London/Wimbledon Trip Report

Jul 14th, 2004, 06:42 AM
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London/Wimbledon Trip Report

I want to thank everyone who helped me plan our wonderful vacation in London in June. I'm sorry for the delay in getting this report out. I know how useful "small" tidbits of information were to me. I apologize in advance if this gets too long. And yes, I know we squeezed in too much on some days but I'm not sure we'll make it back since there are so many places we'd like to see.

June 17 - Flew early morning on Virgin out of Newark. Arrived on time. Was pleased with food and individual entertainment system. Used Justairports for transport to hotel. Couldn't find the driver at first. We spent 5-10 minutes wondering around. We were never told to meet near the Hertz counter. Used points to stay at the Holiday Inn in Kensington for our first 3 nights. Room was big enough for 2 beds. I liked the convenience to the Gloucester Tube. Can't comment on the food since we never ate in the hotel. Ate dinner at Dino's on Gloucester Road per info on this forum. Food was good and reasonably priced. Discovered the next day that I had coupons with our travelcards for a 20% discount. Oh well....

June 18 - Picked up our 2 for 1 London Passes at the London Visitor Center on our way to our 11 am reserved Westminster Abbey verger tour. (Didn't want to pay for postage). Line wasn't too long going into the Abbey but our tour was cancelled due to the verger's illness. They gave us audio guides, but it didn't compare to the verger tour we took 6 years ago. My 14 year old daughter got bored.
Left here at noon for the Cabinet War Rooms. This was very worthwhile. Really enjoyed the audio tour with all the details. Again, our daughter got bored, but later admitted it was interesting.
Back to Westminster Palace for our 2:30 prearranged clock tower tour. Had to be there by 2:10. This was one of our highlights. We were tired beforehand since this was our first day, but we're glad we did it. There's about 340 steps to climb on the way up to the clock face and bell. The bell is actually "Big Ben", not the clock. You stop twice along the way up for some brief explanations. The middle segment is the longest (about 180 steps). We were huffing and puffing. Being behind the clock face was cool. We have some neat photos even though the Parliament website and our confirmation letter claim no photography. All 15 of us took photos. Not sure if it was just our guide allowing it. The visit to the bell was timed for the 3:00 chiming. You had the choice of using earplugs or your hands. It was neat being up there when the bells tolled. It wasn't too horribly loud with your fingers in your ears. I would take them out for brief moments to hear how loud the bells tolled.
The others on this tour were a group from the same village outside of London. They invited us to join them on their tour of the Houses of Parliament that they had prearranged. I was so happy to tag along since I had really wanted to see a session. Anyway, that tour began around 3:45. We left Westminster at 5 and finally ate lunch at a pub up Whitehall (Silver Cross). Back to the hotel to rest and then out again to the Tower for the Ceremony of the Keys. We were tired and didn't feel like going but pushed on. All 3 of us really enjoyed it. This really peaked my daughter's interest in the Tower for our return the next day.

June 19 - Hopped on 8:40 Big Bus near hotel to take to the Tower so my daughter could see different areas. Didn't get to the Tower unti 10:30am. I was nervous that it would be mobbed. We used our London Pass so went to the pre-paid area. They still have to process your pass. Went straight to the Crown Jewels. Not crowded at all. Back out to the entrance for the Yeoman Warder Tour. Crowded but the Yeoman Warder's voice projected well. After the tour, explored the Tower. Left at 1 and headed long the river to the area by the Globe. I had it in my mind to eat lunch at the Globe or Tate Modern. The walk for us seemed long because we were still tired and now hungry. Wound up at the Cafe 7 at the Tate Modern for the view. The food was good (overpriced for the size portion) but the view was nice on a clear day. Glanced at a gallery before leaving because we had tickets for a 5pm show. Walked over the Millenium bridge to the nearest tube. There were lots of people on this bridge which wasn't there when I was in London 6 years ago.
The show (Complete Works of Shakespeare) was a welcome rest. We really needed to sit and relax for a while. It was hysterical, While it was good, I was glad that I didn't pay full price (34.50GBP). I bought the tickets from lastminute.com for 10GBP each on the night before we left. For those who are curious, the women next to us mentioned that she had seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and loved it.
Now being somewhat refreshed after the show, we took a taxi over to the London Eye since it was a nice Saturday evening. There was only a 10 minute or so wait for tickets. We got right on around 8pm. We didn't wait around for the sunset ride because my husband wasn't coming on the ride and we didn't want to make him wait too long. Took lots of great photos. My daughter loved this.
Headed to back to Kensington area and went to Wagamama per this forum since we spent way too much for lunch at the Cafe 7. Really enjoyed the food here. Another really long day, back to the hotel around 10:30.

