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Trip Report - London and Getting There - Long

Trip Report - London and Getting There - Long

Aug 6th, 2005, 05:34 PM
  #1  
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Trip Report - London and Getting There - Long

This Trip Report will be in stages starting with London. Then Edinburgh and continuing with Germany, Bavaria/Austria and then Italy, Milan/Venice/Verona/Rome.
I took my Canon S1 IS camera with a 2 gig Ultra II flashcard with 16 rechargeable batteries and a PowerX recharger that I can just plug into an European socket w/a plug adapter. With the camera set on the finest setting I took 1198 pictures; the card held them all and the camera said I had room for 253 more. My son took his Sony PC101 video camera with 16 tapes and took about 22 hours of video on the trip. We both traveled light with a shoulder bag for our cameras and needful stuff and a small travel bag that weighed about 25 lbs each (22x10x10).
I, an aged, oversized, out of shape curmudgeon and my bigger twenty year old son boarded our Delta flight to Atlanta on July 9. Our jet had three seats on both sides and they were obviously designed for little ladies and children. Neither of us were able to stretch our legs under the seats in front of us. Fortunately it was only about a 4 hour flight and we were able to un-kink ourselves once we landed in Atlanta. Atlanta airport is large and handles a lot of flights. There are terminals A through E all connected by an underground tram. They have most all chain eateries, but they are spread all throughout the terminals and a lot of walking may be in store if you are picky about where to eat. I had not had a Krystal hamburger in about 38 years and as luck would have it, we landed in terminal E; Krystal was in terminal A and our connecting flight left from E. They used to be 12 for a dollar or 10 cents each; the prices have changed along with the taste...not for the better. They are mushier and have mustard added.
We boarded our London flight ahead of the Hurricane Dennis problems and had a little more leg room. We landed at Gatwick airport at 0605 London time on July 10. Getting to Customs was a long walk from our landing gate. From there on in it was a breeze; we zipped through Customs as our appearance did not set off any profile alerts; We took the tram to the South terminal; took the escalator downstairs and boarded the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station where we walked across the street and boarded a bus that stopped at our hotel. We arrived at the hotel at 0815 and they immediately gave us our reserved room. The staff was friendly and satisfied all of our needs while we were there. This was the Waterloo Days Inn in the Lambeth area across the street from the Imperial War Museum. This hotel was chosen for its location to the Waterloo train station (a good 15 minute walk), Underground (6 minute) and price. The room was small by American standards, but clean; no air conditioning, but a fan. A Motel 6 without washcloths, a common occurrence throughout Europe. If you use washcloths in bathing, make sure you bring one or two with you. In viewing hotel information, they usually tell you the walking time to local attractions. They must use Olympic Walkers to get those times. Rule of thumb; just double their times.
I had bought the 3 day “peak” travel card for zones 1 & 2 at 15 Pounds each at the Transport for London Website. (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/) I made the purchase on-line and the cards were mailed to me in America. Zones 1&2 cover all of the areas the normal tourist would want to go to and the additional cost of the 1 through 6 card is not needed and buying a single tickets would be cheaper for the out of zone trip. The regular card has time of day limitations; the Peak does not. We used the card enough to save about 15/20 Pounds and a lot of time. The London Underground runs smoothly and goes practically everywhere one would need to go. Also, the recent bombing alterations did not affect us.
The weather for our short stay in London was hot and muggy and I must have lost 5 pounds the first day. No, I did not have a hole in my pocket, that was perspiration.
We left the hotel and walked to the London Eye. As this was a Sunday the crowds were out in force, so we decided to pass on the Eye, saving it for Monday and walk to the Tower of London along the river. It was a nice pleasant walk, but by the time we got to the HMS Belfast my legs were no longer “al dente,” they were overcooked. I left my son to wander around and I took the tube back to the hotel to bask in a cold shower and rest.
That evening we took the tube downtown and walked Oxford, Regent and Piccadilly Streets looking at the stores and for a restaurant. Unfortunately, we chose to eat at an Aberdeen Steak House. The mashed potatoes tasted instant and the shrimp cocktail was not American style, it was salad shrimp in a sauce. My steak was a little on the tough side. My conclusions are, based on trying three steaks on my trip, that if you are a steak eater visiting Europe, eat your steaks before you come. The service was very good. Also do not expect a full dinner, almost everything comes and is charged separately. They said the potatoes had been frozen and did not charge me for them.
