Monthly Archives: August 2013

Oxford Mommy’s Guide to Baby-Changing Facilities in Downtown Oxford

Oh boy, I’ve been waiting to do this post for ages. It’s taken me a while to visit all these bathrooms, but I’ve finally done it – and I got photographs of all of them! I don’t think the Baberoo enjoyed being wheeled from toilet to toilet all through town just so I could take photos of the loos, but I did it so that other babies (and parents) can benefit.

In this guide I’ve only included baby-changing bathrooms located in shops, department stores, or shopping centres, as well as public conveniences. Anything that’s in a restaurant or café has NOT been included in this list, since I will eventually review those individually when I go to that café or restaurant (that’s to keep you reading my blog!). Same goes for museums and attractions – those loos will be included in my write-up of that attraction.

So here it is: a guide to eight baby-changing facilities (good and bad) in the Oxford city centre. A photo follows each description.

Debenhams (Magdalen Street, OX1 3AA): The Debenhams baby-changing room is well-known by many a parent, as evidenced by the constant queue of prams waiting to get in. Even when you’re waiting to cross the street to get to Debenhams you can tell which parents are desperate: they’re the ones white-knuckling their strollers, ready to race across as soon as the light changes so they can be first in the queue for the lift. I don’t blame them; I’ve done it myself. The baby-changing room is on the third floor along with the rest of the loos. It’s a fair size and has a reasonable amount of counter space next to the built-in changing table, and it also has a toilet for parents to use. It’s usually clean, although the low lighting makes it seem dingy. Unfortunately, Debenhams has a constant stream of very loud music and advertisements playing in the loo, which is fine (and may be useful as a distraction) when your kid needs to be changed, but very, very annoying when it’s you who has to use the toilet and your baby is sleeping, because the noise is certain to wake them up. The very narrow corridor leading to the room is somewhat awkward to manoeuvre through, and since the signage is terrible, you will usually meet at least one confused woman who is just trying to find the ladies’ loos (they’re a bit further down the main corridor and to the right). Debenhams also has a room opposite the baby-changing room where you can breastfeed your baby in private, although its plastic bucket seats would not be my first choice for a comfortable feed. Still, this facility is a tried-and-true one for most parents.

Debenhams baby-changing

Marks & Spencer (13-18 Queen Street, OX1 1AB): The Marks & Spencer bathrooms are located on the first floor, nearly all the way at the back of the store. The baby-changing facility is large, well-lit, clean, and has prettier-than-usual décor. It has a built-in changing table with a small amount of counter space for a bag. It also has a comfy chair for breastfeeding or for another child to sit in while you change the baby. There’s no toilet for parents, though – you’ll have to use the regular ladies’ or gents’ loos, which is hard to do when you have a stroller with you. The baby-changing room is also very hard to access – the door opens in the wrong direction and it’s also in an awkward position relative to the ladies’ loo entrance, which is very highly-travelled. Usually you need to rely on others holding doors open for you or staying out of your way as you try to wheel your pram into the facility. (Getting out is easier.)

M&S baby-changing

BHS (22 Queen Street, OX1 1EP): You can tell when a shop has experienced bathroom vandalism by how many signs they post warning you that the bathroom is only for customers of that shop. BHS has those signs. The store also keeps its bathrooms private for the use of customers by requiring you to use an entry code (found on the receipt for your purchase, or you can get one from a staff member). However, on the occasion I visited the door was unlocked. The baby-changing room is on the first floor at the back of the shop. It’s a fine size and it has a built-in changing table with reasonable counter space. There’s no toilet for parents. The wall is decorated with a rainbow, I guess to make it more interesting for babies. Strangely, the attendant’s office is located behind a door within the baby-changing room. The attendant was in there when I visited; she closed the door so we could have some privacy but it still felt weird that someone was right in there with us.

