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Trip Report London for 6 Days - Sept 2012

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Hello Fodorites! I have been a long time lurker on this board, vicariously traveling through the postings of others. I have enjoyed reading the detailed trip reports posted here, so now I offer my own. I traveled to London Sept. 23-29, 2012 with my adult daughter (late 20s, DD) and infant grandson (6 months, Baby). I am in my late 40s. This report will be very detailed, beginning with our pre-trip planning. I wrote this report with the thought of including all the details I looked for when reading trip reports by others. I will be posting daily on this thread as I complete the report for each travel day, but let's start with planning.

Planning – To Go or Not To Go

Our trip planning began in early August 2012. I was engaging in a little vicarious travel and read a post on Fodor’s about the diamond exhibit at Buckingham Palace in honor of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I took a look at the royal collection web site and read about the exhibit. I mentioned the exhibit in passing to DD as we both appreciate sparkly things. A few days later DD announced that she would like to go see this exhibit, and would I be able to go with her? DD was actually born in the UK, but had not traveled outside the US since the age of 2. Taken somewhat by surprise, I took a few days to determine if I had enough vacation days and dollars in the bank to make this trip. After talking it over with hubby, I told DD I’d be happy to go to London with her.

Since one of the main goals of this trip was to see the diamond exhibit at Buck House, the first part of planning was to determine just how long the exhibit would be on display. Until the first week of October. Due to considerations of my job, we decided on the second half of September. Once again, I consulted the royal collection website and times were available through the end of September.

Now I began looking for airfares. Since we were traveling from Anchorage, Alaska, I first looked at Condor Air’s flights over the pole. I found some good fares, but nothing direct into London arriving in mid-September. I considered a flight into Frankfurt, as it had a great price, but couldn’t find a cheap flight into London without hanging out at Frankfurt Airport for 12 hours. Since by this time, DD confirmed that Baby would be making the trip with us, 12 hours in a strange city and a strict timeline with a baby is a very different proposition than 12 hours without Baby. We narrowed it down to itineraries on either United or American, both for about $1,200 R/T. We finally settled on United due to the cost of carrying Baby on DDs lap was more than twice as much on American (>$400) as on United (~$200). The issues American was having with regard to labor contracts and potential bankruptcy proceedings also contributed to this decision. Additionally, after working through the ticketing process on both airlines’ websites, the United flight had many more empty seats than the American flight. In the end we flew United from Anchorage to Seattle, to Washington Dulles, to Heathrow on Sept. 22, returning via the same route on Sept. 29.

Now I began to seriously look at lodging. At first I looked for a B&B in the Victoria Station area to keep costs down. However, now that Baby was definitely going, I began to look at hotels with elevators. I did not want to walk all over London and then have to carry a stroller up several flights of stairs. I finally settled on the Holiday Inn Kensington Forum. This is a high-rise hotel one block from the Gloucester Road tube station on Cromwell Street in South Kensington. We prepaid a twin room including breakfast for two each day and had a very good experience there. I posted a review on their website. The room was clean, and had an en-suite bath with tub. The shower had plenty of hot water and water pressure. The breakfast was tasty but there was absolutely no variation in what was served every day for seven days. We had a few issues regarding the phone in the room, but overall I would stay there again.

Suddenly, Labor Day was upon us and I realized that I had not secured reservations for the Buckingham Palace tour. Only three weeks prior to departure, I booked tickets for the palace tour online. The website promised delivery in 10-14 days. And as promised, the tickets were delivered to my home 1 week prior to departure, as were the tickets I purchased online for Windsor Castle. I also purchased 7-day travel cards for the tube online and they were delivered to our home one week before departure. I know it is just as easy to purchase the travel cards at the station, but DD wanted to have as many tickets in hand before we left as possible. The website for Kensington Palace and the Tower was somewhat confusing. I thought it read that tickets purchased online had to be used within one week, so the night before we left I took the plunge and purchased the tickets on line and chose the delivery option to pick them up at the sites. At this time I’m still not really clear if I could have purchased the tickets on line at an earlier date and had them delivered to my home. However, picking the tickets up at both locations was super easy and I would definitely recommend pre-purchasing tickets.

Three weeks prior to departure I also investigated booking the Ceremony of the Keys tour at the Tower. There was no availability for our time frame in London, so if this is a must-do for you, book this tour well in advance. I also pre-booked the Stonehenge Bus tour as well as rail tickets from London to Salisbury and Windsor. I monitored rail ticket prices for a few weeks before making a purchase and noticed that ticket prices dropped about three weeks prior to the travel date.

One note about purchasing these tickets online: within 15 minutes of my first purchase, the Bank of America Fraud Department called my home phone. By this time, I was attempting a second ticket purchase which was being rejected. I verified the purchase with the fraud department, who made notes on my account regarding online international purchases and my planned travel dates. All of my international online purchases were then completed without incident. I also notified BoA again of my travel plans and my credit union (ATM card) a few days before departure. I did not have any issues using my BoA CC in London, but ended up never using the ATM card during this trip.

A few weeks prior to departure I began to look at transportation to and from Heathrow. I didn’t want to try to get 3 suitcases, a stroller, 2 daybags and Baby on the tube or train by ourselves, so I searched the Fodor’s forum for recommendations for a car service. Just Airports was very expensive for a private car and driver, which was required if a car seat was needed. I first attempted Ray’s London Transfers. However after two weeks I still had received no reply to my email inquiry. I even got up early one day to phone Ray’s and left a message. With only a few days to spare, I booked and prepaid round trip transportation, Heathrow to our hotel, through Express Airport Transport. We had very good service from this company and I would recommend them for anyone needing private transportation in London. They responded to my initial request by email within 24 hours, and although at first the car seat was not on the reservation, I had confirmation of the car seat within 24 hours of pointing out the discrepancy.

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    Planning – What to Wear?
    So for those of you looking for advice on what to wear to London in September, this is my packing list:

    1 pair Navy knit pants
    1 pair khaki pants
    1 Navy button up cardigan with ¾ length sleeves
    2 white tank tops (1 with an embellished neck line)
    1 light blue knit tee
    1 white and black print knit tee
    3 knit faux-crossover type tops with ¾ length sleeves (1 light blue; 1 blue and grey print; and 1 navy, black and white print).
    1 nightgown
    Undies and socks for every day
    Toiletries
    Curling iron
    Two umbrellas
    Rain coat
    Spare shoes

    On the plane I wore black knit pants, a black knit tee, a white cardigan with ¾ length sleeves and also wore my reversible black /multi ruana. I purchased a rain coat from Land’s End when their end of summer sale began, which proved to be a very wise investment. I needed a new pair of walking shoes and searched for a while for a pair of Danskos but couldn’t find any that fit. I eventually purchased a pair of Clarks, un.Robin. I wore them to work for three weeks to break them in before our trip. This pair of shoes did not perform well and my feet hurt from the first day in London. I took a pair of backup shoes in case the Clarks got too wet from rain to wear, but they are not a good walking shoe and I did not wear them while in London. I have not been able to bring myself to wear the Clarks un.Robins again since I got off the plane in Anchorage. Everything fit into my 22-inch roll aboard with room to spare.

