When You Tire Of London, You Tire Of Life ~ Samuel Johnson
Just before Christmas we made our annual trip to London. It's something we have promised ourselves we will keep doing until the kids no longer want to go. Its going to be our Christmas tradition. As they get older our activities for the weekend will change, and we can't wait until we can bring them to a pantomime in some of our favourite London theatres. It's a way of catching up with special friends, reminiscing about our life there, getting to see London at its prettiest, and going to see the best Santa Claus. I have been asked about this so many times. We first brought Amelia to see Santa in Harrods for her first Christmas, it's a special memory and one we want to continue doing for as long as they believe. Whether marking a child's first Christmas or honouring a family tradition, a visit to The Harrods Christmas Grotto is the perfect way to start the festive season, as well as an opportunity to make special memories that will be remembered forever. Taking your children to a magical Santa’s Grotto will be a memory they’ll cherish forever – and will help bring alive the festive period. THE Harrods Christmas Grotto is a fun festive activity for the whole family.
What most people don't know is that Harrods is probably the cheapest Santa visit around. It's actually free. Costing just £10 per child over the age of three (children under go free and still receive a gift). So how does it work? Each year we have gone we get to make a booking closer and closer to Christmas.
So how do you book tickets? Firstly you need a Harrods reward card.Simply click on the site’s Christmas Grotto page and press the link ‘Register Today’, you will then be asked to register for your Harrods Account and fill in the details.
There is a booking fee of £10 for each child (aged 3 to 17 years) and there is a minimum booking fee of £10 for the event.
But, when you attend the event, your booking fee will be refunded onto your Harrods Rewards card and you will be able to spend this during your visit at the Christmas Grotto (excluding the photography).
So what else did we do with two toddlers trekking around London? To be fair it was our most laid back trip yet, we tried to take it easy (a much as you can do with two kids under 3), but there was trips to parks that we use to hang out in with Amelia, trips to the local coffee shops that I spent all my maternity leave pay in and a lot of wandering. Where did we stay? How was travelling? Travelling with kids is always a popular topic, I've wrote on this here before. We put Harry in my sling, packed our bugaboo in our travel case and took the buggy board with us too, so Amelia could sit when her legs were tired from pacing those London streets. It wasn't the easiest of trips, it was stressful and there were a few times we questioned why on earth we put ourselves through this every time, because they really don't understand or appreciate the trip quite as much as we do…..but like every year, we came back happy that we had gone, and will be online next September ready to book our flights and tickets again! The flight over was fine, coming back was probably the worst experience of my life. Amelia's water bottle caused havoc at security, I was taken away for questioning, searched and had the police do a background check….all while Harry was bucking his way out of the sling and screaming. It was traumatic……the water bottle was made of tin and when screened it detected something, we still don' know what! And to add salt on our wounds, my Christmas preset from my husband, a new bottle of Jo Malone went "missing" in the commotion. Thanks Stanstead airport.
We decided to stay in a Family Room in Premier Inn in Ealing, West London, its where we lived and decided that it was perfect location. It was home, my shoulders dropped the minute we came out of the station and I instantly relaxed. We would be close to all our friends for catching up and it had multiple choices of transport to get in and out of the city, such as having the Heathrow express directly into Paddington, meaning no steps or escalators to battle, or squishing on a packed tube. Paddington to Marble Arch (top of Oxford St) is a short 20 minute walk, so for us was ideal. I did have my reservations about us all being in one room, but it was perfect. The room was spacious, clean, airy (nothing worse than a hotel room that leaves you sweating buckets) the beds were comfortable and most importantly the kids slept. Breakfast was buffet style, which was brilliant for us….grab,eat,run before the kids have time to get bored and start kicking off. The reception staff, restaurant staff and bar staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, and the hotel is located in the perfect setting whether you are in London for business or pleasure, and just a 15 minute train ride from Heathrow and 10 minutes from central London. Premier Inn hotels offer kids stay free and a free breakfast at every Premier Inn*. With comfy family rooms, free Wi-Fi* and a warm welcome it’s the great value break. Though we were all in one room, it had a double bed, two single beds and a travel cot, we still managed two really good nights sleep. In fact, a good night's sleep is guaranteed at Premier Inn hotels. From their super-comfy Hypnos beds, to a choice of firm or soft pillows, they ensure everything is covered for a great nights sleep. Adding touches such as a clean, new baby blanket for Harry's cot didn't go un-noticed. Premier Inn are so confident you'll have a great night's sleep that, if you don't, they will give you your money back*. That is their Good Night Guarantee.
With eating out we kept it simple. We tried to have our main meal in the middle of the day, meaning the kids could then pick for the afternoon and have something light in the evening. Our kids will eat anything….as I've said before, they don't sleep late in the mornings but they make up for it by being brilliant eaters. Our favourite food as a couple is Lebanese and with the help of my sister who lives in London (and knows the best places), we found an amazing Lebanese restaurant, Comptoir.
The food at Comptoir is fresh, healthy, honest and affordable with all types of interesting and colourful dishes, including hot and cold mezze – sized for sharing- wraps, salads, tagines, grills and Mana’esh (Lebanese style pizzas). When stepping into the restaurant, you’ll see this face, inspired by a vintage movie poster, of the amazing Arabic actress, Sirine Jamal al Dine. With brilliant red and brushed-chrome industrial stools, bold-patterned turquoise tables and monochrome geometric flooring, the brightness of the restaurants decor kept the kids entertained, as well as the open style kitchen where they could watch the chefs in action.
No trip to London is worthwhile at Christmas without a visit to the famous Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Something that has grown enormously in the last 10 years. We remember the first Winter Wonderland, I reckon it was a 10th of the size it now. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is a spectacular festive event in the heart of the capital. For six weeks, London’s famous Hyde Park is transformed into a magical wonderland of winter festivities. Winter Wonderland offers a dazzling array of activities and entertainment. There's ice skating around the UK’s largest open-air ice rink, an arctic adventure in the Magical Ice Kingdom, jaw-dropping circus shows, world-class ice dancing in The Nutcracker on Ice and stunning views across London in the Giant Observation Wheel. There’s over 100 spectacular festive rides and attractions, London’s largest German-style Christmas Markets, plus a wealth of delicious food and mulled wine aplenty! While its free to enter, the rides, food and drink is expensive, but worth one visit on your trip. Its the ideal place to pick up some Christmas gifts in the wooden cabin markets.
And lastly, my favourite part of every London trip….meeting up with my NCT group (antenatal group), I wrote about what they mean to me here, how they were my backbone when Amelia arrived and I did t have the support of family nearby. We have lost one member of our group,!deciding like many other Londoners to move home after her first baby, so the sun, sea and sand of the hot climates of Australia beckoned. Like the rest of our group, their family had now too doubled in size. We went from being just a few couples around West London, ante natal group buddies, to great friends, first time parents, long distance friends and all doubling up our families in size.
Its never too early to start planning that trip for next year!
Happy New Year,
Come and join us on our social media sites to see what we are up to
T, A & H xxx
*We were invited to stay as guests of Premier Inn Hotels for one night of our two night stay. We were not paid for our review. All opinions are our own, and we will defiantly be back to stay next year. With thanks to Premier Inn.