First time to London - lots of questions

Jul 16th, 2009, 05:50 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2008
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First time to London - lots of questions

Background: I am a 40 year woman traveling across the pond for the first time from Nashville, TN. I had booked a three week tour (traveling solo) last year seeing various countries and my DH lost his job (I was a stay at home mom). The trip got cancelled.

I am now going to try my trip again - this time destination London only. I will still be solo, limited by a tighter budget but I had a free airline ticket and have since discovered we can use our Marriott points abroad. I also decided to do the trip on my own (no tours) after reading all the advice given on this board. I still have many questions and am a bit nervous (traveling alone) but incredibly excited.

Trip Details: I have booked my trip for Wed. Sep 2 - Sat. Sep 12 (2 travel days, 9 days in London (albeit one of them jet-lagged). I fly into LHR. I am staying at the London Hilton Euston (5 days) and then Passfield Hall (5 days). I don't mind much about the lodging, just want it to be clean and have a decently comfortable bed. I am bringing one 22" carry on and an over the shoulder bag (not too big).

About me: I will be doing all the first timer stuff but I really love museums so I booked my hotel in what seems to be fairly close to the British Museum which I would love to go to several times while I'm in London. I also really like Shakespeare so I am seeing As You Like It at the Globe. I am also a bit crafty and like flea markets where I can find ephemera and unusual, authentic items. Otherwise I'm not much of a shopper. I am also a Harry Potter fan (a bit embarrassing to admit but I have three boys and Harry has been a part of life for awhile). I'm an even bigger C.S. Lewis fan.

From all of the advice I have seen I should be getting an Oyster card with a 7 day travelcard for Zones 1-2 loaded and the other days should be a PAYG Travelcard. If I'm wrong please correct me.

Sorry to be lengthy but I've seen many a poster come on and not give enough detail to get good answers. So on to my questions:

1) What is the best way from Heathrow to Upper Woburn Street ? On the Heathrow Express - how easy is it to get from Paddington Station to Euston Square being alone, jet-lagged and in a foreign country for the first time? Or should I just take the tube to Piccadilly Circus and get off at which tube station? It is hard for me on that little tube map to figure out which color lines stop at which station. And is it fairly easy at the interchanges to switch lines? Thanks to PatrickLondon I have now memorized all the stations in Zone 1 and all the Lines and their colors. I sure hope it helps.

2) I would like to take at least one to two day trips just to see a little bit more of England or Paris. I am contemplating a London Walks Explorer day to Oxford, or going to Oxford on my own and trying to find the Kilns (clueless about how to find it), a trip to Bath (not sure how to go about getting there on my own), or possibly taking the Chunnel to Paris for a day . I really would love to do this but am a bit underconfident about trekking over there. I am open to suggestions here though. Best day trip advice appreciated.

3) I would love to know any gems that the guide books don't mention or any of your personal favorites, good picture spots, any good markets or flea market spots (I will at least go to the Borough food market).

London is such an amazing city. I can hardly contain myself for the next 48 days. I will probably have more questions but this is a start. Thank you all so much in advance. janisj, robespierre, PatrickLondon, xyz123, CholmondeyW, BigRuss, jent103, suze and others have already been so helpful on this board. And please be patient with me even if I've spelled something wrong or been completely ignorant about something. I'm an American after all
mogsanova is offline  
Jul 16th, 2009, 06:10 PM
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Here are a few suggestionsbr />
Don't bother with the HEX it will only go to Paddington. From there you'll need to change to the tube or take a taxi. I'd suggest taking the Picadilly Line to Kings Cross, the station has escalators and lift, not all do. I'm not sure how many escalators/lifts you'll need to take to get to street level. There is a taxi stand at the station and Euston is a short distance from Kings Cross.

I wouldn't recommend a Eurostar day trip to Paris, it will be very costly, and you'll only have a few hours there. You really can't see much of Paris in a few hours.

As for day trip, I can't comment on Oxford, I've been there but it was a long time ago. Bath is a great city to explore and easy to get to train. Also, consider Windsor and York. If I had to choose between one of these places, I'd pick Bath.

Good markets....well, it depends what you are looking for, there Burrough Market, Camden Markets, Portobello Road, Spitalfields Market to name a few. What do you want to buy? Borough Market has a good variety of food stalls. Stalls at the other markets I've mention sell a wide variety of goods, but it's usually quanity and not quality items.

