When you work or study in London you tend to have blinkers on when you commute through the city, so Mr V and I try to stay, and explore, London at least one or twice a year. Our recent stay coincided with two events, World Travel Market and more importantly Mr V’s Birthday. We did a lot of eating and surprisingly for me, never once made it to the shop!
Normally when we stay in London for our long weekends we tend to stay in the Canary Wharf area, it’s strange seeing as we live in the countryside that the Financial hub of London would be so appealing to us, but it is. This time we decided to stay on the other side of the Thames, at the Hilton London Docklands which has rooms overlooking Canary Wharf. Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by the staff at reception who checked us in and gave us our room key and passes for the ferry, for reasons which would become clear.
Walking through the hotel to our room we were pleased to see that much of the original structure (presumably a dockside warehouse) remained and had been sympathetically converted into a hotel with many of the original features remaining intact. We were even more pleased to see the view from our room; the Thames and Canary Wharf beyond. We had stayed in Canary Wharf often and thoroughly enjoyed each stay, however the views were nothing compared with the ones we were enjoying from The Hilton – definitely the ‘wow’ factor.
The reason for the ferry passes became obvious; to reach the Thames Clipper Ferry port at Canary Wharf guests at the Hilton need to use the hotel shuttle to cross the Thames. A hotel courtesy shuttle is novelty we have only ever experienced in the Maldives before !! Be warned though – whist the ferry runs every 10mins or so during the day, there is one hour at lunchtime and one hour in the evening when it stops running….this is something reception did not tell us about and we got caught out and had to wait 40mins at Canary Wharf for the ferry back.
The reason for out visit to London was two-fold; firstly it was to celebrate Mr V’s birthday and secondly to attend the World Travel Market at ExCel. The former we did in style, dining at La Gavaroche after drinks in The Fumoir at Claridges, whilst the latter was covered over two rather tiring days on the Monday and Tuesday, but hey, if we are to write about travel we need to get out there and see what the world has to offer !!!
To start Mr V’s Birthday off we made our way to South Kensington to pay a long overdue visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum, somewhere neither of us had ever been to before, even though entry is free (although you may need to pay for entry to certain exhibitions). The main draw for us on this occasion was two particular exhibitions; one about evening gowns through the 20th Century and the other about Hollywood Costumes, both of which had entrance fees. Whilst the first of these didn’t have much appeal for Mr V, the second one was fascinating, even if there was a three hour wait. The exhibition not only had the costumes from some of the biggest films of all time, but also backgrounds about the characters who wore them and how the specific costumes evolved from initial ideas to the finished article that we all recognise from the famous films in which they feature.
After being romanced by the Ballgowns and mesmerised by the Costumes, we decided to visit one of our favourite hotels in the area, The Ampersand for a bite to eat. Surprisingly for a bustling Saturday on the street the Apero restaurant was quiet, so we settled in to one of the private booths and again enjoyed the cuisine of Chef Chris Golding. It was nice to be back visiting the hotel, since our pre opening visit and enjoy the ambiance of the restaurant whilst watching the people hurry by on the streets.
At this point Mr V still did not know where we would be dining that evening and whilst I was getting more excited he was becoming more intrigued. We made our way back to the Hilton for a little afternoon sleep before getting ready for our night out in Mayfair. To start the night we enjoyed a few drinks in Claridges The Fumoir Bar. From the moment you enter the bar the decor by designer Thierry Desont transports you to the Thirties with leather seating, low crystal lighting and vintage images hung on the wall. It is very easy to loose all concept of time in the bar and also gain a few extra pounds! Accompanying your drinks is the most divine bar nibbles: Grilled shredded gruyere cheese biscuits with chives. We did have to tell them to stop replenishing them as we certainly would not have any room left for dinner. Mr V was convinced that any moment the staff would appear to guide us through to dinner, however a quick shoe change from me and we set of to reveal to Mr V that we would be dining in Le Gavroche – he still thought I was winding him up until we went indoors!
After our night of art deco bars and fine dining we were back in central London, for a stroll through Green Park and along Hyde Par, today we were of to the sister hotel of Claridges to The Berkeley to enjoy Autumn Winter Prêt-à-Portea featuring Manolo Blahnik, Diane Von Furstenberg, Prada and many more. The dainties were divine and even comical as we watched our tongues turn green on the Yves Saint Laurent “Cabas Chyc” green Victoria sponge cake handbag.
An early night beckoned for us as the next day saw Day 1 of World Travel Market and a lot of walking and networking would take place for us, and it turns out meeting up with Gino from Ultimate Weddings USA, who officiated over our Wedding 4 years ago. Unlike last year we did not attend any of the many seminars that were on offer – we did not have enough time – I think next year we might need to attend 3 days of the event. Sadly our time in London came to an end, we had done quite a lot of eating drinking and networking so it was home for a well earned rest before returning back to work.
A few days after our visit Mr V received a request from Hilton to answer a few questions on-line. He normally does not bother because he is always dubious as to whether they are taken seriously. To our surprise the survey was followed up with an email from the Assistant Guest Relations Manager thanking us for my comments and assuring me steps would be made to rectify my issues – most impressive and demonstrates a serious commitment to customer satisfaction in our opinion.
Would we stay at the Hilton LondonDocklands again…? Already booked for next year !!!
More images from our stay in London can be found on Flickr
Disclosure: Thanks to Samsung for sponsoring my recent trip to London and gifting me a Samsung Galaxy SIII. All views expressed here are my own honest opinions, and do not reflect the views of Samsung.