My London is the demoralized Margaret Thatcher city of the mid 1980s, back when the Greater London Council was being closed down (abolished 1986) and Elephant and Castle was a demilitarized zone. But times have changed. London is red-hot and visiting on a budget isn't easy these days, especially with the dollar at an eleven-year low against the pound and remoreseless air carriers charging in the early $600 range for a base air fare.
Accomodation wise, London has been a tough nut to crack since the early 1990s when the Blair-ite economy turned England around and London got trendy with a pack of flash new actors, fashion designers and models. Since then it's been one of the most expensive European destinations. When looking for a hotel in London remember that the postal codes radiate out numerically from Trafalgar Square, E1 is one unit east of Trafalgar, SW5 is five units southwest of Trafalgar, etc. Generally, anything with a low number (1 to 3), or in the “SW” quadrant (southest) not too far out is lush, convenient and residential. You can access the full monty of hotel choices at Tripadvisor's London Hotels page.
First, here are a few hotel booking services:
HOST & GUEST SERVICE, 103 Dawes Rd., London SW6, England (020-7385-9922). This one has been in business for “forty years” and has a generous roster of Bed & Breakfasts, inlcuding choices in rural England.
PRIMROSE HILL B&B, 14 Edis St., London NW1, England (020-7722-6869). Primrose is run by an expat American (Gail O'Farrell) who can set you up with a bed & breadfast or a family home at a decent. Warning – she doesn't take credit cards.
BULLDOG CLUB, 14 Dewhurst Rd., London W14 0ET, England (020-7371-3202). Now in its 15th year, the club offers a three-year membership for 25 pounds sterling (about $45). Bulldog focuses on more upscale, chic accomodations, sometimes a spare room in a really nice residence (query with them a little if you are unsettled by B&B's that put you in little Martha's spare room while she's away at college). Most of the rooms on the Bulldog roster are in the central and preferred areas of Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea.
But if you want to do your own booking, here are a couple of choices in the lower rung ($100-$180) of the price ladder:
Aston's Budget Studios is comprised of three town houses in a residential part of South Kensington near the Gloucester Road tube (a nice area of southwest London). Aston's decor has been described as “Ikea chic.” There is a full range of the usual hotel guest services. 31 Rosary Gardens, London SW7 4NH, England
(020-7590-6000; 800-525-2810 in the U.S).
Swiss House Hotel is not far from Aston's. It's a nice little 15-room ivy-covered guest house with nice proprietors. Some of the single rooms are shared bath. The rooms in the back have garden rooms. 171 Old Brompton Rd., London SW5 OAN, England (020-7373-2769).
St. Christopher's Inn Village is part of a hostel chain, this unit of which is charmingly named after the patron saint of travelers. This location on Borough High Street is right in the middle of town. Rooms are shared bath, and there is a rooftop sauna to complete the communal experience. If they're booked when you call, ask about other nearby hostels in the chain, including Original at 121 Borough High Street and Orient Espresso at 59 Borough High Street. 161-165 Borough High St., London SE1 1HR, England (020-7407-1856). [cloudtravel]