Feeling Good on London's Regent Street - Belle Année
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Feeling Good on London’s Regent Street

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It is February 1st and, according to popular belief, and the HuffPo, only 8% of us have stuck with our New Year’s Resolutions at this point.  The most popular resolutions won’t surprise you: (1) Exercise more (2) Lose weight and (3) Eat more healthfully (in the US #2 is replaced with Save more money).  The reasons most people don’t stick to their resolutions are telling: People either make absolute resolutions with no ramping up or down period OR they make overly vague resolutions with few ways of tracking success.  Then, when they don’t manage their grand change, they simply consider it a failure and give up all together.   It is far better, so say the experts, to resolve to “only eat red meat once a week” than it is to resolve to “eat less red meat” . It’s just in the wording, but it makes the resolution easier to track and so easier for you to keep.

My favorite resolution, for myself, or when I hear it in others, is about connectivity.   There are a few resolutions you can make that make that bitesized and doable:  Turn off devices when your kids get home from school.  Have dinner together as a family every Sunday.   Have a date night with your partner every week.   Now, for the bigger picture, although it may fall afoul of the advice against being too vague, there is a connectivity to location that I think we should all shoot for.  As frequently as we troll Instagram to discover our next photo opportunity, and the destination for our next vacation that we must document and share with the world, there is a real magic in experiencing the streets that are already around us.

Take London, for instance.

I have lived in London off-and-on for nearly 13 years.  It has only been in the past two years, however, that I have taken to really learning about my city.  Making a point of visiting cultural institutions, understanding the geographical lay out of the city. Forcing myself out of the neighborhood.  Offering up suggestions to visiting friends and family that take a bit of research each time (not just relying on my old favorites until they are no longer favorites, but just old) but even so, there is always a way to do more and to connect more with my surroundings.  I had a handful of resolutions this year and, though a partnership with Regent Street I was able to add a connectivity to London to every one of them.

Resolution one:  Hang up.

I love newspapers.  I love the way they look, the way they smell, the way you can find interesting stories buried in the back.  The way people sign their names to scathing editorials and the way they lure you in with photos of the royals but with no story to accompany it.  One of my resolutions was to take time for the newspaper and not just catch up, manically, on news from my iPhone.  This is how I started a two-day experience of Regent Street:  With a real, paper and ink, newspaper reading while perched high above Regent Street.  The new L’Occitane flagship store has a 30-person macaron cafe lining their windows where they serve Pierre Hermé macarons (including the one that people wait around the block for in Paris) and the most gorgeous Pierre Hermé tea. You can only drink the tea while you are in their stunner of a store.  There are no paper cups. They do not sell the tea bags.   If ever there was a way of grounding you, this is it.  As if that isn’t enough, the store carries every single bit of product that L’Occitane makes as well as a ton of things you didn’t know they made AND you can book in advance for a complimentary 30-minute skin assessment and mini facial.   (Insider hint:  They also have a machine that allows you to engrave every single one of their products so you can also knock out all gift shopping for the year while you sit upstairs and sit and snack and read)

Resolution two:  Plunge

Swimming has many health benefits but especially as one  increases the number of candles on one’s birthday cake, swimming takes pole position as the exercise routine you need.  In London we are quite lucky because there are a number of public leisure centres with great pools around the city but if you want to give yourself a real treat, after your tea and macaroon fix, head into a subterranean swimming experience.  Akasha Spa in the Hotel Cafe Royal includes a stunning setting for their 60-ft-long lap pool and also throws in nine treatment rooms, a small gym, stretching / yoga and mediation room and an aesthetician on hand for massage, facials and the top secret things we don’t really discuss.  What better way to recuperate from hot wax on your nether regions than with some candlelight meditation and 20 laps?

Resolution three: Quoting Michael Pollen, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”

I’ve dieted once in my life.  I was 23, living in Destin, Florida and a no-carb-only-meat craze was sweeping the nation.  My biggest sacrifice was that I only drank Crown Royal with soda water which both misses the point and is disgusting.  I bored everyone with talk of my “diet” while doing nothing and seeing no result.  That’s when I gave up dieting forever (a resolution to which I’ve stuck).  Michael Pollen’s plan, however, is one I can embrace in 2018 whole heartedly. And after a morning of indulgence, popping into London-based Tibits (there is one in Switzerland too, don’t get them mixed up on your maps app) means you can load up without feeling guilty.  It’s a vegetarian / vegan restaurant  at 12-14 Heddon Street just off Regent Street.   I had a vegan sausage roll while I was taking the photo above and it was so good I bundled an extra to take home to my husband.  Also incredible juices and great desserts. They also have a gorgeous cookbook if you think you want to whip up some plant-based options at home.  Oh, and little bonus for Ziggy Stardust fans:  Tibits is across the street from the building where Ziggy Stardust album cover was shot and you can sort of recreate the scene and send it to your music-geeky friends (or husband).

