I’m going to tell you a little story about my sense of direction. I hope my sense of direction forgives me for it.
In April of 2014, I made the very scary, very terrifying decision to move to London on my own. Surprising everyone but especially me, I lasted a year before I moved back home. (It was a very good decision. That was a stressful year, financially.) In that time, I admittedly did not get out of Belsize Park much, and at least I eventually learned which way Swiss Cottage lay from the intersection of England’s Lane, Primrose Hill Road and Eton Avenue. Considering that’s precisely where my regular Starbucks was, it took four walks too many.
I went back in early September to retrieve the luggage I left behind with a friend. I wrote down directions, and ran out of battery on my phone on the Stansted Express, which, as it turns out, has plugs in it. I only noticed this two minutes before reaching Liverpool Street Station.
The google maps directions for buses were weird, and I walked out of the tube station and went down the street, then west on the street, then thought, “The fuck is going on? I don’t recognize anything. Is that way the way I went when I had that modeling gig at a studio on Fleet Street? No. Blackfriars? A bridge? St Paul’s? Y’all, I’m so confused.”
I had some battery left on my phone, which was very dark, so I checked again under the inning of an Itsu.
This was not the way to the bus stop.
I walked back to the station, and up the street beside it. There were letter signs on the station doors to that side, but what could they possibly be? People were waiting outside them, but there were no poles with bus signs on them, and it dead ended. But there were buses at the end of it, and — could one possibly be the number I was looking for? Where would it stop to pick up people?
Then I looked to the side and realized the letter signs on the station doors were bus stops.
I made it to my next bus stop and saw Canada House. Unlike Liverpool Street Station, I’ve been to Trafalgar Square a few times. I know the area between it and Charing Cross Road well enough to not have to pull out a map while dragging other people places with me. This meant absolutely nothing to me this time, when I had to ask tourists with a map if Orange Street was on it (it wasn’t), and then found a Caffè Nero — my phone was completely dead by now — to pull out my laptop and check google maps on that.
Guess what? If you see the National Gallery, which you cannot miss, and walk to the left side of it until you hit a street, that is Whitcomb Street, which goes up to Orange Street. You can see the Thistle sign even if you’re nearsighted and wearing a t-shirt in 10-degree weather because you’re coming from Spain and you couldn’t be bothered to carry a hoodie somewhere outside your suitcase. The Canadian embassy with all its maple leaf flags is right in front. You can’t miss it.
Unless, of course, you’re me.
Thistle Trafalgar Square
You know those scenes in movies where you get to your hotel room and you smile widely and you jump on the bed and go “wheeeeeeeeeee”?
I’m not saying that’s exactly what happened here, but that is exactly what happened here.
I walked up to the reception desk and, after some mild confusion over whether I really needed to hand them my debit card if I wasn’t paying for the room myself (bless their newbie hearts), I made it to the elevators. My feet were killing me. The corridor was interesting, and I had to walk up and down two sets of two steps each to reach my room — a junior suite.
I recommend not really looking at all the rooms when you get a press stay. I had no idea what I was going to find, really, other than that it would be clean and pretty and I’d have it all to myself. Evidently these needs were met, because I walked in, took off my shoes, walked the length of the rather wide hallway and proclaimed: “I WANT TO STAY HERE FOREVER.”
Then I called reception because I couldn’t work out why the lights weren’t on. Turns out you had to put your card in a socket by the door. Annemari later worked this out at the Vincci Bit in Barcelona long before I did.
Look, I’m not used to these things.
I proceeded to nap until it was dark outside. I was exhausted. Then I went searching for dinner. Dinner isn’t noteworthy; in fact, I thought I’d be fine without my phone and laptop and I was bored to death. But the Caffè Nero I went to was across Trafalgar Square, and.
I want to tell you about this, even though it’s hard to describe. I love London. I’ve loved it for a long time, and Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross Road are at the center of that love. The National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery and the roundabout, the bookshops and the theaters and the way the crowds are just a little less stifling than on Oxford Street or Covent Garden.
But I’d never been to Trafalgar Square at night.
The fountains are lit up, and the people have dispersed, and for the first time in a really long time — my year in London was awfully stressful, if you’ll recall — I truly fell in love with the city again. It was familiar but it was a little new, and calm; the weather was cool but I was hugging a cardigan around my stomach; I wasn’t carrying a camera of any sort with me, and I was alone.
It was wonderful.
