My husband and I had planned to spend our 11th Anniversary in Paris, but because of a last minute work emergency, my husband got held up in LA – so we only made it as far as London. With only a few days to plan our weekend, I was bound and determined to discover an eco-hotel – not an easy find in a city like London, but after a little research I discovered that One Aldwych, bang in the middle of the West End, is a hotel which is most certainly Gorgeously Green. It’s efforts have resulted in it just being awarded the Luxury Eco-Certification Standard (LECS). One Aldwych is one of only six hotels in the world to get this rigorously assessed accreditation, so I was very excited to step inside.
The first huge plus for anyone visiting from the U.S. is that when you’re in London you absolutely don’t want to drive because traffic is horrendous, there’s a congestion charge and parking is exorbitant. So you want to be as centrally located as possible and you don’t get a better location than One Aldwych. You are a few blocks away from most of the best West End Theaters, and Covent Garden, Soho, and all the great shopping places where you’ll want to hang. If you need to go further afield, you’ve got a couple of Tube stations just 5 minutes away. The greenest way, however, to get around is to hire a bicycle. You simply register online and then you can take a bike, then leave at at a designated station for the next person. There is a bike rental station conveniently just outside the hotel.
One Aldwych’s interior decor is ultra modern and gives a stunning contrast to the building’s exterior. The rooms are stylishly decorated with bold colors juxtaposed against mostly neutral tones. The ultra modern bathrooms do make a weird pumping sound when in use (shower, toilet and sink), but apparently that’s because of the incredibly efficient EVAC drainage system, which used 80% less water than conventional flushing systems (wish I had one of these in LA, where water is becoming very expensive). All in all, you are in a beautifully appointed, luxury hotel, which you wouldn’t know was eco at all, unless you knew what was going on behind the scenes. Oh – one detail I love it that the products in the bathrooms are Ren, which is a non-toxic, therapeutic line which I highly recommend.
The hotel boasts a spa with a large chlorine-free swimming pool. The massages are performed by highly experienced practitioners and honestly better than most regular hotel massages, where you sometimes feel you’re just getting the once-over! It was seriously NICE to wake up in the middle of the city, take a swim, a sauna and bit of steam, before heading upstairs for breakfast. Oh and speaking of food, One Aldwych hosts a “Market to Table” Cookery School, which is really worth doing. It’s basically a half-day course, which starts at the hotel, takes you out to the nearby Borough Market (with Chef, Tony Fleming,) and then back to the hotel where chef shows you how to prepare a dinner party menu. Following the demo and tasting, guests are invited to have brunch with friends and family at the hotel’s Indigo Restaurant – very cool!
What about eating in London? Well, if you’re in the West End, there’s a plethora of amazing restaurants, however, if you want to go down the veggie/vegan route, there are two restaurants I highly recommend. The first is perfect for a romantic dinner. It’s been a favorite of mine for years and is found in Hammersmith (West London), and is easy to get to, as it’s walking distance from Hammersmith Tube Station. The Gate is a charming and absolutely delicious restaurant. You walk through a church courtyard and up some steps into this gorgeous light-filled space. The menu will have your mouth watering with every imaginable veggie delight. Book early to avoid disappointment.
My other favorite veggie eatery is Food For Thought on Neal Street in Covent Garden. This is a perfect and affordable lunch spot – tiny and cozy, where you’ll be served pottery bowls of hearty soup, homemade bread and the most yummy quiches and pies imaginable. The desserts are not to be missed.
The Gorgeously Green girl cannot leave London without visiting a few fantastic eco-friendly stores. The first is Colin Firth’s Eco Store in Chiswick. This is so well worth a visit to check out all the latest British earth-friendly offerings. Also take time to visit Unpackaged, a brilliant little corner store, where you can buy all your organic and fair-trade groceries, unpackaged! Finally, a visit to the iconic Marks & Spencer (AKA Marks & Sparks), to stock up on lingerie and fair-trade tee’s. I love that my beloved M&S is, behind the scenes, one of the most sustainable stores in the world!