Covent Garden Hotel – The perfect winter city retreat

Bedroom at Covent Garden Hotel

The relentless rain propels me along the effusive and charming, cobbled stoned Monmouth Street in London’s Covent Garden, challenging me to escape it. Despite the weather, eager shoppers move insouciantly from shop to shop, a far cry from the stress inducing, disgruntled traffic of Oxford Street. A door opens and I’m greeted with a beaming smile as I stride into the plush reception of the Covent Garden Hotel.

The dark wood interior and antique furniture teemed with bright and floral textiles exude a quenching warmth. Check-in is quick and painless and a swift tour of the hotel before I am shown to my room impresses upon me the hotel’s endevour to make its guests feel as much at ease as they would be in their own home.

Bathroom at Covent Garden Hotel

My bedroom is especially spacious for a west-end hotel and furnished in quintessentially Kit Kemp form, with rustic antique furniture and colourful soft furnishings combined to stylish and decadent effect. A fully equipped writing desk stands proudly against one wall, while another is furnished with a comfy sofa and stately armchair. A five star hotel, my room boasts a Bose docking station, Tivoli radio, DVD/CD player an LCD flat screen television and less techy, though just as luxurious Frette bed linen. The granite bathroom is also generous in space and facilities, with an ample walk-in shower, double basin, bath with TV and luxurious amenities by Miller Harris. I could happy spend the rest of the day in my room, but I have an afternoon tea date with my friend and vintage expert Margaret Davidson of Penny Dreadful Vintage.

I meet Margaret at reception and as we walk up the winding stairs to Tiffany’s Library, I really do feel like I’m guiding my guest through my very own London mansion. The library is an intimate room, with an open fireplace and antique furnishings, introduced via the vast and beautiful drawing room. These two rooms are for the use of guests only, giving the hotel a rather ‘exclusive club’ vibe.

Pressing the bell above the fireplace brings an expert waiter up to the library, who patiently answers our questions about the menu (we want to try everything, of course). As well as a traditional afternoon tea, the hotel also does a more substantial ‘Gentleman’s Tea’ (I shall reserve judgement on the title) and currently, a Winter Afternoon Tea. We choose one of each, complete with autumn cocktails and the finest fragrant loose leaf teas.

Besides having our teapots replenished, we are left undisturbed to enjoy our afternoon tea. With the rain beating against the broad box sash windows and the lights of Monmouth street dancing against the glass, Tiffany’s Library at the Covent Garden Hotel is the perfect place to be.

The deluxe bed induces a peaceful sleep and I profess this is one of the finest mattresses I have ever lain upon. I would gladly take it home, if I could. It is only the knowledge that I have a breakfast date at Brasserie Max with my talented photographer friend and lead vocalist of Temper Temper, Wendy Bevan that persuades me out of the palatial bed and the feast that follows makes me glad that I do.

So many 5 star hotels profess to offer 5 star food and service, but many do not deliver. Covent Garden Hotel however, delivers on both counts. Breakfast is an offering of freshly baked breads, delicious buttery Danish pastries, nutritious muffins, a variety of refreshing yoghurt and luxury cereals with the option of a made to order hot breakfast. My eggs royale are perfect; soft poached eggs with a lavish offering of delicious salmon and piquant hollandaise. And what’s more, the brasserie does an excellent flat-white. The staff are friendly and engaging and as I leave, I feel like I’m saying goodbye to old friends.

Tiffany's Library at Covent Garden Hotel, London

Brasserie Max at Covent Garden Hotel, London

Covent Garden Hotel is conveniently located for enjoying the theatres of the West-End, exploring the plentiful bars and restaurants of Soho and indulging in London history and culture. It’s also the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the vibrant neighbourhood and a delicious antidote to the harsh façade of winter weather.

Book your stay at Covent Garden Hotel at

In the company of Bags and Purses at Amsterdam’s Tassen Museum Henrijke

Art Deco clutch at The Museum of Bags and Purses, Amsterdam

In an unassuming canal-side town-house, a short meander from the delightful Nine Streets and central Dam area, resides the Tassenmuseum Hendrijke or the Museum of Bags and Purses; the largest collection of bags and purses in the world, ranging from bags and purses of the Middle Ages through to the dynamic and practical receptacles of today. I heave a sigh of relief as I ditch the relentless rain for the warm embrace of history and alluring artistry.

My tour of the museum begins with a much-welcomed cup of Early Grey and coconut macaroons, and the rich narrative that inhabits each and every exhibit. I am welcomed by Sigrid Ivo, the museum’s elegant director and curator, who I soon learn is the daughter of the mother of handbags herself; the woman responsible for the vast collection of reticules I am about to discover.

