CAPITAL GETAWAY; Jane Cumming has visited London many times on business - but this time she treats herself to a birthday break in the metropolis, taking in its celebrated shows and shopping...
Abig birthday was approaching and I knew exactly how I wanted to celebrate. No parties, no more "stuff". No, I planned to indulge myself with a special trip away for a few days just doing exactly as I pleased. And what was that? A trip to London.
I have fond memories of a visit when I was about eight. You could still walk up to the door of 10 Downing Street in those days, which might give you a clue as to how big a birthday this was. I have visited regularly since.
Often, I would squeeze in a trip to the theatre or a visit to a gallery when I was down on business, but I can't remember being in London purely for fun for a long time. Now was my chance.
First, the hotel. Somewhere central. Special enough to feel indulged. But not so vast it felt soulless. The Capital Hotel fitted the bill perfectly. Not far from Victoria Station and a stone's throw from both Sloane Square and Knightsbridge tube stations, and close to some of the most luxurious stores in London.
Best of all, it has a handy little corner shop a few steps along the road called Harrods.
It was time for more research into the top shows, museums and sights. What a choice! I challenge anyone not to find something they want to do or see in this fabulous city.
We arrived at the Capital Hotel quite early because first on my list was to have lunch in their highly rated restaurant, Outlaws, named after two Michelin-starred chef Nathan Outlaw. His reputation for all things seafood is such I had to try the sea bass.
But before that I had duck scrumpet - slow cooked duck-leg meat formed into a ball then deep fried in crumbs. It was moist, packed with flavour and served with a delicious sauce and some pickles. I could have easily eaten another two or three.
But I was glad I saved space for the sea bass. I don't know how the top chefs elevate their food above dishes you get in other restaurants, but somehow they do. It was utterly divine.
Meanwhile, my other half had a huge portion of rib roast, cooked perfectly pink and served with a bowl of oven-roasted chips - he was as happy as a sand boy.
It was time for a wee rest before hitting the town. Our room was wonderful. Comfortable and homely, yet grand at the same time. Plenty of space to kick off our shoes, relax and read a book or watch the telly.
I could have spent the evening there but we had tickets for hit musical Hamilton. I had heard so much about this show I wondered if it could live up to its reputation. But it did. In every way. The quality of the music and dancing was out of this world and what a fun way to get a history lesson. A fabulous night out.
But after the travel and the huge lunch, I was glad to get back to my super comfy bed for a night's sleep.
It's often the little things that make a hotel really special. When you get the sense they have thought of every little detail to make your stay a delight. The fresh fruit and chilled water, the special place to hang your umbrella in the wardrobe - with a little brass tray to collect the drips.
And the staff were truly exceptional. Nothing was too much trouble.
For the next two days I enjoyed being a proper tourist in London. We went to the Tower of London - Bloody Tower, ravens, crown jewels and all. The Beefeater guide was brilliant. We continued the royal theme the next day with a trip down to Hampton Court which was fascinating.
And then there were the shops. Fortnum and Mason is always a delight and we certainly couldn't miss our little shop at the end of the road. Harrods is an institution and I will never tire of wandering through its many departments. My favourite has to be the food hall. I could spend all day there, and at least I wouldn't starve!
But there was no danger of me going hungry at all on this trip. We enjoyed a good start each morning with breakfast at The Capital. My husband, predictably, opted for a full English, while I tended to be more restrained - if you can call eggy bread with bacon and maple syrup restrained.
It was a great trip and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. I hope I don't need to wait for another big birthday before I go back.
TRAVEL FACTS The Capital Hotel in the heart of Knightsbridge has double rooms from PS310 per room per night based on two people sharing B&B and inclusive of VAT. Book online at www.capitalhotel.co.uk or by phone on 020 7589 1200
BEST OF ALL, IT HAS A HANDY LITTLE CORNER SHOP A FEW STEPS ALONG THE ROAD CALLED HARRODS
Whisky and cheese served up at the bar in the Capital Hotel
Lunch at the Michelin-starred restaurant Outlaws was utterly divine
The Junior Suite was comfortable and homely with plenty of space to relax
The Capital Hotel in London