London – five days with two teen boys

Old Aug 3rd, 2013, 12:20 PM
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Stomp! is fun and creative. Your boys might enjoy that.

Lee Ann
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Old Aug 3rd, 2013, 01:20 PM
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Generally speaking you can only get rail tickets at railway stations - but you can get tickets for any train journey at all stations, so if you decide to go to Hampton Court as well as the HP studio visit, you can get the train tickets to Hampton Court at the same time (saves queuing twice!)

I live in London and have just had a friend staying here with her 12-year old nephew and 15-year old niece - the latter fairly young for her age. Some observations on the kids' responses to London. Which weren't too different to the reactions of friends' and family's children over the past 20 years.

1. They got bored with long bus rides over 40 minutes (and I'm pretty sure that long boat rides would fit into the same category).

2. The South Bank walk is great - doesn't take that long if you get to the Embankment tube station, walk across the pedestrian bridge to the South Bank (there are metal plates on the handrail, showing many of the buildings to be seen), then down the steps to the left and along the river bank as far as the Millenium Bridge - another pedestrian bridge that takes you back across the Thames, and a pedestrian zone all the way up to Saint Paul's Cathedral and buses/tubes to the Tower of London. A walk done by many commuters from the south side of the first pedestrian bridge in about 15 minutes, but allow 30-40 for photos, rubber necking etc. When the tide is low enough, you may see guys making sand sculptures. Plenty of eating opportunities along the way, and you'll walk past the Tate Modern.

3. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament also seem to score highly - you can walk down there, passing Downing Street on the way, from Trafalgar Square, which is currently home to a giant blue cockerel sculpture on the fourth plinth in the Square. The other 3 plinths have more conventional (and permanent) figures. The fourth plinth is home to a piece of contemporary art, voted for by the public. At Greenwich, outside the Maritime Museum, there is a giant ship in a bottle which started its life as an artwork on the fourth plinth a couple of years ago. If you then walk across Westminster Bridge and turn left at the end down onto the embankment, you are about 10 minutes by foot from the London Eye.

4. Covent Garden market is the old fruit and vegetable market for London, now a lively centre with plenty of street entertainers, market stalls and small shops. I've found that passing over a £20 note and strict instructions to meet back at a certain cafe (there are plenty to choose from) in 45-60 minutes' time is a good place to give the kids a chance to go off and choose their own particular form of London memorabilia without my having to hang about and watch. The London Transport museum in the southeast corner of the market has an excellent poster shop on the first floor, which you can access without going into the museum itself - downstairs are the usual touristy stuff.

5. Places to eat: I don't pretend that the list of mid-range chains given below is complete, but they all have quite a few outlets in London, I've found them reliable and that there's always something for everyone in the group:
Italian: Pizza Express and Carluccios. Also Strada, Bella Italia, Spaghetti House and Ask, but I don't rate these as highly.
Oriental: Hare & Tortoise, Wagamama, Thai Square and Ping Pong.
International: Giraffe, Cafe Rouge, Zizzi.
Also (to take away or eat in), Pret à Manger (mostly sandwiches, salads, soup) and Marks & Spencer food hall - sandwiches, salads, soups, good fruit, soft drinks, wine etc. etc.
Food quality at all major museums is good.

Incidentally, Chorus Line closes at the end of August. If you've not already seen it, and can get tickets, I'd thoroughly recommend War Horse. Suitable for 10 years and up, and definitely for adults as well: http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/sh...london-theatre
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Old Aug 3rd, 2013, 02:33 PM
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Thanks for some excellent tips. The walk along the South Bank sounds just the ticket for the first day, in fact (thanks, PalenQ & Grindeldoo). Finishing up with St Paul's will probably be just about all we can take given jet-lag. Taking in the sights and sounds of London will daze and amaze.

Some brilliant options, thanks, Grindeldoo. Covent Gdn a perfect place to grab some 'me' time! And your other tips are great, including eating out. Don't s'pose we could miss Big Ben!!

I probably wd never have checked on Chorus Line dates! War Horse sounds terrific, as does Stomp! (thanks Lee Ann). Wonder if we can risk 1/2 price tix.

