London Journals

An American Expat In London

An October 2005 trip to London by Sarah the Expat

St Pauls Cathedral Photo, London, England More Photos
Quote: I moved to London from Wisconsin in October 2002 when I married a British citizen and have since spent lots of time exploring on my own, with hubby, or with various friends/relatives who've come to visit. Updated whenever I get time to do something new!

An American Expat In London

Best Of IgoUgo

Overview

Quote:
If you've not got a lot of time for sightseeing, here are my absolutely musts: 1. Tower of London: Absolutely the best attraction of all the historic things to do. Lots of history, entertaining guides, time well spent! 2. Big Bus Tour: A great overview of London, all the major sights, will help you get your bearings. 3. St Paul's Cathedral: Again, lots of history, but if you're athletically inclined enough, a climb to the top affords a better, less expensive, and longer view over the city than a trip on the London Eye! 4. City of London Museum: London's history from ancient Romans to 20th century. Absolutely fascinating, and free! 5. West...Read More
Quote:
My friend and I just wanted food badly, and this was a welcome find. They have separate non-smoking seating upstairs, but you have to go through the smoking area to get to it! We went on a Wednesday night, so it wasn't too crowded, and there was a mix of young and old, couples and some families (but no terribly young children).

The prices were reasonable and even on our tight budget we got a bottle of wine to share. The cannelloni was excellent, rivaling my favorite restaurant in south London.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 30, 2004

Original Spaghetti House
15/17 Goodge Street
London, England W1T 2PQ
(020) 7580-7532

Quote:
My friend and I have gone twice for weekday lunches. Service was excellent the first time, but not so much the second time. This would be a nice place to go to lunch in between sights, as it is right near Green Park tube stop.

They have all kinds of nibbles in single portions or larger for sharing (I like the tomato and goat cheese bruschetta), sandwiches, and larger main meals. It is reasonably priced; the most expensive item on the menu was a steak at £11. As for the cuisine, it's a bit of everything and it shouldn't be hard to find something you like!

Decor is a lot of dark, polished wood. Non-smoking seating is available.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 1, 2004

Henry's Bar and Cafe
80 Piccadilly
London, England W1J 8HY
(020) 7491-2544

Little Italy

Restaurant

Quote:
What can you really say about a place that charges $2.50 for a Diet Coke? This is a tourist trap off of Leicester Square, so we should have known better. I had the caprino (goat cheese) pizza, which was nice, not spectacular. The menu was fairly bog-standard Italian, nothing particularly special. The olives and bread on the table were a nice touch, but this ain't America - you don't get anything for free. We got our bill and were surprised to find a $1.75 cover charge per person, which we assume paid for the olives/bread. So after my husband and I spent $8.50 on two sodas and some olives/bread we hadn't ordered, I'm not likely to give this place a favourable review. You can get...Read More

Member Rating 1 out of 5 on March 17, 2005

Little Italy
16 Irving Street
London, England WC2H 7AU
(020) 7839-8565

London Zoo

Attraction

Quote:
London Zoo is big, and you'll get tired walking around all day, especially if you are chasing after small children. However, they have a nice (if slightly expensive) cafe to have a meal in and get off your feet for a while, and there are always benches to sit down and rest. Best would be to bring your own lunch and beverages, as the soda machines are WAY expensive. They are only open from 10am-5:30pm in summer, and only till 4pm in winter, so go early, or you'll miss a lot. It's a lovely place to wander around.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 30, 2004

London Zoo
Regent's Park
London, England NW1 4RY
+44 20 7722 3333

Criterion Theatre

Attraction | "Reduced Shakespeare Company"

Quote:
HILARIOUS! This is an American/Canadian three-man show where they go through the complete works of Shakespeare in 90 minutes. It involves men in dresses and wigs, lots of running around and falling down, and generally taking liberties with the bard. My personal favorite is them doing Hamlet in 10 seconds. They also do two other shows, "The Bible: The Complete Word of God" and "The Complete History of America", both treated in a similar manner. Those play only on Tuesday and Thursday evenings (can't remember which one on which night though). This is probably one of the least expensive shows you can go see in London.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 30, 2004

Criterion Theatre
Piccadilly Circus
London, England W1V 9LB
+44 20 7413 1437

Museum of London

Attraction

Quote:
The Museum of London is the largest city museum in the world, according to its website. It took me two visits to explore it thoroughly, as it goes from prehistoric to the present -- but that's okay because it's free! There is just so much information and so much to look at -- I learned a ton about my new home. It’s probably not all that exciting for small children, but older ones should be interested. They also have interactive learning stations by the Lord Mayor's Carriage on the ground floor. The museum is well hidden, a bit hard to find. Go to either Barbican or St Paul's tube stops and look for the signs. The museum entrance is actually located in the network of walkways called the Barb...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 30, 2004