BHS baby-changing facilities

Blackwell’s Bookshop (48-51 Broad Street, OX1 3BQ): Blackwell’s changed their loos not too long ago, so the ladies’ and gents’ are now on the third floor but their disabled/baby-changing facilities remain on the first floor, conveniently close to the lift. There is a short corridor leading to the facility, which – holy of holies – has a door that is not on self-closing hinges, so you don’t have to hold it open while you manoeuvre your stroller into the bathroom.  There’s a pull-down baby-changing table of the very narrow kind that a toddler might not fit on. It also means there’s no counter space for your bag, but on the plus side the room is very bright and clean, and it has a toilet that parents can use too. It seems to me that hardly anyone knows about this baby-changing facility; use it while you can before the secret gets out.

Blackwells baby-changing

Boots (6-8 Cornmarket Street, OX1 3HL): The big Boots on Cornmarket Street has a Baby Room with an entry code you’ll need to get from a member of staff – although on the occasion that I visited, the door was open. The room is generously sized, with a built-in changing table and good counter space for a changing bag, but no toilet for parents. There are two padded chairs to use for breastfeeding or for other children to sit on while waiting. There’s also a modesty curtain, although since only one family at a time would be using the facility I’m not sure of its usefulness. It’s a bright, clean bathroom and it seems less well-travelled than some of the other baby-changing facilities downtown.

Boots baby-changing

Market Street Public Conveniences (Market Street, behind the Covered Market): I was very pleasantly surprised by the disabled/baby-changing facility in this public convenience. It’s quite large and spacious (so large, in fact, that I had to do a composite photo because I couldn’t fit everything in one shot), clean, and has some natural light via some high windows. It’s only open from 9 am to 5 pm, so you can’t use it in the evening if you’re out with your baby. The changing table is a pull-down one of the very narrow variety that would be too small for toddlers. There’s also no counter space for your changing bag; however, there is a toilet that parents can use. The Market Street Public Conveniences got a 4-star rating in the ‘Loo of the Year Awards’ in 2011, which is saying something about their cleanliness and presentableness; kudos to Oxford City Council for keeping them up so well.

Market Street baby-changing

Waterstones (William Baker House, Broad Street, OX1 3AF): Oh, Waterstones, I hate to have to say this, but your toilets stink, both literally and figuratively. The disabled/baby-changing room, as well as the regular toilet, are both behind doors with codes, all the way up on the third floor. They are not very pleasant; on the occasion I visited there was rubbish on the floor and the loo smelled like sewer (admittedly, this sometimes happens in a basement and there’s very little that can be done about it, but this is the third floor so I don’t know what’s going on here). There is also very little space to manoeuvre a pram; mine nearly didn’t fit into the room. There is a pull-down changing table but no counter space for your changing bag, although there’s a loo that parents can use. These bathrooms detract from the general wonderfulness of Waterstones and I hope they’ll consider upgrading their loos.

Waterstones composite

Westgate Car Park (at the back entrance of Westgate Shopping Centre, Castle Street, OX1 1NZ): I lied at the beginning of this post when I said I had pictures of all the toilets in the guide. I don’t have a photo of this one because it was locked. And it took me 15 minutes to find it due to appalling signage – which I took several pictures of. The composite photo below will attest to the fact that the signs are confusing in the extreme; some point you in one direction while others point you in the exact opposite direction. I must have gone back and forth several times before I realized that the baby-changing facility was in a corridor that had been marked as the ‘Gents’ (handwritten on paper and taped over another sign). I knocked and hallooed and am pretty sure that the room was vacant, especially since it said ‘Vacant’ on the lock. There was no one to ask about unlocking it, so I went away again. To be fair to Westgate Shopping Centre, these loos are not managed by them but by Oxford City Council. These, I’m fairly sure, have never been awarded any stars by ‘Loo of the Year’. Go somewhere else instead, like the much better Market Street public conveniences.

Westgate Centre signs

So, there you have it. Eight baby-changing facilities in the Oxford city centre, ranging from pretty good to woefully bad. I hope this guide has been useful. Please let me know if I’ve missed out any facilities I should know about and I’ll put them in a future post.

