Every now and again I feel that it is important to treat yourself to a little luxury. When things are getting tough you've got to switch yourself off from everything that is negative in your life and embrace everything that is positive. Last month I set us the challenge of planning an expedition, something that we could plan over the months before embarking on our adventure. Mine involved travel, I planned to finally make a trip to Canada to see my relatives. The last time I travelled there was 2001 and each time another year slipped by I always felt bad that I still hadn't been back and still hadn't seen the relatives that I loved and cared about. I knew that this year there was no stopping me and so I started planning a head, thinking about how we would get there, where we would stay, who we would visit and what we would do.There was only one thing that would stop me from travelling and that was if my Mum became more ill but it seemed unlikely given her excellent response to the treatment that she was having. But it wasn't to be as Cancer has a nasty way of popping up whenever it wants to and when the chemo stopped the cancer came back in various other places. So of course my expedition needed to go on hold. I will get back there one day but right now it's important that I look after my Mum...after all she's spent most of her life looking after me.
So, now it was time to plan another expedition, something in my own country and possibly one that could include my Mum. One night whilst watching a documentary about the Claridges Hotel in London I had an idea. The whole point of the expedition was to do something that you wouldn't normally do. I watched the documentary about all of the rich, elegant people taking their tea in the salon, relaxing in their suites, dining in the restaurant and sipping cocktails in the Fumoir. It all seemed like a million miles away from the life that I lead. My Mum sighed as the programme finished and said "Wouldn't it be amazing to visit a place like that...it would be a dream a once in a lifetime experience!" That comment started me thinking, why couldn't we go? Why not for a day could we live like the rich and famous and visit Claridges? So I teamed up with my Sister and we started to plan an expedition for our Mum, if Claridges was a once in a lifetime experience then it was definitely going to be a once in a lifetime experience for her. We weren't travelling 3000 miles across the world we were going to travel ninety minutes down the train track, twenty minutes in a taxi and arrive at our final destination...a million miles away from our everyday lives.
A Whole New WorldI've never travelled First Class before so my expedition begun the moment that we stepped on to the train. I never even bother reserving seats, I just usually end up perched below a smelly armpit or sat on the floor by the train's loo. But today I was settled in to my leather seat enjoying the air conditioned carriage and sipping my mineral water. Mum's face was lit up like the sunshine! We had all dressed up for the occasion and felt brilliant. The next part of the journey took us through the streets of London as we made our way in a classic London taxi to Claridges, how posh we felt as we told the driver where we were going and then were greeted from the taxi by a Claridges door man who held the door open as we fell out of the taxi and stepped on to the elegant door mat and gently pushed our way into the art deco style lobby. We stood in a line looking around us at the beautiful marbled floors, the blazing fire and the gigantic vases filled with magnolias and tulips.
We were escorted to our table in the tea salon, passing tables crowned with elegant cake stands, tall glasses of champagne and the beautiful Claridges signature china. Ladies with perfect hair, pearls and Mulberry handbags sat sipping tea, deep in conversation with their friends as the staff impeccably dressed in pristine suits made us feel at home.
We felt a million miles away from our real world but the three of us were made to feel no different to anybody else in the room, we may as well have been royalty for the way that we were treated and we soon relaxed in to our table and studied the menu of never ending teas. We placed our orders of English Breakfast, French Vanilla and Damson tea. I had ordered the Damson tea, a blend of berries, fruits and spiced with cinnamon...it tasted like Christmas. My Sister's tea was a sweet vanilla, which tasted like Crème Patissiere. The tall champagne glasses in the centre of the table were moved in front of each of us, our napkins placed in our lap and then we watched as the waitress carefully poured our Laurent Perrier Champagne in to each glass. A platter of beautiful sandwiches was placed in the middle of the table...we stared excitedly at the food before us smoked salmon, dill and horseradish; cucumber, rocket and cream cheese; egg and cress; chicken and salad and a beautiful ham and tomato sandwich with the most delicious mustard. We carefully ate our little delicate sandwiches and then were brought more as we cleared our plates. What was next? We watched as people came and left the tea room. The grand piano in the corner sprung to life and a violinist accompanied the pianist filling the room with gentle music.
The beautiful art deco mirrors and lights glinted in the gentle light of the room whilst outside the city buzzed with the hustle and bustle of shoppers, workers and cars. Inside Claridges the world had slowed down, my watch actually stopped and nothing mattered any more. Another platter arrived with delicious fruit and apple scones, still warm from the oven and with little pots of clotted cream and Marco Polo jelly. The elegant scones fell open and we piled on the cream and jelly, which was swiftly replaced by more as we ran low. Our tea was constantly topped up as our cups became almost empty, we didn't have to do anything but eat and drink. Then our table was crowned with a beautiful selection of cakes and pastries, a fruit tart with cream, little lemon puddings topped with toasted marshmallow, delicate chocolate cakes and millefeuilles. By this point it was necessary to sit back and take in our surroundings whilst we digested the delicious food we had already eaten and yet the Waitress still snuck us more cake.
New pots of tea were brought over and we began to sample our cakes but after a few we were defeated by cake and an elegant bag was brought over with our leftovers neatly packaged up. We sat for longer and listened to the piano, our lovely French waitress chatted to us and told us to stay for as long as we liked. We finished our tea and I ventured out of the tea salon to investigate the ladies room. The perfumed hallway led me to an elegant room with beautiful mirrors and dressing tables, I entered in to the toilets and found a beautiful room with more art deco features, beautiful tiles and a lady who turned the taps on and off for you, regulating the temperature and presenting you with a white fluffy towel for your hands. I walked slowly back to the tea room and sat back down with a sigh...how could we go back home to normality now? The waitress walked over as we reluctantly started to button up our coats and presented us each with a small white box of chocolates tied with an elegant black ribbon with Claridges written in gold writing on it. We thanked the waitress a hundred times and then slowly left the room. Then we were back in our taxi heading through the now quieter streets of London, past the red buses, we pulled up outside Vera Wang and admired the beautiful wedding dresses before speeding off and arriving outside St Pancras station.
With a little time left we browsed the shops in the station, reading books in Foyles, selecting toys to take home to my Sister's boys in Hamleys and purchasing loose tea and another tempting cake in Peyton and Byrne. It was time to leave this wonderful world where we had spent a wonderful afternoon and make our way back home, back to the real world which now seemed slightly more enriched by such a wonderful experience.
From now on I think anything is possible, no matter what class you are, how much money you have or don't have, if you want to do something go and do it because as my family is learning (the hard way) life is very short. Plan your expedition (no matter what it is) and when you've done it, plan another one...you will be glad that you did.