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My SUPER AWESOME trip report (London)

As promised, here's is my SUPER AWESOME trip report for London, in bullet-points!

  • Icelandair: Remarkably cannibalism-free! But a word of advice: should you be flying on the night of a total lunar eclipse, do not make anyone aware of this fact, especially if you're seated in the forward exit row next to the lavatory. Otherwise, your seat will be occupied by people wanting to look out your window and take photos of the thing. A lot of people. Do I -look- like Neil deGrasse Tyson?

  • Smartest things I brought:

  • REI Adventure Pants: You too can have an adventure -- in your PANTS! These pants were perfect for travel: easily rolled-up, water and stain resistant, comfortable.

  • Merrell Grassbow Airs: Like Ferraris for your feet. Light, but with great arch support, these shoes made walking miles seem like just crossing the street. The dangerous, red-light-running, bike-clogged street. Wait, that was Paris.

  • Pac-Safe Man Purse: Overkill? Maybe. Fashionable? Nuh-uh. Peace of mind? Totally.

  • My cellphone: Even when I didn't have service, my Galaxy S6 took -excellent- photos that I was wirelessly able to transfer safely to Google Drive. I ended up using it more than my Canon S110 camera.

  • OYSTERCARD! 30 Pounds was enough for a whole week. Ended up with something like 85 pence on the card at the end.

Dumbest thing I bought:
* Telestial SIM Card. It didn't work in the US. "It'll work once you get to London" I was promised by the paid liars on their support line. It didn't. Turned out to be cheaper to just buy a SIM card in London and put some credit on it. Live and Learn.

Shout-out to:
* The Malt House in Fulham: What a FANTASTIC B&B in a really cool neighborhood and right on the District line. Friendly staff, amazing breakfast, lovely selection of beers, high-quality meals for lunch and dinner. They were absolutely wonderful to us. Four stars, A+++, Would Stay Again, etc. Stay there and love it!

SUPER AWESOME London Moments:
* Exiting the tube at Westminster station on my first day there, walking up the stairs to street level, hearing this resounding "BONG . . . BONG . . . BONG . . .", then turning around to see Big Ben: "Holy ****, I'm in LONDON!"

  • Imperial War Museum: Viewing the actual orders given to French at the start of World War I and the gravity of looking at one of the most tragic documents in western history.

  • Westminster Abbey: The staff trying to find my wife's ancestor's grave, only to discover it was underneath an organ. Also, the stone showing where monks who died of the Black Death were buried and realizing exactly how ancient the place is.

  • The British Museum: The turquoise two-headed serpent that was brought back by Cortez -- THAT Cortez -- right after first contact with the New World. "Oh, America, you're so cute with your 200-year-history! You know that whole time period between 1600 - 1945? Yeah, we OWNED that and about three-quarters of the Earth's surface . . . enjoy the museum."

  • Riding the Tube: Wait, public transportation that's clean, efficient, well-run, graffiti-free and actually SERVES the public? Mommy, I'm scared! Also, if those double-decker buses were any cuter I'd just have to pinch their metallic cheeks.

  • Walking around London with nowhere in particular to go: Glorious! Walking along the Thames with no real purpose other than to go for a nice walk? Strolling over the Millennium Bridge? Wandering around Fulham just to see what's there? It's a VACATION, not a sprint! The smartest thing I did was not over-schedule. Yes, there were things I missed, but I resolved to return -- the RICK STEVES WAY!

Well, there's my 3,500 characters worth. Next up: lessons learned and PARIS!

Posted by
2068 posts

Love the wit - love the info. Great report.

Posted by
3938 posts

Love the relaxed pace.

Hubby and I just got back from a leisurely few weeks in France and for the first time I didn't have a list as long as my arm of things to do. In Paris I only 'had' to do a few things - St Chapelle (we almost didn't make the line cut-off - I think we were in the second to last group that got in for the day after almost an hour wait in line - phew), Seine boat ride (purchased online beforehand) and viewing Eiffel from Trocadero (and we hit the night that there was a gala/fundraising for breast cancer and the tower was all lit up pink and there was a music/light show before the 10pm twinkling - right place at the very right time!) - so we just did a lot of wandering (it was our 3rd time). And in the south I had some villages and things I wanted to see - and I didn't get to every place I wanted to - but we didn't have any set in stone plans (other than a factory tour) and it was nice to not have the pressure to go go go.

As for the lunar eclipse - we arrived Paris that afternoon - the blood moon/eclipse was peaking at 3-4am...and I somehow managed to wake myself up and after some minutes of deliberation, I went out with my camera over by the Eiffel Tower knowing I would never have the opportunity again to see it in Paris (and fighting jet leg and a touch of trepidation about going out into Paris at 3am on my own! But the only other people I encountered were a traffic cop and other like minded people taking pics). It would be awesome to see it from the plane! I don't blame your fellow passengers :)

We finally did the Oyster card thing as well as opposed to the travel card. I think we have 3-4 GBP left on them. There was a super helpful employee at the Tube station at Turnham Green who showed us how to do it and explained how much $ we'd save. And we will have a card for next time to load up (we didn't turn it back in at the airport - I think the guy said something about 48 hrs and we only had it activated for about 40 hrs before leaving). And we used a little more on ours as we used the River Bus service to Greenwich (how did I not know about the river bus service???!) - but I had wanted to do a Thames cruise, so this took the place of that.

