I do not talk much about my friends, but you should know a little bit about John, one of my closest friends of more than 15 years. He never did especially well in high school and skipped college, but he is the shrewdest, smartest, and most successful businessman that I know. Quite frankly, who needs college when you run two businesses very well? He’s a workaholic like me, but I managed to drag him out of LA for a weekend to check out England.
The purpose of the trip, at least from my perspective, was to attend a concert at Royal Albert Hall on Sunday night. But the trip turned out to be a little bit more complex.
To address the obvious question, I tired to drag my wife Heidi along, especially since her sister lives in London, but she had a prior commitment over the weekend and no interest in the concert anyway. She suggested I ask my brother or John to join me. My brother was stuck at a wedding in Baltimore, but he’s been to London before – it was John’s turn for a weekend trip with me.
John is the kind of person who refuses to fly business class – it is first class or nothing. He’s not to the point of private jets yet, but since he has struck it rich he really will not fly in business class on a plane that has first class. I’ve shown him the value of miles and points, so at least he’s not spending good money for his airfare, just miles.
John also doesn’t book things in advance – plans tend to change at the last minute and I don’t think I have ever booked a trip for him more than two days in advance. That works out nicely when it comes to first class redemptions, where airlines tend to release space at the very last minute.
As it turns out, John likes flying United Airlines in Global First. He only has Lufthansa to compare it to, but he has had good treatment on United in the past and likes that he can save $400 each way versus Lufthansa when using Aeroplan miles, since no fuel surcharge is collected for United flights. Just wait till he tries Cathay Pacific and Singapore…
So the night before I booked him on United’s non-stop flight from LA to London in first class and we agreed to meet at Heathrow the following afternoon, with me flying in from Frankfurt.
I’ve served as a tour guide to family and friends in London before, so I mapped out a plan to visit Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Houses of Parliament, Churchill Cabinet War Rooms, and the Imperial War Museum. A full weekend, but a good taste of London. When I do London, I do London as cheap as possible – points for hotels, the Tube instead of the Heathrow Express to Paddington, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants like my favorite Persian restaurant called Patogh on Crawford Place off of Edgeware Road.
But John doesn’t like museums. And he especially doesn’t like public transportation. I also held off booking a hotel for Saturday night and got screwed by Hyatt Gold Passport reservations (more on that in a future post), so by the time John arrived there still was no hotel booked and hotels were mostly full, especially the chain ones I had points for.
The Ritz had a few rooms left: “Only 1500 GBP per night,” my friend remarked. “Let’s split it!”
How about not.
John’s favorite hobby is to acquire new cars, so he decided, especially when I mentioned that we would take the hour-long subway into town, that he had another plan – let’s rent a car.
I tried to reason with him…driving in London with a car is like stepping in dog refuse…
But John had made up his mind and from the United Arrival’s Lounge in Heathrow we booked a luxury vehicle – a one-day rentral set us back nearly 300 GBP. Yes, that’s a three.
“Where do you want to go my friend?”, he asked.
Well, to be honest I did have a destination in mind: Stonehenge. Perhaps Bath, England as well. Stonehenge is one of those silly things you pay to see once in your life and that is enough, but how could I pass up the opportunity to check out one of the seven wonders of the world?
So roaring down M something or other in our slick BMW, we sped toward Stonehenge to check out this pile of rocks.
Did I mention this was the first time either of us had driven on the “wrong” side of the road? John drove first and nearly got us into accident with the parking gate…depth perception is a challenge when you are driving on the other side of the road. But he soon got the hang of it, as did I when I drove later on.
Stonehenge was nice enough…the smart people are the ones who park in the nearby field and walk up to it instead of paying 15GBP to get just a tad closer.
John is a big fan of the Titanic, so our next stop…and overnight destination…was Southampton, the port city from which the Titanic set sail from.
My friend only eats Middle Eastern food if he can help it, so thankfully we found a kebab house and had dinner. The sun had already set, we were both tired, and so we started driving around town in search of a place to stay. The best hotel in Southampton is Jury’s Inn and I am sorry to admit that we paid 155GBP for one night’s accommodation there. That seems to be the going rate for weekends, but were able to get the hotel to throw in free breakfast, high-speed wi-fi, and parking (that saved us at least another 40GBP combined).
Neither John or I are into night life – we just went to bed.
Next morning, it was up early, a proper English Breakfast (for me at least, John just had fruit) and a visit to the SeaCity museum that tells the Titanic story. Nice museum, though John was bored after 20 minutes.
Then it was back to London Heathrow to dump the car. I drove back and am happy to say that I have fully mastered driving on the right side. We dropped the car at Heathrow and asked the shuttle driver to take us back to Heathrow so we could ride the Tube into Central London.
John vetoed the idea.
We took the Heathrow Express instead – he paid and it cut our travel time from 1hr to 15min. No complaints from me.
The train terminates at Paddington Station, which happened to be just a half mile from Patogh, my Persian restaurant, and so after a very nice lunch I suggested an underground trip to the City of Westminster, where I had booked a cash + points room at the new Conrad St. James (review coming).
John vetoed the idea.
We took Uber instead, which is actually an amazing deal in London. Forget the London cabbies – if you are in London you definitely want to use Uber.
Not yet using Uber? Use my referral link and both you and I get $30 off our next ride.
We arrived around 5:20p to the Conrad and had only minutes to change into concert attire, with the show starting at 6:00p. I suggested we take the Underground to Royal Albert Hall.
John vetoed the idea.
Uber it was, and we got to the concert on time. John hated it, I loved it, and by the time that was over it was time for ice cream, where we were hosed $25 for two dishes of vanilla ice cream with berries.
A walk home? Only about a mile…
John vetoed the idea.
The next morning, after a quick breakfast at the hotel, I took John on a walking tour of the area so at least he could see Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. And that was it – time was over and it was time to return to Heathrow, where we would both fly to Frankfurt. I suggested we take the Underground.
John vetoed the idea.
This time, since we were not near Paddington, we used Uber to get back and it came out only 37 GBP, a very good deal and well worth the expenditure since we were carrying bags.
We had an incident at Heathrow with a snow globe, but I’ll save that for another post. It was on to Germany, with thoughts of racing on the Autobhan and more spaghetti ice cream dancing through John’s head.
hmm…spent alot of $$$…courtesy ur richie rich friend 🙂
Nice post. I’ve always womdered about doing England on a weekend only. I agree with your friend that you might have to spend a little more to help speed things along during a short stay.
John sounds like a drama queen. Opposites attract they say.
I’d love to do England one day!
you should have gotten in touch…for the sake of old times, you know! 🙂
@TJ: Next time! Are you at LHR? The new Global First arrivals lounge is great – want to check out the United Club as well.
So John is all that but never been to London before?
@Santastico: John is not an avid world traveller…yet. He’s been too busy building his companies.
Th UA Club and GF Lounge is superb, best one in the system yet…
Will not be in LHR much longer, now that T2 is up and running, and move back to Germany by end of October for an new job.
I thought I was your best friend
I haven’t laugh this much reading a TP in ages. Your friend John is certainly a character! I will check that Persian Restaurant next time I’m in London
Andre, Patogh is really my favorite restaurant in London. You will love it!
Is John imaginary?
Sometimes I wish, but no.