London Visit May/June 2017: Kensington and Holland Park

Hi! So I mentioned my Mom and I's late May/early June visit to London earlier in my Don Juan in Soho review (go check it out if you enjoy theatre reviews/fangirling over David Tennant! ;-)).

We visited VERY spur of the moment, as in booking the whole thing three days in advance. I don't know about you, but even for me that is really flying by the seat of my pants! The weather was unusually warm, even in Scotland the first few days after my Mom arrived it was downright summery. So we figured (correctly it turned out) that London would once more be gorgeous when we visited weather wise. I don't know how to emphasize enough what such a small thing as good weather can mean for a trip here. It just feels like such a luxury! Summer is a fickle mistress in the U.K!

We decided to stay in Kensington as we weren't fussed about a whirlwind tourist attraction trip like we did last year (not that you couldn't base one in Kensington, but after staying there twice now I feel semi-confident in saying the Circle Line Tube is not always reliable, often at crucial moments they will shut it down, usually going east, which is the direction of everything except Chelsea, and no my Mom wasn't interested in stalking the cast of Made In Chelsea with me ;-)). At any rate, we just wanted to stroll around some parks and maybe do the Victoria & Albert Museum as I'd never been...oh yeah and maybe see a play if we were lucky!

Our first day was glorious and sunlit, we arrived around midday, on time thanks to Easyjet, albeit they did break one of my suitcases grr! We checked into our hotel, the Copthorne Tara Kensington, and you would think a blogger might remember to take pictures, but no, all I got was a shot of the view from our 10th floor room.

View from Copthorne Tara hotel London Kensington

I asked about a room upgrade when we checked in as I only realized after we booked it that one side of the hotel is directly beside the overground train, and I had read that the Club and Executive Rooms were better sound proofed (I have no idea if this is true or not, but I will say our room/floor was very quiet generally).

With the Club Rate you get breakfast and also coffee/biscuits in the day and nibbles and wine in the evening should you wish. It actually is worth upgrading as it works out cheaper (I think) than buying the hotel breakfast. Breakfast had plenty of choice, it was a buffet but you could also order a cooked breakfast, with many options to choose from, and the service was very polite and attentive.

I feel I must mention an older man who works there, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening - I forget his name, but he was charming in an enjoyably crotchety way, and my Mom and I were a little obsessed with him, he had a very old school courtesy and personal touch to his service that was refreshing!

The Club Lounge, where breakfast is served for Club and Executive rooms, definitely has an old world mens' club sort of decor - dark wood and such, but it was very cozy and welcoming. It was a nice place to have a quiet coffee or soft drink and regroup for the evening.

The lobby is quite shiny and grand looking, and is always busy - multiple airlines and tour groups seem to stay here (the hotel is quite large). Our check in must have been timed perfectly, though, because we didn't have to wait, and the staff were very pleasant. There is a small convenience shop (charging the sort of exhorbitant rates you would expect but handy!), and a coffee kiosk as well as a large seating area with big couches.

The rooms themselves were ever so slightly a let down, in terms of decor anyway. Seeing as we paid extra for our room I did expect a slightly nicer finish - the walls had marks on them in places, some of the furniture had seen better days, and the bathroom most definitely needed a refurb. The toilet made an ever so slightly strained noise when it flushed that did make me nervous! The bathroom did have a large tub although I would not have felt comfortable having a bath in it, it's not that it wasn't clean - but it wasn't shiny, hotel finish clean if you know what I mean because of the age of the place.

Saying that, it was all in all perfectly acceptable for the rate - our room was spacious by London standards, and air conditioned (a relative rarity in some London hotels, which boggles my mind as it can get seriously hot!), and it has to be said the beds were super comfy, I slept like a log our entire stay. And it is only five minutes' walk from the High Street Kensington tube stop, it's situated very nicely in a quiet and safe feeling neighbourhood. I would also feel comfortable staying in this hotel as a solo traveller, it feels safe and welcoming despite its large size.

Well gee I guess I should have labelled this a hotel review as I've gone on a bit - I didn't take enough pictures to really justify that now though did I? Very bad blogger!

The hotel also has several restaurants (I honestly lost count, it's pretty huge! There's a pub type one, a posher type one, an Asian fusion one...also I believe three bars, though the two smaller ones seemed to have limited hours). I am always hesitant to dine in a hotel, it feels unadventurous to me, but our first night we were tired so I did a little internet snooping and it turned out that the Singapore/Malaysian restaurant in our hotel, Bugis Street, had pretty great reviews, so we went for it. It was actually quite crowded due to aforementioned large tour groups and the restaurant apologized and said it would be a half hour wait for food, but we were too tired to care.

