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Chauffeur Drive Britain – Discover the Landmarks

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Discover the United Kingdom

 

By Joe Decker

In the Fall, I traveled to London with friends and family for a short weekend getaway. As, I had been there many times before, I was pleased ot just wander through this capital of history, art, finance, culture…and the list goes on. However, many of the members of my party were visiting for the first time. I began to talk to them about how we will walk from our Hotel to Buckingham Palace, and then down the river, and up through Mayfair. Even as I type this out, I understand how overwhelming this sounds. I could only imagine how my friends felt. For someone who had been so many times before, I was truly unsure how to showcase one of my favorite places to visit.

This is where using the services of Chauffeur Drive Britain become indispensable. Even in a country that speaks English, and provides very little cultural barrier to Americans, it is a difficult place to fully explore on your own, especially in a short amount of time. Theo Theodorou, the owner of Chauffeur Drive has been helping guests discover not only London, but the UK for years. Built on the base of a prestige chauffeur service, handling a range of VIP clients from celebrities, to the corporate elite. Meet greet services at Heathrow, to managing their daily schedules so they arrive to their appointments on time, and even making reservations at the hottest restaurants in the city for dinner. Him and his team are more than just drivers, but a full service “butler” navigating the city, providing your clients with access, and ensuring your clients’ have a seamless stay in London. This extends to the family who maybe traveling as well, arranging the finest blue badge guides for a visit to one of the city’s world class museums, door to door service to family friendly activities such as Harry Potter Studios, or to be your personal chauffeur as you make your own itinerary (of course with a few friendly suggestions).

As I mentioned before, on my very own journey to London. I looked to Chauffeur Drive and Theo to help my friends see something that was “touristy” but to do so in comfort and without a worry. It was arranged for us to go to Stonehenge. I provided a few details to him, such as where we were staying, party size, and about how long we wanted to be out of the city.

Our driver was waiting for us 15 minutes early outside of our accommodations. Tony was impeccably dressed, and as friendly as could be. We could tell immediately we were in capable hands. The vehicle for the day was elegant, and spacious. Which was good, as we were a group of 6, some of us being very tall. We had plenty of room and were comfortable for the entire 6 hour round trip journey. As soon as we were on the road, Tony spent some time explaining to us in detail our itinerary for the day. An hour and a half drive to Stonehenge, followed by a short tour of Salisbury, ending with lunch at a place that Theo chose himself based on a description of my group.

As we drove to Stonehenge, Tony would point out interesting landmarks, answer our questions, and provide little tidbits along the way, like what the slang Sleeping Policeman meant. We arrived 15 minutes before our scheduled tour time. Allowing us to stretch our legs, and get situated before making the walk to the ancient monument. All our tickets were pre-booked and handed to us, so we all had to do was pick up our audio guides. It was truly seamless. We were left with ample time to explore the stones, take photos, and walk through the accompanied museum. We never felt rushed that we had to make it back to the van in time to push along our itinerary. There was plenty of time built into our schedule that were were able to really soak in that we were standing in front of something that is truly historic and being in the UK that is saying something.

On our agreed upon meeting time, Tony was waiting for us with a smile, and ready to shuttle us over to Salisbury and our restaurant for lunch. After the long morning traveling, we were all ready for some food. Fitting the theme of the day, Theo chose a restaurant that was historic in its own right. The Haunch of Venison has a unique history that spans over 700 years, and while we waited for our meal, we explored the nooks and crannies of this hostelry. Some members of my group had an event to attend in the city after our tour, so we had a hard time to be back at the Hotel then make our way up to the Tower Bridge. However, we were having such a good time at the restaurant chatting and eating a wide variety of prepared venison, that I decided to talk to Tony and see how much room we had in the schedule. He was happy to accommodate and adjusted our schedule to allow us more time to relax and walk around the town. He even offered to take us directly to the Tower Bridge area instead of back to our Hotel in Mayfair. Saving us time and effort. This slight adjustment made all the difference in our afternoon. On the way back, we shared in friendly conversation, and even got a few recommendations for places to have dinner in the area, granted not that any of us were close to ready to eat again after that meal. After being dropped off, I asked my group what they thought of the service, as they don’t work in the industry and maybe wouldn’t have considered taking a private tour like this. They expressed their reluctance, with the extra cost. However, once they were on the road it felt like the only true way to do something like this. There was no worry about dealing with public transportation, working around schedules in a foreign country. Also, we never would have been able to spend our afternoon in the quaint town of Salisbury, we would have been too worried about getting back to the city on time. Stonehenge is a very common place to visit, however working Chauffeur Drive Britain made our time there all the more memorable, and most importantly worthwhile.

