It was the first day of 5 weeks full of travel for me and my 2-year old son Atlas. We were to go see 6 countries, visit 10 different hotels and in the end go on a cruise through the Mediterranean Sea. It was to be an epic holiday and this is where it all began.
I couldn’t have asked for a better beginning. London is a city close to my heart, it has been since I got to spend a year there back in 2009, to do a Master’s degree in Psychology at University College London. Safe to say that back then I was the poorest I had ever been in my whole life. I got a small allowance from my mom, enough to cover the rent of my 6sqm room in a shared apartment in East London but for the rest of my living I had to work as a babysitter, a language teacher and occasionally as a photographer.
I only shopped clothes at charity shops and I don’t remember eating much other than pasta and cheap tomato sauce every day. If I went out I would buy one beer for the whole evening. That was pretty easy, since I don’t actually like beer much. However, lack of money was never a reason for me to not have the time of my life living in London. I had a wonderful group of friends from all around the world and there was never a dull day.
Fast forward 7 years. I was back. Now as a mother, as a woman who has grown a business from scratch, someone who didn’t have to check prices when ordering a cocktail at a bar, someone who could afford to spend more on one night at a hotel then she used to for a month’s rent living in that little room that could just about fit a double mattress and a tiny desk. I had come a long way and was excited to experience London as this proper grown-up version of myself.
It was no coincidence that I chose the Park Lane Marriott as my accommodation for those 2 nights. I have recently been honored to be chosen as brand ambassador for Marriott Rewards, the award-winning bonus-program by Marriott. It’s a bit like a mile program for airlines, just with hotels. In other words: EXTREMELY useful. As a Marriott rewards member you pretty much get just that: Rewards. Again and again. Free drink upon arrival? Comes with your Marriott Rewards Membership. Complimentary Internet? Certainly, just tell us your membership number. Even room upgrades are common among members.
Marriott Rewards work for all hotels under the Marriott Group (here is a full list!), meaning you can use them in 4200 hotels in 87 countries. Be sure to check out whether the hotel you’ve booked for your upcoming trip doesn’t maybe fall under the Marriott name, since many aren’t even openly branded as such! (Look out for my upcoming review on Barcelona’s incredible Cotton House Hotel, a design dream unlike anything you’ve ever seen or experienced. It’s also owned by Marriott!) Joining the program and 55 million other members is free, just go to marriottrewards.com and sign up.
Back to Park Lane. Before my arrival I wondered if this place would be a bit, you know, stuck up. Posh. Full of itself. But far from it. The staff was young and cool, even if, naturally, they wore somewhat fine attire. At all times I felt at eye-level with everyone, which was unexpected and wonderful. I’m pretty sure I could be friends with pretty much everyone working at the front desk. And the door. And the restaurant.
My goodness, that room. It was cleaner than any hotel I’ve ever slept in, despite being mostly white! I’m unsure as to how often they renovate but from my personal experience I’d say probably at least once a month. The bed was lush and extremely comfortable, the view was a perfect London experience and the toilet seat was heated. Wait, what? The actual toilet seat? YES! It was one of those fancy loos they have in Japan where your privates get a little shower if you just press the button. Do I really need a warm toilet seat? No. Do I feel extremely privileged and special to have one in my room? Um, yes.
The bar & restaurant
Ever since I became a mom I’ve been loving staying in nice hotels. Why? Because after my son is asleep I can simply turn on the baby phone and go downstairs to dine at the hotel restaurant and enjoy a moment or two for myself, having spent the entire day catering to my toddler son. Any parent will know how important it is to have a few hours a day to yourself and when bedtime comes I cannot wait to reward my day’s parental duties with a nice steak and glass of red. Needless to say my appreciation is magnified if given restaurant serves especially nice food with especially nice wine, offering especially nice service.
Lanes of London, the Park Lane’s public restaurant and bar did just that. Again I marveled at the easygoing, yet highly professional service, the amazing quality of the dishes and beautiful decor of the restaurant itself. When I couldn’t decide on a cocktail I simply told the barkeep what I like and he managed to not only replicate my favorite cocktail, he actually made it a tiny bit better. So I ordered three. In a row.
The restaurant impresses no less in all service, decor and quality of the food. I had not seen my friend Claudia in a couple of years and wanted our reunion dinner to be extra special. Lanes of London did not disappoint and we ended up having one of the nicest dinners. I love the steak but the fish is also very nice.
With my little Atlas in tow I didn’t go full-blown massage and all but I sure loved the gorgeously designed indoor pool in the hotel basement. As a fan of steam baths (over saunas) I had a great time taking the odd dip into the steam bath next to the pool and was positively surprised when Atlas found it ok, too!
I’m not one to hit the gym when I travel but the Park Lane sure has a nice one which seemed quite popular with visitors.The fresh fruit waiting as a reward for your hard work-out (or in my case, simply walking past) was appreciated.
The tea lounge
On my first morning here I made the mistake of ordering breakfast at Lanes of London, not realizing that the real breakfast was actually served inside the hotel’s tea room. The essential toast, yogurts and pastries are in place and better yet, are enjoyed in this lovely decor. Much more cozy than the average breakfast room. More like a living room of sorts which makes it easy to get in touch with other hotel guests.
I was surprised that afternoon tea was served here also and free of charge as well as dinner drinks. The lounge is an excellent place to unwind from hectic London, meet fellow hotel guests and kick back in plush leather sofas.
Notch – the pop-up bar on the 4th floor
This amazing hidden gem had almost managed to escape my attention – why did no one tell me that I was staying on the same floor as one of London’s coolest roof-top bars?!? The Notch only opens in summer (it will be around until mid-September!) and not only serves delectable tacos, it also has your cocktail-loving heart skip a beat as you leisurely grab a seat on one of the swings. You’ve read that right.
I’ll admit I’m a one-trick pony when it comes to picking my place to stay in London. I always end up in East London. Shoreditch, Dalston, Stoke Newington – you name it. It’s where all my friends live, where I used to live and where I know my way around. The Park Lane on the other hand is smack bang in the very heart of London with the beautiful Hyde Park on one side and shopping Mekka Oxford Street on the other.
It’s a great location if you appreciate walking to stuff, like I do. You can start your day with a run through Hyde Park (highly recommended!) and carry on with a shopping spree along the city’s most bustling shopping mile. If you do fancy heading out to another neighborhood you have various bus lines and Marble Arch Tube Station right outside your door.
London is one of those places that never gets old. If you have come once, you’ll likely find yourself coming back for years and chances are you’ll experiment around with different hotels and neighborhoods and if this one has escaped your attention so far, I can only give you the warmest of recommendations towards it.
*This post was created in teamwork with Marriott Rewards.