London's CallingWords by Carolyn Gerin
There are certain romance travelers who envision palm trees, mai-tais and aqua blue oceans. For those who wish to change it up a bit and enjoy urban adventures with a dash of aristo-eccentric glamour (with a nod to history), why not hop the pond to Merry Olde England?
The adventure begins with British Airways: relax in the Club World Lounge with a glass of bubbly until the flight. Once airborne, enjoy traditional British fare, great wines and even high tea, first-run films and sleep deeply in a comfy chair-bed.
First stop: the stunning Coworth Park – a 70 room luxury country-house hotel and spa set on 240 acres of picturesque Berkshire park land 45 minutes from central London. Time stands still in what feels like a Downton Abbey moment with champion horses accompanied by well-heeled Londoners kitted out in fabulous haberdashery. If your fleet of polo ponies also need accommodations, look no further.
Drop into the eco-spa for a jetlag banishing rub down and embrace the day. Wind your way through the manicured gardens amidst mid-morning fog. Wander the property and enjoy the confluence of design inspiration where British bespoke, handmade and haute design meet. Ethereal, pastel-colored ‘great rooms,’ whimsical plaids and florals and bold art from emerging British artists keep darkly traditional Victoriana at bay. At Coworth The Restaurant, Chef Chris Meredith spins English country classics with his exquisite duck and beef dishes.
Ready-Steady-Go to swinging London and stay at the divine and decadent Dorchester. A gorgeous gilded lily, it’s over-the-top in all the right ways with 196 rooms, 51 suites and three roof suites. The Promenade – is a kaleidoscope of colors – a tasseled, tufted, paean to grandeur. Britain’s treasured tradition: high tea – finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, petit fours, champagne and tea of every variety – is served here, amidst vaulted ceilings and a parade of fabulous hats. Repair to your suite, all burnished woods and rich brocades high atop bustling streets. Relax until your massage at the Spa, a restorative experience with essential oils by expert therapists. Later, enjoy a martini at The Bar – your choice of 37 vodkas – followed by dinner at The Grill under Chef Brian Hughson, serving up a classic twist on British favorites with organic ingredients from Devon and Cornwall.
In the mood for exotica? Head downstairs to China Tang, Sir David Tang’s Cantonese haute cuisine empire, offering a dizzying array of flavors and textures – all exquisite – amidst a Shanghai 1930s vibe. Celeb spotting is frequent in the China Tang Bar –Instagram heaven!
All the imbibing and nibbling necessitates a stroll until the next culinary adventure. Head over to St. James Street for a tour of the shops which have a “Royal Warrant” – a seal of approval which superior vendors earn from the royal family. Floris Perfumes is a standout. Get your shop on at Liberties of London for quirky neckties, scarves and a comprehensive display of Britain’s best designers (the menswear is stellar). Serious food porn means Fortnum and Mason: enthusiastically promoting the Queen’s Jubilee year with whimsical confections and cakes like national monuments.
Ready to switch out the age of elegance for cool Britannia? Head across the street to 45 Park Lane to experience what new London looks like. Located in the heart of Mayfair, central London (and across the street from the Dorchester) it’s an entirely avant-garde point of view. 45 Park Lane has 45 guest bedrooms and suites, plus the Penthouse Suite with a sweeping view of Hyde Park and downtown London. Deeply rich colorations of purple, dark wood, light and reflective areas, keep the feeling intimate and rich, yet expansive. There is a 1970s Art Deco feel to it, a dark sparkle: luxurious and sexy – you might just decide to stay in. The design was created as a backdrop for Britain’s current crop of artists including Sir Peter Blake, Damien Hirst, Bruce McLean, Joe Tilson and Brendan Neiland.
Lunch is luscious at Cut, Chef Wolfgang Puck’s award-winning American-inspired steakhouse. Enjoy prime dry and wet aged beef, an outstanding wine list and prime people watching. Case in point: our team of seasoned journalists could not have anticipated having cocktails in the clubby upstairs Bar 45 with Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones and Sir Peter Blake, renowned British pop artist and designer of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album cover!
Brunch offers yummy trad fry-ups worth waking up for, but the highlight is the stupendous Bloody Mary bar, a confluence of garden-fresh ingredients, spices and handmade mixers.
London’s calling – its got its game on: the upcoming Olympics, the Jubilee, new hip venues and restaurants (the Berkshire’s a stone's throw away), great shopping and art, yet it still retains its charming sense of history. For romance travel with texture, tradition and topspin, hop the pond and make your own honeymoon history.
Photos Courtesy of Coworth Park (1st & 2nd), 45 Park Lane by Adam Parker (3rd), and The Dochester (4th)
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