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10 Days in London

I’ve traveled to Europe six times but this trip had a few firsts for me:

  • First trip to London

  • First non-stop flight to Europe

  • First time staying in one city the entire vacation

Flights

I flew Virgin Atlantic direct from Tampa to Heathrow. It was my first VA flight and it was great. Service was polite and professional. I bought my tickets for Economy Delight for both legs, but later decided to upgrade my seat on the outgoing flight to Premium for $125. So glad I did, the seat was bigger and even more leg room than in Delight.

“Mind the Gap” - getting around in London

I heard this warning so many times it became a mantra for me! I learned the Tube system fairly quickly. However, twice I got turned around in the Tube station and once ended up going the wrong direction. Some nice British people helped me out. One gentleman even walked me to the proper place in the station to get on the correct line.

Lodging

I stayed at the Park Plaza Waterloo London hotel just south of the Thames in the Lambeth area. I really liked this location. It was a little less busy than others and felt more like a neighborhood. Close to a tube stop and the Westminster Bridge. I had a city view from a floor-to-ceiling window.

Places visited

Westminster Abbey - This took my breath away. Yes, it was crowded but not too bad. I used the free audio-visual guide and thought it was quite good. I was thrilled to see the places where Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots were entombed. The stained glass was exquisite. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I learned a few years ago from my mom’s genealogical research that I am a direct descendent of Mary Boleyn through her son Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon. I’m sure there are hundreds of people who can say the same, but it gave me a thrill to see a huge monument to him in the Abbey.

Tate Britain and Modern museums - Really enjoyed both of these. The John Singer Sargent exhibition at the Britain was outstanding. The Modern was a nice change of pace from all the other art I saw.

V & A museum - I didn’t realize how huge this was! Enjoyed seeing the items from the different countries and time frames. Lots of furniture, silver, ceramics, and fashion. Had tea and cake for lunch in the cafe and felt oh so Victorian.

Pub tour - went on London Walks’ historical pub tour and had a blast. The leader talked about authors, the Inns of Court (which we walked through), and told some fun stories. As a solo traveler, it was nice to meet some other people. I also learned I liked Bitter Ale!

Tower of London - I enjoyed this, but it was really cold and windy the day I went. I expected crowds, but wow, so many school and tour groups to navigate around! The museum in the White Tower was my favorite.

National Gallery - as an art lover I was really looking forward to this. It was quite impressive, but I was beginning to get a little art overload. There was a special exhibit of the last painting by Caravaggio that I really enjoyed. It had its own queue to get in but didn’t take too long.

Hampton Court Palace - this was my favorite of all the places I went. To walk in the same space as the kings and queens did was truly remarkable to me. When I went into the Great Hall, I was more than a bit overwhelmed. I had lunch in what was once Elizabeth I’s Privy Kitchen, so exciting! The audio-visual guide here was very good, I suggest using it.

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Posted by
582 posts

(continued)

Handel Hendrix House - small museum dedicated to the two musicians who lived there. It was small but very well done. I especially enjoyed the Jimi Hendrix side where his bedroom was re-created to every detail including ashtrays full of cigarette butts!

Wallace Collection - very neat museum with lots of armor, war implements, and amazing paintings, including Rembrandt’s self portrait. Had tea and scones for lunch here on my last day in London.

Imperial War Museum - very moving experience. Learned a lot about both World Wars. They had audio in the background to make it seem more real and an example of a WWI trench to walk through.

Lessons learned

When crossing the street, look right. It’s written on most roads for traffic, but also look both ways when crossing the bicycle lanes. Those riders are fast!

I learned not to stop and read every single marker next to paintings, etc. I’d still be there if I did.

Don’t accidentally leave your phone in a museum loo. I did and by the time I went back, it was gone. I later tracked its location on my iPad to see it was at another address. Made a police report but knew I wouldn’t get it back. Luckily I have insurance.

Keep problems in perspective. The phone incident upset me but I had to realize it could have been much worse. Keep Calm and Carry On!

I learned that about 2 weeks on a big vacation is the right length of time for me, at least for now. When I daydream about traveling, it seems so appealing to stay several weeks. But, I have to be realistic with my stamina and my finances.

I thoroughly enjoyed London, and now I want to see other areas of England!

Posted by
4305 posts

I felt like I was reading my own Trip Report from a few years ago. I also was excited to see Elizabeth I's tomb, loved, loved, loved Hampton Court, and my favourite part of the Tower was the museum in the White Tower. I've spent a month in England over 2 trips but only a week so far in London. I need to go back.

Posted by
6670 posts

Nice report, Kathy, thank you! Nonstop flights for a two-week stay in a great city, what's not to like? Many people would have tried to "do" Britain, or England, in that time, but you were smart enough to focus on one place and save your time and energy for the many sights you saw there. And congratulations on discovering bitter!