Museum of London
150 London Wall
London, England EC2Y 5HN
+44 (207) 814 5613

Quote:
An absolutely brilliant show! If I were rich, I'd go again and again. You've never heard the f-word sung so many times in your life! Basic plot: In the first act is Jerry's show, with the usual suspects: the cheating guy, the guy who likes to wear diapers, the fat lady who wants to pole-dance, a tap-dancing Ku Klux Klan member. . . Then Jerry gets shot, goes to hell, and has to put on a show for Satan, with Jesus as the guest. It is absolutely HYSTERICAL! Beyond the content, the performers are great--wonderful voices, great dancers, and the sets are good too. It’s a MUST for any open-minded lover of musical theatre! If you are under 25 years of age, you can get tickets for £25, but otherwise it...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 30, 2004

Jerry Springer - The Opera
Cambridge Theatre
London, England

St Paul's Cathedral

Attraction

St Paul's Cathedral Photo, London, England
Quote:
You’ll get a spectacular view of London if you are willing to climb 530 steps up to the Golden Gallery! I'm completely out of shape, but was forced to do it anyway--glad I did though. The Whispering Gallery is fun if you go with a friend, but it's a bit of a misnomer--you have to actually speak, not whisper. Still, it’s very amusing to be talking to someone on the other side of the dome like they're next to you and having voices seemingly coming out of the walls. The crypt and cathedral floor are very interesting, but you should know a bit of London/British history to enjoy them fully. It’s probably not for little kids -- they'll be bored, loud, and annoying to other visitors.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 30, 2004

St Paul's Cathedral
The Chapter House
London, England EC4M 8AD
+44 (20 7) 236 4128

The London Eye

Attraction

The London Eye Photo, London, England
Quote:
I went with a friend in late January 2003, right when it reopened after its annual repairs. It’s best to order tickets online (there are tons of internet cafes in London where you can do this, if you don't book before you arrive). Then you won't have to stand in a queue for ages to get tickets and then queue again for the actual ride. It is sponsored by British Airways, so they keep calling it a "flight", though there is no free soda or peanuts. The ride lasts about 45 minutes, but it doesn't feel that long (unless you have to go to the toilet maybe). I would say an overcast day is better, as the sun creates a glare that makes it difficult to see. I knew a lot of the sights, but wish I'd bought o...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 30, 2004

The London Eye
South Bank of the River Thames
London, England SE1 9TA
+44 (870) 500 0600

Sherlock Holmes Museum

Attraction | "Sherlock Holmes Musuem"

Quote:
I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but I came out of this a bit disappointed. I have read a lot of Sherlock Holmes, but I describe myself as a diehard fan or anything. Thus, the museum was more than I wanted to spend (£6) for not a whole lot that was of interest. The place is a small house decked out in the Victorian style, as though it were the fictional character's residence, complete with bored, spotty teens decked out in period garb. For your £6, you can look around, but there isn't any guided tour or anything. The gift shop was more entertaining than the actual attraction, and you can go in that for free! I'd only recommend this if you are an obsessive Sherlock Holmes fan;...Read More

Member Rating 1 out of 5 on April 1, 2004

Sherlock Holmes Museum
221b Baker Street
London, England NW1 5RT
+44 20 7935 8866

Quote:
If you love British history like I do, you'll be able to spend hours here. Admission is free, which is always a favourite with me! Ideally, you should start with the Tudors up on the second floor and work your way chronologically through the gallery. However, if you read everything like I do, you probably will be too full of information to handle it all in one go. I think I made it through part of the Victorian section on the first floor and then gave up after 2.5 hours. I still need to go back and see the rest! The practical bits: The nearest tube stop is Charing Cross or Leicester Square. Opening times are 10-6pm daily, with late nights ‘til 9pm on Thursday and Friday. Since it's on...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 2, 2004

National Portrait Gallery
St. Martin's Place
London, England WC2H OHE
44 20 7306 0055

Quote:
This was a treat for my mum, who's a public health nurse back in the US. The museum is quite small, but an excellent history lesson for those who've heard of "The Lady with the Lamp" and never understood what a huge contribution Nightingale made to nursing and public health. Through small exhibits, there is a chronicle of Nightingale’s life with some of her possessions and other period items. The day we went, there was a school group of 7- and 8-year -olds, and they were all having a great time, so I'd say it's family friendly as well. It's an absolute must for the nurse in your life!

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 16, 2005

Florence Nightingale Museum
2 Lambeth Palace Road
London, England SE1 7EW
+44 20 7620 0374

Big Bus Tours-London Sightseeing Tour

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Big Bus Tour"

Big Bus Tours-London Sightseeing Tour Photo, London, England
Quote:
I've done this tour twice now, and I think I've finally figured out how to get the best out of the 24-hour ticket. Go to the Tower of London as early in the morning as you can (see my other review). When you've finished there, go buy your bus tickets or get your e-tickets validated from the rep at the bus stop near the tower. Then go back to the tower pier and take the free boat ride that is included with your tour. This way, you'll see all the same bits as the bus tour when it goes along the embankment, but from the water, which is really the way this part of London should be seen! You'll be let off at Westminster, where you can then board the bus tour. Make sure to get on the red route...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 16, 2005

