|Another Milestone for the Milestone Hotel|
Some places stick in your mind. Others swirl away into the rush of life, all but forgotten. Travelling as much as we do unfortunately it's possible to become overwhelmed by the many places we see; it would be worse, though, if we became blasé. I'm still too pinch-myself-I-m-really-here-doing-this for that to happen, luckily.
People often ask "what is your favourite country?", "which is your favourite food?". It's like asking a mathematician what his or her favourite number is. The answer is, "it depends".
It depends on whether you want opulence or laid-back ease, a degustation or a snack, sweet or savoury, now or later, here or there.
That said, one hotel often pops into my conversation when I am discussing places which made a real impression on me. Obviously I am not alone in my liking either as just recently Travel & Leisure, the world's most prestigious travel magazine, published its famous annual 500 World's Best Hotels list, naming London's top hotels for 2008. Number One hotel was The Milestone, a boutique hotel of just 57 rooms and six apartments in the The Red Carnation Collection.
This group has several properties in London that are deluxe enough for a duchess, but so personal and gracious you don't feel out of place. The watchword of the group is ' no request too large, no detail too small', and we certainly found this to be the case. We had been booked into one of the 'apartments', a richly decorated and furnished two level space crammed with books, rugs, paintings, ornaments and goodies. It was so welcoming and comfortable - and, well, personal - that I almost bolted after opening my door there, as for a moment I thought I must have broken into somebody's private apartment. Instead I sneaked peeks in the various drawers and cupboards just to make quite sure they hadn't allocated us the owner's suite by mistake.
But I should have guessed there could be no error here. The booking sheet had meticulously enquired as to whether I wanted feather pillows, and how many; if I needed DVDs, and if so which ones; and what newspapers I required. I should have realized then that this place takes its guests' comfort very, very seriously. (read on)
The Milestone Hotel and Apartments actually look towards Kensington Palace, and are opposite the Kensington Gardens gates. Naturally we made sure that we took a brisk stroll through this wonderfully extensive park and gardens, dropping in, as you must (if you were ever a child that was read to) on Peter Pan's statue, The Serpentine and the Round Pond.
My inner child dealt with, it was now time to pander to the adult I have become, with a leisurely shopping expedition down Kensington Road, then Knightsbridge. Early the next morning our hotel's location proved the ideal jumping off point for the famous Saturday Notting Hill Markets, another absolute must when visiting London.
Rooms at Victorian-era Milestone Hotel are priced from US$730 a night. "A refined, residential feel, thanks to its intimate size and personal gestures like English sweets at turndown", is how Travel & Leisure describes it. Think, sweets on the pillow at turndown time, traditional English cream tea In the Park Lounge, a cosy parlour with sumptuous fabrics and a roaring fire, cocktails in the Stables bar, and dinner in Cheneston's restaurant, which Tatler magazine has described as 'a brilliant address to have up your sleeve'.
But it's not all chintz, leather-bound volumes and memorabilia here. The rooms are right up there with 'imaginatively stocked mini bars' (whatever that is, I didn't get around to that - I was too busy with the mounds of pillows and DVDs) and the latest in 21st-century in-room technology: free WiFi and Internet, plasma screen TVs in most rooms, two-line telephones, and night-light clips for bed-time reading.
Incredibly, Travel & Leisure's Number Two spot in London goes to another boutique hotel in the Red Carnation collection, 41 where I was also lucky enough to stay. This hotel group must have a thing about royal connections as this one is situated opposite Buckingham Palace's Royal Mews. Travel & Leisure describes 41 as a "discreet and private retreat with a private club air". Comprising just 30 rooms, this boutique property offers guests champagne upon arrival, in-room massages available round the clock, and 'business-ready' guest-rooms offer the last word in comfort and cutting-edge technology.
London offers a huge range of accommodation, but if you want to visit the places that Travel & Leisure (and I) rate highly, my vote goes to The Milestone, too.
I just must remember, if there ever is a next time, to check out that mini bar!
Red Carnation now comprises six hotels in London as well as a Relais & Chéteaux hotel in Dorset, along with hotels in Geneva, Palm Beach, Cape Town the Western Cape and Durban (re-opens 2009).
The Milestone Hotel,1 Kensington Court, London W8 5DL
OR call The Leading Small Hotels of the World, 1800 223 6800, www.leadingsmallhotelsoftheworld.com
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