Sunday, January 3, 2010

The London/Marrakech Express, Part One

It took seventeen hours and a plane, a train, and two automobiles, but Luca and I finally arrived in London late on the 18th of December. As our black cab whizzed us through the snowy streets, I tried to shake off the weariness from the flight. The city was in full pre-Christmas swing: shops were festively decorated, pubs and restaurants were filled with jolly revelers and well-dressed cosmopolites bustled along the pavement, arms laden with beribboned packages.

Upon arriving at The Gore Hotel, I was informed that The Divine Italian (who had arrived five days previously) had foregone our usual room for the Tudor Suite. My heart quickened -- I liked the sound of it and wondered if it would live up to its name.

Follow me and decide for yourself.

We climbed the first flight of stairs to a private staircase...

...which led to a private Hobbit-sized door...

...which led to a private foyer...

...which led to this.
(The Tudor Suite)

Piero, bless him, had made sure our entrance would be dramatic -- a fire was crackling in the huge stone fireplace, the candelabras were blazing and a bottle of champagne was chilling. For Luca, there was a basket of milk-chocolate Hobnobs, crisps and Ribena. We almost swooned with happiness.

The room was beyond all telling. I felt like I was at Sissinghurst or some medieval English estate instead of smack dab in the middle of South Kensington. In addition to the beamed ceiling and four-poster bed...

...there was an antique two-story minstrels gallery which housed the closets and bathroom (you can see the door leading to it on the left side of the photo).
Even the loo was no slouch in the style department. Just look at this gorgeous copper-clad shower.

After a celebratory toast, we all settled in on the massive Knole sofa and caught the last half of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's (love him) "River Cottage" special. (Note: Cooking shows have an amazingly soporific effect on children.) At long last, I could finally feel my body uncramping from the confines of seat 44J.

Saturday, December 19th

As the late morning light crept in through the leaded windows, I reluctantly opened my jetlagged eyes and could swear this gilt-bewigged gentleman on the ceiling winked at me.

Turning to the window, I noticed the gorgeous stained glass designs depicting Queen Elizabeth I and the warships that Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe in 1577. History was everywhere in this room.

But there was no time to rhapsodize. Over on the other side of the room, a creature was stirring.
And hell hath no whine like an eight year old with an empty stomach.

We performed our ablutions and quickly hailed a cab to Maiden Lane in Covent Garden where we had a reservation waiting for us at Rules, one of my favorite restaurants.

Open since 1798, it serves traditional English cookery and classic game dishes. Over the years, its tables have been crowded with luminaries like Charles Dickens, W. M. Thackaray and H.G. Wells and it has been featured in the novels of Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Rosamond Lehmann and many more.

What keeps me coming back even more than this is that I just think there's no more beautiful place to be over Christmas.

I felt like I needed something hearty. The fish stew didn't disappoint.

Luca had been looking forward to this visit for months, ever since I started telling him about their World-Famous Sticky Toffee Pudding With a Side of Hot Custard, "the best dessert in the world, one that makes grown men cry and grown women go off their diets immediately."

When it arrived, it looked even more delicious than I remembered it. I felt a growing urge to devour it myself. Just one bite.
The dialogue in my head went something like this:

My Dark Side:
Must have the Precious. We wants it. We needs it. Myyy precioussss.

My Good Side:
No! Not this time. For heaven's sake, control yourself. This time it's for HIM.

How I didn't take a bite of it, I'll never know.

Then it was off to see an afternoon matinee of "Hairspray," starring my friend Belindawho is playing the part of Velma Von Tussle.

Of course, she was amazing and gave a sultry rockstar edge to the role of villainous Velma. Afterwards, we went backstage to congratulate her and say hello.

She had already whisked off her dress by the time we went in, so sorry, no photos. But here are her costumes for posterity.

Tidbit: this one weighs nearly twenty pounds. Who would have thought?


Jeanne said...

Love the post! Lucky you...what a great hotel!
We just moved to London two weeks ago....I am taking lots of notes! Many thanks...Jeanne:)

Lynda @ Elegance Reclaimed said...