Big Bus Tours-London Sightseeing Tour
48 Buckingham Palace Road
London, England
+44 (20) 7233 9533

Tower of London

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction

Tower of London Photo, London, England
Quote:
It is absolutely stunning, with loads of history. Tickets can be bought online from several places or from tourist information sites, so check around for the best deal. Depending on how in-depth you want to explore, allow anywhere from 2 to 3 hours to the entire day for this attraction. When you first arrive, wait for the next tour by one of the "Beefeaters" to start. If you've come in the middle of one, you will end up at the back and it can be hard to hear and follow. They usually start at least every half- hour, more often during peak season. The Beefeaters are extremely knowledgeable about the history of the tower, and they are not just tour guides, as they actually live at the tow...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 16, 2005

Tower of London
Tower Hill
London, England EC3N 4AB
+44 (207) 709 0765

Westminster Abbey

Attraction

Westminster Abbey Photo, London, England
Quote:
Wow, and I thought the crypt in St Paul's Cathedral was impressive! The only way to describe this place is crowded. There are unimaginable numbers of famous/noble/royal people buried in the abbey, and you can't move an inch without being right on top of one of them! And the time span! I saw graves of people from the 11th century right up to the 20th. It's absolutely amazing. It gives you a real sense of how old this country is. It’s a definitely must.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 16, 2005

Westminster Abbey
20 Dean's Yard
London, England SW1P 3PA
+44 (20) 7222 5152

Quote:
I'd never seen this show before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. In London, this is really played as a kid’s musical, so if you're looking for culture and dressing up to go somewhere, you may want to find another musical! There was an entire school group of 10-year-olds in attendance, plus lots of casually dressed families with youngish children. That being said, it's a nice show, but I wouldn't need to see it again. The theatre itself is in a very ‘70s style and not particularly impressive. The understudy was playing Joseph, but he did a very good job. I've since read that he is taking over the role permanently since Darren Day quit. All in all, it’s not a bad way to spend an evenin...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on May 16, 2005

Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
New London
London, England WC2B 5PW
020 7400 5007

English National Opera (ENO)

Attraction | "English National Opera"

Quote:
The performance itself didn't quite live up to my expectations for seeing Pirates of Penzance live, but perhaps I've been building it up too long! However, the Coliseum is absolutely gorgeous inside; this is a place you'll feel like getting dressed up to go! That being said, we went in jeans and trainers, as this was an unplanned venture. Tickets were available for this show from the half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square for only £16, so I couldn't pass it up. To check what's on at the English National Opera, use their website at www.eno.org.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 16, 2005

English National Opera (ENO)
St Martin's Lane
London, England WC2N 4ES
+44 20 7632 8300 (bo

Cutty Sark

Attraction | "Cutty Sark Tea Clipper Ship"

Quote:
Billed as the fastest and greatest of the tea clipper ships, this is a pleasant afternoon diversion if you're in the Greenwich area. The ship is over 130 years old, and there is currently an appeal to help with restoration costs. You can explore two decks inside, as well as the outer deck, and there are exhibits and writings from the time of the ship's running that describe life on the ship. Small children might not have the attention span for some of it, but the kids who were there at the same time as me were just having a good time running around and climbing up and down between the decks! Allow about 1 hour for it. Opening Times: 10am to 5pm every day of the week....Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on May 20, 2005

Cutty Sark
King William Walk
London, England SE10 9HT
+44 20 8858 3445

Quote:
Having been to London as a tourist, and then living and working here for over a year, I think I have some unique insight on seeing the city without bothering the natives. Thus, my Dos and Don'ts: DO 1. Watch your volume level in public places. There are two main reasons for this. First, you annoy natives when you are overly boisterous. Look around when you're on London public transport--hardly anyone talks, most read their paper or book, trying to pretend none of the others exist. Please help keep up the illusion by talking quietly to your companions. Also, if you seem distracted and are obviously foreign by your accent, you make yourself a target for pickpockets. 2. Stand to t...Read More
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Public transport in London is not too hard to get to grips with if you are staying for an extended period. However, if you've only got a week, you should try to orient yourself before you get there! Have a look at the Transport for London website at for maps, prices, etc. They also have a great journey planner that has been my guide for the past year. I've gone over some of the basics of travel in London below. London is divided into 6 travel Zones. It's easiest to think of a giant circle, with Zone 1 being a patch in the centre, and Zones 2-6 radiating outward. Most tourist attractions and major hotels will be in Zone 1 or 2. First off, I'll ...Read More

How to Eat Cheaply in London

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Quote:
London can be extremely expensive for visitors, especially those from the US given that the pound is incredibly strong against the dollar right now! If you don't particularly care about WHAT you eat and just need sustenance while you tour around, here are some hints for doing it: Breakfast: Obviously this depends on where you're staying. If you're in a B&B, you've got it covered, and a full English breakfast will probably be on the menu. If this is not the case, your best bet is to look locally for a "greasy spoon" café. Most will do a full English (eggs, sausage, beans, tomato and/or mushroom, and toast) breakfast for under £4. While I've never understood the English t...Read More