I came to London for a few weeks, but I still couldn't escape the melodrama of American politics. Although the race for Prime Minister is hot and bothered — or, more accurately in this ongoing Brexit climate, bothersome — all everyone here is wondering is who leaked the memos written by outgoing Ambassador to the US Kim Darroch. Poor chap! He made the horrible mistake of getting caught for giving his honest opinion. Tempests in teacups, as they say.
In much lighter news, I’ve been seeing some lovely new things in town. To wit:
What to See
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams
The exhibition at the V&A Museum has, by popular demand, been extended until September. It's sold out now, but more tickets will go on sale July 15. If you like fashion and plan to come to town before then, set your alarm and book. The show is that good. While you're there, don't miss "Food: Bigger Than the Plate," socio-political exploration of what we eat — how we grow it, how we kill it, and what we do with our waste, and how to make it all more sustainable.
Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawings
The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace is honoring the the 500th anniversary of the death of another master with a show of more than 200 drawings from the Royal Collection, which are rarely seen all together and which make for the biggest show of his work in more than 65 years. It’s on until October 13.
Where to Stay
In hotel news, the big theme is that what’s old is new again. (Then again, that’s always the theme in London.)
The don't-call-us-trendy hotel that was super, okay, popular in the aughts is just putting the finishing touches on a total top-to-bottom refurbishment on the triangular building that was once home to the Morning Post newspaper (and former reporter Winston Churchill). The public spaces are a little too bold for my tastes, but the rooms are of a delicacy and serenity that I haven't seen in too many hotels. The pale pastels, gentle curves in the walls and furniture, and beautiful marble details stand in stark contrast to the typically masculine rooms I see in most new hotels. Merely visiting the rooms felt more relaxing than my new meditation practice. I can only imagine how restorative a sleepover would be. Just as restorative would be a few laps in the pool located in the basement, another detail that makes this hotel a favorite.
Take a walk around a London neighborhood, and you’ll stumble upon a charming mews. “Who gets to live here,” you might wonder, with more than a trace of jealousy. The answer now can be you. The Living Rooms, the company behind several short- and long-term serviced apartment rentals in Central London, like No. 5 Maddox St. and 56 Welbeck St., have recently opened Weymouth Mews in Marylebone. The seven apartments come in one- to three-bedroom configurations and are decorated with sleek dark wood cabinetry, minimalist bedrooms, art books on the shelves, and Ren products in the bathrooms. Several overlook the rooftops of the residential area, but my favorite, Suite 1, is the light-filled basement apartment with a terrific garden. The minimum stay is five nights, and the rates decrease with longer stays. The hotel is popular with the film industry. I certainly wouldn't mind moving in for a few months.
The Arts Club
Located in posher-than-posh Mayfair, this place has been a members club since it was founded by Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope in 1863, and is as grand and clubby as can be, the crowd a mix of foreigners (I heard lots of Italian and Arabic as I walked through the restaurant) and very well-heeled locals. True to the name, the art is a key element and rotates on a regular basis. Open to the public are 16 hotel rooms, include a penthouse with a heated balcony. Hotel guests have access to all member perks, including the regular live shows in the intimate basement nightclub, Leo’s. A slate of local bands fill the lineup, while special guests include Gladys Knight, Lauryn Hill, and Lionel Ritchie. There are several restaurants to choose from, and while the ground floor restaurant has a lovely year-round garden, Kyubi, the Japanese restaurant on the second floor, has what I'm told is the the world’s only on-tap sake.