Eurostar appoints new culinary director

Eurostar has proudly announced the appointment of world renowned Michelin starred chef, Raymond Blanc as its Culinary Director. The exciting new gastronomic partnership will see Raymond share his passion for promoting the very best in sustainable and seasonal food with Eurostar’s Business Premier passengers.

The announcement is supported by new research* which reveals that despite the prevailing economic downturn, nearly two thirds (63%) of business travellers have either maintained or even increased their level of business travel in the past 12 months.

While it’s good news that the wheels of British business are still turning, it appears it’s not such good news for business travellers themselves. The research also highlighted that over a third (34%) rated the quality of the meals they were served when travelling for business as below average.

When questioned further, these same travellers stressed the importance of good food and service on-board alongside more traditional considerations such as price and journey time. Two thirds (66%) highlighted the importance of eating sustainably sourced, seasonal and organic food, while over a third (35%) revealed that presentation of food was an important factor.

With these considerations in mind, Raymond Blanc is collaborating closely with Eurostar’s catering suppliers to help transform travellers’ perceptions of on-board catering. As a result of his on-going direction and work with Eurostar’s suppliers in Belgium, the UK and France, his new and exclusive Business Premier menus have been created to be innovative, seasonal and sustainable and feature several Blanc family recipes such as mackerel salad and chocolate delice with praline custard.

Raymond’s creative input has seen a renewed focus on locally sourced and sustainably produced ingredients of a local provenance. The resulting menus combine rustic, traditional dishes with a fresh, modern element of surprise.

Commenting on his appointment, Raymond Blanc said: “As a chef, I’m always searching for the purest ingredients, striving to ensure that everything I use is traceable and responsibly sourced. I’m delighted to work with Eurostar which shares these same values and was the first transport provider to join the Sustainable Restaurant Association. Together we’re working to change the perception of on-board cuisine and serving sustainable and locally sourced food which is at the heart of our new Business Premier menus.”

The YouGov research also uncovered some of the ‘guilty pleasures’ business travellers enjoy whilst travelling on business. These include snoozing on company time, using their headphones to drown out fellow passengers and getting stuck into complimentary magazines that they would never normally buy.

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Megabus.com offers 10,000 free seats in winter promotion

megabus.com, the market leading budget coach provider, is helping to beat the winter blues by offering thousands of free seats on its services.

The low-cost operator – which is part of Stagecoach Group – is offering more than 10,000 free seats on its coach networks in England and Wales between 14 January and 28 February 2013 in a huge giveaway.

Free bus travel seats are available for travel from Monday – Thursday each week during the promotional period and can be booked now by visiting the megabus.com website*.

megabus.com offers fares from just £1 (plus 50p booking fee*) and operates to dozens of destinations across England and Wales, serving large cities as well as smaller towns, including Newcastle, Bristol, Manchester, Preston, London, Birmingham, Norwich, Swindon, Plymouth, Newport and Swansea.

General Manager of megabus.com, Ian Laing said: “Everybody loves a bargain and we hope this huge seat giveaway will help our passengers beat the winter blues. We have a loyal customer base and we’re delighted to be offering them this special promotion. We also hope it will encourage new customers to give our services a try and make the switch to greener, smarter and better value coach travel.”

megabus.com was launched in the UK in 2003 and revolutionised travel by offering fares from just £1 (plus 50p booking fee) via a simple online booking system. Almost five million passengers now use megabus.com services in the UK every year, which operate to more than 60 locations across the country.

In 2006, Stagecoach launched megabus.com in North America where it has now been used by more than 18 million passengers and serves 90 locations.

Further information about megabus.com services and about the terms and conditions of the seat giveaway can be found at www.megabus.com.

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Jazz Festival Returns to London

This winter sees the long-running London Jazz Festival, featuring a bigger line-up of stars and venues than ever before. Jazz talent from all over the world will descend on the capital, including major names like Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard and Macy Gray. The ten day event will take place from November 9 th -18 th .

The event began life in the seventies as ‘Jazz Week’, and was confined to the borough of Camden, as part of its annual cultural festival. It was a highpoint of the international jazz calendar, with a focus on introducing fresh talent from the British and global scenes.

The demise of the Camden Festival in the early nineties opened the door for the London Arts Board to patronize Jazz Week as a citywide extravaganza, with the inaugural LJF taking place in 1992. The festival has been growing in stature ever since, and gigs now take place at venues right across London, including the iconic Ronnie Scott’s in Soho.

The 2012 programme is bigger and better than ever before, covering major venues including the 606 Club, the Forge, the Royal Albert Hall and the Barbican Centre. At the heart of the action is the multi-venue Southbank Centre.

