In Part 1 here, I described the breakdown of the £10,000 prize that I won. Here, I’m going to tell you how we spent it all! ….
On the dawn of my 33rd birthday, Helen and I boarded a train from Sheffield to London. We should have been excited, but to be honest we were a bit nervous. (a) We weren’t used to being wined and dined in luxury; (b) We felt a bit embarrassed about the idea; (c) We still kinda thought it was a wind-up.
But as we pulled into Kings Cross station, there waiting to whisk us away was a big, shiny, black Mercedes. To put it in context, I drive a Skoda Fabia (cappucino beige … well it used to be).
At the hotel we met up with my parents. The prize had included 2 further guests, and I couldn’t think of two people more deserving … plus my Mum loves to act posh. To me, this was the life’s debt I owed them repaid. All square, right?
The hotel staff were so nice to us on arrival. To be honest, it was probably the first time anybody ‘normal’ had actually stayed there. I think they were more used to Texan Oligarchs making outlandish demands, or newly rich celebrities enjoying their unlikely fame (before it then ran out and they had to stay in the jungle or the CBB house).
Up to the Penthouse we went, feeling extremely pleased with ourselves. If you’re wondering what a bed bigger than yours looks like, then it’s this …
After a quick butchers around our domain, it was off downstairs to the bar to learn how to make cocktails with the main man, Alessandro Palazzi. This is the bar where Ian Fleming used to visit and drink martinis, whilst dreaming up villainous maniacs to try and kill James Bond far too slowly.
Our masterclass with Alessandro consisted chiefly of putting loads of alcohol in a little glass, then slicing a bit of lemon rind in to take the edge off. Shaken, not stirred? Maybe sloshed, not sober!
The girls then went off to have their massages, while me and Dad went to Trueffet & Hill for a wet shave. I’d never had one before … and to be honest I didn’t particularly like it. I felt raw afterwards, like he’d scraped a little too hard. I guess I’m too sensitive for it … I mean, he didn’t have to call me all those nasty names BA-DOM-CHA!
The next day the Merc (you can call it that on the second day) was waiting outside to whisk us around London. We visited the Tower of London, Imperial War Museum, and a McDonald’s. Me and Dad posed for the next photo … perhaps inappropriately on reflection?
In the evening we had a special meal lined up in Dukes’ restaurant. We were given the best table in the corner, away from the paying public, along with a bottle of Pouilly Fume white wine (£70), and a bottle of Pinot Noir red wine (£90). In case we were really thirsty, they also brought out a bottle of Cristal champagne, at the sparklingly mad price of 240 English pounds!
A couple of weeks before our trip, we’d fantastically found out that our first baby was on his way. The following photo shows the amount of Cristal I let Helen have that night … you might just be able to spot the drizzle at the bottom of her glass, haha. She still mentions it every day! I don’t know what she’s moaning about though, there was probably £15 worth of champagne in that sip.
The following morning we elected to have breakfast in our room, because we could. The server arrived with a loaded trolley of juices and eggs and fancy foods I didn’t know the name of. There was a long corridor leading to our dining area, but he told us the regular guests get upset if he wheels through, so he individually carried each item in. Those crabby Texan Oligarchs caused my bacon to go cold!
Bang after bang! Next it was off to Berry Bros & Rudd Wine Merchants, the place where the Royals get their booze from. It was a world of wooden paneled rooms, dusty cellars, and a charismatic wine merchant whom my Mum fell in love with. We (not Helen haha) sampled six bottles of wine, had a tour around their historic building, and found out Matt Damon got wasted there the week before.
That evening, we went to the theatre to watch “We Will Rock You” … personally I thought it was rubbish, haha. I don’t really like musicals, but skipping ahead, on the last night of our trip Mum and Dad took us to see Phantom of the Opera, and I will hold my hands up and say that it was fantastic. The set changes and production were amazing. Clearly I’m more Andrew Lloyd Webber than Ben Elton.
Our 4th day was spent touring Buckingham Palace and its gardens. We were shown the Queen’s secret door that she uses to surprise her guests, rooms layered in glittering gold, and a gift shop full of Japanese tourists stuffing their baskets full of plates and teacups and Royal erasers.
That night we were treated to dinner at La Caprice, where everybody seemed to arrive in red Ferraris … although I was more impressed by the fanciest hand gel I had ever smelt in the Gents toilets.
It felt odd to finish our food and then leave without paying … I guess we’re just never going to be suited to this life. Back at the hotel we decided to ride up to our rooms in the lift. It was one of those beautiful old lifts with a metal grille that you pulled across to enter. Best of all, it had an upholstered seat for you to ride up the 5 floors on!
Our final day was Bank Holiday Monday and so we were left to our own devices. We wandered around the parks, mooched about inside Fortnum & Masons, and then went to see Phantom, with the disappointment that Frank Spencer was nowhere to be seen.
And after one more sleep, that was it. Ten thousand pounds spent, a few pounds put on, and a lifetime of fantastic memories made. After gushing thanks to the staff, we caught the train back to Sheffield, back to our real lives, back to start our new little family :o)
Maybe one day we’ll be back to stay, but probably only if one of our kids becomes a supermodel, or strikes oil whilst holidaying in the Americas.
Hopefully our experience goes to show you that somebody really does win these things. And that somebody was ME!
So big thanks Dukes Hotel, St James Place, London …