just back from london

Jul 16th, 2008, 08:17 AM
  #1  
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just back from london

I thought i would share with the world my wisdom gained from my most recent trip.

i flew into heathrow (#4, where all US flights go). the Heathrow Connect train service to Paddington at 6.90 is a great deal.

I stayed around paddington that night, so I didn't have to worry about lugging my bags around. another good thing about being around paddington is that there are a number of cheap restaurants just to the right of the station as you go out. i ate dinner at one strangely named "bizarro", but there were a number. some cheap breakfast places too.

I have a tendency to pack too much. in the US this is not a big deal--you just put all the stuff in the rental car and off you go. but i was reminded that in england/europe you need to carry your stuff all around, at least to go to your hotel. message to brain: pack lighter next time.

a related point in london--the london tube is remarkably inconvenient for people with heavy bags. there are eacalators at only a few tube stops--at most you have to trudge up and down steps forever.

another thought--london is huge and the public transit system is slow, sometimes unpleasant and unreliable. it would make sense and save a lot of time to stay around what you want to do. each time i took the tube some line was severely delayed. adn on the weekend the circle and district lines were closed (for repairs)! this makes navigating london more of a challenge, particularly if you are staying at the kensington high steet tube stop.

the tube in london is very unpleasant from about 5-7 PM during rush hour. people crushing their way into the car and crushing their way out. quality of life suggestion--don't ever do this. have a drink. read a book.

there are buses--which i did a lot. they are convenient but slower than the tube.

a good transport suggestion--the oyster card. i bought a 7-day transit pass for zones 1 & 2 (24 pounds) , and boy did that help. good for both trains and buses--just swipe the transit pass, and off you go. you don't ever have to buy another ticket.

there are some good transit maps at most tube stations that give info about common bus routes as well as the tubbe.

a few sightseeing ideas. I went to temple church in the inns of court area for a free organ concert. an interesting old church that is not open much. adn i went to westminster abbey for the organ concert at 5:45 on sunday aft.

I rented the tape at the national gallery--it's quite handy--each painting in the national gallery is numbered--you just punch in the number of the painting you are interested in and the curator talks about it.

South bank on saturday afternoon/early evening is really active near the national theatre. performers, book-sellers.
youngtom2910 is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 08:26 AM
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Thanks for the candid report of your experiences on the tube.

While many people coo over it -- especially if they come American cities with no underground or public transport system to speak of -- it can be a very annoying system to use: crowded, slow, and quite difficult if you are carrying bags.

It's still a good option for transport between many points in London, which is vast. But it needs overhaul and improvement.
zeppole is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 08:32 AM
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Small correction--flights from the US fly into Terminals 3, 4 and 5. If you go to a concert at the abbey, can you wander around before or after? Thanks.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 09:04 AM
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cathinjoetown: No, if one attends services or concerts in the Abbey (and St Paul's as well) you are limited to the seating area. There is no wandering around the chapels, tombs, etc.
janisj is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 09:06 AM
  #5  
tod
 
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I found the London Tube just the opposite - it knocks spots off the Metro in Paris for starters.
Every city has a rush hour and if you are a visitor - go to the pub!
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Jul 16th, 2008, 10:58 AM
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I am a tube 'coo-er' (LOL - I like that term). I'm from Austin, TX - a city with no decent public transportation to speak of. I'm unabashedly and unrepentantly in love with the tube. Months after my trip I still carry my Oyster card around and stare at it longingly every time I open my wallet...seriously....I really do.

It does get stiflingly crowded at times though - Covent Garden after the Opera - icky poo!

