The Charlotte Street Hotel

charlotte street hotelMy experience with hotels in London is actually quite limited, as we’ve never actually ‘vacationed’ here.  But the Charlotte Street Hotel is one hotel we’ve become very familiar with over the years as its located literally next door to my husband’s office. It has become a go-to spot for breakfast/lunch/coffee/tea/drinks, etc., and is where many of our friends and colleagues have stayed when visiting.

The hotel is small but charming, the staff always friendly and the location could not be better — Charlotte Street is lined with one good restaurant after the other, and is located just north of Oxford Street and Soho and within walking distance to many of London’s tourist attractions. (more…)

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VillandryThe London Duck ToursBrora

Kew Gardens

DSC_0096When the girls asked me to write for Babyccino one of my first ideas for a post was Kew Gardens. We got to know the Royal Botanical Gardens when we moved down South and immediately became members. We now go every couple of weeks and still love it just as much — it is such a great place for kids.

Apart from being a huge space to run around with fascinating trees, flowers and plants, there is also a dedicated indoor children’s area called Climbers and Creepers. All the zones have an educational element relating to plants and their habitat and have been so cleverly thought out to cater for a really wide age group (quoted as age 3 – 9 but there are great touchy-feely bits too which are good for babies).

On the other side of the gardens is the Treetop walkway (designed by the architects of The London Eye) which is 18 metres up in the air and 200 metres around — giving you an opportunity to see the tops of the trees and those who inhabit them. At ground level there is a tunnel with an exhibit giving insight to what happens under the trees (good for any bug and creepy-crawly enthusiasts!). (more…)

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Hope for your feet…Natural MatKew Bridge Steam Museum

Melrose & Morgan

Two years ago our Christmas got canceled on Christmas Eve — well the trip we had planned to Switzerland did anyway. It was our first Christmas with a child and you know how important they are! We were devastated. I think the only thing that saved us was Melrose & Morgan, our local deli in Primrose Hill (where we lived at the time). We turned up at 12pm to a packed store of everyone collecting their orders and they thankfully managed to make us up one of their ‘Christmas’s in a box’. It honestly saved the day.

But Melrose & Morgan is not just for Christmas, their fantastic home-cooked meals are perfect to take home, heat up and make you look like a domestic goddess. Sadly my better-half isn’t easily fooled – Melrose & Morgan’s food is just that bit too delicious for him to believe it was made by me whilst I had 2 children hanging off my arms. (more…)

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Daunt BooksOttolenghiOlive Loves Alfie

The London High Street

popFollowing on from Emilie’s recent post about places in Paris to find chic clothes at less-than-chic prices I thought I’d let you know about some of my favourite spots on a typical London High Street. Now most Mums in London will know of these national treasures but if you are visiting London they are worth checking out.

I’m a huge fan of Swedish kids clothes shop P.OP (Polarn O Pyret) which sells playful and colourful kids clothes and a small selection of maternity wear. Think lots of stripes and lots of colour. They have 4 shops in and around London (Brent Cross, Westfield, House of Fraser (Oxford Street) and Kingston) but a further 10 or so stores around the rest of the UK.

Next up: Zara Home (no, not Zara Kids): A very small selection but I love their quilts and blankets for kids and they always have a tiny rail with really sweet sleep-wear/snuggly-wear. I have had some great finds there. (more…)

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Princess Diana Memorial PlaygroundByron for proper hamburgersThe Charlotte Street Hotel

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Kidsen

Battersea Park

Recumbent Bikes BatterseaWeekends are always for adventures and when we stumbled from our cosy little burrow last summer into Battersea Park we hit upon treasure. The Park is situated just south of the river between the Albert and the Chelsea Bridge. We drove and parked up at one of the many car-parks around the park. We got all of our paraphernalia out of the car: buggy, 2 children, nappy-bag … (you know the drill) and hoped that the trip was worthwhile. We were aiming for the children’s zoo that we had heard about, but before even getting there we saw a boy driving around the park lanes in a cross between a bike and a go-kart. Then we saw 5 or 6 more children come flashing past in similar vehicles — there was no way that coincidence could have situated 6 recumbent bike owners on this one park path? It turns out Battersea Park is one of only two parks in London (Dulwich being the other) where London Recumbents hires bikes, trikes, tandems and various other bike-like contraptions (hiring starts at Easter and goes through until the end of Summer). It looks like so much fun, and in fact Time Out called it “the best family biking this side of Amsterdam” — it must be good, hey Esther? (more…)

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Richmond ParkNo tantrums here…Rossopomodoro Pizza

Hope & Greenwood

DSC_0095I used to keep a picture in the front of my diary of an old-fashioned sweet shop. You know the kind: shelves stacked with glass jars brimming with brightly-coloured sweets. The Juliette Binoche in me always quite fancied being a ‘purveyor of splendid confectionery’. However these days there would be little point in me following this dream as Hope & Greenwood do it so perfectly.

