 1900s until about the '30s.

Harlingford Hotel

Located at the corner of Marchmont and Cartwright Gardens, this 43-room hotel has been in the family of proprietor Andrew Davies for three generations.

Made up of three townhouses that date from the early 1800s, the hotel, one of a number on this street, has recently been renovated and looks terrific. Especially eye-catching is the sophisticated-looking lounge with modern sofas and chairs done in purple. The large windows that overlook Cartwright Gardens have draperies in purple and white. A gas fireplace with a large portrait hanging above is a focal point.

Blues and yellows are the colors in the rooms, with bedspreads and draperies to match. No. 11 in the back of the hotel has a canopy bed that pretty much takes up the entire room. No. 18 is a twin-bedded room that faces the garden. Both are in blue.

All rooms have TV (non-satellite), direct-dial phones, computer outlets, coffee- and tea-making gear, and hair dryers. Most rooms have showers only. Some front rooms have double-glazed windows.

English breakfast is served in a room opposite the lounge, which has a modern look offset by antique-looking chandeliers. Three large windows face the gardens. Like some other hotels on this street, guests can get a key to the gardens.

No air conditioning (fans are available), and another negative: no elevator for the five floors.

(All rates have been converted at $=$1.56 and rounded off to the nearest dollar. And, unless otherwise noted, all hotels accept credit cards.) Rates: single, 72 ($112); double and twin, 90 ($140); triple, 100 ($156); quad, 108 ($168). Address: 61 Cartwright Gardens, Bloomsbury, London WC1H 9EL. Phone: 011-44-20-7387-1551. Fax: 011-44-20-7387-4616. E-mail: Web: Tube: Russell Square, Euston.

Jenkins Hotel

This hotel moved to the top of our list when we found the "resident greeters"--three black Labrador retrievers--sitting at the entrance on the hotel's Web site.

Located down the street from the Harlingford, the hotel's atmosphere is English cozy in character. Botanical prints hang in the hallway where window draperies are blue and white; a blue rug with white accents covers the stairway.

Floral curtains and antique-style furniture are used throughout the 13-room hotel, co-owned for 16 years by Felicity Langley-Hunt and Sam Bellingham. A few years ago, the 18th Century hotel was featured in an episode of the Agatha Christie TV series "Poirot."

The hotel has no lounge or lobby (guests get their own keys to come and go), but the kitchen with a huge pine table sort of serves as a reception area.

There's also no elevator. That means if you're in one of the rooms on the top floor (their "fourth," our fifth), there are 51 steps from the entrance. But staff will help with luggage.

On the upside, a delicious English breakfast (including baked beans) with excellent coffee is served in a cheery room where tables are set with fresh flowers. A humorous sign here says, "Please don't feed the dogs." The "greeters" do tend to hang out in the room, but are well-behaved. (If a guest doesn't want their company, the staff will escort them out.)

Most rooms have only a shower, and these tend to be tiny. In fact, some are of the pre-fab variety, kind of like a pod that holds the shower, toilet and sink. Not unlike bathrooms on some cruise ships.

In addition to TV (non-satellite), direct-dial phone andhair dryer, the rooms also have coffee- and tea-making gear and several thoughtful extras: a safe and a small fridge (filled with soda and water, for a small charge).

No air conditioning, but rooms do have fans. Windows are not double-glazed. One room--a single--does not have private bath/toilet.

A note about the dogs: There's now just Tiggy and Georgie. Charlie has passed away.

Rates: single, 72 ($112); double, 85 ($133); triple, 105 ($164). Address: 45 Cartwright Gardens, Bloomsbury, London WC1H 9EH.Phone: 011-44-20-7387-2067. Fax: 011-44-20-7383-3139. E-mail:; Web: Tube: Russell Square, Euston.

The Morgan Hotel

This 17-room hotel in an 18th Century terrace house is very popular, and with good reason--it's just around the corner from the British Museum and about a 15-minute walk from Covent Garden and West End theaters.

There's nothing fancy about the rooms, mainly done in pastels with floral bedspread. They're currently getting a spiffing up. A renovation began last month with completion expected by March.

On the upside, the rooms are air-conditioned and windows are double-glazed. There's TV (CNN is the only satellite channel), direct-dial phone and a hair dryer. Most rooms have showers only. On the downside: no elevator for the three floors.

