Ghosts walk briskly through the streets of London. laques 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?
Some might like to see London, itself, as a museum, but it isn’t. However many fine museums deserve your curiosity, attention, time, interest and wonder.
The Tate’s very existence illustrates the UK’s love for art. The whole thing started when British sugar baron Henry Tate donated his collection of 65 British paintings to the country. The country said thank you but could not find room for the work in the National Gallery. (Tate also threw in £80,000 to kick start a new building.) Land, occupied by the Millbank Prison until its 1890 demolition, was called to service. The new museum, then known as the National Gallery of British Art, opened in 1897.
Additional collections were secured. And today “The Tate” is an umbrella term for several sites.
Tate Britain is the original flavor. It's located at the Milbank site, and the collection conists of British art, dating back to 1500. It regularly presents exhbits, characterized by sweep, flair and scholarhip. For example, there is the upcoming Artist and Empire (25 November 2015 – 10 April 2016) which the museum describes as "the first major presentation of the art associated with the British Empire from the sixteenth century to the present day." The painting of T.E. Lawrence (see left) by TK will be one of the pieces in the show.
Also in London is Tate Modern. Created in the year 2000, this new cathedral of modernism (art since 1900) occupies a former power station. Sprinkled throughout are assorted Great Names In Art: Picasso, Monet, Warhol Mondrian, Lichtenstein, Bacon, Braque and Pollock to name a few. Bankside, near Blackfriars Bridge, opposite St Paul's Cathedral and next to the Globe Theatre.
In the interests of full disclosure therealo is a Tate St Ivwes, Tate Liverpook and Tate on the WebMore information
IMAGE: "Colonel T.E. Lawrence 1919" by Augustus John © Tate
Designed in the Greek Revival mode, The British Museum gives the reassuring sense of permanence that culture so desperately craves. Somehow the curvature of the Great Court’s Norman Foster-designed roof, made of steel and glass, furthers this little illusion of eternity. The Great Court is indeed a courtyard but in its center is the original Round Reading Room, where as everyone loves to note, Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital, clearly a labor of love and vice versa. Other Reading Room regulars have included Oscar Wilde, Mohandas Gandhi, Rudyard Kipling, Vladimir Lenin, Thomas Carlyle, G.B. Shaw and H. G. Wells.
Not everyone has gone to the British Museum to soak themselves in scholarship and write major cultural landmarks. It is a museum and people do like to see the pretty pictures, artifacts and what have you. For example there are the Greek and Roman antiquities, including the Elgin Marbles. . More information
Get a load of storytelling the medieval and renaissance way, and more. The National Gallery’s permanent collection includes Western European works created between about 1250 through 1900. A few of the artists represented include Monet, Botticelli, Constable, da Vinci, Cézanne, Raphael, Titian, Canaletto, Caravaggio, Rubens and Stubbs. The building itself, located on Trafalgar Square, is an architectural gem. For more information about the National Gallery, click here.
Venerable Somerset house is hardly a secret but still there is something thrilling about walking along the busy Strand, entering a building and finding a courtyard and cultural hub. The Somerset House offers performances, family events, talks and art exhibits. In the winter ( late November to the end of January) the courtyard becomes an ice rink where people skate under ghostly blue lights. Indoors, there is a museum with some fascinating shows. More information.
Although not strictly speaking a cultural institution, there is something museumish about the annual Open House. This year in September, London becomes a “living architectural exhibition” as government, business and private buildings open their doors. Admission is free but it helps to buy a building guide . Do it online.
Now that you've soaked up all that culture, get a sense of the different Londons. Amble through or past some amazing places.
Located in the Westminster section of the city, Palace of Westminster, a massive gothic revival structure exudes majesty and permanence. Westminster houses Parliament and a symbol for the ages.
How can a clock be timeless? Big Ben not only declares the time. The 13.5 ton Palace of Westminster clock tower bell evokes the very soul of London. Althoough poor William Shakespeare did not have the good fortune to hear Big Ben (The bell's first public chime sounded on 31 May, 1859), the music of Shakespeare certainly is in Big Ben's tones -- along with Newton's clarity, Churchill's will, Princess Diana's compassion and the dreams, thoughts, passions wishes and essence of millions of Londoners, present and past. Have a listen.
Hyde Park is worth finding. It’s known around the world for its Sunday Speaker’s Corner, a sort of open mike (without the mike) for soapbox orators, preachers, assorted zealots and the detractors who razz them. Mostly it’s a lovely park with a lake, flower gardens, fountains, greenery, rowboats, statues. More information
The Marble Arch sits on what once was called Tuburn, England’s number one execution spot. It is now marked by a stone in a traffic island in the junction where Bayswater Road meets Edgware Rd. In the 60s Ms. Traveler sat there with her friends and guitar.
In the newly energized south London neighborhood Southwark near London Bridge, the Borough market a long standing fixture has recently been gaining more buzz. It’s amazing what a bunch or fresh cheeses and Brussels sprouts can do for an area’s reputation. There you’ll find vendors spreading their food and wine wares in an assortment of stalls. a lofty glass ceiling such as you might find in an old fashioned railway station provides a canopy for the outdoor market. Stroll through and it’s a feast for the eyes especially if you have eyes for a feast.
Shoulder to shoulder with each other are purveyors of olives, cheeses, fresh vegetables, fruits, Spanish specialties, olive oils, coffee beans, teas, exotic apple ciders, quiches, soups, steamed puddings, herb, spices. Pies, Mexican chocolate. Stop and sample a cube of cheese or dip a piece of bread into an artisan olive oil. Inhale the aromas of a dozen different foods being fried, steamed, slowly cooked. Pause at one vendor to contemplate the purchase of “organice spices from hell” or “organic herbs from heaven.” It makes you want to move to London so that you can take a huge sack of fresh, organic foodstuffs home with you and cook up a storm. More information
With the solid presence of major book publishers and cultural institutions (e.g. London University and the British Museum), Bloomsbury entered the 20th century with a pronounced reputation as a center for literary sorts. Add a Georgian mews here and there, the musings of the “Bloomsbury Group” (a legendary circle of writers including Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey) and some, book shops, pubs and cafes.