Fans are expected to come from all over the world, and website LondonTown.com has revealed details of exclusive discounts on what promises to be much sought-after accommodation. A number of London hotels have partnered with the site to aid travelling jazz aficionados in the hunt for affordable accommodation.

One of the more luxury offerings is the London Marriott Hotel County Hall, situated a few minutes from the Southbank Centre on Westminster Bridge Road. Double rooms – including spectacular views of the River Thames – are currently being offered at a 61%, bringing the cost of a night’s stay down to £205.

More affordably, the Charing Cross Guoman Hotel is offering a 90% reduction on their usual rate. The cost of a room, when booking through LondonTown.com, becomes just £99. The hotel is located on the Strand, less than ten minutes walk from the Southbank Centre.

For more information on the 2012 London Jazz Festival, and to view more discounted London hotels close to the Southbank Centre and other venues, visit LondonTown.com.

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Stage Version of ‘The Bodyguard’ Comes to the Adelphi

It’s been twenty years since ‘The Bodyguard’, starring Kevin Costner and the late Whitney Houston, first drew huge box office attendances across the world. Now, in the wake of the singer’s untimely death earlier this year, a new stage adaptation is scheduled to hit London’s West End, featuring a number of Houston ‘s hits in addition to the original soundtrack smash ‘I Will Always Love You’.

The venue is Covent Garden’s Adelphi Theatre. It has a long and successful track record of staging upscale musicals, making it the perfect place to bring back to life the tale of a Secret Service agent tasked to look after a popstar, modeled closely on Houston herself.

The original film was the second highest-grossing movie of 1992, with the most successful OST of all time to boot, selling over 45 million copies worldwide. The new production features Grammy Award-winning Broadway star Heather Headley as singer Rachel Marron, and Lloyd Owen as the eponymous bodyguard tasked to protect her from a stalker. Of course, a fairytale love story ensues, all soundtracked by the familiar sounds of Houston ‘s back-catalogue. The new adaptation is choreographed by Arthur Pita and directed by Thea Sharrock.

The Adelphi is a Covent Garden institution, widely regarded as one of the great innovators of Theatreland. The first theatre to utilize a sinking stage, and a pioneer of audiovisual effects, the Adelphi has built on the grandeur of its art deco beginnings to become a mainstay of London ‘s world famous theatrical endeavours.

‘The Bodyguard’ debuts on November 6th, with its first run ending on April 27th 2013. Shows run from Mon-Sat at 7.30pm, with Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 3pm. Tickets range from £20-£67.50, and are available via LondonTown.com.

The website is also offering exclusive deals on hotels in London, enabling theatergoers to stay in the city at reasonable rates. Among the deals on offer, the Strand Palace Hotel London has announced deluxe double rooms at a 77% discount, bringing the cost of a night’s stay down to £95. The Strand Palace is less than a two-minute walk from the Adelphi.

Almost as close, the One Aldwych Hotel – less than five minutes’ walk from the Adelphi – is offering a 50% discount on both twin and double rooms for the duration of ‘The Bodyguard”s run. The discount – at this luxury hotel – makes a night’s stay cost £375.

For more deals on hotels in London, and to book tickets for ‘The Bodyguard’ at the Adelphi, visit LondonTown.com.

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£6.3 million investment from Whitbread brings 37 jobs to Halifax

Whitbread’s brand new hotel and restaurant development in Halifax has opened, bringing a total of 37 new jobs to the local area. The new Premier Inn hotel and Beefeater restaurant is located on Broad Street Plaza in Halifax Town Centre and has injected a total investment of over £6.3 million into the local economy.

The Halifax Beefeater restaurant offers guests a casual dining experience and features a newly developed menu focusing on steak as well as modern twists on classic dishes. People familiar with the Beefeater brand across the UK will also spot new trial branding for the restaurants that will reinforce the brand’s steak heritage through a stylised pink cow logo and a new strapline “Passionate about steak”.

Customers can enjoy an assortment of starters including soup, pate, prawn cocktail, fishcakes, portabello mushrooms and the new Beefeater sharing platter. Main courses include grills and tasty steak dishes with a wide choice of sauces and toppings, and mouthwatering salads including Teriyaki beef steak and grilled goat cheese and beetroot.

The menu also offers indulgent deserts such as the classic Beefeater black forest sundae and baked vanilla and toffee cheesecake.

As part of the new Broad Street Plaza, the new adjoining Premier Inn, the second of two hotels in Halifax from Premier Inn, is at the heart of Halifax city centre, perfect for both business and leisure travelers.