At breakfast (English style), guests might feel like they're in a restaurant not a B&B. The old-paneled room has wooden booths and is filled with Toby mugs and photographs of early London. Neat touch.

A popular hotel, despite not having an e-mail address or a Web site.

Rates: singles, 60-70 ($94-$109); double, 88 ($137); triple, 130 ($203); suites/apartments, 120-165 ($187-$254), located nearby are not air-conditioned, but have refrigerators. Address: 24 Bloomsbury St., Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3QJ. Phone: 011-44-20-7636-3735. Fax: 011-44-20-7636-3045. E-mail: None. Web: None. Tube: Tottenham Court Road.

South Kensington

We picked this area--as well as Earls Court (below)--because travelers can cheaply get here from Heathrow, London's major airport, on the Piccadilly line (see If You Go).

We centered our search around the Gloucester Road Tube station. The hotels we found are within walking distance of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum.

Cranley Gardens Hotel

With 85 rooms, this qualifies as a hotel, not a B&B, even though breakfast (continental) is included. But we wanted to experience staying in a larger place in this handy location.

Rooms tend to have light-colored walls with pastels for curtains and bedspreads. Gray and pink or blue and white seem to be favorite color combos. Bed headboards have bamboo-like trim.

Rooms in the front on the "first" floor (second floor to Americans) have floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto a small terrace facing Cranley Gardens. We stayed in a front room, No. 108, and even though the hotel does not have double-glazed windows, traffic noise was not a problem. We could, however, hear our next-door neighbors and voices in the hallways.

Four townhouses were connected to create the hotel, which has four floors, narrow hallways and no air conditioning, but it does have an elevator.

Most rooms have showers and tubs, and all have satellite TV, direct dial phones, Internet access and hair dryer. There is good lighting by the beds.

The lobby has comfortable sofas and a few newspapers, and a bar lounge serves drinks and sandwiches until midnight; room service is available from 10 a.m. to midnight. There's also 24-hour laundry service.

Rates: single, 69-85 ($108-$133); double, 89-115 ($139-$179); triple, 99-135 ($154-$211); quad, 105-155 ($164-$242). Address: 8 Cranley Gardens, South Kensington, London SW7 3DB. Phone: 011-44-20-7373-3232. Fax: 011-44-20-7373-7944. E-mail: Web: Tube: Gloucester Road, South Kensington.

Hotel 167

A few blocks from Cranley Gardens Hotel, this hotel's 19 rooms are done in a casual look reminiscent of some B&Bs we've seen in San Francisco: light-colored walls (various shades of yellow), floral or striped bedspreads (yellow or rose), venetian blinds, pine furniture, rattan furniture. No. 20 has a bentwood rocker, No. 5 grapevine wreaths.

Eleven rooms have bathrooms, attractively tiled and large enough to hold tubs and showers. Fans substitute for air conditioning, and hair dryers are at the front desk, but rooms have satellite TV and direct-dial phones. A nice bonus: Coffee- and tea-making gear are in each room as well as a small fridge. And windows are double-glazed to soften traffic noise on Old Brompton Road.

The lobby doubles as the breakfast (continental style) room, its marble tables and wrought iron chairs juxtaposed with a huge pine hutch.

Rates: single, 72 ($112); double for single occupancy, 86 ($134); double, 90-99 ($140-$154); triple, add 16 ($25) for extra bed in room. Address: , 167 Old Brompton Rd., South Kensington, London SW5 OAN. Phone: 011-44-20-7373-0672. Fax: 011-44-20-7373-3360. E-mail: Web: Tube: Gloucester Road.

Swiss House

Next door to Hotel 167, this 15-room hotel has a decidedly English look, though the name is deceiving (it used to be the residence for Swissair crews).

The entrance has a welcoming feel with its facade of ivy- and flower-filled window boxes. Wooden floors lend a rustic touch to rooms.

No. 202 has a navy bedspread and curtains, and a decorative fireplace. The bathroom has a shower stall and is tiled in blue and white. Like other rooms in the back of the hotel, this one looks into a neighbor's garden.