    Let’s go!

    At last departure day arrived. Our flight left Anchorage about 12:30am Saturday morning. My plan to leave work a bit early Friday fizzled and I didn’t get out of the office until after 6:00pm. I rushed home, had dinner, and finished packing. Unfortunately I left my London street map and restaurant information I had compiled on the living room table. Check-in at the United counter in Anchorage was a fiasco. We arrived at 10:30pm, apparently another United flight bound for Colorado was delayed and passengers for that flight were also attempting check-in. The United staff waved all the passengers checking in for Seattle to form one line to the left of the main line. Then another United staffer waved us back into the main line, then back to the separate line. About this time, the apparent supervisor at the United desk noticed a personal friend in line and pulled that person out of line to personally check them in. To say we were unimpressed with the operations of the United staff in Anchorage is an understatement. The only saving grace was that we were not charged for our two checked bags. I checked my roll aboard as DD was carrying on another 22-inch bag with baby gear as well as her day bag and a stroller.

    We got through security pretty easily using the “Family” entry point but were the last passengers to board. We carried our day bags, Baby, and the roll-aboard and gate checked the stroller at each flight. The stroller was delivered to the aircraft door at each stop. We had breakfast at a fish restaurant in Seattle. Used to flying on Alaska Airlines, we expected that people traveling with small children would be allowed early boarding. Not so on United, brought home to us by a rude and surly United gate attendant in Seattle. While the United staff was exceedingly polite and helpful in London, I’m afraid their US counterparts have caused us to swear off flying United in the future.

    After a three hour layover, our flight from Dulles to London was uneventful and uncrowded. The aircraft had a 3 and 3 configuration. We had booked a middle and window seat. The person in the aisle seat moved to another row and we were able to put baby in the center seat and we all had some sleep before touch down which was about 1 hour early. We took our time deplaning, allowing all the other passengers to exit before we did and then also stopped in the ladies room to change Baby and use the facilities.

    By the time we reached immigration there were only a few people waiting in line. We stopped at the exchange desk to exchange US dollars for pounds. I had read that there were ATMs available at the terminal, but hadn’t seen one yet and had NO GBP and needed to tip the driver from Express Airport Transport. We have learned our lesson, although I didn’t think the exchange rate for that transaction was that exorbitant. There is an ATM right in the arrivals lounge as soon as you exit immigration and customs, so don’t fret about obtaining British currency when traveling to Terminal 1 at Heathrow.

    We looked for our driver, but didn’t see him since our flight had arrived so early, so we bought a coffee and settled down to wait. We had just settled into a seat with our coffee when DD said “Someone just walked by with your name on a sign, Mom.” I turned around but DD had lost sight of him by then. I jumped up and looked around the arrivals area while DD got Baby back into the stroller. I met the driver coming back in the door. He had learned that our flight was early so came early to the airport to retrieve us. DD caught up with us by then and the driver led us to his vehicle in the parking garage across the street. We had reserved an “estate car” a station wagon in American, and there was plenty of room for our bags and the stroller. There was also a car seat for Baby waiting, and the driver helped us adjust the straps to secure Baby. Thirty-five minutes later we pulled up in front of the Holiday Inn Kensington Forum. I tipped the driver £5. Someone please let me know if that was inappropriate, if I should have given him more or less. I based the tip of £5 on readings from this Forum.

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    Just a quick comments (will read the rest later) - you should try Icelandair for your next trip from Anchorage to the UK. I don't think they were operating this route at the time of your trip, but we used them in June of this year. You have to change planes in Reykjavik. but it's a fast service over the pole, with very reasonable prices.

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    " I tipped the driver £5. Someone please let me know if that was inappropriate, if I should have given him more or less. I based the tip of £5 on readings from this Forum."

    £5 is OK as he helped you but do remember that you don't HAVE TO tip people in the same way as you do in the U.S.

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    Gordon, thanks for the tip. A lot of carriers don't stop in Anchorage, but even if we could connect with Iceland Air in Seattle, that might save us some time.

    Hooameye, yes the driver helped us loading and unloading all the bags, adjusting the straps of the car seat and taking the initiative to check on arrivals and show up early, so I felt a tip of some amount was warranted. Glad to know I wasn't outside the norms for London. Tipping is out of control in the US, tip jars are everywhere.

    And now, Day 1...

    Day 1 Rain, Rain Go Away

    The hotel’s concierge seemed to be overseeing the comings and goings in front of the hotel this morning. There were two tour buses in the courtyard, loading bags. The concierge very kindly took our bags and gave us a claim ticket. We went inside to check in, but our room was not ready. It was about 8:30am. The desk clerk offered an early check in of 10:00am if we wanted to pay for breakfast. Neither of us wanted breakfast having eaten on the plane, so after some discussion, we decided to retrieve some items from our bags, freshen up in the ladies room and start the day.

    Our first destination today was Spencer House. We walked up Cromwell Road one block to the Gloucester Road tube stop. It was packed at 9:00am on a Sunday. I gave DD her travel card and we passed through the gates and took the elevator down to the Picadilly line. We exited the elevator turned the corner and were confronted by stairs down to the platform. I grabbed the front end, DD the back and we carried Baby in his throne down to the platform. This was to be our modus operandi for most of our time in London. However, every day of the 6 days we were in London, someone would stop and offer assistance going up or down the stairs and in instances when we were carrying Baby someone would usually offer a seat if the train was crowded.

    We took the tube to the Green Park station then walked down the road and although we didn’t have a map, I remembered roughly where Spencer House was located. We missed one turn, but ran into a group of 3 ladies also looking for Spencer House and followed them. However, once we found it, we were denied entry with Baby. They have a strict no children under 10 years of age policy, and apparently that applies to babies in arms as well. As only guided tours at specific times were allowed, we decided to skip Spencer House and move on to Kensington Palace. We backtracked to the Green Park tube stop and made our way to Kensington High Street.

