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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

Business travellers in search of power

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It’s a hard reality of modern life: people want power. We’re talking about electrical power – just to be clear, that thing that allows you to be mobile, do your job from trains and airport lounges, and call or be called anywhere you are.

Unfortunately, energy resides in batteries and gets consumed. (By the way, have you noticed how the lesser you’ve got left, the faster it goes? I am sure “they did it on purpose”). That’s when you need to recharge your batteries and things start being fun, especially in airports. There are no other places on earth with more abundance of electric power (except maybe for Paris illuminations during Christmas) yet, when Your Batteries run down, power plugs become as rare as white truffles (*). If you see a business man or woman walking slowly head down, looking behind wastebins, pillars, phone booths, benches or vending machines, they are in dire need of power.

While waiting in London Heathrow seating areas you’ll be able to see a few hotspots or internet access points, most of them not working, with a ballet of nervous power hungry guys (most of the time men, really). Here they come approaching in delight, zipping out all their gears proud as pros, plugging in, grunt in denial, tapping on their chargers, unplugging, replugging, staring at their devices as if trying to recharge by brainwaves. Then they realize they are alone. A quick look behind them to check if anyone has noticed (yes we did), then calmy store al the stuff back, as if, after all, it was not so urgent, and clean the area.

Next you’ll see them looking for vacuum cleaners plugs hidden among benches. The few lucky ones already connected never leave the spot anyway. After cleaning up their Outlooks, they hang on there… “comfortably numb”, with plenty of excuses to stay connected: check the webmail, check the second webmail, update status on Facebook, update Twitter, looking at the other desperate guys like satisifed lions after the hunt.

One smart, very smart insurance group that I can’t name here has setup a desk in the middle of T1. It’s a clean, glossy white desk reminding of a medical center with positions where people can sit down to get their shoot of network access and… recharge their batteries. They don’t sell any insurance. They just help the addicts in need. Holy cow. Good idea.

Daniele

 

 

PS: to ease your frustration you might be interested in transfer services to/from London Heathrow airport to downtown. But there are no plugs onboard.

 (*) white truffles are a special kind of mushrooms growing underground, exclusively in the Langhe region of Italy. They are worth their weight in gold.

 

[This post is syndicated from the isango! travel blog]

 

 

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Last Minute Halloween Costume Shops in London

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For those of you on a mad dash to construct a fabulous last minute Halloween costume for that raging, fun fancy dress party you are attending on Friday, with one objective in mind—to win the (presumably alcoholic) prize for having the BEST COSTUME—I am here to help you…and help you fast! (Whew! Relief!)

If you haven’t seen it already, I wrote a blog last week about Halloween costume shops in London (or Fancy Dress shops in London—whichever term you prefer. You see, there is this British girl in my office (a British girl…in my London office… imagine that…) that refuses to celebrate Halloween on the grounds that it is a “poor excuse for American kids to rob our homes of candy.” What a drag! She’s not invited to my party—that’s for sure. British kids, get your fancy dress on and celebrate with your Yankee brethren. I just know how much you love fancy dress!)

Right, so back to helping you score that perfect last minute costume. My blog last week covered a few costume shops in West London, and though I vowed to visit fancy dress shops in East London, I must admit that I never made it past the vaguely Eastern part of Central London… because I got lost on my way to Bethnal Green, like a tourist. But I did manage to visit these shops:

1. Angels, near Tottenham Court Road tube.

Angels, to be quite frank, was my worst nightmare. Their Argos-style catalog/stock room approach is, in my opinion inefficient and irritating. The catalogues are full of misleading images…i.e. heavily-endowed blonde women, sporting next-to-nothing variations of service-industry uniforms and fairytale gowns…and the costumes are cheap, most of them slutty. However, if you are planning to score a costume on your lunch break today, this is one of the few costume shops in central London. You can probably find something in here—as long as you don’t mind not trying on your costume before you buy it.

