London and Beyond: Trip Report

Old Jan 31st, 2003, 04:43 AM
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London and Beyond: Trip Report

Wow, I just got back from a 2 week trip to London and England to find registration at Fodors! I like it. Anyway, we had a great time! Hopefully I’ll provide some useful information here, but I’ll also check back to answer questions if anyone has them. <BR><BR>First, I’d like to thank Ben Haines, PatrickW, Janis, and others for continually posting such wonderful information on this board. I didn’t ask questions of my own, but researched all kinds of things for the trip, and their names always popped up in the threads I found most useful.<BR><BR>The players: Me, my boyfriend (BF), and my sister. We are all in our 30s. <BR><BR>The background: My sister is in London for 2 months for work, so we stayed in her 2 bedroom flat on Baker Street in the Marylebone area. I have no first hand knowledge of London hotels, sorry. I did some things on my own or with just my sister, because BF and I agreed ahead of time that we didn’t have to be together 24/7. This is a great way to travel if you and your traveling companion have different interests – we both had a great time and didn’t feel like we were dragging each other to places we didn’t want to go. <BR><BR>We went to many of the usual tourist spots. I probably won’t list them all because you know what they are. I had a list of things to do by day, broken down by geography or by when things were opened. There were a lot of things of my list, and although we didn’t do everything, we did do a lot of them.<BR><BR>We spent 7 days in London, then spent 4 days outside of London in the middle of the trip (4-day weekend), and then spent the last day and a half in London. We went to Stonehenge, Salisbury, Lacock, Bath, Castle Combe and Avebury over the 4 day weekend.<BR><BR>The flight: I splurged and used FF miles from Delta to buy 2 Upper Class tickets on Virgin Atlantic from Newark to Heathrow. If you have the miles to do this, or to upgrade, I’d highly recommend it! The flight was great – the upper class lounge was fun to hang out in before the flight. Problem 1: On the way home, VA canceled our flight, and rebooked us on United but going to a different airport (JFK instead of Newark). This caused us to spend about $90 more on our car service than planned, we got home about 4 hours later than expected, and they lost BF’s luggage. Hopefully it will turn up today! But overall, I would recommend VA anyway.<BR><BR>The car service to and from the airport in London: We used, as often suggested on these boards, Ray Skinner at www.london-transfer.com. They were great, right on time, waiting for us at the airport, pointed out things as we were driving into the city.<BR><BR>The tube: We bought a 7-day Travelcard once we got to London. We brought passport size pictures, but if you don’t, there are photo booths in the stations. For the last 2 days, we just bought off-peak daily tickets.<BR>
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Old Jan 31st, 2003, 04:53 AM
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I will continue...<BR>
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Old Jan 31st, 2003, 04:53 AM
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Helpful money saving tip: If you are going to London between now and April, at the tube stations look at the pamplets – they have a “2 for 1 London” that gives you 2 for 1 at about a dozen popular tourist sites – including the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Cabinet War Rooms and a bunch of others. This saved us BIG BUCKS! The Tower alone costs 11 pounds fifty, which is about $17 each! We used it about 5 times and probably saved $30 or $40. They are also good for tickets to some shows, but we used the Leicester Square ½ price booth anyway.
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Old Jan 31st, 2003, 04:55 AM
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Sorry for the short entries, I am having problems submitting longer ones...<BR><BR>The car: We rented a car for the 4-day weekend, since for 3 of us it was cheaper than the train would be. We got a Hertz car through the British Airways website that was ½ the price of Hertz.com or Autoeurope.com. Problem 2: When we went to get the car, Hertz had no record of it. We wasted 1 ½ hours trying to straighten it out and then ended up getting a huge Caravan instead of an intermediate sedan. Although we managed fine, it was really WAY too big for some of the country roads we were driving on. They are getting a complaint letter from me today. We had no problems driving, picked it up very quickly, but it was definitely good to have a driver, a navigator, and a sign watcher, plus the passengers helped with reminders such as “stay left”, “stay on this side”, etc. <BR><BR>We stayed in the Marylebone area, right next to the Baker St. tube. This is a wonderful area, and although I don't see it mentioned here alot, there are some hotels in the area and I would suggest considering it. Close to everything, and it's a major tube stop. <BR><BR>London in January: This was my first time there, but I'd recommend it highly! We mostly had great weather - high 40s (at the end it was colder and windy), only 2 days of solid rain, mostly it just threatened a lot. It was fine for walking around. We probably got a little lucky, it snowed the week before we were there and I think it's snowing there now.<BR>
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Old Jan 31st, 2003, 04:58 AM
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But, the best thing - NO CROWDS! We walked right into everything - the crown jewels at the Tower of London at 11am; we walked through the gardens at Hampton Court Palace and were the only ones there; we waited in line for 3 minutes at Leicester Square for 1/2 price tickets. We have pictures of all kinds of things with no people in them! It was fantastic.<BR><BR>Highlights for me: Tower of London (we also did the Ceremony of the Keys here, it was fun to see the 700 year old ceremony), Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey, looking for interestingly-named pubs, the Reduced Shakespeare Company's William Shakespeare (Abridged) - it was hilarious. Let's see...I'll continue in a little while!
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Old Jan 31st, 2003, 06:12 AM
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This is very interesting so far! Great report kaudrey~
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Old Jan 31st, 2003, 07:56 AM
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Thanks, Scarlett. Glad you like it.<BR><BR>Food suggestion: Get the &quot;Good Cheaps Eats in London&quot; book. We used it 4 times and were very happy each time. If you like Indian food, there is a restaurant that used to be Vandelah's and is now weirdly called Spicy World that was in the book, and it was excellent. <BR><BR>Another London highlight - on Sundays on Bayswater Ave in Kensington they have an open-air art show. Artists line up on the sidewalk selling all kinds of things. I bought a small oil painting for 30 pounds that I love. <BR><BR>Outside of London, we liked Salisbury the best. It's a great little town, on Tuesdays and Saturdays they have an open-air market with wonderful, cheap, stuff like breads, cheese, fruits and veggies, meats etc. We bought bread and cheese and ate that for lunch when we got to Lacock.
