Friday, February 5, 2016

My C Slippers from London

When spouse and I traveled to Scotland in 2005, we stayed briefly in London, so that I could scout the London booksellers, and we could eat at a few choice restaurants there. I'd always wanted to stay at one of London's posh hotels, and we stayed at a few, including the Savoy, the Stafford, and Claridge's. At Claridge's--where we were greeted at the front desk by a veritable team of servants and staff, by name--we chose what the clerk described to us, as the Noel Coward room. (Searching this unit online produces no hits, so I presume it's either something the establishment doesn't/or doesn't any longer advertise. Coward was known to have stayed at Claridge's on occasion, since it was close to some theaters where his plays or musicals were performed, back in the day.)     

The room we were given had a deco feel, with cute green little metal sconces, and a butterscotch and green color scheme. The bathroom was most impressive, with jade green tile everywhere, and a sink with faucets that looked custom 1930's luxury. 

In the closet were matching sets of men's and women's slippers [photo above]--free swag offered to guests. I liked to imagine that the large green "C" on each slipper was in honor of Noel Coward, since we were, after all, sleeping in the "Noel Coward" room (not just at Claridge's). 

While there, we decided to have a dinner at what was then the Gordon Ramsey restaurant inside the hotel. Gordon Ramsey, you will note, is the same Gordon Ramsey we've all seen on Fox Television, in his British productions Hell's Kitchen, MasterChef, and other spin-offs, in which the famous tousle-headed ex-footballer turned dictator-chef judges and rages over restaurateurs and apprentice chefs with scornful disdain, in contests and makeovers. It's less a cooking show than a new kind of reality TV, in which the haughty host gets off hurting people's feelings and generally acting out his short-tempered imperiousness. The meal we had there was really a so-so experience. Neither the food nor the service was top-notch. Ramsey terminated his relationship with Claridge's in 2013, and the restaurant closed. 

Claridge's belongs to a brand of London hotel that flourished during the heydays of the British Empire, when the city was the de-facto center of the world, and anyone who was anyone was expected to stay in posh digs, to parade their cred and bask in the prosperity of decadence. Since the decline of the empire, such establishments are no longer the province of the upper classes, though it will cost you an arm and an ear to stay even a single night at any of them. 

Some people abhor elegance in any form, feeling that it represents some kind of continuing offense against common sense, moderation and fairness. Promiscuous consumption however has always been a component of civilization. To sample the style of life it represents is one small brand of indulgence I'd always dreamed about, which is why we stayed there. I still have those slippers, by the way, which I've kept as souvenirs. I never wore them. If I'd left them at the hotel, I assume they'd have been tossed into the recycle bin. Someday, after I'm gone, someone will probably think they belonged to someone whose name began with "C"--which would be fitting, since I'm Curtis.

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