London in January

Feb 6th, 2019, 12:20 PM
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London in January

I just returned from twelve days in London and since Fodor’s is always a great help to me in planning trips, I’ve provided a trip report:

AIR: I flew Icelandair from JFK/LHR; all flights require a couple of hour stopover in Reykjavík. I booked Icelandair because it was a cheap flight ($399) but once I added the fee for a checked bag and the fee for choosing a seat, it was about $500. Something I like about Icelandair is that they offer the opportunity to bid for an upgrade to Saga Premier (their Business class). I did this last time I flew and was pleased, so did the same this time. While the seats don’t recline, they’re bigger & more comfortable than Economy and you get real food, headphones, a quilt, access to their lounge, etc. Some people don’t think it’s worth paying for an upgrade but I do. I bid about $250 for each of the longer legs, NY to Reykjavík and back and $150 for one of the Reykjavík to London legs and won all the bids. So, in total, a business class seat round trip cost me about $1275.

LODGING: I reserved an apartment via VRBO which was located midway between the Queensway & Bayswater tube stations, right off Hyde Park. It was one bedroom, full kitchen, spacious, comfortable and quiet. Average per night price was $150. Great location with access to key subway lines. Within 5 mins walk were grocery stores (Sainsbury, Waitrose & Tesco Express), pharmacies (Boots & SuperDrug), Barclays, multiple restaurants, Starbucks and Pret a Manger.

LOCAL TRANSPORTATION: I had an Oyster card from my prior trip, so I bought a seven day travel card at LHR (for Zones 1 & 2, 35 pounds for 7 days, unlimited travel on tube and buses). After the first seven days expired, I renewed it with another 7 day travelcard. I took the tube from LHR to the apartment (the owner provided detailed instructions for a virtually step-free trip).

Day 1
By 2:00 pm, I was ready to do a bit of sightseeing. My first stop was the Notre Dame de France church near Leicester Square which was not easy to find - I went in circles for about 20 minutes. It’s a fairly new church with unusual artwork: a Cocteau mural, Boris Anrep mosaic, a 21st c tapestry and other items. Vaguely interesting, but wouldn’t go back or recommend it to a casual visitor.

I stopped into the National Portrait Gallery to see the 20th century portraits on the first floor. So interesting to see the various styles, especially how modern a lot of the 1900’s-‘30s portraits were. A great mix of subjects – well known people, names I didn’t recognize and regular folks. I was surprised to see how many portraits of the Bloomsbury group there were, in additional to portraits by them. Since it was toward 4:00, it wasn’t crowded and I took my time absorbing.

Day 2, Partly sunny, about 35° and rainy afternoon
A busy day! Planned to take one of the guided London walks from the Baker Street tube, and on the way, went to Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street (a great suggestion from Fodorites). What a fantastic book store – huge travel section, vintage books plus the standard new books. Loved exploring the mezzanine for vintage Batsford guides (none found) but I bought a new book about the British in India and one of their famous tote bags.

The walk, “Lure of the Underground”, met outside the Baker Street tube station; since I would be doing a lot of walks, I bought a Frequent Walker card which allowed me to pay $8 for all subsequent walks (instead of $10). I thought this would involve seeing off the beaten track locations inside tube stations, which it didn’t. The guide talked about the development of the tube, how it was built and pointed out some interesting facts about station décor, but for me, it was just OK.

Walked past the St Marylebone Parish church and stopped in - pretty interesting actually. Multiple memorials parishioners who died in World War I and World War II. More interesting was that all the stained glass windows were shattered during World War II by a nearby bomb, so they gathered up fragments of the shattered windows and incorporated them into the new windows as a frame around the edges. What a good way to use the fragments and remind people. Some organ tuning was going on, so I got to hear little snippets of organ music too.

Had a late lunch at Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecote, on Marylebone Lane. No menu – all they serve is salad, steak and french fries. I’ve been wanting to go to the NYC branch, so this was a good opportunity but unfortunately, I didn’t really like the steak or the fries. The steak comes with a mustard sauce which wasn’t to my taste and the fries were OK. It was a nice break in the day and I enjoyed the people watching.

