I didn’t want November to escape me completely. It has been a month of settling in, a month of work, a month of getting acquainted with this new city of mine.
November has been a wonderful month for walking through London on the cool, clear evenings. Both the above and below shots were taken one evening when David and I walked though Trafalgar Square and down to the River Thames, smoking good cigars given to us by a friend who visited in October.
Above is a view of Admiralty Arch, the 100-year-old landmark at the eastern end of the Mall. Until recently, the building housed government offices, but as part of a government programme to sell off parts of its multibillion-pound property portfolio, it sold a 125-year lease over the building to a property developer for redevelopment into a luxury hotel.
Rafael Serrano, a Spanish investor, purchased the lease for £60 million. Serrano is the name behind the new Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge. Many have called the new hotel vulgar and gaudy, leading to the press terming Serrano’s new project the “Vulgarity Arch”.
I, for one, could not be more pleased. Rule of thumb: the less property held by the state, the better. The Admiralty Arch was commissioned by Edward VII in memory of his mother, Queen Victoria, and completed in 1912. The Latin inscription along the top reads:
: ANNO : DECIMO : EDWARDI : SEPTIMI : REGIS :
: VICTORIÆ : REGINÆ : CIVES : GRATISSIMI : MDCCCCX :
In the tenth year of King Edward VII,
to Queen Victoria, from most grateful citizens, 1910
In other words, one politician built this expensive building to commemorate another politician and paid for it with money taken from average Brits. Since it was completed, the building has cost approximately £1 million of taxpayer money per year to maintain and has had virtually no public access. Only select politicians and a few public officials in the Cabinet Office have used the building and only as a policy engine room of Whitehall.
I am excited to see what Serrano does with the beautiful 147,300 sq ft he has to work with. The property will remains a spectacular sight to the onlooker from the outside, but perhaps soon it will be a place for someone to go for a romantic cocktail, a fancy cigar, or to celebrate a special occasion with high tea. Who knows, with two of its eight levels underground, perhaps one will be transformed into a 1920s speakeasy or state of the art spa.