Christopher Thomson, Cluster General Manager of Premier Inn Halifax, commented: “At Premier Inn we want to be able to offer our customers value for money wherever they plan on staying and it is great to be able to offer such as prime location in Halifax.”

Each bedroom caters for up to two adults and two children (aged 15 and under) and includes an en-suite bathroom; a king size bed; remote control TV with Freeview; tea/coffee making facilities, and a spacious desk area with 30 minutes free Wi-Fi Internet access. The site will also offer the All You Can Eat ‘Premier breakfast’ in the Beefeater restaurant.

Premier Inn offers all guests a no quibble ‘Good Night Guarantee’, which means if customers are not 100% satisfied with their stay they will get their money back.

With over 600 hotels nationwide, Premier Inn is at more locations than any other hotel chain in the UK.

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Kuoni and John Lewis Join Forces to Launch New Concept Travel Concessions

Kuoni and John Lewis have announced a new partnership which will see the travel company open exciting new travel concessions in four John Lewis stores this autumn, with more to follow in the future.

The Kuoni concessions are available in the flagship John Lewis store on Oxford Street, London, as well as stores in Reading and Southampton. The last is to be opened in Cardiff at the start of November. They will offer the full range of holidays available from Kuoni shops and the move creates 19 new full time jobs.

The concessions will range from 444 sq. ft. – 821 sq. ft. and combine the look and feel of the two brands, with John Lewis furniture and Kuoni fittings. They will be situated in the customer service area, adjacent to John Lewis’ Gift List departments, and interactive technology such as iPads and plasma screens will be used to bring holidays to life.

Kuoni will also introduce John Lewis Travel Insurance to its customers, and become the travel partner for John Lewis Gift List. This service allows customers to ask their guests to contribute to their Kuoni honeymoon through a John Lewis Gift List.

Sean Allam, director commercial operations at John Lewis, said: “We already have a strong customer base in our travel insurance services, so opening travel concessions in our shops feels like a natural step for John Lewis. People will be able to take time out from speaking to a personal travel expert to shop or have a coffee, and choose their holiday in a relaxed and inspiring environment.

“Kuoni’s commitment to customer service and expert advice was a perfect fit for John Lewis, and we believe this will be a long-term and successful partnership.”

Derek Jones, managing director at Kuoni said: “We are really excited about this partnership. Kuoni and John Lewis have a lot in common; we have a very similar customer base and share the same approach to business, putting customer service at the heart of everything we do. We know that our customers really value the expert personal knowledge we provide and the success of our High Street stores has shown that the best way to truly understand their needs is to spend time with them, face to face in the right surroundings. These concessions will allow us to bring our unique approach to travel retailing into John Lewis shops.”

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Ibiza is Perfect Winter Sun Family Destination, say Ritmo Cars

Ibiza may be dominated by party animals from May to September, but once the clubbers leave and the prices fall it evolves into the perfect winter-sun holiday destination for families, say Ritmo Cars.

Winter sun holidays are up this year after a rain-soaked summer and freezing winter. Ibiza and Spain in general are among the most popular destinations thanks to low prices and almost perpetual sunshine. According to the Post Office’s Holiday Costs Barometer 2012, Spain is the fourth cheapest short to mid-haul destination. Along with being the fourth best-priced region for a bundle of eight holiday necessities such as dinner for two, refreshments and postcards, it also offers some of the cheapest car hire rates in Europe.

Hiring a car in Ibiza is definitely worthwhile. Having access to four wheels means families can explore all regions of the island from the arid interior to the lush almost tropical north and historic Ibiza Town in the east. A great base during the winter months is San Antonio thanks to its plethora of resort hotels catering to the needs of families with children of all ages. However, the north and southern tip offer outstanding snorkelling, sea kayaking and sailing and the interior is a great place to hike and cycle.

Ibiza Town, just 15km from San Antonio, boasts a UNESCO World Heritage old town. Rising from the azure ocean is a network of narrow alleys, winding serpentine up to a hilltop fort and church. Steeped in history, this picture-perfect spot is great for a candle lit dinner or afternoon exploration.

Nothing in Ibiza is far away, however the public transport network is rather poor. A car makes the 35km journey from San Antonio to Portinax in the north or the 15km ride to Vista Alegre in the south a complete breeze.

You’ll find cheap car hire in Ibiza available through Ritmo Cars. It specialises in car hire in the Balearics and thus has some of the most competitive prices and best quality cars. It caters well to adventure-seeking families with its range of 4×4 vehicles and saloon cars and it has a depot at Ibiza airport enabling families to start exploring as soon as they get through arrivals.

