((L)) London!

Mar 17th, 2007, 03:20 PM
  #1  
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((L)) London!

Who we are: Two seasoned travellers, one of whom studied in London in the 70's and frequently returns, the other a first time visitor.
When we went: March 7-14, 2007
Why we went then: incredible low fares for non-stop CLT to London Gatwick on USAIRWAYS (Airbus 330, better than average seats, not a crowded flight so stretching out was an option, ghastly food)
Where we stayed: A flat on Rutland Gate rented through http://www.londonguestsuites.com (property #1122) price $211. per day The flat was well equipped, had two separate sleeping areas with very comfortable beds, a television, radio and telephone. The property manager who lives upstairs offered use of her home phone and internet connection for no charge. The location was superb.
Who do I thank? Carrybean helped me find the flat and I really appreciated that! Ben Haines provided walking guides which were just perfect. Thank you both for such great assistance. Janis, thank you for giving me the courage to do the London Eye. I also want to thank the Fodorites who clued me into the 2 for 1 bargains(Hampton Court, Westminster Abbey and Tower of London were the ones we used).
What we did:
Day 1 we arrived Gatwick on time and made fairly quick progress through Immigrations and Customs (maybe 40 minutes). We took the Gatwick Express (tickets purchased two for the price of one before we left, saved the tickets to display when using the 2 for 1 admission to attractions) direct to Victoria. From Victoria we walked the thirty minutes to our flat. Let me pause here briefly to say the London public transportation system is excellent, but on a lovely day walking is the only way to go. The length of our stay the weather was very mild and clear. Absolutely perfect for strolling through the London parks admiring the daffodils and flowering trees. After dropping off our bags we walked to Harrod's to wander the food halls and grab a very good lunch (first bit of sticker shock which got progressively worse during the week....dollars go fast!). From there we walked past Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square and up Regent Street to the London Visitors Bureau. We purchased tickets for Spamalot (discounted slightly to $55.) and the London Eye (good news, 60 qualifies as a senior so I got mine for $20.) We continued our walk down Picadilly and back through Hyde Park then down Elizabeth Street to Baker and Spice. I have often enjoyed their food and figured we could get some take away for dinner. They had some house made granola which I decided to get for breakfast. EIGHT DOLLARS for a small bag! I declined the sixteen dollar bag and laughed to myself that someone would think I was such a nit that I would pay that kind of money for granola. My God, I can make it myself. (brief aside, after eating the granola...most of the eight dollar bag in one sitting....I went back and bought the sixteen dollar bag...absolutely worth every penny). We went to Sainsbury's and picked up some beer, wine and bottled water then back to the flat. We were exhausted and finished the day early.
Day 2
Stuffed self with granola and yogurt and headed straight for the first flight of the London Eye. I am afraid of heights and would not have done this except for the posting janis did just before I left which assured me I would not have a problem with it. It was a spectacular clear day and the flight was grand. There were only three other people in our pod and we had views for miles in all directions. The pod moves almost imperceptibly. Wonderful. We then walked down to Borough Market and strolled through the stalls. Very interesting and while crowded it was not a nightmare. From there we walked to the Tower of London and did a Beefeater tour. Excellent and well worth a visit. Then we walked to St. Paul's and did a tour which was quite well presented. We had dinner at Palm Court in the Covent Garden area (not memorable but OK...the tiresome practice of charging for bread and olives and reluctance to serve tap water). Then we walked to ST. Martin of the Fields for a concert. Vivaldi, Bach, Grieg performed by seven violins, two violas, two cellos and a harpsicord. Delightful.
Day 3 we decided to take the train to Canterbury. It was a nice ride despite a little confusion about which cars would actually go to Canterbury. The confusion caused the passengers in our car to engage in spirited debate about which would be the "first four cars" on the train. We were drawn into the conversation and given quite a bit of advice on how to enjoy Canterbury and our London visit. On arrival at Canterbury we walked up to the cathedral, which is simply gorgeous. To our delight the University of Kent orchestra was practicing for a concert that evening and we were able to enjoy listening to them as we toured. We left to have lunch (completely horrible at a department store...recommended by one of the passengers on the train) and returned to the Cathedral for Evensong. There was a visiting choir which was really terrific. The music was gorgeous. We took a walk around the city wall and caught the train .
We then headed back to our flat. I love to window shop (damned good thing because actually buying was out of the question) so we walked down Ebury to Pimlico and up Sloane. We stopped in Baker and Spice on Elizabeth (yes, more granola), Poilane bakers, Dayle Organics on Pimlico (wonderful!). We picked up enough for a delicious dinner in our flat. We watched an excellent program on Victoria's reign.
Day 4 The day started with a quick stroll through Hyde Park and Ken Gardens. We then went to the train station and caught the train to Hampton Court. Wonderful visit. The interpretive guides are outstanding. When we returned we headed to the City for our London walk with Shaughan. We selected the "Ghost Walk of London" and it was fantastic (one bit of advice, eat before you go into that area on a Sunday...nothing but the Golden Arches). Very entertaining!
Day 5: We headed straight for the Westminster Abbey and found it closed for Commonwealth Day celebrations. We walked down the Victoria Embankment and over to the British Museum. After that we did a little shopping on Picadilly (the mothership, Fortnum Mason) and Regent (Liberty). A quick run through Selfridge's was enough. We had reservations for tea at the Wolsely. I have been there before and always enjoyed my meal. The food was fine, but not wonderful on this visit. I was very surprised by the service. We are mature and properly dressed ladies. Our server greeted us by doing a takeoff of Joey Trevianni from Friends (How ya' doin")which he repeated each time he addressed us and proceeded to treat us in a very familiar and silly way. He left midway through the meal and we never saw him again (sacked?). We never figured out who actually replaced him and had to keep asking for items. Singularly unimpressive.
We made it to Spamalot in plenty of time. Our seats were great and I absolutely loved the performance. I am not a Monty Python fan, but this was wonderful. So optimistic and happy. Lady of the Lake is fabulous. Janis mentioned her in her review and I ditto that. Also loved the French knight.
Day 6 Went straight to TKTS. We got half priced tickets for Dame Maggie Smith in the Lady from Dubuque. Afterwards we walked through Covent Garden and back to the National Portrait Gallery. We then went to do a little shopping on Sloane Street and at Harrod's. Very little shopping. I love Anne Fontaine blouses and French Sole ballet flats. I found them priced about double what I would pay in the USA. The souvenirs I brought home were purchased at L'Artisan du Chocolat on Sloane (very well received, especially the scorched almonds). I wanted to buy some olives and mustards but no way I was putting something like that in checked luggage. After shopping we went to Fortnum Mason for a late lunch. We topped it off with sundaes. The housemade coffee ice cream is fabulous...and blended with the butterscotch sauce it is pure heaven. This is a must do for me every trip and I have never been disappointed.
The Lady from Dubuque is a great showcase for Dame Maggie. The rest of the cast is very blah, she shines spectacularly. I didn't care for the play, it is ugly and depressing.
Day 7 In order to make the airport by 0730 we broke down and took a cab from our flat to Victoria. How do people afford them? The Gatwick Express delivered us into the chaos of Gatwick on time. Checkin was fast and painless, leaving us a 2.5 hour wait. We wanted to have a facial or some other service at Clarins but no therapists were working that day so we passed the time watching everyone else pass the time. Not a bad thing.
Although I am not particularly fashionable myself, I enjoy watching those who are. A few observations:
1. Everyone has on a scarf.
2. Everyone is in black.
3. Almost everyone is wearing boots (some plain leather, some fur, looked like possum to me)
4. No one wears sunglasses.
5. Leggings with shorts, skirts, and long blouses are very popular (and look every bit as bad as they did last time around in the eighties)
Even though I ditched the sneakers I stood out from the locals because I was wearing a red coat, sunglasses, no scarf and black flats. I mention this because there are so many threads about how not to look like a tourist. Since I did, learn from my gaffs.

