Last weekend Adam treated me to a luxurious weekend in London as my birthday surprise. While that might not sound so special, after all, we’ve all been to London, what’s so great?, we really went to town. For a start, Adam had booked one of the city’s grandest hotels, The Langham, for our stay. I’d never been to The Langham before and from the moment we arrived, admiring its chic, classy interior with its luxurious furnishings, marble pillars and pink and gold livery, it felt like we were in a fairy tale. Located at the top of Regent Street, it was also a perfect base to reach the rest of London, and with a strict schedule and a travel card, we were armed to see and do.
I’m not great at relaxing. I’m a nightmare on weekends away as I’ll draw up an itinerary that doesn’t allow for lingering or toilet breaks, so we wanted to get the balance right between making the most of the visit and chilling out. One of my favourite places in London is Covent Garden and we chose to go their first to browse the markets, enjoy the sounds and smells and have lunch, before heading to South Kensington to visit the museums. To my shame, while I’ve been to London more times than I can count, I’ve never visited the V&A or the Natural History Museum. I wish I had sooner, and I’m glad I have now – the history museum is superb. I loved the mix of entertainment vs information – something to keep everyone happy, whatever their age, whatever their reason for visiting. There’s a common belief that it’s little boys who have a fascination with dinosaurs, but that’s unfair – I defy anyone not to be awe-struck at the skeletons, models, fossils and information the museum shares. Moving through mammals and fish (I gave the reptiles a miss) it was a fantastic way to spend an afternoon, and what struck me as most impressive of all, was that it was free. Tne Museum of Natural History in New York costs around $20 a person, so to have this wealth of culture at your fingerips for the price of a discretionary donation is a great asset – well done London, you’ve done us proud.
By the time I left the museum I’d realised that wearing my never-worn before Reiss boots was a massive error of judgment. Suggesting we stroll up the Kings Road for coffee, having forgotten how long the Kings Road is when your toes are mangled, was another.
The evening saw me kick off the cursed boots in favour of sparkly shoes for an exciting evening – cocktails in the Langham’s exquisite Artesian bar, followed by Thriller Live at The Lyric Theatre, followed by dinner at The Criterion Restaurant.
The Alice In Wonderland
The mixologists in the Artesian Bar really are masters of their trade – it’s probably why the bar won the World’s Best Cocktail Menu accolade. I’d already chosen by cocktail before I left home, selecting the Alice in Wonderland – created to celebrate the famous novel first published in 1865, the same year that The Langham opened its doors to London’s high society. Made up of Bombay Saphire with peach meringue and fresh lemon, the drink is a sweet and sour sensation, and was served with a coating of rose salt – pink scented salt that coated the glass, adding a whole new flavour. I LOVED it.
I also loved Thriller Live. Whatever you may have thought of Michael Jackson’s personal life (for the record, I believe that he was merely thevictim of poor advice given by greedy associates who cared more about the bottom line than his health or reputation), you can’t fail to know, and most probably enjoy, his music. While I was never a big fan of the J5 or the Off The Wall era, Thriller and Bad formed a massive part of my youth, and I just hoped that the production would include Billie Jean and Smooth Criminal – my all-out favourites. And I was NOT disappointed. A stellar cast of singers and dancers brought MJ’s catalogue to life once more, with glittering costumes, audience participation and the kind of abilities that can only have been honed after days and days and days of watching, learning and replicating his work.
The outstanding performance of the night was without question Smooth Criminal – where the various ‘Jackons’ all took to the stage and were so, so good at performing the various layers of the song that I couldn’t work out which one was singing which part. What was clear though, was that the Jackson not singing was the one leaning, twitching, grabbing, moonwalking, and essentially bringing that entire gangster persona to life.
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You could just see the audience shuffling their feet, desperate to get into Leicester Square and have a bash at moonwalking again – heads up, if you couldn’t do it when you were 14, you won’t be able to do it now. And while the encore – that glittering single white glove appearing through the darkness, followed by the opening beats to Billie Jean and the steps lighting up with each step – didn’t quite top the moonwalking gangster performace, it was pretty close.
It goes without saying, my tootsies didn’t get the reprieve they’d been hoping for.
Post-theatre supper at the fabulous Criterion restaurant is a treat – and an affordable one when you choose from their set menu – tasty moules mariniere, salmon in chive beurre blanc with sauteed samphire, and strawberries and cream with meringue and basil granite were all delightful and light enough, before a stroll back up Regent Street to ‘home’. New York has the status of the city that never sleeps, but I love London for the same reason. You’re never on your own.
Feet screaming for mercy, and contact lenses itching, we ought to have called it a night there and then, but, with that fantastic bar standing between us and our room? Can you blame us?
My nightcap of choice was the Russian Spring Punch – fresh berries with Snow Queen vodka, fresh lemon and Creme de Casis served long and topped up with champagne. Every bit as luxurious and delicious as it sounds.
And with that, I curled into my bed – made of clouds and big enough to sleep four men – and gave my feet the sweet relief they’d been craving for the past 12 hours…