In 1863, while Americans were shooting each other in farmyards, London was assembling the first and most celebrated grande dame hotel in Europe. She survives, but it was touch and go during the 20th century. The polished lobby is perfumed, the lifts swathed in leather, the rooms each a private cocoon of ordered wainscoting, enveloping beds, and bathrooms with toiletries in pink paper cartons kept in a box by the sink. Its Palm Court has been serving high tea (£40) since 1865. For its brag-worthy reputation, the Langham is favored by moneyed tourists from the Far East, and for service and discretion, along with that long history, there are few peers. The tariff is also something for the record books, but that’s the price you pay to be in the company of Lady Di, Wallis Simpson, and Winston Churchill, who rightly favored it, and Arthur Conan Doyle, who sent Sherlock Holmes here in several stories. It’s a few short blocks from Oxford Street’s best shopping.