Trip Report - London

Old Nov 13th, 2008, 06:59 AM
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Trip Report - London

TRIP REPORT: London October 7-14, 2008
Our third trip in the last four years — this time with another couple who had never been to London.

Day 1

Arrive at Gatwick from Philadelphia. Took Southern Railway (good price, 4-for-2 group fare, and 2-for-1 attraction coupons) from LGW to Victoria; walked to Cherry Court Hotel on Hugh Street and dropped our bags. Took the #11 bus from Victoria to mid-Fleet Sat. Lunch at a sandwich place recommended by the man at the Cortauld Gallery (their cafeteria, which is great, was closed for renovations). Walked along the river; then a harp concert at St. Martin-in-the-fields. Walked down Whitehall to Parliament Sq. Back to the hotel to check in and rest a bit. Dinner at the St. George (corner of Hugh St. and Eccleston Bridge. Finished up at the British Library.

Day 2

Morning walk to Sloane Sq; then went the British Museum. Lunch at Spicy Food Plus, a super cheap Indian place frequented by locals. City Cruises (2-for-1 coupon) boat to the Tower (2-for-1 coupon), which is always good, no matter how many times we’ve been there before. Back to hotel for a rest; then the National Gallery. Dinner at The Willow Walk pub on Wilton St.

Day 3

Day trip to Windsor. Saw the castle, and had lunch at a place called The Firehouse in town. This was a place we had never been to before — very impressive. Dinner at The Willow Walk again; then rushed to Piccadilly Circus to see if there were any half-price senior (we’re over 60) tickets to The 39 Steps. There were, and it was great.

Day 4

Bought 11:00 tickets to the London Eye online (10% discount – plus senior discount). Then noticed that there was no line at all at 9:30 check-in for the 10:00 flight. Exchanged the tix and took it. Then visited Westminister Abbey. Lunch at a sandwich shop right across the street from the Farringdon tube stop — it’s a favorite of ours, so we had no problem going that far. Then went to Southwark; a pint at the George Inn, snacks at the Borough Market, and a visit to Southwark Cathedral. Then a walk along the river to the Milennium Bridge. After a rest at the hotel, we went to the London Transport Museum, and finished up with dinner at a burger joint.

Day 5

Another walk around the neighborhood; then a bus to Knightsbridge and Harrod’s. Another bus to the V&A Museum, where we also had lunch — their cafeteria is fantastic. After some more walking around the area, we took the tube to Warwick Avenue and walked along the canal from Little Venice to Camden. (We had taken a boat on a previous trip; the walk was a first, and the weather was beautiful!) Then the John Soanes Museum. After a rest, we had dinner at the Royal Oak pub. It’s a tremendously atmospheric place near the Borough tube stop. Unfortunately, the stop is only open during rush hour, so we had to go to London Bridge and then take a bus back. Finished up at the Tate Modern and a walk across the millennium bridge to St. Paul’s to catch the bus back.

Day 6

Docklands Museum and Jack the Ripper Exhibit (new for us; used 2-for-1 coupon). This was a really impressive attraction, especially for real London buffs. The DLR was under construction south of Canary Wharf, so we took the long bus ride (a real time-waster) to Greenwich. To return, we walked the tunnel under the Thames, and caught a local bus back to Canary Wharf. Since it was Sunday, we got off near Trafalgar and walked through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace. After a rest, dinner back at The Willow Walk (we’re getting lazy).

Day 7

Visited the Cortauld Gallery (free the first Mon. of the month) — this is a gem that we have visited every time we’re been to London. Then a walk to Temple Church, and continuing along Fleet St to St. Bride’s Crypt. Here we parted company with our friends. They went to see St. Paul’s and we went to All Hallows Undercroft church; a little-known gem that we had never been to before. We met up back at our lunch place at Farringdon. Then we took a self-guided walk through the St. James neighborhood. finishing up browsing the book shops in Cecil Ct and seeing the National Portrait Gallery. Our last dinner was at our local pub, the St. George Tavern, after which we walked to Sloane Square and back to Hugh St. Then packing for tomorrow’s flight back to Philadelphia.
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 07:08 AM
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Enjoyed your report very much.
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 07:49 AM
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Thanks for sharing!
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 08:02 AM
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I love the V&A cafe and enjoy meeting friends there when I'm in London.

Did your friends like London?
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 08:20 AM
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Thanks for the report. If you don't mind me asking, what was your overall budget for the trip? We thought of seeing The 39 Steps when we were in London. Did it work having only four characters do all the roles?
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 08:31 AM
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Our friends loved it -- of course!

The 39 Steps was one of the highlights of our trip. The four actors did a fantatic job. In one scene, one of them played two parts in the same conversation. We were amazed that we could get such great seats 20 minutes before curatin time...but it was October, and there were no lines anywhere.
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 09:05 AM
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Our total cost was just under $2,000 for the two of us...BUT...we used freq flyer miles for our airfare (just tax/fees of $119 each)...so it would have been around $3,000 for the two of us had we paid full fare.