Finally, a shout-out here for the NCT’s Babychange App, which lets you search by town, city, or postcode for baby-changing facilities. The rating system is fairly simple and there are no photos, but it’s really useful if you’re somewhere unfamiliar or just need to know where your closest baby-changing station is in case of emergency!

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Turl Street Kitchen

Turl Street Kitchen (16-17 Turl Street, OX1 3DH) is one of those places I’ve wanted to visit for a while; every time I’ve passed it I’ve peered through the window enviously at the diners and promised myself I’d try it the next time I was downtown. Today my husband and I went there for lunch with the Baberoo to sample the restaurant’s locally-sourced delights.

Since I was in an autumnal mood (despite the day having warmed up already; I’m just loving these cooler mornings and can’t wait until fall is here again!) I ordered the braised free-range chicken with smoked bacon, carrots, onions, celery, white wine, and split peas (£10.50). My husband had the Provençal fish soup with aïoli and croutons (£6.50). The Baberoo ate some of the banana oat biscuits I made for her – the first time she’s eaten at a restaurant, even though it was food from home. (I’m pleased to say spillage was minimal.)

Chicken

My chicken was delicious; I am a huge fan of anything smoky-tasting and the bacon added just the right flavour. The meat was so tender it was falling off the bone. My carrots were slightly overdone and some of the split peas were slightly underdone, but as a taste combination it was a winner. My husband thought his soup was fine although more tomatoey than fishy, and he had expected chunks of fish rather than a purée.

The food at Turl Street Kitchen is locally sourced and seasonal, and it’s also a social enterprise whose profits go to their sister charity, the Oxford Hub – all big plus points for me. It’s priced very reasonably too. But how did it rate against my criteria for baby-friendliness? There are five points: menu, ambiance, space, facilities, and feeding; for a fuller explanation of each, see my About page.

Menu: The menu changes every day according to what’s in season and locally available. Usually there are six to eight savoury dishes and two desserts. Several of the dishes revolve around meat and require both knife and fork, so may be difficult to eat one-handed if you’re holding a baby in one arm. However, my chicken was so tender that I could eat it with just my fork while holding the baby. There are also cakes, pastries, and breakfast items that might be easier to eat one-handed.

Ambiance: Equal parts rustic wooden tables and tessellated tiles, with very welcoming and friendly staff (who admired the Baberoo) and huge windows that let in a lot of light. They have high chairs for little ones and the staff were happy to help with the baby carriage.

Counter

Space: The space, as in many old Oxford buildings, is a bit of a rabbit warren in layout; there’s a room at the very front (with a closed door; you might not even notice it), then a half-flight up some stairs to the counter, then a half-flight down to the main restaurant area. Since there are two flights of stairs, you’re better off sitting in the front room, which is at street level, but it was full today and I imagine it’s full all the time since it has the most comfy-looking seats and tables. On the Turl Street Kitchen website, it says that the restaurant has a ramp available for wheelchair access that they can bring out on request, so in a pinch I’m sure they could bring it out for a baby carriage too.  Although they probably wouldn’t have to: the staff were more than willing to help me up and down the stairs with the carriage before my husband joined us, and a few patrons offered help as well. There’s plenty of space between the tables and it’s easy enough to get through once you’re in the restaurant area. Still, I wouldn’t recommend coming with a whole group of mothers and babies in buggies.

Facilities: Unfortunately, during my visit I failed to spot the accessible baby-changing facilities; I went down to the basement to use the ladies’ loo myself (which is beautiful and clean), and mistakenly thought that there were no baby-changing facilities since the rest of the toilets were downstairs – so when I first posted this review I said there were no baby-changing facilities. However, the good folks at @turlstkitchen sent me a Tweet telling me I’d missed the baby-changing room! (From now on I will make sure to ask at every place I review so I can avoid making the same mistake again.) I went back the day after I posted this review to check it out and to add the picture below. The facility is indeed on the ground floor, although you do still have to go up and down the half-flights of stairs that I mention above. There’s a sign on the door, but the door is invisible to most of the dining area because of the direction it faces, which is why I didn’t spot it. The baby-changing table is the very small pull-down kind; the bathroom is also small (and may not fit all prams), but clean and tidy. There is a very narrow hallway leading to the room and if there’s anything stored in the hallway it may block your way.

