Mar '02 Issue

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Tea at Harrods

By Diana Rosen


Harrods Ltd
87-135 Brompton Road
Knightsbridge London SW1X 7XL
Phone: 020 7730 1234
Fax: 020 7581 0470
www.harrods.com

The pleasures of tea have long been a given to me, however my favorite beverage gained lifesaving status on a drizzling gray afternoon during my very first trip to England.

With guidebook in hand, and the enthusiasm and innocence of a first time traveler, I set out from my little hotel room into the thrill of the past known as London. I noted with delight the small bright navy blue and white signs noting that this house was where Charles Dickens wrote or that building once was home to Oscar Wilde. I enjoyed viewing the personal effects of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and walked aimlessly yet happily through the green of parks and pleasure gardens and up and down many of this city's fabled streets. I got wonderfully lost marveling at the crown jewels in the Tower of London and being enchanted by the paintings at the Tate Gallery and stepping gingerly down the cobbled stone walk of Jermyn Street, home to perfumers and shirt makers who've been there for centuries.

The English never say "over there" or "down that street" when asked directions; no, they lead you until they feel comfortable that you're really on the right path. With their help, I bused, and walked, and taxied, and even took my first ever underground (subway) ride, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. without stopping, covering at least six "must see" London sights.

Totally exhausted, I found myself serendipitously in front of the multistoried emporium known as Harrods, where shoppers can find services and products from "crib to coffin," although the founder's motto, "everything for everybody everywhere" is a tad more elegantly said. One can dine in any of its 22 restaurants or take out from their majestic food halls with its game and poultry hanging from the ceiling, and row after row of counters chock full of the most wonderful cheeses, fruits, vegetables, and more. More than 4,000 employees serve visitors and locals alike who can order tickets to the theatre or sporting events, plan weddings or funerals, arrange travel to the Cotswolds or cruises up the Nile, or buy furniture, jewelry, clothing or anything and everything for the home, the office, the car, or the most difficult person to please.

I took the lift to Harrods' beauty salon and pleaded my case for a footbath and massage. I had no appointment, could not come back the next day, and desperately needed a soothing bath for my sore feet, and could they please, please, please slot me in somehow?

The receptionist, all peaches and cream complexion and elegant blond chignon perfectly wrapped in the back of her head, tsked tsked, and said with a faint shrug of apology that the salon was totally booked. She must have sensed my tears of fatigue about to burst forth because she assured me that, if I didn't mind being tucked away from the main salon, that, yes, she could make arrangements.

"Yes!" I practically screamed, grateful for the possibility of a rest from my, until then, tireless sightseeing passion.

Directing me to a little alcove off the main salon area, she seated me in a comfy, heavily upholstered chair, and left for but a minute, bringing back a stack of current British fashion and beauty magazines that she piled precariously upon the ottoman to my left.

As if on cue, a sweet young girl brought a confection of warm water in which I could soak my tourist tootsies. She kneaded my calves and feet with strong yet soothing hands for what seemed a heavenly long time, then left me to enjoy the comforting tub of therapeutic bubbles.

"Would there be anything else?" the receptionist asked.

Daring to extend this pleasure to the ultimate, I asked, "Could I perhaps have a cup of tea?"

"Of course," she replied, and before I could get through the first glossy magazine, I had a small table set up to my right with a perfect, perfect, white round porcelain pot of exquisite Darjeeling, smelling of apricots, with an equally beautiful golden orange color. It was hot, and flavorful, and its aroma ambrosial.

Beside the cup and saucer was a plate of complementary scones with all the accompanying condiments one could imagine: butter and jam and sugar and milk and all those wonderful little tongs and spoons and knives to elegantly spread and stir.

I sipped, and savored.

I ate, and enjoyed.

I read and relaxed.

I released the tension of cramming perhaps a few too many sights in one day, though each is still a vivid and wonderful travel highlight.

Although I've had many a pampering ever since, and traveled often, and more wisely, since that day, that little hideaway time remains among my favorite experiences.

No delectables have ever tasted so good.

No chair has held me so comfortably.

No tea ever was so brewed to peak flavor. And, certainly, no one I've ever met has created such a memory as My Tea At Harrods.

While I can not assure you of the exact pleasures, you are sure to find much to enjoy at Harrods/Knightbridge when next you visit London.