Last weekend, we headed into London as a family, something we do regularly and despite the very sad events of the weekend in Borough Market and on London Bridge we will continue to do so.
It is very easy for us to get into London, just a 15-minute drive to the station and then 45 minutes on the tube and we are in central London. Although it is so easy for us to get to we find our time in town is limited as after spending a few hours wandering around and seeing the sights the children are tired and we are cautious of needing to get them home again on a hot and often crowded train. This is easy when they are wide awake but when tired it becomes trickier and we certainly don’t want to be carrying the children on busy platforms.
We have been wanting to stay over for a while now so we could spend more time enjoying the city, and with our Merlin Annual Passes about to run out next month it was the perfect time to make the most of our passes while we still could.
We chose to stay at the Novotel London Blackfiars as it was close enough to walk to the Southbank which is our favourite place to visit with the children, here we can visit the SeaLife Aquarium, The Coca-Cola London Eye, Shrek’s Adventure and The London Dungeons with our Passes. From the hotel, it was only a 12 – 15-minute walk and only a 2-minute walk from Southwark station.
The hotel itself was very easy to find and located in close proximity to lots of places to eat and drink, as well as a Tesco and Sainsbury’s Express.
We arrived early and our room wasn’t yet ready which we knew, however, the staff were very friendly and welcoming and happily stored our case for us, gave the children a few little toys each (a finger skateboard, a teddy keyring and an Angry Birds folding frisbee) and pointed us in the direction of somewhere to eat.
The children were overjoyed with their gifts which kept them amused over lunch in Byron Burger. After lunch we went back to check in – our room was now ready much to the children’s disappointment as they were very excitedly playing with the interactive table in reception. The would have played for ages given the chance – Angry Birds being their favourite closely followed by Tic Tac Toe and Puzzles. The reception area was manned at all times with extremely friendly staff who couldn’t do enough, nothing was too much trouble and they were always happy to see the children.
Our room was a very large family sized room, with a large double and a sofa bed which had been made up for the children, there was a 32 inch TV centralised in the room meaning we could all watch while in bed, as well as a media hub and radio. The room had enough space to walk around the beds as well as a desk with chair, small table, mini fridge, tea & coffee making facilities and a safe.
There was also a large corridor area leading to the door and bathroom, this was large enough for the children to play with their toys we had brought with us and to play with the frisbees. Also in the corridor was a seating area between two wardrobes.
The bathroom was huge with a large bath, with double showers over it, a hand held one and a rain shower. As well as the typical basin and toilet there was a feature the children LOVED – a glass partition between the bathroom and bedroom which changes clear to opaque at the touch of a button. Unlike many hotel rooms, this had ample plug sockets – more then we actually needed which has never happened in a hotel before, and one each side of the double bed! I wish more hotels would take note of this.
Although this hotel is set in close proximity to lots of bars and restaurants which were heaving when we returned in the evening after visiting the SeaLife Aquarium and the Coca-Cola London Eye, with people spilling out onto the streets enjoying their Friday evening, and the hotel bar also very busy, once inside our room and tucked up in bed we couldn’t hear anything. This is the quietest hotel room I had ever stayed in especially in London and given we were on the 1st floor you really would expect to be able to hear some of the commotions of the busy streets but we really couldn’t.
We visited the hotel pool before heading to bed, this is open from 6 am until 10 pm, it was busy when we went into the evening a tad on the cold side for my liking but this, of course, didn’t put off the children. The was also a spa pool attached, seating around and a fitness centre next door. The pool is also used for private swimming lessons and on our evening visit, this was taking place. I took the children again in the morning before breakfast while Paul slept a little longer, staying for around an hour and it was empty at this time.
Breakfast was served buffet style downstairs from 7 am until 11 am with a large choice of food for everyone, from bread and pastries, cheeses and hams, cereals, fresh fruit and of course a full cooked breakfast. Fresh pots of tea and coffee are made for the adults upon seating and the children happily helped themselves to juice.
Check out wasn’t until midday which meant we could swim and have breakfast without rushing around as is often the case when staying in a hotel. We actually finished well before 10.30pm so checked out and left our case in the hotel ready for another full day in London where we headed to the British Museum – the hotel staff kindly called us a black cab, then heading back to the Sounthbank to meet with friends and then walking up to the Fire of London Monument, something Emmy has been very excited to see as she had been learning about this at school.
We then walked back up to the hotel, through Borough Market and over London Bridge, arriving back at the hotel in time to order up a quick sandwich and fries each for dinner in the Jamberee Foodfest and Bar which is attached to the hotel, here you can grab food from the extensive menu, or even choose from the room service menu which is what we did. They also make amazing cocktails which I had to try the evening before and a selection of craft beers as well as hosting a Gin club. We then headed home for 7pm with very happy and exhausted children. I did find the food we had a little on the expensive side with our bill for 4 sandwiches and 4 soft drinks coming to £43.
At Novotel hotels, children stay for free and also breakfast is free for them. They also offer a late check out of up to 5pm on Sundays so you really can make a weekend of it.
For younger children they also offer free buggy hire should you need it, this is a Quinny Yezz.
Our stay was very comfortable and enjoyable and now we have stayed over we will now be doing it more often as we managed to cram far more into our time in London, and by having the hotel it meant we could head back whenever we wanted to have a little rest, freshen up when we were caught in a downpour and use as a base to make our time more enjoyable.
The children loved relaxing watching a movie in our room after we have been swimming, it allowed then to rest a little before heading off out for a later dinner than they would usually have at home, and they didn’t complain once they were tired as can often happen at the end of a day out.
Disclaimer: We were guests of Notovel for this trip. All thoughts and opinions are my own and unbiased.