London - a city synonymous with hustle and bustle, busy business, aggy commuters, and having an always on-the-go mechanism. You know those BBC Planet-style nature videos of ant colonies all teeming and swarming all over things? It can feel a bit like that sometimes. But with buses. And towering buildings. And clueless Uber drivers about to knock you over. And as much as I love this city for its eternally buzzing vibe, sometimes you need to escape it all. I'm from a rural part of Leicestershire after all, so sometimes I crave a bit of relaxation within the capital when I can't quite be bothered to make the trek back up to the midlands to see my family. Here's my top four escapes for a little peace and quiet.
If you think of Chelsea Football Club, you think of huge jeering crowds in a football stadium, correct? So it was a surprise to find that The Antara Spa was located within the confines of the Stamford Bridge grounds - tucked away quietly in the back of the Health Spa. But this example probably sums up London better than anything - you can often find the most quiet, relaxing and peaceful places hidden right next, inside, or on top of its most polar opposite place.
On a Virgin Experience Days we were treated to the Antara Spa's Signature Spa Day, combining two of the most relaxing things: a treatment with an afternoon tea. We were allowed full use of the facilities in the club along with having a DIY hammam treatment in the Moroccan-inspired treatment room.
The hammam took place in an exotic chamber I can only really describe as something you might see in a scene from Game of Thrones (not one where someone is killed, might I add. Think sexy castle belonging to Daenerys Targaryen, all big wooden doors, tiled floors, a heated marble bed in the middle, and dark, relaxing lighting). We put the special lotions on, relaxed in the steam rooms (complete with more GoT-style throne-like chairs), then came out to scrub the lotions off to exfoliate our skin, leaving feeling totally refreshed and rejuvenated.
So from standing by the football grounds of a major Premier League team, you're transported to the exotic realms of the middle east, with some scones and tonnes of teeny tiny sandwiches on top. These also make the perfect gift for sisters, mum's, your boyfriend's mother and your BFF's what with Christmas coming up...
Tucked away in the heart of Chiswick is Tamp, a coffee-cum-tapas bar with that artsy rustic wood and reclaimed pipe decor every equally artsy person loves. Without a shadow of a doubt, I've become a total coffee snob as of late, and will go hunting down artisan coffee shops in whatever area I'm in. Chiswick's high road is lined completely with trees (talk to anyone about this little pocket of West London and they'll likely say "ah! Leafy Chiswick!" I think the council should just incorporate that into its name) and this little shops is located on Devonshire Road, an offshoot of the high road with another handful of dainty village-like shops. Perfect for a touch of peace and quiet, some excellent snacks (try the frittata or mini chicken pasty) and the best coffee in that area.
You know I said I love coffee? Well it stands enough to share two of my favourite little coffee spaces. Despite being perched on the side of a busy London road, Kensington Coffee has the peaceful charm of a village cafe. Take a book, take a seat (by the window, or outdoors come Spring) and take a breather.
I have this thing where when I'm hungover I like to go to museums. I'm not sure if it's because I'm tired and need somewhere quiet to go coupled with the fact that I hate staying in bed all day, but staring at some strange old artefacts or paintings seems to feel twice as valuable when you know most people would be speed-dialling Dominos from under their duvets. Consider it a dose of culture to balance out the guilt of spending £40 on a round of two Cafe Patron shots in Bodo's last night. South Ken is usually the venue of choice for its great choice in museums but it's always the V&A that pulls me in each time. Stunning architecture, exciting exhibitions, and I swear I discover a new part every time I go. Try it on a weekday to avoid the crowds or just curl up your hangover with a book and a coffee and people watch.