It would be an understatement to say that arriving in London from Dubai this week was a shock to the system. For the last 18 months our travels have kept us in warm climates: Australia for the sultry Christmas and cricket season, Bangkok during the balmy month of December, the Middle East throughout the sweltering summer, Spain and Italy for the European spring, Australia last spring and summer too, and Italy the spring and summer before that…
So despite preparing ourselves for the bitter cold of the British winter with new wardrobes of winter woollies, the arctic winds that froze my nose and fingers in the seconds it took the driver to load our bags into the vehicle at the Heathrow car park, reminded me of how unaccustomed to the cold I really was.
Moments after we buzzed the intercom to our new London HomeAway rental, the owner Bob appeared to meet us and whisked us into the elevator and up to the private entrance to our penthouse at the renovated old Candlemaker’s Apartments.
Aside from Bob’s friendly welcome, we were greeted with a basket of fresh bread, croissants, jam, biscuits, fruit, juice, and bottles of wine to get us started – along with spectacular views of London from the floor-to-ceiling windows on all three floors of the light-filled apartment.
Yes, you heard right: three whole floors! On the main level we were met by a sleek, spacious, open-plan dining area and contemporary kitchen (with essential mod-cons like a Dualit toaster and Krups espresso maker), an adjoining living room with television and fireplace, an observatory-style sun room with comfy sofa beckoning us to lie down, and an alfresco terrace with table and chairs just made for long summer lunches. Sigh.
Upstairs, a galleried bedroom opened on one side to overlook the living room while a big window with brilliant city views winked at us from the other side. Another bedroom down the hall boasted equally impressive vistas across to the Thames and down to the terrace below from its own large window. From this floor a door took us out to another terrace, while a further flight of stairs swooped us upstairs to the master bedroom where wonderful windows looked up at the starry skies.
While all the bedrooms are spacious, the carpets, down quilts, and cushions give the rooms a cosy vibe, as do the snug, vanilla-scented bathrooms. Throughout the apartment, the stylish décor is chic and sleek, mostly white, black and beige, with splashes of red, yet cushions scattered about the place and perched on windowsills, work to create a homey atmosphere.
Which is probably why yesterday, as we walked briskly toward the Thames from Borough Market, where we’d enjoyed a late lunch at Roast and shopped for cheese at Neal’s Yard Dairy and sausages at The Ginger Pig (where the affable butchers, along with my new friend Alla, a regular foodie customer, generously shared their restaurant tips), we thought how lovely it was to be heading back to our new ‘home’ rather than to a hotel.
We weren’t in a hurry to go anywhere. We were walking fast because we were freezing, but we were also looking forward to returning to the apartment. And sure, it was partly because it’s going to take some time for me to get used to this cold – regardless of how many layers of clothes I’m wearing – but we were simply eager to return ‘home’.
And you know what? I can’t remember the last time I ever felt that way about a hotel. Can you?