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January 21, 2022
From maritime London to the city’s royal parks, Blue Orchid Hotels represent two different but quintessential aspects of the capital.
Tower Suites, close to the Thames in the East, belongs to the dramatic, medieval history of the City of London, as distinct from the leafy squares of the Buckingham Palace Hotels and the elegant park–life of the Georgian royal palaces.
We think you’ll find both these faces of London equally beguiling.
Tower Suites’ architectural style may be contemporary, but it occupies an ancient site. Overlooking the iconic Tower of London, this whole area grew up around the White Tower, founded by William the Conqueror in 1100. The Tower of London remains the best preserved medieval castle of any European capital.
But London didn’t begin with 1066 and the Normal invasion. Follow the Thames path beside Tower Bridge and you find yourself in a riverside stretch called the Pool of London, the original – and pagan – Roman port of the Thames on the north bank.
There was a temple to Mithras near the present day Bank of England; a Forum for socialising and a Basilica for administration near Gracechurch Street.
This is a very watery part of town, and to this day it has a mysterious allure, in spite of wartime bomb damage; it’s a treasure trove of historic buildings and vivid legend, with plenty for any visitor to explore on foot. Along with the comforts and pleasures of a modern day city.
Tower Suites has some of the best hotel deals in London this year. If you’re feeling physically and mentally jaded after two years of Covid, then ease into a healthier you with a luxury stay for two in a boutique studio, plus a nutritious dinner and balanced breakfast; and a 25 minute neck and shoulder massage at the in–house Adamo Spa. Good health doesn’t exclude pampering.
Or perhaps you’d like to try your hand at the smash hit, experiential theatre thriller, The Drop (from Swamp Motel). It’s a theatrical escape–game for 3-4 people, fully participatory, and intense. A cat-and-mouse chase to unearth the dark history of a long–lost book. A lot of people in the UK and US were entertained online with Swamp Motel’s Isklander trilogy. This time it’s physical. Not for the faint-hearted. But people raved about The Drop late last year. This offer of overnight stay and immersive theatre runs until the end of February. Weekdays and weekend slots. Check for details.
On the other side of town, the Rochester Hotel by Blue Orchid, and the Wellington blue orchid sit side by side on Westminster’s leafy Vincent Square, a stroll away from St James’s Park and Buckingham Palace.
The Rochester and the Wellington both offer Sunday Fundays, a range of experiences to set you up for the coming week. A one night stay in the heart of Westminster, including a three course dinner and traditional English Breakfast.
Let’s face it, one of the big advantages of a city centre hotel is that it means less time and less money spent travelling to the best sights and venues.
If you have the inclination, one of the joys a city can offer is the freedom to explore it on foot. Just the ticket after all those lockdowns.
The Rochester and the Wellington Hotels on Vincent Square are halfway between Westminster Cathedral in one direction and Tate Britain in the other. It’s about a 15 minute walk from Vincent Square to Buckingham Palace and St James’s Park, at the top of which is Admiralty Arch and Trafalgar Square.
St James’s Park and Buckingham Palace
The Royal Parks in the centre of town can make for a great excursion. St James’s Park alone boasts 57 acres of parkland, plus cafe, food kiosks, Horse Guards Parade, The Mall – and a big lake with lots of birdlife, including pelicans (introduced in Charles II’s day about 400 years ago).
In fact Buckingham Palace is flanked by St James’s Park on one side, and Green Park on the other. If you are facing Buckingham Palace, St James’s Park is on your left, Green Park and Constitution Hill lie ahead and to your right.
Behind you is the The Mall and beyond that Nelson’s Column and the West End.
If you have your walking shoes on, you can follow Constitution Hill all the way through Green Park to Hyde Park Corner; from there navigate this busy traffic intersection via its broad pedestrian crossings to enter Hyde Park with its Serpentine River and gallery.
That’s a lot of green space for a metropolis. But the Buckingham Palace hotels are also close to Victoria Station (mainline and underground), which is an area that has undergone a lot of interesting changes in recent years. Nearby attractions include:
A bustling Victorian food court and rooftop terrace. Noodles, dim sum, salt beef, roti. Just a stone’s throw from the station and a firm favourite with locals and visitors.