All in all a wonderful trip. I am looking forward to my next visit! I London.
cmcfong is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 03:38 PM
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>>>>>
EIGHT DOLLARS for a small bag!
>>>>>

next time try holland and barrett (ubiquitous health food chain). i'm not really into health food stores and strange tablets but they sell granola, nuts and dried fruit very cheap. usually health food stores are overpriced but they have good prices on this kind of stuff.
walkinaround is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 03:39 PM
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Yes, your heart does look strange , so let's say it stands for love or London.
Welcome back!!
cigalechanta is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 03:52 PM
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Thank you, Mimi. I will never get the hang of those smilies....
Trust me walkingaround, that granola was worth every penny. Amazing stuff.
cmcfong is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 05:16 PM
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Ahhhh, London. Great report!

Maybe the doesn't work in titles?
enzian is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 05:37 PM
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I heart your Trip Report!
Re: the jerk waiter at the Wolseley, I hope you complained? What was with that?? I am horrified..

I just love seeing plays in London and have some real goodies that I remember .. I would love to go spend a week or two the way Patrick does, a play or two a day ~

Thanks for posting, enjoyed it very much, will be patient and wait for more details..although that was an excellent what/not to wear list
Scarlett is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 05:46 PM
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I can't imagine walking that much just after arrival. I'm singularly impressed!

(Personally, I wouldn't spend 8 cents on granola - just tooooo healthy, thank you very much. )

Glad you liked the flat. It's a great location. Going to have to check out Spamalot & thanks for the tip on Lady from Dubuque. I'll probably skip that one. It always seems difficult to find a good play other than musicals & most just seem to be propped up by one really good actor.
Carrybean is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 06:21 PM
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"Although I am not particularly fashionable myself, I enjoy watching those who are."

