So I turned the big 30 last year! I’m not one for DJ’s and dancing, so I decided to have a big afternoon tea party.
As a birthday present my uncle gave me a gift certificate for afternoon tea at Claridge’s London!
Being a bit slow on the case as usual, and Claridge’s being booked up 3 months in advance when I called (even though you can only book 3 months in advance), I finally celebrated my 30th birthday again this June.
Getting anywhere can take a bit of planning for me. After researching the trains, tubes and buses, we decided the best way to get there was to drive, (The tube stations I would have needed to use from Liverpool Street to Claridge’s were inaccessible for wheelchair users, and it was an hour walk, or longer by bus). Relying on Google for most things in life I found a carpark on Welbeck Street with a 1.93m height restriction, and off we set.
While in London and in the area I’d planned to visit Selfridges, as I hadn’t been before. Parked, with plenty of time to spare and Google maps at hand we started to walk to Selfridges. Rounding the first corner we realised that our carpark pretty much backed on to Oxford Street!
After a stroll down Oxford Street and a coffee in Selfridges (passing on the £25,000 bottle of whiskey!) we headed to Claridge’s. The walk was no more than a few minutes away, however some of the pavements and crossings required expert manoeuvres. The dropped kerbs not being very dropped, not always lining up on the opposite side of the road, and the pavements being a little wonky and uneven. Not unmanageable, just needs taking slowly.
Arriving at our destination we are greeted immediately by a doorman who leads us through an accessible entrance just to the side of the grand entrance and steps.
Early enough to admire the view inside, the stunning Art Deco interior and hundreds of fresh flowers, we take a few minutes to be tourists, taking photos, being astounded and of course taking the customary selfie or two!
I do love a bit of people watching, there were all sorts of people coming and going, although it is very grand and posh, you didn’t feel out of place at all. The place and the staff are very welcoming, and we all felt special but comfortable. Whilst sitting in the foyer we spotted Sharon Osborne leaving with her entourage!
Asking for directions to an accessible toilet, I was led to the gents. This wasn’t a problem as there was an attendant in the bathrooms. The cubicle itself was fairly small. No room to turn around. This isn’t a necessity for me, however would be for somebody needing to transfer.
There might be larger accessible bathrooms within the hotel, I didn’t think at the time to ask. Narrow doorways and small bathrooms are often the case I find in buildings like this. There’s is often a difficult compromise between beauty and accessibility when in comes to old buildings.
Now for the part this day was all about, it’s time for afternoon tea.
Shown to our table there was plenty of room for me to navigate between other guests and their tables without disturbing anyone. We were seated in a lovely spot with a view of the live pianist and violinist, which played instrumental versions of well known and familiar songs and soundtracks.
The table was slightly on the low side, which wasn’t a problem for me as me wheelchair has a raise function which can lower quite far.
Our waiter introduced himself and talked us through the tea and coffee menu, we ordered champagne (it was my second 30th birthday after all!) and teas of various types.
The champagne arrived, poured at our table, and napkins were flicked open and placed on our laps.
The waiter noticed that I’d rummaged in my bag for a straw to drink my champagne. So when tea arrived I was surprised with straws served to me on a silver tray! It’s the small things.
Finger sandwiches were served and we were talked through the flavours (the vegetarian amongst us had their own selection). I’m not a big eater, so with 5 different fillings and breads I decided to have half a finger of each to make sure I had room for cake. Little did I know when the rest of my table said yes to more sandwiches, my half eaten ones were cleared away to be replaced by a plate of brand new full sized fingers! When I didn’t eat these my waiter kindly offered to box them (in a very classy box indeed), so I had a whole selection of sandwiches to take home. Yum!
We worked our way through the delicious scones with clotted cream and jam, being poured more teas and different teas, some opting for a coffee. Being unable to finish all of our FOUR cakes EACH, these were boxed up for us to devour later.
We were at our table for around 3 hours in total, finishing off our teas and not feeling rushed at all. Once feeling able to move after eating way too much we made our way out, again being led through the accessible entrance by a helpful member of staff.
Setting off for the drive home, we chatted about the lovely day, welcoming staff and generously tasty food.
After discovering the perfect car park at the centre of Oxford Street I am now planning a mass shopping trip with family and friends. The perk of a wheelchair adapted van is plenty of passengers and space for shopping bags!