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We are in London!!!

Just wanted to say we're in London and it couldn't be better. Arrived at Heathrow Airport and customs was quick and the Heathrow Express Train to Paddington is a breeze. Tube is a cinch too, since my wife and I are well-versed on the ins and outs of transit in Japan. ATM machine at Paddington worked brilliantly with our WAMU ATM card. Got a quick meal at Pret A Manger in South Kensington and did some shopping at Waitrose outside the Gloucester Road tube station. Our apartment is amazing, so glad we didn't stay in a small hotel room. We're awake super early, it's just gone 6am here now and our neighbors haven't stirred yet. Planning on going to the British Museum this AM. So glad I checked a suitcase (sorry Rick Steves, I can't travel as light as you did) as I was able to bring a few things that otherwise would have stayed home. Oh and British Airways is fantastic, the food was excellent (poached salmon for dinner - in economy class!), and the flight from Seattle was only 8.5 hours. I love the masses of people on the streets and whoah the cars and busses certainly do zip around corners quickly! We were nearly run over by a Toyota Prius making a corner and the driver didn't even try to slow down! Many Japanese tourists in South Kensington, probably some are students. More later!!

Posted by
10344 posts

Dave: We appreciate the trip report. Remember to look both ways before crossing those streets, of course the pedestrian arrows will help, they got tired of scraping Americans and Europeans off the pavement. Say hi to the Elgin Marbles for me, but you'll have to wait a few hours from now, I think it doesn't open until 10.

Posted by
977 posts

Your description of the masses of people, the amazing number of cars, taxis buses zipping everywhere (and knowing where they are going) brings back such vivid memories of London. I have been there twice and each time it takes me at least 24 hours to get my head around the frenetic pace and incredible volume of vehicles and people. After this time there's no holding me back. I love the place.
Such a contrast from little old Adelaide with a population of barely 1 million people.

Posted by
6470 posts

Thanks for London update. Especially like the BA review. I'm flying with them first time in Dec. You will spend hours in the British Museum! When you return would love to hear where your apartment is located and how you found out about it. Enjoy that wonderful city but please; 1.) Mind the Gap and 2.) Be ever vigilant when you cross those busy, busy streets.

Posted by
11443 posts

I also want to hear about the apartment and how you found it. The Gloucester Road area is one of my favorites to stay in and I'm always looking for a new/better place to stay.

Posted by
8293 posts

Don't forget to go to Harrod's and say "hello" to the lovely man who owns the place, should you see him.

Posted by
1255 posts

Dave - I'm also planning a trip to London with my family. I'd love to hear how you found your apartment.

Posted by
2664 posts

Norma, you are so funny, I remember your remarks regarding the "owner" and the horrible things that D from Newcastle called you.

Posted by
33 posts

We just left London and are in Edinburgh, Scotland now...At most crosswalks, if you look down the street will say, look left and then it says look right half way...Thank goodness for that...Mom and I cracked up every time we had to cross a road...We each kept looking back and forth...The drivers in London don't bother to slow down unless the beep starts sounding at the crosswalk for the people to cross...We found in Winchester, medium size hotels are buying up the victortian row houses and making them into places like the Days Inn chains...It was the most affordable place we could find with our own beds and our own bath and includes breakfast...
Enjoy your travels....

Posted by
525 posts

Keep these updates coming. I wish I was with you NOW! My husband and I were in London in June this year (2008). Our first time. Your comments are bringing back WONDERFUL memories (other than me tripping and falling into the Big Ben pillar while crossing the bridge and hitting my head and broke glasses.)Be sure to take an extra pair with you when traveling. I want to "travel" with you. Thanks for letting us know the particulars. (Apartment location.)I know this isn't a "question" but "many" of us are waiting for more "travel" info. Thanks again for taking your time away from your sightseeing.

