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Trip Report Trip Report - A visit to London in November

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Thanks to all of you for the recommendations - we did have a nice trip a few weeks back despite the frigid temperatures, wow! Our travels included our 5-year old son, who also had a great time.

Hotels:
Park Plaza County Hall. Wonderful! I've been in a lot of hotels throughout Europe and this one rates as one of the top few. The room was actually spacious (we had a studio room because of our son) and included a nice kitchenette, separate bed, etc. Staff was sooo friendly, breakfast was great and the location was superb, with it being a quick 5-minute walk to Waterloo station and the Big Ben area. The only downside, and a significant one, was that peak shower times meant lack of hot water when bathing.

St. George Hotel (the one at 49 Gloucester Place):
We stayed here the last night of our trip so I barely had time there, but it was fair. The place itself is lovely and clean, and located in a beautiful residential area so that was a plus. However, it advertises wireless but we could not get it to work. This was extremely frustrating since a) I couldn’t upload any movies for the flight home with my young son and b) this was during Hurricane Sandy in the US and I really needed access to view flight issues, etc. because of the hurricane possibly affecting our travel plans. So, needless to say it was especially annoying, though I will say there is a computer (very slow connection) upstairs available to the public and the front desk employee did do his best to help us, but without success. Our room was located right by the front desk and was a little noisy as well, but all in all it's a nice place, just not great circumstances for us.

Highlights of our trip:
For me, I did the Hidden Britain Jane Austen tour for an entire day and this was definitely dreamy for a Jane Austen enthusiast like myself. It's an easy train ride from Waterloo to Basingstoke for a day trip, whereupon the guide, Phil, picks you up and basically drives you around Hampshire the entire day showing & explaining all of Jane Austen's life. Heavenly for someone like myself! I can cross it off the Bucket List as a happy camper :-) Be sure to read Claire Tomalin's biography if you do this tour, which I had read so it was much more informative for me going through the tour.

Shrek, the Musical - I'm not typically a fan of animated shows, but this production was the best I'd seen in my entire life. Not to mention my son loved it! We did this at the end of our trip, and had I known how amazing the shows were, I would have booked others too! Fantastic, and also a great way to escape the cold.

Churchhill War Rooms - really enjoyed this, so interesting and very well done. Thames River cruises - we took this to the London Tower (your children can do a "Knight" tour) and Greenwich. Greenwich was a great day trip and I found the visitor's center very nice, and the town charming. I would have loved to walk around more but it was absolutely frigid outside so we cut the trip a little short there. HMS Belfast - a great tour of a WWII ship for both adults and children alike. My son could have stayed there all day, so that was really fun. Tea at the Orangery - very nice and even my son enjoyed the kids' version. Temple Bar - this is a charming, wonderful section of town to walk around and we stumbled upon the church from Da Vinci code. I could spend a long time walking around this area, so stunning. As for food, our hotel was near an area called "The Cut" and this was a great place with shops/restaurants. Very hip atmosphere.

Things I Could Have Done Without:
We did the Medieval Banquet at St. Katherine's docks since we thought it would be fun for our son. I knew it would be really cheesy and touristy going into it, but the food was so absolutely atrocious that I can't recommend it whatsoever. Other than the food, the atmosphere really was fun though. Westminster Abbey - I think I've seen one too many cathedrals. Changing of the Guards - cold and just boring to me. Although a highlight was when my son accidentally dropped his telescope toy through the gate, and after the ceremonies were over, a guard kindly retrieved it for him. Much drama on that one!

I'm not sure why, but I felt indifferent towards the city of London. It's a lovely, beautiful clean city that had every amenity you could ask for, but I wasn't enamored. I did find the architecture to be absolutely amazing. However, compared to the rest of my world travels it just didn't do much for me and while I'm glad I've now visited there, I've no desire to go back. All in all though, an enjoyable and interesting trip for us. Thanks again for your recommendations in helping us have a worthwhile experience.

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