Putting On The Ritz
So I took some time off to celebrate my birthday and decided to do that at the Ritz London.
You may be wondering why I’m blogging on that, but since we talk about making a little side money (or full income) here, I thought it seemed relevant to also speak about spending it once you got some of it. Hence my new-ish Lifestyle category, wherein I can take a break from watching webinars hosted by third rate used car salesmen, and wax lyrical on how I like to blow my hard-earned, and live life a little.
And that’s not going to be half as interesting if I blog on dining at McDonalds. Even if you’re not in the UK, I’m assuming you’ll be aware of some of the places as I speak about.
I also thought that since I give my $0.02 on programs and the hucksters that spawn them, that it might reassure dear reader (assuming not all my page hits are bots and I’m speaking to myself) to know that I’m not entirely a broke bum, living in my parent’s basement, spouting bile out of jealousy for the rented Lambos those scammers sit on.
So here we are – what I did for my birthday.
London has to be one of my favourite cities. As Samuel Johnson said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” It’s the capital city in the UK and whatever you’re looking for, London’s got it.
However, it ain’t a cheap city. Maybe once upon a time I’d have been happy backpacking around, living in hostels and delighted just to have my picture taken in front of some the landmark architecture and venues, these days I don’t want to stand outside with my nose pressed up against the glass.
I know many will disagree, but I think you’ve got to spend a little to really enjoy what London has to offer. And if there’s one thing London’s good at, it’s burning through your money.
But damn, I still look forward to going back!
And on this occasion I’d thought I’d try the world famous Ritz Hotel in Piccadilly. I’ve dined there before, but never stayed, and I thought I’d address that as I’m getting a little older. Time to tick this one off the bucket list and all that.
I’d also kinda avoided staying as I thought the place a little “worn” in comparison to newer hotels and those that have been refurbished in recently years. I wasn’t sure if it was worth the money basically. But my birthday falls at the end of February, luckily in off-season when the prices aren’t quite so eye-watering, so I decided to take the plunge and have four nights there.
When I do things like that, I like to try and do it right, so I used a chauffeur company that started following me on Instagram, to pick me up from Heathrow, and collect me from the hotel and take me back too. I see little point in spending to be somewhere like the Ritz and then pissing about with shuttle trains and taxis to get me to the venue. And all the aggravation of hauling my luggage about.
Plus I’d a lady companion too, and I wasn’t subjecting her to that as well.
So I used one of the many chauffeur companies London has to offer and got us a ride in Merceded S-class long wheel base motor. Lovely cream interior and plenty of leg room.
With the advertised discount that was about £180 return. The hotel has a car, a Rolls Royce, but it’s about £300 a journey, and that was a stage too far for me and not worth it.
Horses for courses and all that. That would’ve been too much both in terms of price and necessity. I felt just right with what I did order and was happy with it. I appreciate there’s some who’d never feel it, but I’m not going to bullshit anyone, that’s not me. I still have a budget.
It was a good service too, met at arrivals, the driver took our luggage, and it was beautiful black car with cream interior. When I have the choice, I always request the white/cream, as I reckon it just looks so much nicer.
The journey takes 45-60mins into London, so I also feel like I get my money’s worth. When you get into central London there’s always the opportunity to do some impromptu sight-seeing from the car, as there’s always some landmark or historical building you go past. For instance Buckingham Palace on our journey.
I should say too, that I was suited and booted. I know that’s not to everyone’s taste but I like my wardrobe, and London is the place to wear your best and not look eccentric or out of place, plus there is a dress code at the Ritz, and I didn’t want to look like one of those assholes on Tripadvisor who give the hotel a one star review because they couldn’t get in wearing flip flops and cargo shorts.
For me, it was part of the fun and enjoyment of the break. I get that’s not fun for everyone, but as I say, it was the Ritz and they got house rules for how you’re supposed to dress, so no point railing against it, just go with the flow and take it as part of the experience.
Because everyone else is dressed-up in the joint.
Including the staff. I mean, this is how they dress to serve breakfast:
More tea, Sir?
So you get the picture.
Now that doesn’t mean you have to go Brideshead Revisited, just put a jacket and tie on to be in the hotel’s public areas. Breakfast is more relaxed, you don’t need to put a tie on for that!
