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August 12, 2009

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                    My London

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Cheerio from London where I've been three times in the last few months. I love this city and could live here (in the summer, that is) if the opportunity ever arose. I stayed at a variety of places, including a refurbished historic hotel, dined at an array of restaurants and walked a lot, especially through most of the city's royal parks. I'll tell you all about this, plus, the best way to get around and where to get theatre tickets. If you want to make your trip here smoother and see my London, both pricey and practical, then join me for this tour of one of my favorite cities across the pond.

We left off last week from Heathrow's beautiful Terminal 5 after just touching down on a British Airways flight from Los Angeles. The first thing I did, which is what I always do when I clear immigration, is hit the ATM. The current exchange rate is £1 GBP = 1.66 USD. Ouch – I know. But the exchange rate is actually a lot cheaper than it was in 2008. Back then, it cost me $201 for pulling £100 from the ATM. This time, £100 set me back $166. Obviously, these rates make going out to eat, sightseeing, getting around more enjoyable. In addition to the more favorable exchange rate, many museums are free, theatre ticket prices are 20% lower than on Broadway and hotel prices are down an average of 33%, according to Smith Travel Research. Note: All prices below are listed in British Pounds, unless noted otherwise.

Getting from Heathrow to the city is easy as can be and not expensive as long as you don't take a taxi. A taxi will not only cost a ridiculous amount of cash (about £65) but it will take three to five times longer than the train. The quickest way to Central London is on the Heathrow Express. The trains are directly below the airport terminals and to make the walk less of a hassle, there are plenty of free luggage carts.

Heathrow Express' one-way cost is £16.50 (it's £3 more on the train), it takes only 15 minutes to get to Central London (Paddington Station) and the trains depart every 15 minutes so there's no need to rush. If you're traveling now through August 31, Heathrow Express is offering free travel for children (normally £8.50) between five and 15 years when traveling with an adult. Tickets can be booked in advance at or at the station and all you need to show the conductor is your confirmation number. Note: There is a T-Mobile hot spot on the train but since it's only a 15-minute ride, it's not worth the hassle of logging on unless you really need to.

From Paddington, you can take a taxi or the tube to your hotel if you packed light. A taxi to Mayfair, where I was staying, takes about 10 minutes and runs about £8 (£2 more if you pay by credit card). The tube (£4) is available right from Heathrow to Central London but it takes a lot longer (it makes a ton of stops) and it's not as spacious.

Without a doubt the tube and buses are the best way to get around London, besides walking, of course. To save money on your fare, get an Oyster Card like the locals. This transit card has a £3 refundable deposit and you can add as much credit to the card as you like. Plus, it's good for traveling by both subway and bus as well. The Oyster card transforms those £4 rides into £1.60 rides (although it could be more for those traveling longer distances). The blue cards can be found in a number of places including most tube station ticket offices and online at the Oyster website. But the best place to get it is in advance from the Visit Britain Tourism Board; it's one pound less and they will send it to your home address before you leave, so you're all set to go when you land.

Since I made three separate trips to London, I have three different hotels to write about. Obviously I can't tell you about all of them this week so the latter two will have to wait. Back in May, I spent almost a week at the famed Grosvenor House hotel, which is located on exclusive Park Lane and overlooks beautiful Hyde Park. I was there living like a rock star, thanks to an invite by Marriott Hotels to help celebrate the Grosvenor House's 80th birthday. In case you didn't know, The Grosvenor House is one of Marriott's newest additions to their luxury JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts brand. I know what you're thinking – score! BIG TIME ... for me and for them! What a beautiful, iconic property to have in their portfolio.

The Grosvenor House has been frequented by royalty, business leaders and celebrities since its opening in 1929. In fact, I saw all 6-foot-4 of Brigitte Nielsen in the bar one night. She looked down at me as if she could throw me around the room like a blow-up doll but with Mark Gastineau, Rocky and Flavor Flav in her repertoire, I gave her the Heisman. The Grosvenor House was one of the largest private houses on Park Lane belonging to the Grosvenor family (better known as the Dukes of Westminster) for more than a century. But after WWI, the family realized it was just too expensive to maintain so it was sold. To make a long story short -- it's now the first JW Marriott hotel brand in the United Kingdom.