Still, it was a very cheap trip. The Cherry Court Hotel only cost us 55 GBP per night (it is Rick Steves recommended ... very, vey small but convenient, clean, and run by wonderful people).

We've become experts at finding cheap food in London. For example, all Wetherspoons-associated pubs have a selection of complete meals (incl. a pint) for ~7 GBP or under. The food is not gourmet, but it is good and plentiful. We also have a couple of cheap sandwich places we go to where you can eat lunch for under 5 or 6 GBP -- we do NOT go to sandwich chains, such as Pret.

Other cost-savings involved using Southern instead of the Gatwick Express -- we we get all those 2-for-1 coupons. Because we had four poeple, all out train tix (Gatwick and Windsor) were half price, using the Group Save fare - 4 for the price of 2.

We always put a 7-day zone 1-2 tranport pass on our Oyster cards. Never cabs. We also do a lot of self-directed walks that we find in books. Frommers has a great book of walks, but there are others that are good, too.

We generally do one play per visit, but there is lots of free music around lunchtime in the churches.


Here is a rough breakdown:

Air -- $238
Hotel -- ~$675
Tube/Bus Pass -- $85
Gatwick Rail -- $38
Food -- approx. $600
Sights/Entertainment -- $350


Steve

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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 09:44 AM
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Thanks Steve. Your cost information is very helpful.
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 09:50 AM
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Steve- quick question:
Since you loaded the 7-day Travelcard onto your Oyster, I assume then you bought round-trip tickets on Southern Railway for London/Gatwick and used the Southern Railway ticket as your 2-for-1 "qualifier"?
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 09:53 AM
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For four years I lived 45 minutes outside of London and every time I read a trip report, I realize how much I missed in all the Saturdays I went up to London. Looking at it as glass half full, I have such a great list of new "must sees" from all the excellent trip reports on this site! Thanks.
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 10:24 AM
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ssander, we will be in London for a total of 4 days. is it at all possible to squeeze your 7 days into our 4 days there?
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 10:41 AM
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YK...

Yes, we have used the Southern Railway Gatwick-Victoria tickets as 2-for-1 qualifiers all three times we've visited in the past four years. It has saved us, perhaps, $300 over that time. (Plus, the fare is cheaper than the GX and it only takes about 5 minutes longer).

SS
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 10:46 AM
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Yup, that's a great deal. I just wanted to confirm that the r/t Southern Railway tickets are acceptable for 2-for-1 deal (even though you didn't take the Rail every day).

Unfortunately, it won't work for me as we now fly into LHR, and I tend to travel solo.
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 10:49 AM
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Summagold...

I doubt it...we dragged our friends from pillar to post each day...plus, we are very familiar with the bus/tube network, so we wasted no time figuring out how to get from one place to the next.

Having said that, I encourage you to do your best to achieve it.

You could drop Windsor, since the Tower is similar. I'd also recommend dropping the Tate Modern. We only went there because our firends wanted to...I really don't think it's very good. You'll see better 20th c. art at the Cortauld in a smaller place.


Also, if you only have 4 days, skip the play. Check out which places have late hours, and use one of your evenings for that.

Best of luck.

SS
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 11:59 AM
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ssander: Great report! Your friends are lucky to have "London old pros" to guide them around.

SUMMAGOLD: "is it at all possible to squeeze your 7 days into our 4 days there? "

ssander has already basically answered you but just a bit more: It would be pretty difficult for most people to do that 7 day itinerary in seven days let alone four

For someone who has been to London several times and really knows their way around, it is possible to move that fast. But for many those are are full day marches

A good rule of thumb is to squeeze in 2 major sites a day - a few are close enough to each other to manage 3, but by then things tend to blur a bit.

for instance day 2 covered the British Museum, a river cruise, the Tower of London and the National Gallery. That is a lot of travel and a lot to absorb.


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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 03:14 PM
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I'm jealous of the harp concert. Wiould love to have heard that.

You actually took a bus from Harrods to the V&A???
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 03:33 PM
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janisj...

You're right...we did pack alot in. And to be fair, we could have spent alot more time in the British Museum and the Nat. Gallery (we only did highlights, since we were with newbies and we wanted them to "taste" as much as possible.)

SS

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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 03:37 PM
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Carrybean...

The bus from Harrod's to the V&A is only an easy 5-minute ride...of course we could have walked...but we were just starting out a day that was going to include the canal walk and a walk from the V&A to the High St. Kensington station, so we were trying to take it easy early on.

Sorry about the wimpishness.

SS
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 03:41 PM
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I don't think there's anything wrong with riding the bus from Harrods to V&A, esp given that you have the 7-day pass! I would have done the same.

Back in the days of Routemaster, I routinely jumped on/off a bus as I see them... even if it waw just for 1 stop.

Maybe that's why they had gotten rid of the routemasters, because of people like me who got on/off when it's not at a stop (esp along Oxford St where the bus stopped every 10 ft due to traffic lights and/or tourists who didn't cross at crosswalks).
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Old Nov 13th, 2008, 04:41 PM
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Great report.

I would agree that that ssander and friends did a lot in their week.

Get a good map with all the sites and try to cluster things that are near each other.
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