Last week, I traveled across the pond to talk all things Elvis at World Travel Market in London. From meetings with tour operators and international media to special events designed to showcase Tupelo, Graceland, Memphis, and Mississippi, it was a whirlwind trip whose sole purpose was to invite visitors from across the globe to come see us and stay for awhile.
While it seems that the world is always talking about the British royalty, this week, all eyes, and ears, were on the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll. Priscilla Presley was in town to promote Elvis’ latest album, “If I Can Dream,” featuring the British Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which hit number one on the UK charts while we were there. She stuck around to help us host an incredible reception for over 200 World Travel Market participants at the Elvis at the O2 exhibit. A special program on Elvis also aired on British television while we were there, truly making it a week fit for a king.
I managed to get in one quick three-mile training run along the banks of the River Thames with my friend and colleague, Rachel Obermeier. We stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London-Docklands Riverside in the heart of London’s financial district. The constant hustle and bustle in this area was exactly as you would expect a financial hub to be, but the calm of the early morning made this run a great way to start the day. It was cool outside and we ran along the river banks sometimes on cobble stone, other times up stairs, weaving in and out, so it was a very unique training run.
In between meetings and appointments, we had some free time Wednesday afternoon to explore the city. As this was my sixth visit to London, I wanted to do something different, as I had never visited the city at this time of the year. With Christmas just around the corner, all of London’s stately department stores were decked in their festive finest and I made it my mission to revel in all of the Christmas cheer that I could find.
My very favorite stop was the exquisite Fortnum & Mason. Walking into this store was like stepping into the pages of a holiday magazine. It has been a London staple since 1707, and its splendid displays were enough to put even Ebenezer Scrooge in the Christmas spirit. From the moment I entered the store, the sights, smells, and sounds of Christmas enveloped me and made me all the more excited to visit this gorgeous piece of London history during the most wonderful time of the year. After perusing all of the finery, it was time for afternoon tea at The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason. A few gifts were purchased, and it was time to move on. Since I was in the neighborhood, I walked through Green Park to Buckingham Palace before heading to my next destination.
Despite having traveled to this amazing city many times before, I couldn’t help but hop off the tube at some of my favorite stops to soak in all of the amazing history that is this great European city. I love the British people, their traditions, and the kindness they bestow upon guests in their country every time we visit. Being in the tourism industry, kindness in the form of customer service at a hotel, restaurant, or even just a nice stranger who gives directions can make or break the guest’s experience in a destination. I absolutely love my job and am blessed to travel the world telling people what an incredible place my hometown is to visit. Yes, we have Elvis, and I am thankful for that every single day, but the people in Tupelo, Mississippi, are what genuinely keep visitors coming back time and time again, and, true Southern Hospitality is something that is uniquely our own.