just back from london

Jul 16th, 2008, 07:45 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 167
On my trip to London 2 years ago (which I forgot to post, please forgive me), I stayed at the Thistle Marble Arch for 4 nights. Several modes of transportation were steps away. This hotel was about 2 blocks from the Marble Arch tube stop, around the corner from Hyde Park, and a half block from Oxford Street. The famous hop on, hop off busses were across the street from the tube stop, to.

After staying out in the country for a night with my best friend's boyfriend, he dropped me off at the Thistle Charring Cross hotel, which was right on top of the Charring Cross tube station. Amazingly, I couldn't hear a thing from the tube. This hotel was literally around the corner from Trafalgar Square, The National Portrait Museum, numerous nice pubs and restaurants and numerous bus lines were steps from the front door.

I live in Chicago, so I deal with public transportation almost everyday. Even with my large suitcase, rolling cosmetic case and backpack (yeah, I over packed), I managed to navigate the tubes quite nicely. It helped that I arrived on a bank holiday and the only other time I had to travel with all that mess was when I went to the train station to catch a train to Birmingham, to visit my cousins.

Coming from such a large city, I made sure to not be on the busses or tubes during rush hours. This was the best time to people watch and rest my feet.

After arriving at each hotel, I ventured out to survey the lay of the land. By doing that, I located coffee shops and delis where I could grab breakfast and sandwiches, snacks and water for my sightseeing; tube stops and bus lines; restaurants; and the local Selfridges.

Since I worked so hard to save for the trip, I deserved to sit down and enjoy nice dinners at the end of long days. So, every night was a treat for me! I even hunted down an Indian retaurants that was featured on one of London's dinning out TV programs. I had to take the tube and then walk a few blocks, but it was worth it.

Wherever I go, I always ask hotel personnel, whether it's a busboy, maid or concierge, where their favorite place to eat is. I've been lucky to dine at some amazing restaurants that way.

Your trip is what you make of it, youngtom2910. Delete the annoying things that happened on your adventure and focus on the great time you had and people you met. Unless my luggage gets lost, nothing really bothers me when I travel. So, when a snafu occurs, I make the best of it.

The best strategy I've found when sightseeing in a new city is to start at the farthest point out and work your way back towards your base of operation. This way, you don't waste a lot of needless time driving, changing busses, backtracking, etc.

Without reading all of these posts and taking notes from all of you Fodorites, my trip to London wouldn't have been half as much fun. I've already got a growing pile of notes for for my next trip, Italy! Thanks all and keep up the good work....now if I could only get over my fear of flying.
Blacknight is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 01:23 AM
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Youngtom, thanks for your report. Even though I live in London, some of your suggestions have made me think I should try them out, like the National Gallery. It's been a while since I've been.

Blacknight, I like your attitude!

London wasn't set up for the comfort and convenience of tourists. Throughout its history, it's been a place for people to make money and support those who help these people make their money. The economic conditions seen throughout the world in the past 15 years has meant that London has seen an influx of tourism that has altered the feel and the population density of this city. And let's not forget the new members of the European Union who flocked here as soon as they were given the green light.

I find it ironic that the very tourists who contribute to this situation then complain when they don't find things to their liking. I'm the last person to say "stay away" but logically speaking, that is exactly what you should be doing. Let's face it, most of us have enjoyed enhanced travelling opportunities in the past decade or so and London is very much a victim of that. We know that others places are as well.

Another thing I find ironic is that some posters have complained that the lines or stations have been closed, causing inconvenience, and others have said that the Tube needs upgrading. So which is it?

As for finding somewhere "central" to stay in London, no such place exists. You are always going to have to travel if you want to see all the sights.

Since the demise of the hop-on, hop-off Routemaster bus, this Londoner has really taken to a nice American shoe called the Fit Flop. It weighs nothing, fits in my Mulberry bag and if I need to start walking, due to traffic, delays, etc, then I just put them on and go. The great thing about being a human being is you can THINK your way around problems and adapt. And that's how London got to be the way it is today - which in turn makes people want to see it.

hnberlin is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 01:58 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 408
I, too, am in Austin, TX, and love the ease and availability of public transport in our travel destinations! I haven't been to enough different destinations frequently enough to compare specific systems, but the mere fact that there is public transport is thrilling to someone who doesn't have it at home.

