20% off Select London Flats for February and March

For February and March, check out the following flats offering a 20% discount!

The Framery Flat 1 – £125/night – £100/night (sleeps up to 3 people)

The Framery Flat 2 – £125/night – £100/night (sleeps up to 3 people)

The Framery Flat 3 – £125/night – £100/night (sleeps up to 3 people)

The Framery Flat 4 – £159/night – £127/night (sleeps up to 3 people)

The Framery Flat 5 – £142/night – £114/night (sleeps up to 2 people)

The Framery Flat 6 – £142/night – £114/night (sleeps up to 2 people)

The Framery Flat 7 – £142/night – £114/night (sleeps up to 2 people)

Shoreditch 1-bedroom Flat – £165/night – £132/night (sleeps up to 3 people)

Regent’s Canal 3-bedroom – £278/night – £222/night (sleeps up 6 people)

Apartment Angel – £182/night – £146/night (sleeps up to 4 people)

The Framery Loft – £300/night - £240/night (sleeps up to 8 people)

 

To see all our London properties, click here.

 

 

Discovering Lisbon’s Belém Neighborhood

by Jessica Infantino Trumble

A day spent in Belém is a journey back to a time when Portugal ruled the seas.  This peaceful little suburb of Lisbon played a huge role in the Age of Discovery, as it was the starting point for explorers like Bartolomeu Diaz, Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan.  Their journeys literally spanned the globe, staking claims in Africa, Asia, India and South America along the way.  Even Columbus landed in Lisbon before returning to Spain after his famous 1492 voyage.

With boatloads of history and impressive panoramic views, Belém warrants at least a half-day of sightseeing, or longer if you have an appetite for discovery.

How to Get There

The easiest way to get to Belém from downtown Lisbon is to hop on tram #15E.  You can pick it up at Praça da Figueira, Praça do Comércio or the Cais Sodré rail station, and in about 30 minutes it will drop you off right in front of the Jerónimos Monastery.  Just be sure to not get off at the first “Belém” stop, rather wait for the next one named “Mosteiro Jerónimos”.  From there most of the main sights will be within walking distance.

Alternatively, you can also take bus #714 from Praça da Figueira or Praça do Comércio, or bus #728 from Praça Comércio or Cais Sodré.  When you’re ready to head back to Lisbon, catch the tram or bus from the same stop in front of the monastery (they come about every 10-15 minutes).  Both are covered if you have a Lisboa Card, otherwise just pay the driver when you get on.

The Lisboa Card also includes free entry to many sights in Belém including the Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery and offers discounts on several others.  If you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing or using a lot of public transportation in Lisbon, then the card is a good bet.  If your usage will be light, then you can probably skip it.

What to See

Belém offers a good mixture of museums and monuments depending on your preference.  Here are just a few of the top highlights.

You can’t miss the impressive Discoveries Monument soaring 171 feet high on the waterfront.  Built in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Prince Henry the Navigator’s death, the monument immortalizes Henry, placing him at the helm of the ship.  He’s followed by 32 other larger-than-life figures who also played a role in the Age of Discovery – monarchs, explorers, cartographers, artists, scientists, missionaries and the only female, Henry’s mother Felipa.

As you stand at the base of the monument, look around and take in the view anchored by the 25th of April Bride and Monument to Christ in the distance.  Then look down at the inlaid marble map in the square in front of the monument that chronicles the expeditions of Portugal’s explorers.

Next head to the Belém Tower, which was built in 1515 as a fortress and watchtower to guard Lisbon’s harbor.  The tower quickly became a symbol of the Age of Discovery since it was the last thing explorers would see as they embarked on their journeys and the first sign of home when they returned.


The exterior is an ostentatious example of Manueline architecture, named after King Manuel I to celebrate the prosperity during his reign.  This style of architecture is characterized by intricate ornamentation that glorified Portugal’s achievements as sea, like twisted rope, anchors, shells, flora, Manuel’s armillary sphere and Christian symbols because, after all, someone had to finance the journeys.

