When I lived in London, a few years ago, I first called home the unassuming borough of Hayes in Zone 5 (technically Kent, not actually London). Every single weekday, I would make the hectic commute from my sleepy street into the heartbeat of the city, by an overground train bound for London Bridge. I would step off the train, pause momentarily and gaze up at The Shard - Western Europe’s tallest building - towering three hundred metres above me, in awe. Then, I would throw myself back into the thick of rush hour madness.
In 2014, I specifically remember hearing that Asia Pacific’s leading luxury hotel group Shangri-La had opened inside the building. It was something about the idea of floor to ceiling glass, so very high up that caught my attention. I vividly imagined the views from up there in the clouds, back to earth... the meandering bends of the River Thames; of seeing Tower Bridge from birds eye; of the tiny humans who might stand still and look up in wonder, like I did everyday.
Ever since, staying with Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard London, has been high up and steadfast on my ‘one day’ hotel bucket list.
Sometimes the world works in beautifully mysterious ways, and fast forward on a few years, this past September I found myself back in London and for us to be welcomed by Shangri-La as guests on our final night in London. Needless to say, our night beautifully surpassed every hope and expectation.
We happened to stumble on what we later realised is considered to be one of the most picture-perfect towns in all of storybook England - Castle Combe. It was a weekday afternoon in between rain showers, and the streets were deserted, luckily for us...
As the tube catapulted into the heartbeat of London, my heartbeat quickened in pace, too. Everything about this city feels vivid. We (read: mostly Charles) hauled our many trade-show laden suitcases up the staircases from Southwark underground station, and we reached the street level above, breathless and alive. London was just as I remembered it - recent, almost freeze-framed in time… just so beautifully familiar. I was never quite able to call London my home, but regardless of visa laws, in some small way, it always, perhaps defiantly, will feel like returning home by heart.
The first time, I was twenty one, on a ‘round the world ticket, solo. The world was new and unknown and I craved to get lost in 'postcard' New York. I ticked off the clichéd must-do’s - soaring up the Empire State, a cream cheese bagel outside Tiffany & Co on Fifth Avenue, and pretending I was Carrie, wandering the backstreets of Greenwich Village. Five years on - my second visit - I flew in from London, palpably vulnerable. Raw with heartbreak from a failed relationship, for that visit, New York felt... nourishing. I wandered the city with a best friend from home, and we spent those days together sprawled out on the grass in Central Park, hopping between thrice daily breakfasts and generally eating and drinking our way through the surface area of the city. New York brought back a sparkle - it was like the city reconstituted me.
Fast forward another two years, and this visit had greater purpose - New York wasn’t to widen my eyes or to enable healing - this visit one was all in the business of dream chasing. My love, Charles, had been offered a place in the prestigious Accent on Design section of NYNow trade fair. I wanted to be by his side, and scope the show for the ‘one day’ when I might be ready to tackle it, myself.