Queensway is a street where you can get things done. Yes! We dare to
tell you things other sites wouldn’t dream. Like where to find a
launderette in London. Who wants to traipse around with dirty knickers
all the time. Perhaps Traveler is strange; but little satisfies
Traveler more than doing washing up a load while on the road. It hits
the independence buttons. And maybe there’s a soupçon of rampant
thrift. Why pay hotel prices to uphold the virtue of clean clothes?
Central Wash, 184 Queensway Street, declares it is London’s first coin-op. It’s open seven days a week (8am 10 pm).. It’s near the corner of Westbourne Grove and Queensway, and the nearest tubes are Queensway and Bayswater.
There are several Internet cafes along Queensway. They are considersbly cheaper than many hotel hookups. You can sip a cappuccino while you marvel at how you can receive your spam even in London. There also are nexpensive international calling centers. An attendant assigns a phone and you pay when you are through.
Theatre gives news insights; but you'll find a really fresh look at the world near the Marriott County Hall. Fishies from all over the world come to the Sea Life London Aquarium to look at people standing on the other side of the plate glass. . Perhaps the plural of the London Eye is the London wheeee. The 443-ft. high ride carries its status as the world’s largest Ferris wheel with due authority and humility.
There is the theatre of the streets and there is the living theatre, West End Theatre, London theatre. You even can see the god-awful Andrew Lloyd Weber works before they come to the U.S. shores. Fortunately there are other choices.
Named after Donald Albery and Margot Fontyn. The two used it as rehearsal space for the London Festival Ballet Company. Previous uses of the space, dating back to the late 19th century include a storage of hops for a local brewery, a film studio and a warehouse for ripening bananas. Its current life began in 1990 with the hiring of Sam Mendes as artistic director of the theater. It is noted for porvicotive, breakthrough, entertaining productions. For more information, click here
And if you'd like to take in a West End show. you can get
cut-price theatre tickets for a great range of productions on the day of
performance at the tkts booth, located at Leicester Square Piazza. The
booth sponsored by the Society of London Theatre, is open
Monday-Saturday 10 am-7pm and Sunday 12-3:30.
All this gadding about makes Traveler hungry. Here are several remedies.
Certain restaurants distinguish themselves with timeless qualities. Up two flights of creaky stairs, you’ll feel you’re going back into a very dear, almost lost part of London. Those stairs have been trudged for years and years (since 1950) by people who knew that they would get a good Indian meal at a good price in a friendly atmosphere.
Every time we come here we see people we’d love to know – writers and other verbal types, local business people, dear friends meeting for lunch, world travelers and the dedicated staff of nearby India House, the awesome building Londoners go to get their visas for India.
At a time when London restaurants are flexing their muscles and busting your wallets, it is a pleasure to know you can order a huge meal for two vegetarian people for £13. (If you want booze, bring your own.) Located in the Hotel Strand Continental, it opened in 196. Its founder was Krishna Menon.
It is a cozy room, but you do not feel crowded, the waiters all smile at you and bring you a pitcher of water. Your meal may be delivered to your table via some pretty historic grey metal trays, Do get a look at them. Razzle dazzle and glitz have their place, but sometimes we also like to go humble, and real, and go where we can order good solid curry with integrity, and it tastes good too. The dishes are prepared slowly and taste like it. Just like Rama used to make. The lemony walls are adorned as they have been for years with pictures of Gandhi and Nehru and Rabindrath Tagore
143 Strand, WC2R 1JA. Phone (020) 7836 0650 The Strand It’s open 7 days a week from noon to 2:30 and 6-10 plus. Click here.
Govinda’s pure vegetarian restaurant and takeaway 10 Soho StreetW1D 3DL 020 7437 5875 Okay they’re hari krishnas, but you don’t have to shave your head to enjoy healthful, tasty , portions of a decent curry, lasagna or other veggie treats. more information
The Cafe Below is in the crypt of St. Mary Below Church, street called Cheapside EC2. tube stop is St. Paul or Bank. Open Monday to Friday only 7:30 to 2:30. It’s actually quite cheery as crypts go. The Cafe Below is one of those marvelous wonders, one hopes to find. The very workaday, humdrum, normal surroundings and buzz, crypt notwithstanding is the home of a great variety of freshly prepared, tasty, vegetarian, inexpensive meals. There’s just enough virtue in the air to let you know you’re doing a good thing for yourself; but not too much virtue to pale the thrill of scarfing lunch down. Click here
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.
The Athenaeum is a magnet for visiting film and theatre stars. A random list of guests includes John Malkovitch, Samuel Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Russell Crowe, Meg Ryan, Linda Gray, and Michael Douglas.
Part of the Hollywood hangout mystique is certainly because the J. Arthur Rank Organization once owned the property. Two other factors are probably more important.
First of all, the Athenaeum delivers service. Staffers invoke the spirit of legendary executive director Sally Bulloch when she said, “The answer to every question is yes.”
Also it offers a comfortable and comforting sense of privacy that whispers discretion. Even to the extent of offering the use of secret hallways that afford private entree and egress for the celeb who does not wish to be haunted by paparazzi. This privacy was offered to Denis and Margaret Thatcher when they dallied in the Athenaeum 9th floor 750 pound a night penthouse for 9 weeks. They chose instead to eat in the public areas and walk through the front door and the Brits loved it.
Traveler stayed in an apartment. These are special and spacious and are round the corner from the main hotel building. The apartments are townhouse suites, two per floor, on Down Street, the side street adjoining the hotel proper. (Quite proper, as a matter of fact. This is Mayfair after all.). Each suite has an oversized living room; ample bedroom; contemporary dark green, tiled kitchen (complete with stove, oven, refrigerator, sink, dishes, tableware, washer dryer combination but alas, no microwave) and a lovely loo.
