How Drinking Tea in Harrods Taught Me to Own My Experiences

There I was on my dream vacation, in London, just days away from my flight to my ultimate dream trip to Paris. I was enjoying everything the city had to offer: black tea, the Tube, Big Ben, and of course the great British accent. I was definitely in my happy place. There was just one thing that I had to experience before departing for Paris: afternoon tea.

Before arriving in London, I had absolutely no fascination with tea. I preferred both hot chocolate and coffee over tea no matter how many spoons of sugar and honey I added to it. But for some reason I was drawn into drinking tea and eating cute little sandwiches and pastries. I just had to have that experience… in London!

After some research, we found the perfect place to experience high tea in the city: The Tea Room in the Harrods Department Store. It was the perfect location as it was just minutes from our evening trip to the theatre to see Billy Elliott. It was December so the Harrods’ window displays were perfection. For a moment, I got lost in the beautiful black and white, lifelike images.

Even in its delicate simplicity The Tea Room matched the elegance and beauty of those window displays. The Tea Room was exactly that: a large room filled with tables and diners. I was so excited as we waited in a long line with other onlookers. When it was our turn, and we arrived at our table, I excitedly flipped through the menu. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted but I knew I wanted one of those tall, beautiful three-tier platters that I saw in movies. But as I looked around at other tables, I noticed only one other group with the platter I sought. Then the second guessing myself began. Was it faux pas? Was it too indulgent? Was it meant for only high tea instead of the late afternoon tea we were seated for? My insecurities of being uncouth started creeping in. At that moment, I became very aware of my “otherness.”

I knew exactly what I wanted. I also knew that unlike the other sole table with a platter, I did not want to order just one platter for the table. No, I wanted my own. I wanted to choose the exact delectables that I wanted to eat with absolutely NO compromising. So, as the waitress collected our orders, I had a decision to make:

  1. Go with exactly what I wanted, which was the entire platter all to myself, or
  2. Get some tea and a reasonable sandwich like the majority of the surrounding patrons.

It took two waitresses to bring our orders out. My eyes became big as I watched my mom’s platter and then my platter be placed before us. I smiled. Yes, we got stares. Yes, we got looks. And yes, I got to experience afternoon tea in London my way!

It was all mine!
It was all mine!

On your travels, have you had to make a conscious decision to “buck the system” in an effort to enjoy and own your experience? Please share!


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