I’ve had a gift card to the Cowshed at The Ned burning a hole in my wallet for nearly a year now. Matt gave it to Justin as a Christmas gift last year, but he hasn’t been able to use it, and since it will expire before he makes it back to London, he said I could use it in his place.
Why does this matter? Only because it gets me into one of the best spas in one of the best hotels in London!
I booked about a month ago and was excited to head down to the heart of “The City” (London’s financial district) on this grey and rainy morning.
The area is full of grand old buildings and fancy new skyscrapers. In the photo above, that’s the Royal Exchange in the middle, and the Bank of England on the left (I inevitably think of Mr Banks in Mary Poppins every time I come down here).
The Ned is a swank hotel discretely nestled inside a former bank. I found the sign and went in . . .
. . . and it way exceeded my expectations! I was expecting fancy (which it was), but I was not expecting it to be absolutely packed with the young and the beautiful (the streets outside were dead), or that it would actually feel fairly welcoming (I didn’t feel nearly as out of place as I typically do in grand hotels).
I admit I wasn’t quite brave enough to take a picture of the best part of the lobby. I just snapped this one quickly and then walked around soaking it all in for a minute . . .
. . . until I realized that this hotel is apparently in the Michelin Guide school of thought in terms of way-finding — meaning that there wasn’t a sign or directory to be found anywhere. You just had to “know.” Since I didn’t, I finally asked a woman to point me to the spa, and she pointed me to the stairs down to the vault level.
Down I went. Turns out bank vault conversions make for very cozy spas. The place was full of plush furniture, deep oriental rugs, and gorgeous staff. The salt scrub and massage were excellent, and I emerged feeling sleepy and relaxed and only a little bit oily in the corners.
As I hunted for the nearest bus stop, I discovered that the building sat on the site of the original post office, which claims to be where the first postmarks in the world were struck.
And across the street waited a row of adorable vintage Minis that turned out to be waiting for a tour group to turn up and squeeze inside. I want to do that tour!
I waited a long time for the bus until it finally dawned on me that the yellow poster on the shelter was announcing a disruption of service. So I stepped back out in the rain and walked all the way home.