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Trip Report Another Visit to London

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DAY 0 - MON MAY 11
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This is our fifth visit to London in the past twelve years or so. We always stay at the same place - Cherry Court Hotel on Hugh Street, a couple of blocks south of Victoria Station. Many people might find the rooms too small, but we are comfortable there and Mrs. Patel, who runs the hotel, is a welcoming, wonderful person. The location is great for tube and buses. And the price can’t be beat.

Those of you who have followed some of my pre-trip posts know that Linda, my wife, developed plantar fasciitis running on our treadmill. It makes walking painful, so we were worried that the trip might be ruined. However, her podiatrist gave her cortisone shot, a strong anti-inflammatory drug, and a great exercise to do after sitting for a while — tracing the alphabet with her foot. These worked quite well, and we were not hindered very much, although we did walk more slowly than usual and took breaks more often. In addition, we tried to take the bus rather than the tube in situations where station transfers would require long walks.

Two days before our flight, I noticed that the plane was nowhere near full, and that numerous middle rows (of four seats) were empty. I switched out seats so that we each had an aisle seat in a center section, gambling that they would not assign anyone to the two seats between us. It worked. Linda can sleep OK sitting up, but I really needed to be able to lie down, so it was a great flight for me. I actually slept a little.

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DAY 1 - TUE MAY 12
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We arrived at Heathrow about 15 minutes late, but it took about 20 minutes to get through control. We got a couple of sandwiches for breakfast and went to the tube station to load some cash and 7-day travel cards onto our Oyster cards. For some reason, the clerk used two separate transactions for each Oyster card. The second one was rejected by my credit card bank — apparently two identical charges within a minute or so triggered a fraud alert. Fortunately, we always carry multiple cards.

We took the tube to Victoria — thanks to the Fodorites who confirmed that the best transfer station between the Piccadilly and District lines was Hammersmith, where you just walk across the platform.
At Victoria, I picked up a couple of Clapham Jct to Victoria train tickets (~3 GBP) to use for the 2-for-1 deals if necessary.

We walked to the hotel and checked in — our rooms were ready — and unpacked.

The first order of business was to switch SIMs in our iPhones. Once again Fodorites had come through. We had two free SIMs mailed to us from before we left the USA. We had also PayPaled her 20 GBP for two vouchers, for which she emailed the activation codes. We had then (also before leaving the USA) activated both SIMs online using the codes. It was all quite easy. [NOTE: our iPhones are paid for and thus unlocked…you cannot do this with locked phones.]

When we swapped out the SIMs in our phones, they immediately worked—with 15 GBP on each. This was important because I had to call my credit card company and get the fraud hold removed. The call took about five minutes, and I think I only used about 8p. In addition, Giffgaff-to-Giffgaff calls are free, so Linda and I could call each other if necessary without charge. I highly recommend this method of using your phone in the UK.

We decided to go to St Paul’s, which we hadn’t been to in years, but it had closed early for a special event. So we had lunch at Le Pain Quotidien and walked across the Millenium Bridge…taking it pretty easy this first day on Linda’s foot.

We took the bus the National Gallery and checked out the Dutch masters. In front of the museum was an amazing street acrobat/juggler, whom we watched for a while. Then we went back to the hotel for a nap.

For dinner we had fish and chips at our local — the St. George Inn right on Hugh Street. It was so-so. We used to eat there several times in past trips, but either it has gone downhill or our tastes have changed. We are not foodies, but we (and by we, I mean Linda) prefer food that is a little healthier with more veggies and salads. (I’m actually doing my best lately to improve my diet, too.)

After dinner we took the bus to Piccadilly Circus and walked around a bit. There was a fantastic power trio band on the street. Then we walked to Charing Cross Rd and took the bus back to the hotel, exhausted and ready to make up for lost sleep.

[More to come]

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