Off to the Tate Britain - another great museum. Since it’s on the Thames, I wished I had gone earlier so I could walk along the bank and look at the river but it was nearly 4:00 and dusk. I had downloaded an article highlighting about 20 paintings within their “A Walk-through British History” exhibit. The article covered diverse groups and their perspective on certain paintings which was an interesting way to look at them. It was also nice because I focused on those specific paintings in each gallery instead of feeling obligated to look at every single painting. However, I enjoyed the panoply of 20th century art, a lot of which was painted by artists I wasn’t familiar with. I do know who John Singer Sargent is (!) and they have a number of his works, so I understood why he’s so well regarded. Not impressed by Turners however….
vickiebypass is offline  
Feb 6th, 2019, 12:48 PM
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Day 3, Sunny but very cold

Today was Bletchley Park so I took a direct train from Euston station for only 20 pounds and 42 minutes. About a four minute walk from the station to the visitor center. Took the 11:30 free outdoor tour which was interesting. It’s an hour start to finish and was led by a volunteer who worked for the Foreign Office for 40 years. He was very nattily dressed in a blue pinstripe suit with fancy shiny black dress shoes and a muted tie. An interesting, relaxed speaker who told us lots of background stories - he was worth going for.

This site itself left me cold (no pun intended). It felt like a local museum that really doesn’t have much funding and is run by very enthusiastic volunteers; however they get heritage lottery funding and have several corporate sponsorship. Some of the TA comments said that it was slightly boring and there wasn’t much to see but that if you were really into computers you would love it and I agree. Although there are a lot of buildings that are open to the public, there’s just not much to see in them. Part of the reason could be because it was such a super secret project that there were very few photographs and people couldn’t talk about what they did until sometime in the 70s but to me the Cabinet War Rooms and Operation Overlord @ Dover are much more informative and give a better sense of the time. However, many of the volunteers were older men who were very nice, helpful and full of information and clearly wanted to be sure that people enjoy their visit and don’t miss anything. It’s nice to see that level of caring and pride.

Another positive - I had lunch in the visitor center café and was unusually good! Carrot and cumin soup, with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and dried oregano as toppings; and really good shortbread.

Since I didn’t spend as much time at Bletchley as I had anticipated, I decided to walk to the British Library for two exhibits, since it was close to Euston. Really cold so kicking myself for making the wrong layering choice today!
The Library is a new building which surprised me since I was expecting a big old Victorian pile. I’m glad I didn’t make a special trip because the two exhibits I went to see took about 12 minutes each. Not much to them - Cats in Literature was small as was the PG Woodhouse exhibit. It didn’t seem to have a point so was a bit odd. While I was there, I explored the British Treasures of British Library including the Magna Carta, various sacred texts and some Beatles items.

Day 4, Cold and drizzly about 35°
Had planned to do a self-guided walk in the East End and Poplar but given the weather, I decided to do a bus tour based on a Fodorite’s guide to bus 11 which goes past most scenic sites.

The instructions said to go to a specific bus stop outside Victoria coach station and lo and behold when I came out of Victoria the stop was 10 feet away – amazing! Usually I walk in circles trying to find those stops. I got a front row seat in the top level and spent about an hour getting a birds-eye view of various sites. Very pleased with my “indoor” activity!

Tubed to the National Theater for a matinee of “Hadestown”. I saw this play a couple of years ago off-off Broadway in a tiny theater and loved it, so was eager to see this version. (Theater is right on the Thames and if I’d had more time, and it was nicer weather, I would have enjoyed walking along the bankside. But as usual I was rushing. I had forgotten how good the music is but I think I liked the performance better in New York, or maybe it’s just that seeing it a second time can never live up to the excitement of having stumbled across something great.

Back at the apartment, I watched The Crown on Netflix. Boy, is that Philip a wimpy, pill of a guy.
vickiebypass is offline  
Feb 7th, 2019, 08:43 AM
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Very detailed! Waiting for more!!
JamilaZ is offline  
Feb 7th, 2019, 09:03 AM
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Day 5

Big day today, so had a lazy morning and just watched some TV and read for an hour or so.