As to trip reports that are always glowing...certainly there are places that I like better than others, but any trip anywhere is more exciting than a day home doing dishes and laundry!
annettetx is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 02:18 AM
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Defending London's transport system is almost as unEnglish as singing our national anthem. Praising it is simply treasonable.

BUT youngtom's criticism apply to LOTS of transport systems. Getting round our (150 year old) Tube with luggage is far from perfect - but it's far, far easier than getting round New York's, which had the opportunity of avoiding London's mistakes when it finally got round to developing a proper system of mass transit, but decided to have even steeper stairs, fewer escalators, longer walks and far less luggage-friendly entry and exit barriers. And the New York subway has done a hell of a lot less in the past 20 years to civilise itself. Try getting the tube from Grand Central to Kings Cross and see which bit's nastier.

The Lyons metro - built by that paragon of perfect State planning, the French government, in the 1970s for heaven's sake - has practically no stations where it's possible to avoid steps. It even features at least one station with an escalator serving a bit of the downward journey - but no escalator at all for passengers going up.

Much as we like to delude ourselves that we lead the world in rotten public transport, the uncomfortable truth is that it's generally comfortable only in places so boring there aren't any other passengers getting in your way. Or where - as with the Shanghai MagLev nonsense - there's hardly any, and what little there is, is somewhere no-one wants to use it anyway.
flanneruk is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 07:50 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
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Thanks youngtom for your comments about luggage and transportation. A good friend has one of those carry-on rolling backpacks and even though she raves about how wonderful it is, I was on the hedge about buying yet another piece of luggage. After reading your observations about London's transit (which we will be depending on this September) I decided that a rolling backpack would be a very good thing indeed. Thanks!
mermaid_ is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 08:08 AM
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As someone who has a good subway system in NYC, I can say I found the London Tube to be fine. I experienced few real delays.

I did have a problem lugging my bag around the tube the day we arrived, so we just took a taxi to the airport when we left. But I feel that way on public transport in NYC too. Bags get in the way and are too much of a hassle on public transport.

lola618 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 08:50 AM
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Mermaid, I got my rolling backpack from Eddie Bauer 5 years ago and I have dragged it EVERYWHERE. It is only just starting to show some wear. Not only do I find it useful on transport systems, it's also great for when you come across cobblestones and you don't want to wake the neighbours dragging it along the street!
hnberlin is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 09:19 AM
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hnberlin, thanks. The friend with the rolling backpack is heading off to Munich this evening and she pretty well has hers packed to the gunnels--and she did mention the cobblestone aspect! I like the idea of it being useful for train travel, which is how we'll be getting from Heathrow to London.
mermaid_ is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 09:31 AM
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Thanks for posting your interesting report. Beware of pissing contests...most of us have probably stared at least one and been involved in more than that.

Eevrybody travels differently; everybody probably THINKS their way is the "best."

Anyobody who says they can cover more ground by walking than by riding on a wheeled vehicle..well, you know...
Dukey is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 09:32 AM
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Packs are fine - but PLEASE be aware of your surroundings. Wish I had a £ for every time some clueless backpacker bashed me on the tube. You are in very close quarters - don't wear the pack on the train or you'll knock someone down when your turn around.
janisj is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 09:41 AM
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Both the London and New York City subway systems, both of which I am quite familiar with, have their good points and their bad points but both serve their purpose very very well. I also like the Paris Metro and the Berlin U Bahn.

London Underground goes right into Heathrow Airport...NYC subway does not go into JFK or LGA but for JFK you have an easy switch to the Air Train.

NYC fare structure is much simpler...one base fare no matter how far you travel no touching in and out...also the basic fare is far cheaper on the NYC subway $2 (although if you buy a metrocard, it's really more like $1.70) vs. an astounding £4 on the tube (although a 1 day off peak pass is £5.30 and the fare with a PAYG oyster card is £1.50 with a cap at £4.80 (double the sterling price to get USA equivalents)....

