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10 days in London - Staying outside city - Running Trip Report

10 days in London - Staying outside city - Running Trip Report

Jul 5th, 2012, 01:08 AM
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10 days in London - Staying outside city - Running Trip Report

I'm going to try to post a daily report from my iPhone while we are in the UK and then a separate report while we are in Rome. I apologize if there are spelling, grammatical, or formatting issues. I'm typing this on an iPhone.

Day 1:
We landed in Heathrow on July 4th at around 10am. By the time we navigated the tram and customs, we were outside security around 11:30.

We used the ticket desk (Heathrow Express and Underground Tickets) to buy two Oyster Cards with £25 each. I also used an ATM to take out cash. I declined the lock in exchange rate as suggested by Fodorites. We then headed down the elevators to the Piccadilly Line towards London.

We are staying out in the Beckenham/Kent/Penge area and needed to get to Victoria Station. This was good, because I wanted to buy Travelcards there with the National Rail logo (for 2 for 1 tickets). We transferred to the district line at Barons Court and took that into Victoria Station. We were traveling with a large roller and two carry-on rollers. (Delsey Helium Fusion 2.0 for those of you who care).

Once in the Victoria Rail Station, we found the ticket desk and waited in the queue. For those of you using the 2 for 1, it was easy enough to have the new photocards made using passport sized photos (I used epassport photos). We bought two 7 day Travelcards starting travel on July 5.

We then navigated the departure boards and hopped a train to our flat. Very easy. After settling in, we came back into the city (a simple 17 minute train ride into Victoria Station), and headed to Kings Cross for platform 9 3/4 for the wife.

We then rode toward the West End area and walked through Leicester Square, Traffalgar Square, SOHO, Chinatown, and then ended up towards Downing Street, Westminster, and the London Eye area.

Being tired after a long day, we stopped at a pizza place for a quick dinner and then rode the tube to the train and rode home around 9. Was amazed at how busy the train and tube were at this hour.

More to come... National Gallery, Portrait Gallery, and maybe Churchill's War Rooms today.
JerLon is offline  
Jul 5th, 2012, 01:37 AM
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Did forget to say, we grabbed lunch at a local pub here. Beef Burger for me, Veggie Burger for the wife. She loved the Veggie Burger.
JerLon is offline  
Jul 5th, 2012, 03:15 AM
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Jer, what does "headed to Kings Cross for platform 9 3/4 for the wife" mean?
Paul_Schultz is offline  
Jul 5th, 2012, 03:38 AM
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I think he is referring to Harry potter!

Looking forward to more!
jamikins is offline  
Jul 5th, 2012, 05:02 AM
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I am truly impressed with anyone with enough patience to type a trip report on a phone!
Judy is offline  
Jul 5th, 2012, 05:35 AM
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Sounds like a full fun day. Paul, check his wall for a picture of 9 3/4.
Kayren_Lonneville is offline  
Jul 5th, 2012, 05:49 AM
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The rather dull part of the West End dominated by bars and restaurants is called (and spelled) Soho - and was for around 300 years before New York manufactured a similar name for a fashionableish area.
flanneruk is offline  
Jul 5th, 2012, 08:38 AM
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Keep em coming
Jeffery_Stewart is offline  
Jul 5th, 2012, 11:21 PM
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Day 2:
We slept in a bit today after the long travel day and got going and into the city around 11. We headed right to Leicester Square and purchased two tickets to see Stomp on Saturday night.

We then headed to the National Gallery and spent a couple hours roaming around. We had the national portrait gallery on the list but decided to leave that for another day. I had seen enough art for a few hours.

We decided to go down to South Kensington and go to the Victoria and Albert and Natural History museums. We stopped for a quick lunch in that neighborhood between the two museums not spending too long in either. If you're particularly interested in design or natural history, you could spend a full day in each.

The next stop was a highlight as we went to the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. This was great. The museum is inside the tour of the war rooms which are the bunkers where the cabinet ran London from for much of the war. Everything was extremely well done and interactive. We spent about two hours here leaving a few minutes before closing. In this area is access to the parade ground and St James Park. However, this is all fenced off as they are constructing the grounds for Beach Volleyball venues for the Olympics.

We ate a quick stack from a Tesco and then went on our first London Walk. We went on one of the Harry Potter walks they offer starting at the Westminster station and ending up at Charing Cross. Both the Potter fan (wife) and I enjoyed the walk. By the time that ended we were ready for a quick dinner at Bella Italia near Leicester Square and then we called it a day.

