Thursday, 31 July 2014

Dashing around London

In the last few weeks I have been manically busy travelling back and forth to Barcelona on family business, so when I returned to the UK last week I decided to spend the night in London and enjoy some of my favourite things. Although it was a brief stay, it was a successful trip with much achieved.

 When residing in the Country I rarely indulge in any Retail Therapy as the shopping centres are either too far away or simply not worth visiting. For this reason, I mainly shop in London where there is an abundance of choice and limitless quality. Most of my favourite luxury goods such as colognes, shoes and hats only have stores in London meaning that I have to stock up when I am in town!

This trip was not all about retail therapy, however. I also took the opportunity to enjoy fine dining, art and theatre. As well as shopping I had one of my favourite Afternoon Tea's at Fortnum and Mason, watched a thrilling performance of Les Misérables and perused the exquisite collection of artworks at the Wallace Collection at Hertford House. Departing for home at Kings Cross I certainly felt a feeling of achievement at all I had managed to cram in. 

On my way to the Hotel, I passed through Savile Row, famous for it's exceptional bespoke tailoring and menswear. The sun was gloriously shining and it was a wonderful sight to see gentleman pacing the street's in their finery; A sign of being back in London.

Savile Row, the go to place for fine Gentleman's Tailoring

My first choice of Hotel, The Lanesborough, is now closed for renovation so I decided this time to stay at The Ritz. There is not much difference in the style or quality of these Hotels I just feel that The Lanesborough is somewhat more exclusive as it lesser known than The Ritz and there are no tourists wandering through the Lobby. The Ritz is always full with people coming to enjoy the famous Afternoon Tea which only adds to the crowded public areas. I suppose this makes one seem rather a snob, in reality I just enjoy peace and quiet..even when I am in London.

My little Shih Tzu, Sophie relaxing in our Suite at The Lanesborough last year before it closed for renovation.

My Suite at The Ritz.

After checking in I decided to take a walk along Piccadilly to Fortnum and Mason for Afternoon Tea. I have to confess that the exquisite food distracted me and I did not take any pictures, however the picture below gives you an idea of a typical Tea at Fortnum and Mason. It was then on to my favourite bookstore just a few steps away, Hatchard's.  For the book lover this traditional store is bliss. There are four floors filled with every book imaginable. I often order my books online so it was a real treat to return here and actually have the chance to look through each book before purchasing. After a lovely hour I left with a bag full of books and a big smile.

A typical Tea at Fortnum's.

My new books sitting pretty in the beautiful Hatchard's bag.

After a rather busy day of travel and indulgence I decided it would be a good idea to spend a few hours sitting and that the perfect place to do this would be the theatre to enjoy a performance of Les Misérables. I had not purchased any tickets but I thought I would chance it and just turn up hoping there would be seats available. Luck was on my side and I managed to get the last seat in the House! They did come at a hefty price but were certainly worth it. I first saw this production many years ago as a teen with my parents so I had really forgotten how spectacular it was. 

Photography was not permitted during the performance but I did manage to capture a picture of the intricate ceiling detailing.

Day two mainly consisted of shopping on Jermyn Street. Situated in St James's, this area has been the pinnacle of gentleman's goods and supplies since the 1700's. Once flooded with the aristocracy most of the stores have survived to present day and offer unrivalled quality and something 'a little different' for the discerning. 

Perhaps my favourite shop on Jermyn Street is Floris, a classic perfumers. I have been using their fragrances for as long as I can remember with my Father and Grandfather being loyal customers. Floris holds a Royal Warrant, with the Queen and Prince Charles being amongst the distinguished clientele . Another famous client was Sir Ian Fleming, who's revered character James Bond was said to wear Floris No.89. Floris is endearing to me as it is very much 'under the radar' with most people choosing designer or celebrity fragrances. I often get compliments about my scent and it is never recognised, which always makes for an interesting conversation piece. 
The Floris boutique on Jermyn Street. This is the origin store opened in the 1700's when the Floris family first started their business.

To end my short yet wondrous stay in the Capital I took an early check out at the Ritz and decided to spend the time before catching the train Home at The Wallace Collection in Manchester Square. Like most of the galleries in London, the Wallace is admission free which I think is really superb. It is so important for these exquisite collections to be accessible to as many people as possible so that they can be truly enjoyed. It also means that one can spend as much or as little time as they please enjoying the collection. Many people quickly 'pop in' for ten minutes or so which otherwise would not be possible if admission was charged.

The Wallace has a collection of over 5,500 objects and is famous for it's 18th Century French paintings, Sèvres porcelain and French Furniture. The pictures I have taken below will give you some idea of the collection at Hertford House. I must however apologise for the rather poor quality of the images. I found it virtually impossible to take a good, clear picture with the strong lighting. In 'real life' the lighting is very adequate and only improves the environment.
The front entrance to the Wallace Collection at Hertford House

The Front State Room with a portrait of Queen Victoria on the left side of the doors.
An exquisite hunting scene hanging handsomely in this State Room
More of the artworks and fine furniture in the Front State Room
In this part of the House, a collection of Canaletto paintings can be seen
An exquisite group of miniatures on display
An original painting of the infamous Madame de Pompadour
Works by Francis Boucher dominate the Oval Room
A fine 18th Century Mantel Clock sits regally against the Silk wall covering 
The fireplace in the Front State Room

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