A city that is not a city, London, has in the past, been compared, not to other sprawling metropolis like New York or Hong Kong, but to a collection of villages that have slowly molded together over the years. I believe this label, for such a diverse and exciting city, is more than accurate. The West/East, North/South divide slices the city into large component parts. The city then finds itself subdivided, filtered by the people who live there, the restaurants you eat at, the tipple you’re most partial to and the job you commute to. A city where you can walk around, taking any turn that grabs your fancy, and find yourself in anything, from a second hand book shop, to an al fresco movie showing attended by viewers sitting in inflatable hot hubs (the latter, surprisingly, happens quite often).
Anyone who as met me in my personal or professional life knows that I spend most of my time on the road, flying around Europe and bouncing between various cities in the UK. Invariably work takes me to London, so much so that now I don’t see myself as a tourist but as more of a semi-resident. I have my bars and my hangouts. My favorite places to eat, places to take a walk and my favorite book shops. I can tell you how to hunt down the best coffee, have zone 1 and 2 of the tube map seared into the back of my brain allowing me, like any good Londoner, to stumble back home after one too many refreshments through the rabbit’s warren that is the tube (often resulting in waking in the morning not quite knowing how I got back).
Yet where is back? Where is home in London when I’m here? London is the only city I spend a lot of time in where I don’t stay in hotels. It just does not make sense anymore. Hotels in London during the week, well, any hotels that a regular business traveler would want to stay in, can run to £200+ a night for a central location.
What do you get for this? Admittedly, sometimes, quite a bit, there are some fantastic places to stay. However, there is a better option.
In nearly two years of bouncing in and out of this city I have been staying in serviced apartments. In fact, I write this from one now. I’m sitting on the sofa on the 12th floor of Discovery Dock East in Canary Wharf looking out onto an amazing view over the south of London. I have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a balcony, full kitchen, internet access and in the basement, a swimming pool and gym. Yes, that’s a swimming pool and gym in an apartment block a two minute walk from Canary Warf tube station.
What is this costing?
A heck of a lot less than the equivalent hotel, that’s for sure. This is only one of the many villages of London though, it’s my little village. I like the towers and I like the quiet. It feels like home for me and more of a 21st century town than anywhere else in the UK. What if you want something else? Chic Mayfair maybe? Perhaps the seat of power in the middle of the City Of London or, perchance, some night time pleasures up in Shoreditch? I know someone who will have it covered.
Protem apartments (0845 519 7956) are the guys I have used now for the past two years. Sure, they have a great website for browsing around the many (and I really do mean many) apartments in the capital. But, I take great pleasure in telling people I have an ‘apartment guy’ in my phone, on call for all my London business residency needs. This, I find, is the best thing about having Protem in my phonebook and online. I no longer have to think about where to stay and to have to struggle to find the best hotel deals. With so many hotels in this city to stay and so many websites promoting them, how do you really know if you are getting the best deal? Booking.com, Hotels.com, Laterooms.com and many, many, more. If you want the best deal, booking a hotel is not an easy feat.
It now takes me less than five minutes to complete the whole process. I just shoot off an e-mail with the dates I need to my apartment people at Protem and they sort out the rest; providing easy credit card booking and nicely formatted directions to where ever I end up staying. There’s also the advantage of late night check-ins with many of the apartments (which I cannot say the same for some hotels). Quite simply, all I need to do is tell them my budget and where I want to stay. Absolute magic!
Plus, when you have your own place for a week or two, rather than a hotel room you can cook J and actually invite people over for a drink and a film. Asking any of your friends to come back to your little - and it will be in London, unless you want to pay through the nose - hotel room is just plain creepy.
So put away the Hilton rewards card and the Club Carlson member’s card and give Protem a call next time you come down to the big smoke or drop them an e-mail for what you are looking for . Tell them Mike sent you, they will look after you. I promise you won’t go back to a pokey hotel room when you can have a place like this for less money and less stress.