We're debating how to play the schedule for the next few days as the forecast is predicting pretty heavy rain for at least a few of the days.
JerLon is offline  
Jul 6th, 2012, 12:17 AM
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Enjoying your report so far!

Yes, weather doesnt seem great this weekend. St Pauls paired with the Museum of London is a good day. It explains the history of London and how it has developed and even non-museum people I have sent there have loved it. You can also see the old Roman wall around the area.

Have fun!
jamikins is offline  
Jul 6th, 2012, 07:08 AM
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Kind of hard to imagine beach volleyball there! Have you had any fish and chips yet?
Kayren_Lonneville is offline  
Jul 6th, 2012, 01:23 PM
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hi jerLon,

thanks for your dedication to fodorland - all this and on an iPhone!

I love these sorts of TRs because I like to see us through others' eyes, so please keep it coming.
annhig is offline  
Jul 6th, 2012, 02:19 PM
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More things to do inside:
I'm betting if your wife likes Harry Potter, she (and you) will like Dennis Severs House
This quirky museum is set up on different levels with "just like it was" rooms, designed as if the inhabitants of long ago had just stepped out of the room. The designer has even set up subtle sounds to evoke the mood. One goes through it with one's ears cocked and eyes feasting on the exquisite detail of the rooms. There is nothing quite like it.
NoCaliGal is offline  
Jul 6th, 2012, 11:41 PM
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Day 3 - Friday, July 6:

We got up and ate a quick breakfast in our flat (we had stopped at the local Sainsburys the first day we were here and grabbed some food) and headed toward Victoria Station from our local train station.

Once at Vicoria Station it was clear that the stations were far busier around that hour (9:45 or so) and that weekends are much busier. I'm curious to see how things go starting next week when they are testing their queuing systems for the Olympics. I believe you have to exit the rail station and walk somewhere along the exterior of the station before entering the underground station. Hopefully it won't be too much of a hassle.

We headed to the Green Park tube station to join the Royal London and Westminster London Walk. This walk took us through Green Park looking at some of the Royal Houses that border the park and arrived at Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guards. However, with the rain in London, there was not a full changing of the guards. We did get to see a few regiments come out and head to their guard duty though. Fortunately, the light rain kept the crowds away. There couldn't have been more than ten thousand people in the entire area.

The set up for the Olympics in this area is just amazing. I've never realized how much goes into transforming a city for the Olympics. Impressive.

The walk then headed toward Westminster Abbey. We toured the abbey for about 1.5 hours with the tour guide. For those of you considering this tour, a few thoughts. First, it was closer to three hours than the advertised two. Second, of you have kids, it may be a bit much. A few of the families in our group with children struggled for the latter bit. The wife and I were struggling by the end. We can walk forever but this walk has a lot of time spent standing still inside Westminster and can be a bit, umm, dull? I enjoyed it and it was definitely worth it for the guided tour, reduced price entry to Westminster, and skipping the line using the back side group entrance. I believe normal entry to Westminster is £16 and we paid £20 for the walk as we purchased the £2 discount card which pays for itself as long as you take a total of 2 walks with London Walks.

Once this was done, we hopped on the underground and headed to Notting Hill to see Portobello Market. From the underground it was around a 30 minute walk to the market. We strolled the market and found a few stands at which we could grab a quick lunch. It was a nice market but we weren't planning on doing a ton of shopping so we didn't stay too long and we headed back toward the underground. As an FYI, the walk to the market and through it is downhill. The walk back? Well, clearly it is uphill.

We caught the underground and decided to go see Harrods. You have to, right? And, it is one impressive department store. So, of you like department stores or if you enjoy parting with your income, you'll enjoy Harrids. The wife got some Turkish delight and really enjoyed it. She wanted one piece but the sell a minimum of 4 pieces which cost £1.17. We roamed through a bit more of the store, rode on the Egyptian Escelator and then headed out.

We went back into Leicester Square to get some coffee and people watch while folks were heading to their pre-theater dinners. We decided to head back to our flat and eat dinner, watch the Queen (the film), and crashed around 11:30.

While it was raining throughout the day it really didn't hamper any of our plans. We bought some cheap umbrellas at a newspaper stand and used them a few times during the day but never in a downpour. Only what we Western New Yorkers would call a drizzle or sprinkle. Clearly, based on the news, the rain is worse North and West of London.