Cross the makeshift pedestrian bridge to get to the visitors entrance (during high tide the water can completely surround the tower), then spend some time exploring the various rooms that were once used for cannon firing and spoil storage.  The climb to the top of the tower’s terrace is worth the 120 steps for the sweeping view of the Tagus River.

Continuing with the theme of discovery, Portugal’s story of sea exploration comes to life at the Maritime Museum.  Located in a wing of the Jerónimos Monastery, adjacent to Calouste Gulbenkian Planetarium, the museum houses a collection of more than 17,000 seafaring items.  You’ll get an up-close-and-personal look at model ships from the Age of Discovery, ornate royal barges and other vessels, maps and navigation tools from the past few centuries.

From sea to land, the National Coach Museum offers another perspective on Portuguese transportation from a bygone era.  In 1905 when it was clear that motor cars would become all the rage, Queen Amélia had the riding arena at the royal palace turned into an exhibition area to preserve her collection of fancy coaches.  The museum’s unique collection began with 29 royal vehicles, along with uniforms, harnesses and other cavalry accessories, which has grown to include even more vehicles, art and artifacts from the 17th to 19th centuries.


Ending up back where you started, the Jerónimos Monastery is another brilliant example of Manueline architecture in Belém.  Construction began in 1501 under King Manuel to give thanks for the successful sea voyages of Vasco da Gama and other great explorers, fitting since it was the sale of spices from da Gama’s trip to India that financed the project.

The monastery was inhabited by the Hieronymite order of monks who provided spiritual guidance to sailors before they embarked on their journeys.  It’s also the final resting place for King Manuel, da Gama and other Portuguese notables.


The real highlight of the monastery is its cloisters.  Just like the Belém Tower, the bold yet elegant, lace-like arches and columns are heavily decorated with nautical motifs, representing a time of Portuguese wealth and sea power.  With such breathtaking architecture, it’s no wonder that the monastery and the tower are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


What to Eat

After a day of sightseeing, treat yourself to one more discovery at Pastes de Belém.  This café, which is conveniently located across from the Jerónimos Monastery bus stop, stakes claim as the birthplace of Lisbon’s trademark custard tarts.

They make about 20,000 of the pastel de nata a day, and rumor has is that the closely-guarded recipe is only shared with 3 pastry chefs at a time.  The tarts are served with little packets of powdered sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle on top, and usually warm and crunchy right out of the oven.

To read more about Jessica’s travel experiences and tips, check out her blog Boarding Pass.

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Some of the best value can be found in Lisbon on self-catering apartments.  Here’s 3 stylish, central and ultra-inexpensive places to stay in Lisbon:

Lapa D in Estrela – €60/night

Lisbon Core apartment – €60/night

My House in Lisbon – €79/night

Off the Beaten Path in Rome’s Monti Neighborhood

by Amy Knauff

Monti is the historic area located between Termini Station and the Colosseum/Roman Forum.  It’s where Woody Allen shot a good deal of “To Rome with Love” – so it’s your picture postcard version of Rome: ivy covered buildings, narrow cobblestone streets – but it’s less touristy, more authentic and hip than the area around Piazza Navona/Pantheon.  On a rainy autumn day, here’s what we’d consider an ideal visit:

9:30am: Start at the Cavour metro stop. Walk straight up the street in front of you, via Leonina. Here you’ll find two great cafés to choose from for breakfast. Ciuri Ciuri, at nr. 18, is a classic Italian bar with yummy Sicilian pastries (cassate, cannoli, marzipan, Modica chocolate, sweets made with Avola almonds and Bronte pistacchios). 2 Periodico Café, at nr. 77, is a cozy spot where you can enjoy a more leisurely breakfast while listening to chill-out music, snuggled up in an armchair as you read the morning paper.  For a typical Roman bar, with amazing coffee and good pastries, head right up Via del Boschetto to Er Baretto on your left at nr. 132 (has a few outside tables too).

