Tuesday, May 19, 2015

First Day in London, England

After months of planning, the day of our departure finally arrived - April 30, 2015!

We left home early to stop for dinner before arriving at Detroit Metro Airport [DTW] for the 8 hour flight to London's Heathrow airport.  After checking our luggage, and going through security, we made our way to boarding gate A40.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief when my luggage weighed in at 44 lbs. - 6 lbs. less than the allotted weight, but not much room for purchases to bring home! Not to worry, however, because there was a large, empty nylon duffel bag in my suitcase solely for purchases. I used it as my carry-on bag on the return flight home.

With boarding pass and passport in hand we anxiously awaited boarding the large Boeing 767 shortly after 9:30 p.m.  What fun awaited us in London, and it was wonderful to be able to share it all with my daughter, Lori.

A prearranged driver was waiting at Heathrow airport to take us to The Boltons Hotel [a Best Western] in Knightsbridge, which would be our 'home' for the next 12 days. 

It wasn't check-in time when we arrived, so we left our luggage at the hotel, and headed to the tube station bound for Selfridge Department Store where we would enjoy our first Afternoon Tea in London.

I didn't go through a travel agent, and planned my own itinerary.  At the time I didn't think of it as a 'tea trip', but it ended up being that because tea was a part of every day.

Earl's Court, the tube station, was about two blocks from our hotel.  My dear friend, Ruth, who lives in Michigan, but is from England, wrote out which tubes to take to every destination on our itinerary. What a huge help!  We purchased our Oyster Cards at the station, which allowed us to ride the tube, and eagerly  began our day's adventure.

Listing of tube stops [below] inside the underground station. Lori's, sense of direction is much better than mine, so I gave her Ruth's detailed instructions, and tagged along beside her. Amazing how roles reverse with time! ;-)

Familiar words at the tube station from my 2007 visit to England.  The gap is the space from the edge of the platform, to the door of the tube.  Sometimes the gap is minimal and other times it's rather large.  Falling into the gap would not be a good thing!  ;-)

We got off the tube at Bond Street, and walked to Selfridges at the corner of Oxford and Baker Streets.  London was bustling with people that Friday afternoon, and we took several photos en route to Selfridges.

Below is the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain and Statue of Eros at Piccadilly Circus [circle]. Piccadilly Circus is a road hub connecting several streets, and it is also a high profile public area [often used for protests].  It is said to be London's equivalent of NYC's Time Square.

Finally we arrived at Selfridge & Co.  I watch the PBS series Mr. Selfridge, and I also have a fascination for old, established department stores, so Selfridge was high on my priority list.

The high-end, flagship department store is huge.  It was founded by Harry Gordon Selfridge in 1909 and is the second largest store in the UK after Harrods. Selfridges' life story is fascinating and tragic.  He was born in Wisconsin, but lived for a time in both Jackson and Grand Rapids MI. At age 18 he was hired at Marshall Field's in Chicago, and remained there for the next 25 years, working his way up to a junior partner.  It was Selfridge who was responsible for Marshall Field's opening its first tea room in 1890, and his London store had a tea room and several restaurants as well.

Unfortunately, Selfridge had numerous liaisons [including the Dolly Sisters who supposedly spent £5 million of his fortune], and a gambling problem.  In 1939 he was ousted from the store he founded, and died destitute in 1947.  

Today's Selfridge store has 16 different eateries, but it's the art deco inspired Dolly's café where Afternoon Tea is served.  Located on the lower ground level, it's named after the glamorous, identical Dolly twins who entranced Harry Selfridge!

The Dolly Sisters [their professional name] are pictured below.  They were Hungarian born, and their parents emigrated to the US when they were 12 years old.  As talented dancers and performers they soon became a Vaudeville hit.  Their producer's wife thought they were just like two cute little dolls, and called them "Dollies", and the name stuck.  Their reputation for dating wealthy men earned them the nickname "The Million Dollar Dollies."  In the end, their story is as sad as Harry Selfridges, but we focused on more tranquil and pleasant thoughts as we enjoyed our Afternoon Tea.  ;-)

I had Darjeeling tea, and Lori had a cappuccino. 

