The Tower of London

The Tower on London is one of the main sites in the city, probably because of its fascinating history. Unlike other attractions, it is quite expensive but definitely worth it, especially if you are going with your family. Unfortunately  it has limited handicapped facilities, which is something that might prevent you to go there.
The whole structure is a collection of several towers, which since it was begun during the Middle Age it has served different purposes.
Probably not as impressive as others castles to explore, nevertheless the items that you can appreciate and the staff make the tour much more interesting.

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Source: openbuildings.com

You will see that it is quite crowded, but on the other hand even if the queues are quite long they flow quickly. Bring good shoes because you will be walking a lot. You can spend hours there and actually not see much of it.

Among the most interesting things to see, the White Tower is one of them. It was in fact the original Tower of London, which was whitewashed in the 13th century, hence its name. Nowadays it contains mainly a Royal Armouries collection. Very close to it you will find the Waterloo Barracks, where the crown jewels are kept when they are not worn by the Queen for official ceremonies.
The Jewels and the WhiteTower are a must, but there are plenty of things to see. For example, make sure not to miss St. John-s Chapel (the most ancient surviving Church in Englan) and the ceremony of the keys at 9.53 PM

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Source: www.express.co.uk

Something very typical you will see are the Ravens, which have been there for centuries. There is a legend around those animals, which says that should they disappear, England would be struck by a big calamity. This is why they are treated as kings, and kept around by clipping the feathers of their wings.

It has been said that the whole experience is made enjoyable especially thanks to its staff. It is the case of the Beefeater Guides -official name Yeoman Warders. They must have served the British Army for at least 22 years in order to be there. They give free tours at established times during the day, even though they are officially the guardians of the Crown Jewels and the Tower during the night. They are not just actors, or guides, they really do have a profound knowledge and are in fact an attraction by themselves.

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Source: www.express.co.uk

There are private guided tours as well in case you wish:

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In case you prefer to go around by yourself, you might want to get informed a little bit beforehand. A guidebook is about 5 pounds. Once you are on site, the audio guide will provide a good commentary. If you are travelling with children, get them a book to keep them interested. Plus, if you feel hungry after a while, the restaurant has a menu for the children and generally speaking good food for a reasonable price

Please contact your Bicentennial Concierge in case you need further information.

The Tate Modern, London

The Tate modern is a huge sight that impresses its visitors. Formerly a Bankside Power Station, it is today a modern art museum, thanks to the work of the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. A perfect example of how something which was destined to be abandoned can be turned into a famous attraction. Not very attractive from the outside, but astonishing inside. Probably not as complete as the Pompidou Museum, but still not to be missed. The access is free, just like other museums in London. Free guided tours are organized daily. You pay for the extras and the temporary exhibitions, which are hosted in the enormous Turbine Hall; they are quite expensive, it is really subjective whether they might be worth it. The price of the audio guide is 4£; it gives an explanation of several of the artworks exposed.

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Source: www.londres.es

The permanent collection is organized chronologically and by theme on levels 2 to 4. We are talking about more than 60000 pieces of art, from different artists which are very well known to the public: Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse, among others. It opens from 10 am to 6 pm from Sunday until Thursday, while the closing time is extended until 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. This gives you plenty of time to enjoy the museum. If you are not a passionate about modern arts you might not appreciate it, some of the artwork appear to be odd to some people. On the other hand, since it is free you can still go and take a look, you will see something completely different. And if you get tired pretty quickly, if you like enjoying a coffee with a view, make sure you do not miss the bar on the fifth floor.

For the most passionate, it is possible to book a private tour:

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Your Bicentennial Concierge remains at your disposal.

The Cathedral of Toledo: la Primada

A Cathedral, especially when it is the first one built in the Spanish Peninsula, is always worth a visit. It occupies the place of the main Mosque of Toledo, which was built itself on the rests of an ancient Visigothic Church. Which means we are talking about a site charged with symbolism. In fact, you can still assist to a Visigothic Mass once a day. Is is not necessary to be a religious person in order to appreciate its marvellous architecture.

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Source: www.ciudadesyrincones.com

But you should bear in mind a couple of things in case you want to visit the Cathedral of Toledo. First of all, its peculiar opening times. In Wintertime it closes at 6 PM, while in Summertime at 6.45 PM, a little early considering the season. The entry cost 8€, while for 11€ you can access as well the Bell Tower, from which you can enjoy wonderful views of the city. Children below 12 years old can enter for free. On Sundays Spanish nationals can access for free, after 2 PM and, without the option of the Bell Tower. If you are coming by car, there is plenty of parking space available along the city walls. Quite easy to get in.