The 494-room hotel has 8 floors. What's nice about it is that although The Grosvenor House is now owned by a big chain, you don't feel like you're in a typical international hotel. Not that that's a bad thing, Mr. Marriott. But there's nothing better than a historic, iconic hotel that's been restored so that it has all the comforts of home but still retains an old-world charm.

As you would expect from a five-star hotel, the service is top-notch. When I rolled up in my Blackie, a top-hatted bellman opened the door, welcomed me and grabbed my two small bags all in one fell swoop. Check-in took a minute. Since I had just gotten off a long flight, the first thing I needed to do was freshen up. I jumped in the marble shower and rubbed their fancy bath products (Penhaligon's Quercus) all over my naked body and few hairs. The shower pressure was fantastic but the showerhead couldn't be moved – I guess to keep monsters like me from flooding the floor. It was a cool day out so I really appreciated the thick, soft, heavy towels hanging on the heated towel rack. My one complaint about the bathroom is that the maid kept replacing my towel even though I had it hanging on the rack, which meant I planned to reuse it. In fact, to reduce my carbon footprint, I use one towel for the week. But in England, the service is so refined that the maid also kept moving my shampoo/conditioner bottles from the shower back to the sink. After the third day, it was driving me crazy so that finally, I had to sit her down ...

As you probably know, hotel rooms in London are notoriously small but since I was a guest of Mr. Marriott's, I got a one-category upgrade to a superior room. However, even though my room was bigger, it wasn't necessarily any different from the others because the bedding and facilities were the same. After taking a quick nap, I had to tell someone how incredible the bed was so I ‘tweeted' about it. Seriously, the bed and sheets might just be the most comfortable I have ever felt. Another nice room touch was the master switch, so in one flick, you can turn all the lights off. It would have been better if it were by the bed instead of the door, though. Each time the maid came to clean (twice a day) she left two bottles of water; I stocked up so I didn't have to buy any. The rooms in these old hotels are solid so you don't hear a lot of hallway traffic. I had a flat screen TV with plenty of channels and next to the desk were a bunch of electrical outlets with two UK type plugs, one to fit European plugs and best of all (for me!), one for North American plugs – so need to fumble with adaptors.

The Internet is not cheap and it's not wireless. And the curtains don't fit snug so they let light in. Also the “green sign” for the sheets should read the opposite to what it actually said. Instead of saying: Please place this card on the bed if you want the existing sheets to be remade, it should say: Place this card on the bed if you want new sheets. That would not only save them money (because who the hell reads the card?) but the environment, too.

Here are some of my notes (random but interesting!). Marriott bought the hotel five years ago and pumped over £100 into its refurbishment. The word ‘house' was used in the hotel name to keep the feeling warm and friendly. Marriott employees are called associates not workers. The Grosvenor House associates hail from 86 nations. On average, 34 percent of the hotel's guests are American. The hotel is infused with a fresh, grassy fragrance.

The royal family comes to the hotel at least once a year, usually in June, for a private view of the Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair. It's the top antiques show in the U.K. and rated number four in the world. It takes place in the Great Room – the largest ballroom in the Europe and the place where Queen Elizabeth learned how to ice skate in 1929, when it used to be an ice rink (they closed it in 1934). Each year, 90 of the leading dealers set up shop and sell not just antiques but fine wines, photography and art. Everything is for sale and there's about half a billion pounds worth of goods at the show and around £55 million are sold each year. Other notable functions that take place here are the BAFTA Awards, England's Oscars.

Since the hotel is situated in Mayfair, London's ritziest neighborhood, there are plenty of places to shop. Most top designers have stores in Mayfair and there's no shortage of luxury car dealers or restaurants. And good ones, too! Did you know London has 48 restaurants with at least 1 Michelin star, 13 of which are in Mayfair? Besides incredible food, the hotel is within walking distance to many museums, landmarks, department stores, parks and even West End theatres.

