London Journals

London: All That We Could Afford

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A March 2008 trip to London by callen60

Westminster Abbey Photo, London, England More Photos
Quote: London, with an admission ticket.

London: All That We Could Afford

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Overview

Cabinet War Rooms Photo, London, England
Quote:
Americans may have broken away from our English forbears a few centuries ago, but visiting London is still a trip to the ancestral home. The history, faith, and culture—and even conflicts—of England are largely ours, too, and visiting London feels like a trip back into the family album.A surprising amount of London is free (see my previous journal). But the most famous churches, the theatres, some museums, afternoon tea, and now the London Eye—all these require that you reach for your wallet for admission. Some people struggle with paying for admission to a church (a debate we’ve had on the Igo message boards), but I shudder when thinking about the upkeep of a thousand-year old building an...Read More

The London Eye

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Attraction | "British Airways London Eye"

The London Eye Photo, London, England
Quote:
Pricey, pricey, pricey—but it might be worth it. It’s getting hard to imagine the London skyline without this recent addition. And much like Paris thought it would only have the Eiffel Tower for a year, the Eye is clearly here to stay long after the Millennium has passed, fundamentally changing the views of London from nearly every direction.It’s easy to see why. At £15 a ride, and over 3 million rides a year, taking it down would be throwing money away. And unlike a lot of other attractions, there’s precious few ways to discount the cost of a ride. No 2-for-1 coupons, no family tickets—just half off for those 15 or under, and 10% off if you buy your ‘flight’ in advance on line...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 1, 2008

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

Cabinet War Rooms

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Attraction

Cabinet War Rooms Photo, London, England
Quote:
Thinking back to 20 years ago, I realized that this was the place that convinced me to go to London. It hadn’t been too long since this bunker/residence/command center had opened as a museum, and I saw a small note in a travel magazine advertising this as one of London’s little-known secret attractions. The chance to see the rooms from which WWII was conducted—just as they were the day the war ended in Japan—was a captivating idea. I was just beginning to catch the travel bug, and reading about this underground museum led to the idea of just what else one might do in London. It took another 10 years, but in 2001 I finally visited this spot.In the seven years since then, the CWR have gotten e...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 1, 2008

Cabinet War Rooms
Clive Steps
London, England SW1A 2AQ
+44 20 7930 6961

Shakespeare's Globe

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Attraction

Shakespeare's Globe Photo, London, England
Quote:
Sam Wanamaker was ticked, and I can’t blame him. The Globe Theatre had long since burned down, but he expected to find more of a tribute to this landmark than a plaque mounted on the side of a brewery. I wonder when he realized that this plaque had formed his life’s work. In 1997, after more than three decades of sharing his vision, cajoling, pleading, and fundraising, a faithful reconstruction of the principal site for Shakespeare’s performances finally opened. Unfortunately, Wanamaker wasn’t there to celebrate, having passed away three years earlier. But this place and its programming have quickly made Shakespeare’s Globe a center for celebrating and extending Shakespeare’s contribution ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 1, 2008

Shakespeare's Globe
21 New Globe Walk, Bankside
London, England SE1 9DT
+44 20 7902 1400

Palace Theatre

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Attraction | "Spamalot"

Quote:
Well, on second thought, let’s not go to Camelot. It is a silly place.King Arthur, Monty Python and the Holy GrailFor someone familiar with—and more than moderately amused by—Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot was surprisingly a bit of a letdown. A well-known script with additional scenes and staging (which, this deep into the run, are also well known) meant that little was unfamiliar, robbing theatre of one of its sources of power. You can often count on powerful performances in meaningful but familiar roles to more than make up for a lack of surprise, but not in a show like this. Two hours of uninterrupted silliness will never have a longer run than this show i...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 1, 2008

Palace Theatre
Shaftesbury Avenue
London, England W1V 8AY
+44 20 7434 0909

St Paul's Cathedral

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Attraction

St Paul's Cathedral Photo, London, England
Quote:
If St. Paul’s wasn’t emblematic of London before World War II, the Blitz certainly fixed that. The famous images of Wren’s dome rising seemingly unhurt out of the surrounding fires and smoke, made it the embodiment of London’s resistance to the brutal Nazi bombardment. Less well known is the price that was paid for its survival (which only heightens the image): the fire battalions worked round the clock to preserve the Cathedral, at the expense of much of the surrounding neighborhood. Moreover, St. Paul’s did not escape unscathed: a major bomb crashed through the west end of the building in 1941, and you can still see some of its effects on the climb to the Whispering Gallery along the dome’s lower ed...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 1, 2008

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

Criterion Theatre

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Attraction | "The 39 Steps"

Criterion Theatre Photo, London, England
Quote:
Last time in London, we spent every night but one at the theatre. We hadn’t planned it that way, but after having beaten back jet lag on our first night, we walked up and bought tickets for a revival of J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls. The next evening, we headed as planned to Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen (nearly a professional responsibility), and now having firmly caught the bug, saw two Redgrave siblings in The Cherry Orchard at the National Theatre, and completed our spree with an RSC production of Richard III. That was seven years ago, and my, have things changed. There were plenty of musicals playing then: we passed on Buddy, Mamma Mia, and...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 1, 2008

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

Westminster Abbey

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Attraction

Westminster Abbey Photo, London, England
Quote:
There are four towers along the Thames that are instantly recognizable as ‘London’. The oldest by far are the twin towers of Westminster Abbey, which have looked out over the river for far longer than the dome of St. Paul’s, the towers of Parliament, or the newcomer of the bunch, the London Eye (also the architectural poorboy of the four).On my first visit to London, my wife and I wandered up to Westminster from our Victoria hotel, stopping for lunch at Jenny Lo’s Tea House, poking our heads into Westminster Cathedral, and then touring Westminster Abbey in late afternoon. It was more than a little dream-like, as we struggled to convince ourselves we were actually in London, walking by the ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 1, 2008

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

Making London Affordable

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Story/Tip

Shakespeare's Globe Photo, London, England
Quote:
News flash: London is expensive. With the pound currently trading at $2, you’ll be looking for ways to keep a handle on your costs (unless you travel in a different tax bracket than me). Of course, you can pinch pennies by doing nothing, but then why did you come? My strategy is to mix a healthy dose of the substantial number of free attractions (which include some of the foremost museums; see Free and Easy in London) as well as experiences. Walking around this city is an education in itself, and that ‘oh-my-gosh-I’m-standing-in-front-of-Parliament’ moment is, indeed, priceless.Although London attraction prices are high, you do have a few options for reducing your costs. First of al...Read More

Tea at the National Cafe

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Story/Tip

March at Trafalgar Square Photo, London, England
Quote:
It may be that only tourists think a full tea is a necessary part of a London afternoon. But there was no telling that to my kids: such an experience ranked high on their to-do list for London, and as the days ran down, they were pushing to make sure it was part of our last two days. We wouldn’t be enjoying this custom at the Ritz, Fortnum & Mason, or any other place where it might run £30 a person or more. On Monday, we’d had a fairly quick tea and a snack at the Tate Modern, and were looking for something in between this low-end version and a full wallet-bashing experience. I’d read any number of suggestions for places to have a good experience and incur only a moderately painful bil...Read More