Posted by
643 posts

Well we just got back from Covent Garden. We went there yesterday and went back today. We really like that area. Muji is a nice store with Japanese goods, I bought a nice umbrella there. We had a wonderful lunch at "Crusting Pipe". And when you're in Covent Garden be sure not to miss the Sir John Soane's Museum. We walked by a cab drivers rest hut by Hyde Park. These are green and were built in Victorian times. One of the drivers saw me take a photo of it and said good morning. I said good morning back to him and he asked me if I knew what it was. I said what is this? He explained to me that cab drivers used to take a break in the pubs, and they were always having to go in and find a man to drive a cab, and they were always drunk. So they built these little rest huts. He asked me if I wanted to take a look inside. Did I! So we interrupted the break of four drivers, who were finished eating and enjoying some hot coffee. There was a woman in the kitchen on the other side of the hut cooking. They were all welcoming to my wife and I and we came in and closed the door. They agreed to a photo which is a wonderful souvenir. We enjoy riding the London bus more than the tube though traffic in the morning is pretty hellish. My wife bought some French Macaroons from Harrods. Tomorrow it's St.Paul's Cathedral!

Posted by
10344 posts

Dave: Read with interest your latest update, thanks. Tomorrow at St Paul's don't miss the American Memorial Chapel behind the High Altar.

Posted by
588 posts

Dave, what a wonderful travel story! Thanks for sharing and you have a great souvenir. I would love to hear more of these stories.

Posted by
8293 posts

Actually, the John Soames Museum is not in Covent Gardent but quite a good deal north of Covent Garden, being rather close to the British Museum. It is a very interesting small museum, and it is free. Saomes was a great collector of sculptures, art, etc, as well as an architect and his collection will amuse and amaze you. I also love his house.

Posted by
2664 posts

Dave, Sir John Soane's Museum is not located in Covent Garden. It is located almost a mile (.9) from Covent Garden at 13 Lincoln's Inn Field.

Posted by
359 posts

Lovely story, Dave, sounds like you're having a wonderful time. What's the story on your apartment; where/through which agency/etc.

For a nice walk from the London 'wheel'; just keep going towards Big Ben on the south bank along the river, pick your bridge to cross back to 'the city' and your apartment, wander the neighbourhoods enroute. Near Charing Cross, stop in at Gordon's Wine Bar for a 'glass'.

Posted by
80 posts

Enjoying your trip along with you. Thank you so much for sharing. I agree you need to make Gordon's Wine Bar a stop. Whether you have a poughman's lunch along with a glass of wine or a glass of their heavenly port it is worth a stop. Location is convienent to Trafalgar Square. Love Gordon's, hoist one for me, lol. Pam

Posted by
643 posts

We waked to the Soanes museum in about 10 minutes from Covent Garden, so I call that pretty close! We got on the tube at Holborn from there and stopped in Picadilly Circus as my wife wanted to stop at Japan Center to pick up something for dinner. Then we hopped on a bus and got off near Harrod's. I took a Heritage Bus (Route 9) from there to the Royal Albert Hall and waked home from there. It's sunny today in London and we're going to go out soon!

Posted by
2 posts

Did you pay for the Heathrow Express Train to Paddington with US $? IF not, will I need pounds before Paddington? Did you get pounds at the US airport or Heathrow?

Posted by
4555 posts

George...they won't take US dollars. Either grab some GB pounds out of an ATM at Heathrow (you're going to need some eventually anyway) or use a CC to purchase your tickets.

Posted by
6470 posts

Keep the wonderful posts coming David. LOVE London. Been 7 times and never tire of it simply because of meeting folks like your cab drivers. Don't forget the Sir John C. Ritblatt room in the British Library.

Posted by
515 posts

Dave, how very special to be able to be reminded of our delightful June jaunt to London. We are in the midst of catastrophic Ike recovery down here along the Texas coast, and boy, did I need something to make me smile. My memories of London are joyous. Taxis and trains, War Rooms and Windsor, the Tower and the Thames, royals and Rosetta, Beefeaters and Big Ben, Magna Carta and museums, St. Paul's and St. Pancras, Evensong and Eye, high tea and Harrods, Gutenberg and gardens, Paddington and pubs, Eurostar and Elgins, Crown Jewels and Churchill, oh, and the theatre, and I could go on and on. London was so much more than I even imagined. So glad I logged on this afternoon for a quick memory getaway. Thanks again, Dave, have a fabulous time, and thanks also to all of you who keep this travel bug in me alive and well.