Gstaad – A Fairytale Village

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Gstaad – A Fariytale Village

 

By Brad Beaty

Gstaad, pronounced by the locals, “Sh-tah-d” (keep practicing!) is a fairytale village hidden deep in the Swiss alps. The town itself is as understated at its location. But, peeling back the surface, one finds this quaint and seemingly quiet town is really a center of culture, sophistication, wealth and tradition. Perched in a position as if it is overseeing the town is a really a center of culture, sophistication, wealth and tradition. Perched in a position as if it is overseeing the town’s activities is the world famous Gstaad Palace, one of The Leading Hotels of the World since the inception of this great organization, and a definer of Swiss Hospitality.

The culture of Gstaad is platformed by the locals who live there year-round and whose jobs are vary from farming to sales associates at the Hermes boutique, cheese makers and chocolatiers, to farmers to a butler at the most luxurious hotel in the country. This is what keeps Gstaad grounded in its roots. They live a simplistic way serving and mingle with the world’s rich and famous.

On top of this lies the seasonal residents and high-end tourists both appearing during two very different seasons. First, and what they are foremost known for, the ski crowd that doesn’t really ski….much, but are very fashionable in not doing so. After the “mud season” closure, the resort town lives again during the summer season, which is perhaps less fashionable, but there the scenery is definitely more colorful.

Whether a semi-resident, tourist our guest of the Gstaad palace, one will find themselves in the “living room” of the town having warm beverage or cool cocktail, depending on the season, and checking out who’s who on any given day. For example, you may be rubbing elbows with the CEO of a global fashion brand, hedge fund, or as we heard while we were there, Justin Timberlake who we heard was seen in town! As the “founder” of the destination this resort is a must, and by far the most elegant in town, while still brushing off the stuffiness associated with the word “Palace”. Guests are tastefully casual and relaxed.

My favorite things about the hotel: One, the views…on the main floor, there are open views to the stunning scenery of the Alps, nature, the village…the openness to the nature is something unique amongst hotel in Gstaad. Second, the spa. I am not huge spa person, but the spa at the Palace was beyond expectations in both it’s expansive areas and its range of staff and services. Third, the staff…one would have a perception of a Palace being a bit stiff. One of the things that can create this is the team at the hotel, but at this Palace, the team is as friendly as they are professional, down to earth as they are well-trained to anticipate your every need. Other things include, an in any order, the food and choice of restaurants and cuisine, the very comfortable and spacious rooms and amazing appointed suites, Gringo Night Club with the “over pool dance floor”!

Favorite activities in Gstaad…eating chocolate and cheese, by far, visiting the Glacier 3000 (although not a fan of heights, I pushed on and crossed highest the peak to peak suspension bridge in the world, and it was well worth it, and dining at the Walig Hut, the Palace’s very rustic “cabin” up on the mountainside surrounded by the cows, nature, and views that you will find nowhere else in the world.

Who to send to Gstaad Palace….? Families! They have an amazing array of activities that will ensure that those of any age are never looking for something more to do, both winter and summer. They take amazing care of young kids, teens, and adults, alike. From skiing, tennis, swimming, hiking, a replica of the palace “bouncy castle”, spa, shopping, all types of classes for traditional paper cutting, cooking, etc. You seriously cannot go wrong with families!

Tuscan Escape

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Tuscan Escape on the Arno

by Joe Decker

For as long as I have known my wife, and throughout our travels around the globe these past 5 years – Italy has always been our “next trip”. But as always, life gets in the way, and we continued to say….next time. Well as with most things in life, sometimes you just need a bit of a push to make a dream come true. Luckily, my wife is a good sport, and when that push came in the way of a European Tour by my favorite band…. next time quickly had a time and place.

When you are in Florence you find yourself instantly transported to a time of elegance and refinement. Surrounded by culture, history, iconic art, and the towering presence of the Duomo. A beacon of splendor, the Duomo fills the sky from every vantage point, positioning itself as the very center of Florence. After spending two days in the heart of Florence we left the crowded streets behind to the private retreat on the banks of the Arno River.

My wife and I decided to take the complimentary shuttle conveniently located by the Ponte Vecchio for our short journey to Villa La Massa. As soon, as we entered the gates, we found ourselves instantly transported to a sanctuary of peace and serenity. It was hard to believe we were only 15 minutes from the bustling tourist center of Florence.

Entering the grand lobby, my first thoughts were elegance and sophistication – a throwback to its origins as a 16th century Medici estate. Comprised of four buildings, all with their own unique touches, the 41 rooms and suites are decorated in an elegant Tuscan style perfectly encapsulating a noble country estate.