Oops, gotta go. Will report on the rest later today. Susan
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Jul 14th, 2004, 10:24 AM
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Continuing right along.... This part may be sketchy since I didn't write this down. I wrote notes on the other days while on the plane on the way home.

June 20 - Went to the Changing of the Guards at Horse Guards Parade for the 10am ceremony. Got there about 15 minutes early. No problem with getting in front for photos. This was short but my daughter enjoyed the horses. I followed a recommendation from another poster on this forum regarding the Changing at Buckingham. I've referred others to this post. Search for Changing of the Guard- Insider Info. This was very informative. It explained what the military are doing during the ceremony as well as giving you a great way to experience the ceremony without "waiting" for over an hour for your spot at Buckingham. We walked to Wellington Barracks after Horse Guards and caught the guard being inspected and preparing for their march to the palace. We planted ourselves in a spot outside the barrack's gate so we can take photos of the procession. They came out great! Once the formation passed us, we did walk up toward the palace for photos and then headed to the Royal Mews. The poster regarding this ceremony had other suggestions for "following" the formation but we opted out.
My daughter enjoyed the Royal Mews. It was crowded and seeing the Coronation carriage is unbelieveable. After this quick visit, we headed to Hampton Court Palace.
The maze at Hampton Court was much more difficult that we imagined. We did make it out but were starting to get flustered. The Palace was nice. We did the audio for certain rooms. My husband and I enjoyed Windsor more than Hampton Court. We had visited Windsor castle on a previous trip so wanted to do something different. It was enjoyable but I had to choose between them, I'd pick Windsor Castle.
At this point, we switched hotels due to a package for Wimbledon. Took a taxi from the Holiday Inn to the Sheration Park Towers in Knightsbridge.
Relaxed before 8pm dinner at The Ivy.
We went to The Ivy because I had seen on this forum how difficult it was to get a reservation. I am the queen for getting tickets to events that are supposed to be impossible so I decided I had to try to get this elusive reservation. I called about 2 months before our trip and requested the Sunday night. I had a choice for a 5:30 or 8pm. The inside was no big deal based on all the hype but I will admit that the food was very good. I had the shephard's pie followed by the sticky toffee pudding. That had to be close to the best desert I've ever had! Again, we paid way too much for dinner for 3 with 1 bottle of wine and desert (about $215). Yikes! We rationalized this away since it was Father's Day and my birthday was the next day

