Thank you to everyone who posts on the England Forum. I have been a lurker and occasional poster who gained so much from the knowledgeable folks on the Forum. Our trip was smoother and more fun with all the input. If you sign up for emails from locations and service providers, you will get discount offers. I didn't pay full price for anything in the end except for dinners. Our trip wasn't a budget trip but I feel I got good value for my money. London Pass covered so many places we wanted to see and we got discounts and added items (nice guidebooks, paid exhibits, discounts in cafes and shops) even in places without an admission fee. I did a little better than break even but you must run the numbers to see if it works for you.
My husband and I spent 8 days in London in November for a 40th anniversary trip, 40 years of marriage, 40 years since my first trip to London. After 9 month of dreaming, planning and preparing, we had a great adventure, saw some new sights and revisited old favorites. Per advice on the Forum, I planned one place to start the day and one place for the afternoon if we decided to move on. As my husband said, we are on vacation, we actually don't have to do anything except have fun.
After the overnight flight without my CPAP, I was grateful to use Heathrow Express and then a Black Cab to the hotel. The hotel, Grange Strathmore, had our room ready so we washed up and headed out. This wonderful hotel is a bit faded but not shabby. We were the only Americans there during our stay. The location was perfect for us, a block off Cromwell and Gloucester Roads in South Kensington. The staff took wonderful care of us even when a few things went haywire.
This first day was a Sunday, so we did the Original HopOnHopOff Yellow Line bus. With a stop just down the block, we never used public transport that day. It was an easy way to get oriented and our feet under us. We took a break to visit the National Portrait Gallery and have lunch. It was fun to see so many paintings that had been used in documentaries we had recently watched. Dinner was Garfunkel's. Yes, I know, an upscale Dennys. I love rotisserie chicken so it was just the right comfort food and it was just a block down the road. We had a very Russian waitress who kept us laughing the whole meal.
Today we began using our Oyster Cards. These are the way to go for convenience. Easy to use and easy to recharge. We were off to Greenwich in the morning. We did the London Walks tour using the included HOHO City River Cruise tickets and the London Pass discount. We had never been to Greenwich and found it interesting enough that we spent the whole day there with lunch at the Maritime Museum. I recommend going to Greenwich by river. It puts the place into perspective. We returned by DLR which gives a great view of the redevelopment along the river. We saw Wicked that evening with dinner at a Korean place called Lime Orange. It's a small place with interesting food very near the theatre and Victoria Station.
Tuesday was Westminster Abby in the morning. So much history packed into a beautiful space. Afternoon was lunch at the British Museum followed by the Celtic exhibit and old favorites. Dinner at Brutti & Boni, a modern hole in the wall Italian restaurant with amazing tortellini and dessert.
Wednesday was Tower of London with London Walks. Brian is a terrific guide and once again we were in a group of only 8. After lunch at the Tower, we took a quick visit to All Hallows Church. With the restoration going on, we got a good look at the fabric of the church building. Next stop was Courtald Gallery, a small gem I had never visited before. On to Piccadilly Circus for fish and chips and then Harlequinade with Kenneth Branagh's theatre company. It was a hoot but you probably needed to know a bit about the theatre and Kenneth Branagh's reputation to get all the jokes.
On to part 2