Summer Holiday - European Style. . . Part One.


Just returned from London with Keith and the birthday girl, Lucy.  We decided to cash in all those mounting mileage points and jump across the pond for a little adventure as oppose to a party to celebrate her 16th.  I was fortunate to have lived overseas as a kid and have always wanted to return as well as have my kids experience life outside the US of A.  We decided on London (with a jaunt to Paris) as her initiation to Europe... no language issues to deal with. 

Wanting a real British experience I chose the St. Pancras International simply for it's gorgeous exterior and beautiful rooms, as well as, easy access to the Euro Train over to Paris.  It is everything I thought it would be . . . and a little side note, if you are a fan of Harry Potter, the exterior used in the films is the famous Neo-Gothic facade of this hotel !  In our iconic black cab, when we rounded the corner and pulled in front I felt immediately transformed back in time.  Taking up an entire block, this hotel was stunning !

So, you know when you go visit family and they have you suffer through all their vacation photos - well, I am doing the same - just a warning . . . but some of my friends and family asked and thought this would be the easiest way to share !

Inside, the Grand Staircase is definitely jaw dropping.  Wandering from the first floor up, the detail, and combination of woods, moldings, and hand painted walls in their rich, saturated colors screamed royal elegance.  It was gorgeous.

Beautiful lobby and oh-so "civilized."  Afternoon tea, gorgeous deserts filled the circular tables under glass.  The light streaming from the ceiling highlight all the detail of this main lobby.

The restaurant Gilbert Scott is amazing as well.  The bar and the main dining hall create a sense of grandeur yet relaxed and brasserie-like.  Private dining spaces are available as well.  I took these quick pics while they were setting up for lunch.  Take a look at the banquet detail, I took note.

I was a fan of antique brass, now I am obsessed.  I am taking so many details with me home as inspiration on future projects !  I love this bar with it's combination of brass and marble... killer.

And here's a ceiling for you !

Try one of the Chamber's Suites.  Larger, with vaulted ceilings I would guess 17 feet or so, it's definitely grand.  Big enough for the two of us for sure.  I treated Lucy to her own room the first three days and after our jaunt to Paris she moved in with us for the last three nights.  They provided a nice roll-a-way which totally worked, and we all had enough room.  These Junior Suites allow Chambers Club access which was fabulous.  Every morning I headed down the grand stairs for coffee and the most amazing fruit, pastries, Eggs Benedict and my favorite, smoked salmon, all accessible for Chamber's guests.  Our view was the inside of the massive Euro Star Train station, but surprisingly enough, completely quite.

Amazing artwork filled the halls -  I LOVED these two and would have packed in my bag if I could have !!!

On our first day we wandered.  Thanks to our US fabric rep Mike, who represents London based Harlequin, Scion, and Zoffany, we met Dan Brennan, a London raised, who graciously took a day to show us around.  Having a local steer us in the right direction and fill us in on the history and little details made our day that much more special.  We wanted, of course, to see all the iconic sights and did from the minute we came up from the Tube . .  Dan had mapped out a walk for us entitled "Ease into London."  It was perfect.  Big Ben, I think was one of my favorite sights.  So beautiful.

An easy round-about walk from Big Ben, over to Buckingham Palace, up Birdcage Walk to Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery and Piccadilly Circus  The architecture will take your breath away and it was an easy walk, everything was so close.  The changing of the guards happens around 11:00 each morning.  The architecture and abundance of gold detail, it all felt so regal.  I was expecting to see Kate Middleton, in her latest hat just strolling George down the street. 

We stopped at a quintessential London pub - The Sherlock Holmes for lunch.  Get the Steak & Ale Pie for sure, so good.  Lucy had fish and chips of course and Keith started his beer tasting venture.

One of my favorite sights were all the phone booths scattered around.  I want one in my hallway.

Keith and I loved the National Gallery.  With over 2,300 works including Van Gogh's Sunflowers, Lucy saw, up close and personal, works dating back to the 13th century.  The building itself was filled with the most stunning architectural detail.

The marble and tile filling the gallery was exquisite.  I am sure those people passing by were wondering why I kept taking pictures of the floor !

Such a fun day wondering down cobble stone streets, seeing all those iconic London sites and mainly spending all that time together, just the three of us.  I sensed Lucy's eyes were opened wide to the big world out there !  I took inspiration everywhere, as I do, and I can tell you now some of the gorgeous details will be coming home with me.  All the antique brass door pulls and brackets, aged walls, marble, huge dripping flower baskets,  vintage rugs and lighting.  Have to say London is giving my beloved NYC a run for it's money.  I especially loved every taxi driver I met, everyone was so charming.

At the end of the day, per Dan's recommendation, we headed over to OXO Tower for dinner to celebrate the big 16!  Big views of the city but the food was the standout !!! Al Fresco dining at it's best.  Lucy looked so beautiful in her head to toe Sloan (thank Jill).

French and fabulous !!

Dan had a beautiful day planned on Thursday.  Our first stop - The Tate Galley.  We rode a double-decker over to St. Paul's Cathedral and walked across the Millennium Bridge.  Found out it was only open for 2 days back in 2000 because of it's swaying (and was soon called "The Wobbly Bridge").  Sturdy now, we headed  to The Tate Gallery.

Modern art at it's finest, Keith and I soaked it all in . . . 

On exhibit at the moment  . . Sonia Delaunay, but hurry up, only runs through Aug 9th
Who is Sonia Delaunay?  - post to follow, but here's a hint.

We walked along the River Thames towards The Tower Bridge.  I really wanted to see those Crown Jewels.  The bridge actually opened just after we walked across .. Dan said it doesn't happen often, so it was a treat.  Flags flying and Beefeaters wandering, just as I imagined.  

 The river side walk over was something I want to do again and taken a little more time.  Dozens of shops and restaurants.  We passed the original Shakespeare Theater too.

Inside the Tower of London you really do feel transformed in time.  

We ended our scenic day over in the Soho neighborhood in the heart of the West End.  Diverse and lively for sure.  Had a beer at Comptons and got to know Dan a little more. Such the world traveler. 

My thanks to him for showing us all his gorgeous city and Mike for connecting us.   I am in love with London.  Sharing these days with Lucy and Keith - the most special thing of all.

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