Lots of London questions

Apr 14th, 2011, 06:31 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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People these days seem to be overlooking the Cabinet War Rooms. It's the real underground bunker where the heart of the British government, including Churchill, spent the war. After the war was over, they shut the door and left it as is until it was converted into a museum. So it's not recreated history, it's the real thing, frozen in time.

I don't think Greenwich would be of great interest to your kids, though they might enjoy the boat ride. London Walks does a day excursion to Richmond and Hampton Court Palace which includes a boat ride on the Thames from Richmond. Everybody would enjoy the boat ride, and the kids would love the maze at HCP.

Are your kids Harry Potter fans? London Walks does some Harry Potter tours.

Other thoughts: Borough Market, London Zoo, lots of times in parks

Make allowances for splitting up. Once your in-laws get comfortable with the area and the tube, they can go off on their own to sights of interest to them only.
Mimar is offline  
Apr 14th, 2011, 07:11 AM
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Quick thoughts: (1) if there's a decent zoo or wildlife park anywhere near you, skip the London Zoo -- it's not San Diego/Bronx/St. Louis quality.

(2) NO NO NO to Madame Tussaud's. Review what jamikins said above.

(3) Imperial War Museum is great.

(4) The Churchill War Rooms and the Cabinet War Rooms are the same thing. The Brits re-titled the Cabinet War Rooms as Churchill War Rooms to identify them with Churchill.

(5) Hampton Court Palace is pretty cool. We had an advantage that you won't -- when we went it was the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's ascension to the throne so there were festivities and displays related directly to him.

NOW, for the real important stuff.

You need the 2for1 tickets so that means NO TRAVELCARDS LOADED ON OYSTERS.

Here is what you do:

(1) Go to the daysoutguide.co.uk website before you leave and print every conceivable voucher for any activity you may want to do. St. Paul's has been on and off this list. The Tower, Hampton Ct. Palace, Cabinet War Rooms, some London Walks have been on the list. With that group you have, it's serious money.

(2) When you get to London, go to Paddington station and to the manned ticket booths at the national rail counters, NOT the Tube ticket booths. Buy seven-day travelcards starting the next day for everyone but the 8 year old. You should get a plastic-coated, credit card-sized piece of paper with an orange band on the bottom and magnetic strip. You show this with each of your 2for1 offers, and you use this to enter and exit the Tube.

(3) Buy a single day ticket or pay as you go Oyster card for the day or two that won't be covered.

(4) Go to Cabinet War Rooms, HCP, Tower, etc. on the days that your ORANGE travelcards are active and save $$$ on the sites. HCP is about 13.50-14 quid per person (with some reduction for kids, perhaps), so that's 42 pounds saved for all seven of you because it's three free tickets. Same type of deal for the CWR, and huge savings for the Tower.

P.S. -- I've never had a problem with the Crown Jewels lines in the afternoon, but we traveled in May and April in our most recent trips. July will likely be more crowded.
BigRuss is offline  
Apr 14th, 2011, 10:24 AM
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No museums?
Ackislander is offline  
Apr 14th, 2011, 10:29 AM
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"The Churchill War Rooms and the Cabinet War Rooms are the same thing. The Brits re-titled the Cabinet War Rooms as Churchill War Rooms . . . "

Yep -- first it was just the Cabinet War Rooms, then they added the newer Churchill Museum - "Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum" was a bit unwieldy -- so now it is the "Churchill War Rooms".

Jamikin's itinerary lays out things in very good day-sized bites and ticks all your boxes.

As for theatre -- if you all want to go to the same show --and especially if you need to sit together, you should book ahead. But if you are flexible about date and seating -- no need
janisj is offline  
Apr 14th, 2011, 01:05 PM
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Here's another vote against Madame Tussaud's. It's horrifically expensive, inexplicably very crowded, and set up to maximize attempts to squeeze souvenir dollars out of patrons. Plus I found the Chamber of Horrors silly -- and a surprising number of mannequins didn't look like the people they supposedly portray.
bachslunch is offline  
Apr 14th, 2011, 03:46 PM
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Another vote in favor of the Churchill War Rooms and also in favor of the Imperial War Museum.