Anyway, I enjoyed your trip report. Thanks for sharing!
laustic is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 11:23 AM
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1-Not all USA flights go into terminal #4.
2-The use of upper case is a good thing when typing.
3-Eating cheap is not for everyone, some like to eat well.
4-Sorry you didn't like the tube.
5-Sorry you didn't like the public transportation.
6-Sounds like you had a horrid time, and didn't like anything.
rogeruktm is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 11:37 AM
  #8  
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to the last poster. sorry you don't like lower case. sorry if it sounded negative. it really wasn't what i intended to comunicate--i just intended to write some of the things i learned for my next trip. and i thought others might find these thoughts of some use. london obviously is a great city in many ways. and i did get more savy about transport--in terms of combining buses and the tube, for example, even in a week.

oh one more thing--the national theatre has 10 pound tickets to some great plays.
youngtom2910 is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 11:39 AM
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I find the Paris Metro much more useful to footsore tourists looking to move about the city quickly. There are Metro stops everywhere, just a few steps underground, and the design of the overall system, in concentric circles with spokes, makes for a lot of interline connections -- whereas in London, it can be impossible to get from one line to another after a few stops. For its longest distance between connecting trains there are people movers in Paris. Some of those connecting stations in London have you going through tunnels and up and down stairs forever.

When I'm in London, I use the Tube. But even my London friends will ask me to meet them at certain places rather than others so they can avoid the Circle Line or some of the other tube lines because of slow trains or difficult connections.

laustic,
I've been in Austin! They don't even have crosswalks there, let alone public transportation!
zeppole is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 11:45 AM
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"Sounds like you had a horrid time, and didn't like anything."

I didn't get that impression from the post, but even were it true, I'd be grateful for a few more travel reports from people who don't simply gush that they had a fabulous two weeks no matter where they went.

Well, sure. Once you've spent thousands and thousands on a trip, it would be pretty hard to admit it wasn't all sunshine and roses. But travel is always a gamble, there's nothing wrong with being candid about one's negative discoveries on a trip -- which may be total. I've been to some places -- like Brugge -- I couldn't wait to get out of.

When people come to Italy and have a lousy time, I don't feel defensive about it and I don't think something is wrong with them.
zeppole is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 11:45 AM
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travel writing by e.e. cummings.

the tube can be a pain but it by and large does it's job. it does show its age from time to time. most station in central london do have an alternative to the stairs.
Cholmondley_Warner is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 12:11 PM
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youngtom:

>>>london is huge and the public transit system is slow, sometimes unpleasant and unreliable.<<<

The London Tube, The Paris Metro, even the Rome "Roamer", The Moscow Monstrosity, The Boston MTA, Washngton DC, SF, NYC, and Chicago transportation systems...all make Anglenos like myself, stand in awe..

"Why the hell didn't we put a system in 50-100years ago", we ask!
We know the answer: fraught with fraud, graft, and oil company lobbies. But even so,...why? Yes, in the past ten years, the city fathers awoke to the dilemma and a line was started fom wherever downtown in this sprawling City of Angels is located, out to the "far reaches" of Western Avenue, and on into North Hollywood....the entire line (which no one rides...no such thing as rush hour...even count the heads on the new elongated busses and you may come up with 10 at busy times) may equal one of London's shortest lines...or for Bostonians, an example...Park Street to Riverside Station.

So knock The Tube, if you will, but we'd gladly take it out here!(or ANY of the other systems mentioned).

Would I ride it? Probably not...but thousands for whom it would be convenient, and cheaper than petrol sure would....surface and freeway traffic would lighten somewhat.

stu T.
tower is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 12:14 PM
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youngtom, I also appreciate your candor and agree with you.

We lived in England in the early 1980's and stayed in London for a couple of months. I used the tube a lot. When I returned to London 20 yrs later as a tourist, I found it to be so much more crowded. We also had trouble with stations and lines being closed down. I don't think the system has been able to keep up with the growth in population.

It's still better than most of the transportation systems in other large international cities, but it isn't perfect.