    Exiting the Kensington High Street Tube stop (with no street map) we saw the sign directing us to the right for Kensington Palace. We dutifully turned right and walked up the street quite a way. The rain that had been threatening all morning began to come down in earnest. We did not see any other signs with directions to the Palace, so after we had walked about 15 minutes we turned around and backtracked to a cross street of Kensington High Street. We cross KHS (there is a church on that corner) and walked in a direction I believed to be parallel to the Hyde Park. At this point we had not seen any other signs with directions to Kensington Palace. After 20 minutes we decided to turn around and backtrack to a café/bakery we had recently passed. I think it was Valerie Patisserie, a local chain as I saw more of these places throughout London and in Salisbury. We went in to dry off and had a piece of cake and some water. It was about noon local time, but neither of felt very hungry. I had a slice of carrot cake and DD a slice of strawberry cake. We thought the quality of both was only so-so, about the same quality we could get from the local Fred Meyer’s grocery store in Anchorage. When I paid our bill, I asked the cashier for directions to the palace. “Of course, just cross the street here, go straight through the entrance to the park, keep walking that direction and the path will take you directly to the Palace.” Great! Duh! Directly across the street was a park entrance. It was still raining, but we followed the directions and finally found the palace.

    Inside the Palace, there were no lines for tickets, although it was quite busy, and I was able to pick up our pre-paid tickets easily. The ticket agent seeing the stroller, gave us the location of the lift and told us to find a docent when we were ready to go upstairs. While we toured the ground floor, a docent noticed us and approaching me, asked us to come find her when we were ready to go up. We circled the ground floor, saw Diana’s gowns and then moved up to the first floor. Near the end of our time on the 1st floor Baby began to voice his displeasure at being in a strange place and his unhappiness with the disruption to his internal clock caused by jet lag. As we started to walk through the 2nd floor, his displeasure intensified and so did his volume. We decided to spare the other tourists and take Baby back to the hotel for a nap. On reaching the ground floor, however, it was POURING buckets of rain outside. We circled the lobby a few times and Baby finally succumbed to exhaustion. DD ducked into the gift shop while I found a chair in the lobby and kept Baby’s stroller moving in a back and forth motion.

    By the time DD came out, I was feeling some hunger pangs so we went into the café and had a chicken salad, pretty good for being pre-packaged, and more water. Baby was still sound asleep, but we didn’t want to risk subjecting innocent by-standers to more of his anger if he awoke and we were pretty pooped. We braved the rain and back tracked through the park, then on to the road to the KSH Street tube stop, then to the Gloucester Road stop. We stopped in the Waitrose in the Gloucester Station arcade to purchase water and snacks, then finally back to the hotel.

    Check-in was easy, our room was ready (was about 3:30pm) and luggage was delivered within 10 minutes. Baby was sleeping soundly in his stroller so DD and I decided to take a nap and then get dinner in the hotel restaurant later. Baby slept through the night and so did we, waking up about 4am.

    Overall, the rain and jet lag made this a not so fun day, but rain is to be expected in London and I had warned DD that if we let the rain stop us from doing anything, we might never leave the hotel.

    Final thoughts: We were disappointed at not being able to see Spencer House, but will add it to the list for the next trip. Kensington Palace was kind of a disappointment, even without Baby’s tantrum. Only a few of Diana’s gowns were on display, and the exhibit about Queen Victoria was interesting, but I thought it was kind of light on actual historic artifacts to view considering her long reign and the British royalty’s apparent penchant for saving every last item. We might have felt differently if we’d toured the top floor but thought the ground and first floor exhibits were bland and lacking substance. As was repeated throughout our trip, officials at every site were helpful and accommodating when they noticed the stroller and every day someone stopped and offered assistance with the stroller up and down steps in the tube stations or offered a seat on the tube.

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    Great report Lynda, looking forward to more.
    I was just in London in early July, we were luckier with the weather, can't imagine pouring rain and baby in stroller, good for you!
    We went to Kensington Palace also, I skipped the Queen Victoria apartments as Im not keen on the Victorian era, my friend enjoyed it though. I went upstairs to the William and Mary rooms and I loved the way they had curated those. It was different and not to everyone's liking I guess, but for me it really bridged the gap between now and then and brought history to life.

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    I suppose the thing about Kensington Palace is that it was Victoria's home only in her unhappy childhood, which she was more than happy to leave behind. Anything to do with her adult life is mainly still in Buckingham Palace, or Balmoral, or Windsor, or particularly Osborne on the Isle of Wight (her "own" and favourite places - I certainly remember being taken round the displays at Osborne of all the mementoes of the children, casts of their baby hands and feet, and so on).

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    Hi LyndaM12,

    Wow, you were ambitious to have covered so much and on the Tube too after such a long flight with baby in tow.

    Sorry about SPENCER HOUSE. I really wanted to visit there myself during my trip in early summer but succumbed to weariness and heat before making the trek on the Sunday before my tour started. Was there a large crowd waiting to gain entrance? I was some distance away near Trafalgar Square and also thought that SH might be overbooked.

    I look forward to the rest of your adventures…

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    I'm puzzled, why the interest in Spencer House? I hope not because of supposed Princess Diana connections - she never lived there, in fact her family haven't lived there for almost 90 years. You'd be far better off visiting Althrop House in Northamptonshire for Princess Diana memorabilia.

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    Hi Gordon,

    "I'm puzzled, why the interest in Spencer House?

    Having been to London a few times before, I was searching out other interesting historical venues. I was not looking for a Diana connection. As described:

    “From its conception, Spencer House was recognized as one of the most ambitious aristocratic town houses ever built in London and is, today, the city's only great eighteenth-century private palace to survive intact.” The residence has been totally restored by Rothchild interests in recent decades.

    http://www.spencerhouse.co.uk/

    I also planned to visit MANSION HOUSE, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London in the City which is only open to the public on Tuesday afternoons. Unfortunately, it was closed (read it on their website) on the only Tuesday that I was in London.

    http://www.london-attractions.info/mansion-house.htm

    I enjoy touring these elegant 18th century abodes…

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    Great start to the trip report despite the rain. We had plenty of rain on our last trip to the UK so can relate. It was pouring buckets during our visit to the Cotswolds, York and Edinburgh.

    On our first trip to London we found the people very friendly and helpful too. At that time we traveled with then 80 year old Mother in Law and every time we entered the bus or tube, someone actually got up and offered her a seat. Doesn't happen often back home.

    This year we were supposed to make a domestic trip to Ohio and Tennessee to visit family but had to cancel because same Mother in Law fell in the street and ended up at the hospital requiring surgery the day before we were supposed to leave. Better to happen before the trip than during. Anyway, don't want to hijack your thread. Looking forward to the rest of your days' reports and hopefully the rain let up some!

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    Raincitygirl and Patrick, I think one of the reasons I was so disappointed in Kensington Palace was that I’ve been fascinated with Queen Victoria since I read her biography in junior high school. I also think I would have enjoyed the William and Mary rooms. If I have time on another trip to London, I’d give it another shot. Now DD’s main interest in KP is the Diana connection.