On the way to the National Army Museum in Chelsea for a lunchtime talk. Since Chelsea is such an upscale area, the shops are interesting boutiques but expensive, along with several charity thrift shops and houses that have been renovated. Each trip to London, I go to the army museum and enjoy strolling through Chelsea.

I spotted the “Office” store which is actually shoes and stopped in – lo and behold, they had the special edition Adidas that I wanted. Created to celebrate the new Elizabeth subway line, they are purple suede gazelle models, with the classic 3 stripes and TFL logos on the heel tab. Same price as online and now I don’t have to make a special trip to an Adidas Original store - Woo hoo! Already in a good mood!

The free 11:30 lecture on “Britain’s finest hour: the liberation of Bergen Belsen” was led by a German history professor from the University of Sussex. Well attended, about 75-80 people. Lecture provided some interesting perspectives: when the British arrived at Bergen Belsen, they thought it was just the Germans handing over an administrative space and dormitories, so the process was very cut & dried and civilized. Later that afternoon, they got further into the camp they realized what was going on and within two or three days they had organized medical teams, engineers, etc. Also interesting was the fact that very quickly Britain realized this was a great opportunity to (1) document the atrocities but (2) to help sell the British and the rest the world on why the Allies had to go to war (this was in April 1945). So, they had photographers and cameramen there documenting everything that they were seeing and being told. Useful for various reasons including to reinforce the fact that Britain needed to have been in the war to save the world from this kind of thing. While I might not agree with everything, I like considering new perspectives.

My next mission was a 1:15 walk led by the Royal Park department of St. James Park. The leader was pleasant but I felt there wasn’t much information about the history or layout of the park, but we did walk a fair amount which I like. The walk was an hour and 45 minutes and since it was a very nice day there were lots of people in the park. Spotted snow drops and a huge variety of birds including parakeets. Speaking of birds, part of the tour was meeting Hugh, the chief bird and the wildlife man, who was very knowledgeable. One of the highlights was going onto Duck Island to see the duck keepers cottage (not used anymore - a tiny tiny cottage which must be damp and mildew) and the old pumping station. Highlight was feeding the 3 pelicans - these pelicans are not like Florida pelicans but are much taller, pinkish, and a smaller gullet. He mentioned that they have a problem with feral birds. Who knew? Apparently a lot of birds that aren’t designed to be in the park are flying in and staying.

Went back to the apartment to rest for an hour and a half before the big soccer game at the Emirates – Arsenal vs Manchester United FA Cup game. I’ve been watching Premier League soccer on tv for months and had a general idea of seeing a game, but tickets for top level teams seemed impossible to buy. But, I ended getting a ticket on Stub Hub so was very excited! Tube to Finsbury Park and walked out into a sea of people for a 10 minute walk to the stadium. Bought an Arsenal scarf for 12 pounds at the Arsenal store just outside of tube station. Street was closed to traffic and there were food trucks along the way which all reeked of grease and onions from fish and chips or burgers.

Stadium was but it was actually very easy to find my seat (after two bag searches and a pat down). My seat was a great seat - literally four rows behind the coaches seats, so I was super close to the field. Loved watching both teams warming up and recognizing players. Big light show before the game started. Although Arsenal lost, that didn’t really matter to me. It was surreal to be there live after watching both teams on TV for six months now and to actually see these players in real life, just 30 feet from me. It was totally experience from TV - of course, there’s no play-by-play in the stadium so you have to pay attention, know your players’ numbers - just the difference from watching on TV. At half time, there’s a team of grounds keepers who go out with mini pitchforks to fill-in any holes or divots.

