London Half-Term City Break

Feb 23rd, 2015, 04:45 AM
  #1  
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London Half-Term City Break

Travelers: Myself, DH, and 13 year-old DD, who drafted much of the itinerary.

Oyster Cards, Rail Passes, Admissions Fees, Oh, My! This being our third visit to London, pretty much nothing fell into the “Free” category. And without careful planning, the pounds can fly from one’s pocketbook rather quickly, so I created a spreadsheet beforehand to maximize the 2For1 attractions for days when we had a National Rail Ticket. In the end, we saved $83 in admissions fees, which I promptly spent while shopping along Oxford Street.

What We Toured.

Bletchley Park. We suggested this to DD, who excitedly agreed to the tour. Female codebreakers is a hot theme for teenage girls. The half-day spent at Bletchley was a highlight of our holiday; the only damper, if one will pardon the pun, is that it rained all day (the only rainy day of our visit), so walking between the many buildings required lots of opening and closing of umbrellas. (Side note: the chicken salad sandwiches from the train station Tabac are rather tasty, should you have time to spare while waiting for the next London train.)

Churchill War Rooms. Another, “Sounds fun!” from DD, so off we went. The exhibits are well-curated and made for a worthwhile visit. Hunger was calling, however, so we skipped the Churchill Museum part of the exhibit.

A Muggles Tour of London. This extremely well-narrated walking tour of London impressed both DH and me, and we are not the biggest Harry Potter fans. DD was over the moon. Our guide was informative and funny but not cliché; the group size, small; and there was just enough non-HP London sightseeing to give added value to the ticket. Three hours well spent one afternoon.

Platform 9 ¾. Of course. The people watching while waiting for a turn to run the trolley onto the platform makes the wait while standing in line amusing. The adjacent gift shop is oppressively small, and the cheaply made, but expensively priced wands were a disappointment that was only eased with a box of Bertie Botts Beans.

London Transport Museum. It being the half-term holiday for London’s school children as well as for us, we toured the museum amidst a sea of small people. No matter, though. The museum is extremely well-done, and overall great fun.

Borough Market. With but a two-hour flight separating London and Vienna, picking up a few delicacies and foods of interest to take home can be fun!

The Victoria & Albert Museum. A favorite of ours; and during our visit there was a special exhibit on wedding dresses. DH excused himself for a coffee while DD and I swooned over the beautiful gowns.

London Eye. Sometimes it’s just fun to look at a city from above on a blue sky and sunshine-y day.

East India Company. The flagship store sits a few steps off Oxford Street, and was a highlight of our epicurean shopping itinerary. We felt a bit underdressed upon entering, wearing jeans and with a camera around my neck, but the oh-so-polite staff engaged us, offering tea tastings and explanations for any and every tea sold in the store. We are tea drinkers so the visit was delightful, but even non-tea drinkers would be impressed with the tea set displays.

What We Ate.

We live in Vienna, via Washington, DC. We love our adopted city (and country), but, well, neither will soon make a “Top 50 Foodie Destinations” list, and there are quite a few international dishes we miss. Being in London was an extra special treat for us, culinarily speaking. Our visit coincided with the Chinese New Year, so what better way to celebrate than with Peking Duck in London’s Chinatown, the largest in Europe? We chose our restaurant along the popular Gerrard Street based on the clientele we could spy dining inside, and were not disappointed. Peking Duck, Salty Chili Ribs, and Garlic Chicken made us happy.

Indian food is a necessity for us, and our choice for lunch one day met all of our criteria for Indian food happiness. Pappadums lighter than air; and masalas and a vindaloo so spicy delicious they would be banned in Vienna.

Of course we ate British fare, including a surprisingly good fish and chips (with mushy peas, yum) near touristy Trafalgar Square; and several prepared meals from the Marks & Spencer Food Halls that we could heat in the West Kensington apartment we had rented.

Thanks for reading.
fourfortravel is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 05:57 AM
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Nice report, I never tire of reading people's impressions of London and almost always learn something new!
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 06:22 AM
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Awesome report. Thanks for sharing.
Love London too, and pretty much all the same things as you.
Mathieu is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 06:30 AM
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I'm another London fan (once lived there for two years, but was too young to really appreciate it, alas). I was there, shivering, in December and also enjoyed the wedding dress exhibit. Did not know about the East India company place, thanks. Also, do you remember where you had the good Indian food?

BTW, do you know about the Geffrye and the Dennis Severs house?
thursdaysd is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 06:39 AM
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same here - I love reading about "foreigners" views of London and the UK, and I always learn something. this time it was the East India Tea Company - who knew that existed?

