It’s no secret that during the doldrums of winter — especially January and February on the East End — it’s the best time to travel. Work is slower for most, there’s (slightly) less going on, and the weather is less than ideal.
On a particularly cold day (remember a few weeks ago when America was frozen?) I boarded a plane for a warmer climate. No, not Florida or the Caribbean — but off to sunny England. My friend Christine and I headed to London for the first leg of our trip, followed by the ever-wonderful city of Paris.
I over-packed my Betsey Johnson flamingo decorated luggage (I’m a child) with a luggage tag that states, “Remember to send me love letters,” and was on my way. My love letter to the baggage handler that asked me to send him one is as follows: “Dear JFK, I love you for not charging me $100 for my overweight luggage.” Flamingos make everyone happy. Who could fine a flamingo?
London is one of my favorite cities for many reasons. It’s my happy place to be girly, dress up, and go to afternoon tea.
We arrived at our hotel, The Chesterfield in Mayfair, an adorable, quintessentially British hotel. It was the perfect home for the weekend, filled with charm and personality. The bar even offered to put on the Super Bowl (I mean half time show) for us so we could watch like good Americans to see if Travis Scott would propose to Kylie Jenner.
On our first day, we headed to Harrods, the famous British department store where we drank champagne and acted fancy. I do avoid most shopping in England because of the exchange rate. I was happy to see the Ted Baker sneakers I bought for the trip super discounted at Nordstrom Rack headlining the Harrods display at more than double the price.
Next was the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels. Who doesn’t like looking at centuries-old jewels while daydreaming about being a princess?
We stopped by Fitz, a spectacular cocktail bar. The bar is named after Charles Fitzroy Doll, the architect of The Kimpton Fitzroy London, where it is located. I tried the Cozette Rickey, a wonderful cocktail made with Grey Goose La Poire Vodka, Seedlip Garden 108, Dolin Genepi, lime, and soda. Delightful! We finished the night with dinner at Bumpkin in South Kensington. It’s one of my favorite dinner spots in London.
The next day we strolled Bond Street, which included a stop at Burberry (how British!). Tea at Goring followed, which is one of the most special teas you can choose in London.
No trip to London would be complete without a few trips to Fortnum & Mason. I could spend hours perusing the specialty items like chocolates and teas. (I brought home MANY chocolates for my husband Joe from both London and Paris, a gift I like to think is for both of us.)
And because it’s not all about shopping, drinking, and looking at jewels, we took a tour of Charles Dickens’s house, which was fascinating. The “A Tale of Two Cities” and “A Christmas Carol” author’s home displayed a look into the life of the writer. A special exhibit titled “Food Glorious Food: Dinner with Dickens” described the entertaining that Catherine and Charles Dickens did at their home. The home is even where he wrote “Oliver Twist.” And just like Twist, we wanted “some more.”
We later stopped by American Bar at the Savoy. It happens to be the oldest surviving cocktail bar in Britain. The venue has been inviting guests to enjoy “American Style” drinks since 1893. The cocktail menu tells a story — it’s about 40 pages long — and draws inspiration from the celebrity portraits of photographer Terry O’Neill that have hung on the walls of the venue since the 1980s. These include David Bowie, Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, and many others.
We then headed over to Rules, on what became an historic food and beverage tour. This happens to be London’s oldest restaurant. The walls are adorned with antlers of all types, and they serve traditional British food. Steak and kidney pie, anyone?
We ended the night at Harry’s for dinner. A place I seem to end up at a lot while traveling. More on that later.
For our last day in London, we headed to the Mad Hatter’s Tea at the Sanderson and tumbled down the rabbit hole of cake before dinner. This whimsical tea is dedicated to the world of “Alice in Wonderland.” Bring on the finger sandwiches! (Actually, bring on the scones, because finger sandwiches are not really my thing.)
After tea, we stopped by Beyond Retro, a vintage clothing shop in Soho to shop all the decades. I ended up with a 1970s dress. While I may never be the Queen of England, in this dress I can pretend to be a disco queen worthy of Studio 54.
Once cocktail hour hit, it was off to Dukes, a place known for its martinis, made tableside. They’re so strong that they have a two-martini maximum. The bar was a favorite of Ian Fleming, the author of James Bond. It’s all very civilized.
The last stop on our trip to London was Sketch for dinner. The venue combines food, drinks, music, and art. The artist conceived gastro-brasserie restaurant serves Michelin-starred culinary creations. The venue is broken into different rooms of theatrically themed bars. It also includes a bathroom with individual pods, so unique that grown men were stopping to take selfies and pose for Instagram content (it’s the world we live in).
Next week, the second leg of our trip, we’re taking the Chunnel to Paris.