My story with Marriott Hotels dates back to 2013, when I had the honor of being an ambassador for its Renaissance chain. During wonderful trips to Bangkok and São Paulo, I fell in love with the Renaissance brand and its discovery-based philosophy. It wasn’t until earlier this summer, however, that I got acquainted with the wider Marriott portfolio while in London for the relaunch of the iconic Grosvenor House.
Come to think of it, I’m not quite sure the word “portfolio” is right to describe just how varied the properties under the Marriott umbrella are – they’re almost as varied and unique as the different personalities you would find in a (really, really big) family. “Family”, you see, is a key word for this hotel empire, and one that very much dictates its philosophy and interaction with guests. It is, after all, still a family-run company.
Browse through the gallery below for a glimpse at my time in London with Marriott, and learn more about some of the 19 brands under its impressive portfolio.
After eight hours on-board a British Airways flight, I’m finally in London and on my way to Grosvenor House. Did you know it was the first ever hotel to open on London’s Park Lane? Over the past year, the property has undergone extensive renovation to update its communal spaces and rooms, and the results are absolutely beautiful. The style is elegant and grand, yet surprisingly modern at the same time. Standing in the lobby, I notice the brass details in the marble floor and the mirrored reception desks before a floor-to-ceiling glass fireplace catches my attention. The color palette on the ground floor is neutral, with gorgeous grays and creams throughout, while dark-green accents recall the immense Hyde Park located just across the street from the hotel.
This hotel also has a Starbucks in its lobby. The best part? All of the pastries and snacks sold at this counter are made by the hotel’s talented chefs.
Whatever you do, though, don’t turn around while ordering your coffee. This is the Willy Wonka world of temptation that lurks just behind you.
An hour later, I’m checked in and ready to discover my beautiful suite. My willpower from earlier this morning has been rewarded with this amazing selection of healthy snacks – a welcome change from the usual treats found in hotel rooms around the world. I only have a few minutes to unpack and change, so I ask for an extra fridge to be brought up to my room to keep these snacks fresh. Within minutes, the fridge has arrived.
This trip has been organized in partnership with British Airways, so the BA team is hosting my first day in London and has packed it with some fun, quintessentially British activities. First up on the agenda is a visit to the Jo Malone flagship store on Regent Street, where I’m treated to a tour and an amazing hand massage.
The monochrome boutique is filled with an incredible array of products, from creams to perfumes and handmade candles, all of which are crafted in the UK. This particular store also boasts a back room where you can personalize a fragrance bottle by engraving it or changing the color of its cap, as well as learn about the brand’s philosophy of ‘Fragrance Combining’ and how to mix your own scents. This amazing feature is essentially an interactive cabinet; take a bottle off the shelf and watch the fragrance’s top notes appear on the screen behind it. It also suggests the perfect match for the fragrance you’ve chosen.
After a relaxing couple of hours at the Jo Malone boutique, I make my way through London’s West End to arrive at Fenwick, one of the city’s oldest department stores. Founded in 1882, it has always been the go-to for all things British – think: homegrown brands, fascinators, and your head-to-toe look for next year’s Ascot races.
In recent years, however, it has undergone a massive overhaul that now places it on par with other cult destinations around the city, such as Selfridges and Liberty. With its eyes turned towards millennials, Fenwick has focused much of its efforts on becoming the destination for niche, exclusive beauty brands. This is where the first Charlotte Tilbury counter in the UK was launched. It’s also the only place in town where you’ll find the highly coveted makeup brushes by Artis. On the accessories front, Fenwick stocks cool brands that range from Skinnydip to M2Malletier.
On the second floor is where you’ll find Mark’s, a restaurant by renowned chef Mark Hix. I stop here for a spot of wonderfully British afternoon tea. Alongside traditional tea fare like Battenberg cake and scones, I’m treated to delicious, open-faced tartines and delicate macaroons.
Before leaving Fenwick, I make a beeline for Clean and Lean, a café counter by Bodyism founder James Duigan. It serves shakes, coffee, supplements, and a range of health books.
My last stop before I head back to the hotel this afternoon is the Maison Assouline flagship store, a hidden gem located on Piccadilly. This bookshop-meets-bar-meets-furniture-store has been described as a “cathedral of high culture” by The Telegraph, and it’s easy to see why.
I’m ready for dinner with British Airways at Nobu, one of the best restaurants in the city. Highlights of the evening include the famous ‘Black Cod with Miso’ and a decadent chocolate fondant for dessert.
Day two kicks off with breakfast at the hotel’s JW Steakhouse restaurant with John Licence, Brand Leader of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. Over poached eggs and pancakes, he talks to me about the hotels that he represents. Here are three things I learned:
– The Autograph Collection’s tagline is “Exactly Like Nothing Else”. Member hotels are chosen because they bring something new and unique to the portfolio. After joining, they still maintain their own branding, operations, and identity.
