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London Wrap-up

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Back from a perfect week in London. Thanks for all the advice!

Hotel: Strand Palace, location, location, location! Great for female solo traveler as it was busy and fully staffed, even a doorman. Buses galore outside the door. Spotless room, new
bathroom, very spacious. I booked at a deep discount because the windows were to be covered with scaffolding. But...on day 2 it was removed and I looked out onto Strand!

Buses: Had the routes figured out quickly and mostly rode buses instead of the tube. What a joyride it is to sit upstairs in the front and watch London pass by! Several routes were especially scenic ( 6, 9, 15.)

Weather: So happy I packed a full length down parka at the last minute! . It was in the 30's and 40's with one snowy day. Rain only on the morning I sadly walked to the underground to get to LHR.

Shows: A Chorus Line at the Palladium and Top Hat at the Allwych. Got both tix on same trip to TKTS for about $60 each. Fantastic seats for both fantastic shows. Two thumbs up.

Eating: Mostly ate at Pret, EAT, or grab n go from M&S. Did go to Ottolenghi for lunch ( he wrote my fave cookbook ever) and to the Crypt at St Martins in the Field.

Churches:
Evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral with organ and choir- unforgettable. Was able to walk around a bit before and after. Free.
Organ recital at Westminster Abbey- heavenly but absolutely no rubbernecking allowed before and after, LOL. Free.
St. Brides- lovely, organist was rehearsing so that was a treat. The crypt is amazing.
Westminster Cathedral-I love this Catholic Church, very grand and ornate
St. Mary's - lovely
Southwark Cathedral- I was all alone in this magnificent church, surreal!
St. Paul's Chuch at Covent Garden- I slipped in here amid the Sunday madness of CG only to stumble upon some kind of rehearsal with opera and R&B singers with musicians. This may have been the highlight of the whole trip. So serendipitous.

Museums:
National Gallery-a mob scene, but managed to see a few faves.
Portrait Gallery- enjoyed the modern portraits
Tate Modern - holy cow, had never been in such a cavernous building, it was overwhelming!

Misc stuff:
Portobello Road on Saturday - a real circus!
Pilgrimage to Abbey Road crosswalk via bus
Harrods, Liberty
The sights and sounds of Leister Square, Covent Garden, Piccadilly, Oxford Circus at night
Chinatown and Carnaby Street
Little Venice
Kensington Palace- thought it were boring, alas! But love the newish Diana wallpaper
At some point I think I was in every grand train station.
Tons of walking, wherever i wanted on a whim.
Everything so clean...streets, bathrooms. So many helpful people ( bus drivers, people on street, the tube workers), very little panhandling, seemed to be a gypsy-free zone.
Big Ben/Westminter in twilight- so golden and dreamy

Margaret Thatcher:
Did not hear a peep about her death till around 6PM, and that was via text from a friend in CA! Later that evening I was at Parliament Square and the bells of Westminster were pealing for about 30 minutes. But nobody seemed to be talking about it.

Day trips:
I made three because I need downtime sitting on a train; i just cannot sightsee nonstop for 12-15 hours a day. I always enjoy the ride and the scenery.
Windsor--saw the guard parade and band march to and fro the castle. Did not tour Windsor as I had been there before.
Canterbury on the high speed train. Got to the Cathedral during Sunday services, a church lady said we were very lucky to see the nave clear of all the chairs. . Listening to the organ and choir in the quire was glorious and when the service was over the whole cathedral was open.
Brighton-- Toured the Royal Pavilion. The downstairs was jaw-dropping, I loved this place. Walked out on Brighton Pier and then along the promenade. Can imagine a total beachy honky tonk vibe in the summer!
Scratched any Costwolds sightseeing because it was so cold. Also no real signs of spring, it still looked like winter!

Flights: Nonstop LAX-LHR-LAX. Very convenient times, LOADS of room due to light passenger loads. Very easy, dare I say almost enjoyable. Saw a ton of movies!

I have been to the UK the last four spring beaks (Edinburgh, Dublin, London, London) and I am sold on the ease of traveling there. Will probably return to London in 2014.

Cheerio!

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