Then I walked the two minutes back to my hotel, and I thought, not for the first time this year, how lovely it would be to stay for a good long while, right in that spot.
My Favourite Things
- Hands down, my absolute #1 favorite was the armchairs. There were two and a matching sofa, and I was tempted to ask where they got them so I could get one of my own. They are my dream armchairs, you guys. Armchairs like that are half the reason I’m a Starbucks person. I wish I’d got more use out of them, but the couple of hours I spent on the sofa on my laptop the next morning were wonderful.
- There wasn’t only a shower, but also a bathtub. The shower was awesome even though I got water everywhere because the door was weird.
- There wasn’t only a hair dryer (which was “used by professionals,” which I imagine is code for “you’re going to need really long arms” — but it was good! TRESemmé!), but also an ironing board and an iron. Also, on top of towels, they also had two fluffy bathrobes and disposable slippers. The slippers came in really handy because they covered my entire foot without touching the bloody wounds on the back of my heel. I wore them the entire time I was in London.
- The room had a bed the size of a mammoth. You could fit four people in that thing. (I imagine they’ll make you pay extra for two of them, though.)
- The wifi was amazing and free.
- The kettle and tea and coffee supplies were on a tray drawer inside the chest under the TV. It was adorable. There was a lot of coffee and even a Cadbury hot chocolate thing, which I grabbed for my friend Annemari.
- Did I mention I walked down to Trafalgar Square at night and fell in love with London again? As much as I enjoyed Euston in April, and as much as my search for hotels with Annemari focused largely on Victoria, this — fuck, y’all, this is a dream location. If only I could live in there.
- iPod docking speakers! IPOD DOCKING SPEAKERS! Which my iPod was too old for! Holy hell, my iPod is really old.
- It was weirdly cold even when I pumped up the thermostat. I’m weird about temperature, but I checked all the windows — two walls were practically all windows — and they seemed to be all closed. (I didn’t try to open them, but if you could, roof shoot potential! I don’t know why I always notice accessible roofs. It’s a thing.)
- The bed, while massive, felt a little stiff. I had a good night’s sleep, but I felt strangely cornered and not warm enough, though that could have to do with my Duvet Issues™.
- See breakfast.
- No, really, this place was awesome. If anything I wish it were less expensive so I could afford it, but that’s London for you.
Breakfast was served between very early in the morning and 11 AM. Roughly. I went down fairly late, as is my wont, and grabbed my seat. I was offered tea or coffee, and told the staff I’d just get it myself.
This was a bad choice, because, see, I didn’t realize there was a mug on my table, and I went around the column behind it to grab my things. There weren’t any mugs there, so I tried to fill up a juice glass with latte from a machine. The latte spilled all over the plate I then put the glass on. Then I noticed the mug.
I left the glass on a table, grabbed my mug and pretended I was not a mess of a person, all while knowing it was obvious I was.
The breakfast buffet was a lovely combination of pastries — croissants, pains au chocolat, butter, and more — and cereal and fruit — so much fruit! Watermelon and possibly pineapple and look, it was delicious, don’t make me identify fruit — and … salmon for some reason, and toast of course, and yogurt and whatever it is people who eat savory meats for breakfast eat. Beans, probably. Gross.
As usual when I’m abroad and food is complimentary, my stomach cooperated for once, and I downed quite a nice fruit salad. I was in it for the coffee anyway, and took a croissant and a pain au chocolat up to my room. The pain au chocolat was nice! You’ll have to ask Annemari about the croissant.
The restaurant was nice and spacious, but I wasn’t a huge fan, especially with the amazing lobby right next to it — where I waited for about two hours after checkout for Annemari. (She was coming from Liverpool Street Station and our next stop was Earl’s Court; it made geographical sense. She picked me up in a big hug at the door to the Thistle hotel, and suddenly life was okay.) The chairs were too close to the tables, it was rather cold in more ways than the literal one, and it wasn’t quite as clean as it could have been.
But the food was very nice, and the coffee cemented my need for a coffee machine, which I’m — fingers crossed — buying for my birthday. So there’s that!
All in all, I had a really nice experience and I wish I were rich. I recommend this place wholeheartedly.
WHERE TO FIND IT + BOOK
Rooms start at £169. I don’t say this lightly — that is a damn fair price for the awesomeness of this hotel, and the location you’re getting.
Thistle Trafalgar Square
The Royal Trafalgar
Whitcomb Street, Trafalgar Square
London WC2H 7HG
Breakfast is free if you book directly through their site.