June 21 - Began the day going to a trial at the Old Bailey. There was confusion as to the opening time. I had read 10am but the recording when you call the Bailey says 10:30. I questioned the concierge and he stated that he had always heard 10:30 and called to doublecheck. So, we arrived around 10:10. There wasn't a line as we expected. Turns out it really did start at 10. No problem since all the trials don't start promptly at 10. I will warn that you are not permitted to bring in any food at all even in a small pack. We had to take our water and banana outside. We stayed at the trial till about 12:30. There had been a recess and we waited around for a while. We had a hard time hearing the defendent but it was interesting nonetheless. The "wigs" weren't as big as I had expected. I was amazed that the gentleman testifying was able to stop the questioning and question the attorney. He was able to ramble on as well... From here, we walked to the Covent Garden area to go to lunch at the Belgo Centraal. Other tip from this site. I had heard that it was reasonable and good. Right on both accounts. Walked around a little and headed back to Knightsbridge.
My daughter and I took the bus from the hotel to Kensington Palace. We were disappointed in that Princess Diana's apartments were not for public viewing. However, the dress collection was available. This was kind of eery since I can recall seeing the Princess in the dresses on the news and in magazines. Headed back to the hotel area as it was raining...
Stopped in a few shops right near the hotel. My daughter was dying to go into the Burberry store. She was dying to buy a trinket but I couldn't justify paying the equivalent of $50 on a keychain to go on her backpack
Our plan for this evening was to go to a pub to watch England in its Euro 2004 futbol game. It was fun being in London during this time. The closest pub only had one TV and there was no seating. We were planning on eating here and then going to the Boxwood Cafe which is a very nice restaurant (expensive, again) which I learned about on this site. I had read about a chocolate fondue desert which I thought I needed to try for my birthday. So, since the pub was not a dinner option, we went to the Boxwood Cafe for dinner and desert. Very good but another very pricey meal! Back to the hotel to catch the end of the England game.

June 22 - Here's the day I've been waiting for and the reason we went to London in the first place. If you're not interested in tennis, you can skip reading about this day. My husband had won centre court tickets to Wimbledon for this day back in January. The rest of the trip was planned around this day. Entry to the grounds was at 10:30. We arrived right around that time. I was shocked at the queue for people still hoping for tickets for that day. It went up the street and over a bridge on the other side of the street. I'm an avid tennis fan but I'm not sure I could have waited not knowing if I would even get in. Anyway, we walked around in awe, did our shopping and we on an outside court for a match which began at noon. It was a young American woman who was the last seed. Watched her match for about 40 minutes and headed to centre court for the 1pm start for Serena Williams. Being at Centre Court has been a dream of mine so this was great! What a difference from the US Open. Saw a quick Serena match and went out to eat lunch and watch Tim Henman play on the large TV screen on Henman Hill. This was amazing. We had small radios provided by the American Express kiosk for free. Tennis play-by-play on the radio is quite different than anything I've heard. My husband and I really enjoyed this since we're avid sports fans. The food pricey but I had to have my strawberries and cream and champagne as NBC has programmed me all these years as I watched! After lunch, headed back into Centre Court. Moya was finishing a match from the day before. It was in the fifth set. Very good tennis. Roddick was next. Unfortunatley, at 4-2 in the first set, play was suspended for the day because of rain. I guess it wouldn't have been Wimbledon without it! We met a wonderful English couple next to us and compared travel stories during the delay until the match was called. As we left the grounds at 5pm, we saw the queue starting to form for the next days play. This was amazing since it was raining. To top it off, all the matches were postponed the next day because of rain! I'm just so grateful that that wasn't the day I had my tickets for.
Returned to the hotel and decided to eat dinner at Wagamamma again which was in the Harvey Nichols right by the hotel. Relaxed and packed for our flight the next day.

June 23 - Had planned on walking through Hyde Park but it was really chilly and rainy. Decided to check out Harrods. We also browsed through Harvey Nichols. Bought sandwiches here to eat back in our room before leaving for the airport. Relaxed for our last hour and took JustAirports back to Heathrow. The were on time. We had minivans in both directions for the 3 of us. Heathrow was a bit of a mess. The screens which direct you to your gates were down. They literally had a gentleman with a marker writing down gates on a big board at one entry way. It was nuts. We wound up not even finding out our gate until 40 minutes after we were supposedly boarding. Once we proceeded to the gate, everything was fine. We left late but still managed to arrive back in Newark on time.