Good pictures spots....take a stroll accross Waterloo brige, at sunset, on one side you'll see Big Ben and the houses of Parliament and on the other the skyline (of the city).

You're right London is an amazing city.
retiredinflorida is offline  
Jul 16th, 2009, 06:58 PM
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You don't get separate day load funds on the PAYG portion of the oyster card you get....if you should be taking the tube in from Heathrow and following the advice above, you load (the clerk actually does) a 7 day zone 1 & 2 travelcard onto the oyster will also need either £1.10 or £2 on the card for the extension from Heathrow (zone 6) to the edge of zone 3 where the zone 2 & a card takes over...for the additional 2 days, you will just load about £12 or so onto the card as your fares will cap for the day at a level 50p below the corresponding day might also need either £2.20 or £3.80 on this if you're tubing back to Heathrow on your last day. A 1 day trip to Paris via Eurostar is, as noted feasible but costly...perhaps you might wish to spend a weekend in Paris to break up the trip...Eurostar return fares are cheapest if you stay over a Saturday night much like the airlines.

You might consider getting a cell phone with a British sim card to be reachable and be able to be reached from home (wherever home is)......British sim cards are basically free and international rates on many of the telcoms are dirt cheap, as cheap as the old fashioned calling cards are. Is your current carrier gsm and perhaps you have an old gsm phone or upon arrival in London, pop into a Carphone Warehouse or Phones 4 U store and the clerk will work with you to provide a cheap gsm phone and a PAYG sim card with cheap international rates and good domestic rates within the UK.
xyz123 is offline  
Jul 16th, 2009, 07:00 PM
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odd thoughts and answers:

1) Assuming you mean Upper Woburn Place (not "street") It is not far from both King's Cross/St Pancras and Russell Square stations which are on the Piccadilly Line from LHR w/o any changes. Since you are doing carry-on sized luggage you could easily walk either distance. So I'd take the tube. If it happens to be pouring down rain - then I'd take the tube but get off at Holborn and then catch a cab from street level.

The Heathrow Express is expensive and Paddington Station is a long cab ride from your hotel. But you could take the HEX and then the tube to either Euston Square or King's Cross/St Pancras and walk from there.

If you want to spend a bit more (like approx £30-£35) you can book a car service like for door to door service airport to hotel

2) A day trip would be great -- and either Oxford oR Bath would be great and very easy to do on your own. Train from Paddington for both. I wouldn't recommend a day trip to Paris if you are on a Budget. The EuroStar is expensive and you'd be frustrated w/ so little time in Paris. Both Bath and Oxford Tourist Information offices offer several walking tours every day.

3) Good picture spots are absolutely EVERYWHERE - around every corner. I'd recommend the Michelin Green guide to London or the DK Eyewitness Guide for good qualily general interest London guidebooks.
janisj is online now  
Jul 16th, 2009, 07:15 PM
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Just to clarify the travelcard, you would buy an Oyster Card loaded with a 7 day travelcard and loaded with some cash for getting to and from the airport and for the extra days and for any travel outside the zones you are buying.

I would take the Underground from the airport to Russell Square and walk to your hotel from there. With the small amount of luggage you have, it will be easy. I have stayed at that hotel in a previous incarnation before it became a Hilton. Depending where I was travelling to, catching a tube train at Euston Station or Russell Square were equally easy.

You make a point about memorizing the colours of the tube lines. I've been to London about 20 times in the past 15 years and I never realized that the colours on the standard tube map bore any relationship to any colours that appear on the trains or in the stations. I must try to remember to look next time.

I have no comment on your day trips -- if you want to do them, then do so, including Paris if you want.

In London, I'd recommend the British Library (near your hotel) and the Museum of London, which is not far from St Paul's cathedral, if you are going there.
ron is offline  
Jul 16th, 2009, 07:32 PM
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You said you really like museums- you might want to think about getting the Blue Guide to Museums & Galleries of London. I think you can buy it on amazon.
Apres_Londee is offline  
Jul 16th, 2009, 07:34 PM
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Hi mogsanova! You've gotten some good advice already so I won't repeat what others have said. It sounds like you've done your research and have a great trip planned. I'm not sure if you saw my recent trip report, but my brother and I did the London Walks Explorer Day to Oxford and the Cotswolds. I really enjoyed it, but if one of your goals for an Oxford trip is to visit some CS Lewis sites, I'd recommend doing a trip there on your own. The only Lewis-related bit of our trip was "hey, there's the Eagle & Child" on our way to Minster Lovell! Bath would also be an easy day trip.

