London – five days with two teen boys

Old Jul 30th, 2013, 09:02 AM
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At British Museum look online ahead to see what free docent tours are available (they are about hourly and include some "highlights" tours and some special section tours).

Rather than hop on hop off bus I recommend one of the London Walks tours (sitting on a bus even the day after a long flight would be too much sitting for me). www.walks.com

Also you don't have on your list the Churchill War Rooms. It is a unique and highly interesting visit. I always recommend it. http://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/churchill-war-rooms. I also note from someone who was just there is it a bit hard to find the entrance. But if you look on a map you will see that the "back" of it faces a park. That is the more obvious way to approach to find the entrance.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 09:06 AM
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FYI, the reason we booked so far ahead for HP was because we wanted a Saturday, early morning slot. You'll have more flexibility -- but still look into asap.

Cabinet War Rooms were also a hit for our crew.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 10:14 AM
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Cabinet war rooms remains one of our favorite "museums" anywhere. Kids were 11 and 13 the first time we went.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 11:12 AM
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My understanding is that the boat ride takes four hours and will not give enough time for a palace visit of more than a couple of hours, which is insufficient in my opinion.>

75 minutes from Kingston to Hampton Court - I know that it can't be too long because I easily walked the Thames Path between the two - something kids that age will NOT love - if walking walk on the northside where the walking paths are - paths on the south side get disrupted by heavy traffic roads at places.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 11:53 AM
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I plan to take a Brakeaway Bike Tour the next time I visit London. They are equally well reviewed on tripadvisor as Fat Tire Tours. You might check them out to see if the timing or subject of their tours fits your interests. http://www.biketouroflondon.com/

No ride on the Eye? I enjoyed it and tickets are available online. http://www.londoneye.com/
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 12:16 PM
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Re the boat ride to/from HCP and assuming central London is where one is bases since few would be starting from Kew or Kingston upon Thames - it almost NEVER makes sense to take a boat TO the palace. The trip is quite long and one would not arrive at HCP until well after lunch and likely mid afternoon.

Taking a boat BACK into London can make sense (if the weather is decent). One should arrive at the palace by train close to opening time, spend several hours there, and if one is not in a hurry, catch a boat back to Westminster.

The length of the boat trip varies enormously because the river is tidal. But in general count on 3 to 4 hours from London to HCP, and about 3 hours from HCP to London.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 12:17 PM
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http://www.londontrocadero.com/

Ok ready to be skewered by many for suggesting that at some point the kids just want to be kids - give em a few hours when bored at the Trocadero entertainment emporium at Piccadilly Circus - yes tack but several floors of things most kids that age enjoy.

Say you want to go shopping a few hours - leave them here with some quid... kids there age from all over the world here.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 12:47 PM
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http://www.solarshuttle.co.uk/

Or give them a taste of boating in any of several London parks - like on the famous Serpentine in Hyde Park, a perpetual favorite with British families - or ride what is billed as the world's first solar-powered ferry there (where does solar power come from in sun-less London?)
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 01:48 PM
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If you get discounts, it will cost you 100 quid for Madame Tussaud's and London Dungeon (38 for you, 63 total for the boys, total admissions for the two based on the Madame's website) - two attractions PalQ touts either because he gets a cut or because he's trying to take the p*ss from Janis, me and about 99% of the other London responders.

Sheeyoot, it's not like you don't have enough free (Imperial War Museum, Brit Museum, pick a Tate) or top-end paid attractions (Tower, HCP, Windsor, Cabinet War Rooms) far better to visit for less (or no) money. The Tower is less than 41 quid for all three of you, 30 and change if you have a 2for1 discount (see daysoutguide.co.uk) for the boys. HCP is 33 for the family, sub-25 if you have a 2for1 discount. The Cabinet War Rooms cost 17 for you, nothing for the boys = a total of 73 to 91 quid for Tower, HCP and CWR - all of which are top-notch and great for teen and near-teen boys v. 100+ for the campy nonsense of Madame Tussaud's and the London Dungeon.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 02:24 PM
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Phew. Thanks everyone. You've sent me off on a click-frenzy to various websites and now have to take a deep breath and realise that we can't and wouldn't want to see everything in the few days we have.

Hampton Court Palace (and the maze!) sounds good, esp. given that I don't think we'll visit Versailles while in Paris. I think the train looks easier.

Hadn't really considered war museums (even though they're boys! not sure if it's a given that all boys like war stuff). But maybe Churchill. Will look into it a bit more.

Tend to steer away from tacky and overpriced, but might be persuaded to leave them at Trocadero for an hour!

Pompeii could be fascinating. Or will we just stick with free Egyptian? Don't know yet.