Turl Street baby-changing

Feeding: I didn’t feed the Baberoo on this occasion but I’d have felt just fine doing so; the ambiance is so welcoming that I wouldn’t have even minded doing it at the table we were sharing with two university students at the other end. Some tables have bench seating and some have chairs; take your pick of whichever is more comfortable for you.

Before I corrected my mistake about the baby-changing facilities (which do indeed exist, even though I thought they didn’t!), I only gave Turl Street Kitchen a 6.0 out of 10 on my baby-friendliness ratings scale – but now their updated score is 7.25 out of 10. While it’s still somewhat difficult to get around the restaurant without help and the baby-changing facility is small and not well signposted, the new score is a fairer assessment. Since I think very highly of both the food and the restaurant’s very commendable social values, I’ll definitely be going back again.

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Crisis Skylight Cafe

This week the Baberoo and I, both fighting jet lag, got pretty tired all of a sudden during an excursion to the city centre. This was all very well for her, since she could sleep in her carriage. I, on the other hand, having no one to push me around town while I snoozed in my own personal perambulating bed, needed to find somewhere to eat and recharge myself, pronto. I had been meaning to visit the very welcoming-looking Crisis Skylight Café (at the Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, OX1 2AQ), so I headed over and managed to make it there without actually collapsing.

The café is run by Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people, and it trains people on-the-job in order to provide the experience needed for employment. It’s a great social enterprise, and the café offers good, inexpensive meals and snacks. They’re housed within the Old Fire Station, an arts centre that works with Crisis by providing opportunities for Skylight members to create and show work as well as to volunteer at the arts centre. (I’ll have to review the Old Fire Station itself in a future post, as their current exhibition, RAJ, wasn’t open yet when I visited.)

I chose the Spanish tortilla with two side salads and a green salad (£4.95 for the whole thing, an amazing deal), plus a lemonade (£1.85). The potato in the tortilla was cooked perfectly, and the tortilla was full of other roasted vegetables. It was pleasantly, if unexpectedly, curried. The side salads I chose were the rice with asparagus, olives, and egg (a combination I’ve never seen before, but which worked well), and tomato and green bean. The meal revitalized me and my seat at the open French doors gave me a great people-watching vantage point onto busy George Street.

Tortilla and salads

So, how did the Crisis Skylight Café measure up against my five criteria for baby-friendliness? The criteria are menu, space, ambiance, facilities, and feeding, all of which are explained in more detail on my About page.

Menu: The usual café-style fare is served here, so if you are up for eating a jacket potato or a sandwich with one hand while you hold a baby in the other arm, go for it. But for those with less dexterity, there are the daily specials, which are a hot entree plus salads of your choice – all pretty easy to eat one-handed. They also have a good selection of breakfast items, as well as pastries and cakes.

Space: It’s a bit tight at the café for a baby carriage if it’s busy. There was room for me to wheel the Baberoo all the way through to the window seat, but that was because we were past the main lunchtime hour and several tables were vacant. If they had been full we’d have been hard pressed to find a way through the café, and because many of the tables have wooden benches instead of individual seats it would also have been hard for patrons to move their seats to let us through. However, there are some smaller tables against the walls that would be the best place for parking a baby carriage. (Sorry for the not-great picture below; I told you I was jet-lagged!)

Tables

Ambiance: This is a very light, homey, friendly café and the diners I saw were happy to be relaxing and taking their time over their meals. The opening hours run from 8:30 am to mid-afternoon (check the website for times) so it’s great if you need somewhere to go early in the day; these are very baby-friendly hours. The fact that the French doors were open was even nicer and made it feel airy and fresh. The art on the walls is for sale.

