My wife Nancy once lived in London and attended St. Martin School of Art and Design. Traveling abroad gave her a love of tea, art, museums, and history. She has always wanted to return and revisit her past, and when the opportunity arose, we decided to take a quick trip to see as much as we could in four days. Not a lot of time for sure but, with proper planning and good walking shoes, we were keen on making a go of it.
We chose to stay at the upscale Berkeley Hotel, centrally located in the Knightsbridge area. In addition to beautiful rooms, the Berkeley is also known for their famous Prêt-à-Portea (the reference being to the fashion industry’s prêt-à-porter, or ready-to-wear lines) — something that Nancy had looked forward to trying for years. Savory sandwiches, delectable desserts, and, of course, fresh pots of tea are all served with an eye to design based on the style of some of the world’s most famous fashion designers such as Marc Jacobs and Valentino. The service is elegantly presented on Paul Smith fine bone china and was the perfect and most delicious way to leisurely spend a few afternoon hours.
Walking is one reason you don’t see very many overweight people here since you walk from train depots, Tube stations and in and around city streets. We quickly became acclimated to this and found that it did beat mall walking in the winter back home.
That evening, we visited Covent Garden, and, rather than spend a small fortune for a sit-down dinner, opted instead to buy a Cornish pasty from one of their take away shops there. These are delicious little pockets of joy that originated in the coal mining days when workers would take these with them for their meal. Creamy onion and cheese was my newfound favorite and Nancy loved the standard steak pasty. They do sell these at other locations and my advice is to eat one every chance you get.
Kew Gardens is another favorite place that Nancy remembered from her early days, including a quaint little tea shop located right across from Kew Gardens called Newens. This shop is home to the Original Maids of Honour cake believed to have been named by Henry VIII. Made with puff pastry, eggs, almonds, and sugar these sweets are unforgettable and a must-try when visiting. But, the shop does get booked quickly so call first to make a reservation.
Evenings in London can be spent any number of ways from taking in a show, to shopping, to enjoying some local brews in any number of eateries. We found a quiet little pub and enjoyed some nice roast beef, potatoes, and Yorkshire pudding.
The following morning, we headed out for breakfast — one of the easiest and most affordable meals in London. A full English breakfast typically includes eggs, sausage, beans, bacon, toast, potatoes, and tea and we found a place that served this for about $6 US. We thought this was a great deal and ate there every morning.
London is a true cosmopolitan city brimming with history and culture. You would need more than a few days to fully explore her rich treasures, but for Nancy and me, the short trip gave us a better understanding and appreciation of Great Britain’s people, history, and culture.