Glad you are happy with your PacSafe purchase as well! We only use ours when travelling, but yeah - peace of mind for sure!

Posted by
294 posts

Mike, been there, done that, but loved reliving it again thru your report. Very good. My hubby loved the imperial war museum several years ago and now with the "re-do", we are looking at going back for a few days, to London. Your trip report will help motivate us again and do the whole London thing at a leisurely pace. Well done..

Posted by
14024 posts

Thanks for the report. The Imperial War Museum used to have the museum's philosophy stated on the wall at the entrance. I didn't see that the last few times I went in 2009 and 2011, pretty poignant. I must have missed the actual orders given to Sir John and the BEF in 1914. Of course, there is a ton to see now since the 2014 reopening, which I have yet to do. What I found fascinating in the museum's pre-2014 reopening/exhibition was the displaying of a 1914 Russian red plaque for general mobilisation with nothing written on it.

Posted by
2561 posts

Wonderful report, Mike. Now I have a favor to ask. Please take this report and your itinerary and submit it to a publisher and ask for a book contract. I promise to buy a copy.

Posted by
12652 posts

You had a very cool experience in Westminster Abbey! What fun! I'll bet the staff there enjoy those questions more than Where's the toilet!

British Museum...amazing place.

Thanks for the report!

Posted by
80 posts

We need more trip reports from you! Loved reading this. I do remember my trip to England, coming up the stairs from Westminster Station and hearing Big Ben and looking straight at it. The feeling of "I am in London!", I will never forget. Hey - let me know if you want to get a tour together. I want to travel with you!

Posted by
8942 posts

now where was it you were going to hang out and drink pints while your wife visited something? How was that?

I'm interested to check out the Fulham B&B. I spent some time down there on my last visit and loved that area.

Posted by
438 posts

Kim,

Sadly, I caught my wife's cold about 4 days into my London visit, so the wonderful, wonderful pints were kept to a minimum. I failed to visit The Olde Cheshire Cheese AND the Blackfriars. Oh well, next time!

Also, The Malt House in Fulham is utterly wonderful. Amazing food and great rooms at a reasonable price.

Seriously, why isn't Fulham on the radar for places to visit in London? It's not Westminster Abbey or anything like that, but it's certainly a funky, fun and fabulous area. I had a great time just wandering around and looking at things. Yeesh, there's a Whole Foods there and everything: what's more British than an American chain selling French goods to Chinese tourists?

Posted by
5182 posts

The Malt House is actually in Walham Green historically - Fulham was the next village down by the river. However, ever since the underground station was renamed 'Fulham Broadway' rather than 'Walham Green' in the 1950s the old name has slipped out of conciousness and the whole area considered to be Fulham.

There aren't anything left of the original village buildings of Walham Green as they were all obliterated by Victorian development - which now is in a conservation area and well-sought after and expensive. The Green itself was where Broadway Buildings are now. The church was built on the site of the village duck pond.

There are some ghostly reminders in some of the street names to recall this was once an area of farms, orchards and market gardens, such as Wheatsheaf Terrace, and Farm Lane.

Posted by
524 posts

That was totally fun to read...so creative and funny!

Posted by
88 posts

How would you/could you compare the difference between the Imperial War Museum and the Churchill War Rooms? Did you see both?

Posted by
438 posts

Hi Jonathan,

Sadly, the Churchill War Rooms was a miss for me. There was a two-hour wait to get in the day I was there and it was such a lovely day that I didn't feel like queuing for a couple of hours. Plus my wife was pretty much World-War-Two'd out by that point.

I'll say this for the IWM: it starkly brings across the reality that war is an ugly, frightening and very bloody experience for all involved. It's not glamorous; there's no 'dulce et decorum est pro patria mori' -- it's a hideous, hideous affair. Yet, at the same time, there's an exhibit of Victoria Cross winners and their heroic deeds that earned them the honor (including a little girl in Canada who fought off a Mountain Lion!). The message of that display seems to be "In the worst, the best".

When I think of that, I think of Paris this week.

(sorry I didn't really answer your question, but I hope the insight helped)

Posted by
77 posts

A two hour wait in October!!! Yikes! We are going next month!

Posted by
31060 posts

Maybe it was bad luck .... I was there in September and walked right in to the Churchill War Rooms..

Posted by
417 posts

Coming in here months later, Mike Beebe, to say many thanks for your mention of Merrell Grassbow Airs. I bought a pair this afternoon for my walking holiday in France later this year, and was looking to see if anyone had recommended them. Now I look forward to wearing my Ferraris!

Posted by
438 posts

Cgichard,

I love me some Merrel's -- I can't believe how comfortable their shoes are. The Airs are like wearing nothing. I look forward to putting some more miles on them next year in Belgium and Holland! And I'm glad you're enjoying yours, too!

-- Mike Beebe

Posted by
53 posts

We just came back ... same experience, loved it. Great food, great neighborhoods, great public transportation, great coffee, and very friendly people. Can't wait to go back!