Happiness – who doesn’t seek that? 2015 marks 170 years since the death of Sydney Smith, nonetheless his thoughts on a comfortable home are as relevant today as ever before, or at least in our minds! When looking for accommodation in our great city of London, Merino Hospitality could not agree more with English author and wit Sydney Smith’s insight regarding bricks and mortar. In an era when choosing your home comes with a great price tag, why not seek the very best that it can buy? If Smith was right, you will be securing your very own slice of happiness!

Sydney Smith is just one of the many famous faces to have laid his hat in beautiful Bloomsbury, where Merino Hospitality calls home. He lived at 14 Doughty Street and a plaque has been fixed outside the house since 1905 to mark this historical site. English Heritage is a UK registered charity that is dedicated to caring for more than 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites throughout England. As part of their great work, they run the Blue Plaque scheme which was originally founded in 1866 by the Royal Society of Arts. Blue plaques are placed on buildings throughout London to celebrate the diverse architecture within our capital city and demonstrate the plethora of famous figures that have worked here or made this place home. There are currently no less than 880 blue plaques across the capital and 2016 will mark the 150th anniversary of this magnificent scheme.

There is no shortage of blue plaques in Bloomsbury, making the streets buzz with the history of its former residents and past accomplishments. Taking a short stroll from any of our serene properties will lead you in the footsteps of great writers, poets, reformers, an intelligence officer, scholars, architects, inventors and even a clown! Let your feet lead the way on a saunter around Bloomsbury and see how many plaques you can find, you will not be disappointed by the boutique shops, yummy treats and tree lined streets that you will encounter along the way.

Tweet us @staymerino with your findings!!

 

by Louise Carr-Merino

If two years ago I had been randomly asked if I was ready for the World Cup, I would immediately have started talking about the usual suspects: Germany, Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Messi, Ronaldo… and England 1966.

Not this year though; this year that same question takes on a whole different meaning. And that meaning, ladies and gentlemen, is rugby.

With just one month to go now, The Rugby World Cup (RWC) will be in the UK between September 18th and October 31st this year, with matches in 12 cities across England and Wales, for what promises to be an absolutely epic tournament. This is the greatest prize in world rugby, and since its inception as a tournament in 1987 it has grown to be one of the most important sporting events on the planet. It is hosted every four years between the top international teams (20 teams nowadays), with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa each winning the title twice, and England clinching their one cup in 2003.

London will be host to 17 matches across three stadiums – Wembley, the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, and Twickenham – including the opening match between England and Fiji on September 18th, as well as two quarter finals, both semis, and the final itself on October 31st.

Defending champions and all round tough-guys New Zealand (#1) open their tournament against Argentina (#8) on the 20th, in their search for a record third Webb Ellis Cup.

Pre-tournament #2 ranked Ireland, who have never progressed beyond the quarter-final stage at a World Cup, come into the tournament on the back of successive Six Nations victories in 2014 and 2015, so expectations in their camp will be high for a good run this year. The Irish will open their campaign against Canada (#18) in Cardiff on match day 2.

Host nation England may only be 4th in the pre-tournament rankings, but having finished second in this year’s Six Nations Championship back in February, and with the local crowd behind them, they will be in high spirits and will be a rather tough bone for anyone to bite on.

Australia (#3) will also open their tournament against Fiji (#9) on match day 4, but they are sure to have a tough time in Pool A with England and Wales (#6).

South Africa (#5) is in Pool B and will also have to be considered serious contenders for a third crown; they will open against Japan (#15) on match day 2. (§)

As a relative newbie when it comes to rugby, but a Londoner for over 7 years, I am really excited about this tournament being in the UK, and I cannot wait for it to begin. And with quick access from Russell Square to all three London match venues, I bet our guests are looking forward to it too!

Russell Square – Stratford: 25mins

Russell Square – Wembley Park: 28mins

Russell Square – Twickenham: 42mins

 

 

by Andres Esteves

Image credit: Rugby World Cup website

(§) Pre-tournament rankings accurate at time of writing.

In the video below you can find out more about how you can move from side to side in the English capital. We have also added some extra tips to the information provided by Visit London that should help you in making the most of your time in the English capital.

1 – When visiting any city for the first time, it is perfectly understandable that one might feel intimidated in using its public transport network. London offers a very comprehensive public transportation system and sitting in a traffic jam in the middle of town is probably not your idea of fun. It certainly isn’t ours!

