Luxury family-friendly staycations – The London Marriott Hotel County Hall
Luxury family-friendly staycations – The London Marriott Hotel County Hall
When one thinks of the traditional UK-based family break, scenes of furry company mascots, all singing, all dancing entertainment teams, manic kids clubs and over-crowded swimming pools come to mind; a daunting and rather scary prospect for any new parents who haven’t quite let go of their adult-centric past lives.
In this series of adventures, I go on a journey in and around our beautiful county of Sussex to discover, together with my chirpy 14 month year old daughter and willing husband, all the baby and adult-friendly bolt holes couples can escape to for calm but adventure-filled precious family times away, before they have to give in to the imminent world of kids clubs that lies ahead.
In this third adventure, we were invited by Marriott to ‘Discover Our Weekend Self’ and venture to the capital to stay for a ‘micro-break’ in their landmark hotel, The London Marriott Hotel County Hall. 2016 has truly been the Year of the ‘Micro-Break’ and Marriott Hotels research found that four out of ten have taken at least one break in their own county or region in the last year.
The Great British Break Report, reveals one in three of those who have travelled within their region or county has taken a break fewer than 50 miles from home in the last 12 months and 15 per cent have stayed even closer – travelling just 25 miles. A quarter say they’re more likely to holiday close to home now than they were 12 months ago.
So why this stay-close-to-home trend? Discovering what’s on our doorsteps was the number one reason for staying local – named by four out of ten of those wanting to stay in their local area. Convenience – chosen by 39 per cent – the desire to keep travel costs low – 33 per cent – and a wish to make the most of limited time off were also referenced. Another one in five (20 per cent) revealed they’d chosen a close to home trip to find out more about the attractions on offer in their local area, while 17 per cent were motivated by nostalgia and the desire to relive past trips.
Speaking about the findings, Michel Miserez, UK Area Vice President, Marriott UK and Ireland, said: “We are dedicated to helping travellers of all kinds make the most of their time away so we are always interested to learn more about how, why and where people enjoy leisure breaks. “At Marriott we pride ourselves on being able to facilitate these micro-breaks, with 54 hotels across the UK, all with expert teams on-hand to help guests and visitors make the most out of their stay – from finding the region’s hidden gems to advising on the most exciting events and attractions – we can help people discover their local break.”
Ready to take our mini explorer on her very first trip to London, we set off on the train and within 1hr 10 minutes from leaving Brighton we pull up at Waterloo Station. With a little one in a buggy, that’s not a long slog if you time your train journey with nap time. I have to admit, I was a little worried about getting in and around London with a buggy, as although millions do every day, I’m an out of practice ex-Londoner and so I was determined to avoid the tube. Luckily perched just a 10 minute walk away from Waterloo Station along the banks of the River Thames and just moments from Westminster Bridge, the London Marriott Hotel County Hall stands proudly and invitingly, providing the backdrop for a truly remarkable visit.
Our welcome was warm as was the traditional décor, steeped in old-world charm. The wood-panelled walls of the lobby and the grandeur of the furniture and feature fireplace cannot fail to impress and make you feel at home….a very grand home, but homely nevertheless. We were lucky enough to have been allocated an Executive Suite, with our own lounge and dining room, marble bathroom, separate dressing room and bedroom with incredible unobstructed views over the River Thames, Westminster and Big Ben himself. Ideal for little ones on the move, the suite was spacious and came ready equipped with a cot and (such a lovely and thoughtful surprise) a toddler-sized fluffy dressing gown and slippers.
All rooms and suites at The London Marriott County Hall have recently been completely refurbished to the highest possible standard, and offer contemporary decor, home-like amenities and incredible views of the London Eye, Big Ben and the river. Guests are able to stay connected with high-speed Internet, rest peacefully on pillowtop bedding, relax in your marble bathroom or order 24-hour room service.
As if the room wasn’t luxurious enough, additional hotel perks include an indoor pool which proved a hit with the little VIP, a gym (we didn’t make it there but it certainly appeared well-equipped and ideal for those with time to concentrate on themselves!) and complimentary fitness classes.
My planned itinerary for our micro-break was to firstly take a leisurely walk along the South Bank and grab some lunch, then visit the London Eye in order to fully introduce our intrepid explorer to London without having to push our way through the crowds.
Our afternoon stroll along the Thames took us to the family-favourite ‘Giraffe’ for some well organised family dining and entertainment. Usually I’m not very partial to visiting chains, however it is so very settling to dine at an establishment where you know they are very much used to kiddie diners, have entertainment ready on your table, a menu that isn’t just the usual chicken nuggets or pizza and chips and have changing facilities that are well kept and monitored.
Our eagerly anticipated trip to the London Eye was the highlight that we had expected. With each flight to taking approximately 20 minutes, there is enough time to point out the sights of London, but it is short enough to avoid the little one getting bored or frustrated. We chose to take our ride just as the sun was going down and the lights of London started to twinkle, adding to the magic.
With a 14 month year old in tow, accustomed though she is to eating out and about, it is always a little difficult to decide where to go to dine in the evening. I often opt for the hotel restaurant, in order to stay local should the little one get overtired and perhaps fall asleep after the later-than-usual meal. It also allows for us parents to have a quick tipple after dinner in the hotel bar whilst the little snoozer dreams away peacefully in her buggy. The restaurant at the hotel is the Gillrays Steakhouse and Bar, serving the best Aberdeen Angus steak sourced from English farms. The steaks here are simply exquisite and with service and views to match, there is no better location from where to enjoy your delicious meal.
Our second day in the city started with breakfast back in the hotel restaurant. We were greeted like old friends and our little socialite was given all the smiles and attention she could wish for from the waiting staff. There is an option of a la carte or buffet, English Breakfast or Continental, as well as numerous teas, coffees and fruit juices. Hubby and I opted for the English Breakfast buffet each and little one was served her very own fluffy cheese and ham omelette (not officially on the menu, but they were happy to accommodate.. The Marriott takes breakfast to a whole new level. Their scrambled eggs are beautifully light and fluffy, the sausages are laced with herbs and full of meat and their fried tomatoes, mushrooms, beans and black pudding are cooked and seasoned to perfection.
Check out of the hotel is a very convenient midday and upon thanking the staff and temporarily storing our luggage for the day, we went on a quest for some sight-seeing and retail therapy. The hotel is perfectly located, should you wish to not travel by tube and just explore the city by foot. You simply cross over Westminster Bridge and the sites are all there as you journey along towards Oxford and Regent Street; The Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace with the changing of the guard and Trafalgar Square.
The London Marriott Hotel County Hall is the perfect home from home if you want to explore the capital with the family. The service and amenities are all geared up to make your stay as comfortable and as stress-free as possible and the location is central enough that not only can you avoid public transport once you have travelled up from Sussex, you are also within strolling distance to all the major tourist attractions, shopping destinations and world-class dining. When staying away with the family, it is the little things that count and it is those little details that Marriott consistently get just right; the warm greeting, the no-fuss when asked to warm a bottle of milk, the CBeebies on the TV, the spacious rooms, the colouring pencils and paper at breakfast, the omelette made especially for my girl and finally the mini dressing gown and slippers. All these details contribute to making magical memories on a micro-break.