10am: Head back down via Leonina to nr. 46/48, where you’ll find a big, blocky industrial-looking building that stands out like a sore thumb from the more quaint buildings in Monti. It’s a parking garage, and on Saturdays and Sundays, the ground floor is home to Mercato Monti, a small but interesting vintage-styled market. Purists, take note: most stuff in here is not actually vintage. But it’s the style that counts, and it’s a fun spot to pick up some interesting, offbeat finds and hang out with creative types.

11am: Leave the market and head out for a wander around the narrow cobblestone streets of Monti. This neighborhood is charming, picturesque and packed to the brim with interesting, eclectic shops for clothing, jewelry, and home goods. Stop by the uninspiringly named Candle’s Store (via Urbana, 21), which has gorgeous homemade candles. Aromaticus (via Urbana, 134) is like being in an adorable greenhouse; they sell garden and home decorations (and you can enjoy lunch or an organic smoothie or snack surrounded by greenery). On via dei Serpenti (nr. 141) check out Pifebo Vintage Shop, which has authentic vintage finds.

Of course, Monti isn’t just about shopping: the architecture is fascinating, as the mix of individual homes with street entrances, ivy-draped streets, and planters exploding with red and pink flowers make you feel like you’re not in otherwise chaotic Rome. Being something of a bohemian/artsy area, there is also plenty of interesting street art and graffiti to see as you walk around. (See if you can spot the space invader mosaics!) And of course, it’s de rigueur to pay a visit to the neighborhood church – the Church of Santa Maria ai Monti right in the main piazza was designed by none other than Giacomo della Porta.

1pm: You’ve earned a long lunch. Monti is loaded with good restaurants (for all budgets). Urbana 47 (at via Urbana 47, of course) is one of the most popular ones in Monti, and it’s “zero-kilometer” (locally sourced). But in general, it’s hard to go wrong in this area – it has mostly authentic, non-tourist-menu restaurants. Even La Bottega del Caffè located smack dab in Piazza della Madonna dei Monti is good, packed with tourists and locals alike. It has covered outdoor seating (so it’s great for people-watching) and I like their pasta with salmon in cream sauce. If you’re in the mood for something non-Italian, you can also get sushi at Daruma (via dei Serpenti 1) or Indian at Maharajah (via dei Serpenti 124) or Sitar (via Cavour 256) to name two of the four different Indian restaurants in the area.  Down Via dei Madonna ai Monti, almost at the end on the right, is Taverna ai Fori Imperiali (via della Madonna dei Monti 9), a well known Roman trattoria with great food – but you’ll definitely need to make a reservation.

2:30pm: Stretch your legs after lunch – climb the stairs next to the Irish pub on via Leonina and cross the busy street (via Cavour). On the other side there is a big tunnel with stairs. Walk up the stairs and keep going straight until you get to Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli. Follow the hordes of tourists into the church and visit the stunning marble statue of Moses, sculpted by Michelangelo.

3pm: Leave the church and keep going straight, away from via Cavour. You’ll soon get to the back end of the Colle Oppio park, which overlooks the Colosseum. On Sundays the dirt soccer field (called “la polverera” for its dustiness in the summer) in this part of the park is used all day by Latin American soccer teams. They play rain or shine. Huddle under your umbrella for a while and watch the back-to-back soccer games with the Colosseum as a backdrop. The smell of South American food and the sound of Latin rhythms add to the atmosphere.

4pm: It’s time for an afternoon coffee (or hot chocolate). Get out of the rain and into the closest coffee bar. Caffe dello Studente, just across from the soccer field, is Rick Steves-recommended and has a nice view of the Colosseum.

And no visit to Monti is complete without a stop at Fata Morgana on Piazza degli Zingari (up at the end of Via degli Zingari, and not on the lower part near the Cavour metro).  This is one of the top 3 gelaterias in the entire city and not to be missed.