The central theme of our apartment’s décor might be called patterns. Every surface, fabric, object bears a discernable pattern — powerfully striped green, maroon and cream curtains; beige wallpaper showing regalia separated diamonds, tan and brown floral carpet; bright Princess Anne red rose in a green diamond wreath on an ivory background straight back chairs, rose on burgundy sofa and arm chair red and gold orchids on forest green background chairs. The plush furniture has fringes and the straight backs have studs.
Now here’s the thing. One of us loved the apartment and one of us hated it. One of us found solace in the plush, traditional décor. The other didn’t -- if we are to attach any credence to the description, “arsenic tones from 1910 and poison and pus greens and brown fringed Philadelphia unsuccessful whorehouse draperies.” (A possible exception to the general décor doldrums might be apartment #13 with its black ceilings and leopard upholstery. Known as the “Wild Room,” it is often used by privacy seekers.)
After all, it is a lovely feeling to have one’s own apartment in London’s Mayfair, and to have an oven in which to cook all those delicious Marks and Spencers frozen meals we often long to try as tourists but cannot bring home on the airplane. There is even a box of laundry powder for you by the washer.
To have a discreet staff bring you room service if you are promoting a book and having a series of interviewers traipsing in and out, or having a little orgy---well, as Edward R. Murrow would say,’This---is London’.
The Athenaeum is the perfect spot to stay if you’re into Tory glory
and if extreme privacy does not feel like isolation. Whether a guest or
not, do drop in on the clubby intimate Whisky Bar. Its menu of at least
100 different single malts is said to be the largest selection of
whiskies in London. The barkeep pours with a lovely sense of solemn
116 Piccadilly, London W.1 J 7BJ
Tel 011 44 020 7499 3464
Fax 011 44 020 7493 1860
When you arrive at Egerton House, you see a well-maintained townhouse, 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. It 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. For more information, clck
17- 19 Egerton Terrace
London SW3 2BX
020 7589 2412 More information
Journeys can bring danger, fame, luck love, or sweet invisibility. One relocation may turn a loudmouth into a happy kitten According to the stargazing astrological map-makers at Astro*Carto*Graphy, different aspects of one's personality traits become more pronounced and extreme when visiting different destinations.
The Astro*Carto*Graphy map shows you where your spots are. (More on this at another time.)
If there is a universal feeling travelers share, and there are many, it is that odd feeling around an airport of being between many worlds. Many don't like this feeling. Anomie. Anonymity. A pause between then and soon. All those people going to all gates, all fates. Fiji. Paris. The Bahamas, heavenly spots, perhaps. Others, grimly off again to Brussels, Berlin, Salt Lake City. What will become of them?
Airport hotels within airports maximize this feeling exponentially. One is sleeping in the between-zone. For connoisseurs of culture shock, this is exhilarating, spooky and delicious.
Staying in airport hotels makes Traveler feel like a spy. A super-hero. A ghost. An airport hotel is a haven from the constraints of place and personality. The kind of weird, deep rest you can't have by the sea or in the country or the city. A space station, more like, with better sheets and room service. Give us an airport hotel any time, please.
When the philosopher Alain De Botton’s little gem of a book, A Week at the Airport appeared a few years ago, we airport aficionados knew we were not alone in indulging our boundless curiosity about strangers, our strivings for cosmic detachment and our occasional wallowing in noir-like, anonymous alienation.
Readers, the glamorous Sofitel LHR is the airport hotel Alain De Botton lived in while he wrote that book.
Why can't we all live here?
OK. Say you've arrived at T5 at Heathrow. (And if you're arriving or departing from one of the other terminals, it’s easy to get to T5 from the others. The London Underground connects easily. )
There's a bit of a indoor walk from T5 to the Sofitel, but cést pas mal, soon you'll be walking across the very woo-woo futuristic lighted short link bridge and into a quiet oasis of five atria, flooded with natural light, even on the greyest days. The architect, Stephen Williams, saw to that. The design features, purpose built to emphasize their impressive eco-cred, means you will see areas of marble, tinted glass, polished cherry and walnut wood and striped stone/carpeted hallways with inlaid panels of light to guide your path. A futuristic eco oasis, indeed, with water features and a Zen garden.
Walking down these halls, to the hotel, and to the rooms, is strange and pleasurable. There's a kind of 2001 - ish, ground-of-being feeling about the approaches; the floor and hallways are fun to look at. Most strolls down hallways are boring. Here, you feel as if you are going somewhere special.
To bed. Ahh.
Never anywhere has Traveler stayed in rooms so quiet, and as psychically quiet as these. Lush down bedding, soft sheets, great mattresses and pillows (there's a pillow menu, with a choice of five types). Super-thick blackout drapes keep the light out, if your jet-lag requires it. Triple-glazed windows help. Absolutely nobody bothers you unless you want something.
And if it gets too quiet or your jet-lag rolls another way, there's an extra (splash-proof) television at the end of your bathtub.
Amenities - they have a few. Loads of pretty bars. 45 meeting rooms. A theatre. A hot tub large enough to swim in. 24 hour gym. Power showers, mist-free mirrors, safes, Botox on offer next door. Yikes! Breakfast buffet, room service? Of course. Afternoon teas and madeleines at Tea 5 (geddit?) for those between-flights biz meetings? Dedicated butler service for those staying in the suites (some adorned with Swarovski crystals). Oui, oui! Darling, let's just fly in for the night. With 605 hotel rooms from which to choose, you’re sure to be lucky.
Marriott County Hall offers a basic and quintessentially London joy. With the Thames River between, County Hall faces the Houses Of Parliament, the seat of British Government and the home of the world famous clock tower known as Big Ben.
