One of the many delights of our London trip was taking high tea at The Dorchester, a lovely historic hotel overlooking Hyde Park. Per their website, The Dorchester caters to a finer clientele. By that I think they mean not the usual middle-class American like us, because their room rates were a bit out of our league. However, booking an afternoon tea allowed us to feel pretty fine for a couple of hours.
You may have figured out that my hubby left most of this trip planning up to me. I did try to plan some things that he would also enjoy, namely pub stops, but high tea was high on my list of required activities. My good friend Cyndi suggested The Ritz, but, when I checked, the dress code included a jacket for men, and I just knew that wouldn’t fly. (Even I understand not wanting to drag a jacket 3000 miles for one afternoon.) So when I came across The Dorch, as it’s nicknamed, and they didn’t require a jacket, I was excited to book. Now that’s not to say there were no rules. The attire was smart casual with NO TRAINERS.
For those less well-traveled than us, haha, that means no tennis shoes. I didn’t give this the appropriate consideration before signing us up for the Champagne and Tea, (because who wouldn’t want some champagne, too.) When the day of our reservation arrived our schedule was packed leading up to teatime (no dear, this does not mean golf). We started our day with breakfast at a fancy breakfast place, before going for a previously booked tour of Buckingham Palace. Just FYI, you only get to visit The Buck (as it’s nicknamed…..not really) when the Queen is not in residence. And as any royal watcher knows, the Queen and her entourage are at Balmoral in Scotland this time of year. We were some of the few, ok maybe hoards, allowed a peek at the royal digs. There was no changing our tour to another day. I had also planned a shopping trip to Harrod’s between the palace and tea at 3:30, or 15:30, depending on whose clock you are following. You may have noticed that I kept us on a rather full itinerary.
Our choices: wear our trainers and lug our nicer shoes around with us all day, race back to the hotel and change in between stops, wear our trainers and hope they let us in (a risk I wasn’t willing to take), or wear our non-trainers all day. We opted for the last choice. Let me take a minute here to ponder on showing up without the appropriate footwear. In the good ol’ USA some finer establishments will keep a few sports coats and ties behind the counter for those errant clients who forget to check the dress code ahead of time. You may look a little silly in a coat three sizes too big, but by golly you have upheld the dress code. I had a horror of not only being turned away in trainers, but worse…what if I was given a random pair of heels to wear instead?! It would be like wearing bowling shoes! Who knew how many sweaty, touristy feet had worn those shoes. Nope. This girl was going to suffer it out in her shoes that weren’t trainers all day. And thus, so was my better half.
Suffice it to say that by the time we hobbled in for our lovely tea our feet were killing us. We had already put in 15 miles that day, I’m sure, and my toes were telling me about it. Now I didn’t have on Manolos or anything, just some decent black flats, but my feet are 60 years old and need good arch support. Those flats were meant for a non-walking evening dinner, not touring the royal halls and shopping the world’s largest department store.
A word on Harrod’s. I was soooo excited to see this store of legends and buy something, anything, so I could say I did. But can I say that this might have been my only disappointment on our whole trip. Yes, it’s huge. Overwhelmingly so. You need a map to find your way around. But it’s chopped up into so many different departments that it feels like a maze. We started in the fine foods area and I purchased a few gift treats. Then, sending Billy off to the book department, I headed to the Christmas Decor and managed to find some ornaments I could barely afford. In the meantime, Billy lost his way and somehow ended up at the Prosecco Bar, which also sold ale, and texted me to catch him if I can. By the time I found him I was happy for a glass of Prosecco, and to get off my feet. Actually, it might have felt good to soak my feet in it. Harrod’s just didn’t fulfill my dreams.
Back to our tea….it was amazing. Even my hubby, who probably would have rather watched bad British TV, admitted it was fun and delicious. The Dorchester was fabulous, with HUGE fresh flower arrangements everywhere. From the champagne to the savories, the tea to the sweets, it met every expectation. We were both stuffed by the time we finished and had to wonder how you could do this everyday and then still eat dinner at some later hour. But guess what? Yep, we saw people in trainers! Gasp! And nobody asked them to leave. I was indignant; I’m a rule follower! I was ready to politely point this out to someone in charge. Thankfully, my tea-mate asked for another curry finger sandwich and distracted me. But let it be known….we DID NOT wear our trainers to high tea at The Dorchester and our feet survived to tell about it.