Last autumn my best friend Laura and I had a wonderful weekend on a press trip to the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. Here’s what I thought of it….
IT doesn’t matter how many times I go to London, I always seem to make the same mistake.
I massively underestimate the size of the city, plan far too many things in for one visit, and end up feeling more frazzled at the end of my break than before I went away.
But this time I vowed it was going to be different.
Fed up with tubes, night buses and generally just racing around, my friend and I decided to focus all our attention on just one area of the city – Kensington.
With just one night away, our only aim was to plan as little as possible and enjoy the luxurious surroundings of our hotel – so quite how we ended up cycling around Kensington Gardens on a pair of “Boris bikes” is a mystery to me.
We stumbled across the rack of bikes at the edge of the park by mistake and, after a bit of head-scratching over prices and fumbling with the bikes to get them released from their blocks, we were off!
I blame the unusually warm November sunshine, and the fact we both hit our thirties last year – but the idea of cycling around the park, taking in the autumnal colours and stopping occasionally to feed the squirrels, seemed far more appealing than being stuck inside a bar or pub. Oh, how times have changed.
As we pedalled around the park admiring the autumnal colours of the trees it felt like we were in the London you only see in films.
You know the one, where everyone is happy and smiling, and romance hides around every corner.
Maybe our good mood was fuelled by the fact we had earlier checked in to a really rather amazing hotel room.
The Royal Garden Hotel is perched right on the corner of Kensington Gardens, as the name would suggest, making it the perfect base for visits to some of London’s biggest attractions – the Albert Hall and the Natural History Museum to name a few.
The room itself was minimally decorated with large wooden panels along one wall but, to be honest, we barely noticed that – it was the view from the window that really stole the show.
From high up on the 7th floor we could see right across the Gardens and Hyde Park, to the iconic London skyline beyond, with the Gherkin, Big Ben and the London Eye all spread before us. It really was breath-taking.
After an hour or so on the bikes dusk was beginning to fall so we decided to call it a day. A quick stroll along the immaculate streets of Kensington soon landed us in Knightsbridge, where we decided to spend some time in its most famous shop.
As a first-time visitor to Harrods I was overwhelmed by its sheer size and grandeur. After spending what felt like hours getting lost in its many departments it was time to take the weight off our feet and we found the perfect spot at an in-store cocktail bar.
Dragging ourselves away we headed back to the hotel for dinner where we dined in the excellent ground floor Park Terrace restaurant.
Before we knew it, it was Sunday morning, and time for us to leave, but not before a slap-up breakfast and a bit of celeb-spotting… as we made our way down to the restaurant in the lift we were surprised to find ourselves cheek by jowl with several members of the Liverpool football team.
I’m sure there are some women who would very much like to find themselves in such a situation, but I have to admit we had no idea who they were.
It was only the reaction of the men waiting in the foyer when the doors opened that gave away their star status.
And on the way back up to our room we again found ourselves in the lift with more sportsmen – this time members of the New Zealand rugby team. Again, we had no idea who they were, but soon worked it out after a quick bit of Googling!
After packing our bags and checking out we headed for one last stroll around the park before heading home.
It may have been a brief trip but it certainly proved that, if you pick the right place, there really is no need to spend hours on the tube to enjoy a perfect, relaxing London weekend.
For more information on the latest room rates and special offers at the Royal Garden Hotel call 0207 937 8000 or seewww.royalgardenhotel.co.uk