Some of my favorite things that aren't the top five: the British Library, as ron mentioned, is great. The Victoria & Albert is my favorite museum in the city, and the National Portrait Gallery is my second. Regent's Park is beautiful, especially the rose gardens, but I'd recommend spending time in any of the parks. I really enjoyed all the tours we did with London Walks, so I'd recommend taking a look at their brochure ( and seeing if there are any that interest you.

Lastly - I'm in Nashville too! Let me know if you need a cup of tea and a pep talk.
jent103 is offline  
Jul 16th, 2009, 07:37 PM
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District Line - Green
Circle Line - Yellow
Northern Line - Black
Central Line - Red
Metropolitan Line - Sort of a purple
Picadilly line - dark navy blue
Bakerloo line - Brown
Jubilee Line - greyish or silver
Victoria Line - Royal Blue

I think I'm missing the Hammersmith line...haven't ridden it for years.

I do think it might make things a little bit easier if tfl, I now this is sacreligeous to many who have lived there all their lives, began playing up the colors a bit more. Some of the rolling stock do seem to have some connection to these colors...I notice cars used on the Bakerloo line, for example, have brown poles on them I think......
xyz123 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2009, 04:25 AM
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A day trip to Winchester, Bath or York would be good to experience a 'provincial' English city/town.
You can book ahead for all destinations. Go to for York tickets. You might treat yourself to First Class if the price is right.
For the other destinations, is good. Don't bother with the insurance they offer you - it is a gimmick designed to get you to part with your money!

As for the Oyster card after the 7 day card has run out - using top up is fine unless you want to use overland trains. It is unlikely that you will - overland trains are used mainly on commuter lines but it is just worth knowing that Oyster is not yet universally accepted on these trains.

Somewhere that might appeal is Borough Market, right near to London Bridge Station, vaguely near to Tate Modern. It's a foodie market, full of organic/local/foreign artisan foods. Get there from 1030 or so on Th or Fr and spend a good hour or so browsing and sampling. From there you can walk along the river to Tower Bridge and take in Tate Modern too.
Nigello is offline  
Jul 17th, 2009, 05:01 AM
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I probaby would do Paris - a day trip is £59, and if you catch one of the early trains you will have a fair amount of time there.

You might not want to spend hours in a museum or gallery on a one day visit, but you could easily take a river trip, see the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Ceour, and wander round Ile de Cite or Ile St Louis. I like the plant market that is held on one of the Iles (can't remember which). Paris is architecturally distinct from London and I think will make a nice contrast on a 10 day trip.
RM67 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2009, 05:01 AM
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PS Hammersmith and City = pink
DLR - can't remember (blue, hollow?)
RM67 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2009, 05:03 AM
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Sacre Coeur even!
RM67 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2009, 05:05 AM
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Sounds like you have a great plan.

We use London Walks quite a bit for our guests and our own Explorer Days. Their website is and we really enjoyed their Oxford explorer day and the Bath one. Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral is also a favorite one of our guests. You pay £14 for 2 walking tours, one in the morning, one in the afternoon with an hour or so for lunch + the group discount price for your train ticket and any entrance fees. The website shows the fees for the train/entrance fees so just add £14 to get the total price.

We have also used London Walks for tours of St Pauls and Westminster Abbey...both were excellent and affordable. £7 each plus discounted rates for entrance fees.

As for places in London:

Borough market is food heaven for foodies - open Thur : Just across the street from London Bridge station on the Jubilee line (grey)
PS: Hammersmith and City is pink

I also highly recommend the Tower of London. It is I think the best tourist site in London. Allocate 1/2 day - arrive first thing in the morning and head straight for the crown jewels to avoid crowds. Then backtrack back to the entrance and pick up a free beefeater tour (think its about 1.5 hours and is excellent) then you can wander and see anything else you didnt cover on the tour.