Facilities: The bathroom with the baby-changing facility is located in the Old Fire Station, a half-level up, and is accessible via the lift. I was a bit nervous about the lift because it’s the kind where you have to hold down the button until you reach the floor you want, and you open the door yourself. There’s one like it at my husband’s work and I always get stuck in it! Luckily, I didn’t get stuck this time since this lift is in good nick. The changing room is fine, with a pull-down table and enough space to move around with the baby carriage. The hallway leading to the changing facility is a bit narrow if two prams are trying to pass each other, though.

Changing table

Feeding: I didn’t feed the Baberoo during this visit, but if I had wanted to, I’d have probably been more comfortable at a table with individual chairs rather than a long bench, since I can move a chair much more easily to the position I need. I don’t think I’d have had any trouble feeding her there, though, and it’s the kind of space that feels welcoming to anyone who would want to feed their baby.

In total, the Crisis Skylight Café rates a 7.25 out of 10 for baby-friendliness. I will be back because I like to support a good cause, but also because of the nice ambiance and the fact that it’s probably the cheapest lunch on George Street!

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Oxford Mommy’s Guide to Ottawa, Part 3

It’s our last day in Ottawa and my last post about Ottawa restaurants – we’ll be on our way back to Oxford tonight and I’ll be back to my usual postings about the baby-friendliness of Oxford venues. It’s been a great vacation and we’ve visited some fabulous places. It just so happens that the two last ones were some of the very best.

The Green Door (198 Main Street, K1S 1C6) is one of my favourite places; it’s Ottawa’s first vegetarian restaurant and has been going strong for 25 years (and they’ve also opened a Green Door Grocer two doors down). On our visit there I loaded up on the broccoli with tofu, my favourite dish, as well as many other hot dishes and salads. The restaurant is buffet-style and you pay by weight, which means you choose exactly what you like. Everything was as delicious, light, and fresh as usual. It’s always bustling in there so we went early and I was glad we did; by the time our lunch was over there was a line out the door and it wasn’t easy to manoeuvre the baby carriage out of the restaurant. It does have enough space for carriages at most tables, however. And most, if not all, of the food available can be eaten with one hand while you’re holding a baby.

Green Door lunch

The disabled/baby change bathroom at the Green Door is on the ground floor; the others are downstairs. It’s a very spacious baby-changing area and spotlessly clean, plus it’s nicer-looking than a standard bathroom. I also used the regular toilets and just love that the bathroom-stall graffiti in this place runs to comments such as ‘Save public libraries!’.

Green Door bathroom

Murray Street Kitchen/Wine/Charcuterie (110 Murray Street) couldn’t be more of a contrast with the Green Door; while the Green Door is vegetarian Murray Street concentrates on meat.  And how! I had a pulled-pork sandwich there that was maybe the best I’ve ever had; the meat was flavourful and juicy, it had just a tiny bit of cheese and coleslaw as dressing, and was served on a soft, sweet bun. My husband had the oxtail tacos and they were fabulous too, the rich meat was so tender that it was falling apart (although the tacos didn’t, which is good!). The ‘Poorly Cut Fries, Awesome Mayo’ were great too.

Pulled pork sandwich and fries

We were the only ones sitting inside (everyone else was out on the deck) so we had the place to ourselves, and our servers were extremely friendly, especially to the Baberoo. It was a great ambiance, although unfortunately there were no baby-changing facilities. And be warned: there’s not much on the menu that can be eaten one-handed while holding a baby, but for food this good you might be tempted to make your kid wait in the stroller while you eat!

Oxtail tacos

It has been a lovely holiday and we’ve had a huge amount of good food, both eating out and at the houses of family and friends. We’ve found that Ottawa is a pretty baby-friendly city. I can’t wait to come back when the Baberoo is a toddler!

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Oxford Mommy’s Guide to Ottawa, Part 2

As we continue our Ottawa holiday, we’ve been having some great experiences around the city with the Baberoo. I always like visiting old favourite spots, but there are so many new places to try whenever we visit the city that I end up wanting to go to all of them too.

