I could live in a hotel. Some people hate them, I know, but not me – I see hotels like giant dollhouses laid open to explore. If I ever become an eccentric millionairess widow, (& let’s hope I don’t) I am absolutely living out my dotage in a boutique hotel somewhere glamourous. It’d probably be about the same price as a decent nursing home anyway, right?
For our latest London trip, we stayed at the Town Hall Hotel. A decommissioned old council building, it lends itself surprisingly well to hotel life, with vast council chambers and parlours, a grand marble entrance and spacious old offices behind wood panelling & stone.
I love the anonymity in hotels, the closed blank doors and repetitive, dark corridors. My secret door opens into a private realm of sunlight and white sheets that’s just for us, all gleaming glass & fluffy towels, in a city that’s hectic and busy and loud.
Down in the basement there’s a swimming pool, small and slim but deserted, each time we visit. Orla, slightly uncertain at our community pool back home, gains unimaginable confidence, bobbing about in little orange armbands, chasing a rubber duck. She flails with her tiny, pale limbs in the cobalt-coloured water, and overhead a plane passes over so low it blocks the sun for a second or two.
In hotels, the daily snags of life are smoothed away – my tangled bedsheets made up so perfectly each day that to mess them again at night is like running through virgin snow. Hot, steaming water that never ever runs out, and expensive shampoo and moisturiser on tap, not rationed & used with guilty calculations.
My absolute unequivocal favourite part of any hotel stay is breakfast. I like padding down heavily carpeted stairs in the early morning light, tangles still in my hair, to sip tea & look out on strange new views in a room that’s heavy with the scent of coffee & honey & sugar. I find peace in the quiet hum of guest’s conversation, occasional clinks of crockery, birdsong & traffic noise drifting in from outside. In the days before Orla I might take a journal or a book with me, but now we focus solely on the daily milestone of breakfast; surrounded by fruit, piles of toast and mini pastries that are small enough to eat twelve two, she undoubtedly will declare that everything is yuck, & throw something on the floor.
This battle had already been lost for the day when Polly from Little Kin photography arrives to meet me at the glamourously cool Corner Room restaurant for our photo session. Like all the best creative people I know, I met photographer Polly through Instagram, where she seems to specialise in those spinning, fragile childhood moments that I find so challenging to capture.
This is our first ‘real life’ encounter; She finds me drinking coffee & weaving a flower crown, like a ridiculous stereotype of my own Instagram feed, & we share easy chatter while Orla takes important notes with Rory.
Coffee & intros done, we head off to explore the big old building together.
As we wander the dark wood-paneled hallways & spilled out into bright, sun-filled staircases, she clicks away effortlessly around us, until we almost forget she is there.
Together we find new treasures in the dollhouse of secrets; visiting artworks down a side wing, a huge cabinet stocked as a liquor cabinet, an impeccably-behaved greyhound who quietly roamed the halls. (I imagine we undo years of extensive discipline by feeding him the leftover breakfast croissant and petting him like a baby, but he shows remarkable restraint all the same.)
As the day grows warmer outside we step through the marble lobby & take a short walk in the sunshine through East London to our next photo spot. You can see a preview of the second part of our shoot over on the Little kin blog now; I’ll be sharing some more, along with a few recommendations in another post soon. x
If you listened to my recent podcast episode with Xanthe Berkeley you might already have been bitten by the project bug. She spoke about it so inspiringly that I immediately felt like I needed to [...]