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Brixton’s Brockwell Park Takes Over From Clapham Common to Host Bonfire Night Fireworks

Lambeth Council has this year chosen Brockwell Park in Brixton to host its annual Bonfire Night fireworks display, replacing Clapham Common. Brockwell Park joins a whole host of other parks around the capital all hosting Bonfire Night celebrations and fireworks. Its geographical location allows for spectacular views of the central London skyline, which will be illuminated by other fireworks displays taking place north of the River Thames.

Held on 5 November, the Brockwell Park Bonfire Night display will mark 407 years since Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

Brixton is famous for being a party destination, so visitors can expect plenty of entertainment in the area’s bars and clubs after the display with more family fun taking place in the Brockwell Park. With partying expected to run late into the night, at least for some, LondonTown.com – the number one Internet site for London – is recommending visitors book a hotel in the capital.

It has discounted London hotels across the city this year with some reductions extending over 70%. Additionally, LondonTown.com offers customers more than £250 worth of extras just for booking via its website. Some examples of London hotels on offer through LondonTown.com include the four-star Best Western Corona and the three-star Central House Hotel Victoria. The former has had its rates slashed by 46% and the latter by 39%.

The Best Western Corona is housed in a beautiful Victorian townhouse with a combination of period features and modern amenities and facilities. Positioned just a short walk from Pimlico tube station, it offers easy, direct access to Brixton, which sits on the same tube line, the Victoria Line. Prices at this hotel start at £117 per room, per night.

The Central House Hotel Victoria is located in the same area, thus offering the same easy access to Brixton via public transport. It is also a period property, although on a more modest scale. This is reflected in the price, with room rates starting at just £87 per night.

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Frankie Boyle Invites London Audiences to ‘Last Days of Sodom’

Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle – who last year announced his retirement from stand-up – is returning to the mic with his incendiary brand of humour. His new show, ‘The Last Days of Sodom’ comes to the Hammersmith Apollo from November 8th -11th.

Boyle has been the enfant terrible of the comedy world since the early noughties, graduating from the emcee role at Glasgow’s The Stand comedy club to prime-time television on panel show Mock the Week, and his own inflammatory Channel 4 series, ‘Tramadol Nights’.

He’s not for everyone, but hardcore fans will be delighted at the caustic Scot’s return to the stage. Gig-goers can expect the usual boundary-pushing dark humour over the three night run, which forms a small part of a nationwide tour. In line with his fearsome reputation, tickets to the show will cost £25.

The Hammersmith Apollo is one of the capital’s largest all-seater venues, with a 3,600 strong capacity for seated shows. Renovated in 2002, it remains one of the country’s major comedy venues, as well as hosting everything from Riverdance to the latest touring bands.

London’s premier website for events booking and information, LondonTown.com, has announced discounts on London hotels close to the Apollo. All rooms are offered at discount rates for the duration of the Boyle’s run. The discounts are only available when booking directly through LondonTown.com.

One of the highlights available is the W14 Hotel London, currently offering a 50% discount on double rooms. The reduced rate brings the cost of a night’s stay down to just £63. The W14 is less than fifteen minutes walk from the Hammersmith Apollo.

The Simply Rooms & Suites Hotel on Avonmore road, less than twenty minutes walk from the Apollo, is offering double rooms at £89, a 39% discount on the usual rate.

Both featured London hotels are available to book exclusively through LondonTown.com. For more discounted London hotels, and to purchase tickets for ‘The Last Days of Sodom ‘ visit LondonTown.com.

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‘The Play’s the (hottest) Thing’ to catch on the London stage this autumn

London’s West End welcomes one of its favourite actors, Mark Rylance, to not one but two of its major Shakespeare productions this autumn season, as the much-loved actor brings two Globe transfers to central London.

As part of the Globe’s ‘The Play’s The Thing’ season, Rylance will be switching between Shakespearean cross-dressing comedy, in which he will play the lady Olivia in Twelfth Night, and villainous history, playing the eponymous Richard III.

For theatre-goers who did not catch the performance during the summer months, this presents a great chance to see some of mainstream theatre’s most popular practitioners doing their thing. It might not come cheap – tickets start at £32 – but LondonTown.com is hoping to sweeten the deal for visitors with some cheap hotels in London on its books.

The website – which specializes in locating discounts and deals on hotels around London, building relationships which allow customers to talk direct to the hotels and pay on departure – has a range of properties within walking distance of the theatre.

Studios 2 Let Serviced Apartments London have a 3-star apartment space in plush, literary Bloomsbury for a discounted sale price of £94 per night for a studio room on the last weekend of November; this is just under 20 minutes’ walk from the theatre. It’s also a saving of nearly 50% of the full price.

