I have mentioned in at least one earlier blog entry that I used to travel quite frequently for work. When I did that, I learned to join all the rewards clubs, such as Hilton, Marriott, Hertz, etc. One of the best of all of the programs is Starwood (Starwood Preferred Guest.) That is the mother company that owns the hotel chains Four Points, Sheraton, W, Aloft, Westin, and a small collection of really fancy properties that they call The Luxury Collection. Note that airline mileage programs are similar, though in my experience it can be easy to earn airline miles but tricky to actually “spend” them due to a labyrinth of special rules and restrictions. Starwood points in contrast, are very easy to use.
The reason to join these clubs is that as you pay for your hotel rooms or rental cars you build up points that, depending on the plan, can be used for things like free nights, room upgrades, hotel amenities, rental car upgrades, etc. This is all especially great when your company is paying for your travel! Many a business traveler has taken the family on vacation with points earned from their work trips.
Whenever possible on business trips I would try to stay at Sheraton and Westin hotels so I could build up my Starwood points. Those are 2 nice quality chains with room prices that usually fell in a range that my company didn’t complain about – and I got all the points.
So – on to London! The working Stiff has had just a few short trips to Europe – long weekends in London and Paris. In both cases we stayed at hotels that were paid for either with Starwood or Hilton points earned through my business travel. Also in both cases those hotels were probably fancier than we would have been able to afford had we actually had to pay for them ourselves. In London we had a room at the Green Park Hilton, which was in a central area of the city quite near to Buckingham Palace and many other famous attractions.
I had been reading a magazine one winter day and came upon an advertisement for a special James Bond exhibit hosted at the London Science Museum. If memory serves the exhibit was over at the end of May. Now, it has probably not yet been mentioned in the context of this blog that The Working Stiff is a huge James Bond fan. We had been kicking around the idea of a trip to London for some time but pretty much just like a “let’s do that someday” sort of a thing. After seeing this ad though, I announced decisively to the wife that we needed to get to London and we needed to get there before the end of May! Preparations began soon thereafter!
We only had 4 nights but we packed in as many touristy things as we could. We browsed around the vast Harrods department store, we attended a showing of The Mousetrap, and we went through the very touristy but fun “London Dungeon” chamber of horrors type of thing. We did get to go through The Tower of London where we saw the Crown Jewels and that was really cool.
We had a pint of ale in a classic old London pub. And of course, we did get to the James Bond exhibit, which had been put together with the full cooperation of the official James Bond production company, so there were lots of real props, behind-the-scenes exhibits, and quite a few miniature and full size cars and other vehicles used in the movies, including a few Aston Martins and Goldfinger’s Rolls Royce. Enjoy the pictures!
The Working Stiff