Whirlwind London 2023

Hey Posse. Yes, it was a grand secret. Two birthdays kept totally secret from the celebrators. There was a super secret fly in by a couple of friends. A couple of perfumes dates and the most lavish London I’ve ever experienced. Five days flying for eight days on the ground. It was a happily exhausting whirlwind. It was also terrific fun, every day a new and exciting adventure.

One downside of such event centric fly ins is the lack of time to see everyone. Apologies to those I missed.

Also, the reason this all became a secret squirrels adventure was because I’d told one of the birthday girls I couldn’t afford the trip. This was true because we just didn’t have enough spare money to both go. Then Jin bought me the airfare. From that moment both the birthday girls’ families and I conspired to keep Mum.

This year is a big travel year. We still have a 50th in India in August and then Jin’s brothers wedding in Slovakia in November, to which we are taking his parents and auntie. Every spare cent we earn is going to event travel in 2023. There will be very little perfume buying and other divine extravagances.

Whirlwind London 2023

Day 1

I arrived at Heathrow after doing the Sydney to London hop in Korean Air. I sat the back of the plane in an aisle seat on both legs. There was an overnight in the Grand Hyatt with breakfast included as part of the fare. 10 hours to Seoul. 14 hours to London. It was comfortable, I had all the entertainment and finally finished the torturous Tove Jansson biography. Food was also good and I admit to a couple of Whiskey & Coke Zeros to get me sleeping on the Seoul to London leg. Mission accomplished.

Tubed it from Heathrow to Green Park and I was staying just around the corner in the club. We’ve been members for years but this was my first stay. Bedroom overlooking Green Park! Very bloody cool.

First morning I jumped the Oxford Tube bus from Victoria and met Mazz (birthday girl) and her wife Debbie who collected me and snuck me into the house. SURPRISE!! We had a few drinks and I finally got to see the amazing new home they have bought and are renovating together. It was the loveliest afternoon.


Came back to Green Park, set the alarm for 6.30 and was having a 45 minute nap before meeting the 50th birthday girl Tara (of A Bottle Rose) and her sister Lisa for dinner just around the corner from the club. I really wanted to do the surprise before her birthday so she could do a 12 point collapse then, get it out of her system and we could continue birthday week calmly. Set it for 6.30am didn’t I and slept through. GAH!

Day 2

Lisa had organised High Tea at the Ritz for Tara, Mum Peggy, Dad Vic, herself and me. I wandered over and met them at their hotel next to Buckingham Palace. Tara was completely taken by surprise, happy tears and excitement all round and we had a lovely hour getting her back together. Then it was off to the Ritz and the high tea was bloody magnificent.

Whirlwind London 2023

That evening Tara, Lisa and I joined Lisa’s husband Chris and daughter Mia for the Hockney immersive art installation and dinner. It was awesome.

Day 3

Brunch with Tara’s family.

The whole family went to AquaShard, in the monumental Shard building for lunch. It was bloody gorgeous and the view over London from our table was excellent.

Afterwards we all went and had a wander through Borough Markets. Don’t know how I’ve never been there. It’s fantastic.

Day 4

I went out to visit Tara and we spent the day lunching, wandering the gardens near her home, having cuppas and seeing some art installations nearby. We also managed to hit a TKMaxx where she bought me Serpent Boheme by Boucheron. I also grabbed a Citron Citron by Miller Harris. Excellent bargains.

That night a secret visit started from friends who also stay at our club. We had drinks and nibbles in the club bar till quite late.

Day 5

Tara took me for lunch at the pop up Art Bar in Claridge’s for lunch. I had the most delicious savoury galette. YUM! Then we popped down and wandered the gallery. Interesting, inspiring pieces that will probably not become classics. We then wandered the Bond St area. Fell madly in love with the new Diptyque L’Eau Papier, OMG! It’s amazing and I really want a bottle. We also smelled the new Hermessence Violette Volynka. GAH! Also unbelievably fabulous. Violet and leather. Old trope, new vision. Also added to the To Buy List.

] Whirlwind London 2023

Had drinks and nibbles again with the secret visitors.

Day 6

Secret visitors and I hit the National Gallery for the After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art show. Bloody hell! It was amazing. Thoroughly panned by the critics we had the place almost to ourselves. YAY! It was so good. we saw some of the evolution of artists I knew, were introduced to a few new artists, reminded of others. Many of the paintings were from private collections so I’d never seen them before. Cezanne, Bracht, Rousseau, Picasso, Mondrian, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Klimt, André Derain, Seurat and others. My mind was officially blown.


Met with Cinnamon for a Harrod’s and Harvey Nichs afternoon. She has done a beautiful job of relating our adventures in her Sensory Overload post. We had such an excellent afternoon. my favourites that we smelled were the newest Thameen; Fanfare, Fragrance du Bois PM extrait and Guerlain Harrod’s exclusive. There was a lot more to like but had I been spending these are the three I’d be having.

Whirlwind London 2023

Drinks and nibbles. Happy ending to an amazing day.

Day 7

Hit Fortnum & Mason with one of my secret visitors. We did the whole tea and perfume floors. It was super fun. The SA and I were talking and he said to me after I enquired about a couple of absent brands, “Well, we are a very niche centred store” and I replied, “Niche? There is no niche here, it’s all masstige.” He looked like he was going to bite back, shook his head, smiled and had a little chuckle, “Touché.” It was a very nice moment.

