Sunday, October 4, 2015

London trip 2015: Day Four 24 June Part II

The next event on our itinerary was taking afternoon tea at Claridges.  Claridges is a fancy hotel with a dining room that serves afternoon tea.  One does not "go" to tea, one "takes" tea.  In England, London specifically, afternoon tea is served usually between the hours of 2pm - 5:45pm at several places; it's quite difficult to choose.  Several big department stores (Harrods, Fortnum & Mason) and hotels (Claridges, The Ritz, Browns) as well as other places serve teas for various prices.  Some are themed teas, some are champagne teas...the choices really were a bit overwhelming for me.  For most places, I believe, reservations are required; it's best to check on the website of your venue choice or get in contact with the venue.

Heather and I decided on Claridges.  Though one doesn't have to dress to the nines for tea at Claridges, nice dress is required -- no jeans please.  We went back to our hotel, Durrants, to change from our walking clothes to our "tea outfits."  It looked like Claridges was within a ten minute walk from Durrants, so we decided to hoof it.  The directions I had copied down were a little hard to follow as it turned out; it was good that we gave ourselves a time cushion.

Tea at Claridges: how does one describe heaven?  I've never had a massage -- I'm weird about strange people touching me -- but perhaps the way I felt taking tea at Claridges is how others feel having a full body massage.

The dining room was so gorgeous; I was reminded of the movie Last Holiday when the main character looks at the ceiling of the hotel/resort she's staying at and says it's so beautiful, it almost makes you want to cry.  There are a couple of dining rooms actually, and we were given a few choices of where to sit.  In the room we chose there was a pianist and violinist playing musak, which was amusing.

Heather and I were presented with menus describing what would be served with the afternoon tea and a list of teas; all we had to decide on was what type of tea we would like.  I chose, I think the Claridges blend?  Honestly I don't remember.

On the table was milk for the tea and a box containing various sweeteners -- sugar cubes and the little packets of sugar substitutes.  A side note to this: I always enjoy when sugar cubes are presented.  They remind me of my childhood days at Sue's house; there, as a rare treat, if we were exceptionally good or very brave, we would receive a sugar cube as a reward.

Heather and I were each served tea from our own pot, and Claridges insist on their servers pouring themselves.  During tea we were also provided a lesson on the art of properly brewing and serving tea; if you ever make it to Claridges for afternoon tea, just ask.

The first course was a tray of various finger sandwiches.  One eats as much as one desires.  After devouring the first tray of sandwiches, a second was brought out.  Next came scones ('skonz') with clotted cream and jam.  The tea jelly served with the scones was so gorgeous, I could have eaten it with a spoon right out of the jar.  (Click on the words "tea jelly" to go to a website for the jam.)

I've probably mentioned this before, but a cream tea is one of my favourite things in the entire world:  a pot of tea with scones and clotted cream, with or without jelly -- it brings much joy to my soul.

After the scones came the desserts, though both Heather and I found it difficult to stuff down the yummy desserts on top of the filling sandwiches and scones.

This day had been so long already, and it felt to me that Heather and I had been constantly on the go, that I had to force myself to sit back and take some breaths, breath the moment like precious breaths of fresh air after being pulled from a smoke filled room.

For me, I think the best thing about this whole tea at Claridges experience was the service.  I felt like we were the most important people in the world.  Not once did I get the feeling that everyone -- the servers and hostesses -- was "just doing their job," but that they truly enjoyed what they did and cared about my experience.

Following that heavenly tea, Heather and I took the tube back to Leicester to find St. Martins Theater where The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie has been playing for the past 60 years.  Deciding on which show to take was also an overwhelming decision as there are so, so many playing in London.  I had somehow narrowed down our choices and gave the list to Heather: some I chose because of the big name actors, some because I thought we'd enjoy the story.  Ultimately, we settled on The Mousetrap because we'd visited Agatha Christie's summer home already on this trip.  It is a fun play, and the theater was cute.  The use of cameras is not allowed in the theater, but Heather was able to get a shot of the close-curtained stage before she was caught.  Before seeing, I recommend reading up just a little on the architect Christopher Wren; it's not necessary to understand the events of the play or to figure out the mystery of "who done it", but a few of the jokes might be missed.

We took the tube (most lines are open until midnight, I believe) back to Baker Street and walked back to our hotel talking about tea and the play our morning tour and our excitement for the tour we'd take the next day and finally crawled into our beds for some much needed rest.

Afternoon Tea at Claridges

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