If you time your visit right, you might make the free tour given by the Grosvenor House's head concierge, Tony Verri. On the first Wednesday of every month, Tony escorts guests between 6pm and 9pm, around Mayfair's Historic Streets, Haunts & Hostelries. Not only does he dish up all the history and insider secrets, but he also buys the participants their first drink at a local pub. He spreads the business around each month but we went to a pub that has been open since 1423 – can that even be possible? Unfortunately, Tony told us more pubs are closing than opening. Rates begin at £175. The Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London, W1K7TN United Kingdom, Tel: 44 207 499 6363.

In addition to checking out the Grosvenor House, I also accompanied Mr. Marriott to two other grand openings just outside of the city. One was the 218-room Courtyard at Gatwick Airport (shuttle costs £2 to the airport) and the other was the Twickenham Marriott. Twickenham is the home of English rugby and the hotel is connected to their incredible 82,000-seat stadium. They did a photo shoot on the rugby field, which is called a pitch, and I got to meet England's most famous player, Jason Leonard. I think Jason got the short end of the stick when he and the mayor presented Mr. Marriott with a signed England rugby jersey by the national team and in return he received an unsigned Clinton Portis Washington Redskins jersey. Yikes! They should've at least dragged Portis' sorry ass across the pond to sign it (if you can't tell, I'm a NY Giants fan and the Redskins are their biggest rival). Nevertheless, it was a great day especially for Marriott, which now has 18 hotels in London and over the next two years, will have over 700 hotels and 115,000 rooms in development around the world.

Thanks to my good buddy and travel guru Chris McGinnis for sharing three good Marriott deals in this month's Ticket Newsletter (sign up for it here):

1 Earn triple Delta miles for Marriott stays through August 31. (Registration required.)

2 Marriott Rewards members who complete three stays by August 31 will get a free night that must be used by December 31 (Ritz-Carlton not included.)

3 Rewards members can also redeem points for three nights and get the third night free for stays at certain Marriott resort properties through September 7.

One in five visitors visit the United Kingdom because of films.

I dined at way too many places to list them all but the highlights were:

Quo Vadis was probably the trendiest and most expensive of all the restaurants I hit. Quo Vadis is a classic grillroom named after the movie and is usually loaded with celebs and London's elite. It's owned by brothers Sam and Eddie Hart who have the top Spanish restaurants, Fino and Barrafina. Eddie and Sam have restored Quo Vadis to its former glory so it's back to being one of London's most beautiful and historic restaurants. If you have the set lunch/pre-theatre menu like I did, it's quite reasonable. I had their two-course option and chose the watercress soup for my starter and green asparagus risotto for £17.50. Quo Vadis, 26-29 Dean Street, Soho, Tel: +44 (0) 207 437 9585.

Just a block from the Grosvenor House is Corrigan's. It's run by Irish chef Richard Corrigan, who grew up on a farm and brought with him his fresh food mentality. Here there's a strong emphasis on rustic, traditional fare with dishes featuring pheasant, grouse, lamb, venison and duck. All the food he serves is organic from small local farms. Richard is doing a great job fusing seasonal produce, while trying to redefine the concept of quintessential British cuisine. When I asked him what makes his place so special, he said that anyone can cook good food but you have to go the extra step with hospitality. Corrigan's does just that and then some. BTW: The desserts are also divine. The best value is the midweek lunch menu: three courses for £27 and that includes a 250ml carafe of red or white wine. Corrigan's Mayfair, 28 Upper Grosvenor Street, London; Tel: 0207 499 9943.

When you think of pub food you probably conjure up images of greasy fish and chips in your mind. But at the Guinea, a traditional English pub in the heart of Mayfair, you'll get much more than that. First of all, the Guinea dates back to the 15th century and their now famous restaurant opened in 1953. Since then, its pies have won many awards helping establish itself as a London institution. In addition to its pies (just to be clear, these are not dessert pies; I'm talking steak and kidney or chicken and mushroom), the Guinea serves up some of the best steak in London. They also specialize in fresh seafood and English lamb. Eat upstairs in the Grill Room so you feel like you're in England and are surrounded by pictures of many of Mayfair's famous former residences, including Benjamin Franklin and Florence Nightingale. Here's the link to their dinner menu so you can see what they offer firsthand and check out the prices. The Guinea, Telephone Reservations: 020 7499 1210.

