The past few weeks have been a roller coaster, as my club, Chelsea FC, I have supported since 1957 when working as a journalist in London at the offices of The Daily Herald, Odhams Press, Long Acre, began to see a goal that most people thought impossible: The Cup Double. The FA Cup was won, and then to step 2. Champions League. On Frid. 18th. May, 2012, I celebrated my birthday, and chose to travel to St. Albans by train, 1st. class, on the Saturday so as to watch TV and THE MATCH. In the 1970s my parents would take me to The White Hart,. Holywell Hill, St. Albans for a Friday steak & chips, washed down with copious amounts of large sherries which were the fashionable drink of the time. My journey by London Midland was punctual, on clean trains, and the route took from Northampton - Watford Junction, and then onto the St. Albans Abbey Flyer. When I lived in Watford in the 1950s-1970s this service was run by a steam train. From the Abbey station ( there is also a main line station in St. Albans to Kings Cross ) turn right at the exit and walk for about ten minutes up the famous Holywell Hill, and at the abbey entrance on the left is fgacing The White Hart hotel, which has stood on this spot for over 500 years, which is some achievement. It has 15 rooms and each has its own ambience due to the long history of the building. These are not rooms one finds in the 'hotel chains'. Modern services prevail in each room. I chose room 14. I checked in late on Saturday afternoon, and being so hungry booked a seat in their Tudor restaurant. However, before I took my seat for 18. 30, I enjoyed a pleasant pint of ale, known as 'Asylum' in the front bar which overl,ooks the entrance to the abbey. One can just see parts of the abbey, cathedral from the hotel. The front office manager, Adam took me to my seat which I chose to be in an oak pannelled alcove, at a two-seater dining table. The menu varies from time to time and on this occasion I chose a starter of Caesar salad which was 1 of 7 options. For my main course I selected the char-grilled rump of lamb set on creamed spinach, woodland mushrooms and red wine jus. I ordered what proved to be a delightful bottle of Sicilian red wine, and for later a bottle of champagne Bollinger, with which to celebrate my birthday plus 1. The table service was excellent but the restaurant was not too busy, so no challenge there. I did get to speak to two other diners who were living not far from St. Albans - Wheathampstead. We chatted about the hotel and general matters. I finished what was a splendid meal, priced at £40.+. The starter was £5.95, the main course £15.95. the rest was the wine charge. I kept the champagne charge separate on a different credit card. I left the Tudor restaurant and found a seat in a quiet corner where I could enjoy my chilled bottle of bubbly. The TV was switched on but I chose not to watch the whole match, as it was too stressful. However, by the time Chelsea had reached penalties to decide the result, I simply had to watch the famous last kick. GOAL ! and Chelsea were double cup winners, and had the Champions League Cup at long last. It had been a long wait. The evening ended with a steady climb up the ancient wooden staircase to my Room 14. I slept like a log in a very comfortable bed, and at 09.45 was woken with a call for breakfast. I quickly got ready and joined several families who were already well into their meal. I ordered a full English breakfast and Buck's Fizz with fresh orange juice. The breakfast was perfect, as was the strong black coffee. All - in - all this was a HART to HEART, as I recalled the time when my late parents would also celebrate business achievements or return from worldwide travel. My mother having travelled the world, with such exotic places as Persia as it wasa then known and Afghanistan. I did not take lunch but rather enjoyed my champagne. Mid-afternoon I took my leave having spent an hour talking to the owner and proprieotr who gave me a potted version of the hotels' fantastic history. I thoroughly recommend this hotel. For car owners there is a private parking area in a safe yard at the rear of the hotel. My train departed on time and before long I was back in Northampton, with something of a hangover. But it was JOB DONE. The White Hart, genuinely is to be recommended for all the right reasons. I will return with my son and friends in the near future.
Geoff Hamilton, editor Anglo-Nordic Times Intl. /LOOK NORDIC, ( Fd. 1976 ). 19-20th. May, 2012.
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