Armchair travels

Further lockdown finds me longing to travel. It began as a vague restlessness, a need to explore further than the garden and the local park. Thoughts of Portaferry were uppermost, but at this point, my odd feeling of discomfort took shape – the shape of a car ferry or an airplane! But travelling like that is impossible right now, and however much I crave the fun and fellowship of Portaferry, I require a substitute. One of the blessings brought by getting older is the joy of reminiscence, and I have found myself armchair traveling to ease my longing. I usually travel after lunch, and it is especially sweet on a cold, wet, and windy day. My life companion is my travel companion, and like real old-timers, we share the ‘Do you remember when?’ routine.

This brings me to London, where location is critical. We have enjoyed many visits to London, and the experience has been enhanced every time by our accommodation – somewhere decent to stay can make or break a holiday. As someone of Presbyterian and Brethren heritage, I cherish the ‘value for money’ theology.

Our needs are simple and specific. The place must be clean and comfortable, no need for luxuries, for frills and fripperies. [That heritage again!] We like a good bed with good quality bed linen and pillows. A desk and a bedside lamp are welcome, good thick curtains to shut out noise and light, and the gold standard…. Windows which open. There are bonus points for no television in the bedroom (but access to a television in a lounge) Nothing ‘bling,’ nothing plastic, just substantial and spotless. So far, so good, and pretty commonplace, I think. Ah, just a little more – the other guests, the breakfast, and the shared public space.

We like interesting people, and here we find the place full of them, globetrotters, all with exciting stories to share. Most of them are Christian, but not exclusively so. We enjoy the treat of a freshly cooked breakfast to order, and, of course, a healthier option too. We relax in a comfortable lounge or the alternative quiet reading room with shelves stacked high. A basement laundry room is available on a pre-booked basis, and, with Sainsbury’s and Waitrose nearby, a small kitchen is open for guest use. There is free access to constant tea and coffee in the guest lounge.

This treasure of a place is in Bloomsbury on Bedford Place, Russell Square at one end, Bloomsbury Square at the other. Central and within walking distance of major galleries and museums, and surrounded by cafes and restaurants.

It’s name? The Penn Club. It celebrates its centenary in 2020. I am a proud and happy member. (It’s a killer line to say, ‘I will be staying at my club in London!’) My membership fee provides a discount on the already modest rates. It has a strong Christian ethos (which is part of its long history), and it is known to only a few people, most of whom pass it on by word of mouth. It calls itself a Club, but it is open and welcoming to anyone; in summary, a respectful and gentle space.

The Penn Club has a website and excellent reviews on Trip Advisor. As our home from home when we visit London, it is highly recommended by the Prescotts.

Oh, one final tip – the bedrooms at the back overlook a delightful garden, so you can sleep in central London at night and not hear a sound. Almost as good as Portaferry.