The first hotel we checked in to was Selsdon Park hotel and golf club, a sprawling pile of old stone on the edges of Surrey and London, so a short commute from London Gatwick which of course is handy, especially after a long and arduous flight. Alexandra fell for it on account of the historical aspect and the rolling grounds.
The very fact of a visitor choosing a hotel based on these facts alone, which in fairness I would not have considered, made me realise that many visitors to London are interested in the historic aspects, many of which are easy to take for granted when you live here. Although it looks grand from the outside, on closer inspection, beyond the charm of the building’s original fabric and convenient location, there wasn’t too much else going for the place. Take for example the fact that the view of nature from our room was ruined by the broad splat of a car park that spreads across the entire forecourt. Throw in a miniscule lift door that slams shut in your face as you’re trying to drag your suitcase out of it, the wobbly creaking floorboards covered in tired carpet. Cosy? Sure. Quaint? Not so sure. What can be said in their defence is that the prices are accurately reflective of the overall experience.
In the evening we bypassed the bar which appeared to be an out-take from an episode of George and Mildred, and headed to Sir Julian Huxley’s, a right regal JD Wetherspoons pub. Dear overseas readers: JD Wetherspoons are a chain of pubs focussing more on economy than quality of decor. In all fairness, their business model is roaringly successful and the simple fact that they sell good quality ales at reasonable prices means they have a regular flow of trade. The Huxley is a great example of why and how Wetherspoons pubs work and I feel it is worth highlighting the group to budget conscious visitors, as they provide real British ales and pub meals in a pretty consistent fashion at low cost. Dont expect culinary flair or architectural or decorative magnificence; do however use them as a stable chain to rely on if you need somewhere to rest and refuel without breaking the bank.
Sunday morning and thankfully the deluge that had restricted us from perambulating through the grounds had passed, but it was time to depart for the Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew, a place that no visitor to London should miss. The following pictures should give you some idea of why.
After feasting our senses and camera lenses to our heart’s content, absorbing all the Autumnal hues and steam-baking ourselves in the humid hothouses, we popped over to the Coach and Horses, a Young’s pub by the Queen Anne gate, where I introduced my guest to the joys of a roast beef dinner. I somehow had high hopes for this experience, which I intended to position as being some sort of cultural delight; sadly in the event it seemed somehow slightly lacklustre and the response came something along the lines of “yes well it’s meat and veg isn’t it?” However the ale is good, decor delightfully rustic and service prompt and cheery, so we left with smiles on our faces to follow the Thames downriver.
The choice of Intercontinental Hotel Group’s Crowne Plaza was excellent, as the location is so prime, being right beside Blackfriars Bridge opposite the newly redesigned gleaming station, whose frontage arcs around, emulating the iconic curve of the Unilever h.q. opposite. We were treated exceptionally well from the moment of arrival and the spaciousness and style of the hotel really hit the mark; to be expected after a multi-million pound refurbishment, which appears in good taste. The double deluxe suite offered fantastic views towards St Paul’s cathedral and The Shard. I think Alex’s adventures in Londonland took an upturn at this point as a Cheshire Cat sized grin appeared on her face. It’s the attention to detail in hotels that make a place stand out and make you feel special, so we were delighted with the greeting card and petit fours they had prepared for us. A sugar rush to keep us going before our sojourn to Buddha Bar.