Rooms are not air-conditioned, but do have TV (non-satellite), hair dryer, coffee- and tea-making gear, but no direct-dial phone. Windows are double-glazed to combat traffic noise on Old Brompton Road.

Continental breakfast is served in a pretty blue and white basement room. There is no elevator to serve the three floors. One single has a shower, but no toilet in the room.

Rates: single, 71 ($111); double, 89 ($139)and 104 ($162); triple, 120 ($187); quad, 134 ($209). Address: 171 Old Brompton Rd., South Kensington, London SW5 OAN. Phone: 011-44-20-7373-9383. Fax: 011-44-20-7373-4983. E-mail: Web: Tube: Gloucester Road.

Earls Court

Earls Court Road is crammed with shops, restaurants and pubs--and close to museums and other attractions. These hotels are just minutes from the Earls Court Tube station.

Amsterdam Hotel

A riot of color--and we mean that in a good way. Many of the 27 rooms are awash in blues, yellows and mauves--particularly on bedspreads and draperies. Bottom line is you better like color and Thomas McKnight prints--they're everywhere.

This hotel has a lot going for it, including an elevator that serves the six floors. Rooms are outfitted with wicker and light-colored furniture with bamboo-like trim. Lighting (including bedside) is good throughout.

Rooms are not air-conditioned, but have individual heat, a feature we found at just a few hotels.The tiled bathrooms (some with shower only, others with both bath and shower, but all with shampoo, soap and facial tissues) were some of the best we saw. Room amenities include direct-dial phone, TV (non-satellite), hair dryer, and coffee- and tea-making gear. Front rooms have double-glazed windows.

Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the back stand out because they have direct access to the hotel's lovely garden, which is also reachable from an Internet-access room.

Another noteworthy room is No. 4, a loft that can accommodate three persons or two adults and two children.

Continental breakfast is served in a basement room done in shades of pink.

Rates: singles, 78 ($122); doubles, 88 ($137); triple, 112 ($175); family, 125 ($195). Suites also available. Address: 7 Trebovir Rd., Earls Court, London SW5 9LS. Phone: 011-44-20-7370-2814. Fax: 011-44-20-7244-7608. E-mail: Web: Tube: Earls Court.

Henley House Hotel

London is known for its gardens and squares, and when a hotel faces one, it's a bonus for guests, particularly those lucky enough to get a room with a garden view. This hotel is one of several on the street that faces Barkston Gardens. (At some hotels, including this one, guests get keys to the gardens.)

There's a feeling of coziness upon entering the small lobby, paneled in mahogany and dominated by bookcases and two sofas.

There are 21 rooms on six floors, and there is an elevator. Bathrooms have showers only. Bedrooms are tastefully decorated in pastels with oak and mahogany furniture.

No. 12, with two double beds, not only faces the gardens, but has floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto a small terrace. Like some of the other rooms, walls are yellow with green accents, and the same colors are used for bedspreads. Carpeting is rust colored. Moldings on the walls and ceiling add vintage charm.

All rooms have satellite TV, direct-dial phone, hair dryer, coffee- and tea-making gear, and good lighting. No air conditioning, and windows are not double-glazed, but the street is relatively quiet.

Single rooms are on the top floor. Twin-bedded rooms generally are larger than rooms with double beds.

Continental breakfast is served in an airy conservatory on the lower level. Pots of orchids are scattered on the window sills. Round tables, with burgundy and white tablecloths, and wooden chairs with rush seats have a Pottery Barn look.

Rates: single, 55-79 ($86-$123); double, 75-102 ($117-$159); triple, 90-119 ($140-$186). Address: 30 Barkston Gardens, Kensington, London SW5 OEN. Phone: 011-44-20-7370-4111. Fax: 011-44-20-7370-0026. E-mail: Web: Tube: Earls Court.

Maranton House Hotel

This family-owned hotel also faces Barkston Gardens. If you care for a view, ask for a room in front. Two rooms that look onto the gardens are Nos. 17 and 18. Both are large, bright and airy, with nice bathrooms (No. 17 has a bidet). Both have built-in dressers and closets painted in white. The stark look is softened by antique-like mirrors hanging over the desks, also in white.

