A classic trip to Bath

In the autumn of 2010, VisitBritain held a competition together with Pan Vision and Classic World where Swedes could win a trip for two to five-star hotel The Royal Crescent in Bath. The lucky winner was Katarina Johansson from Dalstorp in Sweden. Here is her story about the trip:

I randomly opened my e-mail and I got this one e-mail from VisitBritain saying ‘CONGRATULATIONS! You have won first prize in our contest for a trip for two to Bath in England’. I was filled with happiness – thank you for this fantastic prize!

Bath reminds me of my first InterRail trip back in 1984 when I was 17 and my friend and I spent a couple of days there. I remember we stayed at a beautifully situated hostel and that we hired bikes and took a trip out in the rolling landscape. I was wondering – will I recognise the city when I get back?

It was my oldest daughter who got to go on the trip with me. A little bit funny because she is 17 years old – like I was when I first visited Bath.

We travelled in the beginning of November 2010, flying from Gothenburg City Airport to London Stansted and then taking the Stansted Express to Liverpool Street Station in London. From there we went to Paddington and travelled by train to Bath, which went really smooth! Except, my suitcase got stuck on the tube! My daughter was of course embarrassed over me but after a while we did get my suitcase loose.

When we arrived in Bath we got a map and walked to the hotel, The Royal Crescent. England showed it’s best side: the sun was shining, the beautiful autumn leaves were still hanging on the branches and it was about 15 degrees. It was just lovely!

At the hotel we were welcomed by two gentlemen who opened the door for us. Inside was a beautiful fireplace. On our way to our room, which was actually a suite, we walked through a picturesque garden with illuminated corridors. The size of the suite was almost as big as the entire second floor in our house.

Later that day I showed my daughter what a real English pub looks like. We went to a really cosy place and had dinner there. The murmur of voices stopped a bit when we entered and we were met by friendly smiles and greetings. Great food and great beer (I was the only one drinking) in a genuine environment made us ready to explore the city. We went window-shopping and noticed that the Christmas decorations were already up. A little bit tired after all the travelling we headed back to the hotel and decided that we would go shopping the next day.

After a wonderful breakfast overlooking the beautiful garden, we headed down to the city centre. First we explored the lovely surroundings by the hotel, like the beautiful Victoria Park, and continued with the River Avon and Pulteney Bridge. I realised that I did not recognise anything and that it had been a while since last time… The sun sparkled over this beautiful city when a very happy mother and daughter walked arm in arm.

The rest of the day we did a lot of shopping. My daughter found a nice tea/coffee shop where we tasted delicious teas and exciting coffee.

The following afternoon we enjoyed a fabulous three-course dinner at the hotel. The food was some of the best we have ever eaten.

The next day we visited the Roman Baths, one of the best preserved archaeological sites in Europe, founded after the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD. We took a guided tour in English with phone-like devices that allowed us to hear what we wanted to know more about, very smart. We highly recommend this tour to everyone travelling to Bath!

We spent the afternoon in the lovely spa section at the hotel. I took a long swim in the 46 degree warm water, tried the steam sauna and felt like my body and soul were in complete balance.

After three wonderful days, great treatment and lots of new memories we travelled home to Sweden hoping that we will soon come back to this fantastic country.

/Katarina Johansson

Did Katarina inspire you to visit Bath? Read our travel guide to Bath and get useful information about accommodation, attractions and much more.



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Merry Christmas from Mind the Gap

London Eye in winter time

London Eye in winter time

Hello dear reader. With just a couple of days left until Christmas Eve, we want to wish you all a Merry Christmas. Thank you for following us and reading our posts during the last year. We promise to be back after Christmas with more hints and tips about our favourite country – Britain.

Here is some reading material for you who are going to Britain soon:

London in January = SALE
London Christmas Shopping Guide
Winter in Manchester

And last, but not least, a Christmas card from VisitBritain to all of you!

Best regards

/Carl, Gary, Helene, Jackie, Jette, Kim, Siska, Towe and Åsa


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Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition

The “unsinkable ship” Titanic set off on her maiden voyage on 10th of April 1912. She was supposed to sail from Southampton, England to New York, USA on a four day crossing, but collided with an iceberg on the 14th of April and sank with only 706 people surviving in the freezing water.

Now, almost 100 years later, the largest exhibition of Titanic artefacts are shown at the O2 in London. View over 300 artefacts from the ship, recreated first and third-class cabins, exclusive footage from the 2010 expedition to rescue artefacts from the wreck and much more.