Since I read that the Tube was really mobbed, I waited a few minutes after the game ended and watched the two teams on the field thanking their fans. When I left the stadium, everyone said just follow all the people so I did and all of a sudden I realized I was following people who are probably going home to their house, so I asked a lady with a little boy and she said yes, she was going home and that I had missed the turn. Good thing it occurred to me to ask!
vickiebypass is offline  
Feb 8th, 2019, 05:35 AM
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If you went to the British Library, I’m very surprised that you didn’t visit this exhibition
it must have been on when you were there. It was amazing
MissPrism is offline  
Feb 8th, 2019, 06:38 AM
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Great report. Loved the Arsenal story. I went to an Atletico game on my recent Madrid trip.
twk is offline  
Feb 8th, 2019, 10:24 AM
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Day 6, Gray and about 48°
Had a great day today - just did two things but really enjoyed both of them.

Took a guided London walk “Camden town”. Very good leader who has been with London walks since the ‘80s & she and her husband have been living in Camden since 1964. Wow, it must have been different then!

It’s an area that I’ve never been to so it was interesting to see the areas that are still a bit rough, as well as the parts that are getting gentrified. Still has a bit of a hip vibe; Amy Winehouse hung out there and many other musicians that the tour leader talked about. Brought some life and color to the walk! I had no interest in the Camden Market area (crowded) but the high streets, Regent Canal and other pockets were definitely worth seeing. So I learned a lot and was exposed to a new area - a good thing!

Next stop was Sadler Wells for Matthew Bourne’s production of “Swan Lake”. Seat was in front row mezzanine, not NYC expensive, but great view. I thought the production was absolutely amazing. This was set in the 30s or 40s and the whole slant was changed from the classical version. The swans are all men, there’s no swan queen - it’s just one prince and he & the swan king fall in love so where normally it would be female male, here it was male male. So different from the original Swan Lake that I find so boring to watch. This was vibrant, passionate and complex - the swans showed wings, beaks and torso bobbing. When they realize the swan king is falling for the prince, they circled around to attack the prince and embodied swans while they basically peck the prince to death. It’s very hard to describe and might not be to everyone’s taste but I thought it was spectacular. It opened up my eyes to a whole different style of ballet and the male dancers were so powerful.

Day 7, Cloudy and very windy maybe 40°
Walked through Hyde Park to reach the starting point of another guided London walk “London parks and their Ramparts Urban Geology”. Only six of us, led by a professor who is a geologist specializing in igneous rocks. We started with Apsley house and then Wellingont’s monument and the various war memorials right there; studied the rock that they were made out of; tectonic plates; hundreds of billions of years in layers; fossils; crystals and various rock components.

He was so passionate and the weather was so nice that it ended up being an OK walk. The walk ended at Green Park station and I had exactly an hour before my next walk started and I was looking for a bathroom so I walked to the Ritz hotel. So many elegant, well-dressed people. The bathroom was equally elegant so I took a photo.

Did a “Westminster” guided walk in heavy rain; leader, Simon, was very dramatic – possibly an actor on the side! About nine of us and he full of information, providing lots of historical facts and walking on various streets behind the typical Westminster buildings. I never would’ve walked down those streets or realized they were residential, so another eye opener.
vickiebypass is offline  
Feb 8th, 2019, 10:27 AM
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MissPrism: The Anglo-Saxon period just doesn't interest me...I've tried but there's no spark. The Library is one of many on my list for future visits for lectures and special exhibits.
vickiebypass is offline  
Feb 8th, 2019, 10:52 AM
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Day 8, Sunny and about 41°
Not feeling so hot due to a sinus infection that was getting stronger so had a lazy morning at the apt. Prior to another guided London walk, I had lunch at a pretty bad place called Eat – pseudo fast food. I got a steak and ale pie for 7 pounds which didn’t have much steak in it & couldn’t taste any ale. And the place didn’t have a bathroom which was even more annoying so I had to go to Starbucks and use their bathroom - fine but still.

The walk “Legal ins and outs of the Inns of Court” was pretty good overall. I think one of the problems with the walks is that they don’t cover a whole lot of area and they’re doing a lot of zigzagging, cutting through areas, circling around, etc so it’s very easy to lose track of where you actually are. Did a good job of explaining the system, differences between solicitors and barristers, concept of chambers and highlighting notable buildings nearby. The leader also liked to do impressions of various barristers - I think a lot of the leaders must be frustrated actors! It was a little bit of a window into an area that I’ve been interested in for a while

Walked to Somerset House which was very close - actually I walked for about two minutes until I saw an old Routemaster bus and hopped on for one stop. The conductor laughed and didn’t even bother reading my oyster card.