The hotel, opened on 6 July 1996, comfortably occupies a sweet portion of the massive structure that once housed the London government. It exudes a subliminal whiff of stability, confidence, eternity, activity and privilege. Supporting that secret perfume, of course, are the décor, furnishings, service. All contribute to a very tangible sense of being in the most exclusive of clubs. This connection to the soul of London is not entirely symbolic or historic. This is not just some corny tourist-only place: the Members of Parliament, both Labour and Tory, nip across the bridge to meet, to drink, to wait out the votes, and to use the fantastic health club facilities here. The bridge is the Westminster Bridge, London’s oldest bridge. It was built 1750 and replaced by the present structure in 1862)
This awesome historic hotel is a thirty second lope to the London Eye, It’s next to the Saatchi Gallery, itself atop the London Aquarium; and practically on Westminster Bridge. It has the best views, bar none, in London….and Paris, New York, and Mars and Saturn too.
Traveler stayed in an “Executive Suite” which is a one bedroom suite with a separate lounge area. Well worth it. The hotel has only four of these, so book ahead. There also are seven balcony studios each with a private balcony and a panoramic view of London and the Thames. The most impressive accommodation is the Presidential, Westminster Suite. There is one of these. The one-bedroom suite features a separate dining area and kitchenette, a raised lounge area, and, yes, views of Westminster and Big Ben. As we say in London, ooo la-la.
There are 72 (15 twin and 55 double) River View rooms (each looks out on the Thames); 82 Deluxe rooms (21 twin and 61 double) that overlook either Jubilee Gardens or the hotel's inner Courtyard; eight Deluxe Studio Rooms, each with a Separate seating area and a view of the Jubilee Gardens; 25 Big Ben Executive rooms with Big Ben and Parliament views; one Four Poster Studio (with aforementioned bed, seating area and Big Ben and Parliament views); seven Balcony Studios, each with a seating area and private balcony and panoramic views of London and the Thames
The Library lounge, a study in red, is absolutely stunning, gorgeous. You can take tea here. It’s full of original statute books. Awesome views. Opposite this room is the Leaders Bar, which is dominated by the color green. The Rotunda lounge is a swoony bar with those views of the river and Ben again. The Noes lobby (as in the noes have it.) is Pretty much what you see when you first enter the lobby.
The Club at County Hall is on two levels and contains a 25 metre pool, saunas, whirlpools, steam rooms, masses of workout machines and equipment.
At Executive Level you get a lounge with continental breakfast, hot and cold snacks and cheeses at night, and a place to chill out with the newspapers it has all the chilly modern anomic charm of an airline club lounge. Nicely, they always have one vegetarian selection in their cocktail hour, be it hot onion rolls or vegetable samosas, and a brilliant selection of fine English cheeses, fruits and pastries
And Then There Are The Loos.
When you enter County Hall, to get a quick sense of the place; turn to the right and find the Ladies and Gentlemen’s cloak rooms (WCs to you, mate). These facilities certainly rank with the nicest loos in London. Each entire bathroom is exquisitely wood paneled. Over the sinks and also in the individual stalls you’ll find framed political cartoons by such renowned cartoonists as JAK, MAC and Mahood. Don’t just check out one stall.. Review them all to appreciate the sense of history. Many cartoons were about Ken Livingstone being thrown out when Margaret Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council. The British Museum came to Ken Livingstone and asked him would he rather be stuffed standing on one leg or seated.
And in the end.
Us: We wonder what time is check out?
County Hall: Middy Madame.
Us: We wonder if we could check out at 12:30. We want to hear Big Ben go 12 times.
County Hall: Well okay Madame.
Sniffle. Sob. Omigod. We want to live here forever. Just us, and our best friend Big Ben. Play your cards right, citizens of the world, and you too can sink into an armchair in your dream hotel on the River Thames, watch the boats go by and goggle at the world’s best building: the Tower, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
London Marriott Hotel County Hall
Westminster Bridge Hotel
LondonSE1 7PB More information
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.
If money is 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.
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’d popped down just to look at the pool, with no intentions of using the facilities. We were tired, cranky – and lucky: the attendants offered smiling but quiet welcomes, as if they were well used to knackered, beaten-up travelers. They ask the right casually-put questions, find out what you might like or need to do to feel better, and make it happen.
Unprepared for a swim? One staffer appeared and lent us her own perfectly lovely big barrette to keep long locks up and out of the water. Soon we were melting tired bones happily in a Jacuzzi, devouring all the London newspapers and swanning around in the sparkling blue pool. There are two large side-by-side Jacuzzis.
The gorgeous pool has recessed lighting that slowly, magically changes from blue to turquoise to sea green to aqua, with the unusual effect of making the water shimmer iridescently, with two colours on the surface at the same time, rather like swimming in liquid electric taffeta.
Then there’s the sauna, a shower, and oodles of beauty goos from Molton Brown. Free lockers and fruit. Forgot your swimsuit? You can buy a swimmie and goggles on the spot. The people here are dangerously, helpful people: they make you feel so cared for, you’ll never want to stay in any other hotel, which is sort of the point. And why would you?
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. 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.
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 More information
Custodians of tradition fulfill their responsibilities in one of two ways —1. They shove it down your throat; or 2. They make you feel part of the continuum.
The Grosvenor House, which has eight floors, 374 rooms and 72 suites, falls into the latter category. Grovesnor House may have been London’s first hotel with an eye toward the American market. Grovesnor House is famous for so many things; but the annuial Grovesnor House Art And Antiques Fair (1934-2009) was mega on the society list.
You really feel the World War II vibe here, the romances dances and so much more.
You can plonk yourself down on a lobby easy chair and see, over the mantelpiece of the blazing fireplace, W. Howard Robinson’s portrait of the October 30, 1930 Halloween Ice Carnival. It shows the Prince of Wales (later to be the Duke of Windsor), with ciggies, and all the whirling revelers looking toward him. Coats of arms line the lobby. They bear the names of old toffs, names we all know, Cardigan, Waltham, etc..
