London Newbie Question

Old Jun 15th, 2009, 10:30 AM
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London Newbie Question

My husband and I will be in Belgium in early October. We were planning an overnight stay in London (we will be with friends who live in Belgium and are frequent travelers to London) and I'm trying to get a sense of the size of the city. I'm from NYC so I know how large and far apart things are. Here are my questions:
Is London anything like NYC in it's size? I'm comparing it to the island of Manhattan only, not including the other four boroughs of NYC.
Is it better to travel via underground as opposed to the bus?
If you were staying overnight, where would you stay and in what part of the city?
Are there any areas that deal with rock 'n roll history that you would suggest as my husband is a music lover and collects vinyl?

We will not be using a car as we know how hard it is to find parking. No idea of what we really want to see yet and since we'll be there for such a short period of time, we know we are limited.

Thanks folks for all your help.
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Old Jun 15th, 2009, 02:20 PM
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Hi Mixter

For music history, you might like to visit this exhibition at the O2, which is close to North Greenwich tube station on the Jubilee line:

http://www.britishmusicexperience.com/

It's £15 for adults and takes 1-2 hours to go round.

Susie
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Old Jun 15th, 2009, 07:14 PM
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London is very spread out - sights are probably farther apart than in Manhattan. Definitely take the tube for more than short distances (and walk those). Central London traffic can be awful and buses very slow.

As to where to stay it depends on your budget. We usually stay in either Knightsbridge or Mayfair - but we like to be central and be able to walk to quite a few things. Assuming there are only 2 of you, you might get a good deal on Priceline - to avoid staying farther away from the center without a major expenditure.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 03:48 AM
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Thanks so much for your responses. I've bookmarked the link SusieR. It looks like my husband would really enjoy that.

nytraveler, I appreciate your suggestions and will start my research.

Thanks again.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 05:45 AM
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"Take the Tube" is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Since we know the geography, we often take a bus because it's frequently faster than

o walking to the nearest Underground station
o getting down to the platform
o riding one or more trains (connections can be beastly)
o climbing out to the surface
o walking to our destination

So rather than trying to judge distances with the schematic Tube map that has become ubiquitous (it's extremely distorted), I recommend you use the geographic plan of bus and Tube that is free at any ticket window:

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/centlond.pdf
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 05:51 AM
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Agreed that using the tube is the easiest way around London, though it is a very pleasant walking city. London taxis are also world renowned and reasonably priced. We stay at the Royal Park, which is a block from the Lancaster Gate of Hyde Park. Sussex Gardens is not Mayfair, but the small hotel is grand (fully AC'd) with wonderful service, there are two very good restaurants close by, and a 10 block or so walk gets you to Oxford Street. http://www.theroyalpark.com/
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 06:48 AM
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do you only have one day (or less) to look around? Although London is a big city (a hell of a lot bigger than Manhatten! Whatever gave you that idea?) there are definite 'clusters' of sites that make sense for a day trip, rather than trying to zoom from one side of the city to the other. In these areas, you'll find a lot within walking distance, or one or two bus/tube stops. What sort of things do you want to do? Is there any one site that stands out as the 'must-see'.

Another option for a short visit is the HOHO tour buses.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 07:07 AM
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Although I used the Tube a lot in London, it isn't as comprehensive in coverage as the Metro in Paris, or the Subway in Manhattan. Coverage is particularly spotty south of the Thames, and if you find yourself close to a one-line station, it's often difficult to get to places which don't go in the same direction as your local line (not as many cross lines). So, whenever you determine where you are staying, check out the bus routes that serve that area and see how they can supplement your local Tube coverage.

Just as an example, we stayed right next to the St. James Park tube station, but found that there were a number of trips which were much easier by bus (particularly going to Warterloo Station and points south of the Thames) than by Tube, even though we had to walk an extra block to get to the bus stop (the Tube was literally 30 steps from our front door).
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 07:18 AM
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Is London anything like NYC in it's size?
Bigger and more spread out. However, as nona1 mentioned, there are natural clusterings of things - for example, Big Ben/Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace could all be seen during an hour or so's walk, and that's at a leisurely pace with picture stops. With an overnight stay, you'll just have to do some planning.

