London is my favorite international city – and not just because the people speak various forms of English. Central London is easy to navigate, has countless treasures, and is the location of the British Museum and the British Library. It is a wonderful place to visit, work, and play. I stay in the area called Kensington at the Milestone Hotel (http://www.milestonehotel.com), literally my home away from home.
The Milestone is the flagship 5-star hotel within the Red Carnation Hotel group (http://www.redcarnationhotels.com). Red Carnation Hotels are a privately owned collection of small hotels, primarily in London, but with properties in South Africa, Switzerland, and the U.S. Their motto: No request is too large; no detail too small.
The Milestone Hotel has a great location close to Kensington High Street with its high-end shops and the first Whole Foods in London. It is directly across from Kensington Park, a swath of joyous greenery. Kensington Palace is located on the grounds. It seems likely that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will shortly take up residence on the site, giving added allure to the area.
Yesterday, I with a few friends and family enjoyed Afternoon Tea at the Milestone – the first time I have indulged. The staff creates a wonderful ambience for this most British cultural tradition. Most recently the Tea Guild awarded its 2012 Award of Excellence to the Milestone for the quality and preparation of the extensive tea selection.
Afternoon tea is far more than murky liquid with steeped leaves in the bottom of the pot. Our occasion began with several glasses of champagne. And the servers brought in the refreshments. Finger sandwiches of cucumber, egg salad & water cress, smoked salmon, ham & English mustard followed by freshly baked buttery scones still warm from the oven served with lovely Devonshire cream. And, finally, the most incredible tarts and pastry delights. Everything prepared from scratch on the premises. We even ordered tea. My daughter and I stuck to ever-reliable Early Grey, but bolder members of our party requested Lapsang Souchong with its pleasant smoky aroma.
This is not the first time I have indulged in afternoon tea, but it is certainly my most elegant experience. Good company and a small feast of goodies is a truly special way to while away the late afternoon hours. As Henry James said, “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.
Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.