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The "I Forgot How Much I Love London" Trip Report

The "I Forgot How Much I Love London" Trip Report

Old Feb 26th, 2010, 05:47 AM
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The "I Forgot How Much I Love London" Trip Report

I apologize in advance. I'm wordy. There will be lots of extraneous details and random thoughts that are non-sequiturs. Feel free to skim. : )

---------------------------------
Day 0 – Why am I always next to the bathrooms?

departure: (side note: this can’t count as day 1 since I’m not actually there, so I’m starting with day 0).

This trip was a last minute, solo venture to London. In January, my dh told me he was going to London and when I asked if I could tag along, he was happy to have a travel companion for at least part of the trip. After some quick work getting grandparents to watch our kids, and some frequent flyer magic, a trip was born. Of course, I used this as an excuse to get a new camera (need the higher mp and mine was being cranky too often), a new Iphone (can check email without the need to drag my laptop), and a new bag (my old duffel would get too large when I filled it all the way).

I used USAir FF miles for the trip – since it was off-season, it was only 35k round trip, but I was pleasantly surprised that I had received a 5k bonus, so it was truly only 30k miles. Woohoo.

The flight departed on Sunday evening and when I was booking and had my choice of seats, I paid extra attention to be far from the bathrooms, since I hate being next to them. I also selected a window seat in the middle of about 4 rows of empty seats hoping for lots of rooms to stretch! I was surprised when I got on board, not only did I have a seat mate, I was in the last row next to the bathrooms. boo. It turns out they had switched aircraft from an A330 to something else (notably smaller and older). I was thankful that I had worn a hooded sweatshirt since I just pulled up the hood and tucked myself into the wall. I was able to sleep a few hours – less than ideal, but enough that I could keep going.

Next: Walking is the best cure
surfmom is online now  
Old Feb 26th, 2010, 06:43 AM
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Looking forward to more. I am going solo to London in May. I have never been there and am very excited. More please!
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Old Feb 26th, 2010, 08:00 AM
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looking forward to all the details. I love London!
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Old Feb 26th, 2010, 04:51 PM
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Do to finances, I won't be able to go on my yearly sojourn to London. So I'm excited to read your trip report and will attempt to live vicariously Looking forward to more.
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Old Feb 26th, 2010, 06:02 PM
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Details, details please. Looking forward for more.
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Old Feb 27th, 2010, 12:23 AM
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Great start, looking forward to more!
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Old Feb 27th, 2010, 12:26 AM
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Couldn't have been too bad a plane if you had bathrooms on it, normally all you get is toilets!!!!!
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Old Feb 27th, 2010, 12:50 PM
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surfmom:

"I Forgot How Much I love London" - I am wordy.

Nice start. Carry on please.

Sandy
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Old Feb 27th, 2010, 01:16 PM
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If BA goes in strike, this will be a virtual tour for me. Can't wait to read more.
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Old Mar 18th, 2010, 09:39 AM
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oh, I'm back. flog me for not keeping going...

Day 1 – Monday – Walking is the best cure

We arrived at Heathrow relatively on time. I was able to get cash easily (yeah!), an Oyster card, and transportation into the city. (From landing to hotel was about 2 hours – by the time we de-planed (I was last), to Customs, to getting cash, and transportation into the city and the tube).

Before I go into details, I guess I should explain my traveling partner, which was at this point, non-existent. Mr. Surf was scheduled to arrive Wednesday morning, but since my parents could watch the kids the entire week, I decided to go earlier so I would have more time.

One of the things that I enjoy is taking photographs (as evidenced by the need for a new camera). Since I was traveling alone, I had planned on taking a Photo Tour on Tuesday with Hairy Goat Photo Tours. Sunday, before I left, Corinna, the owner, emailed me to let me know that the weather forecast wasn’t good for Tuesday and could we do it Monday. She was able to be flexible with regard to my schedule and we planned to meet after lunch. As it turned out, she called as I was crossing Westminster Bridge so we were able to keep to the plan to meet after lunch.

I stayed at Marriott County Hall on the South Bank. I wanted to stay here since we would be staying here in the Spring with the family and I wanted to figure out the surroundings, restaurants, etc. I had emailed the FOM and he was great about setting things up – and when I arrived at 11:30am, I was able to check into my room (yeah!). After a shower, change of clothes and feeling like a new person, I headed off to Tower Hill tube to meet Corinna.

Corinna is the owner of Hairy Goat Photo Tours. One of the great things about setting this up in advance with her was that she was extremely accommodating about my schedule and had contacted me in advance to move due to the weather forecast.

www.hairygoat.net

So, I met Corinna and we were off… I’ll do my best to remember some of the highlights, but I’m sure I’ll miss the most important ones! We walked down to St. Katharine’s Dock area, around the Tower of London, and then worked into the City. This is where my sense of direction is totally lost. Corinna did an excellent job of pointing out photo opportunities as well as giving history of the area and specific buildings. I didn’t realize how much commerce and trade originally took place and many of the buildings show the trade of their original builders. For example, the camels on a building that originally traded tea was something she knew the history of. I also loved visiting St. Dunstan’s.