Off to one side is the beautiful Red Bar. Charles Adams and Peter Arno cartoons adorn its walls. The lacquered red walls please. Although the Red Bar is supremely old fashioned, don’t be afraid to order a cosmo or pina colada. Sink into a dark green chair and hear the tinkling of the grand piano wafting in from the lobby restaurant. On the opposite side of the fireplace wall are old bound volumes. Traveler noticed some dating back to around 1884 but they provably go back farther.
You’ll find a moderately priced noon to 2:30 and six to 7:30 set menu at the Park Room. It’s ideal if you’re swanning off to the theatre — even for a matinee. The restaurant always provides for vegetarians. . The Park Room with its deep blue carpeting overlooks Hyde Park. Lovely to see a couple seated in the window seeing and being seen on Park Lane. A marble statue of Roman goddess Diana looks on. And of course you can take tea in the Park Room.
Service, service, service. Gentility, well-appointed rooms. Hundreds of English prints line the corridors and adorn the rooms. Executive Lounge a/k/a the Grosvenor House Royal Club hums with an understated gentility.
London, W1K7TN United Kingdom
Phone: 44 207 4996363 More information
Room service, please. No need to dress - it's only 11.35 am and we're already at London Heathrow airport. flicking through the papers and looking forward to a lovely lunch to come rolling in with the fog.
Wiggle toes in bubble bath, slip into thirsty hotel bathrobe and gaze serenely, OCD-ly, at one's luggage, repacked to perfection here last night after a heavenly steam and sauna downstairs. Impossible not to keep breaking into wide, ridiculous smiles.
Are we smug? Are we ever. Unstressed? Like a noodle in warm zabaglione. Cosseted? Divinely. Who imagined that spending a couple of nights at the airport, incognito, could be such a tremendously healing, guilty, giggly and exciting secret pleasure?
And a surprise. Because outside the hermetically-sealed, double-glazed windows of Room 3200 (they call this magical spot a 'standard' room) is the actual airport runway. We're on the the north perimeter of Heathrow airport, baby. Vroom, vroom! It's totally quiet, of course. Bring your binoculars.
So here comes the 24 Hour Room Service and we set it up on the table by the window and just as we're starting to peel our first grape we look out and -omigosh! - here comes American, United, British Airways, British Airways, British Airways, Air Canada, Virgin, Virgin, Trans Aero, Alitalia, Aer Lingus, LOT, Air India, Quantas, SAS, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Turkish Air, Iberia, and Air France. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.
Lunch has been entirely forgotten. It's still hot; only minutes have passed. If plane-spotting at the Ren hasn't turned you into a wide-eyed, gasping, jumping-up-and-down, awestruck ten-year old, honey, you're jaded and only mushrooms can save you now.
Fortunately, they're wise to you here. Book a room with a guaranteed, uninterrupted runway view on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, all mod cons included - soundproofed room, Satellite television, tea, coffee, air conditioning, full English breakfast buffet in the Brasserie, access to the Club Lounge (complimentary soft drinks, etc. and also great views of the runway), return tix to the airport on the Heathrow Hoppa bus, car parking, health club and a certificate to commemorate your plane-spotting stay. Prices are friendly and affordable.
To book, call the Internal Reservations Department and quote the reference code EARZ at (011) (44) 020 8897 6363 or go to the website and shoot them an email, kid.
You can party here. Locals do it all the time. Maybe that's why it's not your typically cold, impersonal between-two-worlds hotel. Managers are actually nice to the employees. There are 649 guest rooms, and you can squeeze 500 people, even cars, even brides, or tour groups into the event rooms. Locals and airport workers might exercise here. Pilots and air hostesses arrive and depart; and it's 'all hands on deck' when suddenly accommodating hundred of passengers on delayed flights
And still it's a such a quiet place.
Here's a wizard jumping-off point for local adventures. Royal Windsor Castle, Eton, and Southall (with its great curries) are a hop away - you could even take a local bus or two. Ask the concierge, who will sort tours or trips to the Cotswolds, Thorpe Park, Hampton Court Palace, etc..
Whacked-out travelers will like the dinner buffets at the Brasserie, which feature an excellent array of very nice traditional English comfort foods with mint sauce, trifle, and all the rest. Vegetarians and healthy eaters are well catered for.
Quixotically for an airport hotel, this Renaissance has a weirdly old-fashioned, warm, comforting, defiantly English middle-class feel to it, which probably suits most tastes. You can't get dinner in the Brasserie until 6. The health club - no pool - usually shuts at 7.30 pm - earlier or not at all on holidays.
Globe-trotting world citizen Pico Iyer types do not expect Las Vegas or Hong Kong amenities at every stop, but what happened to 24/7 amenities for 24/7 arrivers?
So...what do airport hotel guests want?
We had to ask an expert: a hotel marketing whiz. She laughed
patiently and spoke with the voice of one who has been a hospitality ace
for many moons. You could hear 1000 years of English history and common
sense in those bell-like tones:
'They just want to go to bed, ' she whispered.
Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel
Hounslow, England TW6 2AQ United Kingdom
Phone: 44 20 88976363
Fax: 44 20 88971114
Gorgeous, simply gorgeous, this glass hotel. Jaw-dropping. You’ve got to see this. You won’t believe it.
You’ve got to love the future, doncha?. You’ve got to love the newness of it all. .Because that’s what the Canary Wharf area’s all about. Scary new. This is not your mum's London; not Charles Dickens’s London; not even the London of 10 years ago.
Not like the rest of London at all.
And yet, in a way, this is the new power centre of London, where the money is. Loadsamoney, serious hedge fund money, the folding stuff, spondoolix, the wonga, here in the East End of London. Understand this: 200 years ago, give or take, London became the world's financial center. And now it’s happened again: The Evening Standard calls this area Manhattan on the Thames.
Unbelievable, this. It is exciting, shocking, disorienting to ride up the escalator at the Canary Wharf tube station and land in a glittering, Brave New World, surrounded by massive, looming glass skyscrapers and worker bees - in bespoke tailoring, no less! - rushing madly about amid the twinkling lights and shopping malls.