– According to Licence, Autograph Collection hotels are “boutique not in size, but in nature”.
– One of the latest hotels to join the collection is Cotton House Hotel, an incredible 19th century property in the heart of Barcelona. Once the headquarters of Spain’s Cotton Textile Foundation, it is the perfect example of just how unique the hotels in this portfolio can be.
After breakfast, I make my way to the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, which is adjacent to the St. Pancras train station. The Eurostar operates from here.
There are so many stories to be told about the history-filled halls, grand staircases, and 38 Victorian-inspired suites (each of which is unique in décor) considering a staggering 143 years have passed since the hotel was first built. I hear a handful of these stories during a tour of the property that has been organized with a historian.
There is so much more to learn about this fascinating property, but I’m on a tight schedule and lunch is being served at Booking Office, one of the hotel’s restaurants (and the former ticketing office of St. Pancras station).
With the tagline “Business Unusual”, Renaissance hotels are not your typical business hotels. The brand is built around the concept of discovery: every hotel has a team of expert “navigators” (a new take on the concierge idea) who know the city inside out and will be able to recommend the spots frequented by locals – the kind you won’t find in your guidebook.
For this year’s Global Day of Discovery, on June 11th, St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel hosted its second ladies-only slumber party, dubbed ‘The Sleepover 2’. It featured comedy films, perfume masterclasses, pajamas aplenty, snacks, rounds of Truth or Dare, and a massage to wake up to in the morning. How cool is that?
After lunch, I’m met by a professional photographer for a quick class in smartphone photography. From the best filtering apps to making the most out of your camera, there is little time and so much to learn. Next, I’m handed a list of hashtags and sent off to discover the King’s Cross area around the hotel and capture images that best match them.
Having never been to this part of London, I loved seeing the contrast of old and new buildings, one of which houses the Google headquarters in London, and the trendy restaurants filled with students from neighboring Central Saint Martins.
I’ve heard so much about Barry’s Bootcamp classes, and I’m excited to try one out today. I have the afternoon off, so I put on my running shoes and make my way to Worship Street. One hour later, I’ve got a smoothie in hand and a huge smile on my face. What a workout!
Back at the hotel, I meet a few friends for coffee in the newly revamped Park Room. It has the same color scheme as the rest of the ground floor, as well as plush fabrics, a tufted bar, and gorgeous armchairs. What makes it particularly inviting are the floor-to-ceiling windows, which let in lots of natural light and offer beautiful views of Hyde Park.
Tonight, a dinner is being held at the hotel’s JW Steakhouse, where I’m treated to the restaurant’s famous ‘JW Steakhouse Cheesecake’. This dessert has achieved near-cult status and actually has entire fanpages dedicated to it! Take it from me: it’s worth the hype.
It’s the morning of the big garden party, and I’m up early for a walking tour of the Mayfair area, where the hotel is located. I stop at The Wallace Collection, a national museum that houses the private collection of Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, who left the townhouse (which later became the museum) as well as all the artworks, furniture, “Old Master” paintings, and porcelain to his son, Sir Richard Wallace.
This writing desk, part of The Wallace Collection, actually belonged to Marie Antoinette!
I make a quick stop at Sketch on Conduit Street for tea before heading back to the hotel. This restaurant/bar/lounge is a London institution that has been around since 2002 and perfectly combines the worlds of art, food, and music. You’ve probably heard of its famous toilet pods that clap for you once you’re done using them. True story.
Tonight, in honor of the Grosvenor House redesign, a star-studded garden party is being held in the hotel’s ballroom. Fresh-flower brooches and boutonnières are handed out at the entrance of the venue, while violinist Lizzie Ball and the Classical Kicks perform under a bandstand inspired by the famous one in Hyde Park. All in all, a great night!
It’s my last day in London and I have nothing scheduled this morning, so I pack my bags, bid my beautiful suite farewell, and make my way to a presentation.
On the menu are almond-milk lattes, açai bowls, and Leila’s stunning jewelry pieces featuring Zebra Jasper orbs set in between modern, gold-plated lines.
I meet up with the Marriott team for my final stop in the city, which is Threadneedles, an Autograph Collection hotel in East London. Adjacent to the London Stock Exchange, this business hotel is housed in a former Victorian bank building. Highlights include the gorgeous, stained-glass ceiling in the lobby and the famous Marco Pierre White Wheeler’s of St. James’s Oyster Bar & Grill Room.
After a tour of the hotel, I sit down for a delicious afternoon tea in the lobby before making my way to the airport.
At Heathrow Terminal 5, I am met by the airport’s personal shoppers. This team speaks a multitude of languages, operates throughout all the terminals, and offers services ranging from sourcing an item to designing a shopping itinerary. To book an appointment, click here.
Exhausted after an exciting four days in the British capital and armed with treat-filled hampers from Fortnum & Mason’s outlet in Terminal 5, I climb onto British Airways’ Boeing 747 and slip into my Club World convertible seat. The End.