The exhibition at the O2 is open until the 1st of May 2011. Buy tickets for the exhibition on VisitLondon’s website or go to www.titaniclondon.co.uk for further information.

Get there
Take the Jubilee line to North Greenwich and walk 200m from the underground station to the 02. For directions, find the O2 on our Britain Map. For Oyster Cards and other transport tickets, visit our online shop.

For more information about transport or other events at the O2, please visit www.theo2.co.uk.


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London in January = SALE

If you’re a true shopaholic, you know that London in January means only one thing – SALE! And in case you don’t get the Christmas gifts you wished for – book a trip to London in January and shop till you drop. Get up to 30 – 75% discount on clothes, shoes, electronics, toys and everything in-between! Many high streets and department stores start their sales immediately after Christmas.

Here are a couple department stores you should not miss:

Sales starting December 26
Harvey Nichols

Get great discounts on designer brands, accessories, beauty, home and much more.

John Lewis
With nearly half a million products, ranging from buttons to cufflinks, beds to pillows – it’s no wonder this is a popular destination during the January sales.

At this beautiful department store you can find everything from books to shoes by Manolo Blahnik.

House of Fraser
This is the place for the younger audience with high street names such as Miss Sixty and Warehouse. House of Fraser has great discounts during the January sales.

Offers British designer brands such as Jasper Conroan, Frost French and many more. Debenhams also has 153 stores across the UK and Ireland.

Here you’ll find everything from the world’s biggest shoe destination to household products.

Sales starting December 27
Fortnum & Mason

Renowned for their fine food, hampers, tea and wine. This is your chance to buy luxurious food on sale.

Visit one of the world’s most famous department stores and get up to 75% discount.

Date to be confirmed

With over 265 shops under one roof – you won’t be walking out of here empty-handed when it’s January sale.

…I can go on forever, but you get the picture – there are a lot of great bargains to be made if you’re heading to London in January! I’m already looking for tickets, are you?

Useful links:
> VisitLondon’s Shopping News
> Department stores in the UK
> London shopping guide

See you in London!


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Royal Wedding 2011: The Dress part 2

The speculation around the world is at full speed: Which dress designer will make Kate Middleton’s dress for her marriage to Prince William of Wales?

I can’t wait to hear who will fulfil this extraordinary commission. In the meantime, we present a list of ten possible designers – all British of course – who could make Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. Read “The Dress part 1” here. This is the second half of the list:

6. Erdem
The British fashion press would love to see an upcoming designer, who shows at London Fashion Week, get the job, and the extraordinarily talented Erdem Moralioglu would fit the bill. His romantic, often floral, confections show enormous skill, and his obsession with costume history and beautiful fabrics would produce a truly gorgeous dress. He has dressed some of the world’s most important women from Michelle Obama and Anna Wintour in the US to Sarah Brown and Samantha Cameron in the UK, and is stocked in Britain’s most prestigious fashion stores, including Harvey Nichols and Matches.

7. Stella McCartney
Educated at London fashion school powerhouse Central St Martins College of Art & Design, Stella McCartney made a great success at Parisian label Chloé, before launching her own label in 2001 with support from fashion giant Gucci Group. She is best known for making desirable clothes that women really want to wear in their everyday lives, but she does have past famous wedding form: She made Madonna’s wedding dress.

8. Amanda Wakeley
Ms Wakeley is another British designer who dressed Diana, Princess of Wales; she has also designed for Queen Rania of Jordan, as well as for Kate Winslet and Charlize Theron. Self-taught, she shows her beautiful, pared down and elegant designs on the official schedule at London Fashion Week, although she is known primarily for her eveningwear outside of fashion circles. A bias cut silk satin column is one of the silhouettes most associated with her designs, and she is becoming one of Britain’s biggest high-end wedding dress designers.

9. Philippa Lepley
If Kate decided to commission a specialist bridal couturier, then Philippa Lepley is considered a front-runner for the job, with several bookmakers making her the current favourite. Along with several other British wedding dress designers like Caroline Castigliano and Suzanne Neville, she has both the skills and experience to make a dress suitable for a state wedding. She opened her eponymous salon in London’s Fulham Road in 1990, specialising in elegant and simple dresses, using incredibly luxurious fabrics, often with hand beading and embellishments.