    Latedaytraveler, there was no one waiting outside Spencer House that Sunday morning. Gordon, DD first suggested Spencer House and I think because of the connection to Duchess Georgianna, an ancestress of Diana. DD had actually read about Georgianna before the movie. My interest in Spencer House is also like latedaytravelers’, an opportunity to see an intact 18th century private palace. I am not particularly interested in Diana memorabilia other than her gowns. I would probably go to significant lengths to see a really large collection of her gowns. The V&A fashion and costume exhibits are on the list for my next London visit.

    Europeannovice, I’m so sorry to hear about your MIL and hope she recovered. Anchorage is definitely not a huge metropolitan area, and we often hear horror stories about rude city slickers “outside”. However, I have traveled enough to know most people where ever you are will respond with courtesy when treated with the same. All the same the courtesy we received using the Tube was really outstanding, considering we were traveling many times during the morning or afternoon commute.

    I lived in Suffolk for three years in the 1980s so expected drizzly rain sometime during our visit, but was completely surprised by the buckets of rain we experienced on this trip.

    Day 2 Rain, Rain, More Rain, and Cranky Baby at Buckingham

    Today was the day we were to tour Buckingham Palace and possibly Westminster Abbey. We did not make it to the Abbey. Wide awake at 4am, we watched British early morning news programs, fed Baby, showered and finally went downstairs for breakfast about 8:00am. Our tour at the Palace was for 10:00am. There was no information in the room about the location of breakfast, so we trekked down to the Front Desk, where they sent us back up to the Mezzanine level. We were carrying Baby and the waitress brought a high chair, which he tolerated for about half our time in the restaurant. It was a buffet breakfast of breads, cereals, fruit, cold cuts, cheese, juice, boiled eggs, over-easy fried eggs, three types of sausage, potato hash brown patties (similar to those at McDonalds) grilled tomatoes, and grilled mushrooms. The food was good and filling, but the menu did not change in 7 days. Ah, tea! I had forgotten how much better the tea in London is compared to what is available in the US. Deep, rich, flavorful without that acidic aftertaste you get with Lipton. Wonderful. Thus fortified we returned to our room, grabbed our bags, and headed for the tube stop.

    DD decided to carry baby in one of those harnesses in front of her today instead of using the stroller. After the novelty wore off, Baby did not appreciate this method of transportation. We took the tube to Victoria Station, exited the station, turned right and walked up Buckingham Palace Road. After about 1 block we saw a tremendous line of people stretching down the sidewalk. I could vaguely see an entrance far up ahead and uniformed police officers. I asked the person in the back of the line if this was the line for the Palace. Yes it was. Is this the line to purchase tickets? Yes, he was waiting to buy tickets for that day. I stepped out into the street and looked up the road. Far ahead I saw a sign “Tickets”. Since this was a line to buy tickets, I bet there was another line or entrance up ahead for ticket holders. I turned to DD and said “Let’s go.” We walked past a long line of people and reached the ticket holder’s entrance. I pulled out our tickets and handed them to the attendant who let us right in.

    We entered a courtyard under an awning and out of the drizzle that was coming down. After about 10 minutes we were led inside to an airport type security screening area. The staff were very courteous and professional in dealing with these two crazy Americans with the baby. We were surrounded by British school children and retirement age tourists of every nationality. There was a bag check and we checked DD’s ginormous day bag full of Baby paraphernalia, keeping only a few essentials in our pockets for the tour. This tour was great, but PACKED. Buy tickets online and go early in the day. If I was going again, I would go at the very first entry time for the day. The diamond exhibit was particularly packed. The audio guide was very detailed and everyone wanted to listen to the entire spiel for every item on display, causing a tremendous bottleneck.

    The diamond exhibit was at the end of the tour. Baby voiced his displeasure with the harness soon after entering the Palace and we handed him off between us throughout the tour. About the time we entered the diamond exhibit he began to again complain about jet lag and strange places and DD was forced to carry him out of the exhibit about 2/3 through. I met her on the back balcony and we reclaimed her bag and made our way to the palace café as it was POURING rain again.

    Baby continued to tell the world in general how unhappy he was. The café was packed and we finally found a table and sat down. I purchased drinks and cake for us (sensing a pattern?). We sat near the edge of the awning to try and shield our fellow captives from Baby’s displeasure. Did I mention that it was a blustery, windy, chilly rain? A kindly British grandmother walked up to us and said “Sometimes a strange voice distracts them when they’re unhappy.” And she proceeded to talk and coo to Baby for several minutes. He finally noticed someone new was talking to him and turned his brightest smile on her. When she eventually said goodbye and made her way to her table, he settled down, took a bottle and promptly fell asleep. We sat in the café for about another 45 minutes to let Baby sleep and hoped the rain would let up.

    When the rain decreased slightly, we carried Baby down the garden path towards the exit and to, you guessed it, the gift shop. We traded Baby back and forth, but he fortunately remained blissfully asleep. We spent about an hour in the gift shop and we each made a few small purchases. One item that DD hoped to purchase on this trip was a miniature porcelain tea set for DGD age 2, which we did not find here. Finally, rain was still coming down, but thankfully not the downpour from earlier and we decided to return to our room for a nap before venturing out again. Baby remained asleep for the entire journey back to our hotel via the tube. It was about 3:00 in the afternoon. However, jet lag overtook us and again all three of us slept until about 4:00am.

    Thoughts for the day: Definitely buy tickets for Buckingham Palace in advance. Ordering them online was easy, they only took two weeks to arrive at my home in Alaska from London and saved us from waiting in a huge line. This tour was definitely worth the money and I would do it again. Having lived in England 25 years ago, I was prepared for rain, but not the down pour that we experienced these first few days. According to the early morning news programs we watched, this was a record setting storm for the island, causing flooding in northern and central England and parts of Wales and Scotland. One other thought on tickets, DD was a full-time student, and all the tickets I purchased for her online were the student “concession”. I thought I was somewhat taking a chance that her status as a student might be challenged, even though she carried her UAA student ID and an ISIC. However, not one ticket taker at one site even looked at what type tickets we presented. Just took them and tore off the corner and handed the tickets back to us.

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    Day 3 The Tower and Sun!

    Awakening again about 4:00am we watched the early morning news programs again. Fortunately the rain had stopped (in London anyway) and sunshine was forecast through the afternoon with rain returning in late afternoon or early evening. Hooray! Today was the day we had planned to visit the Tower and some nice weather would be appreciated. Baby again tolerated a high chair for about half of our meal. We zipped up to our room, plopped Baby into the stroller and out we went. We took the tube to Tower Station, crossed the street and made our way to the information office near the gate at the bottom of the plaza. There were only a few other people waiting for assistance and we waited patiently for our turn. When the attendant located our tickets, he verified our address. The two men behind us said “Anchorage! We’re from the Yukon!” I turned around and said “What a small world! We’re practically neighbors.” We exchanged a few more pleasantries and then we made our way through the gate. One note, a woman came into the information office to ask if she need to obtain another ticket as she had the London Pass. Nope. We saw another couple in front of us present the London Pass at the gate and they were waved right in. There is a security check, where you have to open your bags and then we breezed right into the Tower complex.