The reason for Somerset House was a “Good Grief, Charlie Brown!” exhibition. It was great to see the old strips from the 50s and 60s where the characters had not fully developed their look or personalities. Various letters, reminisces of Charles Schultz and others, video clips from the various peanuts TV shows. Lots to see, not crowded and worth 11 pounds.

Walked about eight minutes to Covent Garden to the Royal Opera House for Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades. Bought cough drops at Boots and water. My seat was 215 pounds (yowza) & was in the dress circle second row and was next to a little round pole so I had about six extra inches of space next to me. Plenty of legroom and upholstered chairs.

I don’t know if it was the Benadryl I had taken or the fact that the opera seemed deadly boring to me but I actually dozed off at least once during the first hour and a half. The opera house itself the building is very ornate, a lot of gilt & red, very impressive looking but I think the chorus is not nearly as strong as the chorus at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. I know it depends on the music and the words (and acoustics) but the voices seemed weak. The staging seemed weird, with Tchaikovsky appearing as the central figure on stage; very tough to figure out what was going on. At the interval, a couple in front of me were saying “that was weird weird weird weird” so I guess it wasn’t just me. But more than the boredom factor was the dry coughing I was doing. I finished my bottle of water and about half the cough drops, and I could tell the coughing was not going to stop. So I left at the interval. Sometimes you just have to call it quits.
vickiebypass is offline  
Feb 8th, 2019, 11:53 AM
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Thank you so much for your fantastic review!
Jotting down notes for our April trip
tamtot is offline  
Feb 11th, 2019, 01:42 PM
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Day 9, Breezy about 40°

Didn’t feel so great due to sinus so stayed in the apartment most of the morning. Decided to visit the new Bonnard exhibit at the Tate Modern and took a bus, since I had a top level front row seat I stayed on beyond my stop to see where it went. Eventually, I got off at Elephant and Castle (which wasn’t really much farther!) and walked to the museum. Stopped for lunch at a riverside restaurant called Founders Arms; right next to the Tate modern so enjoyed looking at the river along with my burger.

The exhibit was large – about seven room with about 60 of his works. I thought he was a hard artist to classify – slightly Impressionist, slightly Fauvist. One of his characteristics was putting partial bodies in his paintings (e.g. a women who is half way into the room or the arm & hand of someone on the periphery) which I get but I felt that many of his people were painted with an odd perspective or proportion and didn’t seem as skilled as the rest of the painting. His color sense was a bit much for me (ultra marine, violently whiny yellow and deep pinky purple). So, I wasn’t sold on him but it was definitely worth seeing, after all, I don’t have to like everything to appreciate it!

Walked across the Thames on the pedestrian only narrow Millennium Bridge – love walking across rivers! Made my way to the Guildhall Library for a lecture on the Orient Line (there are several Guildhall buildings so I ended up asking a security guard in one of them). I was early and the lecture room/library wasn’t open yet so the early arrivals sat around. I started talking to a woman who said that she writes about travel, in particular cruising and river cruising, so I tried to have a conversation (having been on 40+ cruises myself) but she was intent on lecturing me about how you see much more of a city on a river cruise than you do on ocean cruises, etc. so when it was time to go upstairs to the meeting room, I ditched her by going to the restroom.

It turns out the speaker was Stephen Payne, who is very well known in the ship building world and was the naval architect of the QM2. He’s an accomplished, interesting speaker - his presentation had a nice flow, he was able to state his points clearly and he spoke for almost a full hour. His theme was that even starting in the 1930s, the Orient line ships were ahead of their time by being very modern in their decor and shape/build. Since I was congested, I didn’t stay for the wine and snacks afterwards but it would have been interesting to chat with the other attendees. (PS I overheard someone introducing the river cruise women as the “travel writer for the Telegraph” – go figure!)

