Maybe it’s the bridges — or maybe it’s the way the river wends through the city and the banks seem to wrap around the glittery water, holding it in place while the towers and spires reach for the firmament above. I can’t be sure, but London always has a singular effect on me no other city has ever been able to achieve: You can keep New York; I’ll take London any day, even in the rain.
My husband, thankfully, agrees with me regarding the city’s multitude of charms. We’ve just arrived for a 10-day stay that we’ll split between a private apartment and a suite at The Milestone Hotel & Residences, my own favorite hotel. Both are located in Kensington, within an easy stroll of Kensington Palace, the city’s wide, green parks and enough shopping and entertainment to meet every fleeting desire.
We check into The Gordon, our beautiful flat off a small, charming street where a lovely old stone church presides over the pedestrian-only area. It’s one of the luxury properties managed by London Perfect, and like all of the choices we perused, is impeccably decorated and has a fully fitted out kitchen with a washer-dryer. The fridge has been pre-stocked with a few thoughtful essentials, including a small jug of milk so we can relax with tea and coffee while unpacking.
It’s early afternoon before we head out for a walk, making the pleasant trek to the newly relocated Design Museum. There’s a Ferrari exhibit my husband doesn’t want me to see, knowing I have an obsession with fast foreign cars, but I make a beeline for the entrance anyway, and wander among the displays that include a number of prototypes of past models.
For dinner, we slip into the downstairs dining room at Maggie Jones’s, an intimate restaurant a few blocks from the flat. The restaurant was made famous for having been the setting during the 1960s for regular trysts between Princess Margaret and her beau, musician Robin Douglas-Home. The rustic interior belies the excellent and sophisticated menu, and we leave possibly just a little more content than we should be.
After a heavenly sleep in the flat’s airy, comfortable bedroom and a leisurely breakfast, we head out into the sunshine, bound for a favorite destination, the William Morris Museum. We map out the Tube route with the local city guides left for our use by our London Perfect hosts. The museum is in Morris’ former home on an estate at the edge of the city, and has a comprehensive collection of his textile work and the tools used to create his iconic wallpaper designs.
We leave as a large school group forms a queue at the door, making our way back to Kensington. We choose a different route, finally alighting at Green Park Station near Buckingham Palace, intending to take our time strolling back to Kensington through the parks.
It’s a bright afternoon, perfect for walking. There are swans floating on The Serpentine in Hyde Park, and early flowers in bloom, nothing but the otherworldly tranquility that comes from a green space that’s surrounded by a giant, pulsing city.
The next day is moving day, and my husband arranges for a car to deliver us to The Milestone a few blocks away. It’s a property I come back to repeatedly, and we’re greeted as old friends when we enter the lobby.
When I was a university student, I devoured the witty and delightfully droll writings of P.G. Wodehouse, who created the characters of Bertie Wooster and his valet, the invincible Jeeves. In Bertie’s privileged world, waiters always wore white gloves, and no matter what kind of hot water he might find himself in, it was always a tasteful escapade — and Jeeves was always prepared to stage a rescue. I’ve always imagined that Bertie, if he were real, might choose The Milestone as a favorite hotel for dinner, or as an escape while some swish designer was redecorating his oh-so-posh flat.
If, like us, you happen to be a fan of classic British luxury, then The Milestone is the perfect destination. Every plush corner is flawless; every detail thought out with comfort in mind and delivered with impeccable service.
There’s a glass jar of jellybeans waiting in our room, and the staff remembered — without prompting — to provide me with a yoga mat. They’ve also left a DVD with relaxing poses, and a beautiful vase of fresh flowers. There’s time before dinner for a long, rejuvenating soak in a bubble bath, where I can indulge my senses with the hotel’s lovely Penhaligon’s bath products. William Penhaligon, a barber-turned-perfumer who became a worthy holder of a Royal Warrant, created the original scent for his luxury line 147 years ago in his London shop.
For fun during the next few days, we head to the jammed marketplace on Portobello Road to look for something to add to our collection of old maps of the New England coastline, and to our ever-growing bin of leather-bound cricket balls. Instead, we leave with a new hat for James, a mechanical compass nestled in a wooden box and a horse brass with the figure of a fox peering out at us.
The new acquisitions make packing a little more challenging, but that’s just fine. Each time we make the journey to London, we leave with a wealth of new memories. On the way home to Colorado (via a comfortable, direct flight from Gatwick (LGW) to Denver (DEN) on one of Norwegian Air’s fabulous Dreamliners), we’ve already begun to plan our next jaunt.