One of the coolest areas in Ottawa now is Hintonburg, and after visiting friends who live in the neighbourhood we took their recommendation and headed to the Hintonburg Public House (1020 Wellington Street West, K1Y 2X9), where we had a fantastic lunch. My burger was one of the best I’ve had in years (perfectly medium-rare as requested and boasting yummy fried onions on top), and my husband’s fish and chips was tasty too – although it, and most of the menu, isn’t the easiest thing to eat with just one hand free. The staff were very friendly and kept admiring the Baberoo. There are no baby-changing facilities at Hintonburg Public House, although in a pinch you could use the floor if you had a mat.

Burger

We tried out the OC Transpo buses to see if Ottawa’s public transport measured up to Oxford’s bus system (I haven’t written a post about Oxford public transport yet, but it’s coming soon!) Sadly, on our first journey we were on an overcrowded bus with a surly driver who was annoyed that the Baberoo was crying, and there were no rules about where we could park our stroller (we started out in the middle of the aisle; luckily, someone was getting off so we could move into one of the wheelchair spaces). Our subsequent rides were much better, though, and the actual bus system works very efficiently. I prefer the seating system in Oxford, however: in Ottawa the section where baby carriages and wheelchairs can park have benches that flip up, rather than individual seats that can be folded one at a time in case you want to sit down. If you have a baby carriage and you use the space, you’re out of luck for sitting down yourself – which I imagine isn’t great if you’re pushing a stroller while pregnant with another child!

Another lunch outing saw us at Milestones Grill and Bar (700 Sussex Drive, K1N 1K4), where we were meeting a friend who had told us it was relatively baby-friendly, as I guess a chain restaurant with so many locations would pride itself on being. They did have several menu choices that were easy to eat with one hand while holding a baby, and the baby-changing facilities (in the disabled stall in the ladies’ room) were fine. Staff were also very friendly to the baby. Still, we weren’t blown away by the food – mine was a Thai chicken curry and my husband’s was pasta with asiago cream sauce – and next time I’d probably suggest somewhere else.

Thai chicken curry

While out book-shopping in the Byward Market (Argosy Books at 209 Dalhousie Street is one of our favourites) we stopped at the new Ottawa branch of i deal coffee (176 Dalhousie Street, K1N 7C6; there are also three locations in Toronto) to recharge and because it smelled heavenly – you could smell the roasting coffee from half a block away. I don’t drink coffee, but the delicious scent made me nearly swoon anyway.  My husband said it was one of the best he’s had for a long time. i deal coffee is a fair way up Dalhousie Street, but it’s definitely worth going. There was ample room next to the booth seating for the baby carriage, and there’s also an outdoor patio with a few tables. No bathrooms, though.

Coffee roasting

So far I’ve eaten so much that I feel like I have to roll myself to bed every night, but I still have some more places to review. Stay tuned for Part 3 of our Ottawa adventures!

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Oxford Mommy’s Guide to Ottawa, Part 1

We’re on holiday in Ottawa with the Baberoo for nearly three weeks, and besides visiting with all our relatives and friends we’ve also been trying to get around town as much as possible. Since I can’t review any Oxford locations at the moment, I figured I could still write a quick guide to Ottawa. I grew up here and visit about once a year, but I’ve never done it with a baby carriage before, and I was in for a few surprises!

These are shorter reviews with fewer pictures (and sometimes none, since I forgot my camera once or twice!), so I’m not employing my full rating system here, but I hope they’re helpful to parents living in or visiting the city.

My first venture out with the Baberoo was to the Ottawa Farmers’ Market at Brewer Park on a Sunday morning.  (I also went to the Main Farmers’ Market Ottawa on a Saturday morning and we went to the Marché Vieux Hull on a Thursday.) The markets are a favourite of parents with strollers and there are lots of babies everywhere. The one at Brewer Park is right near a playground and community garden, and there’s also a pool and community centre nearby so you may be able to use the baby-changing facilities there. Brewer Park is also the biggest market, with over 100 vendors.  I had a sausage on a bun and a lemonade while I was there, both very enjoyable. I’d highly recommend all of the Farmers’ Markets as a lovely place to go in Ottawa.

