Stylish surroundings worth every penny...
ROB IRVINE works out the best ways to save on travel so that you can enjoy a taste of luxury in London
THE trick with London is to spend as little as possible on the journey so that you can splash out a bit more on accommodation.
An open return in standard class from Manchester Piccadilly to London is now an eye-watering £321. But book ahead for a Friday afternoon trip, returning home the following evening, and the price plummets to £54.50.
Travel with a loved one and you can bring this down to £36 per head if you invest in the new Two Together railcard.
On arrival make your way by bus – more on this later – down to Theatreland and envelop yourselves in the delights of the sumptuous Waldorf Hilton hotel.
This, as they say, is a bit posh. It dates back to 1908 and retains all its Edwardian grandeur while incorporating the comforts of today.
Our recently refurbished room referred to another era, the art deco style of the 20s, complete with black and white photos from the first golden age of Hollywood.
The hotel is in Aldwych and if your aim is to take in a show then this is the perfect base with Drury Lane and Shaftesbury Avenue close by.
But the theme for our trip was fine art and fine beer.
Take a short stroll down to the bank of the Thames then along to the Millennium Bridge and over to Tate Modern where the magnificent Matisse – The Cut-Outs is running until September 7.
This is a fantastic insight into his delicate later works when Matisse, too ill to paint, found a way to create stunning works of art with coloured paper and scissors.
Later this year Tate Britain, also not too far away, is showcasing the later works of Turner.
And Tate has just announced its exhibitions in London for 2015 with retrospectives of the works of Alexander Calder and Barbara Hepworth making the headlines.
Another way to save a few quid if you are a regular visitor to exhibitions is to acquire the Art Fund card. This gets you a sizeable discount on entry to the Tate’s exhibitions.
And it will also give you free entry to the Courtauld gallery which is two minutes’ walk from the Waldorf and considerably less crowded than the Tate. Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère is the star of their permanent collection.
As for fine beer, I am a recent convert to the world of craft beer which appears to be a bit like real ale but with bubbles as the beer comes in kegs.
Brewers in the United States, no doubt sick of tasteless Bud, have led the way but there are also some superb craft brewers back home.
And that explains why trendy young things in Holborn are knocking back pints of Magic Rock from Huddersfield. We headed up Drury Lane then along High Holborn to join them at the Holborn Whippet.
Like most bars in London on a Friday night the place was heaving with what seemed an impenetrable crowd squeezed into a small roped area outside.
But Londoners have learned how to cope with the crush and even when it appears to be six deep at the bar the drinks are never long in coming.
There was a similar throng outside the Craft Beer Company in Covent Garden which offered a huge range of draught beers.
So in a merry mood we returned to the more refined but far from austere surroundings of the Waldorf bar and did the correct thing by switching to cocktails.
The list abounds with classics such as Old Fashioned and Sazerac. Then we headed for an excellent dinner in the hotel’s Homage Grand Salon restaurant.
So what didn’t we have time to do?
Well there was no squeezing in afternoon tea.
And despite packing our kit we never made it to the pool and fitness club which hotel guests have access to.
It would have been great to try one of the Waldorf’s famous picnic hampers. St James’ Park, Victoria Embankment and Temple Gardens are close by for al fresco dining.
But all too soon it was time to leave. We thanked the concierge for offering to get us a cab and headed to the bus stop for a cheap trip back to Euston.
So my parting money saving tip is to invest in an Oyster card at any underground station but go nowhere near the overcrowded Tube and make your way round London on the top deck of a red London bus. Just £1.45 a ride – what a bargain! ROB stayed as a guest of the Waldorf Hilton in Aldwych, London WC2B 4DD. Room rates are from £239. For more information or to make a booking call 0207 836 2400 or visit waldorf.hilton.com
●● The Waldorf Hilton in London dates back to 1908 and is the perfect base to explore the capital’s Theatreland
●● The hotel’s Homage Grand Salon restaurants