Want to stay in the neighborhood? Here’s some of our top suggestions:

Appartamento Baccina starting at €100/night

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B&B Suburbe from €120/night

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Apparatmento Urbana from €110/night

 

Shoreditch – The Coolest Neighborhood in London’s East End

by Steven Brenner

 

There’s something about the East Side of many cities that sounds unsavory.  Who knows why – maybe historically it comes from the wind’s direction, blowing bad smells from nearby industry toward the East, or maybe it has something to do with the current of the Thames and the crap it would wash up down shore to the have-nots.

Whatever the reason, the East End has typically been considered the less salubrious part of London – and perhaps many East Sides worldwide have inherited that same reputation.

 

 

But these are also the areas that have the wealth of ethnicity and the youthful artistic flair to be transformed into the kinds of fashionable neighborhoods I hunt for – neighborhoods with small, non-corporate businesses; artistic industry and the people who work in them.  In London, this is what you find in Shoreditch, the area just north of the City of London’s financial district which has been undergoing gentrification since the late 1990′s.

 

 

Shoreditch (the name may even come from a variation of “Sewer Ditch”) is technically in the borough of Hackney, and includes Old Street Tube station, Shoreditch High Street, Brick Lane (the Bangladeshi area made famous by Monica Ali’s novel of the same name), and Hoxton.  At its borders are Islington to the north and Liverpool Street station in the south, which is right at the edge of the City of London.

Here’s some of the great things about the area:

 

 

Boxpark, a pop-up mall made from shipping containers.  Ok, it’s a mall, but I have to appreciate how much it deviates from the typical model of a shopping mall.

 

 

Columbia Road flower market.  On Sundays this outdoor market is as alive as can be.  Again, it’s lots of shopping, but mostly vintage, food, flowers and it’s all outside and convivial with lots of great people watching.

 

 

Brick Lane.  Once the slums (and apparently the scene of Jack the Ripper’s murders), it’s now an entire universe of ethnicity.   This is the place to come for a Bangladeshi curry.  It’s punks, street art, music, street food, vintage, and sometimes so crowded you can barely walk down the street.

 

 

People watching.  There are some people in Shoreditch who are so cool, there isn’t even a name for their fashion sense.

Old converted warehouse buildings make the best lofts and restaurants.  Nearby, an old Framery from the 1920′s was converted into a group of funky flats:

 

Flat 1 – £125 a night

Flat 2 – £125 a night

Flat 3 – £125 a night

Flat 4 – £159 a night

Flat 5 – £142

Flat 6 – £142

Flat 7 – £142 a night

Loft – £301 a night up to 8 people

 

Vietnamese food. When Shoreditch High Street becomes Kingsland Road you’re in Vietnamese heaven. If you have yet to be completely converted to the wonders of Pho – a Vietnamese noodle soup, you’ll need to plan a little visit here.

 

  

 

Shopping. Yes, there is plenty of vintage, but there is literally everything else too. If you’re looking for something unique, something you can say you bought in London and not just anywhere else in the world, you’ll probably find it here. There’s also a number of semi-outdoor markets, such as the Spitalfield Market.

 

 

More cool places to stay in the area:

Shoreditch Studio for £119 a night

Shoreditch 1 bedroom for £165 a night

Victory Chambers 2 bedroom from £160 per night

Broadway Market from £95 per night

Getting around London

by Steven Brenner

London is a big, spread out city.  Much of it is walkable, but there’s no one area you can stay in where everything will be close by.  Luckily, the variety of transport options are easy to use and reliable.  So let’s get familiar with them:

Walking

I’m not particularly athletic but I can walk around a city all day.  It’s definitely the best way to see things, but also the most tiring.  In London, I use a combo of an actual paper map that you can buy at any newsagent for under £2; the Map app for iPhone; and the Citymapper app, which tells you not only how far it is to walk, and how long it ought to take you, but how many calories you’ll burn. When you stuff your face like I do when traveling (ok, I do it at home too), this added incentive really makes an hour walk seem more reasonable.

