A number of times during the evening I looked around and blinked a little. I was having a lot of fun, chatting away to my dinner companions – but every time I looked past them to the wider room I admit I internally grinned madly at myself. Me. Here. The Savoy! Quite honestly, some days my life feels a bit bonkers.
I had been invited to attend the British Guild of Travel Writers Awards as a guest of Rixos Hotels – I wasn’t up for any of the awards (next year, ok?), and I know this isn’t utterly enthralling news to most, so let me put this another way.
I was headed for an evening in the Savoy Ballroom.
I got to pull out the poshest of my frocks, spend more than a week’s worth of usual hair-time putting my hair in a ‘do’, and even put on a full face before rather reluctantly abandoning the family to a Sunday night in their PJ’s by the fire, and instead heading for the train station.
Sadly the 2hr hour train ‘hop’ started inauspiciously – I’d forgotten my book AND my iPod. Nightmare to end all mares. Thankfully South West trains now have wi-fi, and my phone was soon equipped with the kindle app (and I was just as soon engrossed in Eleanor & Park. Oh, it’s perfect). Sadly during the extended journey (now 2.5hrs thanks to signal failure) my ‘do’ slowly disentangled itself from every single one of the 1,643 kirby grips (bobby pins? They’re always kirby grips in my brain) I had precision-installed to prevent it slipping all evening. Which meant I emerged from the train late, and swiftly winding my still-damp hair into it’s usual day-to-day Mum-knot. So much for the ambitiously glamorous look I’d spent ages creating.
The late train plus the stiff downdraft of frozen London air made me think better of the 20 minute stroll across the river, and I rapidly opted for a swift cab ride instead.
I arrived safely (after setting the world to rights with the cabbie, obvs) – and warmly – and had descended through the depths of the Savoy, checked my coat, approached the champagne reception only to hear that we were being called into dinner.
Naturally I immediately loitered busily on my phone in a quiet corner for 5 minutes – no one wants to be the keener who’s first to the table, do they? – and then joined the middle of the throng headed into the truly special ballroom for dinner and the Awards ceremony.
I was honoured to be attending as a guest of Rixos hotels – you’ve probably heard of the hotels, but have you heard about the new Land of Legends? Totally Awesome. I cannot wait to tell more – suffice to say, it’s a theme park in Turkey, the likes of which you’ve not seen. There’s a water slide that ends in a GIANT cone shape. And the hotel rooms in the theme park look genuinely brilliant, like the designer just handed carte blanche to a 9yr old. Being their guest meant I was way up at the front with a perfect view – and also meant I was rather trapped. If I wanted to leave my seat I had to stand up in front of the stage with all eyes upon me (they wouldn’t have been, obviously, I’m not that remarkable, but you know what I mean). But staying in my seat was no hardship – I had a wonderful, wonderful evening.
I was lucky to be seated between two perfect table neighbours (it’s astonishing how on those big round tables you simply can’t speak to anyone except your immediate neighbours. Those dead opposite? Not a chance.). Dinner was fabulous (obviously – this was the Savoy, darling), and between courses there was a lot to take in. Obviously there were the winners – the reason we were there, to celebrate some truly inspirational travel writers of the last year. Plus the places, and people who are inspiring us to travel in the first place.
A personal highlight was listening to the quietly spoken Sheikh Ahmed, collecting the Guild’s Wider World Tourism Award on behalf of three Bedouin tribes in the Sinai.
The presentation from the travel writer Robin Hanbury-Tenison, a founding member of Survival international the night’s chosen charity, was a startlingly sombre moment in a gloriously frothy night.
Listening to Kirstie, this year’s ‘travel blogger of the year’, performing her poetry was great – I may have nudged both table neighbours to proudly bleat “ooh, I know her!”.
But mostly it was wonderful to simply have the opportunity be there among such talented and interesting people (and to hope that my untamed hair could in some way absorb some of the astonishing talent swooshing around the room).