After having a big party last year, we thought we’d have a more family-focused celebration this year for Arlo’s fifth birthday. It’s still very early in the beginning of the reception year, friendships are still being made, and as a result, the invite list can be a bit of a muddle at this stage. Also, as much as a big party is lots of fun for Arlo, it does tend to mean that the whole birthday period is centred around the party and all the necessary preparations. It’s all over as quickly as it began without much time to be together as a family.
Arlo was very excited at the prospect of being able to choose his own family day out. After nano-seconds of consideration, he had come to a decision: He would take the family members who hadn’t yet been (Dada and Grandad, specifically), to The View from The Shard.
The Shard is Arlo’s favourite building in London. It’s a comforting sight along the skyline, a sign that we are near to home (London Bridge is our direct line into town), and, well, it’s pretty unmissable. The Shard went up around the same time that Arlo was born. I didn’t have much feeling towards the building then. It was a weirdly-shaped tower that dominated a once familiar landscape, changing it in a massive way. If I were being philosophical, I would relate this point back to Arlo’s birth. This tower that has been around for a relatively short time in my lifetime, has existed all throughout Arlo’s. He is unaware of a time when it wasn’t there. Wherever he is, he will always try to spot it in the distance. It will always tell him how near of far he is from home. Unwittingly, the Shard has become a bit of a symbol for us.
I made invitations for Arlo to give out to family members to keep a bit of that party feeling going. He chose to wear his football shirt when he saw Grandad and Uncle Chris kitted out in preparation for that afternoon’s home match. He listened intently to the digital guide, pointing out various facts to me afterwards.
After a lunch stop at Nandos, we hopped on a bus for the 20 minute trip to our next destination. This was the surprise bit for Arlo – we weren’t going to be going home, we were going to be staying overnight in the centre of London.
Our home for the night was Orchid Way, a fully equipped self-catered apartment from Merino Hospitality. Upon entering our apartment, we were immediately struck with just how luxurious everything was. This is nothing like your average London hotel. The design was modern, but homely. And there were all the mod-cons you could think of.
There were in-built sonos speakers so you could play music throughout the whole house, including the bathrooms. There was Netflix on the TV. Little LED lights along the hallways and the base of the beds that light up when you walk past meant there was no need to turn on lights in the night. The bathrooms were hi spec, the mattresses were top of the range.
The house felt homely immediately. We spent a very relaxing afternoon and evening at the house, lounging on the sofas and generally feeling at home. It was very much unlike some Air BnB rentals, where it can feel very obvious that you are staying in someone else’s home, amongst their belongings.
The playroom built into the eaves at the top of the house was a stroke of genius. It’s only a very small space, but that added to the excitement – the children thought it was a brilliant den, and Arlo spent nearly all afternoon constructing Lego masterpieces in there.
Orchid Way has two bedrooms, an open plan living space and kitchen, and a further mezzanine living area. It’s perfect for families, and you’d also be very comfortable sharing the house with two couples – each has their own space and the kitchen/dining area lends itself very well as a social space.
Orchid Way was full of thoughtful touches, like the extensive colouring pencil set, and the chocolate birthday cake that a certain someone couldn’t wait to devour. We found the fridge stocked with eggs, milk, butter. There was washing up liquid and dishwasher tablets. Even a thoughtful basket of snacks and a bottle of wine. For a night’s stay, you wouldn’t need to buy in anything extra.
Orchid Way is one of several Merino Hospitality properties situated in a quiet row of mew’s houses by Russell Square. The properties’ central location is really handy for getting pretty much anywhere in London within a short journey time, with a great deal accessible on foot. Covent Garden and Soho are a fifteen minute walk away (Sam walked to the Tottenham Court Road branch of Franco Manca in ten minutes to pick up our evening meal).
If you are staying at a Merino Hospitality property with children, it is a huge bonus to have the wonderful Coram’s Fields on your doorstep. Coram’s Fields is just for children. No adult can enter without a child, so it’s pretty unique as far as London parks go, and it’s free. There are pay areas for all ages, a city farm, and a paddling area in summer. We spent a happy hour there on Sunday morning before returning home to do cake and presents with the rest of Arlo’s family.
Arlo absolutely adores spending time in London. If he could explore the city all day every day, he would. Living so close to the centre, we never really have much need to stay overnight. I can count the times I’ve done it myself on one hand. Watching Arlo excitedly take in his surroundings for the night made me realise that he will probably remember this experience forever. It was a real treat for him to be able to stay overnight in London, and it definitely made his birthday weekend a whole lot more special.
Many thanks to Merino Hospitality for inviting us to stay for the purpose of this feature. Orchid Way provided the perfect environment for some quality family time together. Prices start from around £400/night.