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Trip Report London - 3 nights and 3 generations - first time trip for the grandparents

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Partner's parents are in their 70's and although they lived in Australia for 10 years have never been to London and at this time in their lives had no inclination to do it on their own so we decided to treat them. Partners 23yo son came along too.

We decided early on that an apartment would work out best and so we used Airbnb for the first time. Our first choice didn't work out and didn't leave me with a very good impression of Airbnb but we persevered and found a lovely three bed apartment almost right on top of the Limehouse DLR station. Although it was a fairly noisy location we slept with the window open and weren't woken by transport noise at all. Everything about the apartment worked out great and £575 for the 3 nights worked out at less than £40 per person per night. I'd definitely use Airbnb again on future trips.

Partner uses the train lots for work and had accumulated lots of vouchers for delayed journeys and so we used these to book return journeys 3 months in advance so we got the cheapest £25 return prices. We left on a Sunday afternoon and upgraded to first class.

One of the few disadvantages of not using a hotel was that we arrived early for our 3pm check in time and so had to get a drink in a grim East End pub close to the apartment - it was an experience though.

I'd booked Heston's Dinner that night and the only time I could get was 6.30pm but this worked pretty well as Harrods was on our list of things to see and so we headed in and had 1hr 30 mins to explore Harrods before the short walk up to the Mandarin Oriental hotel where Dinner is located. Had a great but expensive meal and then walked up to Hyde Park Corner then up Constitution Hill to Buckingham Palace and then up Bird Cage Walk to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge. The walk took about 50 minutes and was a lovely way to see a bit of London on the way back to our apartment.

Partner's parents were happy to leave the planning up to us and had only given us one thing that they had wanted to do and this was to see The Mousetrap.

Was very happy that our first half day had gone well and that it couldn't have worked out any better than it had done.

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    Everyone had Oyster cards for the trip and these worked out well. In three full days we spent approximately £30 each on travel. As three of us have them already I didn't bother comparing costs of day travel cards but Oyster cards are convenient and easy to use.

    Our first full day started with the Tower of London, which was just two stops from our apartment. This really is a must see and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there and I saw new things that I hadn't seen on previous trips. We didn't bother with audio guides or following a beefeater tour.

    We then walked across Tower Bridge and had lunch at Pont de la Tour. Not the best idea as it would have been better to wait and grab something lighter and simpler as we had a pre-theatre meal booked for 5.30pm.

    After lunch we continued our walk along the South Bank - this is a lovely walk and has so much to see along the way. We looked in at The Shard but decided it was way too expensive.

    We looked in at Tate Modern - it's such a shame they have extended the first floor over the huge space of the former turbine hall in the centre of the building, where many years ago I remember seeing the amazing setting sun installation.

    From there we walked over the Millenium Bridge to St Pauls and then got a bus to Oxford Street. The bus was one of those that goes along Fleet St then down The Strand past Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square passing tons of famous sites - we did our best as guides pointing out as many of the sites that we could. We then walked down Carnaby Street, which partner's Mum had mentioned wanting to see. This street must have been the height of fashion in the 1960s when Sandra was a young woman. It even appeared on the front cover of Time magazine.

    By then it was time to get to Clos Maggiore for our pre-theatre dinner before the Mousetrap. This restaurant was lovely and has been awarded London's most romantic restaurant several times. Pre-theatre dinner was excellent value at £17.50 per person for two courses. Would certainly recommend this lovely restaurant.

    And so to the Mousetrap. We knew it would be dreadful and it lived up to our expectations. As it was the one thing that partner's parents had mentioned in the pre planning of this trip we felt we couldn't duck out of it so we suffered it in silence. The place was half empty, it being a Monday night and I imagine that most of the audience were tourists from abroad as they were laughing at the most cringeworthy awful overacting by one of the more eccentric English characters. If you do go then do so because it's history, not because it is decent entertainment.

    Despite the dreadful play it was another excellent day that went perfectly to plan.

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    Reading your report with much interest. Checking out Heston's and Clos Maggiore(on my list already) because I'm overwhelmed with London Restaurants. I've looked at so many and we are almost to the point of just "winging it" and that's not what I like, I'm a planner.

    Anyway, it sounds like you showed your partner's parents a wonderful time.
    Thanks for posting =D>

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    Interesting that you all seem OK with the commuting in from Limehouse. We've had a number of threads from people who've found (relatively) cheap apartmental rentals in the new developments around there, and most regulars tend to advise against it, on grounds of travel time if nothing else (and as you've found, the environment is not exactly swathed in charm).

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    TPAYT - the restaurants were chosen with careful deliberation. St John was top of the list as it's renowned for its nose to tail eating and partner's Dad was a butcher and the 23yo has long wanted to go. But there was no steak on the menu so that's where Heston's Dinner came in and also because it wasn't overly formal but had great innovative food. Clos Maggiore was chosen as it was in a list of top ten pre-theatre dinner venues and it seemed the most romantic and so would be very different to the other two venues.

    I've found that over the years holidays tend to get planned around when I can get a table at a restaurant I want to go to - am just having to reschedule our upcoming trip to Italy for our anniversary as the one restaurant I want to go to is closed for a fortnight.

    Patrick - It really didn't feel like Limehouse meant we had to commute in and in hindsight I'd pick the area again. You are right that it lacks charm but we felt perfectly safe at all times and the travel time never felt a chore with the excellent frequency of the tubes.

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    On our second and last full day we headed east and took the Emirates cable car across the river - I chose this as an alternative to the London Eye and the Shard, and it worked out well. It was cheap, quick and had fantastic views - albeit not quite as good as the Eye - but it was a new experience for all of us and was great fun. We then went to Greenwich and explored the lovely covered market there and then wandered round the Cutty Sark, although we didn't pay to go into the ship. We then walked through the Park for a bit and then headed back into Central London to meet a friend of the 23yo's for lunch. He works at the National Portrait Gallery and got us into the David Bailey exhibit for free, which was a lovely bonus as it was excellent to see so much of his best work. Partner's parents had mentioned just a few days previously that they would like to see the NPG and its fairly compact enough to make it manageable for our short trip.

    Even so we spent 2 hours in there and so then walked down Whitehall, past Downing Street, looking in at Horseguards Parade and up to Westminster Bridge for more views of the river.

    After a rest at the apartment we headed to St John, which everyone enjoyed, especially partners Dad who had the best pork chop he'd ever had. On the way back to the tube we walked through Smithfield Market, a perfect way to end our day as we saw carcasses being unloaded and butchers begin their night shift. Fascinating to see some of the 24 hour cafes in the area. This was part of the city that we'd not seen before and it looked well work devoting more time to on a future trip - the lack of tourists was a welcome bonus.

    Another great day where everything worked out even better than I'd hoped.

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    For our last half day we went to Borough Market. Having been on Saturdays before the difference to this Wednesday morning was wonderful - the crowds do spoil the experience and it was lovely to be able to wander round and make a few purchases in comparative peace and quiet.

    Check out from the apartment was very simple, we just closed up and left.

    Looking back on the trip the detailed planning worked well. It makes so much sense when time is short to plan well and group activities. No one complained about too much walking or too little time spent anywhere.

    The oldies loved their first trip to London and said it was better than they had thought it would be. One thing they did keep remarking on was how clean it is, to be expected I guess given that we spent our time in places that attract lots of tourists - it was nice though that cleanliness struck them.

    Hope that someone finds this of use. The ease of the 'commute' in from Limehouse is certainly worth thinking about.

    Next trip, Italy

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