This was another “special event” (play, ballet, opera, soccer and lecture) that I felt was either good or great, with the exception of the opera. I think those are pretty good results!
vickiebypass is offline  
Feb 11th, 2019, 03:53 PM
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enjoying your report. the ballet sounds amazing. .
northie is offline  
Feb 12th, 2019, 09:52 AM
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Totally share Miss Prism's astonishment you missed the Anglo-Saxons. Not every BL exhibition is gobsmacking. This has been possibly the finest they've mounted in the 20 years since they moved to St Pancras
flanneruk is offline  
Feb 12th, 2019, 09:59 AM
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Ah well, sounds like I blew it by missing the Anglo-Saxon exhibit at the British Library. Next time I'll plan to visit any exhibit - I can always leave if it doesn't strike a chord!

Day 10, Sunny about 43°
Got moving around noon and decided to go to Regents Park since I’ve never been there and it was sunny. A quick walk from Baker Street tube - what a nice park! It’s very big and I only saw less than a quarter of it. Spent most my time in Queen Mary’s Gardens which are very formally laid out, not too much blooming now except a few roses and Primrose. In the middle of her gardens, is a Japanese garden with a little Japanese temple, a small bridge, tiered plantings and mini paths through thick gravel around this little island. It was a pleasant surprise to find this among the formal beds! There were also several water features in her gardens, with birds galore. One section of a pond was frozen so the seagulls were walking on water (lol).

I meandered around some other sections and was intrigued by the wide variety of bench styles. Spotted some benches in niches in the privet hedges that are tucked away, what a nice place that would be to sit and read – all sunny and warm while you watch the world go by or smell the flowers… Nearby was an interesting fountain with more benches. I walked for about 90 minutes and kept discovering more interesting spots. Definitely a place I’ll return to.

Off to the British Museum for a guided London walk, highlighting about 7 of the museum’s treasures. It was just three of us in addition to the guide - I should’ve asked her what her background is but she was very knowledgeable. We went to the Rosetta Stone, a statue of Ramses, some Assyrian friezes, the Elgin marbles (now known as the Parthenon marbles); the Portland Vase and the Sutton Hoo Anglo Saxon gold horde discovery. It wasn’t too crowded, so we were able to see the items well and learn specifics.

That was a great way to see just a few highlights since she knew which gallery to go to, the logical order, etc. And a way to see all the little details in these items that you’d miss if you were just walking by ticking them off a list. The museum offers their own highlights tours which I will take next time I’m there; and will also focus on one gallery.

So it was a short day but it was good since I did two things and liked them both.
vickiebypass is offline  
Feb 14th, 2019, 10:22 AM
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Congrats on your trip planning and your trip report, vickibypass - A+ for each of them.

I was particularly pleased to see my favourite No 11 bus highlighted - I wonder if it was me that mentioned it? Glad too that you enjoyed the legal walk, but next time, why not have lunch in Middle Temple Hall and have a look round Inner Temple gardens which are open at lunch time. You'd definitely do better there than a substandard steak and ale pie!

I'm sorry that you found the ROH chorus sub-par - when I went to see Verdi's Macbeth last year with fellow fodorite Scottbailey I thought that they were great - mind you we were in seats at the side which were cheap but close to the stage so perhaps the acoustics made the difference.

anyway, enjoying your account very much. Keep it coming.
annhig is offline  
Feb 14th, 2019, 12:46 PM
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Annhig - thank you for the kind words! It may very well have been you who suggested bus No. 11 - I read and save all London related posts for use on future trips. In fact, it was your suggestion of lunch at Middle Temple that inspired me to correspond with them about reservations but since I was coughing, nose blowing, sneezing, etc during my second week, I didn't want to inflict myself on other diners, so that goes back into the file for the next time in London. Finishing up my trip report today or tomorrow!
vickiebypass is offline  
Feb 14th, 2019, 12:48 PM
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Day 11, Sunny and 40°

I like going to lunch-time recitals so picked St Olave’s church which is on Hart Street. I enjoy wandering around neighborhoods and this was interesting since it’s a financial, business area so not many tourists but it was lunchtime with lots of locals out and about. Came out of the Tube at the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange and spotted several unusual skyscrapers, including the Gherkin, the Walkie-Talkie, and others that I don’t know their names. Love the juxtapositionof old and new. Furthering that, St Olave’s, a 12th century church, was in the midst of tall, modern office buildings & hotels.

