We made the decision to get on a short flight from our home city to visit our old stomping grounds, London town. Admittedly, a lot has changed since we left this glorious city two years ago, but it is safe to say that it’s not London that has changed…it’s us. Imagine living in the center of the universe for 5 years, then moving away to settle in quiet suburbia for a year, only to return. It was like being in the middle of a tornado. Everything was flying around us (and at us) whilst we tried to keep calm and carry on.
The flight wasn’t so bad: turns out my 15-month-old enjoyed sitting on the tray table, staring at me and exploring everything around him, including the unfortunate soul who sat next to us. The London to Cologne flight was only 55 minutes, which is great when you have an active young one. We stayed in London at a Hilton hotel on Edgware Road, right in the heart of all the action and connected by three underground lines. It was pretty much walking distance to Oxford Circus, Regent Street and so on.
Our biggest fear, however, was whether or not we could get around with Leo. How would he take in this crazy, big and busy city?
STAYING CONNECTED AND GETTING AROUND
This was actually our number one fear, and as we expected, London wasn’t the best city to navigate around in with a stroller. Firstly, the transport service is terrible and punctuality is horrendous. We landed at Heathrow Terminal 2: The Queens Terminal, which was lovely, despite initially being caught in the huge immigration lines (nothing changes). Luckily, a kind elderly Customs officer took us out from the queue (seeing we had a baby with us), and did our checks straight away. Plus point for Customs!
Our joy was short-lived, however, because as soon as we came into the arrival hall, we found out that both the Heathrow Express (which we had planned to take) as well as the Heathrow Connect (the cheaper alternative) were not running. We eventually inquired about a taxi, but that option would cost us a whooping £79!
The only remaining alternative was the Piccadilly Line, essentially an hour-long ride in a tube, with two changes. Thankfully, I still have some amazing friends in London and one was kind enough to come pick us up and drop us off at the hotel. The airport also had a great shop next to arrival gates called SIM Local where you can buy a pre-loaded, local SIM card. They even put it into the phone and set it up for you, so at least I was online and connected straight away without expensive roaming charges.
Photo Courtesy of Sabrina Meyers
Throughout our stay, we used the tube many times and whilst they have escalators and lifts, none of the stations we used had stair-free access down to the platform. So many times, we had to carry Leo’s stroller (with him in it!) up and down. On one occasion, my husband also sampled a bus ride with the stroller. Since it was not peak hour, he was lucky and was able to grab a spot to park the stroller. Plus Leo loved flirting with all the passengers around him – much to my husbands’ delight.
One big tip: if you can then download the App for UBER, then I suggest you do it. It’s a taxi service that is linked to your credit card and much cheaper than getting a black cab or those shady mini cab services. Plus, it is super quick and convenient. You can rate the drivers and you get messages to alert you when they are on their way and when they arrive. After your journey, your receipt is also emailed to you. It’s brilliant. The only thing to note is they don’t come with child car seats, but that’s normal in London. If you are a big stickler for safety, just bring your own! We simply strapped on our belts and held on tight.
The one big thing I miss about London is the food. The variety of food, the trendy restaurants, the hot new pop-ups, the cool bars and cafes, and the funky food festivals are overwhelming. So needless to say, my one mission was to eat my way around London, return to my favorite haunts and maybe try some new ones. However, not all these cool, trendy food places are kid-friendly: many do not have enough space to park a stroller or lack play spaces in general. Here are some options:
BURGERS: We went to FIVE GUYS Burgers at Covent Gardens, which was great. Spacious, well-priced and generous burgers and fries – plus all you can drink soda. Other great burger places in London include Shake Shack, Honest Burgers, Byron Burger, Patty and Bun, The GrillShack and BRGR. If you want some lobster as well, then head to a Burger & Lobster. Craving a fancy hotdog instead? Then head to Bubbledogs.
INDULGE: Lola’s Cupcakes has stands all around London so you can pick up some great cupcakes whilst out and about. I bought myself a Red Velvet – they make the best ones!
ETHNIC: We also went to Busaba Eathai, which has delicious Thai food. Their Chili Fried Rice rocks and they have large commercial tables with high chairs at the ready. My one must-do in London is Nando’s Chicken (there are none in Germany…tragic). It is super infant friendly with high-chairs, large spacious restaurants and sometimes even toys or drawing aids to keep kids busy. We let Leo chew on some toasted Pita bread so he was happy. In East London, namely Shoreditch, we ate at DF Mexico, which is a very cool Mexican Diner. It’s a great place for lunch and allows you to check out the trendy neighbourhood, full of cool markets and amazing street art.
CAFFEINE HIT: And if you are craving a really good coffee, make sure to check any of these cafes – Nudie Espresso, Brick Lane Coffee, Allpress Coffee Roaster and The London Black Cab Coffee Company. None will disappoint.