They seemed to specialize in noodle dishes so we both went for them, and also ordered wonton soup, hoping it would come out quickly and line our stomachs a bit. Well, it did, along with the jasmine tea they were ever attentive in refilling (I swear I drank a gallon by the time we left!). The wonton soup was yummy (if steep...£5.95! London hotel prices eh!), and the fried prawn noodles were also good, if a tiny bit greasier than I was expecting. I feel like if I had ordered a soup noodle dish it might have been a better choice, it seemed to be what many other people were having.

At any rate our bellies were full and we were a bit tired but decided to take a short stroll to look at Kensington Square - a private garden, and the oldest square in London apparently. It was very pretty and the houses were super chi chi and the whole square/park was serenely or eerily quiet, depending on your mood!

I have mixed felings on private gardens - on the one hand, they are paid for privately by the owners, on the other, seeing green space in a city reserved for a priveleged few (even though there are lots of public parks in London), can seem rareified and a bit soul-less. One weekend a year many of them are opened to the public, it is called Open Garden Squares Weekend, the dates tend to fall in the summer and I see we missed it this year by just a few weeks!

Kensiington Square pretty, so empty!

We had also done a respectable amount of walking around Holland Park earlier that day (um my new sandals were a blister inducing mistake, though, as I found out, rookie tourist error!). Holland Park is just to the west and a few blocks north of Kensington High Street, it was maybe a twenty minute walk from the hotel.

Of course this part of Kensington is a bloggers' delight and I would have been remiss not to gawp and photograph a row house, especially on a blue sky day!

They don't call it leafy Kensington for nothing!

Had to photograph this pretty street near Holland Park gates!

We entered Holland Park at a side entrance as opposed to the main entrance (don't ask, we are wanderer tourists/ meander until we find the thing!). This park is full of kids and dogs, which I don't mind, but you know, just a warning - some London parks are like "No dogs!" - but this one wasn't.

We took a rather circuitous route, before finally finding the Kyoto Gardens - it has to be said the signage in the park for the garden does feel sent to try/was not exactly straightforward to us! At any rate we got there and it was rather lovely! The Kyoto Gardens were donated in 1992 by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce as thanks/recognition for the Japan Festival held in London that year. This article explains more about the gardens for anyone interested!

I don't know what kind of tree this is but thought it was pretty.

Kyoto Gardens Holland Park

Kyoto Gardens Holland Park

Hello Mr. Bee!

Holland Park Peacock!
This peacock was such a cheeky chap, he stood like this for 5 minutes, I swear to God he was waiting to draw a bigger crowd!...

"Yes I'm gorgeous, just stand there and admire me peasants!"

And then, some kids went to feed him breadcrumbs, and these pigeons tried to move in and he was all "Hell No!" and whoosh went the tail feathers and he was ruffling them like a real diva, too!

There is also a rather lovely rose garden

Roses were most definitely in bloom that week, we were very lucky! The roses don't bloom until later in Scotland, so it was nice for my Mom to get to see them (Roses don't exactly thrive in Florida! ;-). Well, this has gone on a bit, I will pick up with the rest of our stay shortly!

I also want to say that we flew home the day of the London Bridge attacks, they happened that evening, and then very sadly the Grenfell Tower Fire in Kensington happened just a couple of weeks later. Even as a tourist, you begin to feel connected to a city, and find it heartbreaking when a place that brought you such happiness is attacked and then plunged into inconceivable pain due to such a tragedy as the fire. London is such a strong and brave city, I really hope that it has time to grieve and heal now, my thoughts have been with everyone affected, and London will always be one of my favourite cities to visit.


  1. If I ever manage to get to Europe at all, I will have to ask you for recommended things to do/eat over in London! I have a silly idea of doing a bus tour, because it sounds just terrible and funny at the same time, if that makes any sense, ha. But I have so many travel destinations in mind and not the funds, sigh.

    Private gardens is a weird idea! Not sure if such things exist in the states or I'm just not aware of it???

    1. I hope you do! I think you might dig it, you seem to like visiting cities, Europe has a lot of cool cities! The bus tour is actually really fun, I did it twice, would recommend. I would love to recommend some things, although I am honestly not a foodie traveller, I see all of these travel blogs and they stop at like 6 hip restaurants a day, meanwhile I'm getting lost in parks and tube stations and buying coffee shop sandwiches like a basic b*tch Idk! ;-0