London: Hit the stores, see the sights

You're a family divided: some like to browse the shelves, others don't. So turn a shopping trip into a mini-break, says Kate Simon

The other day I bumped into an elderly neighbour. "I don't understand why you women like shopping," he snorted, using the moment to rest his burden of supermarket bags on our wall. "Got the wrong woman," I replied. "I don't like shopping."

I've long been aware that, among my sex, I am in the minority on this question. In our house, it's my partner who likes to pound the pavements, not me. But now I have an ally, my six-year-old son. He doesn't much like shopping either (except to pop down to Woolies to add to his collection of Power Rangers). So to keep Dad happy we take him on the occasional "shopping break". It's a good compromise: Dad gets to look around the shops while we find something interesting to do.

In fact, we've got these little trips down to a fine art. We choose a destination with a good mixture of shops and sights, and find somewhere central to stay which offers self-catering to keep the costs down and the square footage up. We've done it in Manchester, Oxford and most recently in our home town, London. In fact, London was the most successful trip so far - not just because we prefer a Cockney accent. And with Christmas approaching, it could offer an insider's guide for divided families such as ours who are considering venturing to the capital on a shopping-cum-break.

Firstly, consider our choice of destination. Think shopping in London, think Oxford Street - at least that's what many out-of-towners do. But there are other more savvy options for families. We chose to head further west to Kensington High Street. Why? Because this retail drag (I use the words advisedly) is not quite so busy yet offers a comprehensive selection of high-street stores, from H&M to Bang & Olufsen.

But crucially these well-heeled environs will meet the needs of the non-shoppers in the family, too. Where the shops stop, at the street's eastern edge, a vast child-wearying green space opens out, aka Kensington Gardens. There kids can play pirates in the Princess of Wales Memorial Playground, watch the vintage toy yachts sailing on the Round Pond and create their own Neverland around Peter Pan's statue. And when the rain comes down there's always the kid-friendly interactive delights of the Launch Pad and The Garden in the Science Museum, a short walk to the south, and dinosaurs galore in its neighbour, the Natural History Museum.

Secondly, consider our choice of stopover. Convenience is the watchword on a trip like this, and you couldn't get much more convenient for Kensington High Street than 51 Kensington Court. A pretty townhouse with 11 four-star self-catering apartments, set in a quiet square, it's a minute's walk from the bustle - you could almost fall out of bed and into Habitat.

Anyone who has suffered staying in a hotel "family room" or winced at the bill for a suite needs little persuasion to try self-catering. Never underestimate the sanity-preserving power of space when you're travelling en famille. By virtue of being carved out of an old Victorian house, the comfortably furnished apartments at No 51 feel more like converted flats.

And though you can't call on room service, you can buy breakfast and order shopping in advance, while the well-equipped kitchens, with microwaves, hobs, ovens and dishwashers (there are also washing machines in a few), make it easy to make the most of the local M&S and Waitrose. Plus, just like a hotel, the apartments are cleaned daily, there's a concierge service, and, fairly unusually, bookings are taken by the night as well as for longer periods.

With Christmas coming, plenty of special events are being organised in the capital. London is finally getting its act together about celebrating the festive season, now offering more than the dubious delights of watching a minor celeb switch on the Christmas lights. Take the growing ice-skating scene: this year there'll be eight across the capital - the one in the gardens of the Natural History Museum will be the nearest for Kensington dwellers. That sounds much more fun than hitting the Christmas sales.

THE COMPACT GUIDE

HOW TO GET THERE

Kate Simon was a guest of 51 Kensington Court (020-7937 2030; kensington court.co.uk), which offers apartments from £120 per night for a studio for two to £370 per night for a three-bedroom apartment sleeping up to eight.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Contact Enjoy England (0845 456 4444; enjoyengland.com).

News
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
businessUber, Snapchat and Facebook founders among those on the 2015 Forbes Billionaire List
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Homer’s equation, in an episode in 1998, comes close to the truth, as revealed 14 years later
science
News
news
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Lifeguards / Leisure Club Attendants - Seasonal Placement

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Qualified Lifeguards are required to join a fa...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Exhibition Content Developer

    £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in South Kensington, this prestigi...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - major leisure brand

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Partner

    £25000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Partner is required to ...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003