Resolution three: Celebrate my age, but take care of my skin.

I was pretty lucky growing up and I missed the part of teen years that comes with really bad acne and distressing mental state as a result.  It’s a good thing too, because I lived with my dad and there was no way he would have taken me to a doctor or a dermatologist to address it.   I would have been given a lecture about historical figures blossoming through adversity and a bar of soap.  But sunbathing, life in New York City and now slugging through The Big Smoke each day is taking a toll on my skin and, though late, I know that I need to do a better job.  I don’t want a face lift, botox or fillers…I am happy with my laugh lines and the ability to squelch my eyebrows together to help me see stuff better (that works, right?) but I am also aware that it is high time to take better care of myself.  I visited Kiehl’s on Regent Street where the loveliest shop assistant Sam performed a hydration test on me (I scored a 35 and the goal was 70 I think, but she told me not to panic) and then took me through a grown up and proper skin care routine.  I left with a bag full of amazing facial products and the determination to actually try a little harder to make my face last a little longer.  I’m sure I look younger already.  Not that I care…

Resolution four:  Touch it.  Feel it.

Shopping in a brick-and-mortar store is way more fun than shopping online and, true story, you spend way less money.  It is also better for the environment and is actually sort of amazing because you can actually talk to people and get opinions and engage with other humans IRL.  Plus it helps with resolution number one “Hang up.”

London’s Liberty on Great Marlborough Street just off of Regent Street is a destination for tourists galore but it is also a hidden gem for locals.  If you can make it through the throngs of Instagrammers snapping flower pics from Wild at Heart, tear yourself away from the colossal scarf selection on the main floor and head upstairs you will be rewarded with some quirky British designers, fashion staples and a handful of ways to really break the bank.  Two insider tips:  Try out Cafe Liberty, tucked away on the 2nd floor, for a well deserved break from shopping and, even more of an inside job, there is a  Yoga Brunch Club! on Sundays at 10:30am (Book ahead, it sells out!)

Last note, though I had a great time connecting with Regent Street, and taking advantage of her healthier side,  if you are interested in giving yourself a local break  I also a formula for you to do the same in your own town…wherever that may be:

  1. Go it alone.  I’m almost neurotically sociable.  I see an opening in my calendar and it screams out to me to fill it.  But I also love the sound of silence more than most.   Taking a day to go to a spa, have a coffee, lunch with a magazine and take in an exhibit (or go shopping, I don’t judge) on your own is refreshing.
  2. Plan in advance.  What do you want to get out of your day?  Is it a health and wellness day to kick start a diet?  A treat to yourself before you buckle down and turn down the booze and sweets?  Or is your Christmas bonus or tax refund burning a hole in your pocket? Know what your goals are before you set out.  That will help you plan accordingly.
  3. Light baggage, comfy shoes.  Nothing draws a good day out to a close more quickly than a heavy shoulder bag and blistered feet.  If you know tat you are going to be out, avoid the temptation of packing a big bag. A little over the shoulder will do and throw on your Stan Smith’s.   If you shop, ask if they will deliver your packages for you. You might be surprised how many shops do that.
  4. Go easy on connectivity.  Being alone usually means your phone is buzzing and the thoughts are rolling around in your head and you can not wait to share.  All of a sudden you actually have time to text your friends and your sister and your cousin and look at that cat video someone was jut talking about. But that is the biggest soul sucker and way to avoid mindfulness.  So check in when you start, maybe say hi in the afternoon but other than that, find the [OFF] button and love it.

This blog post, and the idea to have a day of health and wellness on Regent Street came from The Communications Store, which runs marketing, digital and otherwise, for The Crown Estate Commissioners who are the landlords to the buildings along Regent Street.  I received compensation as well as products and services in exchange for a review, of sorts, of a day on Regent Street.  However, in here, and always, I give my honest opinion on products and services featured.  I was under no obligation to provide a positive review – although it would have been awkward if I hadn’t – but I genuinely mean everything I’ve shared with you here.  The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own.  And if you want to talk to me about this, you can find me having tea upstairs at L’Occitane on Regent Street.

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Jessica Bride

I am a Notting Hill based lifestyle writer and Instagrammer. My reason for being is my family plus a combination of food + travel + art + life between London and New Orleans. Find me at @belleannee or covering arts & culture for @London.

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