London Journals

London and Vicinity

A September 2001 trip to London by Sergey

Buckingham Palace Photo, London, England More Photos
Quote: I went to London for a few days last year, on a sort of reconnaisance tour. Having realized that there's plenty to see, I spent 8 days there this time.

London and Vicinity

Overview

Quote:
London is a huge city with tons of things to see and do, no matter what your interests are. I spent most of my time going to historic sights like palaces and castles, and due to their abundance, found my one week in town to be woefully inadequate.Quick Tips: Weather in London changes every day. On this trip I saw cold, windy and wet days (I had two sweaters and a jacket on, and was still cold) and sunny warm days, with people walking around in shorts. Be prepared for different weather. Also note that while the current in the UK is 220, the plugs are different from the rest of Europe. You will require a special UK/Ireland adapter.Best Way To Get Around: Be prepared to walk a great...Read More

Park Lane Sheraton Hotel

Hotel | "Park Lane Sheraton"

Quote:
Location: Despite the name, the hotel is not actually on Park Lane, but is on Picadilly, a few minutes walk from Park Lane, and across from Green Park. It is only about a 5-10 minute walk from Buckingham Palace and about a 5-minute walk to the Green Park underground station. Hyde Park Corner underground station is maybe a 7-10 minute walk. There is a bus stop less than a minute away from the front doors. About the hotel: To stay here you have to be either rich, or be willing to spend your Starpoints. The rooms were nice (I had two). The hotel stays true to the bizzare European custom of providing two twin beds next to each other, and calling that a "king" room. There was no coffee maker ...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

Park Lane Sheraton Hotel
PICCADILLY
London, England
44-207-4996321

Palace of Westminster/Houses of Parliament

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Attraction | "Houses of Parliament"

Palace of Westminster/Houses of Parliament Photo, London, England
Quote:
The Houses of Parliament are also known as Westminster Palace. This huge building houses the House of Lords and the House of Commons, the two parts of the British legislature. This is also the building where Big Ben is. If you come at the right time, you can go on a guided tour of the building, which lasts about an hour. I went on this tour, so I know it is available at the end of September, but I don't remember other times it is available. You certainly can't get this tour all year round. On the tour you get to walk up the same stairs the Queen uses when she comes to open a new session of Parliament. You walk through the actual rooms where the House of Lords and the House of Commons meets. On...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

Palace of Westminster/Houses of Parliament
North Bank of River Thames
Westminster, London SW1A OAA
+44 (20) 7219 4272

Windsor Castle

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Attraction

Windsor Castle Photo, London, England
Quote:
Admission is included in the London Pass. This huge and magnificent 900-year-old castle is located in the charming town of Windsor (see separate entry), about 40 or so minutes from central London. To get here you have to take a train from Paddington to Slough, and then transfer to a train that takes you to Windsor. If you have the London Pass and an all-zone visitor travelcard, this trip will cost you nothing. Despite the somewhat inconvenient trip, a visit here is HIGHLY recommended. You get to see rooms used for official purposes. There is beautiful furniture, which includes a number of thrones, art and architecture. If you go in September (perhaps also in August, but I'm not certain), you ge...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

Windsor Castle
Windsor
Berkshire, England SR4 1NJ
+44 1753 869 898

Guards Museum

Attraction

Quote:
Admission is included in the London Pass. This is a small museum that explores the Guards regiments. There are uniform displays, medals and silverware. There is also a shop dedicated to toy soldiers. I didn't find this particularly interesting, but I guess some people might.

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

Guards Museum
Wellington Barracks Birdcage Walk
London, England SW1E 6HQ
020 7414 3428

The London Eye

Attraction

The London Eye Photo, London, England
Quote:
Admission is around L10.00 per person. This is a huge ferris-type wheel that offers fantastic views of London. You enter an enclosed cabin with a bunch of other people (the cabin probably holds something like 10-15 people and has a bench to sit down) and look around as the wheel slowly brings you around. The full ride lasts about 30 minutes.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

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

Tower Bridge

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Attraction

Tower Bridge Photo, London, England
Quote:
This is both beautiful and the only draw-bridge on the river Thames. The bridge was built to fit in with the Tower of London (see separate entry), and so has a similar architectural style. If you a buy a ticket from the gift shop, which is located at the bottom of the tower that is on the righe in the picture below (which I didn't do) you get to see the machinery that operates the draw bridge, as well as go inside the towers.