What a fabulous post; thank you for sharing ...

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Jeanne: I'm so're going to adore it!

Lynda@Elegance Reclaimed: Thank you for the kind words...stay tuned, there's lots more good stuff ahead. xx

Things That Inspire said...

Oh, how fabulous - the Tudor suite definitely lived up to its name! I don't have my London connection any more, so I am always on the lookout for fabulous hotels. I have not been to London in 18 months, which is a long stretch for me...looks like you had a wonderful time. I would love to go to London during the holidays!

Modern Traditionalist said...

I've been anxiously awaiting your return and you haven't disappointed with your photos. What a wonderful man your husband is to treat you to such a decadent experience! Happy New Year!

Susan said...

What a wonderful post! Lucky you having that beautiful suite. I love the sticky toffee pudding at Rules. It's just not the same anywhere else. Looking forward to Part Two! Happy New Year!

Jane said...

There is something about London always makes me intent on visiting the same restaurants each time we visit. The ones that never change in a good way not a bad way. Maybe its the certainty in an always changing world. I always have to go to Le Caprice - silly really - and I like Rules too. And that suite, all that dark wood, just beautiful.... xoxo

Angie Muresan said...

Oh Lisa!!! I am in absolute heaven! That suite.... I know I will be back to salivate over this post again and again.

LPC said...

I would have been satisfied with the copper clad shower alone. Reeling in abundance. In all senses of the word. said...

o.k who wouldn't be jealous! It's all so very english and fabulous. Sure beats the hippie trail!

Anonymous said...

Amazing, The gore is around the corner from my house and I think I will have an adventure nite there soon!!!! Welcome home, youve been missed. I have a parcel sitting here for ages with your name on it!!!

Laura [What I Like] said...

I think that copper clad shower would get me out of bed on even the most gloomy morning! Looking forward to future installments...especially the ones evoking warm weather as I'm freezing to death at the moment!

Scott Fazzini said...

First of all, I barely survived the couple of weeks without a post from you. Secondly, your life is so deliciously perfect! The trip seems like an absolute dream!

Madelief said...

What a lovely hotel and restaurant. I put them on my wish list to visit when I go to London next time.

groetjes van Madelief

Cathi said...

What a fabulous hotel and with envy, but very happy that you enjoyed it - especially after the long flight! Happy New Year! :)

Enzie Shahmiri * Portrait Artist said...

What a great adventure! I love the hotel room too

Susie said...

Love, love, love the Gore! It's where we always stayed when we were living in Sydney and travelling to close to the Albert Hall & walking distance to Knightsbridge & Kensington..hope you had the most wonderful time! Now we have moved to the UK our trips to London tend to be of the one day variety so we haven't stayed there for a while...fabulous post, thanks for the happy memories! Warm wishes, Susie x

Anonymous said...

I Swoooooon...Up to part Two please!!

pve design said...

Anytime you would like to adopt me, I am willing and able. I would carry your valise and hail any cab.
Looks marvelous. I could be paid in sticky pudding.

pve design said...

Do I feel some sort of interior design changes at home coming on?

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Modern Traditionalist: I have to admit, Piero really earned some big bonus points with the Tudor Suite!

Susan: I'm so glad you know about that sticky toffee pudding. It's. Not. To. Be. Believed. Right? xx

Scott Fazzini: I missed you too, my chic darling friend. May I say you're looking especially stunning in that profile photo?!

Susan, Jane, Angie, Mermaid Gallery, Cathi, Madelief, Enzie Shamiri: Such kind words, thank you. More good stuff up ahead!

LPC, Laura (What I Like): I know, that copper bath. Crazy, right? And burnished to such a lovely patina. I was in that bathtub at every opportunity, and it didn't disappoint.

RoyalApothic: Congratulations on all your success! I saw your line in Anthropologie recently...may 2010 bring even more blessings your way! xx

Susie: Your life sounds quite glamorous. Love that you have stayed at The Gore as well...!