The Ritz doesn’t have a driveway like the Savoy does, its entrance is to street, but it has its own areas for drop-off and pick-up, so there was no problem with pulling right up to the door, and getting greeted by the doorman.
The doorman saw to all the luggage and we just went in and signed-in. As I’d never stayed in the hotel before, I took the desk guy up on his offer of showing us around (plus I knew my friend would like that too).
It was a nice little tour too, and I like stuff like that: make sure I don’t miss anything and get my money’s worth.
Then up to the room, which was a Superior King, and big enough for the two of us. Now, I did think of going a level or two higher, but to be honest again, that would’ve cut down on the number of nights I could stay, so I choose to compromise, and didn’t feel I lost out.
Again, I know there’s those that price isn’t a consideration for (and if you believe Reddit, all those dudes are to be found on that site), but I’m not one of those of guys.
My socks enhance the picture
Ritz Palm Court Tea
I like to enjoy the hotel so we booked the classic Ritz Tea for our first night, and it was quite the experience. Some like to moan on Tripadvisor that the hotel is a theme park for its Palm Court tea service, that there’s too many tourists etc… but GTF. It’s enjoyable, it’s part of the gig, and they do it well. We couldn’t go to the hotel and not do it. In fact we were lucky to get in on it as it’s booked up months in advance usually.
Not saying that having done it once I’d want to do it again, but I bloody well enjoyed it when I did! Honest to Christ, enjoy life a little… Hey, let’s go to Disneyland and then not go on any of the rides!
Not ostentatious in the least
It was filling too. I hadn’t eaten since the morning, and I expected this to just be a light snack of sandwiches and cakes, but they kept coming with sandwiches and cake, and fresh tea, and it was genuinely a meal in itself. I can’t say, I felt short-changed in that regard, and then had to go out and get a burger round the corner.
After that we took advantage of being guests and went down to the “club”, the casino. You have to be a member or hotel guest for access, so wanting to enjoy everything my stay had to offer, we went down.
Ritz Club Casino
I’ve seen on YouTube folks talking of a “secret bell” and entrance, but that’s bullshit. The bell and mirrored door are in plain view, and if you’re a guest, you’re welcome. There’s no “knock twice and say you’re a friend of Henri’s” horse shit like I’ve seen the place written up. The doorman was very friendly and down to earth, I just showed my room and no problem.
Worth mentioning too, that the room key is a hefty piece of metal and the old style “key” i.e. a real key, not a bit of plastic. Thus when you leave the hotel you’re advised to check your key in to the concierge (there’s a big box there you can drop it in), and you’d want to, as it ain’t light to carry about.
Room key fob
The casino is the hotel’s old ballroom and is just as opulent as the rest of the place as you’d expect, a real “James Bond” piece of theatricality.
Thing is though, every night we went down there, the place was pretty much empty. We thought we’d get to do a spot of some real people-watching, see the real high-rollers who frequent the Ritz with it’s minimum spend 2,000 euros tables… but I didn’t see anyone who looked like they’d a pot to piss in any bigger than I did.
There was some middle eastern dudes down there, but they were in cheap suits and shoes and seemed more interested in boozing and schmoozing with the cocktail waitresses.
I know appearances can be deceptive, and maybe they could buy & sell me, but I just mean it wasn’t quite the crowd of dinner jacketed socialites, and fur wearing debutantes, you might have envisaged.
The waitresses were so bored due to lack of customers, they seemed more interested in gossiping about what few customers there were.
The one positive about the casino was the price of the booze: it was significantly cheaper down there and you could have a few drinks without worry.
We also had a bottle of wine before that
There was also a restaurant, and I wouldn’t be surprised if eating there was a damn sight cheaper too. Looked a beautiful place as well.
Anyway, one of the nights on leaving, I remarked to the doorman about how quiet the club was and he said he reckoned it was because Ramadan was coming up? But that’s months away. So he may have been getting his dates mixed up. I don’t know, but the place was pretty dead.
Thought it was quite telling as to who the main gamblers are, though!
Getting About London
In the past I’d hired one of those S-class chauffeur driven cars for when I wanted journeyed around London. The price wasn’t too insane, but since I last did that there’s now an Uber VIP service, and also an on-demand black car chauffeur service called Wheely.
