Kaye rediscovers her Christmas spirit in Knightsbridge
Chances are there are two types of people reading this article. There are those who start their Christmas shopping in the second week of August and can’t wait for the festive season to arrive. And then there are those – like me – who cringe every time Christmas comes around. Yes, yes I know I sound like Scrooge but I am being honest here: as someone who likes to be active, the idea of spending several days slumped in front of the box with warring relatives while eating yet another nut roast (I’m a veggie) has never held any appeal.
This year though, I was determined to feel festive. Subsequently since 1 December I’ve been buying Starbucks’ Gingerbread Lattes, tuning into the non stop Christmas songs on Heart FM and vowing not to leave Christmas shopping on Oxford Street until the last minute. Alas it’s been to no avail: half way through December , I still wasn’t feeling remotely festive.
Clearly if I wanted to get a real injection of Christmas spirit, I needed to approach December in a different way and look to the London borough of Knightsbridge. Knightsbridge is fabulous all year round but there’s something undeniably special about the area in the run up to Christmas. No other part of London does festive with such panache thanks to attractions such as Harrods’ annual show stopping Christmas window display (this year the exclusive store has created a magical Harrods Express) – making Knightsbridge a good place to disappear for a long weekend.
Deciding where to stay in this charming corner of the capital presents something of a challenge: Knightsbridge is not short of sumptuous five star hotels, including The Berkeley and the Mandarin Oriental, where you can lay your head. It’s a bit of a Bradley Cooper/George Clooney scenario – whichever property you check into, you’re not going to be disappointed.
But if, like me, you prefer boutique hotels to big, flashy properties, look no further than the Jumeriah Lowndes. Nobody can deny that when it comes to luxury, the Jumeriah groupknows how to put on a show and they have been doing it for nearly two decades in the Far and Middle East.
Yet while many of Jumeirah’s outposts are good at showing off – here’s looking at your the Burj Al Arab - the Jumeriah Lowndes is an exercise in measured elegance. Set in a serene, leafy square, the ambience at this 87 room property – which only opened its doors in 2006 - is suspended somewhere between a very impressive private home and a chic guesthouse. It’s pretty without being cutesy, elegant without being intimidating and compared to its cousin across the road – the Jumeriah Carlton – is smaller, quieter and the perfect place to chill out in between bouts of Christmas shopping.
Indeed the property is out to leave a comforting impression on its guests from the impeccable bedrooms – decorated in calming beige and brown tones- with their divine beds, to the bathrooms. While my companion had a power nap, I cocooned myself here in a fluffy white bathrobe (the kind you want to snuggle up in) making the most of the forceful shower and luxurious toiletries – you’ll feel a strong urge to stuff a few bottles of body lotion into your bag upon departure!
I also appreciated the fact that bottled water, tea and coffee (all rooms are equipped with Nespresso coffee machines) are complimentary – pleasingly different to The Dorchester and other luxury London hotels who insist on charging guests eye watering prices. There are also posher to pay for items – think caramelised and candied nuts – in the mini bar.
Speaking of food and drink, the hotel is home to the Lowndes Bar & Kitchen - the kind of restaurant you wished you lived around the corner from. I’m not normally one for sticking to the safe parameters of a hotel restaurant but the Lowndes Bar & Kitchen is small, friendly and serves modern British food – nothing too fancy – that had me fast slipping into a food coma. And happily – given the upscale post code – you don’t have to spend a small fortune to eat well here.
It’s all so pretty and relaxing that I was tempted not to leave the Jumeriah Lowndes for the entire weekend. However the best of Knightsbridge is only moments away so it’s worth venturing out to explore the designer shopping (don’t miss the aforementioned world famous Harrods and Harvey Nics), top notch dining and chic bars – straight from the pages of a glossy magazine.
For your in the heart of monied London here, so expect to see men and women glued to their cell phones as they stride along the street, slinky supermodels, sports stars (Knightsbridge restaurant, Zuma, is where Boris Becker had his infamous ‘broom cupboard' encounter and from where celebs such as Cheryl Cole like to spill into the paparazzi’s glare), Russian oligarchs, Middle Eastern sheikhs, wags and wannabes.
Knightsbridge can easily be negotiated on foot – as can neighbouring South Kensington. There are many museums to explore in South Ken (as it is affectionately known) including the V&A and the stunning Natural History Museum which, for the ninth year running, is home to an al fresco ice rink.
It’s really rather magical gliding (to celebrate Christmas, the Jumeriah Lowndes Hotel has partnered with the festive ice rink to run a‘Stay and Skate experience’) around a giant Christmas tree in the open air, against a backdrop of one of the world’s most iconic buildings.
After playing at being Torvill and Dean, we warmed up over mulled wine and music in the onsite cafe bar. Strolling back post skating, via the twinkling lights and unique Christmas window displays of Knightsbridge, to the lovely Lowndes hotel it was – I realised – finally beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
For me the festive season has aways been a stressful time but my night in Knightsbridge showed me that it can also be a pure delight. Sure the Jumeriah Lowndes Stay and Skate package isn’t cheap but it is unforgettable – and guaranteed to warm the heart of any Christmas Grinch.