There are nice touches throughout on the hallways and stairs--floral borders on pastel-colored walls, and landings with small antique lamps and mirrors. The entry hall is attractively dressed with a pretty dried flower arrangement and an antique-looking chandelier.

There are 16 rooms on seven floors and no elevator, but staff will help with luggage. Rooms do not have air conditioning but do have double-glazed windows, TV (non-satellite), direct-dial phone, hair dryer, and coffee- and tea-making gear..Bathrooms have soap, shampoo and shower gel.

Breakfast (continental) is served--on real tablecloths!--in a pretty room with some tables facing a small garden.

Rates: single, 65 ($101); double, 75 ($117); triple, 85 ($133). Address: 14 Barkston Gardens, Kensington, London SW5 OEN. Phone: 011-44-20-7373-5782. Fax: 011-44-20-7244-9543. E-mail: Web: None. Tube: Earls Court

Merlyn Court Hotel

Also on Barkston Gardens, this 20-room hotel does not have TVs in rooms, four of which also are not en suite. But there is a lounge with TV. Rooms have direct-dial phones, hair dryers, and eggs and bacon are included in breakfast. There is no elevator for the three floors.

While on the spartan side, the rooms were clean and comfortable, and management told us rooms were being upgraded with new carpeting and furniture.

Rates: single, 30-45 ($47-$70); double en suite, 65-70 ($101-$109); double basic, 50-55 ($78-$86); triple, 75 ($117); quad, 80 ($125). Address: 2 Barkston Gardens, Kensington, London SW5 OEN. Phone: 011-44-20-7370-1640. Fax: 011-44-20-7370-4986. E-mail: Web: Tube: Earls Court.

Rushmore Hotel

Owner Shireen Salooga definitely has a knack for decorating, and loves mixing colors and using faux finishes, stenciling and trompe l'oeil touches. Some rooms also have hand-painted murals. All 22 have their own personalities.

In some (No. 6 is one), Salooga has draped fabric from the ceiling over the beds to form a kind of free-floating canopy. In others (No. 21, among them), the treatment over the bed may resemble a coronet draping. Still other rooms are more traditionally decorated, including No. 14, a la Laura Ashley.

This hotel is for someone who appreciates a room with flair--as well as a room with necessities like hair dryer, coffee- and tea-making gear, direct-dial phone and satellite TV.

But it is not a hotel for anyone who cannot climb stairs. There are six floors but no elevator, though staff will help with luggage. The hotel is not air-conditioned.

Bathrooms (some with showers only, others with shower/tub combos) are tiled in marble and nicely appointed with brass fittings.

Windows are not double-glazed, but the street is not a major road.

The conservatory-like room where continental breakfast is served looks like it belongs in a hotel charging twice as much. Italy is the influence for decor with antique terra cotta urns, Murano glass lighting fixtures and wrought iron furniture from Tuscany.

Rates: single, 55-65 ($86-$101); double, 69-79 ($108-$123); triple/quad, 79-89 ($123-$139). Address: 11 Trebovir Rd., Earls Court, London SW5 9LS. Phone: 011-44-20-7370-3839. Fax: 011-44-20-7370-0274. E-mail: Web: Tube: Earls Court

Paddington/Hyde Park

The major reason we scouted this area is because of Paddington Station, home to the Heathrow Express and the Paddington Tube stop.

Balmoral House Hotel

An entrance filled with flowered wallpaper sets the tone for this sweet little hotel in a 19th Century Victorian townhouse. Dark rose is the color that dominates the floral wallpaper and draperies in most of the 33 rooms. Pillow cases are lace, and bedspreads are in pink and lavender.

Rooms have nice wooden mirrors, accented by antique-looking, frosted lampshades. They also have satellite TV, direct-dial phone, hair dryer, and coffee- and tea-making gear.

Rooms have showers only--with the exception of three singles and one twin. These rooms have a sink, but share a bathroom. Soap and shampoo are provided.

Some might find the rooms charmingly cozy, others might feel they're a little too feminine. There's also no elevator for the five floors.

An English breakfast is served in an airy basement dining room.

Rates: single, 40 ($62); double, 65 ($101); triple, 80 ($125); quad, 100 ($156). Address: , 156-157 Sussex Gardens, Paddington, London W2 IUD. Phone: 011-44-20-7723-7445. Fax: 011-44-20-7402-0118. E-mail: Web: Tube: Paddington.

