By Phyllis Steinberg
This was my third trip to London, but by far my most enjoyable because I took my daughter along with me. The vacation was a break for my daughter from her daily routine of caring for her husband and two small children. For me, it was a chance to spend some quality time with her.
Our travels began in Miami, where we boarded British Airways and treated ourselves to business class which was delightful with fold down chairs, private television monitors, cozy blankets and pillows, attentive service, delicious food and wine—something we’ve both not experienced in coach, with overcrowded seats and barely anything to eat. For the long overseas flight, nearly nine hours, business was the best way to arrive relaxed and ready for a great adventure in busy London town.
Upon arrival we boarded the Heathrow express train, the fastest way to central London from Heathrow Airport. In just 15 minutes we were at the center of London for less money than a taxi and in less time. We hailed a cab from Paddington Station to The Rubens at the Palace, the closest hotel to Buckingham Palace.
The Rubens is a delightful place to stay in London, with an attentive staff, spacious comfortable rooms and excellent dining facilities. We also explored 41 Buckingham Gate, a sophisticated hotel next door to The Rubens. “41” has unique rooms. No two rooms are alike and one of the suites has a retractable roof so you can see the stars. We enjoyed afternoon tea in the Palace Lounge at The Rubens overlooking the Royal Mews, where the royal family maintains their horses and carriages. As the gates sprung open before our eyes, we searched for a glimpse of dignitaries. We also enjoyed watching the pedestrians strolling down the street.
Buckingham Palace was a just a short stroll from The Rubens and the Changing of the Guard was a must on the list of attractions to enjoy with my daughter. There, along with a crowd of what seemed like thousands, we watched the spectacle.
We also had the opportunity to tour Buckingham Palace, the official home of Britain’s sovereigns since 1837. There are 19 lavishly furnished state rooms that are open to visitors at certain times during the year. The Royal Tour, a special exhibit at the palace, included gowns that the queen has worn for special occasions throughout her reign. There was also a separate tour of the Royal Mews.
This mother daughter trip also included shopping. We chose to stay at The Draycott Hotel near Chelsea and Knightsbridge because it was walking distance to Harrods, London’s famous department store and a myriad of other shops.
This charming Edwardian townhouse has 35 rooms and suites. Each room at the hotel has a different theme. The Draycott is more like a private residence than a hotel with attentive, excellent service. It was like a home away from home. We had a two room suite with a fireplace and roomy closet with plenty of storage space. In the mornings, we enjoyed a made-to-order breakfast at the charming breakfast room facing the quiet street. In the afternoon, tea was offered by the Draycott in the living room facing its lovely gardens.
Oxford Street is the famous shopping street in London and we also enjoyed perusing the stores along the avenue.
Many prefer The Ritz London for its fabulous afternoon tea, but we opted to shop and enjoyed dinner at The Ritz in its French provincial dining room with elegant furnishings. As a musician played the piano in the background and we were served one gourmet course followed by another, we thought we were in a scene from a movie. We especially enjoyed the lobster bisque broth.
Sightseeing is a must and following our day of shopping, we took The Original Tour, the famous red double-decker bus tour that takes you on a two-hour tour around London. This is a good way to see the city and you can hop on and off at places of interest for no additional charge.
The most popular tourist attraction in London is the London Eye, so we had to attempt it. From our capsule we took a 30-minute flight on the Eye and experienced a panoramic view of the city. The icon was built to mark the millennium and people have been flocking to it ever since. The capsule moves very slowly, so you don’t have to worry about getting dizzy.
No visit to London would be complete without seeing a play at one of the fabulous productions in the theater district. We selected the musical, Sister Act, at the London Palladium and it was one of the highlights of our trip. Whoppi Goldberg, one of the producers of the show appeared in the movie of the same name and the play was even more enjoyable than the movie. The sets were magnificent and the singing talents of Patina Miller earned a standing ovation from the audience.
London also has many famous museums including: the British Museum, Science Museum, Tate Modern, National Gallery, Victoria and Albert, National Maritime Museum and more. We didn’t have a chance to visit them this trip. Nor did we have time to see the Tower of London. Oh, well, one trip is never enough to London. It’s a city that you want to return to and one that offers many attractions for multi-generational vacations.
* For more information on London, go to: visitlondon.com
* The Rubens at the Palace, 39 Buckingham Palace Road, London
* Buckingham Palace Tour
* Changing of the Guard, Horse Guards Parade
* The Draycott Hotel, 26 Cadogan Gardens, London, e-mail: info@draycotthotelcom
* Harrods, Brompton Road
* The Original Tour
* The London Eye
* London Palladium
* The Ritz Hotel