From what you say about rail tickets, I'm assuming they are undated if we can buy for a future journey?
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Old Aug 3rd, 2013, 10:20 PM
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We got Stomp for a reduced fare. I'd be surprised if War Horse was in that category.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2013, 10:53 PM
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Photographer's Gallery has good photography, but also a real camera obscura that's open on weekends and a pleasant cafe. My 16 year old son found the photography bleh, but the camera obscura fascinating and spent a lot of time there figuring out the optics: it's very hands on. Also it makes a nice break away from Oxford st. Free to enter, decent prices in the cafe, top notch photography (had to be there on business, took DS along)

I agree with South Bank, also, go inside the Tate Modern, if only for the Turbine Hall.

And something he found fascinating as well (and it is, but not for the faint hearted, so you need to consider whether to expose your sons to it) is the Hell display by Jake and Dinos Chapman at the Imperial War Museum. Both of us were immensely impressed and it made for a philosophical afternoon conversation.
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 12:26 AM
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I am travelling from Australia to London with my 14 year old daughter and contacted London Transport regarding a 7 day travel card for her. They advised no photo needed or advance purchase required but to bring proof of age (e.g. passport). We plan to buy at a train station (as opposed to tube) so we can buy the 2:1 tickets.

I've read this post with interest as we'll be doing some similiar things - with lots of shopping thrown in if my daughter has her way!
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 02:25 AM
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As well as the normal "High Street" shops which you and your 14 yo daughter will probably love( ie at least an afternoon wandering down Oxford Street ), it's also worth checking out TK Maxx http://www.tkmaxx.com/ for some deeeeep discounts on designer gear and lots of other great bargains. As fellow Oz travellers, I know you will appreciate the bargain opportunities and variety!
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 02:45 AM
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>>From what you say about rail tickets, I'm assuming they are undated if we can buy for a future journey?<<

It depends what type of ticket you choose to buy in advance, and for where. For stations within the London commuter belt, there's no saving by tying yourself down to a particular train in advance, but for long-distance trains, there is. Check your particular journey at www.nationalrail.co.uk.

>>I am travelling from Australia to London with my 14 year old daughter and contacted London Transport regarding a 7 day travel card for her. They advised no photo needed or advance purchase required but to bring proof of age (e.g. passport). We plan to buy at a train station (as opposed to tube) so we can buy the 2:1 tickets.<<

If you're looking for the 2for1s you need to consult a National Rail company, not London Transport, who aren't in that scheme.
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 03:51 AM
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Stomp's the one, thanks indy_dad.

Thanks, menachem – intriguing title 'Hell' display... Imagining Brueghel (sp?) figures writhing in flames...

More and more amazed at what this city has to offer. Need more time, time, time.

Dang, dreamon – just bought passport-sized photos of me for this purpose! Or is it just children who don't need? Hope you have a great trip!

Thanks, Patrick – just tickets for Watford and Hampton Court: 'add-ons' for 7-day travel cards. It was suggested I could buy these on the same day, to save queuing twice. Just wondering if I have to specify a day of travel.
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 03:55 AM
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Thanks, Bendigo, for the shopping suggestions.

Patrick, is it not the case that if we buy a paper 7 day travel card from a train station (presumably that means National Rail) that we can avail ourselves of the 2:1 offers - or have I misunderstood this? It seems complicated and had thought I'd got it sorted but perhaps not.
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 06:43 AM
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Grindeldoo's post is really excellent. I'd make one small change for your southbank / first day walk though. Instead of embankment station, I'd use Westminster station, come out on the street with Big Ben directly overhead, walk across Westminster bridge, (from the bridge to the Eye is barely a two minute walk, not the ten she mentions), then continue along the southbank as she describes as far as Tate Modern/the Globe (next door to each other) and then across the Millenium bridge to St. Paul's .

This route is only a little bit longer than the Embankment to St. Paul's route, but takes in Big Ben, parliament, and the Eye. First day this would be a great walk, no heavy duty sightseeing but tons of sites. I'd just pop inside the Tate to see the turbine hall, the walk next door to see the outside of the Globe, the across the fabulous footbridge to St. Paul's.

There are excellent cafes in the Tate, Globe, and St. Paul's under croft so you can eat wherever you need to stop.
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 08:54 AM
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, walk across Westminster bridge, (from the bridge to the Eye is barely a two minute walk, not the ten she mentions>

good idea but when I have walked that short route the bridge has always been so so crowded on its pedestrian sidewalk - in due par tot many nedors selling all kinds of kitsch foods and souvenirs on this one of London's busiest gauntlets - not comfy to take in any views - and it has always seemed this thronged when I was there - more a rush hour scene than picturesque stroll. Indeed I have seen times when a 2-minute walk normally would take 10 minutes or more thru this oft IME elbow-elbow sidewalk that just cannot accommodate the hoards of visitors and folks hawking goods.
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 08:59 AM
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My son's favorite is yo sushi, a kaiten sushi (conveyor belt) chain you can find across London. Surprising OK sushi, it's a stressfree kind of novelty dining experience. If sushi's your thing of course...
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 09:20 AM
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http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-teenagers.cfm

an older thread asking same question with some nice responses (and actually folks who said their kids loved the London Dungeon and Madame Tussaud's.