    Immediately on clearing security, there was a huge crowd waiting for the Yeoman Warders Tour. Since this tour includes a walk along the walls, we skipped it and headed for the Crown Jewels. The exhibition of these treasures has changed a bit in 25 years. I remember walking through several brightly lit rooms with row after row of display cases full of the treasures years ago. The most noticeable feature now and much appreciated after the bottleneck at the diamond exhibit, the crowns and scepters are in display cases with a moving walkway along each side. There is a raised viewing platform behind the moving walkway for those that want to stand still and study the jewels. The bathtub sized gold plated punch bowl is still there. Being thoroughly wowed by the jewels we only left when a herd of school children descended on us. We sat on a bench outside, then took turns visiting the gift shop up on the wall behind the jewel house and used the ladies room to change Baby.

    Next we toured the Fusilier’s museum. We were particularly amused at the verbiage describing the loss of the Fusiliers standard to the “American rebels” which apparently is still on display at West Point. Exiting the Fusiliers museum we walked around the White Tower, enjoyed the sunshine and looked for a way to take the stroller inside. No such luck. Strollers are not allowed in the White Tower, so we wandered the grounds a bit more. Then DD went down to the gift shop by the gate while I toured the Medieval palace exhibit and walked briefly along the walls. After I met up with DD we sat on a bench by the Thames and took lots of photos of the Tower Bridge. DSIL had specifically asked for photos of the bridge. We then walked back up to the information office and confirmed walking directions to St. Paul’s.

    After spending quite a bit of time in the gift shop, we walked to the top of the plaza, turned left and followed the street directly to St. Paul’s Cathedral. We stopped along the way to buy a hair clip (it was rather windy) and some water at Boots. It was after noon, but neither one of us were hungry thanks to our big breakfast at the Holiday Inn.
    We approached St. Paul’s from the back. We stopped at the handicapped entrance, but there was no response to ringing the bell, so we trekked around to the front and carried the stroller up the mountain of stairs to the entrance. I pulled out the printed receipt from my online ticket purchase and the attendant waved us right in to the prepaid desk. We were given our tickets we then exchanged for an audio guide, which was very informative. We moved in and sat for a while to feed Baby and rest our feet. After about 30 minutes, we decided to head down to the crypt to visit the ladies room. It was fairly crowded. After using the facilities, we wandered around the crypt and visited the…..gift shop! After contributing to the cathedral’s coffers we took the lift back up and followed the audio guide around the cathedral. We were just wowed. DD decided to climb the tower while I sat with sleeping Baby in the stroller.

    Afterwards we prepared to stay for Even Song, however Baby awoke and was not happy to still be in this strange place. We exited the Cathedral and followed the maps on the signs on the sidewalk to the Millenium Bridge. We were sort of looking for a place to eat, but didn’t see anything along the south bank that appealed to us so we passed the London Eye and crossed the Thames again. The Westminster Tube station is right there so we took the tube back to Cromwell road. We had dinner at the Italian place in the Gloucester Station arcade. The food was good and reasonably priced. Then back to our room and collapsed for the night.

    Thoughts for the Day: I would definitely like to revisit the tower to take the Yeoman Warder’s tour as well as the Ceremony of the Keys. Plan for this tour well in advance. St. Paul’s was magnificent, and I would visit it again.

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    LyndaM13, wow, you certainly covered a lot of territory that day – from the Tower, to St. Paul’s, back across Millennium Bridge, to Southbank, then back across the River to Westminster. Did I get that right?

    All with baby in tow. A great day.

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    Lateday, yes we covered a lot of ground that day, but it was truly a great day! We had such a great time at the Tower and St. Paul's. It was a beautiful day with light wind, blue skies, and white fluffy clouds. Walking across the Millennium Bridge was fabulous. DD and I had a truly great time together in a great city.

    And now Days 4 & 5!

    Day 4 Don’t Eat the Yogurt and NOT Waterloo

    As seemed to be my habit on this trip, I awoke at 4:00am to find that DD had been awake for about an hour and was suffering from the traveler’s illness. I took care of Baby for a few hours and about 8:00 I walked over to Boots in the Arcade to obtain some Imodium. I walked all around the tiny Boots but didn’t see anything for stomach ailments. Finally I flagged down an employee and learned they are kept behind the cashiers. Next, I popped into Waitrose and picked up more water, some candy bars and cookies to take home, then headed back to the hotel. DD valiantly suggested I leave her and Baby and continue on with our plans for the day. Leave my sick baby alone in a hotel room with her own Baby to care for? No. I called to confirm that our rail tickets to Salisbury were good all day and told DD to take some Imodium and let’s see how she felt in an hour. After an hour and 3 Imodium tablets, DD declared that she was well enough to carry on with our plans for the day. We made it into breakfast about 10 minutes before they closed the doors. DD avoided the yogurt and dairy products, sticking to toast , fruit, and tea.

    We hopped the tube to Waterloo Station where I attempted to retrieve our tickets from the automated machine. It could not read my credit card. We located a ticket window and quickly obtained our tickets. We had about 30 minutes before the next train to Salisbury left so we sat on a bench and people watched. We saw more people walk in front of us in 15 minutes in that station than we come into contact with (including other drivers) in an entire day in Anchorage. What a difference! After a few more minutes we made our way to our platform and located a 2nd class car. I carried Baby on board and DD loaded the stroller onto the luggage rack at the end of the car. Baby was feeling good and was taking in everything around him. The Londoner next to us started making goo goo eyes at Baby and cooing to him. We struck up a conversation and learned all about his grown children and his nieces and nephews before he got off at his stop.

    In Salisbury, we exited the train station and turned left. I didn’t see anything, least of all a big red bus. I had prepaid the Stonehenge tour on line. The front of the station stuck out a bit so I walked over to the end and voila! There was a big red bus with “Stonehenge” emblazoned all over it at the end of the block. We walked down to the bus, but the driver wasn’t leaving for another 30 minutes and would not allow us to board yet. We walked up and down the street then went back into the station for a drink. Finally, the driver allowed boarding. We exchanged our printed internet receipt for a brochure and a receipt for two adults. We were the only passengers on board and left the stroller on the bottom level while we went to the upper deck and took the left front seat at the suggestion of the driver for the best views. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day.

