Flea turned seven a week or so back – and unlike many seven year olds, she didn’t have a long wishlist of presents.
So I offered to take her to London for a weekend, including a trip to see Horrible Histories Live, and a visit to Hamleys to choose a gift.
As it happened, we were invited down to London this weekend to meet with the folks from Panasonic, and pick up some film-making tips, and also to review the family-friendly Park Plaza County Hall Hotel.
The film-making session was good fun and Flea and I took to a very, very sunny Soho Square to make our own mini masterpiece – which will receive its World Premiere at a later date. Then we headed off to the Garrick Theatre for Horrible Histories, which was brilliant – really funny, not too long, and perfectly pitched at primary school children.
Gotta Love an Upgrade
Hot and sticky, we tramped across London to the Park Plaza County Hall to be greeted by what I think might be the GREATEST words a hotel receptionist has ever said to me: “We have upgraded you to our penthouse suite, Miss Whittle.”
I don’t mind admitting that I nodded calmly, said, “Lovely, thanks,” took the key, and the moment the elevator doors closed behind us proceeded to jump up and down like an over-excited schoolgirl squeaking “PENTHOUSE!!!”
And so it was that we headed to the hotel’s top floor to the corner penthouse, which features a generous lounge, bedroom and bathroom. But the real killer feature of the suite is the wrap-around balcony, which offers unbelievable views over the Thames, including the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament.
The suite offers two enormous TVs, an iPod docking station, kitchen area with fridge, microwave, swish coffee machine, and lots of space for Flea to spread out her Moshling collection. (there are more photos of the hotel over on Facebook)
The beds were lovely and comfy, the air-con was more than a match for the London heat, and there were lights in the wardrobe. I appreciate that’s a small detail, but it always bugs me when hotels don’t do it, for some reason.
Family Friendly Features
It does have to be said that the Penthouse Suite costs around £540 a night, so it’s not your everyday family hotel option. But the Park Plaza County Hall offers some of the most generously sized family rooms in the capital from just £99 a night including free WiFi. If you have older children, there are inter-connecting rooms. The TV service includes free children’s films and there are 2 TVs so you can watch something more grown up, if you prefer.
There are also some lovely family-friendly touches. I particularly liked that the hotel gives all the children a wristband with the hotel’s number and details on – so if your child gets lost, whoever finds them knows where they’re staying. The junior welcome pack also includes hotel currency, which can be redeemed for ice cream (a big hit with Flea) and a wooden yoyo.
What’s on the Menu?
On Sunday evening, we had dinner at the hotel and I thought the adult’s menu was great – I had a lovely, fresh goat’s cheese and beetroot salad followed by a steak with spinach and a really tasty madeira sauce, accompanied by the waiter’s recommended wines.
There’s a separate children’s menu, which Flea chose from – cheese on toast followed by a pizza, and then the biggest bowl of mango sorbet I think I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure the kid’s menu quite measures up to the adult’s menu, but the service was fantastic and it was nice to be in a restaurant where children are so very genuinely welcomed.
Breakfast on Monday was a real highlight for Flea – there’s the usual hot breakfast, cereal and continental options, but the Park Plaza also offered pancakes and waffles and other kid favourites such as jugs of hot chocolate. Flea ate so much that she didn’t eat again until dinner, almost 12 hours later!
If you do stay at the Park Plaza County Hall, the location is probably one of the biggest benefits. You’re literally a two minute walk from the London Eye and the London Duck Tours, both of which we tested out. County Hall (just across the street from the hotel) is also home to the London Acquarium and the London Film Museum, both of which are worth a visit.
I love London’s South Bank and we spent a lot of time exploring the river-side in the sunshine, and I love the fab new children’s playground at Jubilee Gardens, just a minute or two’s walk from the hotel. When it’s hot in the city, being so close to the river means there’s always a cooling breeze, which was very welcome. We also took some time to visit some of our favourite London places – the big Waterstones store just off Piccadilly Circus is possibly Flea’s favourite place in the entire world!
All in all, we thought this was a friendly, spacious hotel with great service that’s genuinely welcome to young people. The room was immaculately clean, the food was plentiful, and the views from the top floors of the hotel (even if you’re NOT in the penthouse) are pretty spectacular. I’ve decided I might be the owner of the luckiest seven year old in the world – we had such a brilliant weekend, thanks to everyone who hosted us. (more photos on the Facebook page)
Disclosure: Panasonic covered our travel expenses to the event, while the Park Plaza covered the cost of all accommodation and meals at the hotel. Opinions are all our own.