If you stand on the bridge, you can feel the surface vibrate with traffic.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

Tower Bridge
Tower Hill
London, England SE1 2UP
+44 (207) 403 3761

Jewel Tower

Attraction

Quote:
Admission is included in the London Pass. This is a 14th Century tower built to house the royal treasures. Now there is an exhibit here about the Houses of Parliament AKA the Palace of Westminster. I would only suggest going here if you've got nothing else to do, as I did not find this particularly interesting.

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

Jewel Tower
Across from the Houses of Parliament
London, England

Kensington Palace

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Attraction | "Kensigton Palace"

Kensington Palace Photo, London, England
Quote:
Admission is included in the London Pass. This palace is still used by royalty and some sections are closed to the public. Princess Diana lived there when she was in London. An audio guide is included with the admission. The tour starts with a history of royal dress, before leading you into the official rooms. There is a special exhibit about Princess Diana's dresses. Here you get to see the very room that Victoria was woken up in and told that she was to be Queen. The palace has beautiful grounds and is located in a large park. It is also a few minutes walk from the Albert Memorial.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

Kensington Palace
Kensington Gardens
London, England W8 4PX
+44 (20) 7937 9561

Westminster Abbey

Attraction

Quote:
A gorgeous and very old cathedral that is still actively used as a church and burial site. Here you get to see burial places of many of Britain's royalty. A large number of famous people are also buried here, or at the very least have a plaque here. This is also the sight of coronation ceremonies, and several coronation thrones are on display here. A visit is highly recommended, but check ahead. Since it is still used as a church, it is not open to the public every day.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

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

Westminster Abbey

Attraction | "Westminster Abbey Chapter House"

Quote:
Admission is included in the London Pass. Here you can see some very interesting and very old sculptures and stonework. There is also a museum that includes figures of various royalty. If you have some extra time when visiting Westminster Abbey, then go here and spend 30-45 minutes.

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

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

Catamaran Cruises and Bateaux London

Attraction | "Catamaran Cruises"

Quote:
Cruise along the River Thames from Westminster Palace (AKA The Houses of Parliament) to the Tower of London. The boat I was on had an opening roof, so in nice weather you could take in the sites and the fresh air at the same time. There's a recorded commentary and explanation, and it is also available in several other languages. There are some refreshments offered on board. There is also a hop on/hop off tour offered, which I did not take, so can't say much about it.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

Catamaran Cruises and Bateaux London
Charing Cross/Embankment Pier
London, England WC2
+44 20 7839 3572

Big Bus Tours-London Sightseeing Tour

Attraction | "Big Bus Tour"

Quote:
This is basically your standard hop on/hop off double-decker tour with a live tour guide on every bus. The top of the bus is open, so watch out for bad weather. Big Bus operates 4 routes in London, one of which is a Language Tour, offering recorded commentary in something like 10 different languages (including English) via a personal headset. The buses take you to all the important sights, including the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Madame Tussaud's and the National Gallery. Your ticket is valid for 24 hours, so if you start at noon, you can come back the next day and ride in the morning. This tour also includes a free boat cruise with liv...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

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

Quote:
An interesting museum to go to if you want to learn about the history of the public transportation system in London. See a variety of double-decker buses, starting with the early horse-drawn types. Learn how the subway system was built. There are special play areas for kids. There are several simulators that let you drive a subway train.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

London Transport Museum
39 Wellington Street
London, England WC2E 7BB
+44 (207) 565 7299

Windsor Festival

Attraction

Quote:
This is an annual cultural festival that has been running in Windsor since 1969. In 2001 it was running from 9/27 through 10/7. Events include lectures, musical performances and special tours of various areas, like Eaton College, St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, etc. Some events are free, others cost money. I went to a classical music concert in St. George's Chapel, and had a delightful time.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

Windsor Festival
Various venues
Windsor
+44 (20) 7286 8811

Harrods

Attraction | "Harrod's"

Quote:
This store is the ultimate in one-stop shopping. You can buy anything here, from sliced cheese to leather gloves to inflatable travel pillows. There's even a bank and currency exchange downstairs. On the bus tour, the guide said that the place once sold an elephant to someone (which supposedly turned out to be a gift for Ronald Reagan). Anyway, the store is ridiculously overpriced, if you ask me, but that doesn't change the fact that it is crowded. You can eat inside, because there a number of small cafe/bar type things as well as sit-down restaurants. I saw what was basically a grilled-cheese sandwich offered in a setting where you sit at bar-type thing and eat, for about L11. Across the stree...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 8, 2001

