With Christmas fast approaching, the masses take to the streets to do their Christmas shopping. For parents with young children, the experience can, quite frankly, be extremely stressful and most mums dread it.
I was desperate to avoid Oxford Street this year, as my daughter was definitely deep into the terrible twos. With that in mind, I headed to Westfield London in Shepherds Bush, billed as the largest in-town shopping and leisure destination in Europe.
The Car Park was hard to navigate and it was by some miracle that I ended up parked right by the Concierge Desk entrance. The car park charges seem quite expensive but they currently offering the first two hours free. Apparently they have Parents with Prams parking spaces, but I didn’t come across them.
They also have Valet Parking which costs a very reasonable £7.50. If you come by public transport but can’t face going back the same way, there is a Chauffeur Service, so you can be drive home by your very own chauffeur.
First stop: the Concierge Desk on the hunt for one of the Kiddy Cars. We were early so there were still plenty there. These cute little cars are free to collect and you can leave your buggy behind. There is a bag for your shopping at the back and handle to push.
The cars are bulky but the shopping aisles were wide enough to accommodate them. Westfield has all the high street shops, including House of Fraser, Debenhams and lots of amazing gift shops. Click here for the full list, however the collections are not as big as you’d find on Oxford Street. Instead of being weighed down with heavy, cumbersome bags, I opted for the handsfree service. Every time I made a purchase, the bags were collected by their Concierge team, for me to pick up when we were done. The Kids Section is fabulous and features all manner of children’s shops from Bebe Bisou, Polarn O. Piret and Atelier de Courcelles, to the Early Learning Centre, Build-a-Bear or the Disney Store. We also stopped for a play at the Play Zone.
For reasons of speed, we stopped at Costa Coffee for a sandwich, and the obligatory Babyccino (frothed milk, with a sprinkling of chocolate powder, which my daughter promptly spilt all over her dress, seat and floor. The staff must have loved us! There are plenty of fabulous kid-friendly restaurants, offering all types of wonderful food, and not a MacDonalds or KFC in sight.
The shopping centre is enormous, we ended up spending about 4 and a half hours there. I made sure my daughter had some fun too. The only thing that irritated me was not knowing which lift to take to my car. I wandered around and around, getting more and more frazzled, and by then my toddler was losing her patience as it was way past her sleep time. I eventually spotted two officially looking Westfield employees, who happily escorted me to the lift down to the car park.
We had a great, trantrum-free day and I got most of Christmas shopping done. My daughter happily stayed in The Kiddy Car most of the time. What a great invention! According to an insider, they are going to introduce Ferrari or Porsche style Kiddy Cars if you use the Valet Parking service.
There are lots of facilities for Parents with young children, including Family Rooms – with changing tables; child-sized loos and sinks; private areas for feeding (with really comfy chairs); microwaves; play area and television, and a creche. Westfield also put on Mommy Mornings, Little Gym classes and Face Painting, and at the moment there is also a Santa’s 3D Grotto. If I came here more often, I’m sure we’d join in. Next time I visit, I’m planning on using their personal shopper services so I’m desperate to go from Slummy Mummy to a Yummy Mummy!
Westfield has definitely put a lot of thought into creating a much more enjoyable shopping experience for parents with young children. I’m converted!
© Janine Clements 2009