First Time in London - 5 Day Trip Report

Old Mar 4th, 2002, 05:54 AM
  #1  
Larry
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First Time in London - 5 Day Trip Report

I returned from a great 5-day trip to London (Feb. 17 - 21) and thought I'd list a few thoughts and impressions for other first time travelers to London. I found the information on this posting board to be very valuable and thank all the people that take the time to give out information.

We arrived at Heathrow at 7:00 a.m. and took the Tube into London. Taking the tube with luggage was no problem at 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday, but I wouldn't suggest it during a peak period. Found the tube to be a good experience in all cases...and found London to be a good "walking" city, with most destinations not too far away. We stayed at the Jolly St. Ermins hotel in the St. James Park area. I'd stay there again. A great central location, pleasant staff, great English breakfast. The room was small but clean and decent (a very good bathroom) - but I guess there are many room types at this hotel and you can get lucky or not.

The first day, we took the advice of Fodorites and took the Original Bus Tour - a great way to get an overview of the city (and rest after no sleep). There is no way to see all these sights in one trip without this bus tour. Walked by Buckingham Palace (didn't see the Changing of the Guard per other postings saying it wasn't worth it). Went to Covent Gardens (not very impressive), Tower of London (an excellent experience), St. Paul's Cathedral (climbed to the top and worth doing - but sore for days), Westminster Abbey (I'd suggest taking one of the tours), the Cabinet War Rooms (awesome - I'd highly recommend it), the Imperial War Museum, the British Museum (impressive), Harrods (must see the Food Halls and the interior), the London Eye (good for a first-timer but over-rated), and of course walked by Parliament and Big Ben countless number of times.

Theater included "Kiss Me Kate" (purchased tickets at the half-price booth - we rated it a "B"), "My Fair Lady" (we rated it an A-, it was very enjoyable), and "The Woman in Black" (we rated it an A-, amazing what two men and a stark stage can produce in one's mind for a fantastic evening of theater).

As for meals, we wanted to stay on the inexpensive side and chose mostly pubs (Brown's was good). Avoid La Boheme across from the "My Fair Lady" theater. But do go to Pizza Express. Don't let the name fool you, you'll have an excellent meal in a very nice setting. Sandwiches from Harrod's food hall were the best.

London was a charming city (though it could use receptacles for trash on the street corners) with beautiful architecture and rather pleasant "locals" willing to assist. Piccadily Circus was fun in the evening (and yes, very touristy). St. James Park was beautiful and worth a visit to sit and relax. So much more to see on our next trip.

Hope some of this information is useful to someone planning a trip.
 
Old Mar 4th, 2002, 06:08 AM
  #2  
Keith Legg
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Good to see you enjoyed your trip!

One point about trash recepticals (or rubbish bins as we call them.) They were removed from most public areas in the 1980s as they were seen as a potential Irish terrorist threat - it is relatively easy to drop a nail bomb in and leave the area, and this did happen on a number of occasions. You'll also have noticed that there are no bins on the underground - that's why.
 
Old Mar 4th, 2002, 06:14 AM
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Larry
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Thanks, Keith for informing me about the rubbish bins and the reason they are vacant.
 
Old Mar 4th, 2002, 06:22 AM
  #4  
c
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Hi Larry.. so glad you enjoyed your trip to my favorite city~
We love going to the theater in London, I thought the Woman In Black would be good! glad it was.
Was your weather good? Isn't it a treat just to get around? I never ride buses or trains here at home, but thought nothing of it while there
I too wondered about the trash bins, until someone mentioned the safey issues there.Fine with me! I carried my little bits of tissue etc in pockets all day!
When are you going back C
 
Old Mar 4th, 2002, 06:49 AM
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tripper
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Hey Larry: thanks for the report, I also enjoyed Woman in Black tremendously and was amazed that only 2 guys did so much.
Did you scream, I did!
 
Old Mar 4th, 2002, 07:05 AM
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Sharon
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Larry,
Did you hear anything about "Stones in My Pocket" or "The Play What I Wrote?"
Both are two actor plays (comedies). We are taking 2 16-year-old girls in early april.
 
Old Mar 4th, 2002, 07:37 AM
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Larry
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C - the weather was not bad, high 40's, just needed gloves and a scarf a few times and it only rained one evening. The one bright and sunny day had long queues at the London Eye.

Tripper - no, I didn't scream at "The Woman in Black", but my partner made my arm black and blue from his terror!! I think the fright in the audience made it such a good experience.

Sharon - I didn't see "Stones in My Pocket" or "The Play What I Wrote" so I can't tell you if the girls would enjoy them. I think they would enjoy "My Fair Lady". The new Boy George musical "Taboo" got a good write up in Entertainment Weekly magazine, but maybe you had to experience the 80's to enjoy it. Also, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", starring Michael Ball, opens in March, I believe. Enjoy your theater experience. I was amazed at how relaxed people are at the theater, eating at the seats, selling ice cream and sodas in the aisles during intermission.
 
Old Mar 4th, 2002, 08:14 AM
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Joanne
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Larry, thanks for that excellent trip report.

When I took my two teens to London last summer, we felt as if we arrived in stages -- first encountering "English accents" everywhere at the airport, then driving on the "wrong" side of the road, etc. But when we got to Euston Station the next day and asked the security guard where we could find a trash can, and he explained their absence (and told us to just pile our empty cups etc. in a corner, someone was assigned to come around and pick up stuff like that) -- THAT was when we truly felt that we were in another place.

