No, I am not trying to sell you London for the nth time. I know you go to London more often than I frequent Lajpat. I know you know Trafalgar Square like the back of your hand and perhaps you can even quote back to me the price of fleece nightgowns on Christmas discount at Primark. My story here hinges on the assumption that maybe during those countless business travels to the capital of the United Kingdom you have not known how to have fun, travelled less and ‘businessed’ more. And my sole aim is NOT to do a how-to story that will leave you wiser, but to tell you what an excellent time I had and leave you a shade greener at the end of it.
When the Premier Inn — a UK hotel chain that has a branch in Bangalore and will soon see one in Delhi —invited us on a familiarisation trip to London I promised myself that I would have fun. But as it turned out our schedule was tighter than a Victorian garter, and though I didn’t get to do all that I wanted to, I didn’t do too badly either.Day 1: I am sitting through presentations about the chain's work ethos, its plans to make the best of the 2012 London Olympics - they already have a hotel bang opposite the Olympic Park at Stratford, and staring out of the window watching workmen put up an ice skating rink. It’s funny I am in London and I have spent the whole morning and afternoon indoors and I am still not cribbing.
Could I be growing wings? Naah. I am just feeling mighty smug about the fact that I am in the heart of London. I mean I am living in the historic County Hall, with Big Ben and Westminster Abbey and the Thames all round the corner. Did I say Craig? Actually I feel like the proud owner of an entire men-agerie? Done with the talk bit, and left with two glorious hours to myself. I take the tube from Waterloo to Oxford Circus. The evening signs off with a 4 D show and a ride on the London Eye.
Day 2: Enjoying unlimited Costa coffees (it is owned by Whitbread, the same company that owns Premier Inn) at the in-house restaurant. One by one the gang turns up, and everyone from PI wants to know if we have slept well. Reason: the hotel bed comes from the makers of the Queen of England’s bed, so technically we should slept like ‘the Queen’. We drive out of London to do a tour of the other Whitbread brands.
We go for a la di da evening at Rhodes 24, in Tower 42. But first a brief stopover at Vertigo 42, the champagne bar.
Bounty and Bubbly? I am a bit nervous about the Mich-elin Star evening and I go as far as to ask Aly if he can omit this bit of hospitality.
He looks shocked at the suggestion. And before I knew I am sitting next to PI hot shot John Forrest scraping the last bit of raisin sauce and pudding.
Day 3: We are going back today and I am quite happy. I think this is just how long a holiday should be. The ice skating rink outside the window is also ready. For the last time I am tucking into the PI breakfast, clearly the highpoint of the stay.We drive out of London to Dunstable, where PI's Development Kitchen is.
Keith Hudspith the Director (F&B) introduces us to a range of Indian food they serve on Curry Nights at Brewyers fare.
So I am with a rolling pin working on my pizza base and I am thinking why am I feeling so happy. I mean I have lived in UK before and still didn’t have so much fun. And I am thinking as I am staring at my lopsided base, could it be because I finally learned to roll out my moments long and still right?
All that you can’t miss
Trafalgar Square: The largest square in London, which has been a central meeting place since the Middle Ages.
London Eye: Built as a part of a competition, this observation wheel is a favourite among tourists.
London/Tower Bridge: Built in 1894, the bridge offers a great photo option.
Big Ben: The largest clock in Great Britain, though not publically accessible, is one of the main attractions of the capital of the United Kingdom.