London Bridge Hotel, cunningly situated on London Bridge Street, just metres from London Bridge station and – you guessed it – London Bridge itself, hides secrets from the past right next to London’s most futuristic building.
First of all, there’s The Shard. If you haven’t yet heard of it, it’s one of London’s shiniest, newest, sparkliest buildings. Oh and it also happens to be its tallest. It hovers over the London Bridge district just waiting to prism the rays of sunshine through its 309.6 metres high panes of glass because, well, let’s face it we need a magnifying glass effect when it comes to sunshine in the city.
Then there are the secrets buried in the basement.
Excavations during refurbishment revealed remains from nearly two thousand years ago. Not skeletons (fortunately, although reports do mention combs made from bone) but ceramics. The principle find involved amphorae from Spain, elegant jugs that the Romans used to haul around olive oil and fish sauce in cold and grey Britannia.
So there you go. Cutting edge and digging deep. Now onto the juicy part. The London Bridge story…
With its square stone towers, shields, pomp and circumstance London Bridge is one of the icons of the city, its silhouette recognised, feared (steady on – Ed) and loved across the length and breadth of the world. Or so say so many tourists.
For in fact, the famous one is Tower Bridge and London Bridge is a far plainer, drabber, well, simply duller kind of bridge.
It’s also, as you’ll probably notice, quite new.
The story goes like this*: a rich but clueless American wanted to buy London bridge and transport it to his hometown in Hicksville. So he signed a contract, paid his cash and waited. London Bridge was disassembled and transported across the Atlantic to spring back to life on the lowly waters of whatever the fictional river is that flows through the also fictional Hicksville.
Despite the intricate engineering involved, the American was displeased. For of course, it was Tower Bridge he had fallen in love with, with all its flourishes and fancies. Not London Bridge.
Now out of cash and heartbroken, all our fabled American could do was chalk the whole inglorious debacle up to experience and leave Londoners to enjoy its fabled Tower Bridge.
So what’s the moral of the story? Do your homework could be one, read this blog could be another. But yet another would be this: London’s a gritty city that thrives on sass and street smart (however sweet Kate Middleton looks.) Come, play, enjoy. But keep your wits about you.
*I have no idea whether or not the story is true. It’s an urban legend in London and I’m taking a break from my usual fact-checking because there’s a tiny part of me that doesn’t really want to know what happened. I don’t think it would end well – either way.
London Bridge Hotel is a comfortable, stylish independent four star boutique hotel decked out in plums, scarlet, jet black and white. While not the most luxurious property in London, it does excel within its four star bracket. Staff are knowledgeable, helpful and polite and rooms are clean, cool and well-equipped with flat-screen TVs and complimentary wifi. It’s a short walk from the well-connected London Bridge station, as well as a flotilla of international restaurants and plenty of chances for sightseeing.
The Quarter Bar & Lounge are worth a visit on their own mid-week. Breakfast is served in the basement downstairs with both continental and cooked versions, not to mention the Brit special marmite.
What I loved
The London Bridge Fizz cocktail at the Quarter Bar – fresh raspberries and blackberries soaked in the warmth of cherry brandy and crème de mure, topped with Prosecco
The Macaroon Cocktail – which takes cognac-caramelised raspberries and throws them together with Gran Marnier and Prosecco
The location: so close to the resplendent Tower Bridge and so convenient for accessing central London
The history found buried below
Fine dining at the Quarter Bar & Lounge
Tea & coffee making facilities in-room
Things to know
Because of its location, the week nights are the busiest in the bar. So if it’s atmosphere you’re after, that’s the best time to visit. If it’s peace and quiet – paradoxically – try the weekend.
Rooms are on the small side so if you’re travelling with very young children, you’ll struggle to fit a travel cot in. UPDATE! We did return with our lovely small child and a travel cot does indeed fit in, with space to walk around. The trick the staff have is to remove some of the more decorative furniture. Plus, everyone was very friendly towards our mini-explorer so it’s still worth staying here!
138 rooms with six spacious rooms for disabled guests. Deluxe and Executive rooms step it up a notch. Satellite TV, complimentary wifi, minibar, DDI telephone, hairdryer, air-conditioning, iron and ironing board, duvet and choice of pillow, tea and coffee, mineral water, White Company toiletries and fibre optic reading lights available in each room. Deluxe rooms have a king size bed, sofa bed and walk-in closet together with a DVD player and i-Pod docking station. There’s no gym on site but you can use the Fitness First health club nearby for free. Room service runs for 24 hours.
Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!
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