For another itinerary suggestion, we did the Tower of London first thing in the morning. Plan to spend at least 4 hours there. See the Crown Jewels, take a Beefeater tour, see the arms and armour at the White Tower. We saw the Tower Bridge which is right outside the exit of the Tower of London. Then we took a city cruise at the base of the Tower of London over to Westminster. You pass Parliament on the water and when we got off the boat we found the Cabinet War Rooms as they were called last year. The War Rooms are open until 6PM. We spent a couple of hours there.

We did go back to that area on another day when we did the London Walk which included the changing of the guard and Westminster Abbey.

We also knew we wanted to see the show Oliver so I called the theater directly and ordered tickets from the theater box office where they just charge the true ticket price without any exorbinate increase as some theater sites tend to charge. So if you know you want to see a particular show, I recommend trying to get the telephone number of the box office and call them for tickets. They can either mail them to you or hold them at will call.
europeannovice is offline  
Apr 15th, 2011, 12:00 PM
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Thank you, thank you, for all the great advice! I'm quite overwhelmed.

My husband is presenting at a conference on July 5, so whatever we do that day will be things he can take or leave -- I just have to figure out what that is.

I like the idea of the London Walks tour to see the changing of the guards. That's really something my MIL, who's been to London several times, insists we do. She's a lovely lady but really tends to like "canned" experiences -- by that, I mean she and my FIL never travel without going on a huge tour. You know, if she takes a cruise, she never deviates from the shore excursion, etc.

My husband and I and our kids don't travel that way. However, I like the idea of London Walks. It sounds like everyone is in agreement on them? Do we need to book those before we go?

Re: Hampton Court. I'd like to go, but I wonder how much my kids will like it. Last year we went to France and visited Versailles. I wonder if they'll just think it's another huge palace filled with stuff, yadda yadda yadda.

I think we want to see Shrek. None of us has seen it, and I thought it would be kid appropriate.

So many choices...
ksbeem is offline  
Apr 15th, 2011, 12:10 PM
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London Walks (walks.com) are GREAT. Last time I was in town, I took two of their London walks and one of their Explorer Days (to Oxford and the Cotswolds). Really enjoyed all of them. No need to make any reservations - you just show up at the appointed meeting spot (usually outside a Tube station). (You might double-check on the Explorer Day, if that's of any interest - I don't *think* we made a reservation, but we might have let them know we were coming.)

Depending on your kids, Wicked might be a good musical choice too.
jent103 is offline  
Apr 15th, 2011, 12:11 PM
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" I like the idea of London Walks. It sounds like everyone is in agreement on them? Do we need to book those before we go?"

LW is the perfect solution to your in-law "problem" They are very good, and you get a 'tour' for her and something interesting for you.

"Re: Hampton Court. I'd like to go, but I wonder how much my kids will like it. Last year we went to France and visited Versailles. I wonder if they'll just think it's another huge palace filled with stuff, yadda yadda yadda."

Re Hampton Court -- I have never (ever) known a child who didn't enjoy it. If the 15 yo can be an 'attitude-y' teenager that might make a difference . But the medieval kitchens, the maze, the Real Tennis court, the river, the history -- just a perfect place for kids.
janisj is offline  
Apr 15th, 2011, 12:22 PM
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OK. Now I'm thinking maybe not Shrek. Maybe War Horse? Any thoughts?
ksbeem is offline  
Apr 15th, 2011, 12:29 PM
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jent103, we've seen Wicked on Broadway. My kids loved it. We go to a lot of theater; the problem sometimes is finding something OK for my kids' range of ages.
ksbeem is offline  
Apr 15th, 2011, 12:46 PM
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We liked Billy Elliott, even with the political stuff.

London Walks are first-come, first-walked except MAYBE for their day trips outside the city.

