Ghosts walk briskly through the streets of London. Plaques honoring past residents — generals and playwrights, statesmen and scientists —festoon the walls of buildings where the greats and perhaps a few ingrates lived and worked and helped build, enrich or change a nation.
There’s also the sense that something new lurks. The next new scene. The next new club. The next new (-gulp-) restaurant? A revised limited edition of the London version of Monopoly went on sale in July and it reflects the spirit of cool Britannia. In goes Covent Garden, the London Eye and Wembley Stadium. Heathrow and Gatwick Airports replace the railroad stations.
London (modern and otherwise), unlike ancient Gaul, is awash in sections. Call them areas, districts, neighborhoods, or (to be proper) by their rightful names — Mayfair, South Kensington, Soho, Central London, East End, Southwark, Piccadilly and so on. Want a different vibe? Just grab your brolly (when in London, you know) and chug off. Each area has its own character.
Wherever you go, there are hotels. Each is steeped in the vibes of its area. So many have such wonderful characteristics of their own. So here is the Traveler’s USA Notebook Guide to London hotels.
When you arrive at Egerton House, you see a well-maintained town house, set on a terrace that gives a sense of seclusion. Although said to be in Knightsbridge, Egerton House actually is between Knightsbridge and South Kensington. But no matter. It is as if you’ve been invited to stay at the family estate —a stately 1882 building with 30 rooms. Lawn tennis anyone? Are we on the set of a Merchant/Ivory film? Okay. It’s a hotel and was remodeled in 2000.
Don’t let the intimacy fool you. This is not a fusty old B&B. This is a full-service, elegant hotel where the values of privacy, privilege, service and comfort prevail.
Plaids and stripes, greens, golds, purples. Soft English fabrics. This is the look your dotty grand aunt was striving for but could never achieve: Antiques, ever-so-stuffed furniture, porcelain, oil paintings galore and marble bathrooms. The décor may suggest Victoriana gone wild; but it works. There is a wonderful design sense at work. Some rooms have four-posters. Many rooms look out on gardens. While evoking a simpler, grander era, the Egerton House is very much in this century. Each room has satellite television and two-line direct dial telephones with voicemail and dataport.
Rejoice — for you are not treated like a member of the family here.
No snide putdowns, no poison darts laced with envy. Instead you are
treated as a valued guest. The entire staff is friendly, capable and
comforting. The basement level dining room is pleasant and airy. Do sign
on for the full breakfast. The dishes keep coming and you really won’t
have to eat again until, well, next morning. More important than the
abundance is the quality. Adjacent to the lobby is the sitting room,
replete with fireplace, paintings of Lord What’shisface, and inviting
armchairs and sofas is the perfect place to take your tea with biscuits,
strawberry jam and clotted cream. Or perhaps you’d like a brandy. The
room contains an “honesty bar.” You serve yourself and you are trusted
to pay. You need not sip or nibble to enjoy this room. Just sit and
bask. You’re among friends.
17- 19 Egerton Terrace
London SW3 2BX
020 7589 2412
Located near the Marble Arch, The Marriott Park Lane achieves
something that more expensive, perhaps glitzier, perhaps buzzier hotels
miss. It is a perfect resting place. Not in the mortuary sense but in
the "have pity on a poor weary traveler" sense.
Exquisitely comfortable rooms welcome you. The decor walks a wonderfully wiggly line between cozy and clubby. Floral designs dot both duvet cover (burgundy and olive green against yellow and pale yellow) and carpeting (olive green against pale lemon lime); and the furniture is quite stately with its rosewood paneling and brass fixture. No jarring details distract from your mission or make you fuss. The sheets seemed to be the softest sheets in London. We were too crazy, jet lagged and wise to count the threads. Traveler did pull a pillow out of its case just to find a label but, alas, just one of their 100 secrets.
Sure! A lot of rooms don’t face the park. You may not have a view. But the hotel is so cocoon-like, you won’t mind a bit. Our room, facing the back looked out on some sort of adult school which was fun to watch.
s no object or you’re on the company’s dime, include Executive Lounge
privileges when you book. These come with VIP services for the park view
executive rooms or suites. Said privileges include continental
breakfasts, snacks, desserts, hors d’ouvres, newspapers, magazines and
internet access, the use each day of a private board room for eight with
a view of the Marble Arch — just in case you want to remind your
associates of what can happen if they drop the ball.
Chad the concierge is one of the hotel’s many delightful features. He is very good with people who are out of their minds with jet lag (We name no names.). There are at least a 100 different touches from free shoeshine bag (and shine) to a sewing kit where needles are already threaded. Yes, the hotel maintains the wonderful shoeshine custom. There’s a bag to put your shoes in; you hang it on the door and they’re back immediately. No charge.
Traveler was shocked to step outside the beautiful, beautiful hotel
and hear the traffic roaring. When you’re inside the hotel, you would
think you’re in the country. You don’t hear anything.
You’ve also got 8,888 buses going everywhere right outside. But you will save a bundle – no taxis required. And yet you’re on Park Lane.
We want to live here. It is a lovely hotel. We miss it still.
140 Park Lane
London, W1K 7AA United Kingdom
Phone: 44 207 4937000
The Marriott Park Lane is both a grand gem in a grand setting, and conveniently located. Park Lane, the street, runs opposite Hyde Park. A bit of panache comes from the fancy hotels that front on this grand stretch, as well as the upscale, glitzy auto dealerships where gentlemen buy their motorcars. (In particular, don’t miss the multi-level, somewhat flamboyant Cooper store.)
Nearby North Audley St. has loads of jolly little shopper delight Italian cafes. Stop off for a nice cup of tea, a nice cherry tart with warm custard or a bowl of pasta for a fiver. The hotel is only a few meters away from delis serving yogurt; the Marble Arch tube (where you can get your 7 day pass); Prêt, and even MacDonald’s, which has been forced to serve healthy alternatives including morning oatmeal (an inexpensive alternative to the traditionally expensive hotel breakfast). If you’re coming in to London to do a bit of shopping, there’s no finer place to be. You’re steps away from Marks and Spencer the big one, Selfridges’s, etc. etc etc.