And yes the outdoor markets can be fun - especially the one at Camden Lock on weekends - more of an event than a sprawling market - something for everyone - one of London's top sites by numbers coming every weekend.

Portobello Road is another interesting market as it Petticoat Lane - here you'll hear a lkot of Cockney accents barking out "the world's largest bag - the more you put in it the more it will hold" - "all for a fiver love", etc.
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 12:40 PM
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PQ -- From the Bridge to the Eye is about 200 yards -- the crowds there should hardly be all that daunting. Even for an old codger like you
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 03:47 PM
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janis you have obviously not walked that route - it is even hard to get out of the tube stations many times - the other tube station is much more relaxed - why go thru such a jam scene and it has been every time I'm on that bridge and by the tube entrance - the scene of Big Ben 200 yareds further down hardly diminishes its awe - and you do not actually see Big Ben - a mistaken reference most not in the know use to erroneously describe the bell tower Big Ben the big bell is housed in.
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 03:58 PM
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I actually kind of like Westminster bridge - it just makes me feel like I'm "in London". Yep, it can be crowded... but it certainly isn't worse than Piccadilly Circus! I especially like when there is a bagpiper playing on the bridge... kitschy? sure... and I know - Scottish, but I still really like it. Call me a sap...

That is actually a route that I've taken on a photo tour - walking across the bridge about 2/3 of the way and setting the camera for a long exposure - waiting for the iconic double decker red buses and taking the photo of the buses (blurred in motion) with Big Ben behind them.

Also, I see PQ is making his push for Mme Tussaud's and Dungeon - others may like them - and there may be a place for them. You have a limited time - and it seems like a good itinerary. The reality is that you have to cut *something* - it is always hard! While these may be interesting, you have to make the hard calls - and I think you've done that.

I'm still going to put my plug in again for climbing O2 in Greenwich - it really is fun - something unique - and active. Plus I got to get a "Get Over It" tee shirt ("I climbed O2" on the back).

smm, email me at surf_mom at live dot com and I can share a few things with you.

Also, did I see you head to Paris after London? There are many of us who have also been there and have thoughts to share...
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 04:18 PM
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I can't imagine any 12- 14 old boy not grooving when they see the chopping block in the tower where the 'eads came off!
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 04:22 PM
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>>janis you have obviously not walked that route - it is even hard to get out of the tube stations many times -<<

Oh maybe 200-300 times, maybe more. Last time -- In May happened to walk across Westminster Bridge at least 3 time (may have been 4). Rode the Eye one of those times, walked the whole southbank another time. I honestly have NO idea what the heck you are talking about.

When have you <i>ever</i> not been able to get out of the tube station?

You choose the weirdest nits to pick IMO - but that is just being PQ.
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Old Aug 4th, 2013, 04:41 PM
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Hi everyone, I feel mighty chuffed to have the first day sorted.

We will walk/tube from Marble Arch to Victoria stn to buy rail travel cards. Walk/tube to Westminster and do this wonderful South Bank walk to St Paul's, stopping en route for eats, then depending on fatigue levels either tube it back to Marble Arch to chill out in Hyde Park for a while, or have a look at Trafalgar Sq first.

Checked out the link, thanks PalenQ. Portobello Rd mkt could be good (I suppose people still go to sticky beak Notting Hill movie location?!), and we could combine with that lunch recommended at Churchill Arms pub. And/or Covent Garden. I love some colour and life and being outdoors. We probably won't spend as long as many people would in museums. So this will give us opportunities for other activities. I don't think I can delay more than 2 days to find these blasted car showrooms.

Yes, we do have to cut and I haven't made firm decisions on what to cut, so I'm not ruling out O2 climb, surfmom! And I'm not even completely writing off the Dungeon, believe it or not!

Paris – I have some pretty good ideas already, but I may pop up with some Qs. Also have some Qs on Swiss hikes to sort out! The trip is beginning to feel real.

Thanks for all your help.
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