Hampton Court isn't an overdecorated "ooh look how pretty were the French royalty's residence" type of place. Much less luxurious in tone and decor.
BigRuss is offline  
Apr 15th, 2011, 01:01 PM
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Oh, gotcha. I haven't seen War Horse, but if you're still deciding which play(s) to see, this thread may help you out in terms of the kids.

jent103 is offline  
Apr 15th, 2011, 02:49 PM
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London Walks you dont ever have to book - they will take all of the people that show up. For Westminster Abbey they break into small groups as its a rule in the abbey that only so many people per group are allowed in. They are fantastic.

Also agree that Hampton Court is nothing like Versaille and all the kids I have known love it.
jamikins is online now  
Apr 16th, 2011, 03:32 PM
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Having been to both last year, I can definitely tell you we all loved loved loved Hampton Court Palace. It is not as over the top as Versailles and not nearly as crowded or at least doesn't seem to be as crowded as Versailles.

Personally at Versailles, by the time we walked into the 23rd room (exageration on number of rooms but you get the point), I couldn't wait to get to the Hall of Mirrors and leave. However, at Hampton Court without having people shoving me in all directions, I enjoyed each room and building. My son loved the gardens, he loved the kitchen demonstrations with the tinder box and meat roasting experience. Try to schedule around the time they do the live kitchen demonstrations. Check the website for their schedule of when that occurs.

Also King Henry and Lady Katherine were seen multiple times as they wandered from one skit to another. They do performances throughout the day. We didn't catch any but we did see them and took pictures with them. There is enough to entertain a kid.

For the Royal London walk on Friday you just show up at the Green Park tube stop at the designated time 10:45AM and pay then. Check their website to make sure the schedule is the same.
europeannovice is offline  
Apr 17th, 2011, 03:55 AM
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Agree Hampton Court Palace is a great trip outside the centre. We took the boat out there from Westminster Pier and then the train back. The boat (a bit old and tatty) took a couple of hours I think, but it is a great way to see London.
You dont need to book for the London Walks Explorer Days and they do one to Stonehenge and Salisbury every Tuesday (plus a few Saturdays I think). Just turn up at the railway station ticket office noted. (You can ring or email them if you have any queries). Walks.com
Mary24 is offline  
Apr 17th, 2011, 10:54 AM
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The boat is a great idea -- however it is usually better to take the train TO the Palace and the boat back. The river is tidal so the trip's length can vary quite a bit - but is normally about 3 hours give or take -and can be as much as 4 hours. So if you take the boat up river, you won't get there until after lunchtime.

So take the train to HCP in the morning and then IF the weather is decent, you can take the boat back to Westminster in the afternoon.
janisj is offline  
Apr 18th, 2011, 04:21 AM
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When I took my nephews (10 and 12) to England, we went up into the Tower Bridge. I loved the view from the walkway and thought the machinery was fascinating. However, the boys said it was their least favorite site. They loved windsor Castle. We were there by 11am and saw the changing of the gueard there. The boys even were really interestd in the Queen's DollHouse.

Stonehenge had been at the top of the list for the 10 year old. I was driving a rental car after we left London, and when we drove into the parking lot on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I thought it would be an absolute mob scene, but somehow when we got up there, it wasn't bad. One of the boys took a picture with sheep in the background and it made it look as if we were the only ones there. (I had been there many years before when you could still walk among the stones and thought this visit would be a real disappointment, but was ok with this visit. Traveling with kids is such fun.They put a fresh spin on all that you see and do) So if your kids want to go, do take them. And take a bit of time for Salisbury Cathedral while you are in the area. The boys were very interested in all the things mentioned above inside the cathedral.

Have a wonderful trip!
irishface is offline  
Apr 18th, 2011, 12:08 PM
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I haven't seen War Horse but - here in NY, where it's just opened, it is a very hot ticket and sophisticated people are praising it as one of the best things they've ever seen -- so if it's still on in London I would think it worth considering. In your place I'd read a few major reviews (like the NY Times) and decide based on the description if it should appeal to your group.
Elizabeth is offline  
Apr 18th, 2011, 12:15 PM
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It's still a very hot ticket in London is is almost always sold out so if you want to see it, you might look at pre-ordering on The National Theatre Website or calling the box office to reserve. I cannot praise it highly enough.
avalon is offline  

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