Just returned from 8 days in London

Old Apr 19th, 1999, 04:08 PM
  #1  
Tammy
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Just returned from 8 days in London

Just returned from an 8 day trip to London with my mom.

We arrived at the Gatwick airport and took the Gatwick Express to Victoria station (8.50) and then a taxi to the hotel (4 pounds). I thought it was a bit tricky finding the Gatwick Express, but it just could have been from fatigue. The Gatwick Express only takes about 30 minutes and it an enjoyable ride.

We stayed at the Knightsbrige Green Hotel which is a block and a half from Harrod's and right across the street from Hyde Park. We splurged a bit on the hotel since I was able to use my frequent flier miles for the tickets. We loved the hotel and the location and would recommend it to anyone. I called the hotel directly to make my reservations.

Throughout the week we used the public transportation by buying a 7 day travel pass. You need a passport size photo in order to get the pass. It cost 17.60 pounds for zones 1 and 2. We should have only bought zone 1.

On Saturday morning we went to Portobello Road. If you go make sure you get there early. We arrived about 9am or so and it was just starting to get crowded. By 11am it was so crowded there wasn't room on the sidewalks. We did enjoy a wonderful pub called the Windsor Castle on Campden Hill Road. That evening we went to see Phantom of the Opera. I had called the theater directly three months ago to purchase the tickets. Within a week of ordering they arrived. I believe that I saw a sign posted that all evening Saturday performances were sold out until July.

One evening we took a Jack the Ripper walking tour led by Donald, who has written a book about Jack the Ripper. We had about 250 in our group. Donald was most interesting, but the large group took away from some the fun but still enjoyable.

The Tower of London is a must see. We arrived about ten minutes before the tickets went on sale at 9am and went directly to the crown jewels. By arriving early we had a chance to look at the jewels as long as we wanted even going back and taking second looks. We also were able to converse with a Yeoman about the jewels. He was very interested in answering our questions and sharing his knowledge of the jewels. Make sure and arrive early, because by 11am the line was very long, and people were standing in the rain.

We also enjoyed the Ceremony of the Keys at the tower. I wrote 3 ˝ months in advance to secure tickets. You are requested to arrive at exactly 9:30pm and the ceremony actually begins at 9:55 and is finished by 10:05. Definitely a highlight if you can get the tickets.

A guided tour a Westminster Abbey is well worth the time and money. The vergers are full of information. Admission and the guided tour are 8 pounds and takes about 1 ˝ hours. On Sunday morning we attended the 10am service at Westminster Abbey. It is closed for tours on Sunday so you can enjoy the Abbey in peace during the service.

One day we took a day trip to Bath. We bought our tickets a couple of days in advance for 25 pounds. We left Paddington Station at 9:45am and arrived at 11:10. Visits to the Roman Baths and Abbey are a must see. We enjoyed lunch at Sally Lund's, which was a wonderful experience not to be missed. Bath is a beautiful city which we highly recommended.

We had tea at Orangery, next to Kensington Palace, no reservations are needed.

For most meals we tried to keep the spending to a minimum by eating in pubs, or buying sandwiches for dinner. One budget meal was the Café in the Crypt at St. Martins in the Field. The food isn't bad, but it is kind of fun eating there. For breakfast, we usually bought a pastry the evening before and had it in the morning with tea.

We pretty much visited all the big sites in London, but above are the highlights. I am happy to answer any questions anyone may have.
 
Old Apr 20th, 1999, 05:59 AM
  #2  
Kathy
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Tammy: I certainly enjoyed reading about your trip to London. My family and myself will be there for 5 days in mid June, and I am getting very excited. A couple of questions---
Did you buy the London for Less Discount card? If so, was it worth it?
I have already received our passes for the Ceremony of the Keys, so I am quite excited about that. Did you happen to visit Oxford, Hampton or Windsor Castle? If so, did you do this on your own, or did you take a guided tour? We will be staying at the K & K George, did you happen to see this?
Did you take any Pounds with you, or did you get money at the airport when you arrived? Any tidbits that you want to share I will be interested in.
Thanks so much. Kathy
 
Old Apr 20th, 1999, 04:24 PM
  #3  
Kathy
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Tammy: Where are you??????
 