St. Dunstan's is a church that was bombed during WWII and instead of rebuilding or demolishing it, they left the walls as a shell and turned the interior into a park. The vines crawling along the walls had been recently trimmed, but it must be absolutely an oasis in the middle of summer. We also walked through Leadenhall Market and Corinna explained the history of it (it was built open at four sides to keep the breezes blowing through to keep the food cool. The hot air would rise to the top, but stay cool down below.)

If I told you any more that I saw, well, it wouldn’t be a mystery tour anymore!

We saw lots of neat reflections – the sky was amazing as the day went on and Corinna was excellent at pointing out reflections of the sky and of other buildings. I was impressed with how much history of individual buildings she knew. I loved the Gherkin and how it popped up in the background of many photos.

We walked for about 3 ½ hours and finished by ending up at the Royal Exchange. Luckily, I was able to jump on the Bank-Waterloo tube easily. I will say during the tour, I got cold a few times, and Corinna was happy for us to take a break and warm up or whatever, but I pushed through it. At the end, I was glad I did, because I got back to the Marriott as the sun was setting.

I will upload some photos so I can provide a link... I promise!

next: Meeting the BFG
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Old Mar 18th, 2010, 10:11 AM
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Can't wait for more!
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Old Mar 18th, 2010, 10:57 AM
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surfmom, you write your TRs like I write mine - little bits at a time. keep going - and I can't wait to see the photos!

Hairy Goat tours - only in England...
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Old Mar 18th, 2010, 12:27 PM
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Reading here too! Thanks for your description of the photo tour - that sounded so interesting but I didn't do it on my last trip. Might have to try it next time!
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Old Mar 18th, 2010, 03:08 PM
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That photo walk sounds wonderful - was it just yourself and the guide or were there others in the group?
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Old Mar 19th, 2010, 01:36 AM
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St. Dunstan's sounds amazing.
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Old Mar 19th, 2010, 02:09 AM
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St Dunstan's:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick...7594204710194/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/england/sevenwo.../city_gardens/
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Old Apr 15th, 2010, 06:56 AM
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here is the link to my photos:

www.pbase.com/jsemmer

I've finally uploaded the Hairy Goat tour ones... and have more to come.

next installment coming shortly.
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Old Apr 15th, 2010, 07:01 AM
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Day 2 – Tuesday – Meeting the BFG

I had heard quite a bit about London Walks and when I looked at their schedule, I was interested in the “Behind Closed Doors” walk. After meeting outside the Covent Garden tube station, we were off! There were about 20 people on the tour (including one with a kid in a stroller – the guide was very accommodating). A new experience for me was the interior of the Royal Opera House (adjacent to Covent Garden). On the walk, we also visited a medical museum (admittedly, I was creeped out and used that as a break to find a bench and be old and rest). It included a church that is the official RAF church – it was rather pretty inside! We finished up in the Royal Courts of Justice and a few of us sat down and watched a trial for a few minutes.

It was interesting to see how people view things differently – I was very interested in the testimony and thought the lawyer had the witness cornered – there was lots of “well, I don’t remember my testimony” and “I was confused during that testimony” from the witness. The lawyer was going back statement by statement and asking, “was this correct?” and trying to pin him down and determine the ‘truth’. I was interested how he was questioning the witness and was interested in watching the witness squirm. As I walked out (they broke for lunch at 1pm), another person on the tour commented that it was boring. Interesting how two people can hear the exact same thing and have such a different perspective.

I very much enjoyed the Royal Courts of Justice and wished we had been allowed to take photos in there – not only was the tour guide clear about the no photos rule, the security guards going in echoed it very strongly. (both verbally and with body language).

I enjoyed the London Walks tour and would take another one. I thought it was a great value for your money, extremely informative, but didn’t take up an entire day.

Next, I headed to Great Missenden to visit the Roald Dahl Museum. This is on the agenda with our kids this spring, so I wanted to determine if it is worth the trip. If you have kids who like Roald Dahl, this is very cool!!! It is less of a museum and more of a ‘literacy center’. They have one room that is dedicated to the personal history and background of Roald Dahl, but the rest of it is interactive about his books. For example, in the BFG (Big Friendly Giant), part of the book involves him catching dreams. They have a large display with stuffed animals inside that kids can play with and mix dreams. They have storybook bags that have props from his most popular books so the kids can get them out and play with them and make their own story. They have a computer next to hand puppets so you can make up your own story and tape it. Attached is the Twits Café where I had lunch. I would recommend this for anyone with kids since they ‘get’ kids and will do pretty much anything.

I arrived back to central London about rush hour time and decided I was beat, so I relaxed in the Executive Lounge for a bit. I finally got motivated to go find some dinner and found a take out sandwich in the SouthBank Center nearby. This is the upside and downside to traveling alone – most of the time, I would rather not eat a sit down dinner alone so I skip lots of meals! (good for the waistline though!).

Next: stairs, stairs, and more stairs... Climbing St. Paul's
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Old Apr 15th, 2010, 07:02 AM
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@NS - this tour was only myself with Corinna. She usually has a minimum of 3 people, but since I really wanted to do it, I agreed to pay extra for a private tour.
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Old Apr 15th, 2010, 10:28 AM
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I assume the RAF chapel was St. Clement's Danes. There are great statues there of Gladstone on the front and Samuel Johnson on the back. I enjoyed the bells immensely one Sunday morning this past Spring while taking pictures of the church and Australia House across the street.
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