I visited London in June for Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
I got to visit the Queen's favorite London hotspots, including The Goring hotel.
The experience made me feel like I had gotten to know the monarch better.
Back in June, I traveled to London from my home in Glasgow, Scotland, for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations. It was the only time I would ever see the Queen in real life before her death.
I was one of the thousands of people who traveled to the UK capital for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, which celebrated Her Majesty's 70 years on the throne. I attended a number of events, including the Trooping the Colour parade, where I got to watch the monarch and her family on the Buckingham Palace balcony.
Like many people across the world, I was sad to hear about the death of the Queen on September 8. The monarch died peacefully at the age of 96, Buckingham Palace announced at the time.
However, I was also glad that I had the opportunity to see the monarch in real life before she died. I never got to meet the Queen, so seeing her in person was a special experience that I'll never forget.
While in London, I visited some of the Queen's favorite hotspots.
When I wasn't attending royal events, I had the opportunity to visit some of the Queen's favorite places in London during my trip. I dined at one of her favorite restaurants, Bellamy's, went shopping at Fortum & Mason, and had cocktails at one of her favorite hotels, The Goring. The experience gave me a glimpse inside the Queen's life, and therefore made me feel closer to her.
I kicked off my trip with an overnight stay at The Rubens at the Palace hotel, which used to be part of Buckingham Palace.
The Rubens is a royal-themed hotel on Buckingham Palace Road and is right across the street from the royal family's London residence.
It was also previously part of Buckingham Palace, as the hotel was used as living quarters for palace staff in the 18th century, a spokesperson for the hotel told me. It was turned into a hotel in 1953, they added.
I stayed in the Royal Themed Queen Room.
The Royal Themed Queen Room had a double bed, a desk, two side tables, a circular table with an armchair, and a TV. It also had beautiful decor, including a painting of Princess Margaret.
Rates for this room start at £564 per night, or around $713. For full disclosure, Insider paid for the trip, as per our reporting standards, and the company was given a press rate of £455, or around $570, for one night.
The Rubens has 14 different room categories, including an executive single room and the master suite, a spokesperson for the hotel told me.
My room overlooked Buckingham Palace's Royal Mews.
The hotel is across the road from the Royal Mews, which is the entrance the royal family uses to enter and exit the palace. I was delighted to have such a clear view — for one night only, I could accurately say that the Queen was my neighbor. Unfortunately, I never witnessed the monarch or any of the royals entering or exiting the palace during my stay.
After checking into the hotel, I grabbed dinner at one of the Queen's favorite restaurants, Bellamy's.
Bellamy's is a French restaurant in Mayfair where Queen Elizabeth had her 80th and 90th birthday parties, a staff member informed me. The restaurant has also been frequented by other royals including Prince Harry, they added.
The restaurant was established in 2004 and most of its customers are regulars, according to Bellamy's website.
The interior was cozy and there was dim lighting, making it the ideal place for royals and celebrities to go incognito.
It was packed when I arrived, and I was thankful that I'd made a reservation. Most customers were dressed in formal attire, with men in suit jackets and women in dresses or blouses.
I liked the dim lighting, which gave the interior of the restaurant a cozy feel. The lighting also makes it a great location for celebrities or royals to dine without being recognized.
I had the avocado vinaigrette to start, which cost £9.50, or around $10.25.
The avocado vinaigrette consisted of sliced avocado, a lettuce garnish, and a vinaigrette dressing on the side. In my opinion, the dish was a little underwhelming — I'd thought that perhaps it might be served with some vegetables on the side with the lettuce, but this wasn't the case. I also thought that at £9.50, the dish was overpriced for what you get.
I enjoyed the smoked eel mousse, which was said to have been previously ordered by the Queen.
The avocado vinaigrette was followed by the smoked eel mousse, which cost £14, or around $15.10, and is rumored to be one of the Queen's preferred dishes, according to the Evening Standard.
The mousse had a creamy texture and a strong salted flavor, which was complemented by the toast it was served with. I enjoyed this much more than the previous dish, as it was more filling and had a stronger flavor.
Upon leaving the restaurant, I noticed a photograph of the Queen visiting Bellamy's in 2006.
Overall, I enjoyed my meal at the restaurant. While the service was slow at times, this was to be expected considering how busy it was, and the staff were very polite and friendly.
Upon leaving, I noticed this photo of the Queen visiting Bellamy's in 2006, which was placed next to the front desk. It hit home for me then that I was walking in the footsteps of Her Majesty at one of her favorite restaurants.
Later that weekend, I had cocktails at The Goring, which is said to be a favorite of the Queen and Kate Middleton.
The Goring in Belgravia has a long-standing relationship with the royal family. It has a royal warrant issued by the Queen and has been visited "by every reigning monarch and prime minister" since it first opened in 1910, a spokesperson told Insider via email.
