JACKIE: We want to Talk about David’s Wintertime adventures in England. The cold weather did nothing to dim the extremely warm hospitality. He has many tales to tell and I’ll add my humble opinions, even though I was elsewhere … David carries on:
“NO PROBLEM A’TALL!”: A direct quote from the lovely, kind, helpful, etc. etc. Michelle Devlin, General Manager of The Egerton House Hotel in London.
I’ve just added another Red Carnation to my gorgeous bouquet. I’m talking about the admirable hotels in the distinguished Red Carnation Collection. In happy days over the last several years, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy the hospitality of their glorious Summer Lodge in Dorset (with JJ) and at their luxurious Milestone Hotel in London. On this latest trip to Britain, I was warmly welcomed into The Egerton House in Knightsbridge, another of the 5-Star hotels owned and operated by this excellent group. The history of Red Carnation reads like a romantic novel beginning in the 1950s when a lovely and talented girl named Bea married the young South African hotelier Stanley Tollman. Their union gave birth to four children and over the years to fourteen award winning hotels beginning in their home country and expanding to the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the USA, all owned and run by the family. The Collection is exemplified by the red carnation worn in Stanley’s buttonhole and by the taste and style of Bea Tollman, President and founder.
My London taxi pulled up in front of an elegant red brick double townhouse with the British flag proudly waving an enthusiastic “hello.” The quiet tree-lined street (now white with the sudden springtime snowfall) is so peaceful you’d never guess Harrods is just a half dozen blocks away in one direction and the Victoria and Albert Museum the same in the other. The hotel’s 5-Star status was exemplified by my beautifully decorated accommodation. This elegant boutique has a total of 30 rooms and suites, all retaining the charm and character of the original townhouses. A very intimate arrangement much like staying in an exclusive private home with loads of original art – here a Picasso, there a Matisse, and over there a Toulouse-Lautrec. In my lovely room, the bed promised a great couple of nights’ heavenly sleep with hand-stitched mattress, variety of pillows (and 200-thread Egyptian cotton sheets). For my waking hours, there was a well-stocked minibar, complimentary high-speed wireless internet, and interactive TV with movies on demand. What more could a weary traveler ask for? All thanks to Red Carnation’s PR VP, Arnelle Kendall; she’s a wow! Dinner was in the drawing room adjoining the bar. The food was simple, honest, and delicious; lovely smoked salmon and a brilliant fillet of perfectly cooked beef. I was happily entertained by Antonio Pizzuto, bar man extraordinary purported to be father of London’s best ever martini. Not my cup of drink, but he pours terrific Joseph Perrier Brut Rose Champagne and introduced me to a fabulous red called Hannibal from the Tollman family’s own South African vineyards. Antonio (my contemporary) is full of stories (lots of celebs I know/knew), and when he concocted two full-to-the-brim martinis he delivered them with steady hands not losing a drop.
Now, more about GM Michelle: I didn’t dare tell Jackie, but a careless tripping before going to London left me with a cut left palm, not serious but a bit bloody. One look and the Egerton staff were on the case, cleaning, bandaging, and caring. Especially Michelle who, though young enough to be my daughter, mothered me with TLC. Typical concern during my all-too-short stay. Any and every request, even unspoken, was answered with “No problem a’tall!” Is this any way to run a hotel. You bet your life!
EUROSTAR: London to Paris was made marvelous by my trip on Eurostar. Not only was it comfortable, safe, and swift (2 hours), my Business Premier ticket included a pre-trip visit to their exclusive lounge. And as we hurtled through the countryside, a treat was a delicious lunch, by world-famous Chef Raymond Blanc (who is now in association with Eurostar). Tres merveilleux, and very nice Champagne!
JJ: I fear I missed a good one, and I’m yearning for a revisit to their most scrumptious Summer Lodge! (Google these beauty spots!)