The audio guide, approximately 90 minutes, costs 3€ and is totally worth it. The Cathedral itself is well preserved and has some little treasures you should not miss. The Chorus and the Custodia de Juan de Arfe, among others; while in the Sacristy you can find a small but important collection of paintings from el Greco, Caravaggio, Velasquez and Goya. Even though the price is a bit high for a Church, do not forget you will be in a sacred place. It is forbidden to take pictures inside, and there could be several religious services going on at the same time during your visit.

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Source: antonioheras.com

There are a couple of day trips from Madrid that include the Cathedral you might be interested in:

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Your Bicentennial Concierge remains at your disposal for further information.

Rent a Luxury House in Spain, Toledo

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Source: www.tripadvisor.es

If you intend to rent a luxury house in Spain, this enormous villa in Toledo is a good option.  It consists of 7 bedrooms, located in 4 different floors:

1. In the basement:

One room with a nice double bed ; bathroom on the same floor;

A large living room with chemney, which consists of three different areas (dining room, play room and relaxation corner with sofa-bed);

A rustic wine cellar with typical ceramic handcrafts typical of the region;

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The Wine Cellar – Source: www.tripadvisor.es

2. On the ground floor:

The entrance to the building;

One double standard room, bathroom imitating the arab style;

A nice dining room with views to the gardens and direct access to the outside porch and pools;

A fully equipped kitchen, to be used by the staff daily or for special events;

Laundry area.

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The Kitchen – Source: www.tripadvisor.es

3. First Floor:

One superior room with private bathroom and dressing room. Views to the gardens and the valley;

One standard room, with private bathroom and a arab style decoration;

One luxury bedroom with private bathroom, jacuzzi, large dressing room and worderful views over the gardens and the city. Private terrace.

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Bathroom with Jacuzzi – Source: www.tripadvisor.es

4. Second Floor (attic)

One small room;

One large Suite with different spaces, where an entire family could be accomodated. There are both a double bed and a sofa-bed.  From the en suite bathroom you can enjoy a wonderful view of the city of Toledo;

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The room in the Attic – Source: www.tripadvisor.es

There is a plasma Tv in each room. There is an elevator, air conditioning/heating , free wifi connection, Room and Housekeeping service. You can rent the entire house or the single rooms.

In the gardens you can find fresh vegetables. The plants are watered thanks to an automatic electronic device.

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The Pool and an outdoor terrace – Source: www.tripadvisor.es

There is as well a paddle tennis court, one espectacular two-level pool with waterfall, external showers, changing rooms with private bathroom, a barbecue and an external dining room. Plus, there is an outdoor parking if you plan to expect some visits.

The gardens, as well as the common areas of the house, can be rented for family events or company meetings.

Your Bicentennial Concierge remains at your disposal for further information. You can check out these links, too:

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The British Museum, London

With about five million visitors each year, the British Museum is without any doubt London’s most important tourist attraction. It is very close to Russell square, not too far from the National Gallery. It was founded back in 1753 and opened for the public for free 6 years later. The collection has grown considerably during the years, basically as a result of British Imperialism. Today it covers a huge period of history (over 7000 years): ancient Egyptians, Greeks, China, Middle Age…and the list goes on.

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Source: www.britishmuseum.org

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The Roman Collection – Source: www.londontown.com

The place is huge so you have different options when visiting; the entrance is free, just like the National Gallery you pay for the extras (such as the iPad tours) and the temporary expositions, which are generally worth the little supplement. You can reserve a couple of hours and have a general view or stay there the whole day (it opens from 10.oo A.M. to 5.00 P.M.) and have lunch inside, the restaurant has very reasonable prices. You can also make some focused visits, depending on what interests you the most; there are 15 free tours of individual galleries per day (eyeOpener tours) and Highlight tours (paid separately).

Of course it’s always busy, but if you want a little more time to browse at leisure, try to pick an “off-time” when school groups likely won’t be there. This avoids the general frustration that comes when you visit such a musuem. You can spend hours there and probably not see everything. If you like taking pictures, take a spare battery with you, because you will need it. You definitely should not miss Rosetta’s stone (the key to ancient Egypt’s writing system) and the Bust of Ramesses the great on the ground floor, while on the upper floor do not forget to check the Egyptian mummies and different artifacts from Anglosaxon England.

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Rosetta’s Stone – Source: www.britishmuseum.org

If visiting with children it might get more complicated, since they tend to get tired pretty quickly. You might want to cut your visit in two days, check our what they like the most or hire the activity packs for each area. It is basically a backpack of the area of your choice with different activities inside for the kids to follow. They ask a ten pounds deposit. The museum encourages the parents with small children to bring their strollers in and use it during your visit. It would make your time much easier.

The museum is always crowded, but you can avoid the peak hours, especially when the students are visiting in groups. If you wish, you can hire a guide throughout the collection:

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Please check with your Bicentennial Concierge for further information.

