London with a baby overnight: The good, the bad and the ugly
I’ve got a love-hate relationship with London. I love leaving and hate going. That’s certainly true when it comes to my commute – four-five trains each way each day is enough to send anyone over the edge, which I’ve been desperately clinging onto for some time.
When it comes to travelling there with a baby though, coming and going, it’s a relationship ripe for divorce.
To make the most of my participation in the Great Ormond Street Hospital Race for the Kids last month, knowing Jenna and Roma would be cheering me on, I thought it would be ideal timing to make a weekend of it.
It was the first time we took Roma into London and, using public transport, we had a couple of options for the journey. We took the route with fewer changes, assuming that would make things easier with a baby, pram and suitcase in tow, which it did not.
The ease of the first train direct into Liverpool Street gave us a false sense of security. From there, attempting to make it to our apartment in Kensington for the weekend was nothing short of a nightmare.
The main issue was negotiating stairs. One extremely infuriating scenario had us battle four sets of stairs to the wrong platform, thanks to the ill-informed TfL route planner, which meant we had to cross the stairs AGAIN to head in the correct direction.
Thankfully, we found people are generally only too happy to help when they see pram-based stair struggles taking place.
All smiles for the first trip to London – they soon disappeared after facing the perils of travelling Underground with a pram and suitcase; yes, a full 25kg-ish suitcase for two nights! At least we didn’t have to worry about Ryanair charging for extra weight. Where are all the lifts at, TfL? In fairness, big up the off duty TfL bossman, who helped us navigate and carry our cargo across Liverpool Street Station. What adventures will you get up to this weekend? 👪🚇💼😧 #DADultLife
We eventually made it to Cheval Residences, our home for two nights for work, just across the road from Hyde Park, where the race itself would be taking place.
The venue screamed opulence. After checking in, a concierge escorted us to our room. I’d never been in a penthouse until then, and I certainly didn’t want to leave once I’d ticked that moment off my bucket list.
We could have moved in the next day and still had room for a couple more families to join us.
Getting in my good book – and stomach – straight away, we were met with a welcome basket filled with fruit, granola, chocolates and crisps, while the fridge was helpfully stocked with juice, milk and water.
A cot, complete with baby towel and stuffed unicorn for all of Roma’s bath and playtime needs, had been placed alongside our own enormous bed in the master bedroom, which came with en suite and endless wardrobe space.
However, the icing on the cake had to be the view from the rooftop patio, which granted eyeballs on London landmarks including the London Eye, the Shard, the Royal Albert Hall and, of course, the neighbouring Hyde Park.
As tempting as it would have been to order a pizza and hibernate in our heavenly temporary living space, we ventured out to a secluded spot, Crocker’s Folly, a 45-minute stroll from Cheval.
Why so far? Since the pregnancy, we’ve been addicted to long walks, and came to realise that Crocker’s was worth it. Tucked away in St John’s Wood, just off of Edgware Road, the restaurant is in a grade II-listed building that used to be a pub – easily evident from its structure.
With a Lebanese menu on offer, the food was delicious. It was even more impressive as it came to light the restaurant had only been serving that particular cuisine for three months.
Prior to the introduction of the Middle Eastern menu, it was traditional European and British options available. While I can’t comment on the previous dishes, what we stuffed ourselves with was incredible. The starters alone were so filling that it was something of a Man vs Food challenge to see off the mains. And if you end up there, roll with the hummus; hummus that comes complete with shredded lamb inside it!
Flashback to last Friday evening’s family date at hidden gem @crockers_folly 👪 Despite what the first image suggests, we were actually able to eat with both hands for a change, as Roma slept for the most part. Stunning setting and incredible food, all of which I needed to fuel me for my run the next day 😉 Bonus points for being a location where Captain America was filmed 📽️🇺🇸👏 How about you guys, what are you doing over the weekend? Eating, drinking, losing sleep? 🍽️🍻😴 #DADultLife #FBF #LebaneseCuisine #Grade2Listed #CaptainAmerica
The setting was aesthetically pleasing too. Charming outside and impressive inside, the room we ate in was adorned with marble and wood. And while it wasn’t a date night in the traditional sense as we had Roma with us, we had the chance to actually eat our food while it was hot, since she slept through most of the meal, apparently knackered from the walk.
Told you it was worth it.
Suitably fuelled up from the night before, Saturday morning rolled around and I tackled the Race for the Kids. It was a great day and I’m pleased I could have been a part of it. Everyone from infants to children to parents and grandparents were involved, united by the same cause to support Great Ormond Street Hospital, which has generated over £500,000.
After a slow stroll to the room and subsequent chill out, we started getting ready to venture out for food. Oddly, I got a message from a friend and then a call from my old man, asking whether we were heading out to any of the museums – something that was on our to-do list for Sunday.
It came to light we were just around the corner from a suspected terror attack outside the Natural History Museum, which left us fixed to the TV, watching the news to await further developments. Needless to say, it was a frightening situation to be in. While we hadn’t witnessed anything on the road itself we could see and hear sirens passing by, traffic building up and a helicopter overhead.
Thankfully for everyone involved, it turned out to be nothing more than a reckless driver, rather than anything more calculated and sinister.
Still, that shake-up, combined with Jenna and Roma both suffering from colds, and we put our plans to stroll into the West End on ice, remaining local with a trip to Byron Burger before retiring for the night to crash out in front of a film on the sofa – you know the drill.
After checking out on Sunday, we visited pancake house My Old Dutch for breakfast. With crepes the size of hubcaps on offer, in both sweet and savoury offerings, we knew what had to be done – order one of each; each.
Once we’d eaten our fill, we went for a walk through Kensington, Notting Hill and onto Hyde Park, where we combed the grounds of Kensington Palace and explored the beautiful Princess Diana memorial garden.
With autumn upon us, it was the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday morning in London, and you could almost forget you were in the capital amongst the depths of Hyde Park.
Before long, it was time to head off home. We grabbed our luggage from Cheval and set off to the station. A couple of steps along the way and the suitcase handle decided to break. That’s where I had a moment of genius to solve the situation.
Before we’d escaped the city, TfL had the last laugh – the station we were set to depart from was closed for the weekend, which meant we were forced onto a rail replacement bus.
Jenna and I were not impressed, but Roma was livid – just look at that face.
Still, at least she was given the real London experience.
We made it home, eventually, and as fun as it was visiting the Big Smoke, I came to three realisations:
(1) If we were to go London overnight as a family again, the baby carrier would be invaluable for getting around train stations.
(2) It took two hours to get from the apartment to home – going on a road trip wouldn’t take much longer. In fact it could be a lot shorter depending on where you head to.
(3) We would never go to London overnight as a family again.