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London Walking Tours with Context Travel

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Context Travel – Private Guides and (Very) Small Group Tours for the Intellectually Curious Traveler

The Royal Wedding is over but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy London in all its glory.

One of our favorite walking tour experts, Context Travel, offers several awesome historical and foodie tours around the British capital.

One of the key reasons we enjoy Context Travel is that their tours are all led by qualified docents, Ph.D.-level scholars of history, art and archaeology. Forget the boring introductions–discover in-depth perspectives that go beyond the guidebook. 

Here are just some of the tours to check out this summer:

London Walking Tours with Context Travel

group tours context travel

1. Royal Life

The world’s attention descended upon London this past weekend as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tied the knot. It was a wedding that defied many royal traditions, from Markle’s country of origin, to its location at Windsor Castle, to the dearth of fruitcake at the reception (Gasp!). 

How did these rules become so codified, and what is the significance of their recent breaking? Get an “intellectually curious” take on royal tradition—be it marriage on Context Travel’s Westminster Abbey Tour, murder on their Tower of London Tour, or a full overview on their Full Day Royal Tour (8 hours of monarchy glory). 

2. Tate Britain

Though often overlooked by visitors, some have argued that Britain’s heart and soul resides in the stately Tate Britain Museum. Dive right in with Context Travel’s art historian and explore J.M.W. Turner’s sublime seascapes and Francis Bacon’s contortions.

Read: Why a visit to this cultural treasure is a must for any visitor. 

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3. The King’s Sport

This July, London welcomes the return of Wimbledon, but year-round there’s another royally curious sport upstream the River Thames. The week following the tournament, the Real Tennis Champions Trophy returns to Hampton Court Palace, in which world-famous players descend to play an ancient game of, shall we say, “real tennis.” Real tennis, is not your grandma’s racket sport. “Real tennis,” enjoyed by the likes of Charles II, William III, and even Prince Albert, differs significantly from its modern counterpart, and can only be played on one of 50 courts remaining in the world.

4. Shakespeare in London

What better place to celebrate the Bard than the city where his plays excelled? Behind the modern sprawl of London lies the secret history of the theatre. During this London Theater Tour,you’ll reconstruct London’s historic stages, and come to understand the social and artistic forces that were born here and that still underpin entertainment in the western world. You’ll explore in-depth the influence of one William Shakespeare, whose works, staged in London, continue to resonate throughout the world today.

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5. Pubs, Pubs and More Pubs

Pubs and beer are symbols of the best of Britain, where you can gorge yoruself on fish, chips, and brews. This 3-hour London Beer and Brewery Tour is all about ample tastings at various pubs and breweries located in the South Bank London area. Led by a trained food anthropologist specializing in beer and brewing, you’ll focus on the history of brewing in London, highlighting beer’s evolution from a dietary staple, to the almost lost tradition of cask ales, to today’s renaissance of craft beer and brewing.

For more awesome London tours or an awesome travel agent to book your trip to Britain this year, give us a call at 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. Cheers!

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The Scoop on the London Pass

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So you’re planning a Spring getaway to London, City of Sherlock and tea and Dr. Who and amazing museums.

Nearly every metropolis has its transport+sightseeing card, and you can bet that London has a few. One of the best the London Pass. But is this little card actually worth it?

Validity

You can buy the London Pass for a validity of 1, 2, 3, 6 or 10 consecutive days.

Cost/Benefit Factor

One Day is 69 GBP ($98), which may seem steep at first – but if you factor in everything you get and all the time/confusion you’re spared, it’s actually a pretty good deal. The card offers free entry to over 55 top London attractions, including Must-Sees like the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. It also has bonus activities like the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour, the Thames River Cruise and discounts on West End theatre tickets. Plus you can Skip the Line at certain venues, and they throw in a free guidebook for good measure. Of course, the more days you spend in London, the more it pulls its weight – a 3-day pass will cost you only 38 GBP ($54) per day.

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So how does it all break down?

For example, one morning you visit to the Tower of London, then take a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour. After lunch you tour the stunning Westminster Abbey, and wrap up the day with entrance into The Shard, the tallest buliding in Western Europe. The whole day without the pass would set you back around 110 GBP ($155). With the pass of course it’s $98 – so you’ve already saved more than $50.

Transportation

If you throw in $21 extra, then you also get the London Travel Card, usable on all public buses, trams, and the Underground for the whole day.

Where to buy?

Willamette Intl Travel sells the London Travel Card issued by Raileurope, which, if you’re an American who’s pre-booked your rail tickets in Europe, you’ve used in all likelihood. We’re in Portland – call us at 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

Final Verdict

If you’re the type of traveler who loves museums and can spend a whole day wandering around London to the Albert & Victoria Museum, the British Library, the jaw-dropping British Museum—then yes, it’s worth it. Order it before you depart USA from Willamette Intl Travel.

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Hotel Profile: The Ampersand

ampersand in London

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Make 2018 extra special with a stay at the Ampersand in London.

Winner of multiple awards including World Luxury Hotel Awards and Condé Nast Traveler’s Hot List, we at Willamette Intl Travel are absolutely in love with this hotel. The Ampersand is a hit with all of our clients who we’ve recommended to stay at this elegant boutique hotel in South Kensington. Just south of Hyde Park, and within walking distance of Harrods, Knightsbridge, Chelsea, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and of course the tube just across the street, all of London is well within reach.

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London was absolutely wonderful.  The Ampersand Hotel was really perfect, great location, great room – I would highly recommend to other travelers to London. 

—Our client Karen Q.