Luxury Hotels in London: Hotel 41

The Hotel 41 is a small boutique hotel in a great location: right across the street from the Royal Mews and a short walk to Bukingham Palace and the underground train. It basically consists of the ground floor and the top floor of a building where you can find as well the Rubens at the Palace (which belongs to the same company).

Entrance: www.41hotel.com

The entrance – Source: www.41hotel.com

The top floor is an executive lounge which is basically the center of the house. You can have breakfast there, as well as you can access it for the Plunder in the Pantry from 8.30pm. Snacks are available for all hotel guests, which comes at handy if you come back to the hotel very tired and do not feel like eating outside. Beware, not everything is for free, which is why we advice to check with the staff in order to avoid some bad surprises in the bill.

Hotel 41: The Executive Lounge

The Executive Lounge – Source: www.tripadvisor.co.uk

We should point out that the Hotel 41 is a very small hotel: it consists of only 28 rooms, with a decoration that mixes modernity and 19th century taste. The lobby, the lift, the rooms, everything is smaller than the average; there is no spa, or a pool, or even a small gym. If you are a fan of large and spacious hotels, with huge common areas, this is not your cup of tea.

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Conservatory Suite – Source: www.41hotel.com

The key of the success and popularity of this hotel is  guest service. Being such a small hotel the trait with the guests is much more personal, the staff learns everybody’s name pretty quickly and all of them are trained to give a great service. The Concierge makes the impossible to book a table at the typical fully booked restaurant and is informed about the best activities and events. Housekeeping would turn down your bed each night and leave some sweets, light a candle and turn on some relaxing music

Comparable to others luxury hotels in london, it has very reasonable prices; nevertheless, you should consider it is a relatively new hotel, the finishing are still fresh. It is getting very good opinions over the internet, which why we can expect a raise of the prices during the next couple of years.

Your Bicentennial Concierge is always available for further information about this peculiar hotel. For other opinions you can refer to the following pages:

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The National Gallery of London

The National Gallery is among the most important attractions in London, and a must-see for those people who are passionate about arts. It is one of the richest art galleries in the whole world. You can appreciate its collection even if you are not an expert. The paintings, about 2300 pieces, cover a period from 1250 to 1900, and are located in different rooms.

For example, the High Renaissance is covered in the West Wing. where you can find paintings of Michelangelo, Rubens and El Greco among others. The most popular section is the East Wing (1700-1900), where Van Gogh and Monet hold court. The masterpieces of the National Gallery of London are very well known to the general public:

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Venus and Mars by Botticelli – Source: www.nationalgallery.org.uk

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Sunflowers by Van Gogh – Source www.nationalgallery.org.uk

The building is huge, you might need hours or even a couple of days in order to see all the paintings. Since its foundation  in 1824 it gradually grew thanks to private donations. If you do not have much time the best thing is to select a particular section so that you can see what interests you the most. The restaurants are quite good, if you feel like taking a break and continue with your visit after lunch.

The most astonishing fact is that you can access the National Gallery of London for free, you pay for the extras (map of the building, audioguides…) and for temporary expositions. Beware, the gifts shops are particularly expensive. The audioguides (3.50 pounds) can be very useful, although for some languages they are not complete and do not have comments for all the paintings. You can give a donation if you wish, either on site or online

Some parts might be closed, which is why it is better to check in advance. There have been some proposals for the privatization of the museum, which resulted in strikes and the consequent closure of some parts, due to the lack of staff. In such a case you might want to leave your visit for the future if there are some parts you really wanted to see or just enjoy the rest, there is more than enough.

Being one of the most important museum of the whole world, you might want to take covers and avoid the queues. This can be done if you access the building first thing is the morning (it opens at 10.00). The busiest time if from 15.00 to 18.00 approximately, especially if a group of students is visiting the museum. For a more personalised visit, you can book a private tour, just check the link below:

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Your Bicentennial Concierge remains at your disposal for further information.

Luxury Hotels in London: Corinthia Hotel

The Corinthia Hotel is everything you would expect from Luxury hotels in London. Best service, wonderful rooms and common areas decorated with modern taste. And a  great setting. It is a building which previously belonged to the Government, which was refurbished completely and given the function you can see today. It is very close to the metro station and several attractions can be reached by foot. The National gallery is only a few minutes away, while the British Museum can be easily reached with a cab in less than ten minutes. If you are using a car, the Corinthia has a parking which is quite expensive (55£), but worthy considering where it is located.

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Source: www.corinthia.com

Being a relatively new hotel, the style of the rooms is modern and elegant. There is everything you need for a comfortable stay; the minibar is full of quality products, and you will have a Nespresso coffee machine at your disposal. The bathroom is luxurious, the amenities are from the internationally recognised brand ESPA and there is a flat TV in case you want to relax in the bathtub.