The same weekend sees hotel options too: The Rathbone Hotel London, 10 minutes’ walk from the theatre, has double rooms in its 4-star property for £138, a 55% discount – and one way of making a big splash in the city.

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Tennis’ biggest stars come to the O2 this November

The world’s top 8 tennis players will fill Greenwich’s 02 Arena for a very loud and very lucrative end-of-year tournament. The ATP World Tour Finals, which has been hosted in London for the last three years.

The ATP World Tour Finals moved from Shanghai to London in 2009, and it has retained – and built on – a reputation for big bucks, large spectacle and a lot of (often quite awkward) song, dance, lights and glitter.

Welcoming the world’s top-8 players at the end of the year, the tournament has 8 days of tennis, leading to a knock-out round in the latter part of the week, with the two victorious semi-finalists (who also have to qualify from their group stage) battling it out for a huge kitty of $4.45 million.

The event has a huge celebrity draw, as the matches are played fast and frequent, usually with 2 per afternoon and evening session, mixing doubles and singles. Stars like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have already qualified, so big names are guaranteed.

For those travelling up especially, and there are still some great value tickets to be had,LondonTown.com has made the most of its 15 years experience sourcing discounts and deals on London hotels. There are plenty of early offers to be got on hotels near or in close travelling distance to the 02.

There are some brilliant cheap offers on Holiday Inn Express locations – the Holiday Inn London Limehouse, which is 2 miles from the venue, has double rooms on 12 th November (the final day) from £74 per night, which includes breakfast and saves 75% off the full price.

A few miles north east of Greenwich is the Holiday Inn Express London-Stratford, with double rooms for £79 per night, including breakfast and offering a discount of 84%.

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British Airways Launches Customer Recognition Programme

All companies in the customer service arena want to recognise their customers, and a new system developed by British Airways is set to take that recognition to a whole new level, even enabling its staff to put a face to the name before the customer sets foot in the airport.

The programme, known as ‘Know Me’, has been developed over several years and is now beginning to be rolled out. Its purpose is to collate a wealth of data from every experience the customer has with the airline and translate that into meaningful service for that individual.

The programme is able to send messages with information about specific customers to the iPads of customer service agents and senior cabin crew, or update check-in staff via the airline’s computer system. For example, they may be informed that a Silver Executive Club member is flying in business class for the first time thereby enabling the crew member to welcome that customer and explain the benefits of the cabin. Equally, if a regular traveller has experienced any issues on previous flights, such as a delay due to weather, the crew will be informed of that and will be able to go the extra mile, recognise the previous issue and thank the customer for their continued patronage.

The model also enables the crew to feed back useful information about the airline’s most loyal customers, enabling the airline to further personalise the service they receive on their next trip.

The personal recognition message is just a guide; it’s the customer service staff and cabin crew that bring it to life, enabling them to be more intuitive and proactive.

The most recent advancement of the system enables the British Airways team to search Google Images for a photo of specific customers so they can recognise them as soon as they enter the airport or aircraft and proactively approach them.

The airline is aiming to send 4,500 of these personal recognition messages a day by the end of 2012 with even greater scope for growth in the future.

As part of the programme a ‘delivery lab’ has also been set up to analyse the way the airline communicates with customers so that only the most relevant and interesting messages are sent to them.

Jo Boswell, head of customer analysis at British Airways, said: “Last year we re-committed to the ethos: ‘To Fly. To Serve’. That’s what ‘Know Me’ is all about – enabling us to recognise our customers in a way that is individual to them. Other airlines apply it in pockets to certain aspects of the travel experience, but we are looking at the whole journey from booking to collecting luggage at the carousel.

“We’re essentially trying to recreate the feeling of recognition you get in a favourite restaurant when you’re welcomed there, but in our case it will be delivered by thousands of staff to millions of customers.

“And the early results have been extremely positive, our customers love being recognised and treated as an individual and our customer service staff and cabin crew feel empowered to deliver a really bespoke service.

“This is just the start though – the system has a myriad of possibilities for the future.”

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Cruzeiro-safaris.com joins the KATO bonded Scheme/ Member No.377

Cruzeiro-Safaris.com is a Full Member of the Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) member no. 377 since the year 2008. In 2012, Cruzeiro-Safaris.com joined the KATO members’ bond scheme.

What does it mean to be a KATO Bonded member to a tourist?

KATO MEMBERS NOW BONDED

The Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) at its AGM held in October 2011 unanimously approved a motion to institute a Bonding Scheme for members.  There have been concerns raised by tourists going to various tourist destinations world-wide about the safety of deposits paid should a tour firm go into liquidation before delivering on the contracted services. Several destinations have in place Bonding Schemes to address these concerns and the KATO Bond is the second such scheme in the whole of Africa.

