London is calling
A view of London from Waterloo Bridge. (BBC)
Among the many destinations to which I travel on business, I’m always most excited when London calls. Aside from my hometown of San Francisco, it’s my favourite city in the world.
I’m heading back over the pond later this week, and it got me thinking about all of the city’s charms.
I’m hypnotized by British Airways’ futuristic, aquarium-like Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, and I always try to arrive early (on the equally impressive 15-minute Heathrow Express train) to soak it all in. I’ll never forget roaring into Heathrow on one of the Concorde’s last trans-Atlantic flights on a snowy night in 2003.
I love watching the well-dressed, purposeful executives strut around London City airport and imagining what they do and where they are going. My first overseas flight from the US arrived at Gatwick Airport, which remains near and dear to my heart, even though it’s been years since I’ve flown through it.
I remember the amazement I felt when I took the Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel after it first opened in 1994 -- for a lunch meeting Paris -- something unheard of before then.
The dynamic London hotel scene is endlessly fascinating to me. Unlike other countries, London is not dominated by giant hotel brands so there are plenty of experimental and quirky places to check out. Over the last 25 years, I’ve slept in nearly every layer of the London hotel hierarchy, from backpacker hostels along the King’s Road in Chelsea to charming B&Bs in Earl’s Court, small row house hotels in Paddington to skyscrapers along Park Lane. British hospitality always seems to get it right when it comes to taking care of business travellers, even though London is outlandishly expensive in comparison to most other cities.
London’s food scene has also come a long way since the Cornish pasties, curries, ploughman’s lunches and treacle tarts that I loved back in the day. Over the last 20 years the city’s culinary clout has exploded and now rivals any other city in the world -- even San Francisco.
This year, all eyes are going to be on London with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in early June and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games between late July and early August. And a lot of burnishing, polishing and preparing has taken place since I last visited.
So I could use your help for my trip later this week. I’m certain nearly every BBC reader has been there -- or at least dreamt of being there recently -- and I’d like to hear your suggestions.
I put out a call for tips and advice when I went to India last year, and your input was invaluable to my trip and subsequent reporting. This time I’m looking for tips and advice for business travellers to London. What are the hot new business hotels? What’s new on the dining scene and where should I take clients out for a memorable business meal? What’s going on after hours that a business traveller might like to do? Is there anything new or exciting at the airports that I need to see?
Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel