My husband and I were married two years ago today on a brilliantly sunny and warm Chicago day…and three months later, we moved to London.  That summer was a transition-and-a-half with all its life changes, but now that we’ve weathered the worst of the relocation storm, we look back on our first two years of marriage here in London as an extended honeymoon.

Last year, we made our own pilgrimage to Canterbury, England (yes, as in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales) to celebrate our one-year.  This year, the weekend didn’t work so well for heading out of town, so we counted our earlier Devon/Cotswolds weekend as our main celebration.  Yesterday, however, we decided to compensate for having a Monday workday anniversary by stepping out for Sunday tea at Claridge’s right here in London.  A 5-star hotel in London’s posh Mayfair area, Claridge’s offers a decadent and essentially all-you-can eat Afternoon Tea within its opulent setting—we opted for the champagne tea so we could sip this golden, effervescent beverage as its bubbles tickled our noses before indulging in the assortment of finger sandwiches (salmon, cucumber, egg, turkey, and ham), scones (with clotted cream and jam), and rich sample of desserts.  Lest I forget the tea…Claridge’s offers over 30 varieties of teas from around the world, including its own special blend, which they will send home with you in a little black tin as a memento of your exquisite experience there.

I found this means of celebrating to be especially meaningful, as the hotel’s atmosphere was so reminiscent of the Drake Hotel in Chicago, the location of our bridal suite as well as afternoon luncheon to tide our wedding guests over between our morning ceremony and evening reception.  The Drake likewise hosts elegant tea parties, set to live instrumental music just as you’ll find at Claridge’s.

From there, we decided to hotel-hop as long as we were all dolled up, so we made our way to the nearby Dorchester, another 5-star hotel that offers an afternoon tea and assortment of restaurants and bars.  A bit overly caffeinated for a Sunday night, we decided to counteract that stimulant with a couple smooth cocktails shaken, not stirred, in The Bar at the Dorchester.  The Bar offers a low-lit ambiance and classic range of martinis of a calibre not encountered enough—sorry, chicks, you won’t find any Appletinis or Flirtinis here (thank God).  Instead, you’ll drink like 007 does (try the Vesper or Gold Finger if you don’t believe me).  It had been a while since I’d had a martini, and, man, was this the place to be reunited with it—they are utterly silky thanks to The Dorchester’s masters of alchemy.

As we sat at our barstools, we asked ourselves, “Why don’t we do this more often?”  That’s why I’m sharing the experience with you now—if ever you’re looking for an alternative to the pubs and an excuse to get dressed up, make a day and/or night of it in Mayfair’s hotels.  You don’t have to have a room there to still enjoy their elegance and quality fare.

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