“The Bonding Scheme is now in place and is fully supported by a leading local Insurance company. This will go a long way towards enhancing the image and credibility of KATO members and is a major milestone for the Association” said the KATO Chairman, Mr. Adam Jillo.

Under the provisions of the Bond, the Insurance Company will, during the period of guarantee, indemnify any direct pecuniary loss suffered by a client (or agent) of the KATO Member arising from unrendered services in the event of a bankruptcy. The loss to be compensated shall be monies paid for services or products to be provided by the insolvent KATO member and shall be limited to the amount paid to the insolvent member or the cost of completing the services paid for.

KATO members will henceforth be able to display the “KATO Bonded” logo on their websites and other promotional material. The logo shall contain the respective membership number to ensure that only bonafide members display this logo.

For full information please see site KATO members now BONDED

In addition KATO Bonded members have a strict CODE OF ETHICS to adhere to. As much as guests would like to save a coin here or there, one must also be careful not to be deceived and receive unrealistic price offers for premium hotels or lodges, and end up in below standard accommodation. It is important for one to know the difference of budget, middle and premium accommodation options so that you get what you pay for. So, look out for the KATO Bonded members as your assurance of good standards and quality of service.

For instance, one safari offered by cruzeiro-safaris.com for Safari Ndovu 6 days safari give a clear picture of the difference price ranges of lodges, same game parks or reserves with different lodges and different prices. This applies, also in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania lodges. In November, Cruzeiro-safaris.com has introduced a full time based 4x4wheel drives (four wheel drives)Safari for 7days that’s take the tourist to places in the North and South West that is Samburu National Reserve, Lakes Baringo and Bogoria, Lake Nakuru National Park and finally Maasai Mara National Reserve.

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Kuoni and the East India Company Join Forces to Bring Alive the Ancient Art of Tea Drinking

Kuoni has joined forces with the recently re-launched East India Company, to bring alive the ancient art of tea drinking at two exciting customer events to be hosted in The East India Company’s chic store at 7-8 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XF on 06 and 15 November 2012, and one customer event to be hosted on the stunning SS Great Britain, a former passenger steamship now permanently docked in Bristol’s Great Western Dockyard, on 13 November 2012.

Granted a Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1600, The East India Company was founded by a group of enterprising merchants and businessmen to explore the mysteries of the East. It quickly began exploring new territories, mapping trade routes and discovering exotic goods all over the world. Its pioneers and adventurers established trading posts which would eventually grow into iconic world cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Mumbai.

So now Kuoni Travel is to bring alive the exotic destinations where the East India Company’s tea is grown to an audience who are interested in travel, discovery and the story behind how tea travels from plantation to porcelain cup.

Tea master, Lalith Lenadora who started at the age of 18 as a tea planter in his native Sri Lanka, will guide customers through the many exotic varieties of tea. The journey will include some of the world’s most interesting teas: rare white varieties such as Golden Tips, subtle green teas such as Dragonwell and Buttery Oolongs from Taiwan, rich black teas such as Rainforest Lumbini and Darjeeling First Flush to some romantic flowering teas such as Sacred Heart, and Thousand Year Red. Each tea is hand-selected by Mr Lenadora who will explain how to develop an understanding of the seasonal qualities of the teas and how to fully enjoy their unique flavours.

On the evenings, Kuoni’s personal travel experts will be on hand to bring alive the far flung destinations these teas are grown in and to talk to customers about holidays to these locations. Kuoni makes a point of hand-picking the best retreats, authentic travel experiences and hotels and tours that are exclusive to Kuoni guests.

At the events customers will be able to taste not only teas but also some of the exotic canapés, biscuits and chocolates that the company creates using their worldwide palette of influence. Customers will also have their names entered into a prize draw to win a flavour of the East India Trading company.

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Lambeth’s Bonfire Night Fireworks Display Moves to Brockwell Park

Brockwell Park in Brixton will be the setting for Lambeth Council’s Bonfire Night celebrations and fireworks display this November. Fireworks displays will take place across the capital on 5 November to mark Guy Fawkes’ failed attempt to blow up the House of Parliament in 1605, but the Brockwell Park setting is sure to be one of the most spectacular. The illuminated London City skyline in the distance can be seen from within the park and spectators will be able to marvel at the myriad night time displays taking place across the capital from one location.

The park itself is one of the prettiest in London and Lambeth Council is sure to make the most of this setting. Brixton is renowned as a place to party the night away, so expect plenty of fun, music and entertainment running late into the night.

