Originally posted in February 2015
When I think of vacation destinations, London isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind. I had already been a few years before and to be honest, tell me who goes for kicks in the middle of winter? But the fact was, it was my birthday week and like a true travelholic, I didn’t need more than an invitation to provide a reason to go away, yet again!
My two travel mates on this trip were my friends Mona and Renee. Since Mona and I have travelled together many times before, we’ve learned many tricks that help a trip go smoother and one of those tips is to build a good schedule. You have to be flexible enough to go with the flow (you are on vacation, right?), but a schedule keeps you on track as far as making sure you see/do everything that you want. On this trip though, we only had a shell of what to do outside of the one day where we had firm plans.
So, here’s what my 5 days in London looked like.
Day 1 – Tuesday Jan 13th – Landed at LHR – Heathrow at 1130AM
Renee lost her passport! Yup, the first 3.5hrs in London were spent at Customs. After a lot of frustration, a missed ride and hunger setting in, the passport was found and we were on our way to the hotel to check-in.
Initially, I was staying at the Westbury in Mayfair with the girls, but shortly after check-in, I learned that a friend of mine was staying at the Four Seasons Park Lane and I decided to make a last minute switch. It was a good walk or short drive away, so it wasn’t a big deal.
I must say, the Four Seasons was wonderful. They were also quick to fix a mix-up and made up for it in the kindest way.
Before I made any moves, first things first…I had to eat! I had a serious case of hangerism and my dear friend DJ Smasherelly was there to help. We caught up over some freshly made pizza at Vapiano (who do I have to speak to to get this over in Canada?!) and after my second bite, I was beginning to feel like myself again. Just picture the Snickers commercials. Yeah, that was me. We forgot to take a pic together while we were hanging out, out but check out what he got me as a birthday gift!
Later that night my girls and I headed out to District Nightclub. It was cool and our friends had fun, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you like to dance. It was all couches/bottle service with aisles.
A good part of my day was spent adjusting to the clock but at night, it was time to explore different options for dinner. This is where the concierge at the Four Seasons Park Lane became so valuable. My direction was clear: I wanted to go for drinks and dinner at a restaurant/bar/lounge that provided great food, but also provided an experience. Not necessarily a British experience, as I knew I was meeting up with another friend from London later in the week, but something that I couldn’t get anywhere else. Diego the Concierge didn’t hold back when he suggested Sketch for drinks and then Hakkasan for dinner. He helped us get into the Four Seasons’ complimentary Rolls Royce Ghost house car and after arriving at Sketch we realized that both spots were pretty much across the street from each other, so it made it easy to navigate the unfamiliar area.
Sketch was fab-u-lous. So much so that I’m going to write a separate post! I started writing so much that I realized it needed to stand alone. From the hop scotch at the entrance to the very unique washrooms, I got exactly what I had requested…UNIQUENESS!
Hakkasan is definitely one of those places where people go to be seen. It is very trendy and the chatter can get quite loud but it was okay as we enjoyed people watching. The cocktail I had and the food we shared was really incredible. The quality and the presentation justified the pricey items.
Day 3 – Thursday Jan 14th
Thursday was game day! The New York Knicks were playing against the Milwaukee Bucks at the O2 Arena in an international regular season game.
My friend that works for the Knicks sent me a text wishing me a happy birthday and said he had left 2 tickets for me which were “great seats.”
After the game we raced back to the hotel to get ready for the after-party, hosted by Mona and Amar’e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks. Like the pro that she is, she had everything planned to make sure that everyone had a great night.
The after party was held at a members only club called No.41 (connected to the Westbury). As I mentioned, Amar’e was hosting it, but everyone was there. DJ Spade from NYC provided the music and everyone had a great time dancing and drinking in a very beautiful space decorated with chandeliers and velvet draped furniture.
