LONDON CALLING FOR OPEL
Whilst waiting for a journey time passes so slowely that it never seems to come however if you wait for a reason to travel that never fails to come easily. In this case my reason has a name: Opel. So I find myself in London, looking for technology, among the red buses, old fashioned phone booths, taxis darting and … The rain of course. Otherwise it would not be London.
IMPRESSIONS: THE HEADQUARTER OF TECHNOLOGY
A light but steady drizzle lands on the glass of our Opel Insignia and reminds me that I’m in London, on the way to the country house of Luton Hoo to be exact.
Objective: to discover the secrets of the new technology Onstar that will be available for all Opel vehicles from October. A highly functional system, specifically designed for the safety and convenience of those who are driving. This technology will make it possible to connect the vehicle to a remote control system where an “angel”, in reality a Onstar “advisor” (a person then, not a machine) will link directly to the vehicle providing any assistance required: checks on the vehicle, give directions, and if necessary the activation emergency services. A real revolution for those who are driving and want to travel safely. All just a click away. A sort of “Siri” machine, controllable from a distance through a downloadable app (you can even close car doors from far away, isn’t that amazing?).
We press the button and ask the operator to guide us to the destination. Tiziana answers us and gives us instructions. In half an hour we are at Luton Hoo Hotel, an imposing structure, situated needless to say, in a beautiful green park. We get there almost without realizing it (if it wasn’t for driving on the left) thanks to the navigator set directly from our Tiziana. Good job!
Luton Hoo Hotel Golf & Spa seems to have come directly from the film sets of Rosamunde Pilcher. But it’s all true.
This historic house is named “Hoo”, literally meaning “up the hill”, a term that denominated even the family “de Hoo” who lived here from 1190 to 1455. The manor has had a troubled history of fires and ownership problems behind it and owes its present appearance to the interventions which took place in the nineteenth century. As for the art collection inside, this is largely the work of the diamond dealer Julius Wernher, who bought the property and settled here in 1903 (his collection was opened to the public in 1951 by his son). The residence is also known for hosting a military base during the Second World War and for the speech given by Winston Churchill at the end of the war. Luton Hoo become the property of Elite Hotel in 1999, after years of restructuring and investments (60 million pounds), the Luton Hoo Hotel Golf & Spa was finally opened in October 2007.
I like London, is unquestionably an elegant and interesting city (think of the richness of its museums and monuments), but let me speak my mind … I also love the places such as Luton Hoo. Secluded, peaceful and surrounded by greenery. If it was up to me you could leave me here, but the journey continues, we continue towards the hotel (which I’ll discuss shortly) that will host us this evening, not without first having visited the operations center of this wonderful tool called Onstar. Let’s go.
MEETINGS: STORIES OF ITALIANS OVERSEAS
Tiziana works for the Onstar system of Opel, in the Vauxhall headquarters in Luton, we meet at the operations centre along with her colleagues, all of different nationalities and languages: a curriculum that would make a professional translator jealous! Listening to them it seems that they are speakind all the languages of the world, perhaps the Holy Spirit came to them!
I firstly speak to Tiziana for compatriot sympathy and out of curiosity. She seems to appreciate our presence as she misses her homeland in Calabria.
Almost 10 years ago she left Italy. She works on the project with passion and enthusiasm, but lights up immediately when talking of her homeland. I admire her because I do not know if I could spend so much time away from home … I suffer already the short distance between Milan-Florence. I discover that in reality Tiziana has a great passion in common with me, travelling, and that she has visited many countries in her wandering life between France, Italy and England. And so that was the feeling that united us.
Another meeting I want to mention is that with Aldo from “Viareggio”, for this we move to London City. I am walking around Soho when I notice a sign outside a small tavern which is as big as half of my living room. “Trattoria da Aldo” is written in large letters. I’ve never been interested in Italian restaurants abroad. From the series “I eat fried insects but do not let me eat Italian food outside of Italy, the world is made to be discovered” … But here I change my mind. Aldo’s tavern is a small company that is worth discovering as one can enjoy its traditional Italian dishes including fish.
