Franck Arnold – seen on the right, above, with luxury travel’s most important global promoter, Virtuoso’s Matthew Upchurch – is one of those helping put London’s Strand on the global map. The Strand runs a kilometre, from Trafalgar Square east to Aldwych, and it takes its name from the Old English word for river’s edge, strond – it is, in fact, parallel to the north bank of The Thames.
The initiative to make The Strand a hotspot is led by Westminster City Council. The 70 stakeholders include cultural entities, theatres galore, and Northbank BID. This last is a public-private partnership Northbank BID headed by Ruth Duston OBE with the specific goal of improving The Strand though environmental schemes like lighting and air quality improvement plus wayfinding, animation, retail curation, and buildings illumination etc. A ‘Meanwhile Strand’ project hopes to in place by 2025 green spaces and artistic installations throughout the area.
And think culture. Courtauld Gallery, within the Courtauld Institute at Somerset House, for instance, is a beautiful small(ish) gallery with the potential to show some of the world’s most celebrated works. There are 70,000 pieces in the Courtauld’s collection; it’s the best collection of impressionist art in the UK, but is very diverse spanning the medieval period to the 20th century (some of the most popular works displayed are those by Van Gogh, Cézanne, Manet and Monet).
Other openings that are fun along The Strand include 180 STRAND, the latest London outpost of SOHO HOUSE, whose founding CEO Nick Jones seems to have a knack for knowing where creatives are coalescing. Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, founders of Frieze, have opened Toklas, a restaurant+bakery+café. And at THE SAVOY, our flamboyant hero Franck Arnold is full of ideas. Its Royal Suite is now in masquerade mode as the Gucci Suite. Last summer the hotel turned its Strand-set arrival turning circle into Solas, for so-popular al fresco eating, and, inside, the many dining and wining opportunities include two restaurants run by Gordon Ramsay, and the ever-popular American Bar, where mixology genius Shannon Tebay, from hip New York venue Death & Co, is now in charge.
Girlahead must point out the enthusiasm of so many individuals making The Strand so hot. As one Savoy-er says, ‘this location is the cultural heart of London – with Somerset House one side, the National Gallery and a refurbishing National Portrait Gallery on the other. The Royal Opera House and English National Opera are within five minutes’ walk, and just directly opposite, across The Thames, is the vibrancy of the South Bank. All this makes London so fantastically interesting for so many visitors globally’.
So, says Girlahead, expect Matthew Upchurch’s global network of Virtuoso-member travel advisors to SAY THE STRAND. Listen to Virtuoso’s Helen McCabe-Young here, on MARY GOSTELOW GIRLAHEAD PODCAST: