Champagne Diaries Part 2

Friday, 26 September 2014

After a very speedy turnaround in our hotel, we ran to meet my friends in Min Jiang Bar on the 10th floor of the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington for the second part of my birthday celebrations.

Turning up late for things is pretty standard for me (most of my friends tend to tell me a meeting time of at least half an hour earlier than they expect to see me) but at least this time, super prompt Tan and Sarah had something to occupy themselves with while they waited. Matt Le Blanc was in town. And he was eating dinner with an attractive blonde at a table just accross from ours.

Tan had already given me the heads up with a text full of !!!!!, but I wasn't prepared for just hoooow excited she really was. "I used to have his poster inside my desk at school!!" she reminded me. We settled in with our cocktails to talk about old times, and exciting future times, all the time casting sideways, oh so unsubtle glances in Matt's direction. One by one, the others turned up, each equally excited that we were sharing breathing space with one of our '90s heroes. It was so lovely to be back with my very silly, very brilliant best friends again.

Out came the cocktails one by one, and it's probably unsurprising that most of the ones I chose contained champagne.

The ever-chic Arthur had thought ahead, and matched his trousers with the decor, while Romana had wrapped my presents in similar coloured paper, with pretty tonal bows (too adorable guys). Steph and Rich's attire didn't look too out of place with the colour palette of the bar either

Us girls gradually moved to the 'right' end of the table to catch the best view of Matt, trying not to knock over expensive looking display vases in the process.

When these boys turned up...

Or rather, when Stephanie made sure that Matt had definitely departed to his hotel room by stalking him in the lift, we headed on to Kensington Rooftop Gardens. 

After about 20 minutes in the queue, we gave up, jumped in a cab and headed to where we all secretly really wanted to go all along. Clapham.

One minute's walk from where I used to live in London, those of us that were still standing spent the night the way we always did. Which mainly meant that I spent most of the night chattering away in a corner with the love of my life.

Oh, and of course, I spent a bit of time with this one too.

The night got blurrier...

But I had the common sense to hide my face in most of the later photos.

I'm not quite sure what time we eventually made it back to the hotel.

The next morning, we had all of the good intentions of getting up and finding a new brunch spot in London, but fully-fledged fizz-fuzz meant that this seemed far more appealing:

Eventually, after several hours, we tore ourselves from bed and attempted to make a move towards fresh air. We had a date with our favourite couple.

I met Romana, along with 20 other fresh-faced, eager beaver new Consultants on the PwC graduate scheme back in 2009. We bonded over late night bar sessions during long, soul-destroying residential training courses, and became firm friends. I moved into the flat above hers in Clapham with our good friends Kate and Chris, and later, when Kate moved out, Mani moved in. We have been inseparable ever since...Well, until the slight issue of Doha got in the way. But we still text every day. 

Marn's all loved up with the very lovely, very dapper Arthur, who used to serve in the Armed Forces. And he just happened to have four free tickets to the VIP area of the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games. Supported by the royal family, this is the first ever sporting event for wounded servicemen and women, and the turnout and support for the games has been phenomenal in the UK.

We arrived at the Olympic Park in the late afternoon to the dulcet sounds of James Blunt crooning away, and almost bumped right into Prince Harry.

Yes ladies, he is just as good looking in the flesh. 

This was unfortunately the last A-Lister run-in of the trip.

We took our seats, while Romana and I acted as though we hadn't seen each other just 24 hours before, and did quite a lot of this:

Followed by a bit of this:

The sun began to set, picking out the typically grey London storm clouds and casting beautiful light over the Olympic Park and the crowd below us. I was really proud to be part of such a special event, and even prouder that my fellow Brits had turned out in their hoards to support it.

We took advantage by grabbing a few more photos before the light disappeared altogether.

All too, soon, it was time to move on to our next entertainment of the evening and Romana's birthday surprise from Rich and me. We left Stratford...

And headed to a secret location down an alleyway near to Liverpool Street.

We were going to play Clue Quest. Now, I'm ashamed to admit that I mocked Rich a little for being a massive Anti Lad when he returned from a stag do in Warsaw to say that the best thing he'd done all weekend was play a simulation riddle game with the boys where they had to solve clues to escape from a room...but I am now eating all of my words. I can't tell you too much about it, because all of the fun is in not knowing what to expect, but trust me when I say this is one of the most fun things I have ever done in London. Its number one rating on Trip Advisor speaks for itself.

We said sad goodbyes once more, with hugs and promises of more meet-ups at Christmas and sloped sadly home. It was only once I'd snuggled into bed that I realised that this was the first day of the holiday sans champagne. Poor form. We'd better get back on it tomorrow.

And that we did.

We had a perfect lunch at The Jugged Hare, the most amazing gastro pub in London...

Where Rich made the most of the pork on offer

And I made the most of the fact that it was still sort of my birthday and therefore I was totally allowed to order two starters rather than one main.

Perfectly sliced truffled venison carpaccio and game terrine and crostino. Perfection.

We then headed to Liberty for dessert

And a return to tradition.

That evening, after browsing through some bridal stores around Bond Street, I met my lovely friend Clare for dinner and completely forgot to take a single picture (much to her relief), which is testament to what a good time we were having and just how much we had to catch up on. In order to ward off the sadness of my last difficult goodbye, I went to meet Rich and Tom at Tom's lovely flat in Wapping for more bubbles.

Followed by utilising our lovely engagement presents with yet more champagne quaffing back in our hotel room.

And then it was our last day. Not quite ready to give up the habit of the holiday, we celebrated with Prosecco for breakfast

We'd had a sparkling time back in the UK, with our bubbly friends and champion family.

To rip a joke from my dad, it really had been quite intoxicating.