“Let me tell you about the beginnings of the museum,” offers Sigrid and I listen, earnestly. Sigrid reveals how her mother, Hendrikje Ivo‘s love for collecting antiques and rarities began many years before she discovered her passion for handbags; with the coveting of dolls and other curiosities – a hobby that turned into a trade, encouraged and supported by her husband, Heinz.

Hendrijke’s love for antiques took her far beyond her home-town of Amstelveen and during a visit to the English countryside, she and her husband came upon an exquisite tortoiseshell bag, inlaid with mother of pearl and far too precious not to be given a more commendatory accommodation. So they welcomed the majestic piece of art into their home, plying it with questions about its origin and history; a German creation from the early 1800s, and therein began a collector’s dream.

As the collection grew, so grew Hendrijke and Heinz’ desire to submit their rare and beautiful collectibles for the appreciation and enjoyment of others. And so was born the Museum of Bags and Purses, as the couple opened their home to visitors, where for the first time they exhibited their delectable and exciting anthology of bags to the public.

As you might imagine, as more bags and purses made their way to the museum and visitors from all over flocked in, the Ivos had to seriously think about space and a new home for the exhibits, but with little capital, finding a new home for the collection was going to be a problem. In an act of desperation, they placed a notice within the museum, stating ‘The Museum of Bags and Purses Hendrijke is looking for a bigger space. We want to make the museum flourish and we need the support of the city council, a foundation or a wealthy individual.’

“This is the amazing part of the story,” Sigrid enthuses. “Things like this just don’t happen, except in fairy-tales.” She tells me about the saving grace who appeared at her parents’ door, determined to help the couple out and offer themselves as a benefactor. Thus the museum was elevated, expanded and transported to the stunning interior of this canal-side town house in Amsterdam.

The Museum of Bags and Purses, Amsterdam

Tea rooms at The Museum of Bags and Purses, Amsterdam
Tea rooms at The Museum of Bags and Purses, Amsterdam

Display at The Museum of Bags and Purses, Amsterdam

The story of the museum has me eager to peruse the extensive collection and Sigrid advises we begin in the 16th century. Interestingly, though not surprisingly, the museum’s oldest bag is a man’s bag; a bag probably worn by a travelling merchant. It’s made of goatskin with several internal frames and eighteen secret compartments; a practical solution for carrying a variety of currency and personal items prior to the introduction of clothes with inside pockets.

Chatelaines, I find, were all the rage from the 16th to 18th century, a kind of inside out bag where a hook and chain component had attached to it a number of items including, a purse, keys, pin cushion and knife sheath. Like with many trends at the time, such fashionables were the play of the rich and privileged, but were only seriously and practically embraced once they had trickled down to those of lesser means.

The role of the bag changes throughout the centuries, I learn. Bags find their place as more than practical daily use, but as wedding bags containing gift money, as an enclosure for the bible or as sweetbags, containing gold, perfume or flowers. In the 18th century, bags become a token of love, embroidered with hidden messages to lovers and symbols of love to congratulate or cement a romantic union.

The museum overflows with history and narrative, contained within every bag and purse, each century telling a vivid and exciting story. But my delight firmly lies with the Art Deco bags of the 1920s and ’30s. I find I could spend many many more enjoyable hours in this beautiful museum, but I have another appointment to make and must dash. Before I leave, Sigrid insists I take a peek at the museum toilets – a strange request, non? All becomes clear though as Sigrid pushes open the door to every cubicle to reveal glass enclosuress, presenting within each, a gorgeous bag embedded above each loo. I squeal with joy at the concept – I love this museum.

Clutch displayed in a toilet at The Museum of Bags and Purses, Amsterdam

Art Deco clutch at The Museum of Bags and Purses, Amsterdam

Leaving the museum, visitors have the opportunity to purchase bags and purses from a plethora of beautifully designed contemporary handbags, from brands well known, as well as from local designers. Sadly, my hollow purse doesn’t allow me to adopt a new bag, but the shop is an exhibition in itself and I enjoy browsing nonetheless.

The Museum of Bags and Purses will fascinate historians, appreciators of art and fashion lovers alike. A museum well deserving of a perusal in a city saturated with museums and galleries.

You will find the Museum of Bags and Purses at Herengracht 573, 1017 CD Amsterdam, Netherlands

I traveled to Amsterdam on the Eurostar, one of the most enjoyable and easiest ways to get to Amsterdam. With one easy connection in Brussels passengers can arrive in the heart of Amsterdam in just over four hours.

Eurostar offers return fares to Amsterdam from just £99. Eurostar also offers connecting fares from more than 300 stations in the UK. For more information or to book, visit or call 08432 186 186.

Standard Premier
With the option of flexible fares, Standard Premier offers the freedom to work, think, or simply unwind. You will be presented with calm, spacious surroundings with on-board staff offering a light meal and a selection of magazines.