Here's a good example of how you can use Twitter when you travel. I was watching a play with my friend Norie and at intermission, I asked if she wanted to get some Indian food afterwards. London is famous for Indian food. She asked me if I knew of any places nearby but since I didn't, I decided to Twitter my query. I composed an approximately 140-character question and sure enough, when I turned my phone on again 45 minutes later, I had over 20 recommendations. My Twitter followers had responded with enthusiasm, providing restaurant suggestions with maps and reviews. It was unreal. There were so many recommendations, it was tough to choose so we went to the closest restaurant with the best review. Chowki, which means 'traditional dining table', was just two or three blocks away on Denman Street. They offered quick service, small portions and reasonable prices. I had yam curry with naan bread, rice and beans for £10. Chowki, 2 Denman Street, London; Tel: 020 7439 1330. BTW: If you are on Twitter, you can follow me @JohnnyJet.

Not all my meals were expensive or even sit-down for that matter. In fact, most lunches I spent cost under $8 and I ate in London's many parks. On more than once occasion, I purchased a sandwich from either Pret A Manger (there's one on practically every street corner) or at Harrods' food court. My favorite thing from Pret A Manger is their tomato, full leaf basil and brie cheese sandwich (£2.60) and I love to top it off with a Love Bar, made with oats, caramel, dark chocolate chunks, vanilla pumpkin seeds, pistachios, almonds and honey (£1.20). Although Harrods is notorious for overpriced items, their takeaway food court is affordable. I had a spicy chicken with mango sandwich for £4.99. And it didn't end there. One evening, I grabbed a chicken curry pie, with a side of mashed peas and baked beans (£4.99) from Square Pie, which was just a short walk from the Grosvenor House. And an even a shorter walk is Marks and Spencer, the popular store, which is also a perfect place to get picnic food.

My favorite place to have lunch is in one of London's Royal Parks. There are eight parks that cover almost 4,900 acres (2,000 hectares) of land in Greater London. The most famous is Hyde Park, which is near Harrods and directly across the street from the Grosvenor House. Hyde Park is huge! It has 350 acres (142 hectares) with over 4,000 trees, a lake, a meadow and even horse rides. It seems even bigger because it's connected to Kensington Gardens and that covers an additional 275 acres (111 hectares) and has one of the most beautiful gardens ever. As you know, Kensington Palace used to be the home of Princess Diana and is open for tours. Currently the Last Debutantes exhibition and the Diana, Fashion and Style exhibitions are being showcased. Other highlights in this park are the Albert Memorial, Peter Pan statue and the Serpentine Gallery.

Other parks to picnic or exercise in: St James' Park (58 acres = 23 hectares) is in the heart of London. St. James is where you'll find the Mall, which is the setting for many ceremonial parades. Next door to it is Green Park, which is 47 acres (19 hectares) and is a peaceful escape. But my favorite park in London is Regent's Park. It has 410 acres (166 hectares) and has the most incredible rose gardens I've ever seen. There are more than 30,000 roses of 400 varieties. It's a remarkable sight especially on a sunny spring day. Regent's Park is also the place to take in or watch some kind of pick-up game since it has 100 acres dedicated to outdoor sports.

One garden I still haven't made it to because it's on the outskirts of the city is Kew Gardens. I hear it is absolutely amazing and this year, it's celebrating its 250th anniversary.

I was introduced to an incredible tour company, London Walks. It's the oldest walking tour company in London and is the best bargain around. Get this: a London Walk costs just £7 or £5 for adults 65 and older and full-time students. They have 75 guides and multi-language tours are available but need to be booked separately. I toured with the owner David who, by the way, can do all 51 of their walks but you'll be happy to know that he and their guides don't do a tour more than five times a week to keep things fresh. What's also nice about London Walks is that if you're doing a tour in English you don't need to book in advance – just show up to the dedicated meeting spot that's on their website and you're good to go. London Walks offers tours seven days a week featuring highlights from Jack the Ripper to Westminster Abbey and everything in between. Check out their website for a complete list.