The church is small but rather ornate inside with stained glass windows from the 1950s and various memorial. For a small place, it has a lot of history – it survived the Great Fire, Pepys is buried there, had heavy bomb damage in WWII and was restored in the 1950’s. Affiliated with various guilds, including the corn hall workers and cloth workers which is reflected in the stained glass windows.

Event facilitator told me they don’t have a toilet but I can go to the hotel next door which I did (have to say that I always feel weird doing that but no one batted an eye!) He mentioned several times that I shouldn’t miss the crypt so I took the narrow winding stairs down to the crypt – looked like a crypt! Low ceilings and vaulted stonework. There were about 30 attendees and the concert was a pianist and a flautist who played for a full hour. Very nice. No charge for the concert but they were accepting donations so I left them 5 pounds which seemed to be what other people are doing. Would go to another concert there or at other churches.

My afternoon mission was to do a “Brick Lane/Bengali” self walk published by a local community group. It started at St. Botolphs in Aldgate but then it became difficult to follow the handout’s map; and it was bitterly cold & damp. Eventually I was looking at one of the maps near the Santander bicycle rentals and two City of London policeman offered directions.

Some interesting architecture on the way. A large ornate red brick building that looked Victorian but was built in 1909 “For the Poor Jewish”. Also, what must have been a warehouse looked very Indian due to the shapes of the windows and decorations. I noticed many architects offices in this area and a lot of barbershops! Crossed over to Brick Lane and it was a non-event. Now, it was 3 o’clock on a wintery Thursday but it was dead. I was expecting lots of shops (clothing and doo dads) but I saw restaurants, news agents but very few actual shops (a couple of textile warehouses). As always, I enjoyed seeing different neighborhoods and architecture but I was happy to go back to the apt.

Day 12, miserable! rainy and cold.
The rain had stopped by 10:00 so I decided to take the 10:40 guided London walk about Brunel (I know his Thames tunnel was groundbreaking… pun intended!) Once I arrived at the Embankment Tube exit, the rain began again but after seven more people arrived, off we went.

This was a unique tour because it took about three hours, which included 40 minute boat trip on the Thames Clipper; a walk along the Thames; the Isle of Dogs and the Brunel museum. In addition to the rain, it was foggy on the river, so the Thames Clipper was a treat - warm and toasty, leather seats, an alcohol & coffee bar and nice bathrooms. Since this was mid-morning, the ship made a lot of stops but that was OK because the sights were interesting as we headed east. Even with the fog, we had a nice vantage point for the various bridges and assorted skyscrapers and the guide provided commentary.

We walked a fair way along the Thames walk/ path, dodging puddles. There weren’t many old warehouses left because they’ve been torn down and replaced with theoretically similar looking residential units. But the river was very busy with various Clippers, sightseeing ships, barges and a police boat every now and then. I really loved this!

Took the DL railway and the tube. The tube went through Brunel‘s Thames tunnel so quite noteworthy. Guide took us to the end of the station platform to look down the tunnel (carefully) and see the curve, which was required when during construction since the ponies used would bolt for home if the exit was in sight. Visited the Brunel Museum which is small; highlight was going into the Rotherhithe tunnel shaft which is the shaft that was used on this side of the river to actually build the tunnel by boring through the rocks and removing all the debris. Brunel’s genius was to build a brick tower and then simply allow it to sink it into the soft river-bank through the downward force of its own weight, saving time and money. (They now have weekly dance parties down there which would be very eerie! It’s nothing but a shaft with rough walls, big pipes at the top & bottom, about 40 feet high and 50 feet in diameter with a winding metal staircase; there are some blue and red up lights; little nippy now, but in the summer it would be great to dance down there because it be would be naturally air-conditioned.) The leader finished up with about 10 or 15 minute discussion about the tunnel and at that point, I was really chilled so was ready to go home.
vickiebypass is offline  
Feb 14th, 2019, 01:07 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 378
Day 13 – Tube to LHR and home!

