When I first moved to London 12 years ago, I knew there was one place I had to visit while here. That place was Claridge's. I'm not sure where I had first heard of Claridge's, but somehow it was deeply rooted in my subconscious that this was the place that people went when they had made it. To be honest, I was so young I didn't really even know how you defined "made it."
Two weeks after I arrived in London I walked past Claridge's and was too scared to walk in. I wasn't sure how things worked over here in the UK. Were we even allowed in hotels if we didn't have reservations? These are the random things that float through a foreigner's head when you land in an unknown country.
The rules and regulations still being worked out, I sat down later that night to write a list of things I'd like to do before leaving London - as I still thought I was going to be flying home to start a life in America within six months. At the top of my list was one night at Claridge's. Just under was "to take mom for a decadent afternoon tea at the world's greatest afternoon tea- Claridge's." Those are my exact words. Nothing has been tampered with to add drama.
As time went by, I ended up making England my home, and my mother ended up surprising me with a visit. She was there to attempt to turn my hovel of a house, at the time, into an actual home. As soon as I heard she was coming over, I started saving for one activity and one activity only. Can you guess what that was?
In 2002 I was on a salary of next to nothing. For those of you that work in the art world, you'll know how this goes. I was in PR and I was just starting out. I was scraping by as it was. Just to illustrate how bad it was... I was eating a PRET Christmas Sandwich to celebrate my American Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, that was as depressing as it sounds.
To make a long story short, I saved for three months to be able to take my mom to tea at Claridge's. This was 11 years ago. We took in every moment - the piano player, the sweet smell of fresh floral bouquets surrounding our table and the incredible wait staff that looked after our every need. That was only the start. The tea, cakes and sandwiches were everything I dreamt of. And the rest, as they say is history.
Only, sometimes history has a habit of repeating itself.
Last month, for the first time in 12 years, I had my mom, dad and two brothers in London all at the same time. This never happens and I kept thinking it wouldn't happen, but it did and it was absolutely glorious. I wanted to do something special for them all, to show them the side of London that has meant the most to me over the years. So naturally, there was a visit to Claridge's involved.
As we all sat down for tea, I'm not ashamed to admit I was downright teary eyed, and it wasn't just because we were all together. Claridge's, for me, has always been the holy land of hotels and their afternoon tea, the kind of experience that makes you a believer in working hard towards a life of luxuries.
Returning to tea at Claridge's 11 years later, I found nothing had changed. The food was still as impressive, the staff just as attentive. There were even a few faces that were still the same.
All this is really just to say that Claridge's afternoon tea is an experience I wish for everyone to have and one which is on my list now as an annual treat. It is worth every single penny saved and spent.