Still on the lookout for a car showroom in London. Couldn't see any cars on that Lotus site! He was talking about 'super cars', I'll have to grill him. I think they're supposed to be the fastest in the world. I know it sounds silly, but if he doesn't get this wish he won't be a happy camper.

I can see I'm going to have to brace myself and plunge into research on transport cards, 2-for-1 whatever that is, etc. etc. Not looking forward to it!

Thanks for marvellous input.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 02:40 PM
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Thanks Ann Marie – I particularly like the look of the Secret London tour.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 04:49 PM
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I'll chime in too. My son then 10 loved Hampton Court Palace--if you are there during the first weekend of the month I think when they do the live kitchen demonstrations it is a real lot of fun in the kitchen area. The whole place is awesome. We spent about 5 hours there.

Son liked both the Imperial War Museum and the Cabinet War Rooms too.

We did go to the London Zoo to see the insect collection. It was okay. I agree since you only have 5 days, concentrate on the bigger venues--British Museum, IWM, Cabinet War Rooms, Hampton Court Palace.

Son also loved climbing to the top of St Paul Cathedral. Not for the faint of heart but he enjoyed it.

Enjoy your trip and be sure to write a trip report when you return.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 06:34 PM
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Every time we are in London, even if just passing through for the day, my teenage boys ask for Thai food at the Churchill Arms Pub. It is a quaint pub and the food is served in a plant-filled dining area. Very cute and each dish is 7 or 8 GBP (or thereabouts). Near Notting Hill Gate tube station.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 06:43 PM
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Yes to the Cabinet War Rooms and the Imperial War Museum and Tower of London.

No to Madame Tussaud's (although we did take a great photo with the royal family in wax) and the London Dungeon (although my youngest liked it at 11 years old, the oldest at 13 years old and the parents were neutral or hated it.)

We use Just Airports to meet us at the airport and drive to our apartment or hotel. We did use the Heathrow Express family rate when we stayed in Paddington(Hilton). I take the tube when it is just me, but with several people, a private car is economical enough and convenient after a long flight.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 07:21 PM
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For high end/performance cars here are few dealers:

Owen Ferrari at 125 Old Brompton Road and Lamborghini and Maserati at 25-27 Old Brompton Road in South Kensington.

Stratstone Aston Martin in Park Lane
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 08:18 PM
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Thanks very much! I think we might climb St Paul's on arrival to shake out the legs... Bike tour next morning to get our bearings and be adventurous.

The Thai meal at the pub sounds perfect!

More agreement on War attractions, I see! And again Hampton Court...

And thanks for finding the car showrooms, janisj. I'm assuming we'll only be able to 'window shop'. Hope it satisfies him. Maybe once he sees everything else London has to offer, he won't bug me about cars.

Now... At the risk of turning you all away. I have had a foray into the world of public transport. Oh horrors. And, yes, I've read the many threads on the subject!

This is what I think we should do (have I understood it all?):

– buy 3 x 7-day travel cards Zones 1 & 2 (child x 2, adult x 1)
– print out 2-4-1 deals at home, which I gather are only valid with these paper travel cards purchased from National Rail
– since I'm the only adult, the 2-4-1 would only apply to the boys' entry prices, which is a further reason why they should have travel cards not oyster cards
– buy extension journeys as they occur, i.e. Hampton Court, Watford.

Anyone game to comment?!
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 09:36 PM
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The Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower is pretty cool. It is the ritual closing of the gates to the Tower, at sundown. The tickets are free, but you must request them in advance by mail. Google for the site.

We did it with our two teens and thought it was eerie and cool.
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Old Jul 31st, 2013, 04:01 AM
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<Still on the lookout for a car showroom in London. Couldn't see any cars on that Lotus site! >

smm - there were F1 cars (or replicas - who can tell?) in the Lotus shop when we were there in early December.

It's in Regent Street at Piccadilly Circus, so if you are in that area, a quick walk-by would be all it takes - and might be a great surprise for the boys.

Other nice climb for some views is the London Monument - I think adult was 2GBP and kids free or 1GBP. High tower erected as a monument to the great fire in 1666, near where the fire was extinguished (I think). It's a bit of a treasure - very narrow, winding staircase, and small area at the top, but some terrific views - it's easily walkable from the Tower of London, or at Monument Station on the Circle Line.

Trivia - the London Olympic Flame was modeled on the Golden Orb atop the Monument.

http://www.themonument.info/
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Old Jul 31st, 2013, 04:12 AM
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Sorry - near where the fire STARTED!
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Old Jul 31st, 2013, 12:06 PM
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Take them to Harrods - a free thing and show them where some of the richest folks in the world shop - lots of neat decors and a High Tea that gets kudos - treat them to High Tea in the fancy Harrods tea rooms.
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