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In Panic Mode about Last-minute London Trip

In Panic Mode about Last-minute London Trip

Old May 21st, 2008, 07:12 PM
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In Panic Mode about Last-minute London Trip

Normally, my trips are planned so many months in advance that I could go through every relevant travel book at B&N and read hundreds of threads on this board and not have to ask too many questions. This is the first time I've ever bought a ticket on a whim only 21 days before departure to a place I don't know (haven't been since age 5). On top of that, I had been tied up with a big project until two days ago. We leave the day after tomorrow, and I feel completely unprepared, so please excuse some of the dumber questions to follow (things that should easily turn up in a search, if only I had more time).

I. TRANSPORTATION:

Paper Travelcards-- I've printed out a huge stack of coupons for the 2-for-1 offers. We'll arrive Saturday morning and depart Sunday June 1. I plan on getting the paper Travelcards for the 7 days in the middle (when we'll be using the coupons) and a PAYG Oystercard for the first and last days. Does this make sense? (I'll take the tube from Heathrow; my mother, who flies into Gatwick, will take a shuttle to the apartment).

Can 2 people share one PAYG card (as with NYC's Metrocard), or will we each have to get one?

Are the paper Travelcards available at Heathrow? (If not, I'll go to Victoria Station following the detailed instruction from the other thread here).

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Old May 21st, 2008, 07:14 PM
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II. LUGGAGE STORAGE

With a 5pm return flight out of Heathrow, where would be the best place to leave my luggage after checking out of the apartment (at Earl's Court) in the morning? Victoria Station? Or would any of the museum cloak rooms accept an 18" carry-on bag? What about department store cloak rooms?

If I leave it at Victoria station, about how long is the tube ride to Heathrow, including transferring? (Or would it be better to pick a train station on the Piccadilly line so that I won't have to transfer?) I'm clueless about the size of these stations-- is Earls Court station as huge and confusing as Chatelet or Times Square? About what time should I go and retrieve the luggage at Victoria Station in order to get to Heathrow in time for a 5pm flight? What terminal does Delta to JFK fly from?
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Old May 21st, 2008, 08:58 PM
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Mamselle, you can buy a day pass for the first day and last day you're there. You can get them from the ticket machines in the tube stations. It runs about five GBP, I think.

Earls Court isn't a huge station, to my knowledge. (Kings Cross is huge and very confusing...avoid it if you can! ) I don't know where you can stash your bag, if you want to see some sights on the day you leave. If the weather's nice, maybe you can just sit in the park and drink up the atmosphere.

If you do stick close to Victoria Station, you could take the District line, on the tube, to Paddington, and take the Heathrow Express from there. Or, change over (I'd have to check the map) to the Piccadilly somewhere.

I've never left that late in the day from London, so I just pack up and head out for the airport, and leave myself lots of time. I think it'll take you at least an hour to get to Heathrow. Any other London experts around to give some advice?
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Old May 21st, 2008, 09:04 PM
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Can you arrange to leave your luggage at the apartment? If you're flying to the US you're supposed to be at Heathrow 3 hours before your flight, and it takes an hour on the tube from central London, so you'll only have the morning for sightseeing. Since there are no mainline stations on the Piccadilly line I'd be inclined to use the left-luggage facilities at Victoria if you can't use your apartment.
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Old May 21st, 2008, 09:06 PM
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http://www.heathrowairport.com will give ya more information. Looking at the tube map, I can see that the Green Park stop is only one over from Victoria. That's on the Picadilly line, direct to Heathrow.
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Old May 21st, 2008, 09:15 PM
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I doubt you can leave your bags at the flat since they need people out so they can prep for the next tenant. Now, IF there is a concierge desk in the bldg, then you might be able to stash your bags. You'd need to contact the owner/agency to find out.

You can leave the bags at Victoria if you want to take the tube to LHR. Or you could leave them at Paddington if you want to take the train to the airport. The only mainline train station on the Piccadilly line is Kings Cross - which is too far to go just for left luggage.

No, you cannot share oysters. You each must use a card to get into the tube station and to get out again at the end of your journey. They cannot be passed back and forth across the barriers.
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Old May 21st, 2008, 09:48 PM
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Thanks everyone! You're right, thursdaysd, if I count back 3 hrs plus an hour for transportation, there's really far less sightseeing time on the last day than I thought-- probably just a stroll near the apt and lunch. With only an 18" rolling bag, I may as well just keep it with me and not worry about running around to store and retrieve it.

Janisj, thanks for the Oyster info-- I didn't know that it was different from the Metrocards here (where the pay-per-ride ones can be shared by several persons). So I'll get one for myself and just a day pass for my mother. Are the Oysters easy to reactivate if I go back years from now? (If so, I'll just keep it and not bother to get the refund).
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Old May 21st, 2008, 10:00 PM
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you CAN share oyster cards if you are not traveling together. They do not have photos or anything. But if you are traveling together or at the same times - then nope.

