November 12, 2014

If time, money, and insider access were yours for the asking, how would you spend your next visit to London? Let me make it easy for you with a menu of choices: Being served afternoon tea at the Lord's Cricket Ground by Mr. Carson, the butler from Downton Abbey. Joining the cast of a West End smash show, onstage, as an extra. Blasting a shot from the big guns of the HMS Belfast, a warship that fired one of the first salvoes on D-Day. Raising the roadbed of Tower Bridge to accommodate a passing ship on the mighty Thames. Prowling the hidden corners and most regal of public spaces in the Houses of Parliament, accompanied by no less than the Speaker of the House of Commons. Or how about all these things, and many more iconic London experiences, during a two-week luxury stay in the English capital? Would you like that? Neither would I. No, wait, just kidding! Yes, I would. I want to do them all, and maybe I will--unless you beat me to it.

In an effort to capitalize on the good publicity from the 2012 Olympics, the recent birth of Bonnie Prince George (third in line to the throne), and, for all I know, the upcoming Paddington movie, Visit London, together with the GREAT Britain campaign, has begun a search for the the city's Official Guest of Honor (oh, so sorry, mate; I meant Honour), a campaign in which one lucky winner will get to partake in all those activities, plus a lot more. To win the award, applicants (18 and over) must submit a 75-word essay, or an image of some sort, or a short video that makes the judges want to stand up and say, "Oi, Bob's your uncle! That's the bloke for us, innit?" Yanks are encouraged to apply. The campaign launches today and runs through December 9, or when 50,000 entries have been received. Find full details here

Other London experiences that the winner can expect: Touring the Royal Opera House with prima ballerina Darcey Bussell, going behind the scenes at Wimbledon with tennis star Tim Henman, acting as an editor-for-a-day at the Evening Standard newspaper, hovering high above the city on a helicopter tour, and, in case that's not enough, savoring a six-course banquet with Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton. And just to make the award sound a little more impressive, the winner gets an $8,000 shopping spree on fashiony Oxford Street and two weeks in a luxury suite at the Radisson Blu Edwardian, Mercer Street. 

By the way, if I win, it will be I who pours the tea for Mr. Carson, not vice versa. That put-upon chappie needs a break!

Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter and Like him on Facebook.

 

Photo courtesy of VisitLondon.com

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