A week ago, we had one of our better hotel stays in London. Sure, part of it was just the joy of being back in a major city and seeing people enjoying life again, but another part was total satisfaction of plotting travel to perfection, and having a hotel live up to expectation.
My partner was running the London Landmarks Half Marathon, and noted casually that the event starts somewhere near London’s Pall Mall, alongside St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, No. 10 and a variety of iconic London Landmarks.
My mind instantly jogged to the Sofitel St. James, an Accor ALL hotel. We’d stayed at the hotel in 2019 and had a great time, with easy walking access to great food and spaces to stroll, and I figured it was probably a decent location for the race.
The Night Before
I couldn’t help but laugh as we made our way into the hotel. Signage was already being placed for “race start” just around the corner from the hotel entrance on the afternoon before the race, so I was already joyed with the location pick. Rooms start in the mid to high £200’s, and I think we paid about £300 given the peak timing.
Wait though, it gets better.
On arrival, the hotel staff were friendlier than ever. Marion, who checked us in was exceptionally kind and good with detail, ensuring that we had the right bedding setup for our little one, and hopefully to get my partner a good night’s sleep.
I was handed a voucher for welcome drinks, as part of the Accor ALL program, and before I could say “thanks anyway”, Marion noted that they could actually be used for ordering a drink up to the room.
With many people still hesitant to mingle in social spaces, I thought this was a fantastic touch. Making things even more enjoyable. Any wine offered “by the glass” on the bar menu was eligible, so I was able to enjoy a glass of wine I’d actually drink at home, in this instance a nice 2014 Tuscan blend.
A short walk to Cafe Murano, a lovely dinner and off to bed. It all felt good, but nothing could compare to the next morning.
Race Day Festivities
Marion, unsurprisingly was in the lobby the next morning welcoming guests. She was also wearing one of those big rubber “#1” hands for encouragement. The hotel had a sweet setup for any racers staying at the hotel, with complimentary water and snacks too.
Any smugness about clever planning I had the day before was totally outdone by the morning of! Directly outside the hotel, people were forming queues to get ready for the starting line. You could also see H-U-G-E queues for the loos. If you’ve ever run a 5K, 10K, Half or Marathon – you’ll know that this is a significant part of the morning.
Not for us though! We were able to assess the appropriate time for the group start, enjoy the full environment of the music, the crowd support and the well wishings to runners, but also to jump back into the room for quiet, peace… and a private loo.
The hotel offers a generally stellar room service menu, allowing for maximum sleep and rest ahead of race time. Basically, it was just a really fun and easy going morning, whereas most race mornings are manic and full of nerves ( as well as transportation).
The hotel generously granted a late checkout, so Laura was able to shower, stretch and unwind after the race, while Olive (our daughter) and I checked out the hotel bar. This was an experience we’ll absolutely reproduce for next year’s London Landmarks.
Bottom Line: London Is Back
Walking along St. James Park, you can’t help but smile. London is back, people are slowly making their way back in and restaurants and cafes have a buzz about them.
In a city like London, there’s absolutely no shortage of excellent hotels – Rosewood, Renaissance St. Pancras, Andaz Liverpool Street to name a few, but for this occasion, we couldn’t have been happier anywhere else.
I love the Sofitel St James, because it created a great new lifelong travel memory for us, in a time when people need good new travel memories.