Dispatch, London: Magical mystery tour

By Danny King
London Bridge from the ShardFollowing his trip to Cannes, France, for the International Luxury Travel Market last week, hotels editor Danny King tacked on two nights in London to catch up on what's new in the luxury market in the always vibrant and fast-paced city. His dispatch from London follows; read his dispatch from Cannes here
I'm not into selfies, but when the Beatles are involved, all self-restraint goes out the window, which is why that code was violated on this all-too-quick trip to London.

Indeed, self-consciousness vanishes in the face of a city that can make Manhattan look slow-paced (and inexpensive, for that matter). Propriety be damned, this place likes to celebrate.

The great (and, frankly, overwhelming) thing about London is that music is just one about a hundred different angles a traveler can take when attempting to make sense of the city.

A room at the London Edition.Looking for high culture? Yes, Buckingham Palace may be mobbed during the changing of the guard, but walk around to the back of the big house and one can experience the Queen's Gallery, which in this case showcased the brilliant and sometimes disturbing work of the 17th century Italian artist Castglione.

Want to shop? Endless possibilities, from the big, blingy stores near Piccadilly Circus to the fast-paced hustle of the stretch of Oxford Street that splits Soho from Fitzrovia to the boutiques dotting the nooks and alleys that make up the beautifully asymmetric Covent Garden.

Want to drink? (Why, yes ...) Cafe Royal hotel's Grill Room has been serving up cocktails in its all-gilded-fixtures-and-mirrors room since 1865, while whisky connoisseurs can rejoice (and then get plowed) at the Athenaeum Hotel's Whisky Bar, which serves up more than 300 varieties. Pub crawlers can breathe easy knowing that places like the West End's Coach & Horses will serve Chiswick Bitter to an idiot that pronounces it "CHIS-wick" (the W's silent) without stink-eye (don't worry, your expat buddies will give you endless grief for that).

Rosewood London, decked out for the holidays.Foodies can also go nuts between the pubs and the endless number of ethnic culinary choices. My visit included the Italian tapas of Soho's Spuntino ("eggs and soldiers" -- still can't figure out what it was, but it was great); a plate of Turkish eggs (yeah, there's yogurt involved) at Covent Garden's Kopapa; the heartiest bowl of chowder I've ever had at Clerkenwell's Eagle pub; and an insanely decadent tower of sandwiches, scones and desserts that made up afternoon tea at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House across the street from Hyde Park.

Of course, with London visitor counts continuing to increase (I heard a ton of Russian speakers on my trip), hoteliers are responding in kind, and this trip included two newer ones. In musical terms, Fitzrovia's London Edition (the Ian Schrager-Marriott mash-up brand), which opened in September, probably veers towards electronica and house music, with its clean lines, in-room wood paneling, odd angles and busy social scene.

As for the Rosewood London, which opened in October, what I thought would be a string-quartet moved on to full-bore orchestra by the time I got a look at the Noble House suite (yes, the room didn't have a number, it was called the Noble House). Think about what's beyond posh, what's beyond attentive and what's beyond stately, and you're approaching the symphony that's the Rosewood London.

Which brings us back to this music geek's exploration of London. It's impossible to explore the West End without traversing the Shaftesbury Avenue referenced in Dire Straits' "Wild West End." A tube ride and short walk will get you to the section of the Waterloo Bridge over the Thames that inspired the Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset." And a trip to the 68th floor of the Shard will make it plain and clear that London Bridge is not, as rumored, falling down.

The feetie.That said, the only music-related pilgrimage I thought was truly mandatory was a trip out to St. John's Wood to Abbey Road studios and the crosswalk out front made famous by the Beatles' "Abbey Road" album cover. Of course, a few dozen folks had the same idea, requiring me to take a slightly different approach to what was going to be a selfie walking across the thoroughfare. 

So, behold -- the feetie.

Follow Danny King on Twitter @dktravelweekly. 
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