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Trip Report London Half-Term City Break

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Travelers: Myself, DH, and 13 year-old DD, who drafted much of the itinerary.

Oyster Cards, Rail Passes, Admissions Fees, Oh, My! This being our third visit to London, pretty much nothing fell into the “Free” category. And without careful planning, the pounds can fly from one’s pocketbook rather quickly, so I created a spreadsheet beforehand to maximize the 2For1 attractions for days when we had a National Rail Ticket. In the end, we saved $83 in admissions fees, which I promptly spent while shopping along Oxford Street. :)

What We Toured.

Bletchley Park. We suggested this to DD, who excitedly agreed to the tour. Female codebreakers is a hot theme for teenage girls. The half-day spent at Bletchley was a highlight of our holiday; the only damper, if one will pardon the pun, is that it rained all day (the only rainy day of our visit), so walking between the many buildings required lots of opening and closing of umbrellas. (Side note: the chicken salad sandwiches from the train station Tabac are rather tasty, should you have time to spare while waiting for the next London train.)

Churchill War Rooms. Another, “Sounds fun!” from DD, so off we went. The exhibits are well-curated and made for a worthwhile visit. Hunger was calling, however, so we skipped the Churchill Museum part of the exhibit.

A Muggles Tour of London. This extremely well-narrated walking tour of London impressed both DH and me, and we are not the biggest Harry Potter fans. DD was over the moon. Our guide was informative and funny but not cliché; the group size, small; and there was just enough non-HP London sightseeing to give added value to the ticket. Three hours well spent one afternoon.

Platform 9 ¾. Of course. The people watching while waiting for a turn to run the trolley onto the platform makes the wait while standing in line amusing. The adjacent gift shop is oppressively small, and the cheaply made, but expensively priced wands were a disappointment that was only eased with a box of Bertie Botts Beans.

London Transport Museum. It being the half-term holiday for London’s school children as well as for us, we toured the museum amidst a sea of small people. No matter, though. The museum is extremely well-done, and overall great fun.

Borough Market. With but a two-hour flight separating London and Vienna, picking up a few delicacies and foods of interest to take home can be fun!

The Victoria & Albert Museum. A favorite of ours; and during our visit there was a special exhibit on wedding dresses. DH excused himself for a coffee while DD and I swooned over the beautiful gowns.

London Eye. Sometimes it’s just fun to look at a city from above on a blue sky and sunshine-y day.

East India Company. The flagship store sits a few steps off Oxford Street, and was a highlight of our epicurean shopping itinerary. We felt a bit underdressed upon entering, wearing jeans and with a camera around my neck, but the oh-so-polite staff engaged us, offering tea tastings and explanations for any and every tea sold in the store. We are tea drinkers so the visit was delightful, but even non-tea drinkers would be impressed with the tea set displays.

What We Ate.

We live in Vienna, via Washington, DC. We love our adopted city (and country), but, well, neither will soon make a “Top 50 Foodie Destinations” list, and there are quite a few international dishes we miss. Being in London was an extra special treat for us, culinarily speaking. Our visit coincided with the Chinese New Year, so what better way to celebrate than with Peking Duck in London’s Chinatown, the largest in Europe? We chose our restaurant along the popular Gerrard Street based on the clientele we could spy dining inside, and were not disappointed. Peking Duck, Salty Chili Ribs, and Garlic Chicken made us happy.

Indian food is a necessity for us, and our choice for lunch one day met all of our criteria for Indian food happiness. Pappadums lighter than air; and masalas and a vindaloo so spicy delicious they would be banned in Vienna. ;)

Of course we ate British fare, including a surprisingly good fish and chips (with mushy peas, yum) near touristy Trafalgar Square; and several prepared meals from the Marks & Spencer Food Halls that we could heat in the West Kensington apartment we had rented.

Thanks for reading.

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