Windsor Castle’s famous round tower is reopened

Yesterday the world famous round tower at Windsor Castle re-opened it’s doors to the public for the first time in almost 40 years.

Closed in 1975 for construction work including under-pinning to stop subsidence, the tower was then converted into offices for the Royal Archives, and hasn’t open to the public until now.

The 800-year-old landmark in Berkshire will no doubt be a top tourist attraction over the summer months.

The re-opening will also be marked with a new tour ‘Conquer the Tower’. This will include walking up the 200 step to take in views over London and Windsor from 65.5 meters up.

The round tower was build by Henry II in 1170. William the Conqueror then replaced the heath stone with wooden Norman keep.

At the heart of the property sits an artificial mound, called a motte, formed by chalk spoil from the surrounding ditch.

Today the tower looks as it did when George IV remodelled it in the 1820’s. In line with his romantic notion of castle architecture, the tower was heightened by nine metres and given gothic-style battlements.

The 45-minute Conquer the Tower tours will run daily until September 30.

Demand for accommodation soars as Londoners rent their way to gold during Olympics

Figures released today by HomeAway.co.uk, UK arm of the market leader of the online holiday rentals industry, reveal that London homeowners are benefiting from an unprecedented demand for holiday rentals during the London Games. Demand for rental properties in London for the Olympic summer of 2012 has increased by 131 times as compared to the previous year.

It is expected that home owners looking to cash in on the leap of interest could generate an average of £4,500 by renting their home during the 16 day-long event; an average of £2,000 per week. Londoners thinking about doing this can now find out how much a property similar to theirs could make using HomeAway.co.uk’s newly launched interactive Olympic Rental Map. The Map calculates the average income you could expect to make from your home; taking into account the rental rate increase the Olympics is expected to spark as well as proximity to sporting venues and transport hubs.

The Olympics has the potential to earn millions in rental income for homeowners in the Capital. There are currently over 700 London properties available for rent on www.HomeAway.co.uk and the company is expecting weekly rental rates for those properties to increase by almost 150% on average, echoing a trend for price spikes seen during the 2010 World Cup in Johannesburg.

Tim Boughton, UK General Manager, HomeAway.co.uk said: “We have observed a steady increase in tourists looking for holiday rentals, with particularly high peaks in demand around major global sporting events. These latest figures confirm that London will be no exception. Enquiries for London properties have skyrocketed, particularly those properties in close proximity to the key Olympics sites and with good transport links to London’s top attractions. This, combined with the expected repetition of the 150% increase in rental prices seen at the 2010 World Cup, means savvy Londoners will truly be going for gold next summer.”

Corinthia Hotel opens its doors in London

Corinthia Hotel London today announced its doors are open to the public. Corinthia’s new flagship is a landmark property and joins the ranks of London’s finest 5-star luxury hotels. Combining traditional grandeur with modern freshness, the luxuriously redesigned Victorian destination is ideally located in the heart of London, a short walk from many of the city’s major attractions.

“The project marks the culmination of an exciting journey,” said General Manager Matthew Dixon, “Corinthia Hotel London is an intricately restored grand hotel with a 21st century approach. Its modern elegance is defined by a blend of classic Victorian architecture with outstanding craftsmanship and contemporary art, mirroring the energy, style, and history of the area. Guests are offered all the modern luxuries whilst enjoying an authentic experience in a hotel and location with heritage.”

Corinthia London has already established its name among a number of international celebrities and London influencers. Some of the biggest names in cinema, art, culture, media, fashion, and luxury have visited for a first look, and recent preview events have included parties in conjunction with the BAFTAs, Vanity Fair, GQ, and Condé Nast Traveller.

The newly-reconstructed flagship hotel features two world-class restaurants. Garry Hollihead, winner of Michelin stars at three different establishments, is at the helm of The Northall. The restaurant celebrates the best of British artisanal produce, including Cumbrian short horn cattle, together with an extensive selection of organic and biodynamic wines by the glass and by the bottle. The hotel’s Mediterranean speciality seafood restaurant, Massimo Restaurant and Oyster Bar, is headed by the renowned Italian chef patron Massimo Riccioli.

Bassoon, the musically-inspired bar designed by the award-winning David Collins Studio, serves both molecular cocktails and colonial-inspired drinks from its boutique spirits library. Elegantly discreet, it is expected to be a popular destination for Londoners, as well as international guests.

The heartbeat of the hotel is its Lobby Lounge. The space offers a residential feel enhanced by an eclectic mix of furniture and bespoke artworks. The soaring dome in the center is adorned with the pioneering Full Moon chandelier created by Parisian designer Chafik Gasmi and produced by Baccarat, the prestigious French crystal manufacturer. The Full Moon, composed of 1,001 crystal baubles, is the grand focal point of the main hotel area. Lobby Lounge guests can take afternoon tea and indulge in innovative creations by celebrated Pastry Chef Claire Clark or enjoy an evening cocktail.