Gresham Hotel

Definitely for the traveler who wants more of a hotel experience than the coziness of a B&B. Like a lounge and bar, for starters.

The 57 rooms have modern tiled bathrooms, most with showers only. Green is the favorite color for bedspreads and curtains in single rooms; orange for doubles. All rooms have satellite TV, direct-dial phone and hair dryer.

Continental breakfast is served in a large dining room in the basement, and there is an elevator to serve the four floors.

Some might classify the Gresham as a business hotel (there are a few "executive" rooms with microwave and fridge).

Rates: single, 70 ($109); double, 95 ($148); triple, 105 ($164); quad, 130 ($203). Address: 116 Sussex Gardens, Paddington, London W2 1 UA. Phone: 011-44-20-7402-2920. Fax: 011-44-20-7402-3137. E-mail: Web: Tube: Paddington.

Hotel Columbus

We stayed in No. 204, a double-bedded room that faces the street. Even though the window is not double-glazed, street noise didn't bother us.

A blue and white floral fabric starts as a "headboard" over the double bed and continues up the wall to form a canopy, dressing up an otherwise plain room. Same fabric was used for the curtain. Bedspread was midnight blue with gold fleur de lis.

The small bathroom was a step up from the room and a pre-fab kind of place, similar to ones we had at the Jenkins Hotel. Definitely a tight squeeze, particularly in the shower.

We were able to see No. 603, which also had a blue and pink canopy-like treatment over its double bed. It's the only room on the ground floor and definitely one to request if climbing stairs is a problem. There is no elevator for the four floors and other 13 rooms.

All rooms have TV (non-satellite) and direct-dial phone. Hair dryers are available at the front desk.

The lobby doubles as a breakfast room (continental style), where the look is modern (metal chairs, abstract artwork).

Rates: single, 55 ($86); double, 75 ($117); triple, 84 ($131); quad, 99 ($154). Address: 141 Sussex Gardens, Paddington, London W2 2RX. Phone: 011-44-20-7262-0974. Fax: 011-44-20-7262-6785. E-mail: Web: Tube: Paddington

Hyde Park Radnor/Springfield Hotel

These are sister hotels, around the corner from each other. The Radnor has 35 rooms, the Springfield 18. Rooms at both hotels were tastefully decorated, more of a traditional English decor at the Springfield than the Radnor. Rooms at both looked fine to us with the exception of the Radnor's rather unattractive lobby with white leather sofas. But we were told there was talk of redecorating.

Both hotels have en suite rooms (bathrooms looked more modern at the Radnor and had heated towel bars) and offer the usual amenities in the rooms--satellite TV, direct-dial phone (only at the Springfield), hair dryer and coffee- and tea-making gear. There's an elevator for the six floors at the Radnor, none for the Springfield's five floors. English breakfast is included at both hotels.

Hyde Park Radnor rates: single, 45-60 ($70-$94); double, 70-80 ($109-$125); triple, 90 ($140); quad, 105-115 ($164-$179). Address: 7-9 Sussex Place, Paddington, London W2 2SX. Phone: 011-44-20-7723-5969. Fax: 011-44-20-7262-8955. E-mail: Web: Tube: Paddington

Springfield Hotel rates: single, 45-55 ($70-$86); double, 60-70 ($94-$109); triple, 75-85 ($117-$133); quad, 80-90 ($125-$140). Address: 154 Sussex Gardens, Paddington, London W2 1 UD. Phone: 011-44-20-7723-9898. Fax: 011-44-20-7723-0874. E-mail: Web: Tube: Paddington


We chose this area because it's close (well, relatively) to major sites like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye and the Tate Britain museum. And in the general area for visits to the National Theatre complex and Shakespeare's Globe.

Victoria Station is about 15 minutes away. That's good news if you fly into Gatwick and take the Gatwick Express.

Blades Hotel

After being buzzed into this hotel, we passed under a pretty chandelier and headed up the stairs to the conservatory reception area and met the friendly manager, Kevin Greenan.

The hotel was very full, so he was only able to show us one room--No. 4 on the ground floor in back with white walls and blue for curtains and bedspread. (Greenan says blue is the favorite color for the other rooms too. All have prints and pictures of British and Irish scenes.)

