Category Archives: Hotels

The 8 worst toilets in the world

I’m fascinated by toilets around the world. (My big goal in life is to visit the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets next time I’m in India.) Not sure why this fascination, except it might be a genetic quirk, a healthy infusion of Anglo-Saxon blood that makes anything poo-related utterly engaging to me. This personal quality, btw, horrifies my husband.

I’ve traveled a bit around the world, and I’m always eager to adopt local standards for relieving myself, whether on squat toilets, street loos, and open urinals. Closer to home, I was poking around YouTube and found some absolutely horrendous toilets that I hope never to encounter on a trip.

A squat toilet isn’t so unusual in China. But with this one, you’ll need your waders when you flush:

This toilet aboard a Chinese ferry boat has a unique flushing system. However, you might want to skip eating the local seafood once you’re back on land:

The owners of this Chinese toilet are so protective of their facilities, they’re got a dog standing guard. (Warning: salty language). Poop at your own risk!

This was the “better toilet” near the Great Wall of China. I’d love to see what the other toilet looked like:

At least you can have a loo with a view in Tibet. You just have to walk the plank to get to it:

In this African locale, the bathroom experience is strictly DIY. On the plus side, you can pretty much choose your seat. Bonus: toilet paper!

Imagine relieving yourself with an audience. In this Brazilian bathroom, you don’t have to imagine it. Hundreds of eyes will be on you:

The crown for the worst toilet in the world goes to this one filmed in Odessa, Ukraine. Warning: don’t eat while you’re watching this video; you can practically smell the horror through your computer.

Tea in London

(Today I have a guest post from Denise LeCroy who runs Tea in London, which specializes in tours to London for tea lovers. Denise tells me that registration for her upcoming September tour has been extended to the end of this month.)


Do you have a passion for something, or perhaps a passion for several somethings? Hello! My name is Denise LeCroy and I have several passions – tea, travel and London.

Several years ago, I married a man from London and left the United States to live with him in that most glorious of cities. I had visited London before with friends, but living there was a dream of a lifetime. I think I dragged my poor husband to every tearoom, tea shop and tea event in London during those years!

When we returned to the states, I settled into married life on this side of the pond and the days and weeks proceeded smoothly until a routine mammogram showed an abnormality that turned out to be breast cancer. Early detection saves lives. Surgery and radiation followed immediately, all went well, and today I celebrate being four years cancer free.

Throughout those soul-searching months of recovery my illness forced upon me a new perspective on many things…life, relationships, what matters and what doesn’t matter. I was given a second chance and was reminded that it was time to dust off my dreams and goals and aspirations that had been neglected for far too long.

I thought about my passions and how I wanted to further pursue them. I already had been a local tea educator for quite some time and although I was also a seasoned traveler, I studied to become a London Destination Specialist. I realized that London’s rich tea history was being virtually neglected by the travel industry, and so I started Tea in London tours – the perfect combination of my love for tea, travel and London.

English Afternoon Tea at traditional and non-traditional venues is a daily event on our tours, together with a combination of other unique activities that include guided walks through areas in London where the tea trade once ruled England’s commerce; visits to museums and galleries to discover old and new tea treasures; journeys to gardens and ancestral homes of early English tea drinkers; and much more. (I can assure you that if one digs deep enough and I haveone can find a tea-connection to almost anything in London!)

We use a charming hotel in Bloomsbury as our base. It’s a great, quiet location. All of our transport is on a private, comfortable air-conditioned coach and my favorite London Blue Badge Guide, Sarah, accompanies us every day. She loves tea, and you will love her.

But Tea in London is not strictly for tea lovers as we encounter many of London’s famous places and landmarks. Opportunities for shopping are built-in, as well as a free day to privately experience London.

The next Tea in London tour is scheduled for September 13-18, 2010 and I am happy to announce that it will include an optional full-day Tea Masterclass with tea expert Jane Pettigrew. I invite you to visit our website http://www.TeaInLondon for more information about the Masterclass and about the tour.

I hope 2010 will be the year that you have Tea in London!

My noontime guilty pleasure … gone

Don’t laugh, but one of the highlights of my workday is settling down on the couch at noon (I work at home) with my bowl of vegetarian soup, flax crackers, and mug of herb tea to watch You Are What You Eat on BBC America. But when I tuned in this Monday, they’d replaced my hour of poo analysis and junk food banquet tables (if you watch the show, you know what I mean) with some show that’s a cross between How Clean is Your House and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, wherein a hospitality expert exposes the filth she finds in hotel rooms. Boo!

Tell me I’m not the only YAWYE addict out here. I know Gillian Mackeith gets a lot of flack about her medical qualifications and how she treats her subjects (quite rudely!), but watching the show makes me never want to eat things like hot dogs, pork rinds, and gummy bears ever again.