It doesn’t feel like a trip back home until I’ve been to the Byward Market, so we headed out there as soon as we could and had lunch at an old favourite, the Blue Cactus Bar and Grill. I was nonplussed to see that they’ve changed their menu to become more contemporary, so some of my favourite classic Tex-Mex dishes were gone. I got a trio of mini tacos (shrimp, Szechuan beef, and curry chicken) which were fine, but in retrospect I’d rather have had a chimichanga like the one my husband ordered. I did, however, enjoy my massive virgin daiquiri. The menu has various things you can order to eat one-handed if you are holding a baby, and the baby-changing facilities are fine, and presentably clean.

Chimichanga

Our next outing was lunch at the Urban Pear in the Glebe (151 2nd Avenue, Unit C). We’d been before but hadn’t returned for a while, and I’m happy to say that the food was still fabulous and we also received great service. I ordered the fried chicken on waffles and it was yummy, although a bit salty (I mentioned this to our server and got a fantastic and immediate response from the kitchen). My husband’s burger was well-flavoured and cooked to his specifications. The menu doesn’t have many items that can be eaten one-handed with a baby in your arms, but we took turns holding the Baberoo. The toilets, while very pretty, don’t have baby-changing facilities, but there would be ample room for changing on the floor if you had a mat.

Another Glebe location we tried was Za Za Za (915 Bank Street, K1S 3W5), at which we enjoyed wood-fired pizzas with unique combinations of toppings. Mine was the Lover’s Leap – one of the less wacky combinations, with mozzarella, black olives, pepperoni, tomato, and hot Italian sausage – and it had a perfectly-charred crust as I would expect from any good thin-crust pizza. If you’re up for a crazier pizza, try the Scary Roommate, which boasts both Kraft Dinner and hot dogs as toppings. We had a great time and I’d go back to try other combinations. The pizza was already cut into slices, which made it as baby-friendly as it was going to get, but there were no baby-changing facilities and the bathrooms were too small to consider a floor change.

Za Za Za pizza

We wanted to visit the Canadian Museum of Civilization for the last time before it becomes the Museum of Canadian History, so we headed over to Gatineau and started off with lunch at the museum’s own Bistro Boréal (100 Laurier Street, Gatineau). I had the duck club sandwich, which was pleasingly un-fatty, and my husband chose the bison burger, which he said was very good. We sat out on the terrace with the sleeping Baberoo and watched the people go by. There were a few items on the menu that would have been fine to eat one-handed. There are no bathrooms within the restaurant since the museum’s bathrooms are right near the entrance; these have baby-changing facilities, as do the bathrooms on all floors of the museum.

Duck club sandwich

We used the facilities and they were clean and fresh, with ample space for a baby carriage. I also received many friendly looks from both patrons and staff while I was breastfeeding the Baberoo on one of the many benches available in the non-exhibit areas. As for the museum itself, I really enjoyed the ‘Double Take: Portraits of Intriguing Canadians’ exhibition, which reminded me what a diverse and interesting country I come from.

CMC baby changing

I’ve also had some good advice about baby-changing facilities from a friend who has seen his two nephews through babyhood and who has tried out many a place in downtown Ottawa.  Apparently the best baby-changing facilities are at 240 Sparks, where they are built in rather than a pull-down table. He also recommends the facilities at the Château Laurier. The same friend suggested the baby-changing facilities at Fifth Avenue Court when we were in the Glebe, and they turned out to be great. I’m sure they are little-known; hardly anyone goes into the inside of Fifth Avenue Court since all the shops also have entrances from the street, but there are good bathrooms if you need one and the baby-changing table is clean and seems very little-travelled.

