I have four children and two dogs, and am often a bit pushed to know how to keep the children — and the four-legged beings — amused over the long summer holidays. I often think of taking everyone to London. There's so much to do and see and parks for the dogs to run around it, and yet it always seems impossible. Where could we even stay?
What I really want is a home-from-home, somewhere in the middle of London where we can live as if we are at home, but with much more exciting things to do. The Athenaeum is perfect for this. It's a hotel that also has pet-friendly family apartments and they are a total revelation. My children nearly died of excitement.
For a start, they are slap bang in the centre of town on Piccadilly. For another, they are luxurious yet child-friendly. The apartments all have kitchens that are stocked full of yummy things — crisps, fruit, soft drinks, and chocolates. They also have huge floor space, massive bathrooms and sofa beds that ingeniously convert to bunk beds.
The Athenaeum doesn't miss a trick. They provide kids meals, child-friendly maps of London and a guide to what's on. They have also rather cleverly joined forces with children's entertainers Sharky & George.
The morning of the day we stayed, my children met up with Max and Matt from Sharky & George, two young, bouncy, child-oriented entertainers of the first order. They fed the children sweets (helping them make small chocolate eggs in the apartment) and then took them on a quest. They were occupied hunting eggs and opening up treasure chests in Green Park opposite for two hours while I had a coffee and read the papers. Perfect.
That evening, the children chilled out watching a range of films offered up by the hotel. My eldest, aged 15, hit the Xbox. My two middle boys (nine and seven) glued themselves to the Wi-Fi and my five year-old daughter ran herself the most luxurious bath ever.
Meanwhile, I went for dinner in the hotel restaurant with a friend — the hotel provides babysitters for a charge. Over a bottle of wine I told her how wonderful the whole weekend had been. She looked, it has to be said, extremely jealous.
Apartments start from £450 + VAT with breakfast, subject to availability. Sharky & George timetabled sessions start at £25 per child per session, or a bespoke itinerary for a family of four for 2 hours costs from £250. For more information, visit athenaeumhotel.com.