Enjoyed a lovely day playing tourist in London, showing one of my best mates, Rhonda, ‘my’ town. She’s been the only person to come visit so far, so we celebrated in true London style – by starting at the pub! Actually, we needed a loo so it seemed appropriate to stop by the nearest bar, but it would have been rude to have not had a drink!
Next stop – lunch – where we found ourselves at yet another pub, the delightful Dickens Inn, down at the gorgeous St. Katherine’s Docks just near the Tower of London. This lovely spot had been introduced to me by my local mate, Nicola, and it’s a superb water-side precinct in the middle of London, worth showing off to visitors who probably wouldn’t find it on their own.
We then jumped on a Big Red ‘hop on hop off’ bus, and gossiped while watching the sites of London roll by. There was even a police chase of two youths! And we cruised by Queensway and Kensington Gardens – Cooper’s and my old stomping ground (ie. the first place we lived here).
Rhonda’s a brilliant journalist and editor in Australia, and so she kindly used her network to tee up, er, High Tea, at the famous Ritz London. oooh it was very fancy! Words like ‘splendid’ and ‘marvellous’ would be appropriate. We were trying to spot who we thought might be the most wealthy in the room! The High Teas here would usually cost about £50 or so per head, and consist of about 30 different tea varieties that you can choose from, yummy finger sandwiches, a selection of sweet treats and of course, my favourite – scones, jam + cream. Yummy! It’s all very civilised and special, and I don’t usually use the word ‘posh’, but this was just that.
As part of Rhonda’s VIP arrangement, we got to see a few of the flash dining rooms and function areas across the first few floors of the hotel. Particularly impressive was an area that was previously a building next door to The Ritz, a mansion dating back to the 1700s. The hotel acquired it a few years back (it was being used as office space, can you believe?), restored the building to its original splendour and now the mansion – seamlessly integrated with the hotel – houses magnificent events, conferences, dinners, weddings etc. There were two rooms in particular where you can just feel the old energy. It was like stepping back in time to high society mid 1700s. It reminded me of some of the scenes out of Interview With the Vampire where Louis and Lestat were living it up in luxury a couple of hundred years ago. The manager who was showing us around even said that late at night in this area if she was on her own, she felt the old energy. She’s never seen anything but the thoughts had crossed her mind… There are some lovely images of this luxurious old-world experience HERE and HERE. Even the Queen has enjoyed a birthday within these magical walls. One room has a terrace overlooking Green Park, and the long dining tables and old architecture of the windows, ceilings, doors and walls really give you a sense of what it would have been like to be well-off ‘back in the day’. Very grand.
A beautiful, unexpected experience and definitely something amazing that I’ll remember of London. It was the first time here where I’ve not just ‘seen’ old-world London, but felt it too, because the hotel and its striking rooms all feel luxurious but authentically historical. The one marker of contemporary times is within a huge mural that’s painted across three walls surrounding a stairway – it depicts a lavish party from the 1700s (presumably within the space of the rooms we were standing in), all guests painted by the Chinese artist are in clothing and accessories from the period – but for one guest who, if you look carefully, is using a mobile phone!