London Heathrow (www.heathrowairport.com) is the most convenient for Europa House Apartments. The Heathrow Express (www.heathrowexpress.com) whisks you to Paddington station in 15 minutes; from there, Maida Vale Tube station is two stops on the Bakerloo line (or a 10-minute taxi ride). If you’re landing at Gatwick Airport, travel to Victoria station on the Gatwick Express (a half-hour trip), hop on the Victoria line to Oxford Circus then the Bakerloo line to Maida Vale.
The nearest Tube station is Maida Vale, just a five-minute walk from the hotel; the station has escalators but no lifts. International trains arrive at St Pancras (www.stpancras.com); from there, reach Maida Vale by taking the Circle line to Baker Street and jumping on the Bakerloo line. London Underground is a favoured target of Brit grumbling but the fairly zippy service ensures you won’t have to brave the hectic traffic. There’s a taxi rank just outside Paddington station; a one-way trip will cost you £15.
If you choose to drive, be warned: the hotel is just outside the Congestion Charge Zone, but venture onto the Edgware Road and you'll soon be zapped. On weekdays from 7am to 6pm, there’s a £10 daily charge to drive into and around central London (www.cclondon.com); parking is easy, but can be pricey. Beware overzealous traffic officials. Avis car-hire booths can be found at Heathrow and Gatwick Airports, and use of the hotel’s underground car park is £30 a day.
The London Waterbus (www.londonwaterbus.com) meanders up Regent’s Canal from Camden Lock to Little Venice via London Zoo and Regent’s Park; the Maida Hill tunnel stop is the most convenient for the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Located in this leafy West London neighbourhood, Europa House Apartments provide seclusion, discretion and independence all within reach of some of Central London's most famous landmarks. However, you don’t have to travel far to experience the city – the gardens behind Europa House are perfect, and the concierge can provide picnic blankets, a cool bag, and a play tent if you have kids in tow. Alternatively you can’t take a trip into London’s watery past, by taking a guided tow-path tour along the Grand Union Canal all the way to King’s Cross armed with your iPod; download the MP3 file from www.canalmuseum.org.uk/visit/podcasts.htm. You might think it's the preserve of Japanese tourists, but hey, a pic of you and yours channelling the Beatles on their iconic Abbey Road LP cover could be a fun one for the family album. Head to the original recording studios just up the road in St John's Wood. Or if cricket is your dream day out, your mothership is around the corner at Lords (www.lords.org; +44(0)20 7616 8500). Also in that direction is London Zoo in Regent's Park (www.zsl.org; 020 7722 3333). In this neck of the woods too is Regent’s Park open-air theatre (openairtheatre.org; +44 (0)844 826 4242) where thesps declare their undying love, hate and who knows what else, outdoors. Productions have included Much Ado About Nothing, The Importance of Being Earnest and Hello Dolly! You can find a more interactive literary experience, at The Sherlock Holmes Museum (+44 (0) 207 224 3688; at 221b Baker Street, where else?). It’s elementary why people believe that Holmes really existed, not only did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle create a charismatic and fully fleshed out anti-hero, but there’s also a fake English Heritage plaque commemorating the great man outside the door of the museum – compelling evidence indeed. History rewriting aside, this museum is an intriguing glimpse back into the Victorian underworld as imagined by a literary great.
Reluctant land-lubbers should hop on the Jason’s Canal Boat Trip (www.jasons.co.uk) and take the original Regent’s Park canal boat tour (+44 (0)20 7482 2550), which runs between Jason's Wharf in Little Venice and Café Crema in Camden. You’ll be experiencing a piece of nautical history; the Jason is an authentic 100-year-old canal boat originally used as a cargo-vessel. The trip takes an hour and a half, or forty-five minutes each way. The boat departs opposite number 42 Blomfield Road just beside the Westbourne Terrace Road Bridge. Or see the city by bike (and make the mayor happy); hire some wheels from the London bicycle tour company. Along with your steed, a trusty guide will escort you on a three-hour tour. You’ll whiz past Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s, the Law Courts, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre and dungeons and docks. The London Bicycle Tour Company (0)20 7928 6838).
Yes, your apartment is cosy and cool, but London’s cuisine is some of the most diverse and delectable, and it’s all just a short walk from your doorstep; for example, brasserie The Waterway (+44 (0)207 2663557), is just a 10-minute walk away, by Regent’s Canal. The interior is clean, modern and wood-lined and the menu offers Mediterranean fare such as gazpacho or risotto Primavera; and there’s a terrace for alfresco dining with canalside views. For something a little different head to Kateh (+44 (0)207 2893393), where you’ll find Middle-Eastern delights in a Persian-minimalist setting, with only a hint of bazaar chic in the wall-hung mini rugs and ornate chandeliers. The jam-packed menu will have something to suit everyone. For a taste of traditional London socialising head to the Warrington (+44 (0)207 286 8282), a grand, art nouveau-style gastropub and a Maida Vale institution just a hop, skip and jump from your front door. Byron Burger (+44 (0)207 2434226) is also close by, with a calorific but crowd-pleasing menu of fully customisable burgers, just a half-hour walk away, and a surprisingly good range of craft beers and ciders for a chain restaurant, plus the sliding scale of wine – from ‘good’ to ‘best’ – is a splendid cheat for those used to requesting the house wine.
In all honesty Baker & Spice (+44 (0)207 2892499) are known for their very munchable cakes; but they also have a deli with sandwiches and snacks, which you can eat when you’re not eating cake we suppose.
The Elgin (+44 (0)207 2295663) is yet another ode to London’s Victorian past – as its gorgeous picture windows and decorative wood panelling will attest – but a few bold and bright pieces of modern art here and a couple of wacky cushions there and it’s been brought into the 21st century. The meat-heavy pub grub and live music don’t hurt either. Or you can slip into a snug at The Prince Alfred (+44 (0)208 7782589), a traditional British boozer which has many of its original Victorian features and lashings of patriotic bunting.