10. Roland Mouret
Mr Mouret makes some of the most desirable dresses in the world. With an instinctive understanding of how to flatter and fit a woman’s body, he makes every woman who wears his dresses look sublime. His client list is legendary, and although he only makes couture wedding dresses for a few favoured clients, we hear that they are breath-taking. 2011 will be his big year whatever happens, as he opens his first dedicated salon over the whole six floors of a townhouse on Mayfair’s Carlos Place.

Read more about British fashion designers here on our website.

(This list was created for VisitBritain by writer Sasha Wilkins, who blogs as LibertyLondonGirl. The thoughts of an English Fashion Editor in Manhattan on life, love, design, food & style.


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British special guest at the Nobel Prize Ceremony

What is the connection between the Nobel Prize and the 2012 Olympic mascot  Wenlock? Well, I’ve got the answer for you. Wenlock is in Stockholm waiting for the Nobel guests to arrive at today’s prize ceremony!

It is in the Shropshire town of Much Wenlock in England you will find the birthplace of the modern international Olympic Games. It was here, in 1850, that Dr William Penny Brookes first founded the Wenlock Olympian Society.

Now, 160 years later Wenlock’s role has provided the inspiration behind one of the 2012 London Olympic mascots unveiled in a blaze of global publicity.

We are helping our dear friend and mascot to travel the globe and to put Much Wenlock on the map. Go to this Facebook page and help to decide where he will turn up next!


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Royal Wedding 2011: The Dress part 1

The speculation around the world is at full speed: Which dress designer will make Kate Middleton’s dress for her marriage to Prince William of Wales?

I can’t wait to hear who will fulfil this extraordinary commission. In the meantime, we present a list of ten possible designers – all British of course – who could make Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. Here are five of them, the other five will be published here on Monday:

1. Jasper Conran
A former British Designer of the Year and one of the most commercially successful, through his diffusion ranges for department store Debenhams, Jasper Conran shows his restrained and chic womenswear on the runway at London Fashion Week, and has been making beautiful wedding dresses for nearly thirty years. He has royal wedding experience too: he made the sophisticated and elegant dress that the Queen’s niece Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones wore for her marriage to Daniel Chatto in 1994 at the Church of St Stephen Walbrook in the City of London.

2. Vivienne Westwood
Once the enfant terrible of the British fashion industry, Dame Viv has mellowed with age. Where once her models wore no knickers under micro kilts and wobbled down the catwalk in eight-inch platforms, now her ravishing evening and wedding dresses are just as likely to be worn by pillars of the establishment as they are by rock stars or avant-garde artists.

3. Daniella Helayel of Issa
Previously an under the radar label known mostly for its flattering, slinky silk-jersey dresses, London-based Issa has suddenly become one of the most talked about labels in the world, thanks to the off the rack blue silk dress chosen for her engagement announcement by Kate Middleton. Issa’s Brazilian designer Daniella Helayel is being talked about as the front-runner for the wedding dress, having made bespoke wedding dresses for special clients, but we wonder whether her relaxed, flowing, sexy style is quite formal enough for the wedding of the decade, if not the century.

4. Bruce Oldfield
A treasured darling of the fashion establishment, Mr Oldfield has been designing under his own name since 1975. Raised in a Children’s Home by the charity Dr Barnado’s, he transcended his hard childhood to become one of Diana, Princess of Wales favourite designers, responsible for some of her most iconic outfits. Mr Oldfield does not show at London Fashion Week, and works mainly at couture level from his salons on London’s Beauchamp Place, making dresses for everyone from Rihanna to Joan Collins, as well as being responsible for the wedding outfits for Jemima Khan, and for the Prime Minister’s wife Samantha Cameron.

5. Elizabeth Emmanuel
In 1981 the dress that she and her then partner David Emmanuel designed for Diane, of Princess of Wales’ marriage to Prince Charles was romantic, spectacular and over the top, with its huge puffed sleeves, twenty-five foot train and billowing skirt made from taffeta silk woven on Britain’s Lullingstone silk farm. Since then Elizabeth has been responsible for designing the iconic scarlet Virgin Atlantic uniforms, dressed many celebrities, from Drew Barrymore to Jerry Hall. In 1990 the Emmanuel’s separated, and Elizabeth has continued to design both for private clients and for commercial collaborations. She has a new line called the Art of Being, which launched in September 2010.

Read more about British fashion designers here on our website.

(This list was created for VisitBritain by writer Sasha Wilkins, who blogs as LibertyLondonGirl. The thoughts of an English Fashion Editor in Manhattan on life, love, design, food & style.


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