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Travel: London calling! City’s hotels and attractions are just capital

Melia White House in London
Melia White House in London

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”

So opined that old sage Samuel Johnson to his friend and biographer James Boswell in 1777.

Of course, what he should have said (and doubtless meant) was “never, ever, under any circumstances, start a travel piece about London with a hackneyed, over-used quote”.

The reason I deviate from such generally accepted wisdom is to highlight the rather extraordinary fact that old Sammy came up with such doubtless wisdom despite never having visited “Puttshack” (at least to the best of this modern day scribe’s knowledge).

Had he done so, one can only imagine he would have been even more strident in his claims that the UK capital boasts something for everybody – and a dizzying array of events and activities so ludicrously resplendent one can never slide into boredom.

Hispania Kensington, the in-house restaurant at Melia London
Hispania Kensington at Melia London

But more of such treats later.

It was late spring and we had been invited to London to sample the delights of two hotels – the Melia White House at the foot of Regent’s Park and Melia London Kensington.

Not, one might fairly conclude, an assignment that sounded like too much of a hardship.

And so we departed Scotland at a truly ungodly hour for a Saturday morning flight (Edinburgh to Stansted by air, followed by the Stansted Express to Liverpool Street) and found ourselves pounding the streets of London a little after 9am.

A fine morning’s stroll around Hyde Park and its environs later and we were ready for a bit of higher-octane action and so made our way to Bank and the intriguingly titled “Puttshack”.

Billed as providing “good vibes only”, the venue (which includes a lively bar and restaurant) invites visitors to “navigate crazy, tech-infused mini golf courses”.

It sounds like fun – and it is.

The three indoor 9-hole courses offer a range of wacky holes, designed to test the craziest of crazy golfers.

My personal pinnacle came on the sixth hole of our chosen course, which offered the chance of prizes if you could time slotting a ball through a segmented spinning wheel at just the right time to snag your prize of choice AND then complete a hole-in-one putt on the other side of the spinning wheel.

By far the best prize on offer, to my mind, was “a free drink” (of course it was). And so, taking a deep breath, I took aim – and putted the ball beautifully through at just the right time to stop the wheel at the aforementioned point…

And now, my moment had arrived. I merely needed to dispatch the hole-in-one to confirm the prize.

Was I the classic hunter gatherer male of yesteryear, able to provide for my dependents? Or something lesser?

The stimulated heart-beat of the “tech-infused” course… my sweaty grip on the club… the countless and admiring eyes of other patrons (at least one glanced over)… none could topple my iron resolve.

In the end, it could have been 10ft, it could have been 100 (it was 10).

Dear reader, I sank the putt.

Free drink duly imbibed, we toddled off to the Melia White House, a grand art deco-style hotel, to check-in with a song in our hearts.

If we arrived on the crest of a wave, there was to be no crashing disappointment.

Our room was immaculate, the fixtures and finishings classy and the bed… absolutely enormous.

We had a “Level” premium room, which granted us access to the Level lounge, featuring refreshments throughout the day, along with tapas and premium drinks in the evening.

It was a nice place to spend a few hours, with unfussy but friendly staff and a lovely atmosphere.

The food was excellent – freshly prepared and plentiful.

Tired after a long day of travelling, walking and, of course, golfing immortality, it was early to our very comfortable (and still absolutely enormous) bed.

One couldn’t pass over the Melia White House completely without remarking on the fabulous breakfast on offer – an omelette station, cooked food, fresh pastries, a wide range of juices… the selection was utterly mouth-watering.

With the world our proverbial oyster, we decided to jump on the tube and head to Kew Gardens (a journey only slightly complicated by engineering works).

Described as one of the most biodiverse places on earth, Kew is a mecca for botanists – but equally delightful for those who simply enjoy a nice stroll and some lovely plants.

A particular highlight was the treetop walk. Not for the faint-hearted, this towering pathway between the trees offers a fantastic aerial view of much of the gardens.

Intermittent rain was no impediment to our visit, thanks to the vast greenhouses, offering shelter from the skies – not to mention a burst of near-tropical heat.

Back in the big smoke, Melia Kensington proved to be a small but perfectly formed hotel, far from the huge scale of the White House but with a more intimate, family feel.

Checking in a little early, the offer of a glass of Cava while we waited was a lovely touch.

Our comfortable room was well-appointed and the location is beyond compare, with all the delights of Kensington and Knightsbridge on our doorstep.

This allowed us to feel like reality TV stars for a day, though I apologise to my long-suffering wife who had to repeatedly chide me for variously suggesting it was all rather like an episode of The Only Way is Chelsea or indeed This is Chelsea (it’s Made In Chelsea, apparently).

No matter, Chelsea it was, and jolly nice it is too.

We returned home tired, but not of London or life. We will be back.

P.S. Contemporary artist Marc Quinn is currently presenting a major exhibition at Kew Gardens exploring the relationship between people and plants. Quinn’s Light Into Life encompasses monumental sculptures across the gardens alongside a dedicated presentation of works from the 1990s until today in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art.


Melia White House is located just off Regent’s Park. Notable nearby attractions include Madame Tussauds (1km away) and Oxford Street (1.3km away). Melia Kensington is on Gloucester Road, 1km from the Victoria & Albert Museum and just under 5km from Buckingham Palace. Both offer a 24-hour gym along with an array of room types and dining options.