“Shhh. It’s a secret.” For the past few weeks I’ve heard those words uttered in hushed tones throughout our home. I’ve walked into the kitchen and the conversation has died, watched my husband and daughter whisper behind their palms, witnessed websites being closed down hastily as I approached the PC. I had to giggle. I knew they were planning a birthday surprise, but what they didn’t realise is that I’d already crashed their secret – well, part of it: I knew we were going to London for the weekend, although I didn’t know what we were going to be doing there.
I stepped off the train at London Euston last Saturday and felt a familiar frisson of excitement. Unlike the quiet, rolling countryside to which I’m accustomed, like many capital cities London encompasses an eclectic mix of all that is rich in society, and I find it fascinating.
As we headed to our hotel amongst the throng of Saturday afternoon tourists, sightseers and shoppers I soaked up a string of words spoken in foreign tongues as a group exited a coffee house, watched a teenager with a blue Mohican marching out of a tube station, witnessed a woman in fur cycling down Oxford Street, and smiled. That is why I love London so much. Alongside the beautiful architecture, steeped in history, and amidst the everyday hub of people going about their business, there is always something different to catch your eye.
I’m an adventure girl. I love exploring the countryside in our campervan; I’ve stayed in a wide array of different accommodation in my pursuit to indulge my passion of travel. But nothing prepared me for St Ermine’s. Situated in the heart of St James, just around the corner from Buckingham Palace and a stone’s throw away from Big Ben, St Ermine’s Hotel is one of those places with a concierge in bowler hat that opens the entrance doors for you into a wide lobby with a sweeping staircase and chandeliers the size of my kitchen hanging from the ceiling. (Yes, I gasped.) It’s also steeped in history – Winston Churchill gathered there in 1940 to plan covert operations during WWII. It’s rumoured a spy used the networked tunnels beneath that lead to Whitehall to steal secret documents from the Foreign Office.
During the afternoon we explored the hotel, played hide and seek (much to the delight of my daughter), peered into the gymnasium, relaxed in the abundant rest rooms, watched the people of London frequent the foyer, and searched for the tunnel entrances – which alas we didn’t find. Later, we returned to the room, got dressed and headed out for the evening. I still had no idea where we were going, although the timing of an early dinner suggested the theatre…
I wasn’t disappointed. As we turned the corner to the Apollo Victoria Theatre a huge banner announcing ‘Wicked’ disclosed the secret. A thrill skittered down my spine. This production has been running for six years to wonderful reviews and I’ve been dying to see it for ages. If you are not familiar, it’s a spin off from the Wizard of Oz; a didactic tale of the life of Wicked Witch of the West.
Sitting second row from the front meant that as soon as the curtains were raised I came face to face with a monkey! And the action didn’t stop there. For two whole acts we were all rapt: the music, acting, story, set and effects were amazing; not to mention the songs. The production is almost three hours long, but passes in a moment. I won’t put any spoilers in here. Suffice to say the whole production was a thrill and I would definitely recommend it if you find yourself in London. Afterwards, we waited by the stage door and met some of the cast who signed our programme and had their photos taken with my daughter.
On Sunday, we attended the Remembrance Day parade which was a humbling and emotional experience. We also took time to wander aimlessly and sample the wonderful architecture St James has to offer. We are all familiar with the famous landmarks. What I love are the little quirks you find around the corner. Here’s a few of my ‘quirky highlights’.
I want to live here…
Passing by a pretty balcony.
Marvelling at the gothic architecture.
A pretty gated residence in the heart of the city.
Big thanks to my wonderful family for such a lovely birthday treat. You guys rock! But then, I think you know that already;)