Welcome to Canary Wharf, on the site of the old London docklands. This was once the busiest port in the world, that helped fuel the growth of the British Empire. Spices and sugar and fruit from all over the world came to this port. Blitzed heavily in WW2, the last docks folded up in 1981.
In 1994 only one skyscraper stood in this chilly, lonely outpost. Then boom! London became the financial capital of the world. Skyscrapers zoomed up. Morgan Stanley, HSBC, Credit Suisse, Barclays, Citigroup and all the other global pinstriped thrusters moved in to make a spectacular skyline where there used to be spice warehouses and ragamuffins playing in the muck.
You don’t want to take a taxi to Canary Wharf, mate. Not unless you’re loaded. It could cost you a small fortune. You take the Tube for 25 minutes to Canary Wharf station and then you flag a taxi or take the DLR three seconds’ ride to your hotel. And what a hotel it turns out to be.
Your room is 301, also known as the Curve Suite. It has floor to ceiling glass that curves inward on both sides. You feel like you're sitting in an ark, a ship. To your right and to your left are views of water, and just- formed buildings. There are no vibes in the suite. It’s all new and all yours. You're living in a Kubrick movie. There is no history. This is London future, suspended.
After a certain hour, you will look through both glass walls and notice that no more people are wandering about below. It is a beautiful Twilight Zone city. At dawn you will look out, and - poof- there they are —with their brollies and attaches — your hedge fund boys and number-crunchers rushing to work, over the bridge, over the water, in the chilly blue light.
If you want to feel the power, money, ambition and that cool and comforting anomie (which is why we love modern hotels), this is it. There is an old sign we used to see in Manhattan: “There is no place like this place anywhere near this place; so this must be the place."
The room colors are cheerful red, gold and green: and should not be confused with the fusty old golds and gloomy greens in the Mayfair hotels. This red is chipper. The green is celadon. There are cheerful black squiggles on the maize and butterscotch carpet. The design team, Richmond International, has done interiors for the Savoy and the Mandarin Oriental in London and Sandy Lane in Barbados. Hey, if you like it this much, and you will, you can live here. There are 47 Executive Apartments atop the hotel. (Make it 46 when TUSAN’s lottery ticket hits.)
We don't have to croon about the Marriott beds. They're among the best in any hotel. There are 279 rooms and 22 suites. The Curve Suite is one of seven that feature cutting edge design with glass walls on two sides that provide spectacular views of the London skyline, Canary wharf and the River Thames.
We’d like to tell you that Traveler went to the Museum In Docklands. We’d like to tell you Traveler went to the spiffy Catalyst Health And Fitness Club for a swim, a facial, an “Indian Head” massage, and a manicure and then went out and did some mega deals and a bit of trust-stripping. But the room was so damned awesome and cocoony that Traveler could do nothing but order up two days worth of room service and goggle out the window.
Traveler could have availed herself of the complimentary pressing service or the daily shoeshine. But she preferred to swan around in her complimentary bathrobe and invite some friends over for an unforgettable party. Once during her stay Traveler did manage to stagger down to the Curve Restaurant And Bar and had a fantastic meal.
Although it was memorable, Traveler cannot recall the particular details. Which reminds us. There also is a Manhattan Terrace and Bar that offers splendid drinks and splendid views of the water. People sit at outdoor tables, even in the winter. English people. That’s how you tell Brits apart from others.
Visit the Executive Lounge on the seventh floor where the two curved glass walls meet in a sharp point. From here you can see across London for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles....
Happily, there is the Thames Clippers riverline service from Canary Wharf to Central London. It offers both fast commuter ferries along the Thames and two sightseeing voyages — the Tate Boat running between Tate Britain and Tate Modern and the River Roamer day ticket for unlimited “Hop-on, Hop-off” stops for all piers along the route. Ask your guest relations go-to guy, Matthias Missling or the expert at the front desk, Martin Baronick
All guest rooms, all have satellite TV (far too many channels to bother with it a gorgeous joint like this) high-speed Internet and lots and lots of complimentary in-room tea and coffee and a nice safe. Obviously, 24 hour room service. I'll get it
But why would you leave once you’re here? You’ll stay in Mayfair later on. Soon enough for Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden. Do yourself a favour and savour your stay here and skip the long commute.
The best way to get to this hotel is by chauffeured Rolls-Royce. The hotel is actually located on a stretch of water opposite Canary wharf. You can walk across a perfectly nice Orwellian bridge to get to it.
And when you leave, you might to like to exit right and walk a few steps to the charming West India Quay Docklands light Railway Station (DLR). It whisks you in seconds to Canary Wharf tube station. From there, you are only 25 minutes away from the West End. Some people are freaks for train sets. Traveler loves the London underground and always makes a point to go to a new stop, as so many are architectural model marvels (Southwark) or smoky reminders of Britain's finest hour (Goodge Street). If you ain't been on the DLR mate, you ain't from the East End no more, are you?
London Marriott Hotel West India Quay
22 Hertsmere Road, Canary wharf
London, E14 4 ED United Kingdom
phone: 44 20 70931000
You’ve seen this. You’ve whizzed by this. You’ve flashed by this glamorous looking hotel a million times as you’ve dashed back and forth to Harrods’s. Indeed it is a tower. As you approach you see granite faced circular modern building studded regularly with squares. An homage to geometry? Curvy linear comfort. When this round popi went up (it was built back in 1972 and remodeled in 2002), you can be sure that the Knightsbridge toffs shrieked to have such a modern, tall structure come in. (In October 2002 the Westminster City Council included it on a list of tall buildings that have an “adverse impact on views and skyline .”) We wish the architectural bluestockings a hearty “get over it.”
Now many years on there are more modern buildings along Knightsbridge and they haven’t hurt the area’s greatness as a shopping magnet one tiny bit. A devilishly cleverly designed “high rise of only 17 stories, the high rise was added to the old building where you enter from the back.
