Love and Charity London-style

Regional GM of The Ascott UK, Rebecca Hollants Van Loocke, recommends a kinder London and a preview into the 2012 buzz

Issue: Dec 2011

London is a cosmopolitan city with a buzz and dynamism that is unique
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As a Londoner born and bred here, I might be a little biased when I say that London is the best city to live in. I have lived in many other cities in the world before but London just has a special buzz and dynamism that is hard to replicate. It is so diverse and there is something new to experience every day. It is also a place where, if you are willing to work hard, you can progress and grow.

Hollants Van Loocke enjoys the special buzz of London and its dynamism with her family
Hollants Van Loocke enjoys the special buzz of London and its dynamism with her family

I appreciate this about my city very much. That is why I firmly believe in giving a hand to those in need so they, too, can have a chance to rise above their circumstances. At Citadines Trafalgar Square London, one of the serviced apartments under my care, we always try to help out good causes. We organised fundraising activities to raise money for the victims of the tsunami in Japan. Last month, my team and I sold poppies for Remembrance Day, a day reserved to honour and remember those in the armed forces who had died in the line of duty. On a fun note, our male staff members grew moustaches in November to raise money for The Prostate Cancer Charity for pancreatic cancer research.

So, when we began renovating our property from March this year to, it was very natural for us to donate some of the furniture we had removed to charity. After all, living room sets, kitchen units, baths and other accessories were still in good condition. Re-using the items in this way not only benefits others, it is also environmentally friendly.

Citadines Trafalgar Square London
Upon refurbishing Citadines Trafalgar Square London (left), the old furniture (right) were donated to charity

Simple Festive Fun

In keeping with the spirit of giving and charity if you come to visit this incredible city this festive season, there are quite a few fun and novel things you and your family can do. For starters, you might want to check out the Great Christmas Pudding Race. The annual London Race will take place on 3 December at the Covent Garden Piazza, a five-minute walk from Citadines Trafalgar Square London, in aid of Cancer Research UK, supported by Matthew Walker, the world's oldest Christmas pudding maker, and Covent Garden Market. Participants make a dash through a course strewn with flour-filled balloons and other obstacles while being pelted by foam jets, all the while balancing a Christmas pudding on a flimsy plate. Just to up the ante, they also have to dress up in costumes. I personally love the event because of the fun and celebratory spirit and also because it is for a good cause. I cannot think of a better break from Christmas shopping that is fun, funny, and absolutely in keeping with the festive season and the spirit of Christmas.

A winter wonderland awaits at the Enchanted Woodland at Syon Park
A winter wonderland awaits at the Enchanted Woodland at Syon Park
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To add to your glistening experience this festive season, take a walk through the Enchanted Woodland at Syon Park in the evening. The old oak trees and gardens at the park, a 25-minute drive from the property, are adorned with over a thousand lights. Bathed in a kaleidoscope of colours, the trail leads you around an 18th century lake in the park. I find the experience of watching the winter trees reflected in the still, clear waters as I stroll under frosty winter skies a totally magical one.

Then, stay on in London to usher in the new year. On New Year's Eve, a fun, festive and totally free activity to do is to make your way to the banks of the River Thames just a short walk from Citadines Trafalgar Square London. There, you can watch the traditional 10-minute fireworks display that bursts into action at the stroke of midnight. The best places to view the New Year's Eve Fireworks are South Bank, Waterloo Bridge and Victoria Embankment. Go early because a crowd of a quarter of a million usually throng the area.

Home-style London Fare

The Wilton Arms at Kinnerton Street is a village pub that has a cosy ambience and great comfort food
The Wilton Arms at Kinnerton Street is a village pub that has a cosy ambience and great comfort food
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Keeping your festive season simple can be restful and enjoyable. That goes for food as well. So, the simple English fare is something I would recommend. My all-time favourite pub is The Wilton Arms on Kinnerton Street, a 15-minute walk from the Apart'hotel. Kinnerton Street itself has a quaint old-world feel to it and is styled in the fashion of English hamlets of old. At The Wilton Arms, all the English comfort foods can be found – fish and chips; eggs, sausages, beans and chips; and roast beef with horseradish and mustard dressing. Then, wash it all down with a mug of traditional ale.

On weekends, take a 15-minute walk to Borough Market, London's most famous food market to pick up British produce to take home. Fresh fruits, vegetables, English preserves, honey, cheeses, candy, pate, meat pies, baked goods and more – traders hawk food lovingly created in their very own kitchens. I love the chorizo sandwich there and cannot resist one whenever I wander around the area.

Looking into 2012

Next year, London will be the city to visit because we are the host city for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. As part of the city's effort to let everyone enjoy London 2012 and to inspire creativity in every form, the Cultural Olympiad was launched. It is the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements. There will be activities in film, art, literature, music, theatre, dance as well as a circus. l. One event called Discovering Places might be of special interest to new visitors. It is a UK-wide campaign that lets participants discover, explore, be inspired by and benefit from the country's hidden treasures like historical and contemporary buildings, public spaces and natural places. So, even if you are not a sports fan, you might want to put London on your travel agenda just to soak in the excitement of it all.

Like I said, London is a city alive with activity, buzzing with dynamism and full of possibilities. But it is also a city that allows you to enjoy the simple things in life. Come and experience it for yourself.

Come stay with us at …

Citadines Trafalgar Square London
18/21 Northumberland Avenue,
WC2N 5EA London
Tel: (44 20) 7 766 37 00
Fax: (44 20) 7 766 37 66

Ascott Mayfair London
No 49 Hill Street, Mayfair
London W1J 5NB
United Kingdom
Tel: (44 20) 7 499 6868
Fax: (44 20) 7 499 0705

Citadines Barbican London
7-21 Goswell Road
London EC 1M 7AH
Great Britain
Tel: (44 20) 7 566 80 00
Fax: (44 20) 7 566 81 30

Citadines Prestige Holborn-Covent Garden London
94-99 High Holborn
London WC 1V 6LF
Great Britain
Tel: (44 20) 7 395 88 00
Fax: (44 20) 7 395 87 99

Citadines Prestige South Kensington London
35A Gloucester Road
London SW7 4PL
Great Britain
Tel: (44 20) 7 543 78 78
Fax: (44 20) 7 584 91 66

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