Well, thanks again for all your advice. I used the large 2 gallon ziplock bags for packing our dirty laundry as suggested here. All in all, the info I received here really helped me be able to do as much as we did. I would have requested different dates for the Ceremony of the Keys had I known we were getting the Clock Tower on the same day. No biggie. Thanks, again. Susan
samejia is offline  
Jul 14th, 2004, 10:35 AM
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You made incredibly good use of your time there. Is Waggamama very noisy?
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Jul 14th, 2004, 10:38 AM
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No, Wagamamma wasn't bad at all. My daughter thought it was neat. We were seated directly next to anyone at the long tables. I would really recommend this. The fried shrimp for a side dish were very good. Susan
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Jul 14th, 2004, 10:41 AM
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Oh, one clarification. We "won" the centre court tickets through the public ballot process. I've tried for years and my husband got them on his first try. We then had to buy a package in order to get the 3rd ticket for our daughter. Hence, the change in hotel. We stayed at the Holiday Inn all on points for 3 nights followed by the Sheraton. We managed the first night on points there and the last 2 nights were part of the tennis package for the 3rd ticket. Susan
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Jul 14th, 2004, 10:42 AM
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Oops! We were "not" seated directly next to anyone at Wagamamma.
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Jul 14th, 2004, 10:46 AM
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Thanks for the report, especially about Wimbledon! I'm a huge tennis fan and I'm sure we shared the same feelings the 1st time I went to Roland Garros for a Davis Cup tie! TV does its best, but being on the grounds of a grand slam is amazing.
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Jul 14th, 2004, 11:12 AM
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Wow, I am in awe of your energy. You managed to do more in 3 days than I manage in the average year in London. Glad you researched you food options thoroughly - I always think that makes for a better trip, but then I have a food obsession...

I'm also VERY jealous of your Wimbledon tickets. I went 3 years ago after getting tickets in the ballot, and have been trying desperately ever since. You said it was so different from the US Open. In what way? I'm interested because here (in the UK) we get relatively little tennis coverage aside from Wimbledon fortnight, when you can watch nothing else on the BBC!
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Jul 14th, 2004, 02:45 PM
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Kate, Wimbledon has a much more intimate feel to it than the US Open. Not only is it much smaller than the HUGE Arthur Ashe stadium, you don't feel so bombarded with advertisements. I really can't put it into words. Wimbledon just had that special "feel" to it, maybe because I waited so long to be able to go. I've been to the US Open several times. Don't get me wrong, I love the US Open. It's a great grand slam. Just a totally different atmosphere than "centre court". I'm surprised you don't get much TV coverage of the event. The NY crowds are fun! We get lots of tennis coverage here except the time zones do put a damper on seeing the other slams live. Susan
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Jul 14th, 2004, 04:38 PM
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Susan, Great trip report! Looks like you made use of every moment you all were there. I especially enjoyed the details about your day at Wimbledon. I agree that it's a very different feel from the US Open. It's a special place for tennis fans.
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Jul 14th, 2004, 04:54 PM
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Glad the tennis wasn't postponed the day you went to Wimbledon. We were in London at the same time and we heard all the news reports about all the matches that were postponed or cancelled because of the weather (rain, gale-force winds, etc...)
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Jul 15th, 2004, 02:50 AM
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Susan, Thanks for the great trip report. I am so glad to hear about Wimbledon. I couldn't remember what day you had said your tickets were for and thought about you the day it was completely rained out, hoping that hadn't been your day.
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Jul 15th, 2004, 04:05 AM
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Susan, I think I know what you mean by Wimbledon having a certain something, a special atmosphere. For me, I always think of it being so green. Sounds daft I know, but the grass is green, the walls are green, the ivy hanging off the buildings is green, it's like sitting outdoors, sipping champagne whilst wrapped in a big green blanket.

I'll shut up now, because I sound like an idiot.
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Jul 15th, 2004, 04:20 AM
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Hi Susan,

Great report - I remember your original postings when you were planning your trip. Glad to hear it went so well!

Jim
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Jul 15th, 2004, 06:02 AM
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Kate, you're right. The grass courts do add a certain appeal to the atmosphere. I'm hoping to make it back someday but that could be 10 years from now Susan
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