I did the Little Venice tour, which operates three times a week and is in the town of Maida Vaile (a 10-minute bus- or tube-ride from Mayfair). After WWII, all the locals began calling Maida Vaile, Little Venice. Little Venice is off the beaten path and many Londoners don't even know about it, which is one reason it's one of the prettiest and most romantic spots in town. The Little Venice neighborhood has a unique combination of white stucco buildings, lots of greenery and, of course, waterways. There are three main canals and walking along the canal towpath on a warm sunny day is amazing. On the flip side – you probably don't want to do this tour if it's raining – there won't be much to see. Some of Little Venice's famous residents include (or have included): Robert Browning, Joan Collins, Annie Lennox, and Sigmund Freud.

A tour which you don't need a guide for is the Portobello Market. It takes place every Saturday on Portobello Road in Notting Hill and is a complete zoo because it's the world's largest antique market with over 1,500 specialist antiques dealers, antique arcades and galleries. You can find everything from furniture to jewelry but I prefer the fruit and vegetable stands at the bottom. Helpful websites: and

In my opinion, London is the best place in the world to see plays and musicals. The theatres are all historic and amazing. It's also my favorite London pastime so I almost always catch a show when I'm in town. There are two ways I get my theatre tickets. If I have my heart set on a particular show or want to impress someone by scoring the best seats to a new production, I get them from Keith Prowse ( These guys have sold tickets to the theatre, sports events, concerts and special events for more than 200 years … that's right – two hundred years! They started in London, but now have 36 offices in more than 20 countries. They aren't cheap but there's no gamble with these guys and the other night, I used them for tickets to see Les Miserables at the Queens Theatre. Natalie and I sat in seats C14 and C15, which were center seats, just three rows from the stage. We were so close we practically had to dodge the actors spit. BTW: The seats at the Queens Theatre have low backs but they are staggered so you don't have any heads in front of you so we had an unobstructed view of the stage. At intermission, they sold water for £1.50 right at the entrance to our row and Haagen-Dazs ice cream for £3. Buy Theatre Tickets.

The other way I get theatre tickets is by going down to Leicester Square and rolling the dice to find a discounted play. You can definitely find inexpensive tickets here, though keep in mind, not every show is available and your view might be obstructed depending on the seats. Many shops sell tickets, though none is more popular than TKTS (the same company as in Times Square). One night I went to a bunch of the booths to possibly buy some tickets but they only had seats left for three plays: Chicago, Avenue Q and Grease. But when I was here in May, I scored third row center seats for £23.50 to see the play 39 Steps. It's a comedy-thriller based on the Alfred Hitchcock's film. There are a total of 104 characters but just four amazing actors perform it. It's really entertaining and fun. Short too. Each half was 45 minutes.

Next week we visit the only city in the world that's on two continents. Do you know where?

*PLEASE tell us what you think of this week's newsletter! Note: This trip was sponsored in part by The Grosvenor House.

Copyright 2009 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


Heathrow Express


The Under Ground


On The Tube




Inside a Blackie


Restaurant For Taxi Drivers




Road To Buckingham


Buckingham Palace


Buckingham Guard


Buckingham Flowers


So Pretty


Big Ben


The Grosvenor House


Grosvenor Lobby


My Room


Marble Bathroom


Grosvenor Bartender


Concierge Mayfair Tour


Mr. Marriott


Gatwick Marriott


Everyone Loves Mr. Marriott


I Came Here ...


Grand Opening


Twickenham Marriott


Jason Leonard


Go Jason!


Quo Vadis




Watercress Soup




Corrigan's Staff






The Guinea


Grill Room










Harrods Sandwich


Pret A Manger Sandwich


Square Pie


Hyde Park


Hyde Park Flowers


Kensington Gardens


Kensington Gardens Loner


Kensington Gardens Statue


Kensington Gardens Park


Kensington Gardens Pond


Kensington Palace's Garden


Regents Park




Little Venice


Typical White Stucco House


So Peaceful


Portobello Road


Portobello Market


Lots of Antiques


Les Mis


Leicester Square


Half Price Tickets


39 Steps


I Love London


  • Really liked your report! Loved the detail. Reminds me of some of the great trip reports I've read over on (Virgin related site.) I especially related to your comment about seeing all the 747's at Heathrow and being excited about where they are going. I feel the same way when I see all the planes at LAX's Bradley Terminal. Makes me want to fly somewhere. Thanks! Thor C - Honolulu