“No, you cannot try it on, but we give full refunds if it doesn’t fit and you decide to return it,” said the brainwashed saleslady, as I indicated that their last flapper costume (by the way, they are sold out of a lot of costumes, so go in with an open mind!) was not in my size but could possibly fit—I needed to try it on to see. “It’s the same as buying on the internet,” she reassured me.

“This is not the internet, this is a shop.” I reminded her—in case she had, by chance, forgotten. She didn’t like that very much.

Idea: Base your costume around a wig.

Angels had some great fancy dress wigs—I’ll give ‘em that. Everyone loves a crazy wig. In fact, I would say that a wig could quite possibly be the most hilarious, transforming element of a costume. Forget being a specific character…go wig shopping! Grab some bright purple tresses, some face paint to match, an eyeball decal, a horn, and some wings, and voila, you are a ‘one eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater’. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_People_Eater)

Or better yet—grab that amazing mullet, and become an 80’s rocker. Trim the mullet down into a homemade ‘Euro mullet’, and…well I’m going to stop here. After all, I don’t want to offend anyone. ;-)

2. Madword, near Old Street tube.

This costume hire facility—if you can manage to find it (it is hidden down a flight of stairs)—is pretty good. The staff were friendly, and (gasp!) they allowed me to try on several costumes. Who would have thought?

Their range of costumes is extensive—you must go in with a specific idea of what you want…and, importantly, a willingness to fork over a nice-sized chunk of cash. You could score a real gem in Madworld, especially if you are after a costume from a certain time period—they offer both the stereotypical (think: ‘Marilyn Monroe’ dress) and more mundane (think: simple sweater and skirt outfit) fancy dress options for almost every era imaginable.

Idea: Pick your favourite era, and try on all of the costumes in the shop section dedicated to that era.

I am guessing that you probably didn’t live in the 1920’s, and I am also pretty sure that not every single female from this era dressed like a flapper when she went out on the town (I speak from personal experience—I tried on several flapper costumes but found some of the other getups in the 1920’s section to be much more interesting).

See what the fancy dress hire shops have in stock for your favourite era, and be creative!

Happy Searching!

Need more Halloween costume ideas? Just ask me – I’m full of them. Seriously, I’ll respond quickly. Carrie Daniel is officially ‘on call’ for all of your Halloween costume inspirational needs until Friday October 31st at 5pm.

Best of luck to you all. May your costumes win you large quantities of cheap booze and/or some hot dates…

London fancy dress/costume shops:

Angels, 119 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8AE

Madworld, 69-85 Tabernacle Street, London, EC2A 4BA

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Fancy Dress and Party Shops in London

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It took me two years of living in the UK to fully realize the meaning—and cultural significance—of ‘fancy dress’.Until very recently, I had always envisioned (in my mind) this term’s literal definition: formal attire worn to special or high profile social events. For young ladies, this would entail short, flouncy party dresses held up by wide, umpire waist belts and accented with ridiculously high heels/an elaborately teased hairstyle.

Boy was I wrong! Unless, of course, the ‘fancy dress’ theme du jour is ‘overpriced Mayfair club’.

Fancy dress parties, I have come to understand, can entail almost anything imaginable—from superheroes, to secretaries, to Sponge Bobs, to Scary Spices—and are hugely popular social events, year round.It’s no wonder that my two (English) flatmates jumped at the opportunity to host a Halloween party, instead of a housewarming party, at our new London flat. “Ooooh, fancy dress! Yes, let’s!”The signature American Halloween traditions—pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, haunted houses, glow-in-the-dark skeleton decorations, spooky costumes, etc.—most of my British pals could take ‘em or leave ‘em. But given an opportunity to dress in costume, they will rise to the challenge—and go all out.Whether you are an American living abroad or a fancy dress-loving Brit, chances are, with Halloween less than two weeks away, you’ve pondered a few costume ideas…and scoped out different Halloween celebration options. You may even be hosting your own fancy dress party! Have you decided on a costume? Found the right decorations? You don’t have much time…Lucky for you, I’ve done some homework.Yesterday, I set out to find some of the best costume and party decoration shops in London. I came across a few gems and will be searching for more next week, so get excited!Fancy Dress and Party Decoration shops in London, Part 1.Carnival95 Hammersmith RoadLondonW14 0QHUpon entry, this place seems like a claustrophobic wig and accessory factory, with rows and rows of colourful synthetic hairdos, beards, and even sideburns lined up floor to ceiling…columns of feather boas, masks, hats, beads, gloves, you name it!