[Lori opposide the three tiered tea tray]

Hummus on a Crostini garnished with a roasted Red Pepper, and Salmon in a hard roll.

Cream Cheese and Chives on White Bread; Turkey on Tomato Bread; Smoked Salmon on Cracked Wheat Bread; and Egg Salad and Water Cress on White Bread.

~ Scones with jam and real clotted cream! ~

~ Two pastries - a raspberry filled, and a caramel filled by Belle Époque ~

Directly across from Dolly's [inside Selfridge's] was Mariage Frères.  I'm glad I got at least one photo before I was told it wasn't allowed due to copyright laws.  Seriously??

I purchased some Marco Polo loose-leaf tea, and took a photo of it after I returned to the hotel room! 

When we left Selfridge's, we returned to our hotel for the night.  

~ Photos of our room #106 ~   

No hotel room in England would be complete without a tea station!

End of day #1.  I'll break future posts up into sections so they won't be as long as this one.

*  *  *

Today I'm joining Antiques and Teacups for Tuesday Cuppa Tea
Bernideen's Tea Time Blog for Friends Sharing Tea
Rose Chintz Cottage for Tea Time Tuesday


  1. So wonderful to share your visit to London, as I haven't been able to go on our annual visit for 2 years. I remember when the Dolly tea room opened in the store...a bit of a scandal because of they'r part in Selfridge's downfall...Selfridge's store was going thru an outre' phase...but it's become an institution. I should have sent you an Oyster card I have around with 20 pounds on it...never thought! Looking forward to more adventures!

  2. Fantastic first day! You must have felt like you were in heaven!

  3. Tea at Selfridge's sounds like a marvelous way to spend your first afternoon in London! I look forward to reading about the rest of your adventures there.

  4. What a great start to your trip -- and I'm impressed you had it together enough to have tea on your very first day. I remember last year when we went, I was in a fog because of sleep deprivation! LOVE that you got Ruth to help you out with the tube mapping. That's excellent planning!

  5. As a viewer of the Mr. Selfridge series myself, your comments led me to Google for more information about him as well as the Dolly Sisters. Thank you for sharing this enjoyable and informative post.

  6. What a wonderful adventure, Phyllis! You and your daughter no doubt had a marvelous time in London. The food at the tea room looks absolutely delicious. I haven't seen Mr Selfridge but his story sounds fascinating. Now that Hubby and I are all caught up on Downton Abbey, we would like another British show to watch. Since I really enjoy watching stories based on true life, I know I would enjoy this series. We will be checking it out for sure. Thank you so much for sharing this with us and joining me for tea.


  7. I'm taking notes! My sisters and I are planning a trip to England to visit the place where we lived in Surrey in the late 60's, then on to Beatrix Potter's Hilltop Farm and Jane Austen's home . And, of course, a few days in London!

  8. You are so lucky to make it to Selfridge's. I too am a big fan of the series. We were staying right around the corner at a Marriott and walked down Oxford St not realizing it was there, and took photos of the huge clock tower. But I never saw the name on the building because it was London Fashion Week and their huge banners covered the entire front. So sadly I didn't know it. I would have loved to buy some Selfridge's Tea as a memento, as I did from other locations we went to.

  9. What great photos you took of your wonderful trip. My hubby and I have rewatched season 3 and felt sad about the outcome of so many characters. We finally made a list of those who made "good choices" in the end. The Dolly Twins are in that final episode when Harry goes to gamble. Your Afternoon Tea looks delightful there in that tea room.

  10. I also watch Mr. Selfridge so I really enjoyed seeing your afternoon tea at Dolly's.

    It was interesting to learn from one of the PBS specials that a Canadian family, the Westons, purchased Selfridges in the early 2000s!

    Looking forward to seeing more of your London tea adventures!

  11. Awesome review! Thank you for taking the time! Lori is adorable by the way! Yes....glad for role reversal...Miss Spenser will be my fearless leader this next week! I hate that they named the tearoom Dolly's! I have loved the series...knew the tragic ending, but Season 3 found me yelling at tv screen trying to save him from himself! I love his marketing brain....would love to have tea with him and chat marketing strategies! So glad you were able to go...what lasting memories!


Thank you for visiting my blog. If you would like to leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you!