Jorge and I were invited a few weeks ago to stay in a new Go Native serviced apartment property on Sussex Gardens near Lancaster Gate and Hyde Park.
We thought it might be fun to have a little staycation in a different neighbourhood. So we packed our overnight bags and walked from South Kensington to Exhibition Road and over to the other side of Hyde Park to check it out.
It was still surprisingly Autumnal in the park the first weekend of December.
There are berries and colourful leaves on some of the trees.
Others were bare and still others dark green.
Some had colourful trunks instead.
We wandered up past the Peter Pan statue.
It was always one of my favourite stories when I was younger.
Then it was onward along The Long Water at the north end of the Serpentine where the birds always line up on a row of wooden posts.
A little Australian boy was told off by his mother for trying to pelt them with stones.
But overall, it was a very peaceful stroll.
One of my favourite places in the park is the Italian Gardens, which I was happy to realise were on our route.
There’s a fountain at the one end where you can stand and look back over the Serpentine.
It wasn’t a very sunny day, but it was still a stunning view. Imagine with bright blue skies.
The birds thought it was nice enough to go for a swim anyway.
We reached the end of the park.
The rest of the walk was just five minutes up through Sussex Gardens.
We went to drop our bags in the lobby.
Then we decided to consult the neighbourhood guide that Go Native had sent us for some ideas on what to do next.
We were intrigued by the nearby Leinster Gardens Fake Houses and took a walk in that direction. We passed a small street with shops and some Christmas trees for sale on the corner.
Then we turned down a pretty ordinary residential street in this area with big expensive homes just minutes walk to the edge of Hyde Park.
And we found ourselves standing in front of two ordinary looking buildings that we wouldn’t have looked at twice unless we had read the guide. It said: “Take a stroll along Leinster Gardens (just off Lancaster Gate) and you’ll see that numbers 23 and 24 are eerily empty, both missing letterboxes and with their windows painted over. That’s because they’re an illusion. The original houses were demolished during the development of the London Underground and these facades mask the gap that remained.” Learn something new every day, right?
What next? It was Sunday and we were hungry so clearly a Sunday Roast was in order. But where? After consulting that handy guide, we settled on The Grazing Goat. “Minutes away from Marble Arch is this hidden gem. A simple, elegant pub, it specialises in beer and guest ales but also has a reputation for fresh, seasonal food – specifically, their traditional Sunday lunch. Named after Lady Portman’s grazing goats that once populated the surrounding land, it doubles as the perfect reason to visit Portman Village.”
So we walked back the way we came and followed the edge of the park down toward Marble Arch.
This time, on the same route, I spotted something I love to find in big cities – a rack of international newspapers in a mishmash of languages. I can’t read any of them and I never buy any of them, but I love that they are a sign of such incredible diversity.
We also spotted a sign on a door that said United Lodge of Theosophists. I had a relatively good idea of what that was but looked it up just to be sure. If you’re curious, theosophy is defined by “systems of esoteric philosophy concerning, or investigation seeking direct knowledge of, presumed mysteries of being and nature, particularly concerning the nature of divinity.”
Moving on then. Around the corner, we came to Sheila’s Cafe, a hidden little place at the top of Lancaster Mews. With two tables for two, it’s mostly a sandwich takeaway shop and apparently popular with cab drivers and builders. The bacon sandwich got good reviews. We didn’t stop though.
Across the street from Sheila’s is The Mitre, a popular pub that was listed in our guide, which reads: “Housed in a Grade II listed building, The Mitre was once populated by the Lords and Ladies of the day. Now, film buffs are more likely to recognise it from Woody Allen’s London-based movie Match Point.” Haven’t seen it. Have you? Any good?
Anyway, we didn’t stop there either.
We reached the park and kicked through the leaves near the Boris bikes.
And wondered why there were no less than four red phone boxes back to back in a square across from them.
Eventually we reached Portman Village, just between the madness of Edgware Road and the madness of Oxford Street. The Grazing Goat was tucked quietly away on a side street.
But we opened the doors to a packed pub and waited at the bar for a table.
It had been a while since I had a Sunday roast so it took me a minute to decide but I went with the lamb.
The food was great and it was worth a visit, but the pub was incredibly noisy and full of squirming, screaming children so we were happy to leave.
It was time to check into our room anyway.
This time we went through the back streets. We wanted to check out Connaught Street. According to our guide, it “boasts two worthwhile spots: Le Pain Quotidien and Coco Maya, the latter of which is on the border of Connaught Street and Porchester Place. Interestingly, this is where Tony Blair and his family live – identifiable by the armed protection squad outside.” There was indeed an armed guard in front of a mews.
The sun was already setting so it was a pretty walk.
So we made it back and were shown to a large suite on the ground floor with a bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen area. It was, however, quite dark and four of the lights didn’t work so we called for someone to have a look.
Apparently they didn’t have replacement bulbs because they were waiting on a shipment that hadn’t arrived so they kindly gave us a choice of two other apartments upstairs. The one we chose was lovely, with a huge wraparound balcony.
Unfortunately it was too chilly to properly enjoy it, but the inside was really nice as well. It had very high ceilings, a spare room with a couch and extra set of towels, a living room and kitchen area, a bedroom and a bathroom. Definitely very spacious for London!
It was also very cool to see they had thoughtfully left a small carton of milk, sugar, tea and coffee as well as dishwasher soap, washing up liquid, and laundry detergent for the small washing machine.
The kitchen was fully stocked with pots and pans and everything you need really. One thing that would have been nice that we didn’t see is oil for cooking. But we didn’t use the kitchen.
Taking advantage of its proximity, we headed back into the darkness to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland where we ate German sausages, churros and sweets for dinner instead.
Jorge was amused by the fake snow, which he hadn’t seen before.
I, on the other hand, am wishing for real snow, but considering it is still about 13C / 55F in London, that’s not looking likely any time soon.
We didn’t go on any of the rides.
Nor did we play any of the games.
But we did do one of my favourite activities – try on silly hats!
Jorge was going for the furry Russian look.
I went the reindeer route.
We were there mostly just to soak up the atmosphere.
And then we headed back again.
This time we walked through the Bathurst Mews where the Hyde Park Stables are, to see the horses that were tucked away for the night.
Back in the apartment, we found a late night Christmas movie and then got up and walked the 40 minutes to work the next morning.
All in all, a fun little adventure. I do like the idea of a staycation. While it wasn’t too far from where we live now, it was a nice getaway! If it were in East London and it was over a weekend, it would have felt like we’d really been on holiday!
Thanks Go Native!