191 Terminus Place, SW1.
A couple of minutes walk from Victoria Station, impressive neo Byzantine centre of the Catholic Church in the UK, built from red and white brick. Its mosaic and marble interior has an impressive, uninterrupted nave. This is a functioning place of worship with mass sung throughout the day, but it is open and free to visitors.
This deliciously pink home of the extravagant cupcake has been almost instagrammed to death, but people still can’t get enough of it. One look at the floral entrance and the cakes themselves tells you why. Sloane Square tube 5 minutes walk away, Victoria tube about seven minutes.
116 Ebury St, SW1.
Post-industrial warehouses, complete with cafes, bars, studios and independent small businesses; outdoor yard with picnic tables and seats, murals on the walls and pop up events (including a Sunday farmers’ market). Located between Eccleston Place, Eccleston St, Ebury St and Elizabeth St. About 7 minutes walk from Victoria Station.
31 Eccleston Place, SW1.
This 5 screen cinema and modest cafe–bar offers arthouse films and blockbusters in pleasant surroundings.
58 Victoria St, SW1.
No frills, great value, excellent for full English breakfast and traditional British food. It opened in 1946 and has featured in quite a few BBC TV series, thanks to its tiled exterior, original signage and deco style, tiled interior. As British as Brighton Rock (one of the films it has graced). Homemade steak pie and two veg, set breakfast, scrambled eggs on toast. Economic but magnificent.
17–19 Regency St, SW1.
Near Buckingham Palace, Victoria: charming tea shop, independent and family run. Vintage English style and good value (especially full English breakfast, served until 12pm). Veggies and allergies catered for. Book ahead.
4 Lower Grosvenor Place. SW1.
Closed Tues and Weds
The Apollo (home of Wicked) and the Victoria Palace Theatre (Hamilton) have been a big draw to the area for some considerable time.
Returning to the City of London, if you are in search of a great view, then Tower Suites by Blue Orchid rooftop bar is a good place to soak up the cumulative sight of the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and the city skyline. Especially if you’ve been exploring the labyrinthine ways of this part of town and its ancient, enterprising energy.
More great views emerge if you walk down the west side of the Tower to the Thames Path that takes you beside the river to London Bridge.
Just before you get to London Bridge, walk up Fish Street Hill. At the top you will find The Monument : it commemorates the start of the Great Fire of London in 1666.
It’s 205 feet tall (the distance from here to Pudding Lane where the Great Fire of London first took hold) and it’s topped off by a gold object said to represent flames. Originally the architect (Christopher Wren) wanted to put an effigy of the King, Charles II on top. The King objected: “I didn’t start the fire” he said.
From The Monument you are very close to Gracechurch Street and beautiful, ornate Leadenhall Market with its shops and cafes. Photogenic enough to have appeared in a Harry Potter film: Gracechurch St, London EC3V.
Alternatively you could turn back and find your way up onto London Bridge (which opened in the 1970s and is itself a very modest piece of design). Over the river on the South Bank you are a stone’s throw from Southwark Cathedral, Bankside and the Elizabethan ship the Golden Hind. Not to mention the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s circular Globe Theatre, and Tate Modern.
But the real treat at any time of year is the walk across the Millennium footbridge, in front of Tate Modern.
You get some of the best views of the river and its landmarks from this vantage point. Not least the sight of Tower Bridge in the east (iconic for very good reasons).
It goes without saying that the views from Tower Bridge itself are spectacular.
But back on the Millennium footbridge you’re confronted with the scale and majesty of St Paul’s Cathedral on the North bank. The dome is among the tallest in Europe, which explains why even in this century it’s so visible. There is a clear view all the way from the footbridge, right up to St Paul’s. And Evensong is due to restart in mid-January (keep an eye on the website for confirmation of this).
Virginia Woolf said: “To walk alone in London is the greatest rest.” We see no reason why you have to be alone, but we agree with the bit about the walk.
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