When someone mentions London, they get my attention—whether it's James Bond's London (with its tuxes and Aston Martins), or Hugh Grant's (all that hemming and hawing, and romantic strolls through Notting Hill), the London of Masterpiece Theatre (valets, bodies in libraries), or Absolutely Fabulous (Gucci, Chanel, and mod, mod, mod). There's one thing all these Londons have in common. Money. Lots of it.
Sure, you can do London on the cheap, as I have in the past, but there's something to be said for Puttin' on the Ritz—for even just a few days—in the city that gave us the first Ritz hotel. There's a reason the Brits still have royalty, and high tea. It's because they do it so well.
Last winter, heading to London for Fashion Week, I went veddy veddy upper upper. I'd spent the week before covering New York Fashion Week, and London promised more of the same—bright lights, voracious paparazzi, and all us media types jostling for position to get good interviews (and good seats). Sure, the shows themselves are über-fabulous, but waiting for each show—and hustling from runway to runway—takes hours, and feels like some sick Project Runway challenge. Unless, of course, you can grab a ride with, say, socialite Tinsley Mortimer—but she's not sharing her limo because, as she once confessed to me while sitting front row at Catherine Malandrino, that's where she often gets changed before each runway show.
In London, things are slightly different. For one, they call it the catwalk, not the runway. They have their own fashion stars—Nicole Farhi, Matthew Williamson, Gareth Pugh. When it comes to jostling, the Brits are a tad more reserved, but I was beat before I even got there. I knew I'd need to infuse the week with a little luxury and much-needed pampering.
Confession time: I'm not much into the whole hoity-toity hotel thing. I don't need it to be so posh that, say, Posh Spice would feel out of place. So I was pleased to discover the Mayfair Hotel (Stratton Street, London, Tel: 011-44-020-7629-7777) just blocks from the menswear shops of Savile Row, a jog to the Thames, and a short walk to the dazzling neon of Piccadilly Circus and Soho's high-voltage nightlife. The recently renovated complex has a pop-chic sensibility, with suites gone giddy on high design. The Amber Suite is right out of the Hollywood Hills with a large movie screen; the Opium Suite, chock-full of Chinese furniture and red lacquer. Oh, the height of divadom is surely the Schiaparelli Suite, named for the 1940s couturière, and decorated in hot hot hot hot pink. You almost don't need to leave, what with a bar, restaurant, casino, spa, and business center all on the premises. The gym is open 24 hours—a nice touch, especially if you find yourself jet-lagged and wide awake at 3 A.M.
To pamper the jetlag away, I headed straight to the spa, where I indulged in a mud bath. Truth be told, what I liked best was waiting for the treatment in the dimly lit anteroom, reclining on a heated chaise.There were five of us there and it felt like a scene from Michael Crichton's Coma, our bodies lined up in rows of blissful, if comatose, storage.
Before dinner, I popped into Berry Bros. & Rudd (3 James St., London. Tel: 011-44-020-7396-9600. wine merchants since 1698. The warped, sloping floor is made of the original shipboard timber, and red, leather-bound record books on a shelf contain customer info dating back for centuries, from Lord Byron to Kevin Spacey. They hold wine tastings here, and it feels as Olde Englandy as you can get."Burgundy reds are tough to get right," said marketing manager Chris Maybin."They can be too jammy or like chewing on twigs." He poured a 2002 Vosne-Romanee, from Burgundy, France. I'm no expert, but it seemed swell to me—aromatic, plummy, a bit of spice, and and the lick of an envelope? Just a tinge.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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