Fifth Avenue Court baby changing

Part 2 to follow after we explore some more venues this week!

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Heathrow Terminal 3

Heathrow Airport is hardly an eatery, attraction, or activity in Oxford – which is what I normally review as Oxford Mommy – but it certainly acts as a portal to places where you might be enjoying all three of these. Since we have recently survived an international flight with the Baberoo and lived to tell the tale, I’d like to share my experiences of using the airport for the first time with a baby in tow.

My advice in this post only covers Terminal 3, which serves mainly international flights (including Air Canada, with whom we were flying to my hometown of Ottawa). I can’t comment on any of the other terminals at Heathrow, and they may have different facilities depending on when they were built.

Since I’ve always found Terminal 3 to be very crowded once you pass security, my advice is to spend some time in the pre-security area and try out the restaurants and facilities there before going through to the post-security area. (Obviously, don’t leave too little time before you get through security!) That’s what we did, and it was a pleasantly good experience with a baby.

There are a few restaurants and cafes to choose from in the pre-security area, most of which have a goodly amount of space around tables for hand luggage. If you’re travelling with a stroller and are planning to check it at the gate (confirm with your airline beforehand if you’re able to do this), you won’t have any trouble manoeuvring it in most of the spaces in the pre-security area. The only restaurant that looked like it had less space around the tables was Leon; we tried out the Pret a Manger and it was very spacious.

More important to me than the food was the availability and cleanliness of the baby-changing facilities. The ones in the pre-security section of Terminal 3 were a really nice surprise. I had thought that they would be so well-travelled that they’d be messy and that there might be a queue to use them. But it turned out that they were clean, spacious, and empty. (They’re also easy to miss, with a very small sign before the main gents and ladies’ facilities.) There are actually two baby-changing facilities in the pre-security section, one at each end of the area. We used the one nearest to the Pret.

Heathrow Terminal 3 changing station

Although some of the decorations were peeling off the walls, the baby-changing area was otherwise impeccably clean, with a huge amount of space. It really felt like whoever had designed the room had thought of all the things a family might need when travelling with a baby.  The baby-changing table is built into the counter rather than being a pull-down table, and there are two changing spaces (with one sink separating them) so that two families can use the changing room at the same time. There’s also a ‘family toilet’ in a separate small room so that adults can also use the bathroom, and another small room off to the side, containing a chair and some shelves, which I assume is a breastfeeding room for those who want privacy.

Breastfeeding room

We were really happy with the facility that we used in the pre-security area. Once we passed security, we were lucky enough to have passes for the SAS/Air Canada Lounge rather than the regular waiting area (thanks to my frequent flyer sister!), so we used the baby-changing facility there. It was not quite as well-thought-out: it looked prettier and was clean, but the changing table was the pull-down kind rather than built-in, and there was nowhere near the table to put a changing bag. It was fine, though, and it did the job.

Air Canada SAS baby changing

The SAS/Air Canada Lounge did have a huge advantage in baby-friendliness over the regular waiting area in the post-security section: there is a special kids’ room with a couch, toys, Lego table, colouring table, chalkboard wall, and wide-screen TV with a selection of DVDs to watch. We enjoyed using the room and I highly recommend a lounge experience if you are travelling with a baby, if you can get your hands on any passes or if you have any frequent flyer points to spend. There are eight lounges in Terminal 3, all for different airlines, so they will all have different facilities for babies.

Air Canada SAS kids room

If you’re in the regular post-security waiting area, you’ll have a choice of several places to eat, most of which will have plenty of space for your baby accoutrements and hand luggage. My own recommendation is to find a seat in a relatively quiet corner of one of the eateries and stay there, rather than trying to find seats in the central seating section.

If you’re flying with a baby, Heathrow Terminal 3 gives you some excellent changing facilities and a good amount of space to get around with all of your accoutrements and baggage. But it’s mainly up to you to entertain your little one(s) before getting on the plane. If you’re a first-timer like we were, best of luck!

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