They have stores in Dulwich & Covent Garden (which would be perfect if you happen to be taking a trip to Benjamin Pollocks as per my last post), but they are also sold in some pretty lovely other places: Liberty, Selfridges, Fortum & Mason (to name but a few) and of course you can buy them online from their site. I find the Miss Hope’s Jolly Mixture a very exciting treat and the Sugar free Gummy Bears a good one to ensure the children don’t bounce off the ceiling with too much sugar! (more…)

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Blossom Mother and ChildHanover Gate Playground in Regents ParkThe British Museum

Bushy Park

Bushy Park is the second largest of the Royal Parks. The park and in particular the grand promenade ‘Chestnut Avenue’ that runs through the centre of it, were designed by Sir Christopher Wren (of St. Paul’s Cathedral fame) as the entrance to Hampton Court Palace (more on the palace soon).

The park is also a deer Park but has a more formal-grounds feeling to it than its neighbour Richmond Park. We love the new Pheasantry Welcome Centre, pictured, (which opened last summer) and has a great café backing onto the Woodlands Gardens (which is a section of the park closed off to dogs but great for small children, with a large duck pond and plenty of tree-stumps to climb). Another top-spot is by the car-park near The Diana Fountain, where there is a model boat pond with some very impressive boats to go and watch terrorising the ducks. (more…)

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No tantrums here…Natural History MuseumRichmond Park

Benjamin Pollocks

DSC_0080I grew up in a little farming village about 100 miles north of London and only made very rare trips to the ‘big smoke’ as a child. I remember one very special trip when my Godmother (literally one of the coolest people on the planet) brought me down for a WHOLE weekend in London for my 9th birthday. We saw a show and explored the city and I vividly remember stumbling across the most magical old-fashioned toyshop, which specialised in Toy Theatres.

Recently I had a reason to re-find that store, and the magic hasn’t left the place! Benjamin Pollocks is a delightfully old fashioned place (originally established in the 1880s) in the Covent Garden Piazza. I must warn you — it isn’t buggy friendly as you have to climb a narrow staircase to reach it and the shop is small and crammed to the rafters with toys, but worth the trip indeed. (more…)

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The Polka Theatre

Did I ever tell you I wanted to be an actress when I was a kid? I know, I know, it isn’t such a strange ambition but I was pretty serious and headed off to stage school when I was 11 to learn my craft. Somewhere along the way stage-fright took over and I decided a life on the stage wasn’t for me. I’m sure my kids (like me) will be big fans of the big screen but I want them to also inherit my love of stage performances too — that’s why I love the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon– a theatre which specialises in children’s productions and caters for a wide age-range (starting as young as 6 months).

The Polka is celebrating its 30th birthday this year and it is no surprise that it is still going so strong. They have a consistent high-standard of performances aimed at children and often have high-profile directors and actors involved. They also have a very good programme of stage-related workshops for slightly older children during school holidays. (more…)

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Kew GardensRiver CaféHope for your feet…

Richmond Park

DSC_0018Richmond Park is the largest royal park in London, covering 2,500 acres of land and has been a Royal Park since Edward I (1272 – 1307). There are around 650 deer that roam free and stand elegantly among the ferns, blending in to the landscape, which is why it is sometimes known as ‘The Deer Park’. We’re very lucky, as we live a stone’s throw away from the park and go almost daily. So I have some favourite places to mention…

We often park up at Pembroke Lodge* (a lovely canteen/tea-room which used to be the residence of our Prime Minister, Lord John Russell in 1847), and from there walk north to King Henry VIII’s mound, where on a clear day you can see 12 miles to St. Paul’s Cathedral! Or we head east across the road to the ponds. *Note: Pembroke Lodge tends to bring out freshly made (warm!) scones at around 3pm daily, served with cream and jam. There is nothing nicer than a sweet-treat after a bout of fresh air, I find. (more…)

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Kew GardensBobo KidsBattersea Park

Elias & Grace

Elias and Grace is a small but well stocked children’s shop located on the main strip in Primrose Hill. This trendy boutique has one of the best selection of clothing brands in London, including all our favourite European brands like  Simple Kids, Quincy, Maan, Album di Famiglia, Petit Bateau, Pepe Shoes, Bonton, etc. Everything is displayed really well (in sections divided by gender) and they do a really good job of creating ‘looks‘, mixing up the different brands and styles. They also have a great online shop, and they ship internationally. (more…)