Fancy dress feather boas

fancy dress halloween wigs

I was disappointed, however, to see no full costumes (much less a beach tourist or a pumpkin getup—the options that I am considering this year) and was just about to leave when I saw a sign about the shop’s Costume Hire Policy.What costumes? Where?

The sweet saleswoman (who spoke very little English—I suggest going in with a clear idea of what you need!) then led me to the back of the store, through a narrow doorway and into an even more claustrophobic room, which was overflowing with…costumes! Medieval princes, Greek goddesses, Cabaret dancers, Native American warriors…definitely something for everyone. I was officially overwhelmed.

Indian Warrior Costume

Fairy princess fancy dress costumes

You must enter Carnival with a clear focus and plenty of time/patience. There are hundreds of costume options, all arranged by theme, but there is only one changing ‘area’ amidst the chaos in the back—you may have to temporarily abandon your modesty…Non Stop Party Shop214-216 Kensington High StreetLondonW8 7RGThis franchise has shops throughout London and the South East, including one one Kensington High Street, which I had the pleasure of visiting yesterday. It was definitely a huge contrast from Carnival—while they do carry costumes, their specialty is party decorations/favours, which they tailor to all occasions. They currently have an impressive range of Halloween Party decorations, some of which I found to be highly amusing:

bloody halloween decorations

They also carry a fairly large selection of affordable, ‘bagged’ costumes in their basement:

Indian costume fancy dress

(Sorry – I couldn’t help myself, but is this costume model for real??)Definitely stop here if you need something quick/simple…or if you are looking for some humorous decorations…or if you just want to check out the above costume in person.

‘Stay tuned’ for Chapter 2: East London (which actually ended up being about costume shops in CENTRAL London)

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We need a theme song!

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Well, sort of…

I have been assigned the exciting task of finding an upbeat, catchy ‘theme’ song to use for our corporate video (which is going to be awesome, by the way).

Since we are a such a new, young and fun company, we are looking for the equivalent in a local music group.

Is your up-and-coming, UK-based band looking for some global exposure?  (Are you a dedicated groupie, seeking to promote your oh-so-talented friends?)

If so, we want to hear from you ASAP.

Like, today.

Just post a link to your band’s website below, or email me with your contact info and a link to your band’s website at:

carrie.daniel@isango.com

THANKS!

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Really low fares from London to Paris? Try the train!

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I have been flying across Europe for years, both for business and leisure, and I have to admit I have never had any amazing flight experiences. Not one single great story to tell about equipment, food or service. Sure, I have a slight preference for major carriers due to greater amount of leg room and (usually) easier to reach gates, but I most often end up travelling on low-cost carriers due to the price difference.

But now, I have something to say. Since my move to Paris I have been using the Eurostar train very frequently. THIS is travel!!!

To start, obviously, the train goes from Paris city center to London city center, so I avoid wasting time and money to reach remote airports terminals.

Next big thing: the Eurostar check-in is fully automated and takes about 10 seconds. Security is slightly faster than in airports but a similar process.

The next step is simply to sit down in your comfortable, wide seat and enjoy (or work, as I often do). No queuing up at the gate, no queuing up at the aircraft, no seatbelts, no security demonstrations and, more specifically, if you have to work on a laptop or can’t live without music (or both), no downtime switching off during take-off and landing. No complimentary coffee spilling over your book, no toilets for contortionists, no shaky situations.

