Author Leslie Woit Photography Mirjam Bleeker
DAY ONE / The city’s penchant for reinvention comes alive at your chic new address, the Haymarket Hotel, complete with Frette linens, quirky chandeliers, and an 18-metre indoor pool with glittering lights and a pewter bar. This colourful boutique hotel—a series of grand 19th-century townhouses designed by John Nash, the Regency-era überarchitect—opened in 2007. Nash is responsible for many of London’s finest streetscapes and refurbs: He turned Buckingham House into a palace.
It’s morning, time for brekkie at nearby Fortnum & Mason, the grande dame of London foodstuff. She’s had more than a nip and tuck in honour of her tercentenary last year, but the old dear still serves up nursery food just like nanny. Try the boiled free-range duck eggs and soldiers with a glass of fresh pomegranate juice.
Stroll down Piccadilly and browse Waterstone’s (the largest bookstore in Europe) and Hatchett’s (the finest). Cross the street to Burlington Arcade, Britain’s first shopping arcade and an architectural masterpiece that opened in 1819. Luxury shops include Hancocks— the jeweller responsible for the Victoria Cross medal. Then indulge in a macaroon moment at the French patisserie Ladurée.
Make a left at the Ritz into Green Park. Here, in 1660, England’s new king, Charles II, wanted to be able to walk all the way from Hyde Park to St James’s without leaving royal soil, so he acquired the land between them. The park’s name is attributed to the fury felt by the king’s wife when she discovered Charles had picked flowers in the park for another woman, so the queen ordered that all the flowers in the park be removed. Whether or not that was indeed the case, there are still no formal flowerbeds in Green Park.
Now head to Buckingham Palace, the 775-room London residence of Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned for 56 years. The palace is open for tours during August and September. Masterpieces from the Royal Collection are on exhibit all year long in The Queen’s Gallery, built atop ruins of the former private chapel, damaged during World War II. Watch the changing-ofthe-guard ceremony at 11:30. By then, chances are Her Majesty is already hard at work, perhaps updating the royal YouTube content.
Cut back through Green Park, enter Hyde Park from the southeast corner, and amble beneath fragrant trellises in the Rose Garden alongside Rotten Row, a well-used horse path whose name derives from a corruption of “Route de Roi,” or King’s Road, built during the 17th-century reign of William III.
Exit the park at Albert’s Gate onto Sloane Street for 21st-century blingdom. Harvey Nichols is the Ab Fab address of high fashionistas. Just follow the sparkles toward Sloane Square, where the major global luxe brands juggle for space alongside English clothing classics Pringle and Hackett, stationer Smythson, perfumer Jo Malone, and fashion house Burberry.
Drop your bags for luncheon just past Duke of York Square at Daylesford Organic. Its country-chic produce comes straight from the kitchen garden of Lady Bamford’s grand Cotswolds estate. It’s a classy spot to brush the spelt muffin crumbs off your new cashmere jumper.
Revived by a cuppa, you’re just steps from The Saatchi Gallery. You’ll be among the first to see one of the largest contemporary art museums in the world when the remodeled gallery reopens this summer in the classical Duke of York’s HQ in Chelsea.
Back at the hotel, change for dinner and head off to partake of England’s most popular pastime, patronizing the pub. The French House, an atmospheric spot in the heart of edgy Soho, was the meeting place of the French resistance in London during World War II.
Then, it’s on to dinner at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, London’s sexiest, most user-friendly Michelin star. This may be haute cuisine, but it’s a long way from haughty. Perch on louche red-leather stools at the relaxed dining counter and enjoy a perfect view of the French super-chef’s open kitchen. Out comes a succession of small tasting dishes including caramelised quail breast and black truffle mashed potato, pig’s trotters, and delectable mini beef and foie gras burgers. Even the desserts come in petite try-me-I’m-small portions: like creamy Araguani chocolate, a bitter chocolate sorbet.
Be on time for the 10:30 p.m. second house at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, London’s classic live-jazz venue. The greatest of the greats grace this recently smartened-up room. Afterward, the crowd spills across the street to Bar Italia for espresso and panini. If you still have energy, Soho does, too.