You might think that now that the Olympics are over, the Queen has celebrated 60 years on the throne, and the weather looks, well, like England in autumn, your reasons to visit the capital are numbered. But you’d be wrong.
Indeed, this time of year is when the air is the most crisp, when Sunday roasts taste the best, and when the last dregs of summer tourists have left for warmer shores. All of which are reasons enough to visit in the fall, no?
If you do indulge in a little jaunt to the Big Smoke, do as the Beckhams do (well, David anyway, apparently) and check into the Blakes Hotel. You might be thinking that having a butler, bellhop, and barber at your beck and call isn’t really your cup of tea, but then you’d be wrong again, because the Blakes isn’t really that type of place.
Sure, the 45-room property, which prides itself on being the world’s first boutique hotel (technically, another hotel in the States claims the same, but in any case, they both opened in 1978), does offer impeccable service and the type of bed linens that only come in fine hotels. What sets the Blakes apart, however, is that it blends into its tony South Kensington neighborhood so seamlessly that you’ll leave actually feeling—believing, even—like you’re the cat’s pajamas (and its only pair, at that). Yes, you do fit in with the rich and famous (you could be the seventh Beckham, why not?).
Even if a harsh reality awaits you when you check out, at least you will have felt what it must be like to live an elite lifestyle. The Blakes isn’t actually expensive, by normal London standards, but its rich décor and lively personality of every single room make you feel otherwise. It’s as if the hotel’s designer, Anouska Hempel, decided the Blakes would be where she brought all her wildest design dreams to life: indeed, she spent years (and plenty of cash) meticulously filling in every detail, from the bedside tables to the type of flooring (which often changes from room to room) to the vintage framed art hanging in certain rooms.
An oasis inspired by Corfu, Greece? Go ahead, check into the king suite. Something a little more exotic—Peruvian, perhaps, or African? Both are on the menu. There’s even an Opium den (not a real one, though we’re told that what happens at the Blakes stays at the Blakes) adjoining the lower-level restaurant, which serves the lightest sea bass in ginger soy broth I’ve ever tasted.
It’s all a bit surreal: each suite feels as much a magic fantasyland as the next, and I can’t help but gasp every time another door opens. If only my flat looked like this! I can’t help but wonder. But then again, isn’t that what a magnificent boutique hotel should do—make you feel like you’re staying in the room of your dreams?