We had a nearly 180-degree panoramic view of London so awesome that we immediately donned a nightgown to enjoy the room. The essence of luxury travel is loving your room so much you never want to leave it – except perhaps for the 92nd nip to Harvey Nichols next door and then off to the Harrods. Some visitors to this hotel complain it is too close to Harvey Nicks but you can see by their smiling faces and multiple shopping bags that they’re delighted.
But you won’t want to leave your perfect room. Nice TV set. Swirly whirly wood paneling. The bed is set into a curving, softly padded alcove facing huge panoramic bay windows, some of which open to provide fresh air, another. Set neatly, the entire semi circle of the window treatment is all built in and gives you a feeling of utter customized design and comfort, like no other hotel room we’ve yet seen. There is a shelf behind the shelter for your drinks and your tablet or olives or ...
Make sure you bring your binoculars.
Here’s what we could see from room 1211: Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the London Eye, The Tate Modern, the OXO Tower, the Gherkin, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Post Office Tower, The London Hilton with its Twin Blue Beams Shooting Up, Hyde Park Corner, St James Park, Marble Arch and all of Hyde Park spreading out before you and the serpentine and all the way Bayswater Road up to well past Nottinghill Gate and beyond.
You will also the see the beautiful buildings of Knightsbridge with all their chimney pots clustered on the rooftops and feel as if you were waiting for Peter Pan to come to take you away. But when he comes you won’t go. Ladies and gentlemen this is one hell of a room, beware, if you stay at the Sheraton Park Tower you may cancel all your theater plans; for what could surpass the magical architectural splendor seen from one of its swankiest grandest neighborhoods. And there is nothing better in London to see than London, Birdseye view. The catbird seat. Watch flying pigeons below us. Everything is graceful and a little extra classy,
The curved alcove is padded acoustically so if you’re coming here for a hot love affair no one will hear you. Light switches are controlled from your bed so that overhead lights and dimmer can be switched individually. If someone is an insomniac the other wont be bothered.
Of course there’s a bar and a place to have tea and a little fitness center. If you want a spa treatment or massage, they will send somebody to your room. It’s the only way to do it. This is Knightsbridge and you might as well be Lady Muck.7
Some fantastic Lebanese restaurants and delis (for sneaking a felafels or two, delights up to your room).
101 Knightsbridge London SW1X 7RN
Phone (44)(207) 2358050 more information
Great beds, these. You’ll need a great bed after Virgin’s surprising new economy ’Iron Maiden’, Procrustian cramped seating---that and a chiropractor. Virgin often have deployed the smaller planes in their fleet. But these days Virgin’s economy seats hurt you almost as much as that much hyped, much despised Singapore Airlines. Try for the bulkhead seats.
We’re fond of this small, immaculate hotel, tucked just round the corner from the tube in High St Ken, a neighbourhood that women especially like, just because it’s so pretty, not at all masculine or grubby like so many of London’s hotel neighborhoods. With coffee bars, supermarkets, Marks and Spencers, Smiths and buses to Knightsbridge shopping, it’s convenient but gentle.
This is a modest and modern hotel. It has had a recent renovation. We keep returning here because they balance the small rooms with impeccably built in features, such as making your own tea service, niches for the hair dryer, etc. Everything works and fits pleasingly. This is a cushy little space capsule.
And we ‘re wild about the hotel’s Kensington Close Health Club, and
wonderful, wonderful swimming pool. The sauna hot as hell, the pool is
sparkling and warm. The steam room is large, fabulous and fragrant with
lung clearing herbs. It’s blessed with an excellent staff, and you can
sneak to the health club direct from your room via the lift without
hassles. Wrights Lane Kensington W8 5 SP
Tel 020 7368 4005 Fax 020 7938 4331
‘Look,‘ the bellman said, ‘the moon is right over the Seven Dials.’
The bellman was looking through the window of the fifth floor suite in the Radisson Edwardian Mercer Street Hotel. And bellman was right. Tucked away in Covent Garden, this quiet four-star deluxe hotel looks out on the bright lights of the West End theaters.
The silver half-moon looked quite at home. If you look beyond the chimneys and rooftops that evoke Peter Pan, you can see the London Eye wheeling in the distance, guarding the legendary, looping. Thames. This enormous Ferris wheel, which was erected to celebrate London’s Millennium celebrations, smiles and flashes at nearby Big Ben with bluish blinks.
Back to the Seven Dials. Stories abound as to how this London landmark got its name. Currently, we like the one that notes that the seven catty-corner corners which meet have buildings that are blessed with clocks. It is an absolute symphony of roman numerals.
In addition there is that Seven Dials pillar which pays its respects to the seven dials. It too is a time piece, at least during the few hours of daylight allowed by London’s latitude 51N31.
In order to understand the Mercer Street (if understanding hotels is part of how you process the world) it helps to understand the Radisson Edwardian Hotels. The privately-owned chain consists of 14 UK hotels (most in London, including one at Heathrow Airport).
The owner, the tycoon with good taste Jasminder Singh, is an accountant by training; he has been a London hotelier since 1977. The chain’s name suggests a slavish desire to reproduce an anatomically correct replica of the Edwardian era.
This proves not to be the case: the prevailing philosophy is much more intelligent. The idea is to capture and maintain the spirit of that era — specifically an atmosphere of luxury and opulence — while happily using the best contemporary design ideas. Calm colors, sometimes joyfully startling shapes and materials blend throughout the Mercer Street.
And how suite the sitting room is: plump pillows and a comfy sofa, upholstered in a bang-on shade of Edwardian chartreuse… the rich lustre of the angled walls in a lovely, cosseting cerulean blue… huge windows which actually open and look out in different directions.
Who couldn’t get mellow here, very fast? We did.
