I love London.
Every place I travel I fall in love with, but this exquisite city is one I can actually envision myself living in, if I wouldn’t be so far away from my family. London, was my first European trip, which my grandmother had experienced over 50 years ago. My beloved, beautiful and deceased grandmother. She was Italian and feisty, she said the place was rainy and the food was lousy, I hope I did not share in her opinion.
My boyfriend works in the financial district and often travels to the U.K. He invited myself and my 5-year-old son for a long weekend in October. I was in an Edgar Allen Poe type of season. Listening to Amy Winehouse and wearing black, Burberry trench coats. It was a rainy, chilly, orange and auburn fall we were having.
I am obsessed with Harry Potter, and Hogwarts is truly a place I want to retire, so when our plane finally landed after 6 hours from Philadelphia, I was jetlagged, fueled by pumpkin lattes and felt a bit dreamy…my mind wandering off envisioning Harry waiting for us at the gate.
We jumped into a black taxi and headed to our suite at the Marriott Vacation Club in Mayfair. It was romantic and classic, with a marble foyer, wrap around staircases, with well-dressed and impeccable bell hops. We threw on some party clothes and headed to dinner at La Petite Maison in Brooks Mew (a popular French restaurant). I kept Rowan on U.S time, from their looks, I believe everyone was wondering why this poor girl didn’t have a nanny. We dined on filet mignon and truffle mac and cheese.
The people were diverse and enchanting. Euro-trash in the highest regard possible. Picture blond Asian bombshell, chatting with 25 year old Arabian suitor. They are young, elite, privileged and fashion-forward. I can see the stunning black model in the red dress, looking at me wondering where I came from..and me, her.
The red, double-decker buses, crazy drivers speeding down windy roads, creates a dangerous and exciting feel in the air. Protests popping up all over the streets, and the British accents and flag waving at you ever place you turn. There is a heartbeat in the city, clockwork orange meets Edward Cullen type of feel.
The next morning, we shopped at Hamley’s, the world’s oldest and largest toy store. I was enchanted by the 7 stories, overflowing with oversized animals, Legos, baby dolls and flying machines. I adored window shopping at Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Dior. We did some tourism…admiring Big Ben, the London Eye (the greatest Ferris wheel I’ve ever seen) The Kew Gardens, Westminster Abbey, and we waved frantically at the palace… chanting “God Save the Queen.”
The Tower of London was by far the most magical place we visited. Artist, Paul Cummins created an installation of 888,245 red poppy flowers pouring into and around the moat of the castle. He entitled it “Blood swept lands and seas of red.” It represented every fallen British soldier since World War 1, marking their 100th year of British involvement of the war. It was truly a magnificent sight. We explored the dungeons, dragons, crown jewels and hidden passageways of the palace.
After our excursion, we stopped at the Athaneum hotel on Piccadilly Road. Watching my son sip tea and eat scones did my heart good. The hotel was beautiful and charming. The marmalade finger sandwiches and chocolate tea cups filled with orange mousse was fit for the Queen, or perhaps Paddington Bear.
We ate dinner at the original Hakkasan at Hamway Place (Cantonese inspired and delectable) and drinks at Annabel’s (members only). It was a short fun-packed weekend. Regretfully, the two things we had to cut from our trip was the Mr. Fox puppet show (sold out) and to see the change of guard. (Lack of time) We jam packed our schedules full of sight-seeing, that we all threw ourselves into our feather down beds… and instantly drifted to sleep. Ironically, every night I spent in London I experienced vivid dreams of my grandmother. She was young, wearing fabulous silver, silk dresses, gloves and smoking long cigarettes. I felt her watching over us as we gallivanted around the city.
I highly suggest visiting London for travelers looking to experience a taste of Europe in an English speaking city. It is ancient but remarkable, historical intricately woven with modern times. I am also amazed by how my son and I get excited an point every time we see big ben, red telephone booths or the British flag. Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians, and Paddington get us shouting, “That’s London! We were there!” It was exhilarating, intoxicating and pure brilliant.
For anyone planning a trip, my boyfriend highly recommends seeing a cricket match at Loads. Checking out “The Box,” a theatre of curiosities (kind of soft core porn meets drunken ballerina) with guests such as Paris Hilton and Prince Harry. Also, he believes the London West End Theatre District rivals Broadway in New York. He encourages you to take a boat down Thames to Greenwich and the Maritime Museum.
I look forward to one day spending some time in this metropolitan and leading global city. It’s a major game player in the arts, media, commerce, finance, architecture, and entertainment industry. Just the thoughts of turning down an alley, not knowing if you’ll run into Jack the Ripper or Jude Law leaves you giddy and wanting more. I loved London, and if you get to visit it, I’m sure you will too.