Since you can get great flights to LHR, maybe next time you can head out to other parts of Britain if you haven't already.

Posted by
2921 posts

Thanks for the trip report Kathy! Especially liked the “what I learned” part.
I’m bookmarking your report for ideas when I’m in London next year.

Posted by
926 posts

It's a shame about your phone. I worked at one of the museums you mention and my colleagues in lost property got A LOT of phones handed in, many reunited the same day. Bad luck.

Posted by
2494 posts

Glad you had a great time, Kathy. I already want to go back to London.

Posted by
4003 posts

Lovely report. And I too enjoy staying in ine city for awhile. Our first trip to London, but not our last, was 11 nights. We also choose Hampton Court to visit and loved it. Just thinking about its history and those who live there. I purchased a dress there for my granddaughter, complete with hoop and headpeice.
We were Lucky because there was hardly anyone visiting the day we went.
Hope your next big city trip is as wonderful.

Posted by
582 posts

Thanks everyone, for the kind and encouraging responses! This is such a great forum.

Posted by
24 posts

I've visited London several times, but it's so big that there's always something new to look forward to on future trips! My next goal, other than the rest of Britain of course, is to visit Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, Camdentown, Stave Hill, Canary Wharf and a few others I might add later. I need to plan a UK-only trip sometime and explore where I've never been.

Posted by
582 posts

Oh, wow, I’m not sure yet.! Top places are Naples/Southern Italy, Poland, Belgium/Netherlands, or Paris.

Posted by
246 posts

Loved your trip report.
We visited London last fall with our daughter and loved our 6 days there. I returned this spring with my sister for 2 weeks, though we did a 3 day side trip to Paris. I feel like I could spend a week there for the next couple years and still look forward to returning. I’ll have to check out Hampton Court Palace next time. I also would like to spend more time in the Tate as we mostly saw the Singer Sargent exhibit. Also, still need to see Westminster Abbey and the National Gallery.
Like I said, will need to return—thanks for the inspiration

Posted by
129 posts

Sounds like a fantastic trip! I am heading to London in two weeks for the sixth time and I am just now going to be heading to Hampton Court Palace (you have me even more excited to see it!) for the first time. London Walks is fantastic - we did a pub walk with them last year south of the river and this year we are doing the hidden pubs walk. I really think that a majority of people who go on wine tours or pub walks are super friendly and looking to socialize, whether alone or with a spouse/partner/friend/family member.

Posted by
4945 posts

Thanks for your trip report! I've been in Chichester for a week - a good base with several options for interesting day trips. After this slower pace, I'll be heading back to London in a few days and you've reinforced my interest in the Wallace Collection.

Posted by
439 posts

Kathy, great trip report.

CWsocial, hope you're having a good trip! We just returned from the UK (1 am this morning!). We stayed the first two nights only a couple of blocks from the Wallace Collection. We visited it on our arrival afternoon stroll. It was late in the afternoon, so we were very limited (less than 1 hour). The place is packed with paintings! One day I'll return to spend more time...

Posted by
439 posts

Kathy, great trip report. We just returned from the UK (1 am this morning!). We stayed the first two nights only a couple of blocks from the Wallace Collection. We visited the museum on our arrival day late afternoon stroll. We were very limited--less than one hour which wasn't nearly enough for such a packed place. Tea in the garden sounds like it was a pleasant end to your trip.

CWSocial, hope your trip is going well.

Posted by
2506 posts

We have done many trips to London but somehow have not been to the Wallace Collection. It’s on my list now. Another good museum is the Courtauld Gallery.

Posted by
797 posts

Hey Kathy, thanks, what a great TR. I've probably been to London 10x, but have added Hampton Court Palace to the list for next time. Hey did you love the Wallace Collection cafe, isn't it the one with an atrium ceiling? And I think that museum is free... but maybe that's changed. Glad you had such a great trip, could really relate to the Art Overload, which even though it's the National Gallery it's still exhausting. I would second the suggestion to see the Courtauld Gallery, in fact it's my favorite in London for impressionism & because it's such a manageable size, but sadly lacking a cafe.

Posted by
582 posts

I’m glad I raised interest in the Wallace Collection! I saw it on the Love and London YouTube channel and put it on my list. Yes, it’s still free and the cafe is in an atrium. I’ll put the Courtauld Gallery on my list for next time.

Posted by
1503 posts

Kathy, What a great trip - except for the phone. Hampton Court is my alltime favorite! If you go on a weekend they usually have the kitchens working and cooking going on with meat on the spits!

From your interests I would say Wales would be a good next trip!