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Prologue

Have you ever been on a date that didn’t go quite as planned? My story unfolded on a chilly February day over five years ago. Swaddled in a crimson coat with a wonky, waistline bow that belligerently refused to hold its shape, I sat at Charing Cross station at 11am, apprehensively spiralling curls into the frayed tips of my lightened hair, whilst waiting for my blind date to arrive.

Fashionably late is acceptable I understand, though I am much more in my comfort zone when I am the one partaking in the tardiness but when twenty minutes passed by with not a soul walking my way, I experienced the unpalatable taste of being stood up. Never one to excel at biting my tongue, my furious fingers showed no hesitation in dialling the number of the mysterious man, who failed to show.

Amba Hotel Charing Cross Strand London

“Umm…where are you” I  softly howled, my wrath untamed by my feathery tone.

“I’m at home” he replied courteously, a well-spoken man whose articulate voice was making its cameo in my life. “Where are you” he continued – ” I thought we were meeting at 1?”

At this, my annoyance leaped like a frog on amphetamines but rather than question me any further, he rapidly vowed to dash out of the house, promising he could reach within 45 minutes. (And I silently vowed to waste only one more hour of my precious time on this inevitably doomed date before politely parting ways with a feeble, and as yet unconceived, excuse.)

But when I decided to double-check my texts, a gut-twirling moment of panic ensued. The text had said, “how about we meet at 1?” Not 11…

The mysterious man had been right to be surprised at my call and in her state of first-date butterflies, Little Miss Hasty here had gone and accused an innocent man when, in fact, she had only herself to blame for this embarrassing turn of events.

National Portrait Gallery London

Let’s just say I cowered away from saying sorry by phone but the first chapter of what turned into an eight-hour date was peppered with incessant apologies over a lovely (earlier than planned) lunch date at the National Portrait Gallery. I guess he was a keeper for seeing past it. He was then – and he is now.

And that was how my journey with Pumpkin began.

It’s safe to say it was not love at first sight but I have not been allowed to forget my feisty phone manner that morning and Pumpkin had no hesitation on our wedding day in spinning an exaggerated version of our story, telling our 300 + guests that I had arrived two hours early for our first date, so keen was I to meet him!

The Audrey Hepburn Exhibition at National Portrait Gallery

Audrey Hepburn exhibition museum London

It follows, therefore, that the National Portrait Gallery is more than a place of culture for me, more than just the home of that Duchess of Cambridge portrait that generated such mixed opinion. For Pumpkin and I, it is a trip down memory lane, filled with humorous and nostalgic sentiment and when I received an invitation to attend the recent Audrey Hepburn exhibition there, I simply couldn’t refuse.

Unfortunately, photography is not permitted inside meaning I am unable to share photos of the exhibition itself – but then again, you probably don’t need my Samsung snaps to know what Audrey Hepburn looks like. 😀

Audrey Hepburn Exhibition London calendar

What I found most fascinating about the exhibition was gaining a better insight into just how versatile an actress Audrey Hepburn was and her background and journey into the world of acting. Although entry into the gallery itself is free (as is the case with most London museums), there is a charge of £9 per standard adult ticket to enter this special exhibition, which is only open until 18th October so get your black gloves and skates on if you want to catch it!

Audrey Hepburn exhibition National Portrait Gallery

Afternoon Tea at Amba Hotel, Charing Cross

Our visit to the exhibition had been sandwiched with a warm welcome from the staff at the very well-located Amba Hotel, which is literally immediately adjacent to Charing Cross station and is surprisingly spacious considering its prime central location, ideal for tourism (and Pumpkin and I if we ever miss our South Eastern train home.)

Amba Hotel Charing Cross London

After a welcome drinks reception in a chandelier-lit room itself decorated with portraits, we were offered champagne and a few snacks to keep us going until our afternoon tea later on and were given an introduction to the hotel.

Amba Hotel London chandelierhistory of afternoon tea

The staff were quite happy to allow us to snoop around some of the other hotel areas and I was particularly drawn to both the grand ballroom and the airy, bright dining area overlooking The Strand.

ballroom Amba Hotel Charing Cross Londonballroom Amba Hotel Charing Cross London

I suspect that this is where afternoon tea is usually served with floral crockery and tea menus giving away more than a small hint so I would have loved for us to sample our tea there but for the purposes of this event, we all remained in the same room where the drinks reception was held.

Amba Hotel afternoon tea restaurant

This meant that we quickly learned the art of eating our afternoon tea standing up and as sociable as it was, I must admit that I generally prefer lounging around in comfy chairs but perhaps that’s just the lazy lady within me! Kudos to the staff at Amba Hotel for catering to a whole array of dietary requirements including gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan.

gluten dairy free afternoon tea Amba Hotel

Since there were a few spare gluten-free chocolate bites going, some of the gluten-eaters (guilty as charged) may have dabbled their interfering paws into the indulgent, rectangular gingery chocolate brownies, which was one of the highlights of the tea selection for me.

afternoon tea Amba hotel London

Attending the National Portrait Gallery with a large group of bloggers to learn about an iconic actress, followed by cake and scones was a thousand miles apart from the nervous blind date experience I had in this very part of London all those years ago but plainly and simply, it felt mighty fine to be back.

If you’re a fan of afternoon tea, why not try out a 24 Karat Gold Tea, afternoon tea on a red London bus or even afternoon tea combined with flower arranging?

Which places have prompted you to feel nostalgic?

Disclaimer: I was a guest of of Amba Hotel Charing Cross for this experience but I am an opinionated little lady and all views, good or bad, are entirely my own.