The spokesperson said the hotel has been visited by Queen Elizabeth, and Kate Middleton stayed in the hotel's penthouse suite the night before her royal wedding in 2011.
I was given a seat at the bar right away, even though I wasn't staying at the hotel.
I had called The Goring in advance of my visit and was told that they were only accepting walk-ins at the hotel bar during the Jubilee weekend. They also warned me that it might be difficult to get a table as London was going to be particularly busy then. So I was surprised that on my arrival, I didn't have to wait for a table and was escorted to a table directly across from the bar.
The interior was beautifully designed, with sparkly chandeliers and cozy armchairs. The staff were also lovely, and I was approached by a staff member and asked for my order rather than having to go to the bar myself.
Even the bathroom was decorated elegantly.
When I asked a member of staff to direct me to the bathroom, they didn't just give directions — they walked me to the door. I didn't know whether this was an indicator of their great service, or whether they were secretly worried I was going to wander off and find the suite Kate Middleton once stayed in.
The bathroom was decorated elegantly, with butterfly-print wallpaper and several lamps, and towels were provided to wash your hands instead of paper.
As I waited for a friend to arrive, I ordered a royal-themed cocktail called The Coronation Cup.
The drinks menu paid tribute to royalty and historical figures in the UK, with options including the Jubilee Fizz, the George VI, Victory Tea, and The Coronation Cup.
I ordered The Coronation Cup, which cost £19, or around $20.50. It contained gin, Dubonnet, pomegranate, rosebuds, plums, and electric bitters, according to the menu. Former royal chef Darren McGrady previously told Insider that gin and Dubonnet was the Queen's favorite drink.
I enjoyed the cocktail, though it had a very strong plum flavor that seemed to overpower all the other ingredients.
When my friend arrived, we were asked to move to a table at the back of the room because they said he hadn't followed the dress code.
I invited my American friend, Pat, to join me at the bar since he was on vacation in London. He arrived wearing shorts and a polo shirt because of the hot weather in London. I didn't know if the hotel had a dress code, but I wasn't worried about it considering I had noticed a couple of other guests at the bar wearing sneakers and shorts.
When my friend arrived, however, they asked us to move to a table at the back of the room because he was wearing shorts, which they said didn't align with the dress code.
After the visit, I asked a spokesperson to clarify what the dress code was and they said "smart casual," which is also noted on the website though there's no mention of shorts not being allowed.
Pat soon forgot about the dress code mishap after ordering a Victory Tea.
Pat ordered a Victory Tea, which cost £20, or around $22. The cocktail was warm, and it arrived in a teapot filled with steam alongside a teacup. The ingredients included gin, croft pink port infused with raspberries, italicus and jasmine cordial, green strawberry bitters, and a grapefruit tonic, according to the menu.
The cocktail was inspired by Winston Churchill, who visited The Goring weekly for afternoon tea with his mother-in-law, who resided at the hotel, the menu added.
On the final day of my visit, I went to Fortnum & Mason, one of the Queen's favorite stores in London.
Fortnum & Mason is a luxury department store that's been associated with the royal family since it opened its doors in 1707. The store's founder, William Fortnum, was a footman to Queen Anne, and it became a tradition for the Fortnum family to be royal footmen until the 1800s, the website states.
The store has a royal warrant from Queen Elizabeth, which means its products were used by the monarch before her death.
Inside, the store had several decorations that referenced the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.
There was confetti-style decor on the staircase that was engraved with years that were important to Her Majesty's reign, such as 1954, which marked one year after her coronation.
The store is well known for its tea, and there was a Jubilee tea collection in honor of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.
Some Jubilee products are still available on the store's website, including the Jubilee Blend, which consists of 25 tea bags and costs £5.95, or around $6.50.
Even when not celebrating a Jubilee, the store has plenty of royal-themed products.
During my visit, I noticed many royal-themed products, including the Royal Blend tea, as well as shortbread and cookies.
I enjoyed browsing the store's products even though it was extremely busy.
The store was really busy when I visited in June, and I could understand why. I imagine other royal fans may have had the same idea as me and decided to visit in order to feel a little closer to Her Majesty.
Looking back, I'm thankful I got to visit the Queen's favorite places as it helped me feel a stronger connection to the monarch.
For 70 years, the Queen was a constant figure in all of our lives in the UK. But for most people, she was exactly that — a figure. She was a symbol for a nation, rather than somebody we knew personally.
Her personal life was kept private, and only those close to her got to know what the "real" Queen was like. But visiting the Queen's favorite places in June helped me feel like I know the monarch a little better than I did before.
It was a fantastic experience, and I'd recommend trying all of the places I did if you're a royal fan planning on visiting London.
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