Life goes fast!
When Marriott asked if I fancied checking out everything The Marriott Hotel County Hall, London had to offer, I realised the last time I was there was to host the BBC’s Millennium coverage – when 1999 became 2000. Precisely 16 years ago! Where did the time go?
Back then, I was anchoring all the action from The Southbank – located on a balcony next to The London Eye and Terry Wogan and Gaby Roslin would cross live to me for updates on how things were shaping up ahead of the wheel lighting up as we entered a new millennium and barges of fireworks igniting to provide London’s illuminations to spectacular effect on the river!
As for me, I was rocking a white outfit with short spiky hair (Mmmm, 90’s!) and enjoying being part of something so massive whilst also looking forward to glasses of “It’s a Wrap” off-duty celebratory bubbles post-midnight.
Fast forward to NOW and the trip couldn’t have been better timed. A Bank Holiday weekend ahead of a hectic half term when I’d be juggling motherhood with early starts for Heart Breakfast and the thought of some quality family time was just about PERFECT.Built next to London’s oldest bridge – Westminster Bridge – even the walk up the drive to London’s Marriott County Hall is stunning – the kids literally gasped! The place recently had a multi-million pound refurb and boy, does it show! They’ve thoughtfully combined the very best in contemporary hotel design with the heritage and elegance of the location and building.
Our room was incredible – one 0f 202 stunning rooms in the hotel, some of which boast their own dining area and lounge and all of which are styled to perfection!
With Big Ben right outside, sleeping with the windows open seemed the sensible course of action and, waking to the distinctive chimes was a pretty momentous experience for all of us. And, if like me, you have a bit of a “thing” about bathrooms, this is gonna totally float your boat! Ours was enormous, with the biggest shower / bath area I’ve ever seen in a hotel. Room for all of us to be in the bathroom at the same time if we so desired! I’d also somehow managed to time our trip with the official launch of the new Penguin Point at the next-door London Aquarium, which made for a brilliant family outing. The kids faces were suitably impressed / horrified when I told them that, back in my Blue Peter days I went diving in the enormous shark tank – with the sharks – to clean it out! I think I used pretty much 2 tanks of air in the space of about 30 minutes! Penguin Point was a great new addition to the Aquarium, complete with interactive Polar Bears and Orcas.County Hall used to be the HQ of the local London Government before becoming a hotel in 1998. Each of the rooms has tasteful tributes to the buildings history – like the orange chairs, a tip of the cap to the upholstered seating used in the former London Council Chamber. There is also the most stunning bespoke wallpaper in all the bathrooms, with detailed maps of how London was when the hotel was born. Like looking at a grey A to Z – a look I totally coveted and totally intend to re-create in a house one day. It also made for very interesting reading when I was soaking in the enormous bath every night, munching on the complimentary chocs – of course!The location of County Hall is phenomenal – easily my favourite spot in London. As a family the Southbank has so much to offer – it’s the perfect mix of cultural, tourist and eclectic. There’s Big Ben and The London Eye of course, plus The Aquarium, Shrek Experience and London Dungeon actually in the County Hall Building, but along the river the Southbank is buzzing with activity. It feels bohemian, like Notting Hill / Portobello, but less hectic somehow – even though it’s often pretty rammed.The BFI had an Indian Festival Weekend happening and the Saturday night, rocking out to some bhangra music, watching the kids lose themselves as the sun set over the river, was amazing. Like being at a festival, only with an enormous bath and sumptuous 5 star hotel bed waiting for me at the end of the night – not canvas and a packet of wet wipes!There are also loads of stalls selling amazing street food and one evening we even managed to find a beach, with a bar selling mojitos! Sitting sipping, with the kids playing in the sand, we could easily have been in ACTUAL Rio – not just at the Rio Beach Bar! Strolling along the river as a family, taking in the sights and sounds, stopping for the occasional Frozen Yoghurt at SNOG or marvelling at the action in the skate park, Southbank really is one of our favourite places. As the kids said….The hotel also boasts a health club and spa – housing the biggest and best equipped gym I’ve ever actually seen in a hotel – and a gorgeous 25 metre pool – the biggest hotel pool in London, which the kids loved and which provided a great outlet when we just wanted to “be us”. I guess because most people were sight seeing all day long, each time we went to the pool we had the whole thing to ourselves! Like some kind of dream for the kids, and for me! I even managed a few stolen moments on a lounger with Vogue!Breakfasts were taken in the stunning Gillray’s Bar, located on the old Council Member’s Reading Room and named after the caricaturist, James Gillray, who’s prints of politicians grace the walls of the restaurant in homage to it’s old life. The dining experience was something else – with views over the Thames and a breakfast menu boasting every kind of egg option you can imagine plus favourite like waffles and pancakes – the kids thought they were in heaven! I secretly coveted the Cornish mugs and miniature milk churns!I can’t remember a more fun family weekend, nor one where we felt more spoilt and pampered! I LOVED being able to just wander out of the hotel and down onto the Thames Path, taking in the street entertainers and general eclectic vibes of The Southbank and I can’t wait to visit again. Such a wonderful location for families wanting to either stay Southisde, or, with a quick walk across the river, to explore Covent Garden and everything London has to offer.
It’s like the perfect place to dip into the London madness, then get back to the chilled County Hall oasis!
Our new favourite spot in London. Shhhh….. don’t tell everyone about it!
The Science: We were guests of The Marriott Hotels for the purposes of this write-up. All views are my own. Rooms at the hotel start from £300 per room including breakfast. For more information visit LondonMarriottCountyHall.co.uk / 0207 928 5200