    The English countryside around Salisbury resembles what I remember of East Anglia, green rolling hills. The drive was only about 15-20 minutes. We declined to visit Old Sarum and drove straight on to Stonehenge. Once the bus stopped, the driver carried the stroller off for us and then asked us to follow him. We walked right past the long line of people waiting to buy tickets, and the guide ushered us in through the group entrance. We picked up an audio guide and headed through the tunnel and up the path to the site. We could see the rain clouds moving in across the plain and it created a very atmospheric site.

    We spent about an hour circling the monument and I took about 100 photos, having brought the telephoto and wide-angle lenses with me. The rain began sprinkling just as we completed the circuit around the monument. We walked through the underpass and spent about half an hour in the gift shop. Heading out of the gift shop, I looked up and there was the big red bus! Hurrying back to the bus, we had an uneventful ride back to Salisbury, once again declining to visit Old Sarum. We hopped off at the stop on the square so we could find some dinner before heading back to London. We walked around the square and settled on a restaurant called the Market. We walked into a very warm and inviting interior with a fire going in the fire place. It was only 5:30 and they did not begin serving until 6:00pm, but invited us to come in and have a drink while we waited for dinner service to begin. This sounded like a good idea and we both ordered water and hot chocolate. Promptly at 6:00pm the server came to take our order. I had the roast chicken and DD the lamb. Baby was thankfully sleeping. Both dinners were very good and we felt good value for the price. While we were eating, the rain began in earnest. Fortunately, the train station is only a few blocks from the city square and we made it there without being totally soaked. We waited about half an hour for the next train to London.

    We were both pretty tired and made our first scary gaffe. We both fell asleep. The train pulled into the station and we both heard the tail end of the announcement “…London Waterloo.” We were pretty disoriented by sleep and did not think to look at the name of the train station emblazoned on the wall. We both hurried off the train and followed the signs to the exit. Exiting the station, we both realized we were NOT at Waterloo. I don’t remember the name of the station, but we were on the outskirts of London and completing our trip by tube was not practical. Turning around we hurried back into the station. DD’s ticket allowed her through the gate, but mine would not. We stood there trying to convince the automatic gate to allow me back in when the security attendant walked over to find out what was going on. I showed him my ticket and he politely opened the gate to allow me in. We waited only a few minutes for another train to take us the last few miles to Waterloo. Once at Waterloo, we took the tube back to the Holiday Inn and collapsed for the night.

    Thoughts for the Day: If you fall asleep on the train, look for the station name on the wall of the station before you hurry off the train!!

    Day 5 And Top Billing Goes To…

    Once again we awoke about 4:00am, watched the early morning news shows and went down to breakfast. Today we took the stroller and our day bags, intending to leave the hotel directly following breakfast. Baby following his custom, was happy to sit in his stroller for about half of breakfast. DD continued to avoid dairy products and fried foods, sticking to toast, juice, fruit, and tea this morning. Today we were going to Windsor. We took the tube to Paddington Station and looked for the next train to Slough where we had to change trains. This time I had no difficulty printing our prepaid tickets from the automatic ticket machine. We found the platform and boarded our train without any difficulty. It was a short trip to Slough, where we made our way over to platform 1 for the train to Windsor. We had to wait about 10-15 minutes. When purchasing this ticket online I had some anxiety as the time table listed a 3-minute window to change trains, however the trains to Windsor were frequent and it was a very small station. Also on the National Rail Site, seat reservations were required for one leg of this trip, I think it was the Slough to Windsor leg. However the attendant told us not to worry about it and there were plenty of seats available.

    On arrival in Windsor, we followed the signs out the station and up to the castle. The docent at the castle entrance directed us to the ramp to avoid the stairs with the stroller and then after showing him our prepaid tickets, he met us at the bottom of the ramp and escorted us around the line of tourists waiting to buy tickets. We breezed right through the ticket hall, out the door, and into the castle grounds. The line here was not nearly as long as the line at Buckingham Palace had been, but it was still nice to be able to walk past the line and right into the castle.

    We took our time enjoying the grounds, wandered past the entrance to the State Apartments to view the beautiful terraced gardens along the back of the palace and the views over Windsor and the surrounding countryside. It was a beautiful morning with blue skies, bright sunshine, and fluffy white clouds. We walked back to the entrance where the docent directed us to the coat check to check the stroller. We viewed Queen Mary’s dollhouse and the dolls and doll clothing presented to Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret by the French government. We then viewed the exhibit of 60 photographs of HM Queen Elizabeth honoring her 60 years on the throne. I enjoyed this exhibit more than I expected to. It was a combination of family photos as well as photos of HM with various world leaders, celebrities, and other dignitaries. Every photo was captioned noting the date and location of each photo. The description in the caption of *every* one began with either “Her Majesty and…” or “Queen Elizabeth and …” Except for one photo near the end of the exhibit. Fifty nine out of 60 descriptions under these photos began with the words HM or QE. The caption for one of the photos near the end of the exhibit read “Lady Gaga meets the Queen.” There was a small group of people clustered around the last group of photos. Trying to keep my voice low I leaned in towards DD and said “How did Lady Gaga get top billing for that photo?” The young man standing behind us inexplicably walked out trying to contain a severe coughing fit. Go figure.

    I was happy to see that the State Apartments did not disappoint. I had toured Windsor Castle 25 years ago, before the fire. And the restoration work is fabulous. Once we exited the State Apartments we walked down the hill and toured St. George’s Chapel. We visited very gift shop in the castle complex, as DD was still looking for a tea set for DGD. Finally I asked an attendant at one of the shops for suggestions on where to find a miniature tea set and she suggested Daniel’s department store on High Street. Out the gate and down the hill looking for Daniel’s we go.

    Before we found Daniel’s we came across Marks and Spencers. We decided to see what M&S had to offer. We found the store café and decided to have a light lunch. DD had tomato soup and I had a toastie, a great grilled ham and cheese sandwich. We also both fueled up with tea. While waiting for our order we realized that Baby was in need of a change of clothing as well as a diaper. Since DD had already changed his clothing twice since leaving London, she made a quick purchase and took Baby to the ladies room. After our lunch I purchased a few items for DGD (2), DGS (4), DH, and DS (23) before we continued our search for Daniel’s.

    We finally found Daniel’s and spent quite a bit of time there. We searched their toy department, but miniature ceramic tea sets were not to be found. DD bought a few clothing items and then we began working our way back to the station. We stopped in a few other stores where we contributed to the local economy. Eventually when the stores began closing we returned to the station where we sat in a café for a drink and a snack. While we were finishing our snack, the skies opened and rain began pouring down. Fortunately, the rain let up to just a drizzle by the time we needed to board our train as the platforms at Windsor are not covered. We changed trains uneventfully in Slough and arrived at Paddington Station without prematurely exiting the train. Once again we were not hungry and went back to our hotel. Although this night we did stay awake past 7:00pm and watched a bit of British television before calling it a night.

