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London, England
THE SAVOY
By Robert Adams

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The week before the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, my partner and I headed for London to visit friends and enjoy spring fever in one of our favorite cities. When we arrived, romance was definitely in the air. Everyone was experiencing a heightened sense of anticipation and excitement surrounding the upcoming nuptials of the future king of England and his beautiful princess. As luck would have it, we were staying in a storybook palace on the banks of the Thames called The Savoy (www.fairmont.com/savoy).

Originally opened in 1889, The Savoy has played host to royalty, world leaders, and stage and screen legends. During a tour of the property one day, we have the opportunity to peruse The Savoy Museum. The hotel's rich history has been preserved in one of the largest hotel archives in the world. These archives are now on display in the new museum space, which includes original guest cards, menus, photographs, and special objects. For us, highlights include a first edition of Harry Craddock's Savoy Cocktail Book, Noël Coward's lighter and cigarette case, and Marlene Dietrich's guest card showing her request that 12 pink roses and a bottle of Dom Pérignon be in her room when she arrived. Being huge Hollywood aficionados, we are in awe of the glamorous stars who have stayed and celebrated at The Savoy, including Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, and Marilyn Monroe.

Upon entering the hotel, we are greeted in the lobby, immediately taken upstairs to our suite, and introduced to our personal butler. Never having had a butler before, we are taken aback. What does he do? What should we request? Sensing our concerns, he answers our unspoken questions and makes us feel right at home. "If you like, I will unpack your clothes while you relax. Would you like me to bring some coffee now or after you rest from your long trip?" Everyone staying in a suite at The Savoy has access to a personal butler 24 hours a day. The Savoy is quite proud to provide their guests with this service. In fact, they have a Savoy Academy, which trains butlers to combine the discretion of a traditional English butler with the efficiency of a 21st-century personal assistant.

Relaxing over coffee and cookies in our living room, we look out the windows to the London Eye across the river, as well as Parliament and Big Ben in the distance. It is such a picture perfect view that I immediately post photos on our Facebook page for our friends to see. Their response: "What a view!" "Amazing!" "We're so jealous!"

After resting for a couple of hours, we head downstairs to the pool for a swim. A glass atrium allows in lots of light, providing a resort feeling to this urban oasis. Surrounding the pool area behind glass walls is a well-equipped gym with a plethora of cardiovascular workout machines, free weights, and men's and women's locker rooms with separate showers, steam room, and sauna.

Invigorated from our aquatic workout, we are ready for a night on the town. First stop, however, is the world-famous American Bar for a vodka martini. Here, black-and- white photos of Hollywood stars line the walls while guests from all over the world relax, listening to live piano music, sipping smart cocktails, and people watching. It is the perfect hotel bar for us, and we make it a point to stop by each evening for our first drink of the night.

Having lingered too long in the bar, we have to dash and get a cab to take us to the Palace Theatre where we see the smash-hit musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert (www.priscillathemusical.com). If you love musicals, 70s pop culture, outrageous costumes, and a gay story line that has you laughing and crying all the way to the Outback, this is the show for you. All around us in the theatre are gay men, lesbians, and their friends wearing pink boas and tossing back drinks in a liberating environment. We have seen the wonderful production of Priscilla on Broadway, but London is the place to see it with an audience that truly appreciates all the camp and camaraderie that this show provides.

One of the best things about The Savoy is its proximity to so many of London's great attractions. Every day, we walk to nearby Covent Garden, the West End, and Trafalgar Square, or we head across the river to the National Theatre (www.nationaltheatre.org.uk) and the Tate Modern (www.tate.org.uk), where we have a rare opportunity to view a retrospective exhibit of the renowned artist Miró. On display are 150 paintings, drawings, sculptures, and prints that span six decades of his extraordinary career.

We work up quite an appetite walking around the museum, so we decide to have dinner at The River Restaurant, which, as part of the stunning, recent renovation of The Savoy, has reopened and been redesigned as a beautiful, contemporary restaurant with Art Deco style interiors and sweeping views of the River Thames and Embankment Gardens. Chef de Cuisine Ryan Murphy, who has worked with some of the world's most respected chefs, including Alain Ducasse, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Daniel Boulud, oversees the restaurant. Our meal that night includes mouthwatering, pan-roasted, hazelnut-crusted scallops with wild rocket leaves, cherry vine tomatoes, and green peppercorn sauce, and a beef fillet with wilted spinach, beef cheek wonton, and an amazing Glenmorangie whisky sauce.

After dinner, we decide to prolong the inspiring and romantic mood of the day by calling our butler and requesting a bottle of Dom Pérignon be served in our suite. As we lift our glasses to toast each other, we notice the full moon in the night sky above the London Eye. Colored lights from buildings along the river illuminate the water and meld perfectly with the reflection of la luna piena.

We look at each other and smile, our eyes expressing what we want to say: "Here's to London, romance, and adventure!"

[Published: September, 2011]

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