Then we trotted across the road to the Royal Academy to see Souls Grown Deep like the Rivers; Black Artists from the American South. A very moving show of found objects sculptures, painting and art depicting the grief/loss/dereliction of African Americans in the southern states. Some of the works brought me to teary eyed sadness and a complete loss for anything I can personally do to help.

Then I headed up to the great wilds of Leighton Buzzard to see Nick Gilbert and Pia Long. Firstly to see their Olfiction HQ, shown to me by Nick and Anais, and then for pizza dinner in their home. Smelling the new Bougee Boujies perfume range was such a treat and I’ll be doing posts on them very soon. They’re not available yet but should be in the very near future. I’d also like to take a little moment to say how beautiful they all are. We had an excellent time and I’m even more madly in love with Pia and Nick if that’s even possible.

Whirlwind London 2023

Late catch ups for a snack and bevy with Tara. This day was the biggest whirlwind of them all.

Day 8

Mazz came to town for breakfast at the club. We then headed off to the National Gallery to see the post impressionists, my second visit and seeing it with a different artist meant I learned a completely new set of information about the arts. It was wonderful.

I left Mazz there because it was time to go get my train and plane home. About 33 hours non stop from door to door. Korean Air was excellent again, only a few hours in the lounge at Seoul. Ate so much food.

Got home and slept. A lot.

Hope you enjoyed my mad whirlwind adventure.
Portia xx


  • Tom says:

    What a great trip- I think you deserve a prize for these plane trips. I can barely stand a bus to Santa Monica..

    (I’d have commented earlier but this platform hates my iPad.)

    • Portia says:

      HA! Tom, it’s fairly easy to fly around the world to see friends, eat gorgeous food and see some art. One day I’ll get you out here for Mardi Gras.
      Portia xx

  • Jennifer S says:

    Always love reading and seeing pictures of your adventures. You have great energy!

  • Tara says:

    Loved re-living this wonderdul week through your writing Portia.

    Mazz and I are too super lucky girls to have you in our lives.

  • Maya says:

    Sounds like marvelous, great, hectic fun. Pleased for you that it went so well and loved reading about it.

  • March says:

    This. Is. AMAZING. I don’t know how you did all of that, I got winded just reading it! What a whirlwind! And I love the surprise aspect of it, I’ve done that a couple of times (more low-key cross-country shenanigans.) It looks like an absolutely fantastic trip, so glad you managed to have so many wonderful visits with friends!

    • Portia says:

      Heya March,
      It really was. Still pinching myself that it even happened. Fully aware of how fortunate I am.
      The friends are what make it so bloody special, agreed.
      Portia xx

  • Tara C says:

    Sounds like a fabulous trip! Is the wedding in Slovakia the same brother who lost his wife to suicide a few years ago? If so I’m thrilled to know he has found love again.

    My most recent purchases are Violette Volynka and L’Eau Papier, snap!

    • Portia says:

      Yes TaraC,
      It is the same brother. We are thrilled for him too. She is a beautiful, funny and sweet Slovakian woman. As yet we don’t know enough of her to make any more pronouncements on her. Very excited to though.

      WOW! I’m very jealous of your two new acquisitions. So good.
      Portia xx

  • Dina C. says:

    Wowie wow wow, Portia! That was an incredible travelogue! The art, the food, the scents, seeing the friends…such a rich experience. I love how you surprised the birthday girls. Very sweet. Curious to hear more about the scents you fell in love with in the weeks to come — the Diptyque, the violet & leather one (is it anything like Jolie Madame?)Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Portia says:

      Hey DinaC,
      Imagine if Hermessence Violette Volynka had been made for a 21st century market. A clear, clean reinvention.
      Portia xx

  • cinnamon says:

    Love reading about all of your adventures and it was truly wonderful to meet you in the flesh.

    • Portia says:

      Thanks Cinnamon,
      The pleasure was mine. I’ve been bragging about our day together non stop. That Havey Nichs High Tea was bloody excellent and we sniffed SO MUCH!
      I’m about to start writing my Thameen Fanfare piece for next month.
      Portia xx

  • matty1649 says:

    Thank you Portia for sharing your London quickie visit. X

  • alityke says:

    Hey Portia
    Wowza! No wonder you slept after such a busy hit & run! I am in awe at your energy!
    That’s the second time in 12 hrs I’ve read good things about Thameen Fanfare.
    Please never stop writing of your travel adventures, they mean I can live & travel vicariously whilst I’m dealing with the shitty at both ends life had dealt me at the minute ??

    • Portia says:

      Hey Alityke,
      It’s so good that my travel diary gives you a window to the world while you are going through hard times. My fingers, legs, eyes and teeth are all crossed for positive outcomes in your life and that of your SO.
      Fanfare is gorgeous.
      HA! Yeah, truth be told I’m still not fully recovered from the trip. I do not know how business people do it weekly.
      Portia xx

      • alityke says:

        The state of global business suggests they’re permanently jet lagged/hammered/doped up!
        Thank you for the good wishes & having everything crossed. Might I suggest uncrossing your legs before you trip? Heehee