Today, we head to Greenwich (market and Maritime Museums...), ride the Thames Clipper back to London Bridge, Borough Market, maybe out to see the Olympic park, and then to see Stomp. We will see how the weather is in the afternoon and maybe ride the Eye. We're waiting on a clear day for that.
JerLon is offline  
Jul 7th, 2012, 12:06 AM
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Glad you didn't get the deluge that we got in the East Midlands -- supposedly a month's worth of rain in 24 hrs. On top of the wettest Mar-Jun on record and already saturated fields has made for some flooding too.

Your stamina is commendable; some full days for sure.

We enjoyed the same walk but agree that the standing is the hardest. The kids put up with it.
indy_dad is offline  
Jul 7th, 2012, 12:15 AM
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A few other thoughts for those of you planning trips:

1. The 2 for 1 scheme is a great day. Do your research, bring passport sized photos, and make sure to buy them at a rail ticket station and you'll save tons. When we used it at Churchill's War Rooms, the face on the woman behind us in line said it all. It saved us around $25 at that one stop and will have saved around $150 by the end of the trip. Well worth the slight hassle.

2. Renting a flat (cheaper than a hotel by a long shot) while a bit of a hassle because we are staying a bit further out has saved us a ton as we have a kitchen and washer/dryer so we eat breakfast in each day. Also, staying in a suburb has a very different feel than downtown London. We have enjoyed it.

3. The rail and tube system is significantly easier to navigate than NYC or DC in the USA.

4. When I was here in 2005, I felt forced to donate at all of the free museums (or, maybe they weren't free at that time???). There is no pressure now. Just walk right in and donate in the glass bin if you want. You could easily spend a week or two visiting free museums. All the national museums and galleries are free.

A few other highlights:

1. Reading the Evening Standard on the train ride home each day. Free newspaper, can't beat it. It is no New York Times but it's free and I feel like I fit in.

2. On the train ride home yesterday, a gentleman on the train had the Murray match (Brit trying for the Wimbledon finals in Tennis) on his phone and the entire car was huddled around his phone for the end of the match. It was a fun thing to observe.
JerLon is offline  
Jul 7th, 2012, 12:17 AM
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Finally, for the Londoners who are following. Any suggestions on where to watch the Murray match tomorrow? We will be doing London Tower in the morning and would like to catch at least a bit of it somewhere.
JerLon is offline  
Jul 7th, 2012, 01:22 AM
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The hung drawn and quartered pub is right there and will be playing it. Across the road is Bodeans, our favourite rib place in London...you can get a huge plate of the best ribs for £10-15 each.

Have fun!
jamikins is offline  
Jul 7th, 2012, 04:00 AM
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"I've never realized how much goes into transforming a city for the Olympics"

- Part of the London pitch was the range of settings. Obviously Lord's, Wembley and Wimbledon, but Horseguards and the Mall, all meant changing bits of London, far far away from the Olympic Park and Greenwich, in a way that's not really been tried anywhere else. Worse: by definition, no city the games have ever been held in before (except possibly Mexico City 68) has been as busy under normal circs anyway (Beijing and Moscow might have been, but the authorities saw no need to allow business to go as usual). The experiment of putting events slap bang in the middle of a hyper-busy place isn't one most Londoners would recommend to others.

- The whole thing's made tougher by the security crisis that - literally - blew up the day after London got the games.

- Then there's the fact that cars are virtually banned from the Olympic Park and surroundings area - partly for security and sustainability, but partly because there was never any question of adding new roads. And since London's long been discovered by the world travel industry (not even the looniest booster pretends this'll create a boom in visitors), there's no sense in building new hotels for a two week beano. So almost every single visiting spectator is staying in the centre - and all of them, together with all of us, have to be trucked out by a public transport system that's already strained beyond its users' tolerance (all that "huddled mass" heritage must just make New Yorkers put up with discomfort more)

- Worst of all there's the Soviet-style Zil lanes to make sure the taxpayers finding this lunacy are provoked into fury, both by being banned from their own roads and inconvenienced for weeks beforehand by the construction of these concessions to sponging foreign officials too up themselves to get on the tube like everyone else

Net: I'm not sure London's plans are much like the more usual arrangement where the games are almost entirely held in a purpose-built centre, away from the main city, with a ton of new transport infrastructure to support it and just a few banners in the city centre. But they're a pretty good incentive to New York, Paris, Amsterdam and similar cities to steer clear of this insanity for the rest of the century.
flanneruk is offline  
Jul 7th, 2012, 04:45 AM
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You don't really think Soho is dull,do you, flanner? To my mind, it's one of the few areas of character left in London - good book and food shops, fabric shops and even a record shop, also lots of good non-chain places to eat and drink.
tarquin is offline  

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