London is the city I’ve visited the most frequently, over the past 30 + years. I always return to it, time and time again. I’ve choked down the bad food and slogged through the terrible weather on countless occasions – until both finally changed. The former, due to a culinary revolution and the latter, due to global warming. London is always charming yet exciting; vibrant, yet elegant. There are no shortages of adjectives to describe this magical city that is alive with a beating pulse. Whether you enjoy a night at the theater, a bit of British history, a leisurely stroll through the park, a world-class museum or a pint of bitter in a neighborhood pub, London delivers.
Last week, I had the good fortune to visit again. There are always new surprises, experiences and reasons to return to London and there is never a shortage of things to add to my ever-evolving travel itinerary.
I went to London to support a dear friend who was hosting a fundraiser for Parkinson’s disease. He hosted a lavish event with a 12 piece swing band, The Vince Dunn Orchestra in a lovely venue called The Bridge Bar. There was a fantastic turnout and it raised thousands of dollars for the charity.
I spent a few days tooling around my friend, Kenny’s ‘neck of the woods’ in South London, before checking into the lavish Hotel Corinthia, for what was to be an unforgettable experience. As a travel advisor, it is a priority for me to become familiar with each property I recommend to my clients, so that I can match the client with the perfect property to suit their wants and needs. I dedicated the remainder of my trip to searching out hotels, restaurants and activities that I will be able to recommend to you, once you call me for a booking.
The Corinthia is a gem of a hotel and I can’t say enough about it. The hospitality and amenities were second to none. The beautiful lobby boasts a Baccarat chandelier in such exquisite design that it took my breath away. The service, the food (Massimo is one of the best restaurants in which I have ever dined) and the accommodations were simply perfect. It’s no wonder it’s been voted “the best” numerous times. While researching hotels was my main focus this trip, I did find some time to see the sights and drink in all that London has to offer. My trip included the Queen’s Walk, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and a visit to Columbia Road’s famous flower market. I was able enjoy an infamous London Curry in one of it’s Indian restaurants, as well as enjoy high tea at Claridges (a venerable institution of elegance and sophistication.) It’s easy to see why so many travelers return to London, time and again. It’s always new and never disappoints. From The Corinthia, I moved into The Edgerton House, in Knightsbridge for a completely different, yet wonderful experience. The Edgerton is a lovely property situated almost adjacent to Harrods. It is a delightful property that reads more like a quaint B&B than hotel. The staff couldn’t have been more welcoming and accommodating. The hotel also treated me to a Martini-making class with Sabi, their world-renowned mixologist.
Needless to say, I didn’t leave the hotel following the lesson!! What a treat. My room was cozy and very English. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at The Edgerton House. But alas, it was time to move onto The Stafford. The Stafford is located adjacent to Green Park. Buckingham Palace is a short walk through the park, as is Clarence House and St. James’. The hotel comprises three buildings, separate from one another. It has an elegant and sophisticated vibe. The rooms are subtle and modern, with a light pastel palette. The hospitality at the Stafford, especially by Eddie at the front desk, made the stay memorable. Also, the basement wine-cellar is a lesson in history, in and of itself. It was used as a staging area and bomb shelter by Allied Forces during World War II and is chock-full of WWII memorabilia abandoned after the war. So, in my book, staying at the Stafford is a win-win operation: wine and history, two of my passions. Following a delightful stay at The Stafford, I was fortunate enough to move on to the jewel in the crown of my stay: The Goring. I gladly admit that I am a ‘Royal-Watcher’ obsessed with every move the British Royal Family makes. So it only makes sense that I would lose all sense of reality when checking into the hotel where Princess Kate spent her last night as a single woman, before her marriage to Prince William (I confess I flew to London to watch the wedding from the crowded street 5 years ago). The Goring is…The Goring. Period. Classic. English. Unblemished. Traditional. Perfection, in my mind. From the moment you step out of the cab and onto the street, you are treated like royalty.
The awaiting doorman assists you with your luggage and whisks you gently into the hotel, where not only is your room waiting, but as a Virtuoso client you are upgraded to a room overlooking a magnificent garden, where croquet is the order of the day in good weather. The service is impeccable and the common areas are sublime. There were no glitches or hiccups in either service or amenities. And to top it off, a Footman (yes, I said Footman) will knock on your door promptly at 6:00 p.m. to specially prepare the ‘martini-of-the-day’ in your room.
Edward, our Footman was a hospitality student from Australia. He did a fantastic job making our Sweet Manhattans. Wow, what service!! A big shout out to Ginevra Ferne of Pineapple Hotels and Samantha Lopez at the Goring for their gracious hospitality and delightful conversation. No trip to The Goring would be complete, in my eyes, unless I was able to see the exact room Princess Kate slept in. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven when I was taken on the “Royal tour.” Oh my…
Following my tour, it was yet again, time to say goodbye. Each goodbye became more and more difficult when you truly enjoy the places you are staying.
My next check-in was at The Dorchester. The Dorchester is a grand hotel overlooking Hyde Park and sits right on Park Avenue. It is a beauty, to be sure. The staff are friendly and the rooms, recently remodeled and very comfortable. The bathroom was among the largest in London, with a deep soaking tub that you could get lost inside. A beautiful hotel with beautiful amenities; The Dorchester was a winner.
You might be wondering if I did anything else during the day other than checking in and out of hotels. As it happens, I did! Columbia Road flower market is always a fantastic experience on a Sunday. And if you are into street art, a day of ‘tagging’ in Shoreditch with Ben Eine, world renowned Street Artist was my ‘go to’ option. He is the only living artist who has a painting hanging in the White House. Ben Eine’s piece was a gift from Prime Minister, David Cameron to President Obama on the occasion of his Second Inauguration.
In between tagging, there’s always an opportunity to grab a pint at a local pub. Pubs are plenty in London. They are on each corner and always full of people. They are the social meeting point for friend and neighbors . Business is done there, meetings are scheduled, matches are made and hearts are broken. The pubs in London are the communal gathering spots for old and young, alike. In between drinking, there were teas. Lots of teas. High teas and low teas. Teas at hotels where I was invited to tour properties and teas just for fun. Each tea was unique and each a delight. Touring 11 Cadogen Gardens with my new friend Karine was an incredible delight. Following up the tour with a champagne tea made the experience even more intoxicating. The hotel is lovely and very private. A sure bet for a quiet get-away with elegance and charm. I was also lucky enough to tour The Berkeley, The Connaught and Claridges. What fantastic properties; each with its own unique style and flavor. The highlight for me, though was the High Tea at Claridges. A big thank you to Miles Longfield and Katharina Kustos for the unforgettable experience. My last stop, but certainly not the least, was The Arch, situated a few blocks away from The Marble Arch, at the foot of Hyde Park. This hip establishment is a JMAK property and was a real treat. The room was spacious, mod and bright. The restaurant on premises (Hunter 486) was amazing and the staff, of course, fantastic. It was difficult saying goodbye to London this trip. I can’t wait to return. Call me when you’re ready to take a journey of your own.