Corinthia Hotel London commissioned twin brothers, Ian and Richard Abell, founders of Based Upon, to create a unique artwork piece for the hotel’s reception and custom-built doors for the lobby elevators. The nine-square-meter bronze artwork in the reception area features the River Thames meandering through the city of London with a true replica of each building on its banks, with Corinthia at its center. Casts of leaves from Northumberland Avenue and St. James’s Park were taken to create the textural marks for the lift doors, adding a delicate touch.

Award-winning international spa company, ESPA, has partnered with the hotel to launch its flagship ESPA Life at Corinthia. Spanning 35,520 square feet and on four floors, this magnificent spa features 17 treatment rooms, a private spa suite, nail studio, indoor pool, vitality pool, amphitheatre sauna, ice fountain, marble heated lounges, private sleep pods, a state-of-the-art gym, and Daniel Galvin hair salon. ESPA has enlisted exceptional therapists, naturopaths, acupuncturists, osteopaths, and physiotherapists offering guests a new level of spa and wellness in a five-star luxury setting.

Located on the mezzanine floor are 6 private executive level meeting rooms, conveniently linked through to the mezzanine dining area of The Northall for a private lunch or dinner. Five of the meeting rooms are fitted with a state-of-the-art, high-definition, optical, turnkey system that effortlessly allows total connectivity for media broadcasting, recording, editing, and mixing.

The hotel features 294 guest rooms, including 43 suites. The sumptuously-appointed rooms, averaging 485 square feet, are among the largest in their category in London’s luxury hotel market. With no restrictions on check-in and check-out times, Corinthia Hotel London has dedicated itself to providing guests ultimate flexibility, convenience and comfort during their stay.

London’s Midsummer Supercars: How the Middle East’s Richest Relax

Residents of Central London have noticed an unusual trend hitting the streets each summer. It’s not a more relaxed approach to clothing or a heat wave, but the incredible amount of supercars hitting inner city streets. The cars have become a fairly standard sight around the city, with a collection of ultra-expensive supercars appearing every summer, and disappearing just as fast as the weather.

The cars in question are owned by a group of mega-rich Middle Eastern businessmen, who fly the vehicles in each year to escape the aggressive summer throughout the Gulf. It’s not unusual to see registration plates from the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait – an obvious indication that the cars in question aren’t owned by residents of Central London, but by temporary holidayers.

It’s the latest development in how the Middle East’s richest families spend their vacation time. With temperatures in the region routinely exceeding 40ºC, even the bravest of the brave are uninterested in spending their summer sweating. The smart ones have picked London as their preferred holiday spot, jetting in their vehicles privately and racking up millions of pounds in parking fines.

Yes, that’s right: millions. The cars in question tend to be parked illegally and have been involved in more than their fair share of crashes. Foreign-owned vehicles are responsible for an estimated £4M worth of fines in London alone, leaving many residents more than a little annoyed at the vacationers and their antics. Noise is also a problem, with high-power cars accelerating and disturbing residents.

But for their owners, it’s a mere inconvenience. It could be London this year, Berlin the next. While the city worries about the after effects of its high-profile tourists, some of London’s most exclusive hotel chains are enjoying the surge in high-end customers.

London Home to the World’s Best Taxis, Poll Reveals

A new survey from Hotels.com has revealed that London’s taxis are the most friendly, comfortable, and safe in the world. The survey and complete report asked users to contribute their experiences in taxis around the world, pointing out how safe they felt and how comfortable the ride was. Britain’s capital took the top spot, closely followed by other major European cities such as Madrid.

Surprisingly, it was taxi capital New York City that came in last place for ‘taxi quality’, with users suggesting that despite the city’s large fleet of go-anywhere transportation, the surly and abrasive nature of many taxi drivers made it a poor place to hail a cab. Paris also achieved a low ranking, with its taxi fleet being judged as the rudest of any major global city.

While London cabs are far from cheap, they offered a level of safety that few other cities can match, the survey claims. Travellers ranked the demeanour of London’s drivers positively, while saying that the city’s drivers tend to take direct routes to destinations without wasting time or driving fare prices upwards. Rome received the lowest ‘driver quality’ ranking due to reckless driving habits.

However, one Italian city – Milan – managed to feature in the report’s top rankings. Other surprising additions include Bangkok, which took fifth place, and Sydney, which saw its drivers feature as the least navigationally competent. European cities topped the poll for service quality and ride comfort while simultaneously falling into the poll’s bottom ranks for affordability and value.

The news has been well received by London’s large collection of taxi drivers. The city is frequently thought of as one of the most tourist-friendly in the world, and the confirmation of its taxi quality is another point of pride. For the millions of tourists expected to arrive in London throughout the rest of the year, the results are a comforting, if expensive, reminder that they’ll never be completely lost.