London, Edinburgh trip report

Aug 10th, 2005, 09:33 AM
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Join Date: May 2005
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London, Edinburgh trip report

As I promised, I am going to give a trip report on our recent visit to London and Edinburgh. Please remember that everybody experiences things differently, so these are only my impressions....

1. I went to London. (Just kidding!) London is fabulous, but the exchange rate is awful, and basically, everything costs you nearly double. I bought a pencil topped with a little Beefeater for my niece for 1.99 pounds, and then realized I had just spent nearly 4 dollars on a pencil. Guide books at castles and palaces cost 3.95 pounds, which translates into almost 8 dollars. It all adds up very, very quickly.
I knew going into this trip that England would be expensive, but it isn't until you get there and start buying the small items, like a bottle of water or snacks, that it really hits you.
2. What I really got wrong was my packing. Although I received great advice from other posters, I still totally overdid it, and I regretted it from the first moment when I dragged that suitcase onto the Heathrow Express and to the hotel, and it only got worse as the luggage got heavier. I only needed about half of what I took--there were some things I never wore and others I only wore once--and this was after really pruning down what I had wanted to take in the first place! In the end, we bought a duffle bag in Edinburgh to handle the souvenirs and gifts we bought--including 2 tartan blankets. Total insanity. I swear (really) I will never do this again! The luggage really felt heaviest when we were manuevering through the Tube stations, up and down stairways and escalators. I felt like an idiot, as so many other travelers just had one small suitcase or backpack and hurried right along to their destinations....
3. I scheduled a night in Stratford 3 days into our London trip, which meant dragging our luggage back to the Underground to catch a train, then returning to the city the next day to check back into a hotel. In retrospect, I would have figured out a way to eliminate the extra moving about--either by going to Stratford first, or going there before heading on to Edinburgh.
4. I bought half-price tickets to "Phantom of the Opera," which seemed stale and unemotional, even though normally it is one of our favorite shows. It was the only theater experience in England that disappointed us.
1. I went to London. (Not kidding.) It was expensive, and it was inconvenient in some ways, as the Circle Line and part of the Piccadilly Line did not open until our last day in the city. Traveling about took much longer than usual because of this. Security was massive, and at one point my daughter turned to me in the Underground and said: "Mom, when does defiance turn into stupidity?" It was obvious to us that the police really do expect more problems, and that made it a bit nerve-wracking, but both of us were thrilled to be in London, and we would not change a thing.
2. I bought the British Heritage Pass in advance--it saves money and time spent waiting in lines.
3. I also bought a 7-day Tube pass, which is so convenient, and saves the hassle of buying day passes. We felt we got our money's worth out of it.
4. I bought half-price tickets at Leicester Square and had my first experience with London theater. Though we found "Phantom" tired, we were thrilled with the current cast of "Les Miserables." I've seen it five times onstage, and this was the best by far, and we later chose it as one of our five favorite highlights of the entire trip.
5. I ordered tickets for a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by the Royal Shakespeare Company in advance, and it was another highlight of our trip.
6. I bought a hotel package in Edinburgh that included tickets to the Military Tattoo, yet another highlight.
7. I went to London. Readers of my previous thread in which I asked for packing advice will remember that this was my first trip since the death of my husband in March. I planned it as a mother-daughter vacation, and a healing experience. I took a prayer card from the funeral with my husband's photo and his little travel thermometer, in order to have him with me in spirit. For the most part, it was a great joy, though not without some weepy moments. The important thing is that we did it, and that my first trip without him is now behind me. He will always be with me in spirit wherever I go, but now I have learned that I can do this.