More information about the event can be found on LondonTown.com, the number one Internet site for London.

Finding London hotels in and around Brixton, allowing visitors to make the most of this event, has never been easier thanks to HotelMap.com. This new hotel search and booking site from LondonTown.com is so simple, but so effective. Unlike other hotel booking sites, hotel search results are not displayed in an exhaustive list, but pictorially over an interactive, drop-and-drag, map of London.

Users can search for specific hotels, or by region, vicinity to public transport and major landmarks. Or, if they prefer, they can simply enter their dates and search the entire capital, grabbing the map and moving and/or zooming to certain areas and locales.

Using HotelMap.com it is easy to find hotels close to Brockwell Park. The Church Street Hotel is located less than two miles from Brockwell Park close to Denmark Hill rail station. This gorgeous, Spanish-American styled four-star boutique hotel is available from £75 per room, per night. This hotel is particularly popular for its breakfasts, bought fresh from Borough Market, offering a true taste of London every morning.

Another hotel within easy travelling distance of Brockwell Park is the Pestana Chelsea Bridge Hotel. This four-star riverside property is moments from Battersea Park rail station offering direct access to Brixton. Prices start at £149 per room, per night.

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Mark Rylance returns to the Apollo theatre in Twelfth Night

One of the British theatre’s most loved living actors is back treading the boards on one of his most popular West End stages, in a Shakespeare play which continues to be in high mainstream demand.

Mark Rylance, whose performance in Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem has been cited as one of the sensations of the last 10 years’ stage acting, returns to the Apollo Theatre – site ofJerusalem’s original West End transfer – with Twelfth Night , from 2 nd November to 3 rd February 2013.

The production marks a return to the all-male Shakespeare which Rylance made so popular during his tenureship at the Globe Theatre on Bankside. Indeed, this year’s production has just spent 3 weeks at the Globe, with Original Practices theatre company, where it has been drowned in good reviews.

Rylance plays Olivia, the swarthy and delicate noblewoman for whom the play’s Duke Orsino is pining. Viola, disguised as a boy, becomes Olivia’s page, and falls madly for Duke Orsino; whilst, in a case of mistaken identities, Olivia falls for the disguised Viola.

West End fans and theatre goers will want to make a weekend of this theatre occasion, and with that in mind, LondonTown.com has sourced some deals for those seeking acheap London hotel to round off their trip.

An excellent option is a one-night stay in a serviced apartment at 36-37 Cartwright Gardens, near the British Museum, for a discounted rate of £94 for a studio room on November 6th.

Those heading up on a weekend can save over 80% on the Thistle Euston Hotel London, with a double for £100 on the Saturday 10th November – saving over £300.

Via EPR Network
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Ice Age Live! Stage Show to Premier in London

One of the most popular animation films, adored by children and adults alike, has been adapted for the stage. Ice Age Live! A Mammouth Adventure will take audiences on a new adventure with Manny, Ellie, Sid, Diego and Scrat that will premier in London’s Wembley Arena before embarking on a 30-country, five-year worldwide tour.

The characters will not be portrayed by puppets; they will be life size and to scale – 3.6 metres high and 4.2 metres long. Although the stars of the show will remain the same as in the animated feature films, the story will be new and unique.

The show runs from 1-3 November at Wembley Arena, with three performances a day, 11am, 3pm and 7pm. Tickets cost between £30 and £50.

With a spectacle of this magnitude and scale, little ones may be a little overwhelmed after the performance, therefore LondonTown.com advises mums and dads to book an overnight stay in a nearby hotel. It has reduced prices at a range of London hotelsincluding the nearby Quality Hotel Wembley London and Ramada Encore London West. Room rates at these two hotels have been slashed by 73% and 74% respectively.

The three-star Quality Hotel Wembley London is located just five minutes walk from Wembley Arena and 15 minutes from central London by tube. The hotel boasts an onsite restaurant, bar and free parking and children and family rooms are available with extra beds and cots. Rooms at this hotel cost from £96 per night.

The three-star Ramada Encore London West is located then than three miles from Wembley Stadium and access is easy via public transport or road links. This hotel also has its own bar, restaurant and café and caters to families with older children and teenagers. Thanks to the exclusive LondonTown.com discount, room prices now start at just £54 per night.

Via EPR Network
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London Children’s Film Festival Brings Filmmaking to Life

Back for its seventh innings, the London Children’s Film Festival is a weeklong event aimed at children of all ages interested in the movie-making process. Hosted by the Barbican, children will not only be able to watch short and feature films, new and old, they’ll be able to participate in workshops ranging from the art of filming to how to steal the limelight. For children over 10 years there’s even the opportunity to make their own film in a day and take home a copy on DVD to show all the family.