The tranquil grounds give you ample space to relax and rejuvenate – whether its lounging by the pool, or taking a walk through the large gardens surrounding the resort, your main companion will be the cascading sounds of the river and the chirping of birds.

Sadly, our time here was short, and as we journeyed to our next location in Italy, my wife shared a simple thought on Villa La Massa. “I can’t wait to take my parents here.” We quickly began to plan just that and couldn’t stop talking about how that would be an everlasting memory for our entire family.

Reflecting on my first time to Villa La Massa, I can’t help but get excited about my eventual return, which luckily for me is in a few short weeks. I look forward to sharing with you all more impressions upon my return from the Soul of Florence.

Parisian Inspiration

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Parisian Inspiration

by Brad Beaty

Twice in our lives, Giuseppe and I found ourselves in Paris, both there on business, both being separate hotels, thus having what was the opportunity burden of luxury being within blocks of each other but staying at competing hotels.  That having removed the romantic aspect out of Paris for us ultimately inspired us begin thinking that there had to be another way to live and work together!  Move forward several years, and viola…we are in Paris together with a small group of awesome travel advisors and enjoying every moment of this famed and favorite city of many as we are finally under the same work umbrella and roof!  Finally, we checked in the same hotels together!

After a wonderful weekend in Normandie, also hosted by the Barrier Group, we arrived in Paris at Le Fouquet’s.  It is a hotel I had known by name since it opened, but other than a quick peek of the lobby several years ago, it was all new to me.

Who wouldn’t want to stay at the city’s most notable address at the corner of the Champs Elysee and Avenue George V?  Location factor…. check!

Who would not want to dine at the famous Fouquet’s Brasserie where the who’s who that have ever visited or are native to Paris have sat and enjoyed the people watching along the world’s most renowned avenue, and of course all the while gorging on French classic cuisine?  Food and drink…check,.check.

Rooms?  I was very curious to see the “new” Fouquet’s after having been one of the most recent hotels to completely close for a full renovation.  The junior suite we were assigned was modern, elegant, and spacious.  It felt much like our own room at home with “quiet” décor, well organized large walk-in closets, large bathrooms and all the most modern amenities one could expect.  Accommodations….check, check, check!!

The hotel’s other facilities, such as the outdoor courtyard restaurant, the rooftop bar, the amazing “art” space spa (you must see it to understand), and the service all met and exceeded expectations.

So, having been to Paris several times, I was looking for our hosts to wow us outside of their home.  They indeed surprised even the most seasoned of us with tickets to the Kempt Exhibit, which humbled all.  This very “hipster” location was a warehouse room which once the program began, turned into “tattooed” walls, floors and ceilings from one of the world’s most famous artist through various phases of his creative live.  Thinking back only a few weeks ago, I don’t even remember if there was any music or sound accompanying the changes and movement, but in my head, it was complete silence as I felt personally blanketed in this exhibit.

Next day were met in front of the hotel by several vintage Citroen cars with driver guides for each.  This was like a throwback to cruising through narrow streets as if in the 1960’s!  Our drivers were fun, knowledgeable, and knew how to entertain while sharing secrets of the city.

The tour ended at the Batou, where we had a lovely luncheon this luxury dining ship famous for cruising the Seine.

After saying good-bye to our friends who were mostly returning home, Giuseppe and I headed to check in at our second hotel, Le Roch Hotel & Spa for a night, where we also me our auntie from London.  What I love about this hotel:

  • The entrance and lobby…. it’s like an open concept home when you walk in. You see the reception/lobby, bar, dining room, bar and library all in the same large, but cozy and warm, tasteful space.  I dare to compare it to a very luxurious “We Work” space, but with many more comforts and services.
  • The attention to detail….at the entrance of our suite, there was a photo of Giuseppe and I taken just days before in Normandie framed as a gift. Loved it!
  • The staff…while they are there for your every need, they are very real. You feel that you could sit down and become fast friends with all of them given the time….and I wanted to do just that.
  • The food, I expected to be casual and simple being that the dining was in the open concept area. Instead, this brilliant young chef completely surpassed what I expected with each dish.  The food was creative, awakened the senses, without being too contrived.
  • The location is a completely different Paris than the famed Champs Elysee we had just left, but just as interesting and convenient to a host of landmarks within blocks, such as the Palais Royal, Louvre museum, etc.
  • The pool in the lower level…. it’s just simply cool, and where else do you find such a great surprise in a 37-room hotel in Paris?

Although we did not have time to spend as typical tourists, we still enjoyed Paris together, and with two opposite hotels, but both with styles to attract the right clients, we will be back to share these with many more of you…. soon!