Is it better to travel via underground as opposed to the bus?
Depends on where you're going and what you mean by "better." The London bus system is very easy, but it really helps to know a bit of geography to use it. It's often faster, but again, with just one night you'll have to plan ahead, and it will help to know what routes you might take. The Tube is also incredibly easy, but sometimes it's faster to just walk wherever you're going.

If you were staying overnight, where would you stay and in what part of the city?
You'll get lots of different opinions. I like Bloomsbury, because it's quiet without being dead, and it's close to TONS of things. I just stayed at the Morgan Hotel (morganhotel.co.uk), which is around the corner from the British Museum. From that area you can easily walk to Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. Good Tube and bus connections within 5 minutes' walk.

Are there any areas that deal with rock 'n roll history that you would suggest as my husband is a music lover and collects vinyl?
Well, there's always the Abbey Road thing, but that will take a big chunk of your day (it's a bit out from super-central London). When I was there a couple of weeks ago, there was a small Bob Dylan exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, and the Victoria & Albert Museum recently opened a theatre & performance section with costumes, posters, etc from Queen, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and other bands. I really enjoyed it.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 07:37 AM
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Rock 'n' Roll etc.

There's no formal rock music thing in the centre. The O2 Arena, where the British Music Experience is, is a way out from the centre (though the Jubilee Line tube to it is pretty fast, gives you the opportunity of being two hemispheres at once, is close to the other Greenwich stuff and can be got to by riverboat). But you might still not have time.

A few small things in the very centre. The London - which means the original - branch of Hard Rock has a really, really good collection of rock memorabilia around its walls. Nearby, at 23 and 25 Brook St, you'll find Blue Plaques for Jimi Hendrix and Handel next door to each other (You have to be dead to have a Blue Plaque, and surprisingly few British rock legends are dead yet). For buying vinyl, there's a row of shops just opposite Notting Hill Gate tube station, on the north side of Notting Hill Gate.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 07:49 AM
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Thanks all for your many suggestions.
Robespierre, I have bookmarked your link. Thank you.
Mindforms, can you also tell me the names of those restaurants? I've made note of the hotel.
Nona1, I'm comparing it to what I know. Simple as that. Now I know it's much larger than Manhattan, I can make decisions accordingly.
TWK, thank you for your clarifications.
Jent103, I've also noted your hotel suggestion as well as the V&A museum info. Now I've got lots more research to do.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 08:19 AM
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Glad to help. Just to expand on that hotel suggestion, there are several others in the area. Just depends on your budget. The Morgan is good, but it's more a b&b than a large hotel. No lifts, small rooms. Fine for us, though; we paid £110/night for a twin. There's a Radisson caticorner, and several other hotels around.

You could also try Priceline - I've heard many people have gotten great results. If you go that route, my personal preference would be the Mayfair/Soho zone, but Bloomsbury/Marble Arch would be good too. Mayfair/Soho is just a little more central (to me) than staying up near King's Cross, and it sounds like you have a good shot at being near KC if you bid in the Bloomsbury zone.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 08:26 AM
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Flanneruk, that is exactly what my husband wanted to know about. Thank you!
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 09:53 AM
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Hi Mixter603 -

I just returned from my first trip to London. I hope my suggestions will help. I stayed at the Radisson Edwardian Leicester Square (radissonedwardian.com). It's in a fab location right in Leicester Square! London is a large city just like NYC, but the tube makes it so easy to get where you want to go. If your husband likes rock and roll, I would suggest gettings tickets for Jersey Boys or We Will Rock You. (Both are brilliant shows, and you can walk to either theatre from the Radisson.) I highly recommend taking a "flight" on the London Eye and then you can walk across Westminster Bridge and see Big Ben and the Parliamant buildings. You might enjoy a fancy dinner at Rules, which is the oldest restaurant in London. It's on Maiden Lane in Covent Garden, and their rhubarb apple crumble is delicious. (And again, you can even walk to the restaurant from the Radisson.) The Brits are really friendly, so I think you'll have a great time.
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