 

Cabs

These are, of course, the best way to get around if you just want to get to your destination with as little effort as possible.  For such compact cars, they are very spacious – the back of the cabs have a bench seat that sits 3 and two “jump seats”.  They face each other, limo-style.

They can either be booked in advance or hailed on the street or from designated taxi ranks.  There’s also the Hailo app for iPhone.  It’ll figure out where you are through GPS and get a cab to that spot with just a few clicks.  Payment can either be done in cash or you can set it up with your credit card and pay through the app.

Here’s numbers for the different taxi dispatchers:
One-Number Taxi:    0871 871 8710  All London
Call-A-Cab:    020 8901 4444  All London
Computer Cab:    020 7908 0207  All London
DataCab:    020 7432 1540  All London
Dial-A-Cab:    020 7253 5000  All London
London Black Taxis:    07779 336 612  Pre-booked trips for all of London
Radio Taxis:    020 7272 0272  All London
Taxi Call Wimbledon    0208 099 7711  Wimbledon and surrounding areas
Xeta:    0845 108 3000  All London
There is a charge when booking by phone and other terms and conditions may vary so please check when booking.

You can also book a taxi using Twitter at @tweetalondoncab – more info at http://www.tlctaxi.co.uk

 

Buses

I get car sick easily, so I usually avoid buses, but I love London’s iconic double-decker buses.  Sit up top right near the huge windows in the front and get a great bird’s eye view (low flying anyway) of the city.  Buses use the same ticket system as the underground (see below).  You can also buy them on the bus itself, but it’s a bit slow and makes me feel like I’m holding everyone up.  Some stops have machines right outside at the bus stop as well.

 

Underground (Tube)

Over 400 kilometers of track, the London underground can boast being the first underground railway, opened in 1863. The lines are all color coded and have names, such as the Central Line (red) and District Line (green).  The direction you want is not necessary designated by the last station.  Instead, you have Eastbound, Westbound, Northbound and Southbound trains.  Sometimes, if the train changes direction, you might have to rethink whether it’s Northbound or Eastbound, but for the most part it’s pretty clear when you get to an intersection in the tunnels and have to chose which direction you want to go in – the stations are listed on the wall so you can figure out which way to go to get to the right track.

The best way to tackle the Tube is to buy an Oyster card.  Once you enter an underground station, go to a self-service machine and select a “new card”.  Put on however much you want – 5, 10, 20 pounds, for example.  Five pounds will be used toward a deposit on the card, and the rest will be applied toward bus and subway rides (which vary depending on where you’re going).  You can pay with credit card, or in some cases, cash (it says on the machine at the top what it accepts).  The card will then work to get you through the turnstiles until you run out of credit (at that point the light will flash red instead of green).  When this happens, simply return to the self-service machine and swipe your card and top it back up.

Here’s the awesome bit – when you’re done in London you can return the card and get any unused money back, plus your £5 deposit.

You can get more info and figure out which lines you need and the prices here:  http://www.tfl.gov.uk/modalpages/2625.aspx

 

Citymapper

This app really is the best thing ever.  Put in the address you’re going to and it’ll calculate every possible way to get there from wherever you are (including fun ones like “jetpack” or “catapult”). You’ll get a breakdown of how long it would take, and how much it would cost, either on foot, cab, bus, or subway.

Select the one you want and it’ll give you detailed instructions.  Once you arrive at the end of the public transport route, it’ll give you walking directions the rest of the way.  And it’s free!

 

Airport to City

London Heathrow (LHR) is connected to the city by the Underground.  London Gatwick (LGW) is connected by a commuter train called the Gatwick Express which runs every 10 minutes or so to Victoria Station (travel time 30 minutes).  You can buy the tickets from money changers at the airport too and will get a discount if you buy round trip (£31.05 r/t if you buy online in advance).