Our London Holiday, March 31-through-April 9, 2013:
1. British Airways LAX-LHR
2. The Waldorf Hilton, London
3. Covent Garden Neighborhood (TODAY’S POST)
4. London Transport Museum
5. Day Out in London – Traditional Landmarks
6. Princess Diana Playground, Kensington Park, and Green Park/ Buckingham Palace
7. Harry Potter Connections
8. Brookwood Cemetery and The Lion King at The Lyceum Theatre
9. Day Trip: Isle of Wight and Portsmouth, UK
10. Day Out: Greenwich, UK
11. Tower of London
12. London’s Shopping Meccas: Hamleys Toys and Harrods
When we booked our stay at The Waldorf Hilton, we did it mostly based on the reviews we’d read about its accommodations and high level of service, both of which exceeded our expectations. We also chose it for its centralized location in the heart of one of London’s most lively neighborhoods: Covent Garden.
Covent Garden is the heart and soul of London’s theatre district; most if not all of the major stage and theatre venues call this neighborhood home. If there’s a play or musical you want to see, chances are it’s playing in London and in or very close to here. In fact we saw two shows during our eight-night stay. We’d have seen more (T did awesome and loved live theatre), but alas, quality theatre costs a pretty pound! More on our overall theatre experiences later, so stay tuned.
Also, Covent Garden is home to many other types of performances, namely street theatre. Live performances run day and night in the Piazza and along the wide pedestrian avenues of Covent Garden, and we got sucked into watching more than once. There was anything from the “coin-op robot on a soapbox” to full-on illusion displays. These shows were extremely family-friendly, and the performers and shows we saw were great with and for kids. Performers also – for the most part – are city-permitted to be where they are, so there’s less to worry about as far as shady behavior goes (but always be aware of your surroundings, of course – the crowds can get quite large!).
Covent Garden is also home to some great restaurants and cafes. One that was right near our hotel was Primrose Bakery, which specializes in cupcakes. As those RMT’ers know who’ve been reading along with me for a bit, I adore a good cupcake, and Primrose’s didn’t disappoint. They offer full-size and minis daily and rotate flavors. I went for the minis, mostly because it was all I could eat by the end of a day pubbing and grubbing, and I wanted to be able to try more than just one flavor (of course!).
Another restaurant we dined at a couple of times was the Covent Garden Grill. We went here one night because of having a 2-for-1 offer via the Days Out Guide/National Rail discount program. (Side Note: I encourage anyone traveling to London to read this write-up on the 2-for-1 voucher program before traveling and print off a few of the offers that look remotely interesting; they paid off HUGE for us. In fact, we recouped the price of our two, week-long National Rail Travelcards by using these vouchers during our travels.) Anyway back to the eats and drinks… we enjoyed our first experience at Covent Garden Grill so much, we returned again for dinner another night during our stay. We hardly ever do a repeat restaurant visit when traveling, but we do so when it’s warranted, whether we have a coupon or not (the second time while I thought we didn’t have a coupon, we did… C kept our previous receipt that gave 20 percent off a future bill if we returned within the same month, which we obviously did).
Funny story though… some of the online reviews listed this place as both kid-friendly and romantic. We could not help but wonder how these two qualities go together, but after visiting, I can see that maybe it’s kid-friendly during the earlier evening hours (like when we went) but more romantic as it gets later into the evening (they did turn down the lighting right before we left one night, for example). Either way, Covent Garden Grill was welcoming with our family and offered a great alternative to “pub food” when we needed it.
Oh, and since I’m on the topic of funny stories, we’d heard about how kids are welcome in London’s pubs with parents up until a certain hour of day (the times varied anywhere from 1900-to-2100, or 7-to-9 p.m. depending on the day of the week, food service, etc.). We’d gotten used to asking whether T was welcome or not regardless because we didn’t want to be somewhere, get comfy, and then get kicked out. Well, after about day five, we sort-of stopped asking because we’d been welcomed pretty much everywhere and anywhere around town. Whoops. Please note, RMT’ers: While the White Lion in Covent Garden is an awesome little stop-in along the area’s main thoroughfare, complete with bar keeps who play ukulele, they do not allow little ones (they do, however, allow them in their sister restaurant upstairs).
Shopping is also a main event in Covent Garden. The area boasts markets with fresh food, produce, and delicacies, and it’s equally flanked with stalls full of artisan crafts and clothing. Higher-end boutiques and smaller stores also line storefronts along the Piazza and surrounding streets.
Of course, there’s the standard commercial offerings (i.e., chains), which caught T’s eye right away. Try as we might to stay out of those stores, T had other ideas. Oh well… I’ll chalk it up to his wanting something familiar along our travels. While we “bearly” ventured inside, we did give in once or twice. That’s what holiday is about, right?
If you are thinking of an upcoming family holiday to London, then consider the Covent Garden neighborhood as your home base, especially if you are a theatre, food, and/or shopping fan. And if Covent Garden doesn’t have what you need, it’s one or two short Underground stops from anywhere else you’d need or want to go (I’ll explain more about this in a future post). Also, as I mentioned before, it’s a direct Underground stop from London Heath Row (LHR) if arriving into town there. Many bus lines also connect Covent Garden to London’s main attractions directly or via easy transfer; in fact, we used the bus almost more than we did the Underground, and we only had to get in a cab once.
Convenient, classy, cute, chic, cultured, and chock full of kid- and family-friendly fun: That’s Covent Garden.
RMT’ers, if you’ve been to London, what’s your favorite neighborhood and why?