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Trip Report Family Trip to London and Ireland

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Our family of 5 (my husband, myself and our 3 young adult children) recently stayed here for a 1 week stay in London. It was ideal. Very close to the tube and train station. It made it quite easy to take a tube ride home in the middle of the day for some down time. There are small grocers and pubs nearby as well as a wonderful patisserie. The flat is accurately described. The bathrooms are updated and showers had excellent water pressure. The kitchen was well equipped and the owner provided us with starter supplies. The owner is incredibly welcoming and we truly felt like we were staying at a friend's home. Plenty of room for us to spread out. It was clean and well maintained. Everything was in working order. The garden looked charming. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and we were not able to enjoy it. I would recommend this flat without hesitation and would certainly stay there again should I ever be fortunate enough to return to London.


TRIP REPORT-London and Ireland

Travelers: My husband and I, our children ages 16, 19 and 22.
Dates: June 8-June 23 2013

Sat. June 8, 2013
We were scheduled to fly American Airlines from Cleveland to Chicago and on to London Heathrow. However, AA cancelled our flight to Chicago (after sitting on the plane for over 30 minutes) and we were re-routed on United through Newark. We were lucky to get the last 5 seats on the plane. But, instead of extra legroom (I paid extra since the 3 guys are large-my 19 year old is 6’3””) we were scattered throughout the plane in middle seats. Not United’s fault.
We arrived on Sunday, June 9th and our driver from Simply Airports was waiting for us as he described. (I sent them and our landlord an urgent email from Newark with our revised arrival times). He was a courteous, friendly driver. He helped with our luggage and took us right to the apartment. The car was large enough to handle the 5 of us plus all our luggage. We are not light packers. Our cost was as indicated in my prior correspondence with the company. 51 pounds. We were very happy with the service and in fact, called them to take us to the airport for our flight out of Heathrow.

Olga, our landlord was waiting patiently at our apartment rental. She showed us in detail where everything was and how to work appliances, showers, tv. etc. She had a few items to start us off such as bread, butter, cheese, coffee and fruit. There was soap in all the bathrooms as well as other necessities. The apartment was beyond our expectations and I would definitely recommend it for a family. We had 3 bedrooms (a total of 4 beds) and 2 ½ bathrooms. Plenty of space for us to spread out and be comfortable. There was wireless in the apartment which worked well and a beautiful private garden. There is not a lot going on in the area-it is mostly residential but the Tube stop was just a 2-3 minute walk so we could easily and quickly get to our sight seeing destinations. There were pubs, markets, restaurants and a wonderful patisserie all nearby as well as a laundry around the corner. We found out about the apartment through HomeAway.co.uk.

On the first day we went to the train station (just a 2-3 minute walk) and purchased our paper travel cards. We did not need the passport size photos as was indicated in some threads. We used the coupons for 2 for 1 deals where appropriate and paid the student or child rate for our youngest. Some places gave us the family discount. The travelcard was a great deal and we used the Tube all the time. Much more so than when we traveled to Paris or Rome. We lost one card partway through the week and replaced it with the Oyster Card which we had to keep topping off—this really illustrated how worthwhile the Travelcard proved to be.
We spent the first day just walking around London-Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Big Ben, 10 Downing street etc. We did take the Routemaster Bus #15 but I would not recommend that. I think a hop on hop off or another sightseeing bus that talked about the sights would have been much more beneficial and enjoyable.

Monday, June 10, 2013
We pick up breakfast pastries and coffee from Patisserie Deux Amis in Bloomsbury located near our flat. They are wonderful and reminiscent of our trip to France. We get a late start (teenagers) and go directly to the Tower of London and grab the last Yeoman Warder Tour at 1:00 before they close the gates for the gun salute. If I were to do it again I would devote more time to the Tower and perhaps do a private tour and take advantage of some of their other tours or presentations. Our Yeoman Warder Tour group was large and it was nearly impossible to hear him unless you fought your way to the front of the crowd. There were many small school children on field trips that added to the difficulty in hearing the guide and seeing many of the exhibits. After the Tower we walked across Tower Bridge and then along the Thames past the Hinde to the Tate Modern where we had Afternoon Tea. Then a quick walk through the Tate, walk across the Millenium Bridge and to the Black Friar pub. We enjoy a pint while sitting outside watching the bicycle commuters. More walking to the Jerusalem Pub and then walk home. Dinner at the Norwalk Arms near our flat.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Today we go to see the Churchill War Rooms. It is a very worthwhile site. We all do the audio guide and it is very informative. Based on reviews on some travel forums we then have lunch at the Crypt Café at St. Martins of the Field. I would not necessarily recommend this. The food was average at best-the soup was very bland. And the atmosphere was not nearly as intriguing as described. I don’t think anyone in our family would recommend it. One good point was that since it is cafeteria style we got our food right away. Around 3:00 we walk to Westminster Abbey and there is no line and we get in right away. We have missed the Verger’s Tour so we all get the audio guide that I think is fine. Dinner is at the Museum Tavern near the British Museum. Food is average. Then we walk to Covent Garden area and look around.