Yes - the oyster is perpetual so you can keep it and any residual value for the next time and just add some more £ on it as needed.
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Old May 21st, 2008, 10:19 PM
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III. SIGHTSEEING QUESTIONS

What are some of your favorite "must sees," and why?

Here my list (so far) of things that sound interesting-- in no particular order; I only jotted down the days and times that each place is open, and I'll try to work out a schedule on the plane. Have I left out anything that must not be missed on a first trip?

- Leighton House
- Tower of London, crown jewels
- V&A Museum (esp. the costume collection and William Morris's cafe)
- Tate Britain (esp. the Pre-Raphaelites)
- St Paul's Cathedral (climb to top)
- Houses of Parliament
- William Morris House
- Skin+Bones exhibit at Somerset House
- boat ride (either the Tate-to-Tate boat or the Circular cruise)
-- Royal Ballet at the opera house (have tickets for "Romeo and Juliet" and "The Dream")
--Wigmore Hall concert
-- operetta at London Coliseum
- Freed of London store at Covent Garden

Is it better to climb St Paul's early or late in the day? what kind of stairs does it have-- narrow winding ones like St. Vitus with no place to stop, or easy spacious ones like in Brunelleschi's dome?

Have any of you been to that "longest street market" in Walthamstow? Is it interesting enough that I should schedule William Morris House on a day that the market is open?

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Old May 22nd, 2008, 04:58 AM
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There are a few things I'd add to your list. First, Westminster Abbey - the building is a wonderful medieval cathedral and it's especially fascinating to see the tombs and memorials of all the famous people.

The British Library is one of my favorite places to visit in London - the Treasures room has an amazing collection of original manuscripts, books, and objects.

The Cabinet War Rooms/Churchill museum (2 for 1 coupon should be available) are well worth a visit. The audio guide is excellent and it's very powerful to see the rooms just as they were left at the end of WWII. It's close to St. James Park - we combined the War Rooms with a meal at Inn The Park.

No visit to London would be complete for me without stopping by the National Gallery of Art and/or The National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square (they're right next door to each other).

You and you mom might enjoy Liberty - my girls and I love to poke around there.

What about afternoon tea?

We love checking out the markets in London - most are on the weekend.

As for St. Paul's, the stairs do get quite narrow and spiral towards the top. The view is nice, but I actually preferred the view from the London Eye over the Thames.

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Old May 22nd, 2008, 05:14 AM
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Ditto on the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery. The Courtauld Gallery is also a small gem of a museum and worth a visit.

One of the highlights of past trips for me was Westminster Abbey for an Evensong service. Looking at the calendar for next week (www.westminster-abbey.org), it looks like the service is sung at 5:00 most days, except Wednesday. Last admission to the abbey, which is fantastic to visit, is at 3:45. Ask where to queue for the service, and what time to get in line if you wish to sit with the choir.
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 07:41 AM
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donīt miss the view from the tate modern coffee shop upstairs. fabulous.
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 07:52 AM
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where did you find the 2-for-1 offers to print out? thanks!
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 08:02 AM
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Watching the entertainers at Covent Garden.

Walking along the South Bank of the Thames. You can browse the book stalls, and have a meal there.

Sitting in a deck chair in the park, soaking in the atmosphere.
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 08:22 AM
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In regards to checking luggage, why not go to one of the museums on your last day, and use its coat check. I think the V&A has the facilities.
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Old May 23rd, 2008, 03:40 AM
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Thank you so much, everyone!

Sarvowinner, great idea-- V&A is not far from the apartment. I'll spend the last morning there and have lunch in its cafe before going to the airport.

Leaving straight from work this afternoon; will try to write a trip report when I get back.
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Old May 23rd, 2008, 03:43 AM
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Enjoy and Bon Voyage
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Old May 23rd, 2008, 06:44 AM
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As regards your mother taking the shuttle to the city from Gatwick, if you mena the Gatwick Express, then I don't think Oyster is accepted on that service. (Most mainline train companies, ie. overground services that serve the suburbs, don't allow Oyster cards).
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Old May 23rd, 2008, 07:04 AM
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I echo the suggestions for national gallery and portrait gallery. To me, the treasure room in the British Library is the most fascinating room in the whole world. V & A is captivating...I didn't see any parks on your list...this time of year everything is in bloom and Kensington and Hyde Parks are just beautiful...
The Thames near the Tate Modern is a nice walk...Covent Garden is touristy, but worth a visit...Gatwick Express is national rail, not oyster...
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Old May 23rd, 2008, 07:40 AM
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About leaving your suitcase at the V&A -- I'd email them to make sure you can do that. There are at least 2 cloakrooms - but whether they will accept a suitcase - I'm not sure. I do know they take daypacks but luggage is something else.

It would be a shame to turn up there and not be able to check you bag, But they'll tell you one way or the other if you e-mail them.
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