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The Royal Penthouse – Source: www.corinthia.com

                                

Source: Youtube

As for the common areas, the hotel has two restaurants (The Northall and The Massimo) and two bars (The Bassoon and the Northall Bar). The Northall serves British food while the Massimo is more typically Italian. They are highly recommended if you do not feel like eating outside or for pre-theatre dining. Plus, the Corinthia has an excellent afternoon tea, which is served in the Alfresco entertaining area, recently refurbished by David Collins Studio. If you just want to sit and relax, there are as well a very nice lobby lounge and an inner courtyard with a fireplace in both sides.

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The Lobby Entrance – Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

The Spa is located on four different levels.  It can be accessed by the children for a few hours during the day. It uses the ESPA quality products.  The gym is well equipped and open for the guests 24 hours a day.

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Source: www.tripadvisor.com

For business trips, the Corinthia has several rooms for meeting and events,  most of them are relatively small but a couple  of them have a high capacity (up to 250 people). They are all very well equipped

The staff do their best in order to make your stay unforgettable, even according to some more demanding guests they are still on the way to the top standars. Anyhow, should you encounter any problem during your stay, there is a very efficient Guest Relations department ready to assist you.

The prices are high, some people even think it is overpriced although generally speaking it is in line with any other five star hotel of the city. It opened only four years ago, which means it has the potiential for being one of the best hotels in London. Your Bicentennial Concierge will remain at your disposal for further information. If you need to read more opinions on the hotel, please check the following:

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Luxury Penthouses in Central London : Four Bedrooms/Four Bathrooms

This Presidential Apartment is a wonderful option if you are looking for luxury penthouses in central London: four bedrooms, each one with its own bathroom and jacuzzi. It can sleep up to 8 people, which makes it ideal for families or  small groups looking for comfort and luxury in one of the best locations in the City.

Source: www.tripadvisor.com

The private entrance to the property gives you the highest level of privacy and intimacy. The tile is made of high quality wood and the common areas (living room and kitchen) are equipped with modern taste. The big windows makes it very bright.

There is air-conditioning, a flat screen TV with cable and satellite signal, sound system, a direct telephone with voice mail and wireless internet connection. The dining table is suitable for 8 people. There is a safe in case you need, too.

Source: www.tripadvisor.com

The kitchen is equipped with everything required in a luxury apartment, such as a washing mashine with drier, dishwasher, microwave, a kettle and a toaster.

Source: www.tripadvisor.com

The Penthouse is located in a building with other luxury apartments, and is supported by the services typical of a top class hotel: maid and laundry services (linens and towels are provided), 24-hour reception/concierge, business facilities and security service in the common areas (including the garage).

For those people who like to train while they are on holiday, there is a nice gym in the building for a general yet complete workout. You can find cardiovascular machines and exercise materasses, and a good sound and visual equipment.
A security deposit, such as an authorization on your credit card is required in order to cover the incidentals and possible damages.  The authorisation will be cancelled after check out once the bill has been settled.

You can contact the management of the building or book directly (the property has payment protection):

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Your Bicentennial Concierge remains at your disposal for any doubts or for further assistance.







Alfileritos 24, Modern Restaurant in Toledo

This modern restaurant in Toledo is a good option if you are in town and are looking for something which is not too much touristy.
The building is an old house, which has been fully restored. From the outside it looks old, while the decoration inside is definitely modern, a mixture of wood, steel and glass. It consists of two different sections: the ground and first floor are for menus, tapas and drinks, while the upper ones make the actual restaurant, with the tables disposed around the classical central patio. The music is pleasant, and creates a nice ambiance. That is why we suggest Alfileritos 24: whether you are looking for tapas and a couple of drinks or if you prefer having a full meal, this restaurant is definitely a valuable choice. You can even have breakfast here, both salty and sweet.

 

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Source: www.tripadvisor.es

As for the food itself, there are some good typical dishes even though there is not too much choice; nevertheless, they offer some alternatives for the little kids or for people with special dietary need (i.e. celiacs). Some of the dishes, nicely elaborated, are pretty much appreciated and have a very good value for money. For example, the deer meat, the typical croquetas or the marzipan soufflé are sure choices. If you prefer fish there are some possibilities, although it is not the restaurant specialty. Make sure you try the famous Iberian ham, either alone or with toasted bread; you will not be disappointed. The wine menu is interesting, too.

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Source: restaurantesdetoledo.com

The staff is nice and attentive, although when the place is full they tend to work faster and leave some of the customers unattended, especially during week-ends. Still, they work hard in order to give a good service.

In conclusion, if you are in the Old Town of Toledo and are looking for a good tapas restaurant for lunch or a nice restaurant for dinner, without being too fancy, Alfileritos 24 deserves a visit. For more opinions please check:

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You can book online (http://www.alfileritos24.com/) or through your Bicentennial Concierge.