I look forward to hearing more about your trip.
bettyk is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 01:05 PM
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I'm sorry if the summary of my trip was too critical for some on this list. What I really believe is that I chose a hotel that wasn't too convenient to what I wanted to do, so I ended up with some transportation challenges, as one would have in most big cities.

so i guess what i would encourage people to do when choosing a hotel ( and me when i go next) is to remember that london is a big city and, like many big cities, can be difficult to get around. it is much more convenient to be close to where you want to be most of the time.
youngtom2910 is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 01:10 PM
  #15  
yk
 
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Re: The Tube. Yes, it's got its annoying moments, but I prefer it over the NYC subway. At least the stations are cleaner and cooler, and I like the fact there are LED screens telling how long the next train will be arriving. Last month in NYC, it was just annoying NOT knowing how long I'd have to wait... it could be 1 minute, it could be 10 minutes.

As far as Tube delays go, at the entrance of each station, there's usually a "Travel Advisory" board informing pax which lines & stations are delayed or closed etc.

The Tube delays I expererience nowadays are nothing compared to the tube (IRA) bomb scares back in the 90s.

Having said that, I still prefer taking the bus in London IF I'm not in a hurry AND IF I'm not traveling a far distance.
yk is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 02:02 PM
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I'm enjoying your report but I'm curious. What hotels did you book?
Carrybean is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 04:40 PM
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Just spent 2.5 days in London in June and never rode public transportation (tube or bus). We walked everywhere - you get to see more that way. The one good thing we did (as the original poster realized too late) was to book a hotel half a block from Trafalgar Square. Yes it cost more money,but the convenience was worth the cost.
Cruiseryyc is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 05:18 PM
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I, too, am one of those "coo-ers" about the London tube. Americans are just toooo devoted to their cars, and it's a real pleasure for me (although I use mass transit in Portland, where I live) to rely on the tube the whole time I'm in London.

I will agree, though, that it is tremendously crowded in the evening rush hour. A couple of times, I simply walked a few blocks to take a tube from a less-crowded station. And yes, you do have to do a lot of walking in the tube. It's not designed for anyone with mobility issues.

FYI, on my last trip to London, I stayed near the Earls Court tube stop. It has a ramp and then a lift to the Picadilly Line, which can make it easier for anyone traveling to the airport with their heavy luggage.
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Jul 16th, 2008, 06:06 PM
  #19  
twk
 
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I stayed just steps away from the St. James Park tube station last June and had the similar unpleasant experience of having the District and Circle lines closed all weekend, then had a misadventure following the TfL website directions for taking the bus to the Tower of London (told me to get off and change buses at a stop where they connection route was not stopping due to road work). It was crowded, and in my opinion, nowhere near as convenient as Paris, but I still would reccommend it to anyone traveling to London. Busses were no less crowded during my stay than the Tube.

While I find the Tube useful, I do agree, however, that one should try and stay in an area of interest, as opposed to say in Paris, where you can pretty much take the Metro anywhere fairly quickly so long as you are within the Periferique. The Tube does not cover as much of London as the Metro does of Paris (coverage is really spotty south of the Thames), and you can easily find yourself someplace where the nearest Tube station is not realisitcally walkable.

The Oyster card in London was great--Paris's inflexible weekly pass suffers by comparison. I've also ridden subways in New York, Washington, and Boston, and I'm probably going to be riding the El in Chicago next summer, so I like using subways where available.
twk is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 06:16 PM
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The useful discussion this thread has opened up is about the oft-asked question:

"Where should I stay in London? I want a central hotel."

Nine times out of ten, a group of posters rushes in to say that it doesn't matter where one stays, because one can take the tube. (And there is no 'central London.') And then they tell people that is just fine to stay in Kensington.

Well, stuff and poppycock, balderdash, 1066 and all that rot! It can be a damned nuisance to rely on the Tube if you're a first time tourist there and want see the most famous historic sites, most of which are, unsurprisingly, closer to what his historically called "the city" than they are to South Kensington.

I think you almost can't avoid taking the Tube while in London, and I highly recommend people do it, and learn how to use that infernal Oyster card.

But I'd much sooner take the subway in Madrid, Athens, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels and New York City. About the only underground trasnport system I like less is -- well, I won't say, because its fans will rush in to defend it.

And I've never taken the one in Roma because I never seem to want to go anywhere it goes. In Rome, one might as well walk.
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