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    Lynda, great TR and glad that the weathr improved a bit. For future reference, there is absolutely no reason to book advance tickets (let alone seat reservations) for short train journeys such as the one to Windsor. Just turn up and buy at the station.

    As for falling asleep on the train and getting off at the wrong station - we've all done that (even us locals!), though in my case it's usually down to a bit too much alcoholic refreshment ;). It's perfectly normal to ask other train passengers which station it is, and as you point out, you can check the station name on the signs on the platform. Many trains (certainly all the Southwest Trains you'll find out of Waterloo) also have an electronic display board fixed to the ceiling of the centre of each carriage.

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    >> Trying to keep my voice low I leaned in towards DD and said “How did Lady Gaga get top billing for that photo?”<<

    I think it's a reasonable bet that there are a fair few fans of Lady Gaga working for the royal palaces in one capacity or another. Or the news agency/photographer has some sort of copyright privilege over titling.

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    Lynda, still with you. Amazing how you gals get around with babykins in tow on all that public transportation.


    Windsor is amazing. Beautifully kept. I was there with a tour group in July when several of our party saw Camilla coming out of a building near St. George’s chapel. I missed it but have their pics. You would wonder how these royals go about their daily routines with all of those visitors in their back yard, eh?

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    MIL is in a rehab facility now and healing slowly. Thanks for asking. I think you traveled the same year we did when it was pouring every day. We went June/July 2012 and the UK was experiencing record rains and flooding then too.

    Oh no about the traveler's illness! Son had food poisoning on our first trip when he ate shrimp. They covered it with mayo and either the mayo or the shrimp were not fresh. It was the only thing different that he ate that we didn't and we ended up making an emergency room visit where they ruled out the appendix and confirmed it was a case of food poisoning. He was sick in the hotel room for a few days.

    Glad your daughter recovered quickly and you were able to carry out your day. We too loved the Tower of London. On your next trip try to go to Hampton Court Palace if you didn't make it during this trip. Those were a couple of our two favorite places.

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    Gordon, I think you’re right and for short journeys I would not pre-purchase tickets again. However, when going further afield, say to Bath, Cambridge or Oxford, is it still advisable to pre-purchase tickets for better fares? And definitely learned our lesson to check signs or ask other passengers before disembarking if we’ve been sleeping.

    Patrick, that must be it. I swear out of 60 photos, QE had top billing on 59.

    Latedaytraveler, we had a blast even though Baby sometimes interrupted out plans. I warned DD that we would be going up and down stairs on this trip. Her response “But they have to have access for the disabled, so we’ll be OK.” I warned her the ADA did not apply to the UK, and the lack of disability access on the tube was one of the first things she shared with her DH when we returned. Guess Mom knows something after all. DD is not one who would think everyone does things the way she is used to, but still, this trip was definitely a growing and learning experience for her.

    Europeannovice, I was glad the medication helped. She didn’t seem nauseous, just the unfortunate side effect of coming into contact with new germs and microbes. DD stayed away from all dairy products and any questionable foods for the rest of our trip. I’m really thankful it wasn’t worse.

    Hampton Court Palace is definitely a must see on the next trip. I really wanted to get there on this trip but we just didn’t have the time.

    Dorfan2, I’m glad you’re enjoying the report. We had a great time and reliving our experiences while writing the report was almost as much fun as the trip! I’ve also, as I said in my first post, spent a few years traveling vicariously through the trip reports of others, so I hope those that read this report enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

    Now, Days 6 and 7. Enjoy!

    Day 6 Lions and Tigers and ….Mummies? Oh my!

    Today we were again awake about 4:00am and followed our usual pattern. We took the stroller with us to breakfast, then headed to Westminster Abbey by tube. In all our travels around London, this was the only station we found where one could go from street to platform entirely by elevator. We crossed the street at the light and headed toward the Abbey, pausing to admire the parliament building and Big Ben along the way. At the Abbey, there are two lines at the entrance, one for payment by cash, and another for payment by credit card. Now our cash at this time had dwindled, so we decided to pay by credit card to conserve cash. This line was longer and slower moving than the cash line, but the wait was not terribly long.

    The Abbey was very crowded. We circled through the Abbey admiring the various tombs and memorials. The stroller would not make it into any of the side chapels due to lack of space, steps and the crowds; so we took turns viewing the chapels while the other watched Baby. His internal clock was adjusting to his location and he had been in a much better mood the last few days. While DD viewed the chapels with the tombs of Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary, I sat on the bottom steps with Baby in my arms. He was being vocal, but in a happy way. An elderly priest approached and spoke a few words to Baby, then turned to me and told me how delightful it was to see a small child in the house of God, as “our Lord said to suffer the little children to come unto him.” I was pleasantly surprised, as I was expecting him to ask me to leave. I would have left immediately had Baby been unhappy, but he was just babbling and looking around with curiosity. On the way out, we stopped for a good look at the Chair.

    Exiting the Abbey, we again, visited the gift shop. Then, we walked toward Trafalgar Square. We passed the Horse Guards, and DD noted with amusement the sign warning about the horses biting or kicking. The traffic along Trafalgar Square was quite overwhelming, and we decided not to attempt crossing to the center to get close to the lions. Instead we circled around and made our way to the toilets under the sidewalk at the National Gallery. From there we walked to Covent Garden and did some shopping. DD was still looking for a miniature china tea set. Not finding anything we couldn’t live without, we pressed on to the British Museum. We ducked into a souvenir shop across from the Museum and ta da! Tea sets! However, none of these were pronounced satisfactory so we went on into the museum. Although we had passed a few restaurants only a block or so from the museum, we decided to have a late lunch at the museum café. The sandwich was OK, but the tea and cake were quite welcome.

    This museum was a highlight for me. In all the time I had lived in England previously, I had not visited the British Museum before. The Rosetta Stone was…underwhelming physically, but when one considers how pivotal it was in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics, it’s place in the museum is warranted. Knowing we couldn’t see everything the museum has to offer, we focused on the statuary and the mummies. The Egyptian statuary was impressive. I was underwhelmed and somewhat dismayed by the Elgin Marbles. I had really looked forward to finally seeing the Elgin Marbles, even knowing they were damaged. However, I was not prepared for how weathered they were. On the other hand, the Assyrian sculptures and wall engravings were absolutely wonderful. I could have spent much more time admiring these giant sculptures and walls of engravings.

