Sometimes the ultimate luxury when traveling is a good night’s sleep—especially necessary after cramped long-haul flights and navigating the tangle that is modern international airports. That brings me to a great discovery in London: the Bloc Hotel at Gatwick Airport. And I don’t just mean near the airport or at the airport but actually inside it, in the South Terminal to be precise. Bloc uses cutting edge design and construction techniques to build hotels “with small, chic, perfectly-formed rooms for people who appreciate quality but don’t always need the fuss of a traditional luxury hotel.” With its compact, sound-proofed rooms, many with views of Gatwick’s busy runway, Bloc is the ultimate micro-hotel and in a location of maximum convenience.
The guestrooms are efficient and sleek, designed to give guests “the best of what you do need and none of what you don’t.” To wit: There’s a sophisticated climate control system, Italian tiled wet rooms (the Cool Britannia term for bathroom) with powerful drench showers, super-fast WiFi and Artemide ambient lighting. Indulgently comfortable king-size beds feature pocket-sprung mattresses and luxurious cotton sheets. You control lighting, room temperature and the blinds via a Samsung Galaxy Tablet (which, if I could figure it out, means it’s very easy to use). All this doesn’t cost a lot either; when you look up the rates on blochotels.com you will be pleasantly surprised.
And just because Bloc is at the airport (there’s another in Birmingham) doesn’t mean the rooms are cookie-cutter. Yes, some are compact enough to be considered modern cabins but you can book rooms with tarmac views or even the Gatwick Runway Suite. The Smart Double Room has extra desk space and large windows, while the Aspire Double has extra large corner windows, more space to sit and a sweeping panorama of the airport and very green countryside. And the Aspire Family room includes a workstation and even bunk beds for sleeping two kids. Bloc guests can also enjoy exclusive discounts at many of the cafes and restaurants right outside the hotel entrance, including at the excellent Marks & Spencer “food hall” gourmet shop downstairs.
I also happened upon one of the most tantalizing and extraordinary travel guides in London, recently. It’s the kind of tome you might expect to crop up on the New York Times best seller list, but the narrative is all about indulgent luxury escapes and the book is costlier than many. The “Spear’s 500 Travel Guide 2018” is not interested in a bulk mailing permit, as the newsstand cost of their wanderer’s bible is 95 British pounds, roughly $125 for 304 pages of cultural tours, garden tours, private jet tours, wine tours, luxury property rentals and private islands among their 33 categories of travel. This means you can peruse the guide’s 559 entries at leisure.
The “Spears” guide is lavishly punctuated by travel articles penned by travel writers with impressive credentials, such as “One Private Croatian Island, Please,” where you get the latest on the castaway life. The author, Tristan Rutherford, notes that this enables you to “share your space with a tortoise” if your focus is to be alone for a spell. To the other extreme, “Spear’s” introduces their top five European Villas such as Bleu Rama in St. Tropez, which is “perched 330 yards from the sea.” However, if you are a tired traveler and need to recharge, “Spear’s 500” recommends the world’s best medical spa, Lanserhof in Lans, Austria (honored as such because it was awarded this title at the World Spa Awards for the last three years), where you can “book your personal new start in life.” The spa is surrounded by breathtaking nature and, conveniently, an 18-hole golf course.
The editor of this irresistible traveler’s compendium is Christopher Silvester, who diplomatically says “providers of travel need to up their game a little.” Making that happen are his remedies, which transcend once-in-a-lifetime experiences in exotic havens by personalizing the pursuit of investing in a travel experience that captures the essence of travel. Advertisements from unexpected places such as the five-star Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana in Old Havana, Cuba, add to the unapologetically luxurious mix.