Aldo moved to London in 1953 and founded the first trattoria in Soho. Always helped by Italian staff, still today it’s a landmark of authentic Made in Italy in the capital of the Britain. A bit ‘gruff at first sight, the owner seems to melt when talking about home and becomes a fragile and nostalgic grandfather figure. His address is: 51 Greek Street, London.
EATING OUT: CHEAP & CHIC
London is certainly not known to be a cheap city. We know therefore that if you want to eat well, you have to spend a few euro, pardon pounds, more.
Whether it’s for a simple tea or an elegant dinner, if you want somewhere special, go to the restaurant Sketch. Located just off Regent Street, 9 Conduit Street, just afew steps from the heart of London at Piccadilly Circus. This place will enchant you with it’s style, between liberty and a dream (I recomend reserving a table in The Glade, because here you will find a maze of rooms), it’s elegance and excellence of service. Wonderful meat and unspeakably good sweets. Try especially the blaze Chocolate Sketch Chocolat ‘035’ and ask for mercy to your waistline!
As anticipated, there is also a cheaper alternative, good especially for a varied brunch: The Breakfast Club Cafe. A chain of bar-restaurants that is young and fast and this year celebrated its tenth year.
My advice? Try the smoothies and absolutely do not miss the pancakes.
Finally, if you really can not do without Italian cuisine, pass by Aldo, so you will have the opportunity to have a chat with it’s owner!
GUIDE: A ROOF-TOP HOTEL
Regardless of the urban chaos surrounding them, the rooms of ME London echo my every step. Black and white profiles, designed with attention to detail and almost spasmodic attention to the customer and his satisfaction to any request. The rooms are modern, yet elegant, equipped with every comfort and a beautiful view of the Thames and East London. The view can only be bettered if you reach the bar located on the rooftop of the structure. And here, gentlemen, we really must bow before his majesty London the capital of England!
Why choose this hotel – other than the views it offers? Why because it is central! For example, Covent Garden, is easily reached on foot, as well as Trafalgar Square and Waterloo Bridge.
IN MY SUITCASE: MANY DESIRES AND A PAIR OF RUBBER BOOTS
The place to be for lovers of shopping in London is Oxford Street. You can find every brand that you are looking for here, the popular Zara, chaotic Primark , elegant Ted Baker, the trendy Top Shop and casual Uniqlo (which I always visit when I’m here).
All beautiful but, halt! If you are not fond of crowded places, this is not the place for you. For example, I love in particular Covent Garden and the small shops scattered in this district, first of all Cath Kidston at 28-32 Shelton St. A must with its flowers for all floral addicts.
In any case there are only two rules to follow when you are on a shopping spree in London:
1. Remember that the prices are not in Euros, but in pounds: are you really sure then that the price is so convenient? Convert into euros before buying …
2. you must always remember to save a corner of your suitcase for a pair of rubber boots, they are very useful when in this place. After all – there is a reason that the gardens are so green…..
If you are looking for an alternative to shopping on a rainy day in London (which would subject you to water torture from store to store): visit its museums! There is something for all tastes and for all interests: ranging from contemporary art to the wax museum, but my absolute favorite is still the British Museum, one of the largest and most important museums of all time, exploring the cultural history of the entire world. Here you will find artifacts from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Pacific. If you’re keeping an eye on your wallet it’s good to know that admission is free.
BOOKS AND FILMS : SHAKESPEARE
I’m an eternal romantic and Shakespeare enthusiast. Shakespeare was the author of a large number of novels, tragedies and histories.
Despite his connection with Stratford, his home town, it is in London that his company performed. The Globe Theatre, at the turn of the sixteenth until the seventeenth century until the fire destroyed it in 1613 ( razed to the ground and then rebuilt completely) hosted his acclaimed performances. Today it is still open if you want to relive the excitement of the theater of Elizabethan London.
Personally, apart from the real classics that the playwright poet wrote like Romeo and Juliet, I advise A Midsummer Night’s Dream (contemporary from the first sentance) his masterpiece from which includes some of his most beautiful aforisms, such as this …
“Your virtue reassures me: it is never night when I see your face; so now I do not seem to be that night, or that the forest is uninhabited and lonely, because for me you’re the whole world; Who can now say that I’m alone if the world is here to look at me? “.