At least it’ll still be on weekends at noon.

London, Day 1

I arrived around 7:30 a.m. at Heathrow with very little sleep, thanks to the woman behind me who coughed the entire flight and when she wasn’t coughing, kicked my seat. But I grit my teeth and bore it, for I knew when the plane landed, I’d be in Anglophile Heaven a/k/a London.

We had a funny, loquacious driver who whisked us to our hotel, the InterContinental Park Lane, in no time flat, even though many of the streets in central London were closed off to traffic. That’s because today was the Queen’s Speech at the opening of Parliament; she traditionally travels by carriage, attended by her horse guards, which we got a quick glimpse of before they headed off to Buckingham Palace (and, by the way, I can see from my hotel room window!) on their way to the houses of Parliament.

So after a casual breakfast where we met our other travel companions, we took a short siesta, then headed off for a light lunch and spa treatment. I got a massage, which I sorely needed — my right shoulder is in knots. I figured after this, I’d fall on face with exhaustion, but it actually revived me, and I headed off for a long walk down Piccadilly, where I did some shopping at Fortnum & Mason and Waterstones, before doing some holiday window gazing in the Burlington Arcade, and more shopping on Regent Street. Now I’m back in my hotel room, getting ready for dinner (Theo Randall! Very excited!!) and then an early bedtime.

Ok, some general comments:

* I’m pretty sure I saw Judy Dench walking outside our hotel this afternoon. (ETA: confirmed by hotel manager that she, along with Nigella Lawson, were here today for some charity event.) And one of our travel companions told us Ralph Fiennes had drinks at the bar downstairs last time she was here. I’m a married woman and all, but boy did that bit of gossip/news set my pulse on fire. 😉

* Twice today I was mistaken for a Brit, once by a British Red Cross volunteer, who looked really surprised when I said, “I’d love to sign your petition but I’m an American” and added, “But I’m flattered you took me for a native.” She laughed and said, “You *do* look like a native.” (I left my fanny pack and baseball cap at home. Shucks.) The other was a Brit asking me how to find some shop around Saville Row. He apologized for bothering me when I told him I was a tourist.

*Oh yes, the apologies. It’s so hard getting used to saying “sorry” for “excuse me.”

*People speak so quietly here — and it’s a blessed relief. The stores are quiet, even when they’re packed. I don’t even mind people who walk while talking on their mobiles because you can’t hear them. The only thing is, I’m constantly saying, “Sorry?” to hotel staff and people; I tend to stand farther away as I expect to have my ears blasted off.

Dinner at Theo Randall was lovely. I can’t go into too much detail — need to save it for work — but afterwards he came out to say hello afterwards. I had smoked eel for a starter, then a pasta with shaved white truffles for my main. My favorite dishes were in dessert (of course) — a pannacotta rich with vanilla, and my most favorite, a refreshing clementine sorbet. I could have eaten a couple bowls of it alone.

menu from Theo Randall at the Intercontinental

Tomorrow I’ll take some pics. We’re supposed to get a bit of snow on Thursday, which should be interesting.

Rough Luxe Hotel, London

My good friend (and most excellent travel companion — you’ll be hearing more about her in a couple weeks) Alison sent me a web clipping this morning about a newish hotel in London called the Rough Luxe Hotel in Kings Cross and I’m dying to stay there. This place looks fabulous with only nine rooms, but each artfully (and quirkily decorated), which accounts for the luxe. The Kings Cross location gives it the rough edge; it used to be something of a red-light district, but it has cleaned itself up recently, sort of like Times Square in NY. The hotel looks to be part of something called the Rough Luxe Network, an affiliation of hotels, shops, and restaurants around the world, including Shakespeare & Company, the very famous bookshop that I plan to visit when I’m in Paris next month.

What might be iffy for Americans are the shared baths with some of the rooms; it’s first come/first served for the en suite baths, but I was pleased to read in the Guardian review linked to Alison’s clipping that the rooms with shared baths are usually reserved by families or people traveling together who don’t mind sharing. Whew! Other cool amenities: afternoon tea served between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m., a contemporary art gallery on site (love the “This is Shit” painting — click on the Imagery link to see), and wi-fi in the rooms.

This could be a very cool, distinctive place to stay next time you’re in London — I know I’ve got it on my list. With rooms starting at £135 per night (roughly $202 USD), it’s not cheap, but it’s comparable to what you’d spend at a mid-rate hotel with lots less charm in the tourist havens.

Contact: Rough Luxe Hotel, 1 Birkenhead Street, London, WC1H 8BA. Tel: +44 (0)20 7837 5338 Fax: +44 (0)20 7837 1615 e-mail: