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Trip Report Just Returned from London

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I am so grateful to our Fodors friends for being so helpful in making our recent 5 day trip to London so flawless. Here's what you taught us:
1. Travel light. We took everything we needed in our carry on bags and stowed another one under our seats in the size required by our airlines. We needed nothing more and I packed in the "bundling method" as mentioned in this forum at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdRl3dBGxRs
(We didn't buy any of the supplemental containers from this luggage salesman but just put everything into our suitcases. We put our shoes in newspaper wrappers, one in each.) Saved us lots of time waiting for airport carousels. We will do this again.
2. Take proper shoes. I have minor issues with arthritis and I found that most walking surfaces in London, while quaint, old and beautiful, were not pedestrian-friendly. There are cobblestones and sloped sidewalks, as you would expect in an old city. And oftentimes the surfaces are wet. We went to a home town running company and bought well fitting shoes and never got a blister. We stressed comfort over style. In addition, there are some places where you just can't have an elevator. Tower of London with its medieval treasures, isn't handicapped friendly, so you will be going up stairs. FYI.
3. Pros and cons of pre-purchasing vouchers to attractions. We came to London as part of a package and loved what we got for our money. We also bought several other vouchers for other tours and found that this saved us money. Con? We bought one voucher for a four course French meal on Groupon and didn't have time to use it. So we gave it to a darling, doorman that we liked. Hope he and a guest can use it when he's not working.
4. Go on an "overview" tour right away when you arrive. You will get the lay of the land and find things that you want to see more in depth later. Helps for planning what to see when, based on close proximity. After our double decker bus tour, we booked an amazing two hour black taxi tour with Michael Bloom at www.affordablelondontyaxitours.co.uk and he took us to "secret sights in London." He also does a Harry Potter tour, and a few others, but he was a riot and found out what we were interested in and then took us to the most amazing and surprising places! We were enchanted by him and felt he was a true ambassador for London. It was a bit pricey, a bit over $200 for two of us in his cab for a bit over 2 hours, but we felt it was well worth it.
5. Pubs aren't just bars. We only had three meals that weren't part of some tour or another and for those meals we always went to a pub. While they do serve liquor, they have amazing food (like fish and chips) for a reasonable price. Fodors had recommended Minories for their Toffee Sticky Pudding, so we were surprised to see that it was very close to where we were staying, right by The Tower of London. It was fun to taste the pudding, but their fish and chips had the most amazing tartar sauce that I've ever tasted. So that was a good spot to us. When going into a pub, you place your order at the bar and then they bring it to your table when it's ready.
5. Plan taking "loo breaks". When you are at your hotel or restaurant, use their facilities because when you're in mid city, it costs you 30 pence to use a public restroom. (Ask for a "restroom" and they might not know what you mean. The word there is, "toilet." THAT got some getting used to.)
6. Get some British currency while you are home, before you leave. We avoided trying to get cash of any kind in London because we brought both American and British money and then used my new CitiBank credit card that I got expressly for using in London because it's one of the few cards that charges no foreign fees. (That came from advice mentioned in this forum.) We charged everything we could and used currency as needed. Some taxis take credit cards, but watch for the sign that says using it generates a 10% "convenience fee." Our newspaper today says that some London ATMs are running out of cash, so this is something to prepare for if you are going there during the Olympics.
7. Go to attractions early. We got this advice here too. But in the five days we were in London, we never stood in a line. We'd enter palaces or castles or the Royal Mews early and find that we'd be in a tour group of my daughter and me and one other person! When we left, after a few hours, there were long lines.
8. Have a good time. We were blown away by the friendliness of the people we met. Our tour package put is in a somewhat remote eastern London hotel (Grange Tower Bridge Hotel) but they treated us like royalty! Nearly everyone did. We saw "royal oriented sights" but loved Westminster Abbey as well. If you're interested in obscure royal things, go to The Royal Mews where you will see carriages that are used by the royals for big events. Really interesting. We loved having high tea in the Kensington Palace gardens on The Orangery outdoor porch. (18.95 pounds each. Pricey but an amazing experience.)

This trip was a trip of a lifetime and we are still thinking almost non-stop about our experiences and what we saw. There was not one glithch because we had read fodors.com and did a lot of preplanning before we left. Good luck on your travels.

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