Monday morning we walked to Waterloo Station and took the train to Portsmouth to visit the Naval yard. The HMS Victory was impressive and they now allow picture taking on board.
We did the other sights and took the train back. Upon arriving we went to the London Eye and boarded. It was a clear day so the picture taking was fantastic. The London Eye should not be missed as it gives a great view of London. In simple terms the London Eye is like a GIANT Ferris wheel but isn’t considered one; Coney Island eat your heart out. At 442.91 feet high it is the tallest in the world, about like a 40 or so story building. As I have aged, I have become increasingly uncomfortable with heights, this is something my son was not remiss in reminding me as we went up. I just kept snapping pictures and everything was OK. That evening I rested and sent my son out to explore without me. He is 20, I am not, so I figured to turn him loose without an old man tagging along. We did this everywhere we went so he could experience it without all of my “advice.” He stopped and had fish & chips at a nearby eatery and was shocked when they charged him for the Catsup; 10 schilling a wrapper. My son occasionally has food with his catsup, so this was a shock. English breakfast is an oxymoron. Eggs are often cooked lacy, the sausage is not firm except for the skin and a tortured tomato is not a welcome site. Not much can be done to disturb potatoes, but they try. The rashers of bacon is good. The fish and chips quality vary greatly from place to place. Tuesday morning we checked out of the hotel and took to tube to the London Euston train station and dropped off our baggage at the Left Luggage and took off and went to St. Pauls, the Tower, the British Museum, Harrods, and Buckingham Palace. I walked the rest of my legs off in the heat. Surprisingly our best meal in London was at a little place by the Victoria Station named Brumbles. I had the Fish & Chips and my son had the Shepherds Pie; both were excellent, the service was a little weak but improved through the meal.
The thing I noticed about all of the rail stations, there were no trash containers (bomb security) and no water fountains anywhere. I did find one fountain in a park, but it didn’t work. It took me getting to Rome to find a water fountain. On hot days figure into your budget buying water, lots of water. We (two of us) drank about 8 liters a day in assorted waters and other stuff.
An annoying problem in London for the picture taker is that the buildings are too close together making it difficult to get a full picture of some monument or other site. I had to take multiple pictures and am in the process of pasting them together.
Tuesday evening at the London Euston Station we boarded the Scotrail Caledonia Sleeper for Edinburgh, Scotland. We had never taken a sleeper train before and decided to try the experience. The Scotrail personnel take a back step to none with the service they provide. Every effort was made to ensure a pleasant journey. The conductor or berthing aide explained all and provided us with the travel kit which included all of the necessities and to my surprise a washcloth which I jealously guarded and kept for all my travels. We traveled first class.
A note about the London transport stations and the security. If you have luggage, stand on it, in it, or grasp it tightly. Do not under any circumstances walk away from it or it will be surrounded by the authorities and disposed of or blown up. In a waiting room a lady left an empty seat between her luggage and herself; this was too far away and the authorities arrived and explained to her where to be. Even with all the obvious stress the local authorities were under, they still were polite and offered fine service. London is obviously not England and one would be mistaken to judge England by it. I was there a day and a half before I actually met an Englishman. Everyone else were either tourists, immigrants, or foreign workers and at times difficult to understand. I was surprised and saddened by the American fast food invasion. All over the place are the McDonalds, Burger Kings, Pizza Huts, and other assorted gluttony establishments of American culture. Overall London left a good impression. Our stay was way too short to explore it properly. I figure one needs at least 2 weeks to cover most of the sights.
Luttrell is offline  
Aug 6th, 2005, 05:55 PM
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Hi Luttrell, more please, when you have time of course. Know about Verona but interested in the rest of your trip.
LoveItaly is offline  
Aug 6th, 2005, 06:33 PM
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Enjoyed your report so far...keep it coming. I'm particularly interested in the Germany, Bavaria/Austria portion. Peace.