There are 16 rooms on four floors. All have showers only, but no hair dryer (ask at reception) or coffee- or tea-making gear. Because windows are not double-glazed, light sleepers might want to request a room in the back to avoid hearing traffic on busy Belgrave Road.

The hotel has no air conditioning (fans are available) and no elevator, but breakfast is "more substantial than a continental," says Greenan.

Despite the drawbacks, we liked the feel of the hotel--especially the conservatory, which guests are encouraged to use.

Rates: single, 60 ($94); double, 75 ($117); triple, 90 ($140); quad, 120 ($187). Address: 122 Belgrave Rd., Victoria, London SW1V 2 BL. Phone: 011-44-20-7976-5552. Fax: 011-44-20-7976-6500. E-mail: Web: Tube: Pimlico or Victoria.

Luna Simone Hotel

Victorian on the outside, sleek on the inside. Gold and blue bedspreads and blue carpeting add color to the rooms with light-colored walls. Bathrooms are modern and have enclosed glass showers and temperature-controlled fittings.

There are 35 rooms, 33 with shower only. Two single rooms share a bathroom. Rooms have TV (non-satellite), direct-dial phones, hair dryers, coffee- and tea-making gear,, and safes. Some have double-glazed windows (rooms facing that noisy Belgrave Road).

In the reception area, presided over by owners Peter and Bernard Desira, clocks show times in cities around the world.

There are six floors but no elevator. An Internet access room is due to be completed by November. English breakfast is served in two basement rooms where the modern decor continues in furnishings and artwork.

Rates: single, 35-60 ($55-$94); double, 60-80 ($94-$125); triple, 80-100 ($125-$156). Address: 47/49 Belgrave Rd., Victoria, London SW1V 2BB. Phone: 011-44-20-7834-5897. Fax: 011-44-20-7828-2474. E-mail: Web: Tube: Pimlico or Victoria.

New England Hotel

This hotel, inside a 19th Century Georgian townhouse on the corner of St. George's Drive and Warwick Way, has been run by the Patel family since 1981. It's obvious the family cares about running a first-class hotel, judging by what they offer.

All 25 rooms have fully tiled bathrooms with enclosed showers that are temperature controlled. There is no air conditioning, but heat in each room is individually controlled. Windows are double-glazed, and beds are fitted with "hypnos" mattresses, which are supposed to be super comfortable.

There's no variation in the color scheme--walls are yellow, carpeting is rust, and bedspreads and draperies are a combination of yellow, rust and green. All rooms have TV (CNN is the only satellite channel), direct-dial phones, computer modem outlets and hair dryers.

The six floors are served by an elevator, and English breakfast takes place in a cheerful basement dining room.

Rates: single, 49-65 ($76-$101); double, 59-89 ($92-$139); triple, 79-108 ($123-$168); quad, 89-119 ($139-$186). Address: 20 St. George's Dr., Victoria, London SW1V 4BN. Phone: 011-44-20-7834-8351. Fax: 011-44-20-7834-9000. E-mail: Web: Tube: Victoria

Winchester Hotel

On a block with many hotels that look nice from the outside, but can be disappointing upon closer inspection, this one delivers. In fact, upon stepping into the classy entry (rose carpeting, sandstone-colored walls, mirrors, moldings), you might think you are in tony Mayfair.

A great deal of thought and care has gone into maintaining the quality of the hotel, owned for the last 20 years by Jimmy McGoldrick and his wife, Juanita.

The overall feeling is one of tranquility, with walls of the 18 rooms painted in yellow, pink or taupe. Carpeting is red, and bedspreads and draperies are in gold and cream with red piping.

Back rooms are smaller than in front, but they're quieter--windows are not double-glazed and Belgrave Road is right outside.

All rooms have TV (non-satellite). Bathrooms are tiled and have high-pressure, temperature-controlled showers.

We would like to see phones and hair dryers (available at the front desk) in the rooms, and wish the hotel would accept credit cards.

Despite our qualms, this is a special hotel. English breakfast is prepared by genial Jimmy and served on Royal Doulton china, set with Christofle flatware.

How's that for class?