  • Great account of your trip on BA. Sorry to read you had to land in Edmonton. I have never been on a flight with a medical emergency, but did sit next to another frequent flyer who mentioned being on two different flights where someone passed away. Makes you want to buy one of those travel insurnace policies just in case your health deteriorates. Keep those newsletters coming! G.C. – San Diego, CA

  • In answer to your question about the A380 in an emergency – contrary to popular belief, most major airports can handle the aircraft in this situation. It doesn’t need a particularly long runway (same as a 747 really), and as long as the taxiways are wide enough and there’s somewhere to park it, it will be fine. What people are talking about when they say an airport can’t handle an A380 is in terms of jetways, parking gates, departure lounge size etc which are usually not big enough. In a medical emergency, the aircraft could happily park on a remote stand and let the emergency crew on board to remove the ill passenger, then let the aircraft be on its way, like in your experience. Great newsletter! Matt F – Middlesbrough, United Kingdom

  • I read your newsletter every week and really enjoy it. I had two thoughts after reading this week's edition.
    1. I really appreciated the "Mugged in Barcelona" piece. After reading that, I will be a lot more cautious. And Cynthia's tips were really helpful.
    2. I also had some thoughts about the medical emergency landing piece. About 18 months ago, I was flying from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco with my 20-month-old little girl. All of a sudden, my daughter started having a seizure (the first one that she had ever had). I immediately called for the flight attendant who asked if there was a doctor on the flight. No one stepped up. As I cried and yelled, the flight attendant tried to help, but a. didn't offer oxygen which I learned should have been pretty standard procedure or b. Failed to offer an emergency landing. And to this day, I am still convinced that there was a doctor onboard.
    I guess that my reason in telling you this story is twofold:
    A. I would like to urge your readers to do their homework about airlines before they get on flights. I will never fly this particular airline again because they didn't have the oxygen readily available, and my child needed it.
    B. I would also like to urge doctors to help out on flights if they can. My husband is a surgeon and has helped out on flights a number of times. I can't tell you how much better this ordeal would have been if there had been a doctor there. Thanks again for writing an informative, excellent newsletter every week! Rachel D - San Francisco.

  • Hello, just a note to tell you your article on flying BA Club World was [engaging my fake British accent] 'spot-on.' I fly annually via BA from Seattle to Edinburgh via Heathrow [Terminal 5--you described this perfectly, as well], and my experiences have matched yours quite reliably. Thanks for the tip on seat 20A [747-400]. I have made a note of this. I always try for 62A or 62K, upper deck, but as with other undiscovered good things, more and more travelers are becoming aware of the benefits of avoiding a business class window seat where you have to climb over another passenger to get to the aisle for a stretch walk or for a trip to the 'loo.' I caution you, should you travel your route again soon: avoid upper deck seat 64K. While it looks roomy and private, you stand a good chance of being asked to move at the last minute, because there is a fold-down baby bassinet directly in front of the seat. I was in the home-stretch for not being moved from this otherwise great seat before my last flight, but just as I was boarding the gate staff informed me that my footrest was missing [!] It then became a hellish inconvenience [they seemed put-out in equal measure, although it certainly wasn't my fault!] to find me another seat, or rather to finally give me permission to sit in one of the several empty seats on the upper deck. I also appreciated your comments regarding the privacy screen between seats. Before BA's most recent remodel, these used to be solid, not opaque as they are now; I preferred the former ones. The opaque ones feel to me like I'm in the shower scene from 'Psycho.' And in the time prior to raising the screen, as you mention, I've had many an awkward moment with the peripheral stare thing re: my seat neighbor. I always politely ask, just after the safety instructions, whether that person would mind if I raised the privacy screen. So far, so good, but I'm probably pushing my luck; i.e., one of these days some fool will say he/she wants it left down. BA flight attendants do indeed run the spectrum from professional/congenial to inattentive/snappish. I've encountered some downright abrasive ones on a couple of BA flights; although, now I think of it, those were in the days when I was flying coach/world traveler. They must assign the known quantities, the fringe-personality attendants, to coach. Thanks again for this wonderful account of your trip in BA Club World, as well as the very heads-up tale of a mugging in Barcelona. I intend to scan my passport in an email to myself before my next trip. I do always carry two photocopies of my passport--one in my money belt; the other in my carry-on luggage. Best regards, Edna G - Seattle, WA