Now, I'll begin my actual report, which I will break up because of length:

Wednesday, July 28: Arrived at Heathrow via British Airways, after enjoying an upgrade to World Traveler Plus, which gave us a whole 7 inches of extra room on the plane! We arrived by 7 a.m. and spent a long time in lines at customs, then took the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station, and walked to the Quality Hotel Paddington. Since it was too early for our room, we decided to take a double decker red bus to the St. Paul's stop to visit the Museum of London. This is not a great museum by London standards, but it was cool and uncrowded, and a good choice for people with jet lag. We did see a remnant of the ancient Roman wall which once encircled the city when it was known as Londonium, as well as red velvet robes which belonged to Queen Victoria; Wellington's boots and hat; a chair Dickens sat in to write "A Tale for Two Cities," and the Lord Mayor's enormous gilded state coach. We had our first pub lunch nearby (Lord Raglan's), as my daughter and I were craving fish and chips. We took the Underground back to the hotel, since the bus ride had taken us an hour in the heat(although we did get quick glances of Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford, Regent's and Fleet Streets, the Inns of Court, and St. Paul's Cathedral), and then napped briefly before heading out to eat. Found a little Greek restaurant nearby and enjoyed moussaka and a lamb dish. Then we went to an Internet cafe so my daughter could E-mail her fiance. I picked up some very cheap souvenirs (keychain, pencil, etc.), postcards, stamps, and batteries, and in dollars, it cost me $60. That was my first experience with sticker shock in London, and certainly not my last.

Friday, July 29: We got up (not too) bright and early, and had a cappucino near the hotel before taking the Tube to the Tower. It was my most emotional moment of the trip, because I turned a corner and saw the bench where my late husband had been sitting watching the ravens on our previous trip, and I just fell apart. I sat on the bench to compose myself, and the rest of the day was a good one when I got that out of my system. We took a tour with a very funny Yeoman Warder (Beefeater) named Colin, and then had a lunch at the Armories Building. The prices are reasonable and the food is fresh. We took a lot of time looking at the Crown Jewels, as there were no crowds, and the guards encouraged us to look for as long as we wanted. They are well-informed and anxious to answer any questions you have. This was in contrast to our first visit when the lines seemed miles long, and our look at the jewels was very brief and rushed. We went through the Beachamp, Bloody, Salt, and White Towers, and then watched 3 actors perform a play about Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots (whose tombs we would see later in the week at Westminster Abbey). It was great fun. The Tower is my daughter's favorite place in London, and she can't get enough of it. Our dinner was a quick bite of baguettes back in our hotel room, as we had to rush to make the evening's performance of "Les Miserables." As I wrote earlier, this was the best production I've ever seen of this show--amazingly, since it opened 20 years ago! But this cast is fresh, energetic, and passionate, and we were both very emotionally moved.
We were to bed early as we had to catch an early train to Stratford-Upon-Avon. More to come...
MaureenGP is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 11:06 AM
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Please keep your report coming - this is a wonderful report - I have enjoyed every word (but I did tear up once or twice). I think you handled things just right - and it was so brave and smart of you to schedule this trip. Can't wait to read the rest.
Brahmama is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 02:28 PM
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Maureen - just a hint - you should post your trip report all on the same thread. First of all it keeps everything together so you will see everyone's responses and there won't be three threads floating out there . And second it simplifies things for folks who want to read the full report. It is a definite bother to have to search for the other parts.
janis is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 02:36 PM
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No more nagging I've just finished your first two installments and what a great trip report. I'm now off to part 3 . . . . .
janis is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 03:01 PM
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Janis: Your suggestion is very good, but another poster beat me to it and linked them all together for me.
I thought the reports ran incredibly long, so I was trying to break them down, but I can see that you are correct. Now I now, for the next time....
MaureenGP is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 03:06 PM
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What I meant to say was, now I know for the next time...
I blame the jet lag...
MaureenGP is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 03:15 PM
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Maureen, I was in London while you were there too
My friend and I also go wrong with the packing (blame it to we had booked a car to drive us to our hotel, we didn't regret it.
I'm glad to know you had a very good time despite your initial "doubts"
kenderina is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 04:45 PM
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By the way, something I noticed was a service called Hotel Link, which will pick you up in a mini-van and deliver you to the airport. It was 16 pounds per person, according to the brochure, and I did see them picking up someone at the Russell Hotel. But, I did not know about this in time, as one must give 24 hours notice. It would have been more convenient than dragging bags through the Tube to meet up with the Heathrow Express, and about the same price. I think the train is about 14 pounds, plus the Tube fare. I can't vouch for it personally, but it looked very good.
MaureenGP is offline  

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