Even more significantly: there is relatively little engine noise, so you can enjoy music, focus on work and have real conversations. Not to mention a large bar/restaurant area, where you can stretch and walk around.

The Eurostar booking process is also quite easy. The website is not top notch modern and sometimes goes bezerk, but it allows you to find the best fares and to select your own seat. You can pay online and just pickup your ticket at the machine once you show up for departure.

The Eurostar fares can be just as dramatically low as they can be high. Booking 3-4 weeks in advance gives you fares for 77 euros (60 pounds) Paris-London or London-Paris round trip! But booking within one week can take you north of 600 euros (500 pounds). If you’ve missed the good fares, try to search for ‘secondhand’ tickets on Google: there is one French website where you will easily find tickets. The fine print says that Eurostar tickets cannot be resold (the name is printed on the ticket). In practice, check-in and passport control are separate, and I have never heard of anyone being caught.

The only bad news is there can be queues at peak times.  If you’re travelling on a Friday evening London to Paris, for example, the station will be full of cosmopolitan commuters going home for the weekend.

Bottom line: I am surprised there are still flights operating between London and Paris at all. Unless you live or work next to an airport, or are on a connecting flight, there is no doubt in my mind: you should book early and ride the train.

Oh yes, and one more advantage: at arrival, get off the train, and you’re done! No taxing to gate, no shuttles, no luggage belts, no passport checks, not even customs….

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Mahiki’s Famous Treasure Chest

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My sincere apologies for the delays in posting photographs—I’ve been having some technical difficulties…

If you missed yesterday’s blog about Mahiki, which is, apparently, Prince Harry’s favourite London night club, you can read it here.

Right, so I’ve decided that a photograph doesn’t do Mahiki’s signature concoction much justice, but, nonetheless, here it is:

Mahiki Treasure Chest London

…those straws are about to do a lot of damage!

Crazy, right?

End story: Mahiki is a fantastic venue for a hen party or a stag, if you can foot the bill?

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Innocent Village Fete in London

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Enjoy live music and plenty of food and drink in the summer sunOn the weekend of August 2nd and 3rd, head to Regent’s Park to enjoy live music and plenty of food and drink at the Innocent Village Fete.

This festival is full of fun and entertainment – enjoy performances by The James Taylor Quartet, The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and many more, or laugh along with the many comedians and storytellers.

Have a go at activities ranging from welly wagging to morris dancing, from ferret racing to duck herding.

For children, there is face painting, funfair rides, a flea circus and a petting zoo.

There will be a big farmers” market with stallholders from Borough Market, licensed real ale, cider and other bars, lots of lovely food, an arts and crafts area, places to picnic, a few smoothies, massages and a shady spot under the trees if it all gets a bit too much.

The fete is open from 11am to 7pm, and tickets cost £7.50 for adults and £3.50 for children.

London – Ride the London Eye, visit the Tower of London or take a day out the city to see Stonehenge.
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Airship offers views over London

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The airship will run until August 21stA new commercial airship service is offering passengers spectacular views of London until August 21st.

The Star Over London zeppelin will carry up to 12 passengers a time, taking in sights such as Greenwich, Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge and the Houses Of Parliament.

Flights will take off from Damyns Hall airfield, Upminster, and follow the Thames, flying at 1000 feet (300m) and at up to 40mph.

There will be between five and eight flights each day.

At more than 75m (250ft) long, the Star is the world’s largest commercial airship and cruises at about 35mph.

Co-pilot Katharine Board told the Guardian: “Here you get to learn something new every day … It is like riding the waves, like a boat on the water. There’s no other aircraft you can fly this low, this slow.”

Tickets are priced from £185 for a half-hour flight to £360 for an hour-long trip, and must be pre-booked.

London – Ride the London Eye, visit the Tower of London or take a day out the city to see Stonehenge.
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