HAVING taken our awe-struck seven-year-old son to London for the first time last year, we were keen to repeat the experience before his baby sibling arrived.
However, as anyone with children can tell you, family rooms in hotels often don't quite live up to the hype. The options are generally to have a sofa bed permanently erected in the corner, leaving you with barely enough room to move, or to make the bed up yourself every night - neither of which our particularly conducive to rest and relaxation, especially when one of you is growing larger and more irritable by the day.
After a two-and-a-half hour journey (which never ceases to amaze me) from Darlington to King's Cross on the Virgin Trains East Coast line, we were relieved to find the hotel was a just a few stops away on the Circle line. We were even more relieved to find it was literally a minute's walk from the Tube.
Checking in, the hotel's scale really began to dawn on us. At 23 floors at its highest and with 1059 guest bedrooms, it was more like a village than a hotel, and, along with three restaurants, two bars and it's own chocolate shop, also provided a small newsagents/gift shop and a car hire office.
Keen to make the most of our time in the capital, we headed straight out to the city centre. After a whistle-stop tour of Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden and Piccadilly Circus, the day caught up with us, and we retired gratefully to our spacious and surprisingly peaceful room.
There, we were delighted to find that, instead of sitting in silence and darkness once the boy was asleep, it was possible to arrange the lights in such a way that the sleeping portion of the room was dark, while in the living area there was enough light to read - and we were far enough away to talk in more than a whisper. Such things cannot be taken for granted after nearly a decade of travelling with a child.
The next morning, we awoke refreshed and headed down to an awe-inspiring breakfast buffet. So big – more than 100 item – it had signs directing hungry guests where to find their favourites, there was every breakfast option you could imagine. As usual, we all started with good intentions, but after the first bowl of fruit and muesli it was time for a return visit to the bacon, waffle and syrup counter - well, it saves on lunch. Remarkably, considering the hotel's size, we didn't have to wait for a table, and food was replenished as soon as it had run out.
After we dragged ourselves away, we decided to take advantage of a fine morning a walk the 20 minutes along Edgware Road to Marble Arch and then through Hyde Park. After the hustle and bustle of the previous day, the park was a much-needed breath of fresh air, as well as a chance to walk off the four-course breakfast we'd all indulged in.
Having walked the entire way through the park, we serendipitously found ourselves in Kensington, home to the Science Museum, which we'd been planning on visiting. Cheered by the lack of visible queue, we made our way inside, where we were carried along with the crowd and deposited at the other end, unsure of what we'd seen. Disappointed at the lack of hands-on exhibits, we stopped for a quick lunch, before I waved off my husband and son for the latter's first ever Chelsea match.
Finally free to do what I wanted, I took a tube back to Regent Street where I made my way through the Saturday afternoon hordes and indulged in a spot of window-shopping. As the high-end shops of Regent Street turned into the more high-street fare of Oxford Street, my feet started to complain, so it was back down Edgware Road and up to the comfort of the hotel room.
Later, we reconvened in the Hilton's Sports Bar (apparently a full afternoon of live football just isn't enough for some seven-year-olds), with hot chocolate for the minor and a mocktail brought across from the Edg Bar and Lounge for me - after walking what felt like the length of London, I felt I deserved a drink made purely from cream, ice cream, chocolate and peanut butter.
After another good night's sleep and awe-inspiring breakfast, it was time to leave. After a walk along the Thames, we made our way to King's Cross for the journey back up north, as relaxed and refreshed as one can be after a weekend in London.
• King, Queen and Family Superior Rooms at the Hilton Metropole London start at £169
Children under ten eat free when accompanied by a paying parent.
Sian and her family travelled to London by train with Virgin Trains East Coast. Standard Advance returns, booked online at virgintrainseastcoast.com, start from £26. Times and fares also on 03457-225225 or from staffed stations and agents.
Virgin Trains East Coast customers can benefit from a range of two-for-one discount offers in London , including admission to top attractions - everything from river cruises to romantic restaurants. More information at virgintrainseastcoast.com/special-offers/at-my-destination/2for1-london/