Old Apr 20th, 1999, 05:18 PM
  #4  
Pamela
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Thanks for the info. Tammy. Can you tell me where you bought your tickets for the daytrip to Bath?
 
Old Apr 20th, 1999, 06:09 PM
  #5  
Tammy
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Kathy,

We did not buy the London for Less Discount card, so I can't help you with that.

The only place we went outside of London was Bath. We were planning another day trip to Arundel, but seemed to run out of time. There were so many things in London that it was hard to fit it all in. Plus, we wanted just a couple of days to wander around different areas.

I didn't see the K & K George, what area is it in?

Regarding pounds, I took a little over $100 worth with me, which I could have gotten by with less. I did use my ATM card without difficulty, but most of the time I used my Amex or Visa instead of cash.

One thing in my message above that I didn't state was which guidebooks I used once in London. I took with me all the following and used them all at least several time throughout the week: Eyewitness: London, Cheap Eats in London, green Michelin guide for London, and the laminated Let's Go London map guide. I really liked the laminated map guide, it contains the tube map and streets, plus mini index guide to the sites.

Hope this helps.
 
Old Apr 20th, 1999, 06:13 PM
  #6  
Tammy
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Pamela,

The tickets for Bath were purchased directly at Paddington Station at the British Rail 2 days prior to departure. I believe if you buy them in advance you can save money. Also, if you decide to travel after 9:30am you can save money. Even though we didn't arrive in Bath until after 11am, we still had ample time to enjoy the city.
 
Old Apr 21st, 1999, 09:12 AM
  #7  
Kathy
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Tammy: Can you reccomend any good places to eat? Kathy
 
Old Apr 21st, 1999, 03:27 PM
  #8  
Tammy
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Here are several places that we ate and enjoyed.

The Windsor Castle (pub): 114 Campden Hill Road, tube: Notting Hill Gate

Cafe in the Crypt at St. Martins in the Fields Church, Trafalgar Square, tube: Charing Cross. Serves sandwiches, soups, a meat and vegetable, and dessert. We went for tea one evening before Phantom, and lunch another day. They are open until 8pm.

Jenny Lo's Tea House, 14 Eccleston Street, tube: Victoria Station. Chinese restuarant with a bit of a flare I thought. It is small and you share tables with other diners, and the food is great.

La Pappardella, 253 Old Brompton Road, tube: Earl's Court. Traditional Italian, this was one of our favorite places.

Khun Akorn, 136 Brompton Road, tube: Knightsbridge. Thai restaurant.

Mima's, Kightsbridge Green (a small pedestrian street between Brompton and Knightsbridge), tube: Knightsbridge. We ate there for breakfast several times, and could have the full english breakfast for under 5 pounds).

Some evenings instead of eating out we would go to Harrods food hall and get something to go and take it back to the hotel. We would also do the same for breakfast many times by buying pastries the night before.

Hope this helps.

I thought of something else that doesn't have to do with food, but sites. We toured the Cabinet War Rooms and found it quite interesting. This is where Churchill and his cabinet met during WWII.
 
Old Apr 21st, 1999, 04:37 PM
  #9  
Elizabeth
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Tammy - Thanks your post it was very clear and too the point, and contain some little details which I think everyone may be curious about(price of taxi, etc.)
I have one question concerning the tube 7 day pass. I am assuming you purchased the pass at an underground station, did this particular pass allow you to travel before 9:30am? Do you recommend purchasing this one opposed to the week pass offer here in the states? We will be staying at a guest house in a suburb of London. The tube is accessible by a bus from the area, but I believe the area is in zone 3, do I need a different pass than the one you had?
 
Old Apr 23rd, 1999, 05:53 AM
  #10  
Tammy
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Elizabeth,
The 7 day pass we purchased for zones 1 & 2 did allow us to travel on the underground and buses at any time during the day. We purchased our passes at an underground station and only took a moment, especially since we already had our photo.

I am glad that we had the pass that allowed us to travel at any time, since there were several trip that we took prior to 9:30am (Tower of London, Portobello Road, Westminster Abbey).