Amen, Sister!

Enjoyed reading your trip report. DH and I know we did not devote enough time to London and after reading your trip report I feel determined to correct that! ;-) Wonderful read--thank you!
AnnMarie_C is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 06:25 PM
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What a wonderful report, cmcfong! Your trip is bringing back such wonderful memories of my own trip to London. My hat's off to you for going on the London Eye!! Maybe next time I will work up the nerve to go on it. Maybe.

I can't wait to read more!
seetheworld is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 06:34 PM
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What a fun trip! I went to London last summer but didn't spend enough time there due to our other plans.

Don't you love the London Eye? We had a full pod, so it was hard to get really nice pictures. Did you stand at the end of the pod for a souvenir picture?

That granola is sounding pretty yummy... I think I may need to get myself some inferior stateside granola.
mcnyc is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 06:46 PM
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mcnyc, try Bear Naked granola. Good, not in a league with the Baker and Spice stuff, but very good.
Scarlett, I did not complain...we actually had such a struggle getting any service at all after he disappeared. A big disappointment, we had been anticipating the Woolsely tea as a special treat.
Enzian, I realized later I had left off my excellent lunch at the Sanctuary. Thank you for the suggestion.
STW and AnneMarie, thank you so much for taking the time to read my report. I had fun writing about it!
Now, where to next????????
cmcfong is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 07:00 PM
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I really enjoyed your trip report. We are just finishing up our visit to London (I'm taking a packing break); we overlapped by several days. We too tried to visit Westmnster Abbey on Commonwealth Day, only to find it closed to visitors. Lots of well dressed people (women wearing hats) with tickets were going in for the ceremony, and the Queen was going to arrive. We decided not to wait for her, but went instead to the Tower of London. Turned out the Prince of Wales was there. Luckily they didn't close the Tower, but we were significantly rerouted. (Didn't see the Prince either)

We did so many of the same things that you did: Spamalot, Liberty, Fortnum, Borough Market, the Wolsely, British Museum and National Portrait Gallery. And wasn't the weather fantastic? Maybe I won't need to write a trip report of my own!
noe847 is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 07:22 PM
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Ok, hee, I thought I would, but then could not wait until tomorrow morning to enjoy over my earl grey, had to indulge now.

What a truly delightful report!
I it, big smiles.

A few observations...

...Of the two travelers, I am guessing you are ----------> <<one of whom studied in London in the 70's and frequently returns.>>

...Heights. My friend, as deep as our love for pups, this fear we have in common.

<<Vivaldi, Bach, Grieg performed by seven violins, two violas, two cellos and a harpsicord>>
This sentence was literally like music to my ears. What complete and utter heaven!

...DH was delighted you enjoyed Spamalot (simply delighted).

As I have previously mentioned on this forum, in my next life, I want to be your luggage.

What enjoyment you brought me with this report, many thanks!
Tiff is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 07:51 PM
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Great report. I really want to get back to London..love, love. love it. I must say that riding the London Eye with a bag of granola under your belt and being afraid of heights makes you Wonder Woman in my eyes!!!!!! LOL
crefloors is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 08:23 PM
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I'm so envious that got to see Dame Maggie. I'll console myself that the play wasn't THAT good, since we arrive in June after in closes!
Sounds like a great time.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 09:10 PM
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Really enjoyed your report. Leave for London in 10 days!
Brockbank is offline  
Mar 18th, 2007, 05:59 AM
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Oh Tiff, yes that fear of heights has incapacitated me more than once. I am so glad Janis gave me the needed push to do the Eye, it was wonderful. You guessed correctly on the who's who. I did a semester at Imperial College under the aegis of Notre Dame. Great fun (er, education).
Patrick, she was marvelous.
Ah crefloors, that granola......
Brockbank, have a wonderful time. I will be waiting for your report.
Noe, you must write a report. I would love to hear your take on the visit! Sorry we didn't try a GTG there.
cmcfong is offline  
Mar 18th, 2007, 06:25 AM
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Great report! I'm impressed with your energy on your first day--that's a lot of ground to cover!

Your trip matches my usual ones to London in lots of ways--I consider th same venues "must sees." We are heading back in two weeks, but taking our two kids and two grandsons so this will be a different kind of trip. Thanking the stars and Fodors for the 2-4-1's
MelJ is offline  
Mar 18th, 2007, 12:50 PM
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Dame Maggie! I'm jealous!!!
starrsville is offline  
Mar 18th, 2007, 01:30 PM
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Sounds wonderful! I've only spent time in transit in London and so want to go back at a leisurely pace and see things!
Thanks for letting me see things through your eyes! @ @

Debi
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