I have been blessed to be in the travel industry and visit London several times a year. My younger sister is a University Professor at Cambridge, and is usually game to join me when I do hotel inspections -- two blonde Limeys who always have fun together. I choose the hotel and restaurants, and she chooses the sightseeing and theaters.
I usually like to stay at one of the Red Carnation Hotels, a family owned group with small boutique properties, beautifully decorated and with superb service. This trip we stayed at Rubens, which has a sister property next door, No. 41. It's a smashing place for afternoon tea, and close to a few theaters. Because we are part of the Signature Travel Network, these hotels give my clients a room upgrade, a free breakfast which is fifty pounds each, plus other free amenities so you can save thousands on a week in London.
Our first stop was the Household Cavalry Museum in Horse Guards, one of London’s most historic buildings dating from 1750. The Household Cavalry, formed in 1661 by Charles II, now consists of two regiments, the Lifeguards and the Blues and Royals. On horseback, they provide the escort for Her Majesty the Queen on ceremonial occasions and in armored vehicles are operational units of the army.
In addition, the museum offers a unique “behind the scenes” look at the work that goes into the ceremonial and operational role of the regiments. Through a large glazed window you can watch troopers working with horses in the original 18th century stables, preparing for the Changing of the Guards at 11.00 a.m. each day. I think no other country does such a smashing job of ceremonies.
Our second stop was the Banqueting House, the last remaining building of the once extensive Whitehall Palace, extended by Henry VIII to 23 acres and the largest palace in Europe. Here you can enjoy history, architecture and incomparable art in one building. Elizabeth I had a temporary building erected for entertainment connected with her wedding negotiations in 1581, and in 1609 James I erected a permanent building for a new entertainment. In 1619 this burnt down and was rebuilt by Inigo James in the Palladian style. Charles I was executed there in January 1649.
Next it was time for lunch. We love old pubs, lots of history, atmosphere, interesting architecture, and outstanding food. Good value as well. We went to the Old Shades, just by Trafalgar Square and Whitehall. I had my favorite classic bacon butty (bacon sandwich, made with back bacon, which the U.S. doesn’t have) and Doreen had soup of the day with rosemary bread., Of course, we had to have the sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream for afters. Their fish and chips is jolly good also. We usually have a shandy, half pale ale and lemonade.
After lunch, we went to the Churchill War Rooms deep underground in Whitehall. This is an interesting place for all ages to visit, and gives you the history of Britain in World War II. Winston Churchill was the most famous Prime Minister that we have ever had.
We walk everywhere when we are together armed with a brolly (umbrella). We then have an appetite to go back to the hotel and have their famous afternoon tea, before going to the theatre. I dream about their homemade scones with strawberry jam. Yummy.
If you are lucky enough to be in London when there is a concert on at the Royal Albert Hall, get tickets. It's a wonderful experience in a unique concert hall. The concierge at the hotel is a godsend in helping you make reservations.
She always saves me articles from the British newspapers. Here is one which tickled me. How Not to Die - Yet. What is healthy eating? Research is so confusing. The Japanese eat less fat than us and have fewer heart attacks, the French eat more fat than us and have fewer heart attacks, The Japanese drink less red wine than us and have fewer heart attacks, the French drink more red wine than us and have fewer heart attacks. In fact, you can eat and drink what you like. It's speaking English that kills you.