After an incredible wedding weekend (post to come!) we headed to LAX to fly to Morocco for our honeymoon with a layover in London. This trip is the first time we’ve ever used a trip planning service (Truffle Pig), and we were excited to forgo the trip planning while also planning a wedding, and to put our trust in someone else so that we didn’t have to consider logistics. Of course, we had reservations. Would we enjoy luxury travel? Would we miss our independence? Would we feel disconnected or guilty for traveling this way? But mostly, we were just excited to spend time together exploring a new country, still riding the emotional high from our wedding.
Flights from Los Angeles to London were uneventful, as hoped. As is now our custom, we chose to layover in a major city, spend the night, and eat at a restaurant we can’t normally afford, but opting for their pre-fixe lunch set. So, after a relatively painless customs experience, which for Heathrow is a small miracle, we hopped on the tube towards Knightsbridge. It’s been around a decade since either of us had been in London. Despite it’s proximity to Dublin we haven’t made the trip. I expected the city to look somewhat familiar. But as we alighted from the tube next to Harrods, a store I have a distinct memory of visiting I felt near zero recognition. I knew I had stood under the same green awnings years ago, but nothing looked or felt the way I remembered. Mostly, it looked smaller, less imposing than before. We didn’t explore any more of London than Hyde Park, which is a bit like going to New York and hanging out in the Upper East Side. Part of the city, certainly, but not exactly representative or all that diverse.
Our lunch reservations at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal weren’t for another hour, so we dropped our bags at the Mandarin Oriental on Hyde Park (where the restaurant is located) and walked through the park to Workshop café for some much-needed caffeine and to stock up on almond and chocolate croissants for our ridiculously early flight to Marrakech the next morning.
Back at Dinner, we settled in and immediately ordered the famed “meat fruit” which, effectively looks like a mandarin orange, but in fact is the smoothest chicken liver pate with a hint of orange, spread on toasted bread. It is easily one of the best things either of us have ever eaten. Scheduling long layovers from Heathrow to have time to take the tube in, eat that, and leave seems to me, perfectly reasonable. Of course, everything we ate and drank there was delicious. But that meat fruit, good lord.
After lunch we utilized the concierge at the Mandarin Oriental. We’ve only done this a few times, using services at a very high-end hotel despite not staying there. In this case, they were extremely warm and helpful, getting us set up on wifi, directions to Gatwick, and grabbing us a cab while loading our luggage to Victoria Station, all while chatting about Morocco. The Mandarin Oriental is one of those hotel chains I’ve always wanted to stay in, along with others like Six Senses and One and Only. This was the closest I’ve gotten, and based on the service alone, vaguely entertained the idea of booking a room for the night. The 600-pound price tag was mildly discouraging.
Firmly back in reality, we headed to Gatwick to stay the night in a much more reasonable hotel and fell asleep promptly at 7pm in preparation for our 4am wake-up call. Our half-day in London was brief, though absolutely lovely. I don’t know when we’ll be back, but we aim to not let another decade go by until then.