Since you are staying in zone 3, I would recommend a pass for zones 1,2 & 3. I don't think there is that much of a price difference. One of the web sites I used for planning was: www.allthingsbritish.com

This site has information on the London Transporation and I believe that it also posts the most current prices.

I never really looked in to buying my pass here in the states, so I don't know if it is better. I think I remember reading from other posters that it is more economical to buy in once you are in London.
 
Old Apr 23rd, 1999, 11:30 AM
  #11  
Hans
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Tammy,

Your message was very helpful since we will be in London in about 6 weeks. I am curious about your "Ceremony of the Keys" experience. You mention your passes (plural). I received a single pass with a "4" on it to indicate 4 people. Is that what you had or did you have an individual pass for each person? How large a group was there and how early did you have to arrive to get a good view? Any other hints for my teenage sons who are really looking forward to this part of the trip?

Much thanks
 
Old Apr 23rd, 1999, 01:19 PM
  #12  
Tammy
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We received one pass that allowed 2 people to enter, and they made sure that there were no additions.

I believe my pass said to arrive at exactly 9:30pm. There is a sign near the ticket booth at the Tower that says where to meet for the Ceremony of the Keys. We arrived at about 9:15pm and had to wait outside the gate until exactly 9:30pm. There were about 20-25 people in our group. The Yeoman led us into the Tower to where the ceremony would take place. He gave us a brief history of the ceremony and right before it started a tour group with about 100 plus people joined us from another entrance. They were not with a Yeoman, so I guess their pass was arranged through a tour.

There is no point in arriving early to get a good place, and if you only have 20 or so in your group you don't have to worry about seeing. But if you are joined by a larger group, you might want to make sure you are in the front.

Also, they don't allow you to photograph or video tape the ceremony.

Have fun!!!
 
Old Apr 23rd, 1999, 02:38 PM
  #13  
Debby
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Tammy,

I have a question concerning the pass you bought for the tube. Where did you take the photo for the pass? Is there somewhere close that has a photo booth or did you take a passport size photo with you?

I'll be going to London on May 14 and will probably buy a pass to save on transportation costs.

Thanks for the help.
 
Old Apr 23rd, 1999, 07:30 PM
  #14  
Kristin
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If you have a recent snapshot of yourself and a scanner, you can probably scan in the photo, crop or enlarge it to the same size as a passport photo and print it out. I just did that for our trip in May.
 
Old Apr 26th, 1999, 05:41 AM
  #15  
Tammy
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I took a passport size photo with me, but I believe there were photo booths in most stations.
 
Old Apr 26th, 1999, 08:55 AM
  #16  
Kristin
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Tammy -- I have read that in order to exit a tube station you must insert your ticket into the turnstile. What do you do if you have the pass?
 
Old Apr 26th, 1999, 01:02 PM
  #17  
Tammy
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Actually you receive two cards. One has your photo laminated and the other is what you use for the turnstile. We were only asked to see our photocard once, and that was on the bus.
 
Old Apr 26th, 1999, 08:25 PM
  #18  
jake
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Help! My wife and I are spending 5 days in London, May 25 thru 29th. Please list: l.Things to do;2.Reasonable Hotels;3Reasonable Restaurants;4.Interesting Pubs;5.Suggested day trip out of the city; Many,many thanks in advance for you responses.
 
Old Apr 27th, 1999, 05:41 AM
  #19  
kristin
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I strongly recommend you search this forum for "London". All your questions have been answered over and over. Also I recommend you get two or three guide books. I like Frommers books, Rick Steves books, and Eyewitness books. Fodor's are good as well, but not as much for budget travelers, if this is a concern.
 
Old Apr 29th, 1999, 07:46 PM
  #20  
Mark
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Hi Jake,

Re your message: " Please list: l.Things to do;2.Reasonable Hotels;3Reasonable Restaurants;4.Interesting Pubs;5.Suggested day trip out of the city; "...

I cover all of these topics on my homepage - rather than repeat it here it is probably easier to give you the address:

http://londonguide.cjb.net

Hopefully you will find it helpful - if you still have any questions, I will be happy to try and answer them!! All the recommendations on my page are either from personal experience or those of friends and others, so it is (I hope!!) fairly accurate and therefore useful.

Best wishes,

Mark.
 

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