C.T.: Felice Anno Nuovo! Sending you tanti bacis...xx

PVE: Oh, PVE, anytime! I would love to have your divine artist's eye and chic sensibility along with me as I traveled around...can't think of anything better, in fact! xxx

Bart Boehlert said...

Hi Lisa,
Happy New Year! I really enjoyed this post, and remember fondly your last trip to London!
I just posted about our trip to Mexico, you might enjoy : )

Helen James said...

Welcome back oh I could taste that treacle pudding, can't wait for 2nd episode

Style Court said...

Lisa, always feel so appreciative when you take us along for the ride. I could feel the coziness of that amazing suite. Happy 2010!


Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


totally brilliant.

Loved the copper shower.
Loved the fire. Loved the CHAMPERS after a long long flight, and adored the extras...and the bed. Phew...too great.
Loved the Tudor-esque everything (the Tudors never had it so good)...and was wanting to see the MINSTRELS...perhaps next blog.
Yum for the fish strew in its ruffled collar.
All very fabu--welcome home (or was in onward to Morocco????
Happy days for new year, DIANE

Daniel-Halifax said...

Thank you for returning (to the bloggerie that is) and that room was almost too much for me to bear. You had me at the staircase and hobbit door, the rest of had to be viewed after resuscitating myself.

Kathy Gillespie said...

Thanks for this dreamy virtual vacation, I can't wait for Chapter 2!

Valerie Wills Interiors said...

How divine. I love Rules.... used to go there when I lived in London.....

Wireless ISP software said...

I love the earth tone wood color of the interior. It’s very classy and elegant. A bit more serious and I like that.

Accounting Software said...

I like the design of the glass window very artistic so as the interior it looks classic and very sophisticated.

Anonymous said...

CRACK ME UP and bizarre!!
Not one of your commentators (obviously not Star Fu#$kers or maybe just not into pop culture?) picked up on the fact that your good friend "Belinda" is Belinda Carlisle formerly of the GoGo's-Hello people wake up!!!
Lisa, please tell us more about the early days and your friendship.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

What a beautiful hotel and a great trip for you and your family! I'm particularly envious of that gorgeously unusual copper shower stall!
Yes -you do take the BEST vacations!

A Super Dilettante said...

Lisa, your trip in London looks amazing. You travelled with a style and your hotel accommodation fits for royalty!! I've just got back from my holiday. I'm still a bit behind with the posts here. I hope to catch up with your adventures soon x

Pink of Perfection said...

Oh my oh my oh my! The glamour, the food, Belinda-freaking-Carlisle! I loved this post so much!

Jaime Caldwell said...

I used to baby-sit for this adorable 5 year-old girl named Gigi who, when she would see someone beautiful (a princess or fairy-queen, of course) would point and say in a most-reverent whisper, "I'm her!" That's EXACTLY how I feel reading this post! I'm totally living vicariously and, I admit, very enviously! Love, love, love! As if there could be anything better than Piero's upgrade, Belinda Carlisle?! Fabulous!

lala said...

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks of the grooming routine as "ablutions". Sometimes tedious, sometimes delicious, but always imperative.

The Hausfrau said...

Rules?! Darn it, it was already closed for Christmas by the time we arrived in London. I take it you arrived a bit earlier in December than we did. We'll have to try Rules another time. Your description and pics are fabulous. And The Gore? Amazing! I'd like to try it sometime. We stayed at The Zetter, which is very cool in a completely different way.

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Catherine said...

Hi Lisa, love your post about the Gore Hotel, I've just emailed you a few mins ago. Thanks for sharing all your beautiful photos. I adore beamed ceilings and have been looking for places to stay with this kind of character for a long time - thank you, best wishes Catherine :-)

Grace said...

Hi Lisa, the Marrakech part of the title made me click on this post as my husband and I will be hopping over there for Christmas this year (from Winchester UK). And as it so happens, you write about a restaurant that I've now added to my "To Book" list. I've had a gander of Rules' menu and it looks incredible! Thank you for sharing!

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