|Deborah Bush, Founder of Avenue Two Travel, with Chairman and CEO Craig Bush, outside of the Goring.|
An exclusive group of luxury travel advisors were invited to one of London’s top hotels for a most remarkable celebration. Here, Deborah Bush of Avenue Two Travel recounts the dazzling weekend in Belgravia:
The heavy cardstock invitation arrived in February, asking us to lunch in London. How exciting it was to think of dropping everything, escaping our awful winter and popping over across the pond for a quick visit. It was more exciting when we learned that the luncheon would be very small (about 70 guests) and that a member of the Royal family would be the guest of honor.
We were part of a group of about 20 travel advisors from the U.S., invited to an exclusive reopening event at the incomparable Goring Hotel, celebrating the completion of its refurbishment and in commemoration of the hotel’s 105th anniversary.
The invitation was, of course, from Jeremy Goring and David Morgan-Hewitt. Both gentlemen were on hand to greet us early Saturday morning in the stunning new lobby. The lobby, designed by Russell Sage, is a fitting centerpiece for the major changes that have occurred over the last few years. New concealed lighting draws your attention to the rich detail of the barrel-vaulted ceiling, the moldings and cornices. The historic woodwork frames the lush, hand-painted wallpaper that fills the front hall in shades of pewter, silver and gray with landscapes of forest green. “Big John” Andrews, the head concierge, shared his knowledge and his great sense of humor on a tour of the notables to be found in the context of the wallpaper. While the wallpaper is sophisticated and subtle in color, it is full of attention to detail and a strong sense of the whimsical — both hallmarks of The Goring.
Morgan-Hewitt had arranged an extraordinary day on Sunday for us all — a private visit to the Royal Mews, just steps from the hotel — with special insider access. The evening continued our royal treatment at a black-tie dinner served in the Officers Mess at the Hyde Park Barracks. This is the home of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. The Goring’s Michelin-pedigree Executive Chef Shay Cooper prepared a marvelous meal with superb wines as we dined in a high-ceilinged room filled with military portraits.
Monday arrived and the main celebration began. Dom Perignon flowed as we awaited the guest of honor. Outside, a military band played and crowds began to line the sidewalk to catch a glimpse of Her Royal Highness, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, arriving at The Goring. The Duchess, of course, had stayed at The Goring the night before her wedding to Prince William.
She paused for a few minutes to “complete” the wallpaper, painting the final strokes — adding to the mane of the Unicorn of the Coat of Arms. Those of us from the U.S. were greeted privately and we were honored to be able to speak with her individually. She was gracious, natural and more stunning in person than what we see in photos. Moving into the dining room, we were seated just a few feet away as Jeremy and David welcomed us all. The tables were beautifully set with subtle flower arrangements and commemorative china and linen. The chef and his staff produced a tour de force luncheon with memorable wines. After Her Royal Highness left the room, there were cheers all around for our hosts, the chef and the impeccable staff.
We returned to our rooms to find our commemorative plates packed and ready to go home with us. Throughout the entire weekend, the level of personal service was beyond compare. As we left, everyone asked when we would be back. The answer was: as quickly as we can!