Robyn >-
artstuff is offline  
Aug 7th, 2005, 03:44 AM
  #4  
oldie
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OHMYGOd!
An Aberdeen steak house! I didn't think they still existed.
They were horrible places but probably the last places on earth where you can get a "prawn cocktail".

In England avoid anything with the words "steak", "Inn", "olde" or "fayre".

 
Aug 7th, 2005, 07:54 AM
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Great report so far. Looking forward to the rest.

But I must agree w/ oldie -- you couldn't have picked a worse place to eat if you had tried. I literally cringed when I read that bit. Aberdeen Steak houses were icky and a choice of last resort back in the 70's and have only gone down hill since.

(I don't eat there but do stick my head in every once in a while, sort of for old times sake, to see if anything has changed - nope)
janis is offline  
Aug 7th, 2005, 08:28 PM
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We also have stayed in the Victoria Station area on our last 2 trips to London and recalled seeing the Aberdeen Steak House. Fortunately, I remembered reading here on Fodors the advice to stay away from any restaurant with the word "steak" in it!
bettyk is offline  
Aug 8th, 2005, 01:11 AM
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Luttrell, you have committed the cardinal sin of not researching your restaurants! Don't diss a whole country for its steak when you choose to eat in a - I can hardly say the words - Angus Steak House. Ugh!

Reasearch research research!
Kate is offline  
Aug 8th, 2005, 01:38 AM
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Luttrell:

1) Oh dear! I have to second the comments of earlier poster - NEVER eat somewhere that has a menu with photos on or calls itself a Steak House. Please don't judge our food on this terrible experience!

2) <An annoying problem in London for the picture taker is that the buildings are too close together making it difficult to get a full picture of some monument or other site>

I shall start a campaign on your behalf to relocate the worst offenders Maybe we could just tear the city down and rebuild in a more photo-friendly Disney style?!!!

I'm going to put
Tallulah is offline  
Aug 8th, 2005, 01:53 AM
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Oldie is wrong.
It's the dreaded Berni Inns that have closed. A few Aberdeens are still lurking.

The sad thing is that they could be a success if they tried. If they bought top quality Aberdeen Angus steaks and cooked them properly with genuine, not frozen chips, people would go to them.
Of course, they would have to put the prices up.

I too had to chuckle about those pesky buildings too close together.
It's like those idiots who built Stonehenge so far from the airport.
MissPrism is offline  
Aug 8th, 2005, 04:36 AM
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Photos are a matter of personal preference, of course, but I tend to think it's easier to buy a picture book for what the buildings look like and keep my own photos for the quirky details, and contrasts, that evoke more memories, on the principle that less is more. Why spend time and money trying to take a picture that looks like all the postcards?
PatrickLondon is online now  
Jan 18th, 2006, 04:17 PM
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Interesting...

Obviously different people can have different opinions about an individual restaurant.

A while ago I posted a note that most restaurant guides panned a chain of restaurants known as Cafe Rouge, yet several posters wrote on the board they enjoyed the place and that I should not just take somebody word for it. Okay, different strokes for different folks.

Having said that, let me say that I have never seen anybody have one good thing to say about the chain known as the Angus Steak House but sometimes as the Aberdeen Steak House....the 90p cover charge is clearly stated on the menu BTW but that is not necessarily to excuse it.

In short, they stink and nobody should ever eat there.
xyz123 is offline  

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