By Paloma Lacy
This year has caused many to re-evaluate their holiday choices, with overseas breaks no longer the obvious go-to for families.
Those lucky enough to live in London have been taking the opportunity to reacquaint with this great city.
Last weekend, I did just this with my little family.
We arrived at Victoria railway station from our South London home and hopped on the number 11 bus, which dropped us at Trafalgar Square.
Home for two nights was Citadines – an apart-hotel in Northumberland Avenue – simply because we wanted to make the very most of our visit.
Anyone who’s been to Trafalgar Square has a picture of themselves taken on the huge sculpted lions and we’d hoped to recreate history with the next generation but with stricter hygiene rules, this was not to be.
We settled for a mad dash through the square instead.
Given that this is the most central point in the city, it seemed appropriate we begin our trip here.
Around the corner from Charing Cross, five minutes’ walk into Covent Garden, 10 minutes from Soho and 15 minutes’ walk from St James’ Park.
Location wise, we had it all. There’s no doubt that London is quieter post lockdown, with numbers failing to return in the three months since restrictions were eased and restaurants opened again.
The upside of this is clear pavements that make walking around the city pleasurable.
At the top of Northumberland Avenue sits the majestic Gold Jubilee Bridge.
This really is the gateway to Southbank – a quick hop, skip and jump across the bridge and you’re in the thick of it.
Much loved by those on a date, probably because of the choice of restaurants, it’s great for families also.
High river walls mean you can stroll for miles in safety.
Trying to decide upon a lunch spot, we followed the sounds of children’s laughter and stumbled upon Ernie’s Beach – sand shipped in, right there on the banks of the River Thames.
Just a few steps down and we’d joined a handful of families making the most of the early autumn sunshine.
Bucket and spade in hand, we couldn’t help double taking: “Are we really in London?”
There are so many restaurants to choose from on the Southbank, from the expected chains to one-off places and pockets of street food vans and stalls.
You’ll be hard pressed to not have a culinary request satisfied.
We hadn’t wanted to leave the beach so hearing about Limin’ Beach Club, we headed to Gabriel’s Wharf.
It was busy but they found us a table. Open just eight weeks, there wasn’t a better place to eat in the sun and it answered my earlier question, we could have been in the Caribbean.
My little one quickly dusted off her bucket and spade and continuing building sand castles – the terrace is ankle deep in pure white sand.
The larger than life owner found us a table and a chance to try the menu from his Trinidadian homeland.
We shared some dishes, served tapas-style, including national dish doubles, curried chicken, bust up shots, plantain balls and succulent wings, which were all very good indeed.
With hunger more than satisfied, our next stop was St James’ Park to burn off a little energy.
Walking up Whitehall, passing purely by luck we happened to catch the Changing of the Guard ceremony.
Walking onward and through St James’s Park, we were struck by the sights and sounds of the wildlife.
Parakeets, ducks, pelicans, squirrels and black swans are just some of the species you’ll see.
We caught sight of a number of rather brave tourists with their hands aloft, attempting to feed the luminous green parakeets.
There are a good number of galleries around Trafalgar Square, including the National Gallery.
If museums are your thing, head to South Kensington to the Science Museum, Victoria and Albert and Natural History.
Just remember that entries to such building are now timed to meet Covid-19 restrictions.
All have very good cafes and restaurants but there’s a rather nice restaurant nearby – Thali.
A Northern Indian eatery – it’s not unaccustomed to celebratory diners so who knows who you might spot.
Pretty exhausted after our mini break, we left feeling proud of our home city, with so much to do to keep all ages entertained.
And the best part about our journey home, we could do it by bus, jumping on the 159, Streatham bound.
Where to stay: Even London dwellers should experience the city from a tourist’s perspective at least once – it really provides a different view of London life.
Citadines is an apart-hotel that offers all the comfort and flexibility of self-catering accommodation, with the convenience of a hotel.
A modern, fully-quipped one-bedroomed apartment is perfect for a family of four – kitchen facilities enable preparation of a simple meal, with dining area.
The living area also offers decent accommodation for two people, with a pull out sofa that converts into two co-joined single beds.
The bathroom and separate toilets are small but completely functional for the needs.
The living area is large, with a TV and attractive enough for a family to want to spend time in it.
Yes, you’re there to see the city but you also want to stay somewhere with all the comforts of home and Citadines provides that.
Free hot drinks are available in the swish ground floor lobby at any time of day.
Reception is manned 24 hours and the duty manager is only too happy to answer any questions you may have and advise on the best local restaurants and pubs – an invaluable service.
For more information: www.citadines.com
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