Having the apartment was key to a successful trip. By having space to spread out and relax on the sofa, it was an enjoyable space to spend time and encouraged me to pace my days more slowly than normal. When considering apartments, I’ve learned that proximity to useful Tube stations (serving lines that go where I’ll be sightseeing) is crucial. So, being less than 2 mins from Bayswater and Queensway stations was tremendous. They’re also smaller stations, in the sense that you’re not walking interminable passageways or mile-long escalators. While I didn’t use any of the restaurants nearby, it was super convenient to have a Sainsbury grocery store so close, along with the Barclays bank for cash withdrawals.

Clothing – as always, very important on trips to the UK! I used a lined raincoat with a hood – the coat is not chic but it’s long (mid-calf) and kept me warm and dry. I also had a quilted rain hat (for anyone who watches Vera on TV, it’s like hers!) lined in fleece. That was a life saver since it stopped wind, rain & cold (and covered my ears). Leather gloves with wooly lining. And of course, layers: tops of thin, nylon-y, wicking material plus one micro-fleece shirt; EMS wind & water resistant pants (one pair was lined w/fleece – so toasty) worn with various weights of long underwear. SmartWool socks; Merrell jungle moc shoes which give great traction, warmth and are comfortable, esp. on cobblestones. I use a LeSportSac nylon cross body bag with lots of zippered pockets. I was not a fashion plate by any means, but comfort and warmth are more important to me! In most museums, I checked my coat; in theaters, I’m never sure if they’ll be cool, so I stashed my raincoat at my feet.

Travelcard – I found it very useful to have the Travelcard and not have to worry about topping up, etc. I feel like I definitely saved money with it during the first week (£35 for seven days) and I renewed it (at a ticket machine – very easy) for the second week; even though I only used it for 5 days that week, I took a lot of tubes & buses, so think I saved a bit. Because I go to London at least once a year, I didn’t mind paying the £5 deposit on the card.

London walks: I’ve been taking walks with this original London walks organization for at least 10 years. Some guides are better than others, but they’re all knowledgeable about the area they walking in and enthusiastic about sharing their info. At £10 per person for a 90 mins/2 hour walk, I think they’re a great deal; if you plan to take a lot of walks, their Frequent Walker card gives you a £2 discount per walk. No reservations – just show up, rain or shine. They’ve provided a great way to see a bit of areas I wouldn’t have gone to otherwise (like Bermondsey or the Brunel Museum). Similarly, for areas that I think I know well, they still provide some tidbits of new info and sights.

Lectures & Concerts: various Fodorites have recommended attending lectures at the Guildhall, the British Library, any of the museums, etc and that is a great suggestion. Speciality topics, often attended mostly by locals, and free or low cost. Similarly, a number of churches have weekly concerts, some at lunch time and some in the evening; again, free or low cost.

Now I’m thinking about a 4 week stay next year – maybe mid-February to mid-March. I liked the slower pace that I allowed myself with the extra days and a bit warmer weather would be nice. There’s always more to see and do in London!
vickiebypass is offline  
Feb 16th, 2019, 05:51 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,641
A whole month in London? Great idea. Such a luxury to have so much time there. I'm sure you've already seen more than i did in 15+ years of working in London.

Though if you want warmer weather leaving it till April might be a better idea, though no guarantees of course.

And you've set me off thinking about taking a month somewhere, though in my case it would probably be Rome. I love Venice but I have spent quite a lot of time there recently and recent threads and posts about Rome have got me thinking, though Paris appeals too.

Thank you for sharing your trip with us, and I hope you get back here soon.
annhig is offline  
Feb 16th, 2019, 10:13 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,625
Vickie, thanks for sharing. I'll be in London end of May and your report gave me a lot of ideas. Thanks again.
Treesa is offline  

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