Wedensday, June 12, 2013
We take a late morning train to Salisbury. By the time we arrive it is raining, blowing and a bit chilly. We purchase tickets for the bus to Stonehenge but as it doesn’t leave for a while so we walk to the Cathedral. We were all more impressed with Salisbury Cathedral than we expected to be and were glad that we took the time to go in and look around. The weather at Stonehenge is abysmal. It is too windy for umbrellas and the rain is driving down upon us. We did our best to tough it out and listen to the audio guide. I don’t think I would recommend seeing Stonehenge without an audio guide or detailed information otherwise it would be rather dull. You would miss much of the significance of the sight. After our return to Waterloo Station in London we have dinner at the Giraffe near the London Eye. This is good “American Style” food which 2 of my kids were happy to have. We have a very long dinner conversation and were happy to not be rushed out.

Thursday, June 13, 2013
We go our own ways in the early part of the day. Three of us head to the British Museum. We are close enough to walk. It is very crowded and again there are a number of school trips with young children running around. Therefore, some of the more popular displays are very difficult to see. We use the audio guides but we found them to be a bit trying. We tried to hit the main attractions at the museum and then went to the areas that interested each of us. You could spend days at the museum. We join back up after lunch and walk through the park to go to see Buckingham Palace. Then walk to Harrods. A friend suggested we head for the food and toys, which we did. We were all in awe. Lots of fun just looking at everything. Millionaire Gallery in Harrods, just outside the toy department, was interesting as well. We continue our walk past Kensington Palace to the Churchill Arms Pub where we have dinner in the Thai restaurant in the back. The atmosphere is worth the trip alone but the Pad Thai was delicious!

Friday, June 14, 2013
Our late morning and early afternoon is spent shopping at the Portobello Market. Good food and fun souvenirs. We all enjoyed our leisurely stroll through the Market. The weather is clear (one of the only clear days we have had) so we decide to go to the London Eye. The area around the eye is full of people and street performers. Great, active, fun vibe. Unfortunately, the Eye is closed due to mechanical problems. We take the tube back to the apartment and regroup. We go to the Giraffe restaurant near us as we are meeting up with some of my son’s friends.

Saturday, June 15, 2013
Our driver from Simply Airports is at our flat to pick us up right on time (maybe even early). Quite happy with their service. We fly Aer Linghus to Dublin. We were going to rent a car at the airport but the agent at the hertz rental counter convinced us to take the Airlink bus to our hotel and get the car on our last day in Dublin. It would save us a couple hundred dollars. We grab the bus, which is there within 5 minutes and lets us off right across the street from the hotel. Couldn’t have been easier. We have 2 rooms at the Best Western Academy Plaza Dublin. They are ready at 12:30 upon our arrival. We took the Green Bus Hop On Hop Off tour for a full circuit. After the ride we went to the Temple Bar area and had dinner at Gallagher’s which was very good. We were seated right away and all enjoyed our meals. After dinner we walked over to Gogarty’s pub for our Traditional Irish Music Pub Crawl. We were told to be there at 7:15 for a 7:30 start. Unfortunately, I think one of the musicians was late and so we didn’t start until 8:00. And, Gogarty’s is really just the meeting point. After everyone was gathered together we walked to the first Pub. Mark and Andy were informative and entertaining. They played the “fiddle”, guitar and bodhran and sang traditional Irish music. I really enjoyed the tour but it was much too large. It was difficult to find seats in the pub and there was a bit of time spent finding chairs and stools. Then we were packed in so tight it was difficult to make your way to the bar for a pint. We all agreed that they should have capped the group size.

Sunday, June 16, 2013
We head out in the morning to see Kilmainham Gaol. Our tickets for the hop-on hop-off bus are good for our entire stay so we use the bus to get to the Gaol. It takes a bit of time to take the bus. There is really not that much to see at the Gaol. However, our guide was quite knowledgeable on Irish history and the history of the Irish Rebellions so the tour of the Gaol was worth it just from that standpoint. We would recommend taking time to see the Gaol because of the tour. After the Gaol we went to the Guiness Tour. The Guiness Tour does NOT take you on any part of the actual Guiness plant. It is all a presentation of how they make Guiness. It is nicely done—great marketing. And, at the end you can enjoy a pint in the Gravity Bar that has great views of Dublin. You could also opt to learn how to correctly pour a Guiness and get a certificate that shows that you completed the instruction. The line for that was quite long. Dinner is at Bewleys. We are seated relatively quickly but service is horrible. It takes forever to put in our drink order. My glass of wine doesn’t even arrive until after our appetizers. I’m not sure what happened. The food was ok but the service was terrible. Not sure I would recommend it.

Monday, June 17
The Airlink bus picks us up right outside our hotel but it is packed and we are the last to fit in. We are all standing with our luggage in the aisle behind and next to the driver. The bus doesn’t stop at the remainder of the stops. This would be a big problem if you are trying to catch a flight. We go to the Hertz rental car office and get a minivan which had been reserved. For some unknown reason it takes about 30 minutes to get our van. The agents are very friendly and helpful and offered good tips and advice. We drive to Glendalough and walk around the monastic ruins and then to the Upper Lake. It is beautiful. I highly recommend taking a side trip from Dublin to see the Wicklow Mountains. We spend the night in Kilkenny at the Zuni Hotel. The hotel is very good. We have dinner at Langdons. Service was good at the beginning but I think our server must have left because we had trouble getting help once our food arrived. Luckily, they have hurling on the TV (as we were there for quite some time).

Tuesday, June 18
We walk through the Castle at Kilkenny do a bit of shopping in Kilkenny then drive on to Cashel. We have lunch at a pub in Cashel, which is average. They do a fine job getting our food to us when you take into account that they had just had 2 groups of 50! We arrive at the Elmville House in Cobh at 4:00 and are greeted at the door by our wonderful hostess, Olive. We have 3 rooms rented and each is great. Olive is very helpful and engaging. The breakfasts were fabulous and the house is beautiful. We have friends in Cobh who take us to see a Hurling Match which we all thoroughly enjoyed.

Wednesday, June 19
Spend the day visiting with friends. My husband and I make a quick trip to the Titanic Experience. It is a bit touristy. I think the best part was the room with the information panels that you could read at your own pace. It seemed quite overpriced compared to other sites we have visited in Ireland. I’m glad it was just my husband and myself, I would not have been happy to spend any more money than we did.

Thursday, June 20
Drive from Cobh to Killarney where we just stop for lunch then drive on to Dingle. We have 2 rooms reserved at the GreenMount Inn, which is fabulous. We all loved the Inn. It is modern and has every thing you could possibly need. Very cozy public rooms and an excellent breakfast. It is just a short walk into town. Dinner is at Ashes which is excellent. Restaurant food in a pub. Everyone loves their meal.

Friday, June 21
We drive the Dingle Peninsula and it is breathtakingly beautiful. No large tour buses to deal with or crowds. Very easy to negotiate the drive and pull off and enjoy the views. So glad we decided to do Dingle instead of the Ring of Kerry. The rest of the day is spent walking around the town and relaxing.

Saturday, June 22
After breakfast at the Inn we drive to Trim. It takes just about 5 hours. We get there in time to take a guided tour which is quite interesting. Our guide was very knowledgeable and able to answer in detail all our questions. We all thought it was one of the more interesting castles we visited. We were going to take it off our list but are all very glad that we saw it. We stay at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near the Dublin airport. It is a fine hotel. Be aware however that the free airport shuttle is often full. Be sure to tell the front desk that you will be taking the shuttle and would like to be put on the list so that they know in the morning to expect you.
The Dublin airport is a bit difficult to navigate. The signage is poor and it took us awhile to get to where we needed to be. We allowed for 3 hours based on previous trip reports I had read and I am glad we did. After going through the ticket line and checking your baggage you need to go to security. Then you need to go through customs and then security again. Once you get to your gate there is a VERY limited amount of food available so plan accordingly. We were able to get coffee and muffins. After being called to board the plane and as you walk through the walkway to the plane you need to stop again to show your passport and answer questions—so keep those passports handy.

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