    We walked back to the courtyard, took the elevator up and found our way to the Egyptian exhibits. The exhibits were very interesting, but the mummies were not what I expected. The exhibits about the results of burial in different environments were very interesting. Also, who knew the Egyptians had a thing for mummifying cats? A very interesting museum and I definitely will go back again.

    By this time we were exhausted and decided to return to the hotel. We exited the Gloucester Road tube station and headed up the street towards our hotel. We passed the homeless woman on the sidewalk that we had seen a few times before. She was middle-aged and curled up in an alcove along a wall with a dog. As I walked by, I was struck by her air of hopelessness. I quickly calculated my cash needs for the next day compared to my remaining cash on hand. I asked DD to wait for me a minute, then turned around and walked back up the block. As I approached the woman, I was happy to see a man stop and give her a few bank notes. I gave the woman £10 and returned to DD. DD said “Here, I want to give this to her.” I walked back and gave the woman another £10.
    We reached the hotel and spent the rest of the evening packing and preparing for our trip home tomorrow.

    Day 7 Homeward Bound

    We were again up early, a good thing as Express Airport Transport was set to pick us up at 7:00am. We had packed the night before, so we had breakfast at 6:00am as soon as it opened. We walked out the hotel door just before 7:00am. No car in sight. Within two minutes a car pulled into the courtyard. There’s our ride. The driver helped with the bags and again there was a car seat waiting for Baby as requested. We were delivered to Terminal One, where the driver rounded up a luggage cart and unloaded the bags. I again tipped him £5. As we walked into the terminal, an airport employee was standing just inside the door and offered assistance. Huh? United Airlines? “Just to your left Madame.” American airports could learn a few things.

    There was no line and check in was smooth and easy. We passed through security without any mishaps and hit the shops determined to spend our last few pounds. After obtaining last minute gifts for DGD and DGS as well as some juice and water, we headed towards our gate. One thing that seemed strange to us was that the gate was closed off until about 30 minutes prior to departure. We were soon joined by several other passengers waiting for the same flight. It was a little more crowded than the flight over, but we survived.

    The line through immigration at Dulles was long, but no problems and we eventually returned to Anchorage without any difficulties. On arrival in Anchorage we learned that my checked bag did not arrive. It was apparently still in Seattle, but it was delivered to my home by 10:00am the next day.

    DD and I had a great trip, and I hope we can complete another mother-daughter trip in the future. Don’t let the weather slow you down. London is a beautiful city and the people were warm, courteous, and friendly.

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    Hi Lynda,

    With you to the end. Great report. Again, you really booted it that last day going from Westminster Abbey, through Trafalgar Square, all the way to the British Museum. Good for you.

    I am sure that your dear little grandson will enjoy seeing the pics and hearing the stories of his adventures in London as he gets older. On to more travel…

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    Wow, can't believe you packed in so much with a small baby in tow! We did almost the same things last year, though unfortunately not Salisbury, except for a glimpse of the cathedral from our coach en route to Southampton. Great TR, thanks for taking the time to write, especially with so many details:)

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    WOW!! A friend and I are planning to go to London in 2014 so I too have started "lurking" the forums. You are so brave to do so much with your own planning. We are not so adventuresome as you. We are thinking of doing tours of the City and other sites with Evans and Evans since they have hotel pick up/drop off. I have mobility issues and can walk/stand for about 1 hour at a time before needing to sit for a little bit. So not having to walk too much to transportation is a plus in my book. I just assumed that the Evans & Evans tours would "jump the line" but have made a note to ask them. Does anyone know? We haven't decide exact dates to go. Would like it when everything is open and accessible but not in full tourist season as hoping to not fight the crowds and to get a break on hotel and air price. But I in looking online at the hotel recommended by my brother (Rubens at the Palace near Victoria Station & Buckingham Palace), it does not seem to have a time when rates are lower!! Any advice? Since you had the baby, did you get a junior suite? Many friends have advised us to do so as they said the extra space makes for a more pleasant stay (we want to go for 2 weeks). Trying to decide to do London for 5 days, maybe then go to Lake District for 3-4, and back to London for 5 days OR just London. We don't want to be rushed and have every minute of every day taken up with a tour. Again, you had quite an adventure! Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading about your trip. I also made a note to maybe find a thin plastic rain poncho!

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    Hi all, sorry to take so long to get back to you. We have had a lot going on here the last few weeks. You're welcome and thank you for reading my trip report.

    Franciemr,

    Sites were “open and accessible” and pretty crowded in late September, I don’t know that there’s really any non-tourist season in London. If you wait much later in the year you will have to contend with shorter days and colder, wetter weather.

    The Holiday Inn met all our needs, but I would imagine you will be paying more for a hotel very close to the Palace. Our twin room was very small, and London hotels are known for small rooms. When my husband and I travel in the US we prefer all-suite type hotels for the added space. Again, I don’t think there’s a non-tourist season for London, so I can’t offer much help on what time of year you might find lower hotel rates.

    My husband also has mobility issues. If I had made the trip with him, I would still have done all our site-seeing independently, but I would have budgeted for and used taxi cabs for transportation. We took a tour to Peru in May 2012 with Gate 1 and even though we had transportation by coach we still had quite a bit of walking from where the bus let us off to the entrance to the site. London is an old, old city, and I would guess that even a guided tour would include a lot of walking to and from the bus. A taxi will probably drop you much closer to the entrance to the site than any tour bus. Also, remember that with a tour group, you are bound to the group’s schedule, so you won’t be able to take a break, say in the café at the British Museum, or linger in the Palace Café to rest.

    There are ways to maximize your time in London and conserve your energy for walking around the sites rather than walking all over the city, and I would not recommend a group tour for that purpose. Almost everything we did in London was pre-booked and allowed us to bypass the ticket lines. The only thing we could not pre-book was Westminster Abbey and that line was not nearly as long as the line for the Palace. With a good guide book and the resources available on this forum you can plan a trip to maximize your time and minimize your non-essential walking to have a great trip.

    And definitely take a rain coat! I prefer a good rain coat and umbrella to a poncho. Land’s End usually has quite good sales on their raincoats this time of year.

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    LyndaM12, thanks for the reply!! And, since your husband has some mobility issues, you fully understand my situation. Thanks for the feedback and I understand your point and agree that a tour group will not allow for the timing of "sit down" breaks that i will need. It would probably be OK to do an open bus ride tour of the city if we arrive early--that will give us something to do to orient ourselves that first day before we crash to sleep. 12 years ago I did Rome for 10 days and Florence for 9 with a friend and we used our guide books and were fine. I know Rubens at the Palace is 1 block from Victoria station, so I assumed we could use the underground or buses, but like you pointed out, a taxi will probably get us closer so I can use my leg strength for experiencing rather than long walks to and from a dropping off point.

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