The kids are partly of Irish descent, and we live in Boston, where there's a certain level of awareness of longstanding Irish/English issues. But as they stood there in the corridor at Euston, listening to the guard matter-of-factly explaining the situation, it suddenly wasn't just an academic discussion any more.

Strangely enough, this experience helped the kids cope with events of 9/11, as they had seen that it's possible to live with anti-terrorist precautions without getting hysterical about it.
 
Old Mar 4th, 2002, 10:13 AM
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Larry
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Joanne, you are correct in your observations. Being exposed to what other people contend with as part of their daily lives (and what I don't face in my suburban CT town) is one of the positive and educational things about travel. I think that is why I enjoyed the Cabinet War Rooms so much. I was able to experience, on a small scale, what it must have been like live during WWII and be a part of the Cabinet. I can only imagine what it was like for the British citizens during the bombings.
 
Old Mar 4th, 2002, 10:27 AM
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Joanne
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Larry, you and I are certainly on the same wave length regarding museums. We absolutely adored the Cabinet War Rooms. And put the Old operating Theatre Museum and Sir John Soane's Museum on that un-Disney list, too, though for very different reasons!
 
Old Mar 4th, 2002, 10:37 AM
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Alexis
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Hi Larry!! Your posting is great. One of my friends and I are going with our college to London in about 3 weeks. We are very excited. Any suggestions other than what you have posted? Also, the weather....will I need a heavy or light coat? Glad you had a great time. Hope we will too.
 
Old Mar 4th, 2002, 12:02 PM
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Larry
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Alexis, you will have a fantastic time in London. I just had a medium weight leather jacket and that was adequate. I'd suggest you bring a medium weight jacket and a sweater to wear underneath if the weather turns cold.

Places of interest I didn't have time to see include: Kensington Palace, National Museum, more of the British Museum, more of the beautiful parks in the city, afternoon tea, Hampton Court, and as much theater as possible. We purchased tickets at the TKTS booth in Leicester (sp?) Square and on that day, there were 12-15 productions offering discounted ticket prices (though none of the "major" musicals). And if you like shopping, there are many deparment stores (I hear Liberty should be visited) and streets of shops (fine shopping). There is so much to see and do.

Enjoy your trip.
 
Old Mar 4th, 2002, 02:07 PM
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David
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Larry

Glad you had a good trip to London. For those visitors to London that are looking for something different take a look at www.stringofpearls.org.uk. This lists a large number of great institutions that are usually closed to the public but will be opening themselves up and mounting special events and activities to celebrate the royal golden jubliee.

 
Old Mar 4th, 2002, 07:59 PM
  #14  
Pink
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Larry:
Thanks for the report -- fascinating and informative! I was a hairdresser in London for many, many years (back in the early '70s when pink hair was all the rage in Mayfair -- hence my nickname.). I did a lot of "subtle touring" back in those days, I'll say. Anyway, because of the recent drop in airfares, I'm planning to return to my old stomping grounds later in the spring. I was wondering if you knew how to get audience tickets for my favorite BBC TV program "So Graham Norton?" Also do you know if half-priced tickets are available for something called "Charlene: The Musical"? Finally, I noticed you mentioned Michael Ball in one of your messages. How is he looking these days? He truly is one of Britain's biggest -- not to mention most talented -- stars today. Anyway, many thanks for your splendid report. I'll look forward to many, many more international travel reports from you in the years to come!
 
Old Mar 5th, 2002, 06:02 AM
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Butch
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Larry, did you go to Old Crompton Street and sample the bar scene? I heard it's very bohemian(spelling)?
 
Old Mar 5th, 2002, 07:20 AM
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Larry
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Butch, no, we didn't go to Old Compton Street and sample the pubs - is this something that should be put on the agenda for the next trip?? Do you know where in London Old Compton Street is located?
 
Old Mar 5th, 2002, 07:24 AM
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MrsWilson
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Old Compton Street is in Soho.... which is a good area to check out during your next trip to London. Just walk up Charing Cross Road from Leicester Square turn in to any of the streets on your left and your're there!
 
Old Mar 5th, 2002, 07:43 AM
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Butch
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Yes, most definitely. It is less touristy than Covent Garden or Leicester Square. Be sure to eat at Balan, a good and lively restaurant and many beautiful people.

Madge a.k.a Mrs. Guy Ritchie (fast becoming a London gal) is appearing in a new play 'Up for grab' sometime in May this year so there is another good reason to visit London again.
 
Old Mar 5th, 2002, 07:44 AM
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Keith Legg
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Pink, "So Graham Norton" is shown on Channel 4 here, not the BBC (they only have the rights to show it in the USA.) You could try the Channel 4 website for more info - www.channel4.com
 
Old Mar 5th, 2002, 08:29 AM
  #20  
AnnaC
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As Keith so rightly says, So Graham Norton is a Channel 4 programme, but in case anyone does want tickets for a bbc tv or radio programme, have a look at www.bbc.co.uk/whatson/tickets

You will need a UK address (I'm guessing, although it doesn't say that, so you could always give it a go with a US address) - so a friend over here will be useful. You can apply for free tickets for a variety of programmes. There isn't actually a lot on there at the moment, but the Radio 4 comedy shows are usually good when they come up.

You are not guaranteed to get tickets, but I reckon to get what I ask for about 90% of the time or more. The other important thing to note is that a ticket does not guarantee entry - as tickets are free people often don't turn up, so they issue more than they have space for. As long as you turn up an hour or so before the recording time, though, you should be fine.

It's also worth having a look at www.hattrick.co.uk - they do the incredibly popular Have I Got News for You among other things, but it's difficult to get tickets for this - look out for the original radio version - The News Quiz on the bbc website instead.
 

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