Published: March 6th 2012March 6th 2012
We finally arrived at Gatwick, and zipped over to Durrants Hotel on George Street. It is a lovely old London hotel, with a lot of character…but less than good service. The hotel still uses what look to be original keys, which you turn into them every time you leave the hotel.
We freshened up and headed out into the afternoon to do a bit of shopping and have a bite of dinner – the next two days would be very full with meetings, so it was really the only free time we had. I picked up some doggy mugs at a great kitchen shop along the Marylebone High Street, which match the dog mug I got there last year (now I’ll have four!), and picked up the matching forks and knives for the two spoons I got at Emma Bridgewater last year.
Then, we headed to The Rajdoot, our favorite Indian place to visit when we’re in London (and really, our favorite Indian place, period). I ordered my usual chicken tikka masala, and we learned from another patron who was talking to the waiter that it was a different chef that night. We were both pleased with our curries,
and the naan bread was some of the best we’d had, but I ended up getting just a touch of food poisoning that night, which was less than ideal!
The next day was FULL. We started off with a meeting at the Corinthia Hotel, which is a new property in London, opening in about mid-2011. It’s ideally situated on a very quiet block, just up from the Thames, near the walking bridge. And the hotel itself is beautiful. It’s owned by the Corinthia group of hotels, and the London location is their flagship property. They’re hoping to become the Mandarin Oriental of Europe, and having seen their property, I can say they’ll definitely give them a run for their money.
The only thing they’re lacking is multiple event space for large groups – they have a lovely ballroom, but it seems that we’ll be in there both for our welcome reception, as well as our main business sessions. But that’s okay – it’s got natural light, dramatically high ceilings, and a purple color scheme, which is much more pleasant to the eye than the usual hotel green, blue or red.
We toured their restaurants, and saw their
chef’s table, checked out a couple of the hotel rooms (with televisions in the bathroom!) and pushed them to meet our preferred price before heading to our next meeting.
In between, we stopped to have lunch at The Sherlock Holmes Pub, just up the street from The Corinthia. It’s, of course, super touristy, but at that time of the morning, there was no one inside but the pub workers, and it was nice to enjoy the pub décor and an excellent ham and cheese sandwich – good English cheddar!
Then, we were off to Kensington Palace, the hopeful venue for our gala dinner. We were seeing two of their venues – the in-palace “State Apartments” and The Orangery.
We saw the Orangery first from the outside, and while it’s a lovely building, we felt that if we told the delegates that we’d be having our dinner at Kensington Palace, and then had it at a rather antiseptic outbuilding, it would be disappointing for them. So we were keeping our fingers crossed that we’d be able to make the State Apartments work.
Kensington Palace has been undergoing renovations for the past two years, and is set to
reopen this month, including a new exhibition about Queen Victoria, and some of Princess Diana’s dresses on display. So the palace is not currently open to visitors, but we had a liaison to walk us through…in our blue paper booties (to cut down on the construction dust).
We went up to the eight rooms or so that would be part of our reservation, and they are beautiful. Even with no lights on, and construction dust everywhere, we could picture how grand the space would be for our final dinner of the conference. Unfortunately, we’ll have to split the group into two rooms to fit them, but the magnificence of the venue will more than make up for that. Plus, we have two extra large rooms for a pre- and post- dinner reception. It’s perfect.
Will and Kate are already living in the palace, and are having additional apartments renovated for them, which they’ll be moving into in 2013. Perhaps they’ll stop by the dinner!
After that meeting, it was back to the hotel to meet with two potential local events planners, and to get ready for a business dinner. As we headed off to dinner, I started
to feel as if my throat was sore – like when you swallow water the wrong way and your throat stays sore for a while.
It kept continuing to get worse throughout the dinner, and I started to feel a bit achy. We were eating at Corrigan’s, which is the restaurant of one of the UK top chef reality shows’ chefs and the food was excellent. But by the end of the evening, I was dragging. I feared that I was getting sick after our ski weekend, and hoped I was just jet lagged.
But alas, no.
I was to meet a friend for coffee the next morning, and when I woke up at 7, I felt totally miserable. I had a fever, my skin hurt and my body ached everywhere, and I just felt awful. I decided to stay in bed instead.
We were supposed to meet with our local firm that afternoon, and my dad had wanted to do a bit more shopping before that, but I was up for neither. Since we were flying that night to Kuala Lumpur via Dubai, I had to check out of my hotel room by noon –
they wouldn’t even let me extend until their latest checkout of 2pm (which in my mind, isn’t even that late).
Fortunately, the day before, my dad had arranged to keep his room for one more night (our flight was at 10pm), so I finished packing and he helped me bring my bags down the hall to his room, as I shuffled along in my pajamas.
We talked about some points for the meeting, and he headed off, while I slept a bit and watched some tv. I finally got up to shower at about 3:30, and we went downstairs for some afternoon tea. Fortunately, there was a couch I could sit on, and I was just miserable thinking about having to get on two long flights east.
I was hoping my illness would take the same path as that of our friend’s neighbor – she started to feel ill Thursday evening, felt sick all day on Friday, though rallied for lunch, and then rested Saturday morning and was well enough to ski by the afternoon.
There are more photos below