Lovin’ London is a three part series by Brownell travel advisor Debbie Fairvalley, who recently returned from a whirlwhind trip around London. You can read about her adventures below.
I recently had the opportunity to visit London (after 20 years) and remembered why it is such a fabulous city! It doesn’t hurt that this is the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the summer Olympics, and Wimbledon – not to mention the royal buzz about William and Kate. Two weeks was not enough – I could have spent a year exploring the many facets of this British “crown jewel”….
What a warm welcome The Milestone provided me upon check in. My Mistinguett suite featured a beautiful outdoor private patio where I sipped tea in 72 degree March weather. Needless to say, my jet lag quickly evaporated. I decided to enjoy the Spring day and explore the wonderful Hyde Park located right across the street. The daffodils, hyacinth, and tulips were already blooming – and created lovely colors for my Kensington Palace photos. Afternoon tea at Kensington Palace is a “must do” royal experience – I loved it.
Cocktails in the leopard inspired champagne bar at The Ruben’s and dinner at Chenestons English gourmet dining room at the Milestone produced some of the best Dover sole I have ever tasted!
The Red Carnation Hotel collection feature authentic British style with a design flair that would impress any Architectural Digest reader. Each room is created in sumptuous fabric wall coverings, lush fabrics, detailed wood furniture, and high style. I had the opportunity to stay in two of their collection, The Milestone and The Egerton House, and hated to leave both of them.
A private guide for the National Portrait Gallery is a MUST for “first timers” to London. Seeing and hearing the stories of the royal families throughout the centuries really helped me understand how the British monarchary began. It brought to life who they were, how they lived, and even how they died – quite a nice introduction for the rest of my touring.
A quick trip to Westminster Abbey and then off to a private boat excursion on the Thames. It was lovely to watch the London Eye, Houses of Parlimant, the Globe Theatre, and Big Ben float by while sipping champagne and picnicking from a basket of goodies provided by Fortnum & Mason (if it’s good enough for the queen, it’s good enough for me)! By the way, Fortnum & Mason has designed a wonderful “special” tea in honor of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – I loved it (and the decorative tin it comes in).
I picked a perfect night for a “Ripper Tour” of London beginning at the Tower of London at 7:30. Darkness filled the sky and a misty rain was dampening the streets as we learned about Jack the Ripper and the Victorian London of the 1800’s. This was finished off by a Ceremony of the Keys and off to bed with nightmares in my head!
No trip to London would be complete without seeing The Royal Mews and Victoria & Albert Museum. I enjoyed the Cecil Beaton – Diamond Jubilee exhibit of intimate photographs of the royal family throughout the 21st century.
On a beautiful day in London a real treat was visiting Little Venice….yes, Little Venice! Just past the Beatles’ Abbey Road is a series of canals that are amazing. These canals were used in WWII to get supplies into London. Now they represent a lovely way to wile away an afternoon on a canal boat. A private charter or public boat takes you past the London Zoo and ends at Camden Locks. I spent an entire Saturday cruising past homes that rival anything in Mayfair and ended up at a Bohemian market that featured everything from “punkers” to gourmet food stands. It was also fun to see the locals working the locks of the canal. If time and energy permits, you can bicycle through Regent’s Park before heading back to your hotel – a very “different” London experience but truly enjoyable.
I returned to London to visit The Ritz and The Dorchester. These well known institutions still offer the flair of “old world” elegance with newly styled and comfortable guest rooms. Both feature a high tea several times throughout the afternoon. However, I also have to give high marks to the new kid on the block – 45 Park Lane! If you like contemporary then you will love 45 Park Lane (the sister property to The Dorchester). Each room comes with “instructions for use” from the draperies to the sophisticated TV/sound system! The location also has a nice residential feel to it as well. Both locations are easy to spot with the huge Chihuly glass sculpture illuminated in the evening – I wonder if they would miss a piece, if I just chipped off a bit?
My last night in London was appropriately spent at The Goring! What can I say about The Goring that has not already been said? Fabulous location, fabulous concierge, fabulous suites, fabulous service, fabulous food, fabulous “people watching” spot, fabulous grounds, in general FABULOUS experience – no wonder Kate Middleton chose to spend her last night here as a commoner – everyone is treated like royalty!
Now I am off to the beautiful gardens of Cornwall and a stay at The Nare……can’t wait!