Built in 1888, the Ampersand Hotel boasts original Victorian features—from high ceilings to haunting gargoyles—and a modernist flair that attracts patrons looking for that special, atmospheric je ne sais quoi. At the Ampersand, guests can choose among 111 luxury hotel rooms, each designed with five themes in mind – botany, music, geometry, ornithology and astronomy. Their eclectic interior harks back to the Victorian age of discovery and curiosity. Dubbed by various patrons “whimsical,” “stylish” and “modern,” sometimes you just need a luxury hotel with a dash of the creative and humorous.

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The on-site restaurant Apero appeals to both guests and locals, with relaxed Mediterranean fare. In the Drawing Rooms, guests can enjoy delicious desserts and savory treats from cream cheese planet mousse to passion fruit macaroons and prosecco mint jelly. Look for the all-day coffee and tea menus and the classic hearth fire. Hosting a private dinner party? At the Wine Room, enjoy private dining dedicated to their cellar of fine wines. There is also a Game Room, Gym and Library to round out your London stay.

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Families are also welcome at the Ampersand, with a range of facilities just for parents traveling with children. Their rooms, studios, and suites in the Deluxe category accommodate either a fold-away bed or an interconnecting room. All suites come with a small kitchenette, and in their restaurant Apero, there is a children’s menu available. Children of ages up to 4 receive a complimentary continental buffet breakfast. Kids will certainly appreciate the proximity of fossils and the cool whale skeletons at the Natural History Museum!

The Ampersand is a member of the Imperial College Environment Society, which is devoted to sustainable hotel practices such as recycling, proper disposal of food waste and the use of biodegradable cleaning materials. The hotel also raises donations each year for the Great Ormond Street Hospital and the British Heart Foundation.

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London on a Dime

london on a dime budget

London is often touted as one of the most expensive cities in the world. But with the recent fares in airfare, it’s become a lot more affordable! Here are a few of our quick tips on how to do London on a budget:

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London on a Budget–Let’s Check it Out!

1. Zoom in on Airport Rail

You can grab a taxicab OR if you don’t want to spend crazy amounts of money, opt for the Heathrow Express. This sweet commuter train is comfy, will take you right into downtown, and set you back only about £18.50. It’s the best option that’s both comfortable and convenient, even with all your luggage.

2. Free Museums

London is a huge city and offers its visitors a wealth of free things to see and do. Look out for those free museums like the British Museum, Tate Modern, National Gallery, Museum of London. Stretch out a picnic in sunny outdoor spaces: Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and Hampstead Heath. Or simply wander the streets—summertime is the perfect season to catch some impromptu performances and artists.

3. Get an Oyster Card

Transportation in London doesn’t come cheap—you can spend up to £15 per day if you’re not careful. The Oyster Card is great for travelers staying in London more than three days. It’s a rechargeable card that gives you access to the Tube, DLR, Overground, TFL Rail and most national rail services in London. Plus it’s much cheaper than buying a single paper ticket.

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4. Or invest in a London Pass

The London Pass is for all those museum nuts out there. This card grants a discount for those tourist attractions that come with a price tag: Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Britain at War Museum. Plus you get free public transportation—so if you’re a museum fan, make sure you pick up this pass instead of the Oyster card. Ask your agent at Willamette Intl Travel about London Passes—we can arrange them well before you leave USA!

5. Take a Walking Tour

Our agents at Willamette Intl Travel can set you up with an affordable, context-rich tour of London. Whether your passion is food and markets, art history, or modern metropolis—we’ll find one just right for you. Remember to pack good walking shoes, a must for any day out exploring in Europe.

Willamette Intl Travel has arranged trips to London for almost 40 years! What do you expect, when our founders were born in England? 🙂 Call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Diamond Jubilee

photo by Elliott Brown

The festive air is flooding into London as crowds flock to this year’s Olympics and Jubilee. Hotels and flights are swelling up to no vacancy, and all the UK is busy with preparations. For those of us abroad, we can at least enjoy the festivities from a stress-free distance.

But what is a Diamond Jubilee and how will the Queen be celebrating?

The practice of Jubilees dates back to antiquity, when Hebrews observed a year of rest and universal pardon every 50 years. It was eventually incorporated into the Roman Empire and Christianity as a time of remission and holy pilgrimage.

Elizabeth II is the only British monarch to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee with the exception of Queen Victoria in 1897. It marks 60 years into her reign. Following tradition, festivities will be held in London and throughout the Commonwealth. The Royal Mint has issued a £5 coin with new portraits of the queen, to be minted for only one year.

Fun Fact: The flambéed dessert Cherries Jubilee is said to have been invented by Auguste Escoffier who prepared the dish for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebration.

PROGRAM OF EVENTS

2 June: The Queen will kick off her celebrations by attending the Epsom Downs’ Investec Derby Festival, featuring horse races and the greatest flat race in the world.

3 June: A flotilla of one thousand boats will accompany the Queen’s ship in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, which floats down the Thames River. Tickets are still available to the festival in Battersea Park—a great vantage point from which to view the on-sea pageant.

4 June: The Queen and some of her family will attend a concert at the Buckingham Palace, broadcasted live on BBC One, Radio 2 and on big screens across London. Later that night, thousands of beacons will be lit around the UK and the greater Commonwealth.

5 June: The Queen will attend a national service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral. She and her family will continue via processional route from Westminster Hall to Buckingham Palace.

Did you know that the British Monarchy has twitter? You can follow the Diamond Jubilee via live tweets @BritishMonarchy. Or to wish the Queen a good Jubilee, write to:

 

            Her Majesty The Queen

            Buckingham Palace

            London SW1A 1AA

 

Are you celebrating the Jubilee? Comment below and tell us how!

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Filed under England, Europe, Features, UK