  • Excellent advice! Katrina M - Alaska

  • Excellant advice from the author. I am so sorry this happened to Cynthia and her husband. Having recently visited Barcelona we felt fortunate to come home with none of these horror stories. Nancy M - Rochester, NY

  • Thank you for this excellent cautionary tale. Although I usually take a photo copy of our passports with us, I had never thought about the even safer method of scanning them and accessing them, and other cards and documents, via email. Because this tourist made the effort to describe her bad experience and what she learned from it, we will be more cautious and safer whenever we travel. We appreciate this newsletter and the good people who make it so useful and successful. Anita L - Plymouth, Michigan

  • Excellent advice!! I'm a seasoned traveler and this is a good reminder and wake up. Next week we're leaving on a trip and I've have printed the article for myself and my travel buddies. Gretchen O - Columbus, Mississippi

  • Thanks for the info. I am sooo sorry that this happened to you. If it can happen to you it could happen to anybody. This is a very informative story with info that I will use. This is another example of learning to trust your instincts. Remember it is all just stuff that could be replaced what is most important is that you survived and learned. Thanks again for letting me learn from this experience. Harris L – Philadelphia PA

  • So sorry to hear about your incident in Barcelona. I will be going in December and your story is a sober reminder to be aware of our surroundings and be prepared if something happens. Your tip on making a copy of your passport and sending it to yourself is GREAT!! I am going to do that this weekend thanks to you. Appreciate your article and have passed it on to colleagues. All the best, Sherrie C- Los Angeles, CA

  • This is a very sad story and I am so sorry to read about it. However it certainly does give us the inofrmation we need should we be in the same situation. It was very well written and easy to understand. Thank you Cynthia for taking the time to write this, and thank you Johnny jet for sharing it with us. Terry M-

  • Wow, this is great advice! I have traveled all my life, been to Europe at least a dozen times and so far have only scared in London and Bangkok but nothing worse than a scare. There are several suggestions here I have never thought of and will surely implement. I’m going to copy the list and email it to all my clients and friends. Cotty L - Minneapolis

  • Although Spain, esp. Barcelona, is beautiful, this seems to be a very common story. I studied abroad in Madrid for 5 months and got mugged at 7 pm in a well-lit residential area. People should be cautious and the article gives very useful information! Monica M - Gainesville, FL

  • We too were in Barcelona this year, fortunately having nothing adverse happening to us. But I made sure to take along my over-the- shoulder-and-head purse with the multiple zippered pockets AND two steel cables running through the strap to make thieves' cutting it difficult or impossible (though the strap might well get mutilated). I got mine at Magellan's some years ago, but I think it (and later models) is still available. M.Q. – Chestertown, Maryland

  • This was an EXTREMELY helpful story for me…as I am about to travel to Barcelona at the end of September, by myself. I knew that pick pocketing was an issue in Barcelona but your tips will definitely be adhered by me…before I go. This is my first time traveling abroad, by myself, so every precaution is always appreciated. I am actually going to print this article to save with my reservations so I don’t forget before I go. Stacey G- San Diego, CA

  • Excellent article- Cynthia described her situation in great detail as well as tips to avoid this type of calamity!! Thank you for all the time it took to write this- it may save others from harm!! Kristy P – Austin, TX

  • Reading Cynthia's story gave me chilling memories of past muggings (Rome and Rio) my wife and I have endured. The incident in Rome was gypsy girls and ended with my retrieving my wallet (extremely skillful pickpockets) with the help of a passing tourist but the Rio incident was fraught with bad endings. However, like Cynthia, my wife and I have learned a thing or two and would not now not even venture out in the dark alone. I empathize with Cynthia and hope that neither she, nor her readers, have to experience such frustration and madness again. Think twice - act once. Burt S – New Jersey