Room service? Yes, please. The eats: eggs, mushrooms, grilled tomato, yogurt, fruit, juice, toast and tea. We liked snorking up the full English breakfasts --- we prefer vegetarian style --- room service shoots up to the rooms. We sat at the lovely antique table in the angled niche between two windows and engaged in commentary and delighted speculation about the people milling about below, off to work in Covent Garden.
And the well-appointed bedroom was not simply the obligatory other room but a soft haven made for sleeping and lounging.
Staff at the Mercer Street were extremely helpful and friendly and professional. Not that we had many problems to pose to them.
When staying at the Mercer Street, don’t forget to set your dial for a drink at the hotel’s popular bar, The Dial, An assortment of comfortable sofas, easy chairs and the posture-flattering, comfortable straight back chairs invite you to sit down. Bold white inch-thick candles lend a bit of atmosphere. Floor to ceiling windows face the street and look out at theater district night life. Who are those people in dress attire? Oh they’re coming in here.
The Dial’s smart location, connection to the Mercer Street and inviting décor bring a highly democratic but sedate bunch to the joint. You have your actors and luvvies and hangers-on who have just strutted and sweated their hour or so on stage as well as young (but old enough to drink) men and women on dates as well as locals out for a breath of air, diplomats, industrialists, and ,yes, tourists from all over the world, all mixing in.
The Dial is a wonderful spot from which to view the theatrical
Verdict: Very comfy, great nabe, extremely nice. Would definitely do it again.
20 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden London, WC2 9HD England
Phone: (0)20 7836 4300 Fax: (0)207 240 3540
(800) 333-3333 US
(0800) 37 4411 UK
Located in the Bloomsbury section, this is another design jewel in the Edwardian Radisson collection. It’s only a block or so away from the British Museum, and not far from the Mercer Street, if you got hooked on pulling actors or actresses at the Dial bar. (And while the district is steeped in atmosphere and tradition, the Kenilworth rooms manage to be both really modern and comfortable. .
Just about everything has a designer label or at least designer mind behind it. A dropped ceiling with recessed lights transforms a grey wall to a subtle and nuanced (like Brendan Fraser’s performance) setting. The persistent and ubiquitous touches do not scream. They delight, charm and give comfort: leather covered cubical night stands, Philip Starck faucets, glass desks in some rooms. Cheery wood desks in others.
We are told that in course of redoing the place a while back, the design team led by Michael Attenborough and Mrs. Singh actively sought input from the staff. For example, housekeepers explained how duvets make the make the task of making the bed just right smarter, quicker, easier.
Whatever the journey, the beauty of it is that you find yourself staying in an environment that is modern without being edgily intimidating. Creative original art from around the world seems to be everywhere — in the lobby, the rooms, the restaurants, the corridors. You can work calmly and productively or you can just relax and hang out.
97 Great Russell Street London, WC1B 3BL England
Phone: + 44 (0)20 7637 3477
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7631 3133
Toll Free: (800) 333-3333 US
Toll Free: (0800) 37 4411 UK
The Pavilion, located in the heart of London, is a B&B like no other. The 29 rooms are spotless; the hip, caring staff really looks after you — dragging your terrible, brick-filled suitcases up endless winding staircases for you, delivering breakfast to your room every morning.
You're not far from the Edgware Road Underground station, Paddington railway station (which has an express link to Heathrow airport), and you're only a few steps away from a jolly red bus stop where you will be whisked in minutes to anywhere you want to go as long as it's Portobello Road.
Why else would you be staying here?
I'd heard about The Pavilion from a boozed-up, chatty, ruined millionaire in the airport departure lounge: “The Pavilion in Sussex Gardens. Great, unbelievable place, and I've stayed everywhere,” he said. Thank god I'd remembered the name...for a few days later, the nothing-special ice palace I'd been staying in in Snotsville announced they'd made a mistake on the reservation: I was being turfed out one night early. Nightmare. I rang the Pavilion. One room left. Mine!
As I pull up to the Pavilion a musician is leaving his guitar behind for safe-keeping. A staff member takes it respectfully and carries it off gently. "Take your time, man. We'll look after it.”
Check in and up and up and up the stairs to chambers unknown. On the door to mine is a brass plaque: Underwater Love. This is a bit unsettling. The door opposite mine is called Green With Envy. Goodness knows what's on the other doors— or inside them.
Okay - there's only one pillow. But that's what your rolled-up coat's for, mate. There's no spa. No hairdryer. And no elevator.
Minimalists, beware: the Pavilion has teensy-weensy rooms, overwrought, wildly decorated rooms done up in dramatic colours. The style, sort of a Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen goes Bollywood on acid, can be a bit of a shock. Every room at the Pavilion has a name, theme and a signature colour.
My Underwater Love room is blue, blue in every shade you can imagine: Wedgwood walls, turquoise patterned draperies, nautical knack-knacks and a turquoise fish toilet seat. A framed print of the mighty fleet, “Britain's Empire on the Sea” hangs over a bouncy bed (inflatable?) which turns out to be surprisingly comfortable and works wonders for the ol' sacroiliac.
You get: a teamaker, phone, ensuite shower, loo, free breakfast and satellite television with remote in your immaculate little room. And the price - well, the price is not only right, it's ridiculous. Have a look.
Upon check out the next morning (after a noisy bowl of cornflakes and the best sleep I've had all week) the staff ask how else they can help. I'm dashing to a lunch meeting at an Indian restaurant and leave my mammoth bags behind. I'll collect them later.
I'll be back months
later to stay again: the whimsy, eccentricity, kindness and warm
humanity of this one-off gem is a shot in the arm (and the eye, to be
fair) after the boring and chilly corporate golds and beiges of
nothing-special hotels. Who knew it was a magnet for fashion shoots and
celebrity drop-ins? I'd no idea at the time. They were just lovely
people who made me welcome.
Visit their brilliant website to view each room:
To book: E-mail
34-36 Sussex Gardens, Hyde Park, London W2, England
Phone 011 (+44) 0207-262 0905; Fax 011(+44) 0207-262 1324.