Burberry and Paul Smith. Newcastle beer. The Bard. Twinings tea. Mini Cooper, Land Rover and Jaguar. The Beatles and the Stones. Is there anything the English can’t do? OK, I’ll say it… I’m an Anglophile. If it comes out of England, chances are I like it.
In the mid-‘90s, I spent my third year of university studying in England. In Hull, of all places—never heard of it? Yeah, even the Brits wondered how (or was it why) on earth I ended up there. I’ve gone back to England—OK, just to London—many times since. And every time I go, I dedicate it to exploring just one or two neighborhoods. A city as big as London, well, you just can’t see (and do) it all in one visit. So why try?
I don’t think I stepped out of Covent Garden the last time I was in London. On one visit, I explored St. Pancras and King’s Cross only. I dedicated another visit purely to Hyde Park and Leicester Square.
Am I just lazy? Maybe. But maybe not. I can tell you, for example, where my favorite little café is in Bloomsbury (Bea’s). And I can point you to the best fish chips in Soho (Golden Union). My new it-spot for a glass of wine? The Amaranto Bar at Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane.
Going to London shouldn’t be about crossing off a bunch of places on your “must-do” list. At least, it isn’t for me—and especially not when traveling with the kids. So when my husband and I booked our trip to London this past summer, I convinced him (well, told him) we should stay at Four Seasons Hotel London at Canary Wharf. For one thing, I had never been to this part of London. And the fact that there is a Four Seasons hotel there sealed the deal for me.
Set on the Isle of Dogs, Canary Wharf is the heart of the Docklands. It’s a relatively new (brand new, as far as London goes) neighborhood with a Cesar Pelli-designed tower, which, at 787 feet, stands as one of the tallest building in the UK. Century-old warehouses that have been transformed into museums, Manhattan-style loft apartments, trendy shops and celebrity-chef restaurants surround the plaza around the tower.
And Four Seasons Canary Wharf is at the center of it all, with the River Thames literally a stone’s throw away. In fact, the river ended up dictating where we would go and what we would see on this particular trip. Not once during this London visit did we have to deal with navigating the Tube with a three year old and baby in a stroller. Indeed, the jetty across from the hotel made it easy to hop on and off a ferry that got us to the London Eye and the Tower of London in a matter of minutes. It’s also close enough to Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. But there’s much to do in Canary Wharf, too.
Right in the hotel is Quadrato, an Italian restaurant with a great small-plates menu perfect for sharing with the kids. On a sunny day, we sat in the patio outside and devoured the cheese croquettes, salami and Tomino cheese, Prosciutto with figs and homemade pasta. I got to burn some of those calories right across the hotel at the Virgin Health Club. (All hotel guests have complimentary access to the club, one of the best of its kind in the city.) Meanwhile, my husband and kids splashed around in the club’s infinity-edge swimming pool, housed in a floor-to-ceiling glass building overlooking the River.
For a little culture you can head to the Museum of London Docklands, set in an early 19th-century sugar warehouse. The museum explores the story of London’s river, port and people. In fact, the museum just wrapped (February 2012) an exhibition called “Your 2012,” showcasing images that reflect the construction and changes to the environment during the work to build the Olympic Park in East London.
On our last night in London, the concierge made babysitting arrangements for us and we treated ourselves to a grown-ups-only dinner. We didn’t have to go far to find Tompkins, a New York-style brasserie, complete with Tom Dixon lamps, Eames rocking chairs, vintage leather sofas and a menu that focuses on seasonal ingredients sourced from local suppliers. We took our time walking back home—er, to the hotel—as we watched the moon rise and glimmer on the river.
Basing our stay at Canary Wharf ended up being a great decision—least of all because we felt like locals, if only for a weekend. Of course, Four Seasons’ attentive staff and a suite with gorgeous river views didn’t hurt either.
Read more about London in Four Seasons Magazine.
Celeste Moure has written about travel, design, music, beauty, architecture and food for various publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Spin, National Geographic Traveler, Real Simple, LA Times and Travel+Leisure. She also edits On Tippy Toes, an online mag that brings modern families the most inspiring ideas and products found at the intersection of parenthood and design. She lives in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and two kids.
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