Get yourself an Oyster Card: unless you have an NFC-enabled bank card, an Oyster Card is your best friend if you wish to make use of public transport in London. You can get one at any ticket booth at a tube or train station around the city and recharge it with credits (Top-up) at any ticket machine too. It is also possible to pre-order your visitor Oyster card online so you got it at hand from right the beginning of your trip – this is specially useful if you plan to get from the airport to the city by tube. Apple Pay within the transport network is also available depending on your card issuer and device too.

Since earlier this year, cash payments are not accepted on buses either so make sure that you top-up your Oyster if you want to hop on a double-decker. The tube can get quite muggy and sticky in hot days, especially during peak hours (roughly between 7.30am – 9am and 4.30pm – 7 pm, depending on where you are in town, in which direction you are travelling to/from and which tube line you are using). Buses benefit from their own exclusive lanes throughout the city making them more effective through traffic and despite not having air-conditioning either, you can at least take in some of the beautiful scenery London has to offer.

2 – When in tube stations, stand to the right-hand side of escalators, keeping the left clear for those in a hurry.

3 – If you have a question, we will be happy to help! Londoners are reserved and unlikely to start a random chit-chat with a stranger as we are often found  engrossed with our smart phones but as a tourist you are entitled to a “guilty-free pass” so take advantage of it. If you don’t feel comfortable with the idea either, it is probably a good idea to download a mapping app on your phone to get your bearings. Our personal favourite is Citymapper 

4 – As expected in a busy city such as London, queues are everywhere! Don’t be surprised to find people even queueing at a bus stop and politely awaiting their turn into the bus. Tourist attractions are especially prone to long waiting times. If you wish to avoid some of these queues, depending on which attractions you wish to visit, is worth looking into getting a London Pass. This combines entrances for various attractions at discounted rates (and even fast track entry at some of them), and other special offers.

5 – It is worth checking in advance of your trip for any special events happening in London during the dates of your stay. You might not only get more than what you expected from your visit but it will also prevent potential disappointments, as certain places might experience closures and other disruptions that might have a negative impact in your enjoyment.

6 – Quick maths lesson: 1 Pint = 20oz ≈ 0.57L  If you are a light drinker, it is probably well worth keeping that in mind before you order a new round. As a tradition, most pubs will ring a bell at the bar announcing that it is time to get “one for the road” as last orders are being served. Each establishment has a license granted by the government that allows them to serve alcohol only up until a certain time, which in most cases is 11pm for pubs but these licenses do depend on each licencee.

7 – London offers a plethora of free guided walks worth tagging along. London is a city where you can comfortably walk around, particularly within Central London. For instance, our homes  have, on a 20-minute walking radius, most attractions and landmarks including King’s Cross/St Pancras International station, British Museum, British Library, St Paul’s Cathedral, The City, Theatreland, Charles Dickens Museum, The Foundling Museum, Covent Garden, Soho, Chinatown, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Streetthe Strand, Southbank Centre, National Theatre, The National Gallery, Somerset House, Royal Opera House, Royal Courts of Justice and Madame Tussauds just to mention but a few. As scientists have found, just a 20-minute daily stroll can considerably improve your health!

8 – Cycling certainly is fun but please remember that London is a very busy city and the traffic is dangerous, especially for cyclists. You can hire Santander bikes all across the city for only £2/day and have as many 30-minute cycles as you want.

9 – In London and the United Kingdom we drive on the left-side of the road so please keep your eyes peeled for oncoming traffic and, when in doubt, always look both ways just to be sure it is safe to cross. At least on principle, pedestrians have the priority over vehicles at zebra crossings and the vast majority of drivers will stop for you, but we would recommend awaiting for the driver to acknowledge your presence and come to a full stop before you proceed. According to the Department of Transport there were 3,449 reported pedestrian casualties in 2013 on pedestrian crossings, refugee or central island, and another 2,356 casualties within 50 metres of a pedestrian crossing. Even at the most famous zebra crossing on the planet things can get ugly so please take care out there and look after your children.

10 – Think outside the box. London has so many different things, off the beaten path places and activities, that whilst sticking just to the traditional and most well-known attractions is a guarantee of a good time, the little secrets the city has to offer will give you an unique perspective of this amazing and vibrant city. Keep your eyes peeled for the little things around the corners and you might even spot a few noses and ears here and there…

 

 

 

 

 

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