Walking the streets of the City of London is to have one foot back in time, whilst the other is firmly planted in the present. Truly iconic sights such as St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and the quirky ‘Gerkin’ dominate the skyline.
The Bank of England aka The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street is the heart of the financial sector and many of the street names seem to come direct from a Charles Dickens novel. Great Swan Alley, Clement’s Lane, Throgmorton St and the splendidly named Crutched Friars evoke a fog-bound, darker era. Spitalfields and Leadenhall Market still have hundreds of stalls and have been revamped for the 21st century. Hefty Victorian monoliths sit alongside mirrored skyscrapers and every other shop serves 23 different types of coffee. I saw much of this as I wandered through the streets of London to 172 Bishopsgate, where I was staying a couple of nights in the 2 bedroom City Marque City of London apartment.
Directly opposite Liverpool Street Station it was very handy for getting to the World Travel Market (WTM) which was on that week. Having found the building (Tip – entrance NOT on Bishopsgate but in New St) and finally got the lengthy entrance code right, I took the four flights of stairs to the Penthouse at top of the building. I’d been warned that due to the age of the building there was no lift, but with a heavy suitcase it took a while.
The first thing that struck me was the warmth. It was one of the first really chilly days of autumn and the heat of the apartment was most welcome – as were the heart-shaped chocolates on the bed. I had a choice of two bedrooms and the ensuite bathroom had a nice set of toiletries, lots of towels and a decent size bath.
There was a big wardrobe and plenty of drawers so it was more than adequate for my needs. Up a few stairs was the open-plan dining/kitchen/lounge area, all spotless and well-equipped, with a large TV, DVD player, iPod dock and fast Wifi. The dining table behind the kitchen could seat up to six and the lounge had two big sofas and dimmer lighting.
The handbook explained all the practical details for staying there plus helpful info on nearby places to eat and things to see and do. The kitchen had lots of crockery, cutlery and utensils with a decent size fridge and dish-washer. The microwave was handy for heating up a ready meal but for fancier cooking the oven would be ideal.
I was pleased to find tea, coffee , milk and sugar all provided and, with a delicious croissant from Polo CafÃ© below, each day started in a very civilised manner. The only problem was I couldn’t find the hairdryer. I searched in all the rooms, broom-cupboard, wardrobes and drawers and then phoned the very friendly City Marque help-line (number in the info book). No joy so made do with a brisk towel rub!
During my stay I didn’t cook as I was out most of the time but did take back a most welcome burger and chips which I scoffed in front of the TV after an exhausting day at WTM. Below the apartment are plenty of eateries and coffee shops including the excellent Polo Cafe, serving breakfast and meals 24 hours a day. The City of London apartment was ideal for a few days and would be perfect for family, business or couples wanting a central location alternative to a hotel with all the comforts of home in comfort nd a dash of luxury.