For some interesting markets try Spitalfields by Liverpool Street station:

and also Camden market:

This tube map expands to the size of your monitor for easier viewing:

Hope this helps!
jamikins is offline  
Jul 17th, 2009, 05:06 AM
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dlr is green open line
jamikins is offline  
Jul 17th, 2009, 05:31 AM
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If you're still, after all the Bath propaganda, interested in The Kilns, the second best guide to how to get to it is at

What you actually do, though, is get any bus from London to Oxford (every 5-10 mins: about 90 min journey) and get off at the Park & Ride just before Oxford. Walk towards Oxford, turning left at Collinwood Rd (shown of the map at the Zacharias Trust site). You must make arrangements for seeing the house beforehand

Afterwards, follow the directions on the Trust site in reverse to get a bus into town, do what you want to do and get a bus back to London

If you google The Kilns, or CS Lewis, and Oxford, you'll find there's a formidable industry in Lewsiana around the area (helped by some confusion at Google between the religious academic and Morse's sidekick). It's quite possible to spend a day in Oxford and cover nothing but the Irish Lewis
flanneruk is online now  
Jul 17th, 2009, 06:21 AM
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There are cheap flights all day long from London to Dublin via Ryanair. May be fun to do a day trip to Dublin and see the Book of Kells at Trinity College or just walk around Dublin.

There is a bus from the airport in Dublin that stops directly in front of the airport and goes down O'Connell Street.
bratsandbeer is offline  
Jul 17th, 2009, 06:53 AM
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Another Nashvillian here (well, the suburbs)! I don't have much to offer as I have only been to London twice and I am by no means an expert as many posters are. I don't know if you have Hampton Court Palace on your itinerary but we thought it was a great day trip. Very easy access on the train from Waterloo. The gardens are amazing and just relaxing near the river was wonderful.

Have a wonderful trip.
trvlgirlmq is offline  
Jul 17th, 2009, 07:01 AM
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If the choice is Paris or Dublin for a day trip, the choice is easy = Paris. Just remember that you lose an hour going to Paris because of the time change (like driving to Knoxville). Thus, the earliest possible train is the one you should jump on. Lucky for you, St. Pancras is a short walk away from your hotel. If you do go to Paris, skip the Louvre because the lines will suck and just spend time wandering the city and getting a feel of the place.

The excellent Henry VIII exhibition at the British Library will still be around when you're in London. It's walking distance from your hotel, costs 9 GBP and will keep you out of trouble for hours.

Other possible day trips in the London area include Windsor (for Windsor Castle and Eton College) and Hampton Court, for the eponymously named Palace. Each is worthwhile, neither takes as long as a trip to Oxford or Bath. Other possibilities within a relatively short distance: Canterbury, Salisbury, Dover.

For pictures, take the Northern Line via Charing Cross to Embankment, climb up the Hungerford Bridge, cross the Thames and go right for Westminster, Big Ben, etc. or left for a panoramic of London facing east. Then you can go to Westminster Abbey and that area or walk the South Bank, go see the modern (pseudo)art at the Tate Modern, etc., etc., etc.

Go to and they have suggestions for walks in various areas of the city.
BigRuss is offline  
Jul 17th, 2009, 07:16 AM
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" . . . a day trip is £59" Only of you get one of the bargain tickets available for the train day/time you choose. Could be £59 or three times that. Paris is terrific of course, but you will have PLENTY to see/do in London and maybe a day trip (or two max) somewhere.

Check out Eurostar fares and if you are lucky enough to get one of the cheap tickets, then consider Paris -- But I personally would wait until sometime when you and your husband can travel together.
janisj is online now  
Jul 17th, 2009, 08:23 AM
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Your hotel and Passfield Hall are in a good location, buses run past the front door which will take you straight to the Courtauld Gallery and from there you can bus down the Strand to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and then walk down Whitehall to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, not necessarily all on the same day.

For less common excursions from Euston you can take the Northern Line underground to Hampstead and visit Fenton House a beautiful late 17th Century house just a short walk uphill (everything is uphill in Hampstead) it is furnished and has a special collection of porcelain, a special collection of musical instruments and now a collection of local paintings housed there. Open Wed Thur Fri 2-5, Sat and Sun 11-5. There is also a lovely walled garden.

You could also visit another National Trust property in Hamstead, 2 Willow Road, a bit of a walk but actually downhill. A Modernist home from 1939, open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Kenwood House a little further away is also worth visiting. All will be covered in good guide books and on the National Trust and English Heritage websites.

If you venture to Hampstead you could then pass through Camden Market on your way back to your hotel. Not to my taste but good for buying clothes for teenagers. Either take the Northern Line back to Chalk Farm station and walk down to Camden Town station, the different markets and specialised shops are on either side of Chalk Farm Road, which merges into Camden High Street north. It has the famous railway bridge which appears in so many films (recently repainted). Or you can catch a 168 bus to Chalk Farm Road, especially if you go to Willow Road, you can pick it up in South End Green, a good place for cafes, both chains and individual ventures.
helen_belsize is offline  

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