It’s been quite a while since Belle and I took a trip to London. We never quite got round to going to look at the Christmas lights and now that Bee has graduated and moved out of London we have even less reason to visit.
We were very much looking forward then to our weekend stay at the Royal Garden Hotel on Kensington High Street, London.
Can you see how excited we are?
We set off after school on Friday, catching the train from Taunton. To get to London Paddington takes less than two hours and the Royal Garden Hotel is not far at all from the station. As well as being handy for Paddington, The Royal Garden Hotel is in a prime spot for family sightseeing. You’ve got Kensington Palace for a bit of casual royal baby spotting, a huge park for kids to run around, and then loads of fantastic museums all within walking distance. The Science Museum is a must if you’ve never been before, and is less than 20 minutes walk away from the hotel.
This should give you an idea of exactly where we were and what was close by:
By the time we arrived it was dark already and we were pretty tired, so Belle very quickly secured herself a prime spot on the bed. The room was really lovely and very spacious. Apart from the main area, there was a smaller seating area, set up a couple of steps. It had been made very welcoming with fresh fruit and water, with a sofa ready to be converted later on into a bed for Belle.
If you’d like to see the view from our room, I’ve included it in this little video, which also features some swans and a very ‘informative’ section from Belle. ‘Here’s some water in its natural habitat’, I think she says at one point. She is basically David Attenborough.
Food and flicks at the Royal Garden Hotel
Because we were recovering from the first week back at school and work after Christmas, we decided that Friday night would be a night for staying in and taking advantage of the Royal Garden Hotel’s ‘food and flicks’ package. The package involves 24 hour unlimited access to load of films and a huge trolley full of treats delivered to your room. We were totally blown away when our food arrived – we had chicken wings, pizza wheels, fish fingers, chips, fruit kebabs, Toblerone dip – it was a massive feast.
Film wise, we opted for San Andreas. It was Belle’s choice and I have to admit that I was a little hesitant as I’m normally more of a Legally Blond kind of a girl. I absolutely LOVED it though. It’s a disaster movie starring The Rock (who doesn’t love a bit of The Rock?), which involves Los Angeles and San Francisco being totally devastated by a massive earthquake. Both Belle and I have a bit of a weird thing for ruins and the special effects in San Andreas were awesome.
Breakfast at the Royal Garden Hotel
We had a busy day lined up for Saturday, so we needed to get ourselves off to a good start with my favourite bit of any hotel stay – breakfast!
Belle was totally smitten as soon as she realised there was a pancake and waffle station. She really loves restaurants where they make things for you on the spot and so she had waffles on both days. On the second day she was particularly chuffed with herself as she got a double waffle stack – someone else had ordered one and then wandered off, leaving Belle to swoop in for double the waffley goodness.
I was all over the mini jams – the best bit of any hotel breakfast – and I couldn’t not incorporate avocado somewhere could I?! I’m a blogger, it would be an outrage not to feature a smashed avocado somewhere.
The Geffrye Museum
Suitably stuffed with tasty treats we set out to explore. There are plenty of museums within walking distance of the Royal Garden Hotel, but for a while now I’ve wanted to visit the Geffrye Museum, so we hoped on a bus at the handily placed bus stop, just outside the hotel, and headed east. The Geffrye Museum is a museum of the home, showcasing different rooms in a typical middle class home through the ages. It gives a fascinating glimpse into how tastes and customs have changed over the years. We were just in time to catch the end of their Christmas exhibition, where each of the rooms was set up for a traditional Christmas, and there was also an interesting exhibition of photos and items from teenagers bedrooms in London.
Although they had rooms dating back as far as the 1600s I think my favourite was the 1950s/60s room as this one reminded me of my Gran and Grandad. There is something about recognising parts of your own history in exhibits like this that adds another layer to the experience. I get a similar feeling when I visit the V&A Museum of Childhood and look at the Fisher Price toys – that’s another London museum that’s good to visit with children, so you can point and things and say ‘this is what we used to play with before we had Snapchat!
After the Geffrye Museum and a bit of general mooching Belle was feeling pretty tired, so we headed back to the hotel. I wanted to visit the park, so I left Belle enjoying the last couple of hours of our film package while I headed out to explore Kensington Gardens. It was already getting dark by the time I got into the park, but despite the grey clouds and cold wind there was still a certain beauty to it.
I got myself a cup of takeaway tea and had a wander. There is something I really like about having a hot drink outside on a cold day. What can I say? I am a woman of simple pleasures. If you watched the video, (go on, go back up…) you’ll see that there were a LOT of swans. (Check the map too. It’s a fact.)
Our hotel room looked over the park as you’ll know, (seriously – watch the video!), so as I walked back I tried to figure out which was our window. When I had my guess fixed in my mind I text Belle.
Can you spot her?
Things to do with older children in London
It will sound ridiculous, but we do sometimes struggle to think up things to do in London. Because we’ve been quite a lot before we’ve done all the typical sightseeing stuff and visited most of the big museums. Belle is at that tricky age where she still finds grown-up things boring, but she’s also not going to be fobbed off with a trip to Hamley’s or a walk through the park to feed the ducks.
Saturday night I absolutely won at family life by booking us tickets to see The Play About A Bank Robbery. It’s by the same people who did The Play That Went Wrong and was absolutely brilliant. Younger children wouldn’t get the humour but it’s the perfect thing for families with teenage children. We’ll be going back to watch The Play That Went Wrong.
On Sunday afternoon we had a surprise hit with Shrek’s Adventure. I was dubious, as the website described it as suitable for 6-12 year olds, but honestly, we had such a good time. The 4D bus ride to Far Far Away was amazing and the sets were brilliantly put together. There is that sense with Merlin attractions that you’re being a little bit milked for every penny, but in their defence they do put the money into the design. The attention to detail was fantastic, and it really did have a magical feel to it.
It’s also great location wise, as afterwards you can go for a wander around the Southbank and have a casual lunch at Yo Sushi, if you fancy it. (I had vouchers that I’d bought cheap at Zeek.) We could have gone to see the Adventures in Moominland exhibition which is currently at the Southbank Centre, but I don’t think Bee would have ever forgiven us if we had gone without her.
Overall then, we had a really lovely weekend. The Royal Garden Hotel was absolutely fantastic and the service was impeccable. Belle would go back in an instant just for the waffles. We hope that this has given you a little bit of inspiration for things to do next time you’re in London.
Thanks to the Royal Garden Hotel for having us!
Have you enjoyed this post? Please consider pinning the image below so that more people can find it! Thanks!