Sometime last week, Eva was jumping up and down in the bathroom as she waited for her bath to fill. “I’m so excited!” she kept saying “But I don’t know why!” Eventually she realised that it was because “Natayee” was coming to stay. Yes, it’s that time of year when we get a temporary teenage child wrangler for a week or so and the children have a wonderful time with her. Well, that was this week and they did have a wonderful time but first there was the small matter of picking her up from Victoria Coach Station. That was all the way back on Bank Holiday Monday, which defied the bank holiday odds by being gloriously sunny, and so we decided to go to Hyde Park en route to pick her up.
Instinctively, I’d go to Hyde Park Corner for a visit to Hyde Park but Google Maps suggested Knightsbridge and it’s actually way better if you’re aiming for the Diana fountain end. You get out at the north entrance and then there’s a short stroll down Serpentine Walk before you get to the park. Look out for these very fancy gates on the way:
It was middayish by the time we got there, so we picked a shady tree to sit under and eat our sandwiches. Not a willow, because the kids were convinced they were all Whomping Willows and therefore out to get us. I’m happy to report that we didn’t get whomped.
And we did find a new playground we’d never been to before! I’m not sure how we’ve missed it all these years – we’ve been to the Diana playground on the other side but not this one. I think it’s called the South Carriage Drive Playground and it looks quite newly refurbished. There’s lots of greenery, which is lovely for adventuring but not so good for sightlines. We set up a base, perched on a wooden fence in the shade and told the kids where to find us – luckily they are of an age where we can do that. I’m not sure how the experience would be with younger kids or a less than 1:1 ratio.
There’s a small kiosk for ice creams, drinks etc but surprisingly no toilets nearby. Still, a fun enough place to spend half an hour or so:
But this was all sweaty work for a 30c day, so it was time to head to the Diana Memorial Fountain, stopping off to changes in the loos by the Serpentine Lido. We’d been there on an unseasonably warm day in February but had got a little chilly by the time we were traipsing round H&M in soggy clothes. This was more the kind of day to visit. Nothing but blue skies as far as the eye could see.
There was a small problem though. The water wasn’t working on half the fountain. The bottom half was fine and, in fact, spurted out more furiously than I’d ever seen it on one corner. But the majority of the top section was just dry, hot granite to walk on. Not overly refreshing. So I suggested we stay in the cool water in the bottom half but no, the kids had to complete a loop every time. Luckily, the water came back on after 2 or 3 circuits and we could finally enjoy the fountain in its fullness.
Around this time, I’d got a call from Nat saying she’d be a couple of hours later than planned. So we stretched out our paddling as long as we could until our heads were aching from too much sun. Then we wandered back to the playground, without even bothering to change the kids out of their swimmers. The aim was the ice cream stand we’d seen earlier and it was most definitely needed by that point. I had the berries and cream ice cream pot,which was insanely expensive but very tasty and I got to finish Eva’s too as she ran off to play again.
She was enjoying it more than she looks here, honest..
The next step was to decide how we got to Victoria Coach Station. It was about a mile’s walk which would have been more than manageable on a cooler day. So instead we took the unwise decision to wait at the bus stop opposite Harrods for the C1, which seemed to take hours to come into view, even longer to make its way through the traffic towards us and more hours still to propel us the short distance to Sloane Square where we were unceremoniously turfed out. We were not yet at Victoria. An overly concerned man told us that another C1 was right behind but I was done with bus stops, so we started to walk the last half mile, spotting what looked like the Batmobile on the way:
It is always nice to have a wander around posh parts of London, like Eaton Square which didn’t seem in the least bit square but did contain some private tennis courts. We’d found some interesting passageways between Hyde Park and Harrods as well, like this one which looked like Diagon Alley until you spotted the branch of William Hill:
But the best street, weirdly enough, was the one that the coach station itself was on, Elizabeth Street. We’d never approached from the north before so had never realised it’s full of shops and cafes which are completely decorated in flowers. You can guess which one of my kids yuvved it:
Pity the coach station itself is nowhere near as beautiful. I noticed for the first time though that there is a library next door so maybe next time we’ll go and read a book while we’re waiting!
We eventually scored ourselves a Nat and made our way home via Victoria not-coach station. Which is all the excuse I need to tell you about the beautiful new toilets there. They’re free! And have been made over with shiny brass doors, white tiles and plants. There’s even a friendly women showing you which cubicle is available. If I had an award to hand out for “Most Improved Bog” they would definitely win it. Definitely worth skipping the coach station loos and heading to these. Just look at them:
Some would say that’s a bum note to end the summer holiday posts on but I think it’s just about perfect. Happy September!