I used Wheely for the first time as they don’t have differing multiples of fare prices depending on demand that can catch you out like Uber does. Plus, I knew exactly what I was getting with Wheely, a black Merc S-class everytime with the “VIP” option, not just some car Uber thought made the grade.
That Wheel app on my phone really took the sting out of things too. Easy to use and to be honest, not that much more expensive than using London black cabs.
I made five journeys using it, and it averaged about £20 a trip. I made two black cab journeys of similar distances, and they were about the same!
So for those special occasions, I’d recommend going Wheely. You get a car when you need it, and a good one, and all the chauffeur frills, and you don’t need to hire one for the night or day or whatever,
So I was a fraction of the price of what I’d paid previously, as I was just using the much more economical chauffeur on demand app.
Will definitely use them on next visit.
But not for collecting me at the airport, as they only allow 5mins before you go on the clock. The journey itself is a set price, but you never know with landings at the airport if you’re going to be on time or whatever, and the service I used to collect us had something like a 45min no-charge wait time, and with my discount was about the same price, so I went with that. I didn’t want a large bill ringing up while I was sat on the tarmac or waiting for my luggage.
Of course, for general getting around the London Tube is superb and not that expensive, but it really wasn’t one of those trips and I didn’t grudge the Wheely cost (which I’d budgeted for).
For my actual birthday dinner, I decided to have it at the Savoy Grill.
I was in two minds whether to stay there, as I have several times, but as I say, as I’d never stayed at the Ritz I elected to go there instead, and dine at the Savoy instead.
In the past I’d stayed at the Savoy and then dined at the Ritz, so did it the other way round.
The Savoy is very different to the Ritz. There is a more relaxed dress code (within reason) and it’s bigger and had a major refurb in 2010. It feels “newer” and more modern. There’s not the OTT dress of the staff either, although they are uniformed as well, but just not in bowtie and tails.
Having experienced the two, I be hard pressed to say which I prefer. They’re both exceptional in their own way.
Anyway, I booked dinner dinner in the Savoy Grill, via a drink in the American bar.
Was fabulous. Ordered the Chateaubriand with vegetables, and can’t say I wanted dessert following it.
Chateaubriand at the Savoy Grill
Which was maybe as well, as Chateaubriand with three vegetable sides, two glasses of red wine, one rose wine, and a bottle of still water, plus service charge was £190 ($250 USD).
But what the hell, I’d looked up the menu online, knew the prices and what I was ordering, so didn’t get a shock, and I’d budgeted for it.
And thoroughly enjoyed it.
Particularly playing spot the obvious Sugar Daddies and their babies (and again at breakfast in the Ritz).
Then we tried the other bar in the Savoy, the Beaufort, and it was nice to chill out and have a drink there, listen to the little ensemble playing.
Happy birthday to me
Then used that Wheely app to get us back to Ritz again, as last orders were 11pm at Savoy (or at least they were in the Beaufort for non-residents).
I’d a cracking birthday, best I’ve had in many a year in all honesty.
I took a shit ton of pics as that’s something I never do enough of, and at my age, I no longer care: I snap away like a teenager coveting a career as an influencer!
I try to strike the balance between capturing the moment and enjoying the moment. I don’t want to be a tourist in my own life, with my iPhone never down, but I also want the memories. So I took my pics and vids and glad I did.
There’s numerous grand hotels all over the world, but if you the chance I’d definitely recommend experiencing the grandeur, and theatre, of the Ritz if you can.
As all things, go off season if you can, I baulked at the summer prices, and don’t tend to go to London in high season for that very reason: I’m not paying two to four times as much for something I know I could cheaper another time.
Call me cheap, but I’m not going to pretend to be a millionaire like the scammers who rent the Lambos and show the doctored earnings statements.
I’m doing okay, but could always do better. Hence why I blog and get up and go to work.
And recommend Wealthy Affiliate (WA) for making a bit of side money. The sort of side-money that jaunts to the Ritz can come out of.
If you want to know what I’m speaking about you can read my review my WA here.
Makes me some coin, maybe suited to making you some too.
Anyway, happy birthday to me.