Day 4 – Friday Jan 16th
Friday afternoon we packed-up and changed hotels. This time to the Marriott Grand Residences in Mayfair (we pretty much stayed in Mayfair the whole time) where it wasn’t glamed out but it had grand feeling about it as we now had WAY more space.
We now had a formal living room, a bedroom and a kitchen we could load-up with items from Sainsbury’s, the local grocery store.
Next thing you know, a day is practically gone and it was time to head out to dinner. This was the night that I was able to (finally) check out Novikov, which has both an Asian and a separate Italian part of the restaurant. Dinner was amazing and we ordered so much food it was almost embarrassing. The King Crab legs were baked to perfection and I could not get enough of the dumplings. This is also the night that I tried Black Cod for the first time. I’m not a fish eater, but I must admit, the black cod was pretty good.
As the night was winding down and we were the last table in the restaurant, the staff and my friends started singing Happy Birthday, as it was midnight and officially my birthday. A beautiful plate of sweets and my name spelled wrong in chocolate was presented. LOL!
Day 5 – Saturday Jan 17th
Saturday we finally got a chance to go sightseeing. We took the Tube to London Bridge Station (not to be confused with Tower Bridge which is about a kilometre away) and started our walk along Southwark (pronounced Suth-ack) from The Shard, towards Tower Bridge and then to St Paul’s Cathedral. I’ve already seen the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace and rode the London Eye so we skipped that.
I should also note that it was cold and damp. We were happy to get the shots but it wasn’t cute.
I have to say the peak point of this day was catching the end of the service at St Paul’s Cathedral. In the rush of it all, we found some peace. I don’t know about the other girls, but it felt like time stood still while we were in there. It is so grand and you can’t help but get a little deep in your feelings. I wish we had time to return for Sunday mass, but our schedule wouldn’t allow for it unfortunately.
We returned back to the hotel where my friend Chris met us and brought us to an ‘authentic British Pub.’ We went to Ye Grapes which was a low key pub not too far from the hotel. Had a football match have been playing on the TV, I’m not too sure how ‘low key’ it would have been. To engage in the experience, I had a pint of London’s Pride and even though I’m not really a beer drinker, it was pretty good. About 30 mins later we spilled out into the street and started wandering around looking for a shisha spot. There were a few, as we were in the Middle Eastern part of town. We settled on Mamounia Lounge, right across from the Saudi Arabian Embassy. I have to highlight this because it is hard not to notice the armed officers with machine guns right across the street. Kinda hard to chill out!
Our first stop was Nozomi. Again, located in Mayfair, it is a restaurant with a lounge/bar area in the front space and dining space in the back upper area. The lounge area was packed by the time we got there, but when our friend JB arrived we moved and walked up to the restaurant section. We ordered some drinks and then another plate came out with ice cream and a birthday message for me in chocolate.
Next, we headed back towards the Westbury to a members only nightclub (apparently they have a lot of them in London) called Maddox. It was unassuming from the outside but as we were swiftly guided past the line-up and downstairs to the “main” club area, it was obviously NOT. This party was bumping! I haven’t had that much fun in a club in a long time. I mean maybe it was because I was on a high from it being my birthday, or maybe it was the cocktail from Nozomi, whatever it was, I was dancing and if you know me, you know I’m not known for dancing!
The thing about Maddox is that there are MANY rooms. It is practically a labyrinth of bars set-up in kitchen spaces, back hallways that lead to rooms playing different music, VIP rooms, etc. It was crazy. The concept was cool and it was the best spot for us to be for a ‘last’ night out.
Day 6 – Sunday Jan 18th
Our last day was pretty much spent packing. I’m not sure if I should call this post “5 days” or “6 days” in London as travel days don’t count. We were able to get our stuff together and as we reached the airport and checked-in, we laughed about the crazy week we had together and then, as travelers do, we started talking about the next trip… 😉
S/O to JB for being an awesome host and DJ Marcel Lawson for being so engaging and talking to me about the BBC Travel Show.
We found this tricked out Swarovski crystal Benz parked in Mayfair.