Posted by
11450 posts

Dave,, wow, I love reading your " man on the spot" reports,, I actaully feel like I am right there,, I think RS should supply all of us with laptops so all our trip reports can be like this one,, a live feed so to speak,, LOL

Go to M and S and try the beet salad,, and the delish frozen Indian entrees,, they are the best ever,, lucky you , with an apartment you get the best of both worlds , dine in and dine out.

Have you done the Tower of London yet?? I loved the Beefeaters tour!

Thanks again for the day brightener.

Posted by
643 posts

Pat, funny you should mention it, the tower of London is tomorrow! I had wanted to go there first thing, but schedules work in mysterious ways. From there it's the tower bridge and then hop a boat to Greenwich!

Posted by
1014 posts

Just a reminder, the Beefeater tour guide will take tips.

Posted by
11450 posts

John, I never saw anyone give them tips. It didn't occur to me to give them any either, out of respect though. I thought their jobs were positions of honor, they are not bell boys or tour guides in the traditional sense.. I mean it would be like tipping the Swiss guards at the Vatican.. I know they don't tour you around the same way,, but , I just thought they were kind of " special" ..
Does everyone tip them now?? Is this always been the way and my group just didn't do it( I wasn't with a "group" but the Beefeaters only take so many at a time) or is it something new?? I've been twice and I never noticed it.

Posted by
11443 posts

Tipping the Beefeater who gives you a tour is just like tipping anyone who gives you a tour. Beefeaters are given the honor of being Beefeaters and are given a place to live....but they get nothing else above their Army pension. So, the tip is a way of saying thank you.

The Beefeater is a ceremonial position. They do not protect the Tower or the Crown Jewels. The Swiss Guard is not just a ceremonial position. They are highly trained soldiers whose main job is to protect the Pope and the Vatican. They do not give tours. While they may dress in clothes that some think makes it just for show, they each carry a fully loaded pistol underneath their garb.

In the long run, tipping is personal. Some freely give as a way of saying thanks, and others don't believe in it.

Posted by
2664 posts

That is interesting about tipping the Yeoman Warder that gives you the tour. I had never heard of it or as Pat said had never seen it done. So, just for fun I call the Tower of London 870 756 6060. The guy that I spoke to said it wasn't customary and they don't expect it, but you may if you wish, very seldom is it done.

Posted by
1014 posts

Well, I guess I was a seldom. We really enjoyed our tour and the children really asked a lot of questions. The Beefeater took all in stride and seemed to enjoy the children, so I tipped him 5L.

Posted by
158 posts

Awe yes..........I am green with envy.......ENJOY!!

......... while we are all on the other side of the pond watching the stocks go down down down..........

Where else are you heading?

Posted by
643 posts

Where else are we heading? How about home? We fly home tomorrow and will really miss this place. We hope someday to come back but the way prices are going up it might be a while. Saw Kensington Palace today, that was interesting. Will report in when we're home and unpacking!

Posted by
993 posts

Oh no! So Soon? Dave thanks for the reminder about the cab huts. I've seen photos but in all my visits to London I've not seen the actual thing. I'm putting it on my list. Thanks for a lovely trip your "tomorrow" is already here..Did you happen to stop at The Orangery at KP for a little something to keep body and soul together? A week isn't nearly enuf is it?

Posted by
643 posts

We did tour Kensington Palace on our last day (glad too, it was great, and the displays were largely put together in the 1930s, and some of the rooms smelled like my grandmas house! After the tour we walked by the Orangery but it was late in the day, and we weren't planning to have high tea so we didn't go in.

Posted by
2664 posts

Ok, Dave you are home now, no excuse for not telling everyone about your "amazing" (your word) apartment you stayed in. There has been four post asking questions about it and they haven't gotten any info from you. Trying to keep it a secret? :)

Posted by
61 posts

I did tip my Yeoman Warder, as he did a fantastic job. Another little known tradition is if you are EMS/Fire Service/LE is to take your uniform patch for your dept, and then they will paste it up in their private pub. I took a couple of AZ Dept of Public safety patches with me when I took the Ceremony of the Keys, and my guide was quite surprised/pleased when I showed him the patches. (For those who haven't ever seen one, its in the shape of the State of AZ, with the state flag as the background)

Glenn in Tucson, AZ