London Calling! The Time of My Life on a Harney & Sons Tea Tour
It's July 19, 2020 and tomorrow marks one of the most incredible anniversaries in my life: the 2-year anniversary of my trip to London, England in 2018. On July 20, I boarded an Air Canada plane and my first flight overseas at the tender age of 32 for a week-long stay in London, my lifelong dream destination. A trip that would change my life and change ME in ways I could never imagine. A trip that, till this very day, still brings tears to my eyes (I'm having to wipe away tears even as I write this because there's THAT much emotion in this) and still makes my heart feel like it's going to burst from joy.
This trip wasn't a "just because" trip that I had decided to take on a whim. No, there was a very specific reason for my going and of course, in true Deb fashion, it was ALLLL about the tea: I was going to London on a HARNEY & SONS TEA TOUR!!! Harney & Sons! With Mike and Brigitte Harney themselves! In the flesh! FOR AN ENTIRE WEEK!
The tea tour was organized by Onward Travel, a travel agency devoted to small and intimate group travel and tours and run by two amazing sisters, Katerina and Molly. They had partnered with the Harneys on tours in the past and did so again in 2018. In addition, the Harneys themselves have a very special relationship to the Royal family and one of its many charities, Historic Royal Palaces, creating an exclusive line of tea blends and products designed specifically in support of this charity that oversees establishments and landmarks including Kensington Palace (where Duke and Duchess Prince William and Kate were residing at the time) and Tower of London among others.
The tour group would be capped at 15 and the tour of London would have us sightseeing, visiting landmarks, eating delicious food, and having tea all across the city in a myriad of delicious and awe-inspiring ways! Each day would have us engaging with tea in a different way that would have us experiencing tea in true British fashion: culture, history, customs, and trends.
One day we were taking a masterclass with world renowned tea expert, author, and teacher, Jane Pettigrew (colour me freakin' gobsmacked!), another day we were having afternoon tea on the rooftop of the famed Dorchester Hotel, another day we were boarding a ferry for a day in neighbouring Greenwich where we had cream tea on the historic Cutty Sark (the last tea clipper/ship) while doing a deep dive in tea history, and another brought us to London's trendy Soho district for dim sum with an exclusively curated menu for our Harney & Sons tour group.
And let's not forget the free time to explore to our heart's content! The wonderful thing about this tour was the flow and flexibility and the ease of transition, as well as the proximity to basically everything! We stayed at the Chesterfield Mayfair, which is literally steps away from Piccadilly (The Ritz London, Fortnum & Mason) and Carnaby, and easy walking distance to Knightsbridge, Soho, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Buckingham Palace, and Kensington Palace.
Even though we would tour as a group, we had our own space to take everything in on our own and plenty of time was allotted to individual exploration, including a day to ourselves in between our 7 days, and pockets before reconvening for dinner, for example (when you're given 2 hours before dinner, you dash around taking glorious pictures and hightail it over to Fortnum & Mason to shop!) that gave us the time to be alone with our own thoughts and to really absorb and be present with everything going on around us. I know the concept of balance is a myth, but I have to tell you, it couldn't have been more perfect. I'm so excited to share with you all exactly what I did on my free day and the itinerary that I created for myself months in advance in next week's blog post!
I. HAD. THE. TIME. OF. MY. LIFE.
Nothing compares. Nothing.
How did this trip come into being and how did I even find out about it in the first place?! Well, my Harney & Sons story began in 2012. At the time I had been working at my old corporate job and one day one of my coworkers and dear friends, who also happened to be a crazy tea fanatic, brought her Harney & Sons catalogue to work to see if I and anyone else wanted to piggyback and tag-team with her on an order. It was my first look at Harney & Sons and oh my was I in trouble. I flipped through that catalogue for the first time in 2012 and never looked back. There was no climbing out of that rabbit hole. I was a fan and I was hooked. In the years that would follow I'd place my own online orders, loving each and every single tin that came my way, and receive their newsletters and email blasts.
Then on one magical day in March 2018, I received an email in my inbox that would forever change my life: an email from Harney & Sons announcing registration for their upcoming summer tea tour in London.
My heart stopped.
A tea tour. In London, England. With the Harneys.
SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!
I quickly downloaded the itinerary, scanning the PDF file. After lifting my jaw off the floor and calming my bongo-drumming heart and shaking hands, as calmly as I could, I did some quick financial math and in a matter of less than a week, I had registered and paid my deposit.
I was going.
In a matter of months, I was on London soil, the place I'd dreamed of going to for so long. And on July 20, 2018, after a 7-hour direct flight, the lovely gentleman at customs flipped to a random page in my passport and gave it its first international stamp and wished me a wonderful stay. I was completely jetlagged and running on nothing but adrenaline but it didn't matter; it was one of the most defining, beautiful moments in my life. Because I had put myself here and I had given myself a chance at true freedom and happiness.
But I'd done it. I'd said yes to my happiness.
And in that week, I had the time of my life. I had dim sum in Soho. I toured Kensington Palace and the breaktaking exhibit devoted to the late Princess Diana and her iconic trailblazing journey in fashion. I watched the guards march outside Buckingham Palace. I took my first double-decker bus ride all by myself to Angel to visit Bird & Blend tea shop. I made multiple trips to Fortnum & Mason, and spent glorious time in Whittard of Chelsea, Postcard Teas, TWG, Paperchase, Hummingbird Bakery, and more. I met and spent a day with Jane Pettigrew during our tea academy masterclass. I bought a teacup at Jubilee Market. With wide-eyed wonder I watched the opening and closing of Tower Bridge. I ate scones and had cream tea on the Cutty Sark. I bought buckets of postcards, souvenirs, and tea goodies (thank you goodness for the extra luggage I brought!). I walked and walked and walked, spent hours and days getting to know Mike and Brigitte Harney and my tour friends, and made memories that continue to reverberate in my heart and in my mind.
This trip fundamentally changed me. I learned so much about myself and came back with different dreams and desires. And, as you will all find out soon enough in future blog posts, this trip to London 2 years ago ultimately paved the way for me to close the chapter on my first business, The Sugared Teacup, and to begin work on Dessert by Deb.