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EenyMeenySwiss Cottage Leisure CentreOttolenghi

Getting Around

Navigating London can give any newcomer anxiety — the city is so big, so spread out, and has so many wonderful and different neighborhoods which you’ll want to see… and if you add kids to the equation it becomes even trickier! Here are a few of the best ways to get around:

1.) By foot: If you have the luxury of time, the best way to navigate the city is by foot — it gives you a better appreciation for the city and its people and gives you a better idea for how city is laid out and the way the neighborhoods connect to each other.  There are also so many green spaces in London that it’s easy to take a rest from time to time and enjoy the many parks and playgrounds. Just wear comfortable shoes!
2.) London Underground: Taking the ‘tube’ in London might be the quickest way to travel (especially in peak traffic hours), but if you have a buggy you’re probably best to avoid it entirely. Most tube stations have multiple staircases or escalators and only a few have elevators (lifts). Carrying your buggy up and down the stairs is certainly ‘do-able’… it just depends on whether you’re up for it. Click here for a tube map — the stations with lifts are marked with a wheelchair sign.
3.) London Bus: You’re never far from a bus stop in London, and most buses allow buggies (generally up to two at one time). Plus, bigger kids will love sitting on the upper deck (hold on tightly as you climb up!), and it’s a great way to take in London’s scenery, architecture and other little details. Search online for details and routes.
4.) London Black Cab: Taking a taxi is probably the easiest way to travel. Unlike the taxi drivers in many cities, London ‘cabbies’ are really experienced and totally reliable. You can also put your buggy into the back of the cab and leave your child in it – no need to collapse your buggy or wake your sleeping baby! Cabs can fit up to 5 people and most modern black cabs also have a fold-down child restraint in the back seat.
5.) Addison Lee car service: Booking an Addison Lee car is really easy and can be done either online or by phone. This is also a good car service for airport pick-ups or drop-offs. Conveniently, most Addison Lee cars also have two built-in child restraints, so there’s no need for car seats (just make sure to request the appropriate vehicle).

Tate Modern

Matisse at TateI haven’t been to the Tate Modern since having kids and I think I had forgotten how cool it is! I also completely underestimated how much my kids would like it. Interestingly, I think kids are really attracted to the vibrant colors, the huge paintings, ‘bizarre’ objects, etc. In some ways, it’s the kind of art that kids can relate to — art that inspires discussion.

On weekends the Tate hosts family-friendly events and interactive kid zones.  Or you can pick up a family trail sketchbook to keep kids interacted as they tour the museum (available every day of the week).

The gift shop on the bottom floor is WAY cool, and they have a great section of chilren’s books and unique toys. The café on the 2nd floor is also kid-friendly, with highchairs, crayons, etc.  But… the most impressive thing is the view from the restaurant at the top which looks out over the river Thames and offers one of the best views in London. (Even if you don’t eat there, it’s worth going up just to see!) (more…)

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Brunch at The Wolseley

the wolseleyWhenever we have family in town visiting from America we always schedule a brunch at The Wolseley. Its location in Picadilly is perfect for tourists who want to do some sightseeing, and the grand building and beautiful setting never disappoint. Plus, if you’re a breakfast person, you’ll like the range of foods available — from the fancy (caviar omelette) to basic (crispy bacon roll), it’s all quite tasty.

Originally designed in 1921 as a prestigious car showroom, the marble flooring, grand pillars, archways and staircases make for a really impressive interior. And while the restaurant isn’t particularly kitted out for children, they do have highchairs to accommodate kids and will make sure you’re well looked after.

After brunch, you can take a stroll through Green Park, or walk down St. James’s Street to Buckingham Palace, The Mall and St. James Park for a fun little London outing.

Make sure you book in advance! (more…)

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Inn the Park!Blossom Mother and ChildThe London High Street

Wahaca for kid-friendly Mexican

wahaca londonUp until recently, it was really hard to find good Mexican food in London. Then, over the past few years, a handful of small Mexican restaurants popped up across town. None of them, however, were particularly kid-friendly. And then came Wahaca.

Wahaca is a vibrant and buzzing restaurant serving freshly prepared, seasonal Mexican food.  The menu is great, the staff is friendly, and they are well-equipped to accomodate kids! (You should see their collection of brightly-coloured Stokke highchairs!)

There are three locations across London including one in Covent Garden. And they don’t take reservations, so you can pop in whenever you want (and the queue moves quickly, I promise!). (more…)

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