TUESDAY: I arrive via an American Airlines overnight flight to Heathrow, where I welcome the option of commuting to London Paddington via the Heathrow Express, then taking the Bakerloo line to Piccadilly Circus on my way to my hotel. I check in at the five-star, 175-year-old Brown’s Hotel, just as writers Agatha Christie, Rudyard Kipling and Stephen King have done before me. Now here’s a hotel with a swell clientele.
“Timeless cocktail,” I order in The Donovan Bar. My bartender mixes and fixes — Chase elderflower liqueur, a dash of Williams gin, a splash of English sparkling wine, a curlicue of cucumber. I couldn’t bloody care less if it comes shaken or stirred. The Timeless is a commemorative drink, created to honor the hotel’s 175th anniversary. It is so absolutely fabulous, I wish Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley occupied the seats by my side. Bottoms up, darlings.
Our tiny travel party from the States is given 36 hours or so to paint the town. A cocktail in The Shard — at 72 stories high, Western Europe’s tallest building. A late dinner at the Magdalen. In the morning, I use my Oyster card (a railway smartcard) on the Tube in transit to the Tate Britain, a museum where artworks that date back to the 16th century co-habitate comfortably with the likes of 21st century painters including Patrick Caulfield and Gary Hume. I could look at Hume’s luminous use of aluminum all day.
From there, we do paint the town. Literally. Thanks to the promotional organization London & Partners, we get a guided tour of East London’s extremely creative street art — call it graffiti if you dare — followed by a lesson in spray-painting from the folks at Alternative London. Our congenial guide, Josh Jeavons, shows me how to shake my can. (Insert your own joke here.) I am a natural. I want to be like Josh: a gifted wall-of-famer. If you spot any street art in Southern California from now on, it probably will have been put there by a spray master like English graffiti artist Banksy — or me.
Off we go. A libation in the Callooh Callay lounge (what a wild drink menu) in the Shoreditch district. A 35-ounce porterhouse steak (I had help) at Tramshed, where a cock and bull (an actual fowl and cow) have been suspended from the ceiling, encased in formaldehyde, by the mad genius Damien Hirst. A more disturbing décor you’ll seldom find, but the food was first rate.
Love this lovely city.
And then we’re off.