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Old Jan 31st, 2003, 08:04 AM
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For B&amp;Bs, we stayed at the Byways House in Salisbury and Brompton House in Bath. I would recommend both. They are both on quiet streets, short walks from the main parts of town, and reasonably priced. Rooms were decent sized in both, and they gave us yummy, big breakfasts. <BR><BR>We stopped at Lacock, which is an historic village with lots of cobblestone streets and very old buildings. They had a pub called The George Inn (I think), that was just wonderful - fireplace roaring, 17th century building - great atmosphere. <BR><BR>Another highlight was Castle Combe. Dubbed a few years ago as &quot;the prettiest village in England&quot;, it is tiny but deserves the title. It was so quaint and adorable. It has 2 pubs, but it seemed like only 20 people lived there...
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Old Jan 31st, 2003, 08:08 AM
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Stonehenge was very cool to see and learn about, we were there for about 45 minutes on the way to Salisbury. <BR><BR>Bath is a nice town as well, bigger than the others. The Roman Baths were very interesting, and we ate at a great Thai place called Mai Thai and a tapas place called La Flamenca. Both are near the Abbey and Baths and were excellent.<BR><BR>We had no problem with food in England. For lunch we would usually grab a sandwich (they have wonderful baguettes!) at one of the numerous sandwich shops, and our dinners were all fine. We got some places from the Cheap Eats book, once we brought back fresh food from Harrods and cooked (that was delicious!), we ate in several pubs and thought the food was fine.<BR><BR>I finally tried scones and clotted cream and jam on the last day - yum!!!<BR><BR>We tried a lot of different pubs (as required being in England!), and found some great deals at happy hour. We loved the pubs, except they are very smokey if it's pretty crowded. <BR><BR>If you want details on anything else, please ask here - I will return and answer what I can. I LOVE ENGLAND!!!!<BR>
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Old Jan 31st, 2003, 11:13 AM
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One more thought: we did go to the famous January Harrod's sales - still couldn't afford anything! The food we bought there was excellent but it was quite expensive - we splurged for that night.
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Old Jan 31st, 2003, 01:55 PM
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Sounds like you had a great time. I'll be there in March. Please tell more about the &quot;2 for 1 London&quot; pass. Where exactly did you get it and how does it work? What else is it good for? Also, did you go to any street markets like Portobello or Camden, and if so how were they? Did you go to any thing in any of the churches like evensong, organ recitals, etc. - and if so how were they? Thanks.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2003, 07:35 PM
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Pleas keep going. We want ot hear all about what else you did. Enjoying what w you have written so far. It seems easier to post now. But for your sanity you may want ot break it up into daily or two day parcels.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2003, 04:06 AM
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Hi isabel and Mike,<BR><BR>The &quot;2 for 1&quot; wasn't a pass. It was just a brochure that you can pick up near the ticket windows of any tube station. In the back of it, there are little cards that you fill out with the name of the attraction (Tower of London, for example), and you just present it to the ticket window at the attraction, along with your travelcard, and you only have to pay for one person. It was great, and very easy. If I remember correctly, the brochure was dark pink in color and pretty easy to spot.<BR><BR>We did go to Portobello Road but we weren't there on Saturday so I can't speak to the antiques market. They do have outdoor vendors selling fruits and stuff up and down that road, but after seeing the market in Salisbury, I wasn't impressed.<BR><BR>We also went up into the Tower Bridge. There are nice views from up there, but I think that if you do the London Eye you can skip this (London Eye was closed while we were there). <BR><BR>We didn't see Evensong, however, in Southwark Cathedral and in Salibury Cathedral the choirs were practicing when we were there, so we heard beautiful music as we were touring around.<BR><BR>We went to see Big Ben/Parliament 3 times. Once at night (very pretty), once on a rainy day (we went into Westminster Abbey that day, they are right next to each other), and then I went back on a sunny day so I had some better pictures! The tube is so easy you can hop all over the place.<BR><BR>I also stopped briefly at Trafalgar Square to see the pigeons, but didn't stay long because it was raining. <BR><BR>Beware of pubs serving food at limited hours! More than once, we went into a pub, ordered a pint, asked for a menu, and were told they only served food from 12-3 or 12-6 or whatever. After a while, we asked about food before ordering a pint if we were hungry! But, they would let you bring outside food in if they weren't serving...<BR><BR>Karen
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Old Feb 3rd, 2003, 04:07 AM
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Hi isabel and Mike,<BR><BR>The &quot;2 for 1&quot; wasn't a pass. It was just a brochure that you can pick up near the ticket windows of any tube station. In the back of it, there are little cards that you fill out with the name of the attraction (Tower of London, for example), and you just present it to the ticket window at the attraction, along with your travelcard, and you only have to pay for one person. It was great, and very easy. If I remember correctly, the brochure was dark pink in color and pretty easy to spot.<BR><BR>We did go to Portobello Road but we weren't there on Saturday so I can't speak to the antiques market. They do have outdoor vendors selling fruits and stuff up and down that road, but after seeing the market in Salisbury, I wasn't impressed.<BR><BR>I also stopped briefly at Trafalgar Square to see the pigeons, but didn't stay long because it was raining.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2003, 04:08 AM
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Oops...sorry for the double post!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2003, 08:37 PM
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topping for damama
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Old Feb 4th, 2003, 11:50 AM
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Thanks for getting it to me.
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