Everything is interactive, educational and fun and prices are very reasonable. Tickets for film screenings costs £5 and workshops are priced between £2 and £5 each. Dates have yet to be confirmed, but the London Children’s Film Festival will take place sometime in November. More information can be found on LondonTown.com, the number one Internet site for London .

LondonTown.com also has information on London hotels close to the Barbican. Booking is also available directly through its website and it offers more than £250 worth of extras just for using its online booking site. Two reasonably priced London hotels picked out by LondonTown.com within easy walking distance of the Barbican are The Zetter Hotel London and Thistle City Barbican Hotel. Room prices at these hotels have been reduced by 71% and 88% respectively.

The Zetter is a trendy, boutique hotel in Clerkenwell, one of inner London’s slickest and most stylish districts. Rooms are well proportioned at this four-star hotel and cribs are available on request; per night prices start at £108 per room.

The three-star Thistle City Barbican Hotel has its own swimming pool, which should keep children amused in the evening. It’s a family friendly hotel with functional, good-size rooms and once again, cribs are available on request. Prices for nights at this hotel start at just £62 per room.

Via EPR Network
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Spirit of Christmas Fair Brings Finest Seasonal Products to London Olympia

The Spirit of Christmas Fair, presented by House and Garden magazine, returns to London Olympia with the finest seasonal products from more than 600 companies across the UK. Vendors offer everything from festive decorations to children’s toys thus enabling visitors to complete all their Christmas shopping under one roof and in one clean sweep. The fair runs from 30 October through to 4 November and tickets cost between £10.50 and £20.50 with children under 12 entering free.

One of the most popular aspects of this event is the Food Hall. Boasting everything from Christmassy treats to eat on the spot, to speciality cheese, meats and artisans’ produce.

From 1 to 4 November, the Luxury Travel Fair, presented by Conde Nast Traveller, will take place in Olympia’s West Hall; so if sweet treats and toys don’t make the cut, a holiday may well be a more appealing option.

To make the most of the Spirit of Christmas Fair LondonTown.com, the number one Internet site for London , suggests booking a hotel package through its website. Aside from offering some impressive discounts at nearby hotels in London it throws in over £250 worth of extras with each booking.

Examples of the kind of discounts LondonTown.com is offering include 76% off at the four-star Hilton London Olympia Hotel and 39% off at the four-star Simply Rooms & Suites Hotel. Both of these hotels are within a short walk of London Olympia.

The Hilton London Olympia Hotel is a popular choice for Olympia visitors. It’s just three minutes’ walk from the venue and boasts an outstanding customer rating. The hotel is kitted out with modern, stylish amenities and a slick contemporary design. Rooms at this hotel now start at just £78 per room, per night, thanks to the exclusive LondonTown.comdiscounts.

Simply Rooms & Suites is another winning four-star hotel. This contemporary boutique hotel boasts wireless Internet and LCD flatscreen TVs in all rooms and plenty of other luxury touches. Rates now start at £89 per room, per night.

Via EPR Network
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Be seduced by the latest exhibition from the National Gallery

For art lovers and photography buffs, the National Gallery’s autumn 2012 exhibition is an exciting prospect. From October 31st , Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present will be in the West End, taking an inquisitive look at the strong links between several modern photographers and 19 th century art.

And LondonTown.com, the number on London website, has got hold of some exceptional hotel deals and discounts for visitors looking to complete their weekend with a stay in one of several London hotels.

With big contemporary names like Sam Taylor-Wood and CraigieHorsfield exhibiting alongside some of the gallery’s most famous pieces in the collection – from Turner to Degas. The exhibition looks at how the still, captured image, one of the twentieth century’s defining art forms, has evolved its style in relation to the artistic influence of 18th and 19th century paintings.

As well as thematic pairings, bringing landscape photography into relief with lush painted landscapes from the National Gallery collection, there will also be – for the first time – three ‘interventions’ of contemporary photographs by Richard Billingham, CraigieHorsfield and Richard Learoyd. These will be displayed within the Gallery’s collection, juxtaposed with 19th-century paintings by Constable, Degas and Ingres.

Couples visiting can find some great deals on double rooms in the area courtesy ofLondonTown.com– save 55% on the 4-star Rathbone Hotel London, which also offers free cancellation, for £138 per night. Around the corner from Goodge Street tube, it is a 14 minute walk to the National Gallery.

Alternatively, save 86% but go upmarket with The Royal Trafalgar Hotel, located just 2 minutes walk from the gallery, for £162 for a double room in early November.

Via EPR Network
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