Less grafitti on the NYC subway...the MTA has done a good job ridding the system of most of the grafitti (although window scratching has to be dealt with next)...every NYC subway train is air conditioning and for the most part the air conditionnig works very well...London underground can be very uncomfortable on a humid summer day even though the temperature might not be all that high (it's not the heat it's the humidity) although because the air conditioning in NY, the heat has to go somewhere and where it ends up is generally in the stations making them quite uncomfortable.

Big advantage in London are the signs throughout central London how long to the next train...you have to listen, and to me it's unbelievable, how MTA employees defend the lack of these signs like passengers should not know how long till the next train (they have put these signs on one line and claim they are in the process of putting them throughout the system but it will take 50 years..how London, Paris and Berlin have managed to have these signs for a while now in systems that are certainly not much younger than NY is beyond their comprehension).....

NYC subway operates 24/7..London closes down from midnight to 0530 weekdays and Saturdays and midnight to 0700 on Sundays. But London provides much better service up till midnight. In NYC, if I go to the theatre, after the show at a relatively early 2230 I might have to wait 15 minutes for a train on many lines...in London and Paris the trains are still running on about a 5 to 8 minute headway.

Personally, I find London public transportation to be pretty good. And yes, there is not one single location you can stay that will be central and allow you to walk to everything..and yes all public transportation systems can be very uncomfortable during rush hours but what's the alternative? Taxis subject to the same traffic delays buses are during those hours and humongeously expensive.

I give my vote, though, to NYC. Imagine, you can ride from the top of the Bronx, to Coney Island for $1.70....try to beat that! (and BTW, NYC now allows one transfer from a bus to a subway free of charge; something you can't do in London).
xyz123 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 09:43 AM
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I'll tell you one thing I like about the Paris metro...my cell phone works throughout most of the system (not the deeper RER)...it doesn't in many areas of both NYC subway and London tube.
xyz123 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 09:47 AM
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it doesn't in many areas of both NYC subway and London tube.>>>

And for this relief much thanks.

Taking the tube at rush hour is bad enough, but throw in a bunch of nincompoops yelling "I'm on the tube" into their mobiles and you have a vision of hell that would make Dante blanch.
Cholmondley_Warner is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 08:08 PM
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<<Taking the tube at rush hour is bad enough, but throw in a bunch of nincompoops yelling "I'm on the tube" into their mobiles and you have a vision of hell that would make Dante blanch.>>

take the northern line and that is exactly what happens just before Finchley Central - as soon as the train comes out of the tunnel.
sashh is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 10:50 PM
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Just reading these posts makes me wish I was back in London. I really enjoyed it. My younger sister is on her second 10 day (business) trip.

Oh yeah, another thing I found completely amazing was when you pressed the walk button at a cross walk, they actually worked!
Blacknight is offline  
Jul 18th, 2008, 03:06 AM
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Yes to both janisj about the backpacks and CW about the cell phones! Also please turn down that music that you play in your ears, I really don;t like the exra vibrations!

I love the tube and even more the bus system. But then we have practically no public transport where I live.
avalon is offline  
Jul 18th, 2008, 03:16 AM
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Avalon, I don't even fight that battle anymore with the headphones! I just plug in my own. Between the cellphones, obnoxious passengers and Ipods, I never travel without my own headset so that I can block them out. An interesting fact: many people's hearing was protected during the London tube bombings 3 years ago because they were plugged in!
hnberlin is offline  
Jul 18th, 2008, 04:37 AM
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>>Oh yeah, another thing I found completely amazing was when you pressed the walk button at a cross walk, they actually worked!<<

Well, they'll light up: they only change the traffic lights at some sorts of crossing, usually on less busy roads, not all of them.
PatrickLondon is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 12:42 AM
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youngtom2910, thanks for taking the time to post your experiences and tips on London. We're headed to London in September, and I always appreciate hearing the candid reactions of another traveler.

What would you name as your 3 favorite experiences in London? We're headed to London for the first time in September as one of the destinations on our trip to Europe.
Melissa5 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 02:20 AM
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Another nice thing is that 99% of drivers obey the rules about zebra crossings...namely once a pedestrian enters a zebra crossing, they must stop.......and indeed they do like I said 99% of the time.
xyz123 is offline  

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