Pre-Covid we went on a wonderful Disney cruise that left from Dover, England and visited Northern Scotland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, and ended in Copenhagen where we spent 4 wonderful days. Because the children had never been to London, we flew in a day early to explore. The Wandering Kellers are known for squeezing as much into holiday as we can, so we were excited to roam and explore from the minute we arrived. The only plans we had were a cruise on the Thames and to see the Tower of London. This is in contrast to our typical, over-planned trips since we decided to play the rest of it by ear.
The flight in was magical as we all were lucky enough to be able to fly business class in lay flat seats so we ewre all to get enough rest on the flight over to make the most of the 24 hours we had. We landed at Heathrow at 6am and grabbed our bags and a van to take us to our place for the night “The Ritz London”. When we say this is a luxury hotel it is no hyperbole. We have never stayed at such a distinguished well-run place in my life. The majestic views, rooms, and setting are beyond compare. Do not confuse this with the Ritz-Carlton. This is “The Ritz”.
The Ritz was opened by the famous hotelier, César Ritz, in 1906. It was immediately considered one of the greatest hotels in the world and no expense was spared on its construction and lavish furnishings. It has seen many famous guests over the years with King Edward VII, Anna Pavlova, the Russian Prima Ballerina, Paul Getty, Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, and Charles de Gaulle among the many. The movie “Notting Hill,” starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, featured several scenes shot at The Ritz and the final episode of Downton Abbey was filmed in The Ritz Restaurant
In 2002, The Ritz received a Royal Warrant for Banqueting and Catering Services. The Ritz London is the first, and only, hotel to have been honored with this prestigious award. In 2016, The Ritz Restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in the Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland 2017 and has continued to maintain its Michelin Star.
We were greeted at our cab by the bellman in full regalia. We were whisked inside where the sheer beauty and opulence of the place took my breath away.
After dropping off our bags, we left to speed walk down to Buckingham palace since it was time for the changing of the Guard. We made it just in time and got a great viewing spot.
Changing the Guard is a formal ceremony in which the group of soldiers currently protecting Buckingham Palace are replaced by a new group of soldiers. The ceremony is free to watch and takes place outside Buckingham Palace on certain days around 10.45am and lasts around 45 minutes, with the actual handover taking place at 11am. Changing the Guard doesn’t take place every day – it is usually every other day – but is subject to change. Before your visit, make sure to check the ceremony schedule on the Household Division’s website.
Viewing areas near Buckingham Palace gates and the steps of the Victoria Memorial just opposite are two of the best spots to watch.
Then it was off to roam the streets and find somewhere to catch a small bite to eat. We happened onto a cool wine shop called Vagabond which sold small snacks. There just happened to be a donut shop behind it so everyone was happy to rest our feet on a beautiful London morning.
After some food and a glass of wine, we roamed to a local English pub to kill a little time until our boat ride. In America, kids can’t approach the bar in many areas, but here they were happy to ask the barkeep for a soda. They did, however, learn that the video machine in the corner was not a child’s game, but for gambling, and were kindly asked to not play it. (You should have seen their faces when the bar keep kindly chastised them)
After filling up a bit, we headed over to grab a boat ride down the Thames to the Tower of London. There are many companies that supply different boat tours so explore the itinerary that will work best for you. They do a great job of explaining all the sites on the way down including the London Eye, the cellphone building, and bridges, complete with a few jokes.
We then disembarked at the Tower of London where we took a tour with a Yeoman Warder (Beefeater) who happened to be the raven master. The tour has humor, a number of interesting facts, and the Beefeaters are spectacular. We had done this tour 20 years prior and was reminded of why this is a must while in London.
The Tower of London has multiple types of tickets for individuals and families. An adult admission ticket is around 30 pounds and includes the Beefeater tour when they are running.
After that, it was to the Tube for a ride back to The Ritz to relax and get ready for our dinner at The Ritz Restaurant that night.
Every Friday and Saturday evening, The Ritz Restaurant, brings you dinner and dancing with “Live at The Ritz.” The Ritz Restaurant is one of the few venues in the city to offer a classic combination of fine dining and live entertainment.
“Live at The Ritz” is a set, four-course dinner menu with live entertainment and dancing. It is a little bit pricey (currently 140 pounds per person), but honestly the whole experience is a 3 plus hour long experience of food, professional dancing, and luxury that is well worth the price of admission. The servers were amazingly attentive and so accommodating as our youngest doesn’t like chocolates (I know, not sure how that happens) so they brought him a special strawberry surprise for desert.
As it got late, the kids went to the room to get some rest and the adults joined them not too much later. All in all, a fabulous day.
After some much needed sleep, we drug ourselves out of bed to get packed and ready for our transport to Dover which was arranged by The Ritz for us. The London Marathon was running past the hotel making our pickup challenging but as would be expected for a hotel with numerous celebrity guests, the hotel had a way to get us under the street and to an off alley where we could be whisked away with no traffic or detour. The Bellman also assisted us with our bags through the twists turns and stairs to make sure we made our transport without much fuss.
Overall, a great 24 hours in London. We would recommend that for any family visiting this city to make sure you make time to take in the city for a bit, ride down the Thames and tour the Tower of London. Where you stay is entirely up to you, and there are surely cheaper places, but if you want to feel like a Lord or Lady for the day, The Ritz London is where it’s at.
Would we do this again?
Most definitely. We had the most amazing day it made the cost of the hotel, dinner, and the business class seats worth every penny. The boys had a chance to see a number of sites that they still remember to this day, and mom and dad could remember when we did a Contiki tour at 22. Mom got to dance to a live band with her boys and we all enjoyed extraordinary cuisine. We did not stay at The Ritz on our post college adventure but many memories of good times came rushing back along with the creation of some great new family memories. All in all, it was also a great way to get the vacation started and another Wanderingkellers adventure.