I've googled it, and it's right next to Hamley's apparently.
annhig is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 08:00 AM
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London's one of my favourite cities, I first went there when I was six and its been an on-going love affair. DH and I used to go there every other month when we lived in Paris but unfortunately I haven't been back very often in recent years, though I always enjoy reading about other people's impressions of the city. I most definitely need to check out the East India Company store, should be interesting, more so since I'm of Indian origin/ Thanks fourfortravel
geetika is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 08:51 AM
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Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments. We love London!

thursdaysd, I am not familiar with the Geffrye and the Dennis Severs house. A quick Google search tells me it might be something to add to the itinerary of a future visit, though. Thank you! The Indian restaurant was "Euro Tandoori" near the Kings Cross station, along a sad little strip mall kind of street. Though it receives just 3.5 stars on TripAdvisor, we found the proprietor warm and engaging, and the food much to our liking. Our daughter's nanny was Bangladeshi and introduced her to curries as first solid foods, and she pronounced lunch, "absolutely amazing."

The East India Company store was an unexpected delight, and we are already regretting not purchasing more tea blends to bring home. I guess another visit to London must be planned.
fourfortravel is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 11:44 AM
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"East India Tea Company - who knew that existed? "

No-one.

East India Company Fine Foods Ltd - the shop in Conduit St - was founded in 2004, under the name International Media Initiatives.

The original East India Company was dissolved, to no-one's regret, in 1874. International Media Initiatives has cloned a branding device of the original operation and uses it as a trade mark. Though I doubt Warren Hastings ever registered it, can't the current johnny come latelies be done for passing off?

I'd happily swear I bought tea under the impression Clive of India had picked it himself.
flanneruk is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 12:50 PM
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Fourfortravel, were you in London first and then traveled to Bletchley Park and back during one day? If so, how long was the train ride?

When I checked it out, it seemed to take well over two hours to get there and then the return time didn't seem to allow much time for browsing around there. Thanks!
Trophywife007 is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 02:50 PM
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You had a really nice selection of activities (and grub by the sound of it!).

I've not visited the East India Tea Company but have been to The London Tea Exchange - you might enjoy that next time round - lots of great infusers and pots and beautifully packaged teas that make good pressies.
RM67 is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 09:20 PM
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Well, whether it's East India Company or International Media Initiatives, we enjoyed our visit nonetheless. We also learned that the company is using archival material, including ship's logs and recipes, to recreate some of the earliest tea blends.

The London Tea Exchange is on the list for the next visit. Thank you, RM67.

Trophywife007, we caught our train to Bletchley Park from Euston station; the ride was only 45 minutes, plus another 10 minutes or so to walk to the park. There seemed to be returns every hour, too, so we were able to enjoy the site and still have time to explore more of London when we returned.
fourfortravel is offline  
Feb 24th, 2015, 06:27 AM
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I must have been misreading the time tables... Thanks, fourfortravel, that is helpful.
Trophywife007 is offline  
Feb 24th, 2015, 05:48 PM
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Hi FOURFORTRAVEL,

So glad you and your family were pleased with your jaunt to London. I am always interested by what the young travelers enjoy. I am presently encouraging my daughter and her family (with boy 15 and girl 10) to plan a trip to London.

Count me as among those who did not know about the East India Company store. That organization was HUGE in the development/history/traditions of the British Empire.

According to Wiki, the East India Company "rose to account for half of the world's trade, particularly trade in basic commodities that included cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, saltpetre, tea and opium. The company also ruled the beginnings of the British Empire in India."

Much of its legacy is unsavory, but that is another story. Thanks for sharing....
latedaytraveler is offline  
Feb 24th, 2015, 11:15 PM
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latedaytraveler, our daughter planned the itinerary for a short city break to Barcelona for the two of us when she was 12, and worked together on a two-week itinerary for the Balkans and Istanbul, and had spectacular holidays. We almost always include our children in the travel planning now that they are old enough to have personal interests, and we've yet to have a bum holiday because of it!
fourfortravel is offline  
Feb 24th, 2015, 11:36 PM
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The East India Company was closed down (by statute I think) many years ago, this is just the name being reused. Unlike the Hudson Bay company which I think still trades as "the Bay" in some northern American continent cities.

If you want a bit of fun have a look at the flag of the old East India company, strangly like a modern country, now which one?
bilboburgler is offline  
Feb 25th, 2015, 05:53 AM
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BILBOBURGLER,

Flag of East India Company - who knew?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fl...%281801%29.svg

Back in the 18th century, the great statesman EDMUND BURKE (Irish, of course) was determined to undo the East India Company for its transgressions, particularly its head Warren Hastings yada, yada.
latedaytraveler is offline  
Feb 25th, 2015, 06:06 AM
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mmm - i can't think which flag it reminds me of.

They certainly weren't hiding who they owed allegiance to, were they?
annhig is offline  
Feb 26th, 2015, 03:31 AM
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Hi ANNHIG,

"They certainly weren't hiding who they owed allegiance to, were they?"

According to this piece, this EAST INDIA COMPANY flag was used from 1801-1858. It could not have been too popular when you guys burned the White House in what we call "The War of 1812."

All's well that ends well, eh? Must say that I love the design and colors of the Union Jack.
latedaytraveler is offline  
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