  • I like the simple idea of scanning your passport and sending it to your email account. Brilliant. I might try to do the same with my credit cards too. I never remember what I have. Of course, that all works if you have access to a computer. Sorry to hear about your problem in Barcelona. Steve R-Upper Montclair, NJ

  • Outstanding story with great hints. Sorry for your misfortune, but your loss was definitely our gain. Great list, I’ve printed it and put it in my travel folder. Nicki P - San Francisco, ca

  • This was a great article! Very informative. It’s too bad this happened to her, but she had some really great insights and tips to share. Yuki H - Hamilton On

  • Wonderful write up. Thank you for sharing C.F.- Stilwell, Kansas

  • Hi: Same story for me except that it was Cordoba and a team……one on foot sneaking up behind me and another on a moped around the corner. Even before the slashing of the shoulder strap the moped was ripping towards me. Terrific coordination…it was cut-and-jump onto the moped and away in seconds with me yelling “no dinero” to no avail. I always keep my daily money in my pants side pocket. And usually passport, travelers checks, bigger money, etc. in a concealed money belt. But this one time my passport was in the shoulder bag. The consul in Seville joked that my wife had this big chance for separation….since I had not taken all the identity backup duplication steps you did, she could refuse to identify me….ergo no new passport and no leaving Spain….for a while at least. By the way, I found the police very accommodating………….have a good day………….Leo F - San Diego, CA

  • I am so sorry to hear that you were the victim of one of Barcelona's many petty thieves. It is the biggest thing that we warn our clients and friends about when they are visiting this beautiful city, but many still end up getting pick-pocketed or mugged. Although Barcelona is not a place known for violent crime, the thieves are plentiful and they are VERY good at what they do. The most dangerous time of day to be out and about is between about 4-8am, as there aren't many others out and the thieves prey on travelers headed out for early flights (like yourselves) or people coming home late (and drunk) from discotheques. The one comment that I wanted to make was that the thieves (that they are typically young and between the ages of 17-23, like you said), are not Spanish. They are mostly Algerian and Moroccan immigrants and they have found, unfortunately, that they can make a lot more money by stealing than they can by trying to get a work permit and doing something legitimate. I realize that you did not say that they are Spanish, but I didn't want those that haven't been here to think that the locals would be trying to take advantage of visitors in that way. The thieves are as much a detriment and a threat to locals as they are to visiting travelers, and they are an embarrassment to us all. Sorry, again, that your visit ended so terribly. Tracy Harris-Inman - Spanish Trails Day Tours & Events

  • I just finished reading your "mugged in Barcelona" article - wow! I've been in the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona, and I could SEE what you were describing. That area is cool and affordable and hip, but can leave one feeling vulnerable - not so much at night when there are lots of people, but that 4am airport departure? I felt it as I read your words! I am a travel professional, and I am always frank with my clients about Spain, Barcelona in particular. And even though the "Barrie Gotic" is always listed as the hippest place to stay, it's certainly not the spot for everyone. I'm writing for two reasons:
    1. thank you for a wonderful retelling of your tale. I will be sending a link to your story out to all 90+ in our agency, and I will be linking it to our facebook and twitter accounts. No, not to scare people, but to help to educate people. I've had clients, and even fellow travel agents, laugh at me for suggesting that an under-clothing travel wallet or pouch is key. And I always suggest that my clients copy their passports and credit cards and email it to me, just in case. But hearing your story, knowing that you're a seasoned traveler and how it happened to you...well, this is a teaching moment.
    2. How come you don't mention travel insurance in your article? The right travel insurance company would have had a 24/7 representative available by phone to handle everything, from re-accommodating you on your flights, picking up the tab on your hotel and cab fare and airline change fees, even wiring you some cash to use while you got things straightened out. In face, they probably would have had someone on the ground in Spain come to personally help you. Again, you're a seasoned traveler and you were able to keep your head about you as you took care of business. But a novice traveler would not have known what do to at the airport, or who to contact. I think it would be very responsible of you to mention the value of travel insurance, especially in case like yours. Again, thanks for the great retelling. I'm sorry you had to experience this, but I'm grateful that you've put pen to paper so that we can all learn from your experience! Christy J - California

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