There's no lounge and no elevator for the six floors, but staff will deliver luggage to room.

Rates: single, 85 ($133); double, 88 ($137); triple, 110 ($172); quad, 140 ($218). One- and two-bedroom suites available nearby, priced 120 to 230 ($187-$359) . Note: No credit cards. Address: 17 Belgrave Rd., Victoria, London SW1 1RB. Phone: 011-44-20-7828-2972. Fax: 011-44-20-7828-5191. E-mail: Web: Tube:



The places described in this story are listed as hotels, but many proprietors also call their establishments bed-and-breakfasts. Whatever you call them, all the hotels/B&Bs we found include breakfast (either English or continental) in their rates.


If a room is not en suite (bathroom inside), it is called a "basic" room, which means guests share the bath and toilet facilities down a hall. We focused on places that had en suite facilities--a few places had a few rooms that were "basic."

Because these are small places, they may not have a bona fide lobby or a common sitting room. There might not be a hotel staffer on duty after midnight (or earlier), so you may be given a key to let yourself in. Air conditioning is a rarity. Some hotels may not allow smokers.

Elevators are generally rare, so when booking remember the European way of counting floors--rooms designated as "first floor" are really on the second floor, etc. Crucial information if walking up stairs is a problem. If so, request a room on a low floor.


When booking via e-mail, fax or phone, ask about reduced rates for multiple night stays and "special rates"--many places offer them.

Also, don't be shy about negotiating. Ask if the price quoted is the best they can do. Be aware that the price shown on the Web site or from a hotel booking site may not be the lowest price.

Finally, read the cancellation policies very closely. Some hotels charge a cancellation fee regardless of when you cancel. And, some charge a transaction fee for using a credit card.

-- Carolyn McGuire



Air India, American Airlines, British Airwaysand United Airlines offer non-stop service from Chicago to London.


Cheapest way into London from Heathrow is the Tube's Piccadilly line (2.10 pounds, or about $3.28). Trains leave every 10 minutes for the 40- to 55-minute trip.

Another inexpensive way ($14) to reach the city is via the Airbus that makes various stops throughout the city. The buses leave every 30 minutes from Heathrow throughout most of the day. It takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes to central London. For details, see

Other options:

Heathrow Express ($19 one way or $34 round trip) into Paddington Station, every 15 minutes from 9 a.m. to midnight, takes about 15 minutes.

If you arrive via London's other airport, Gatwick, a speedy way (30 minutes) into central London is via the Gatwick Express train, which runs every half hour into Victoria Station. Rate's the same as Heathrow Express.

By cab, figure rates starting at about $60.


Buses are cheap (cabs are not), but it can take forever to get around.

So, head for the Underground and its 11 lines (273 stations) that can whisk you all over London from 5:30 a.m. to midnight. The city is broken down into zones, which determine the rate. If you plan travel only in zone 1 (central city), consider getting a book of 10 single tickets for $18, and you'll save about $7.

Another way to save money is to buy a Travelcard that covers transport on the Tube and on some buses. For more details, go to a Tube station in London, or check the Web site,

There's also a Visitor Travelcard that can be purchased only before arrival. It is valid for travel on three, four or seven consecutive days and covers unlimited travel on the Underground and buses in central London. Price for adults is $32 to $63, $14 to $24 for children (5-15). Tickets are available from Britrail, 877-677-1066; Rail Europe Group, 800-422-BRIT; DER Travel Services, 888-337-7350; and Tickets To, 800-869-8184. See also


Call the British Tourist Authority at 877-899-8391, or e-mail the office at or visit the Web site at Ask for info on London, and you'll receive a London Planner guide, a map, and restaurants and accommodation guides.

The BTA recently added Web Chat to its Web site. Click on it and you can "talk" to a travel consultant. Hours (Central Standard Time) are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Other sources for useful information about London: and See for details on the London Pass, which gives you admission to more than 60 attractions as well as travel on buses and the Tube.

Through December, the String of Pearls celebration will continue for Queen Elizabeth's 50th anniversary. This means a number of special events taking place along the Thames. See for more details.

For London theater, check these sites: and

-- Carolyn McGuire

Copyright ę 2002, Chicago Tribune

Last updated September 15, 2002.