Harrods
87-135 Brompton Road
London, England SW1X 7XL
+44 (20) 7730 1234

Royal Observatory

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Attraction | "Old Royal Observatory"

Royal Observatory Photo, Greenwich, England
Quote:
Admission is L6.00 This is where time starts, and where the longitude is 0 degrees. The longitude obviously runs all around the world, but here the line that separates east from west is clearly marked, and you get to take your picture on it. The observatory is also on a hill, and offers nice views of some sections of London, the river Thames and the surrounding Greenwich areas. There are exhibits about how astronomy and navigation were studied in England, and if you are here at least an hour before closing, you can take a look through a large telescope that, apparently, is still in active use. There is also an extensive clock exhibit that explains the challenge of keeping time on a sail ship and ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

Royal Observatory
Top Of The Hill, Greenwich Park
Greenwich, England

Buckingham Palace

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Attraction

Buckingham Palace Photo, London, England
Quote:
Admission is included in the London Pass and is something like L11 otherwise. There is a discount for seniors (60+). The Palace is only open to visitors at a certain time during the year, since the Queen actually lives here. The 2001 opening was 8/4 through 9/30. You have to get your tickets in advance, because they are sold for a certain date and time (15-minute entry window). Sometimes that means that you get your ticket and go right in, and other times it means you have to come back the next day. Here you can see the gorgeous furniture, graceful statues, staircases, paintings and other things. You get to walk through rooms that are used for official functions. This is a fascinating place to...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace Road Pall Mall
London, England SW1A 1AA
+44 (207) 321 2233

Quote:
Admission included with the London Pass and is free for children. Telephone 020-8205-2266. Several huge hangars house dozens of airplanes, from the first days of aviation, through the two World Wars and into the present time. You get to walk very close to these airplanes. You just can't fully appreciate the size of the Flying Fortress (B-17 bomber) without standing next to it. The museum includes a little simulator, which is actually a bit cheesy, but still fun. You also get a chance to walk through a Sunderland Flying Boat, a large airplane used by the RAF for reconnaisance. In several cases you can walk up to the cockpit, and at one airplane you can actually get into the cockpit and play...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

The Royal Airforce Museum
Grahame Park Way
London, England NW9 5LL
020 8205 2266

HMS Belfast

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Attraction

Quote:
Admission is included in the London Pass and is free for children. The HMS Belfast is a WWII warship, England's most powerful of the time. You get to walk through many sections of the ship. See what it was like for sailors and officers. Stand on the bridge next to the Captain's chair. Aim the anti-aircraft gun (you can climb into the gunner's seat and actually move the turret and adjust the position of the barrel). Walk through the engine room and learn how steam engines worked. See what a naval kitchen was like in WWII. There's plenty to see on this ship. The ship is full of tight, steep ladders. Keep this in mind before you go here. The HMS Belfast is a few minutes w...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

HMS Belfast
Morgan's Lane
London, England SE1 2JH
+44 20 7940 6300

London Dungeon

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Attraction | "The London Dungeon"

Quote:
DO NOT BRING YOUNG CHILDREN HERE!

Admission is included in the London Pass. This museum and interactive experience is designed to teach you about the dark ages. You get to learn about torture, execution, murder and plagues, and all of it up close and personal. Exhibits are very explicit and I would not recommend this place for the faint of heart. There are two interactive experiences, the first of which consists of a group of visitors being tried, sentenced to death, sent by boat to the Traitor's Gate (see Tower of London) and executed by firing squad (you do get shot at, but obviously without bullets :) ). The next is a guided tour of the Jack the Ripper murders.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

London Dungeon
28-34 Tooley Street
London, England
+44 20 7403 7221

Cutty Sark

Attraction

Quote:
Admission is included in the London Pass. This is an 1869 sailing ship that is now dry-docked. You get to walk through the entire ship and see how the officers and crew lived. There is also an exhibit of ship figures. I wouldn't advise going all the way to Greenwich just for this, but since there is plenty to see in the area, you may want to include a stop here on your visit.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

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

Tower of London

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Attraction

Tower of London Photo, London, England
Quote:
Admission is included in the London Pass. This is a fascinating and historical landmark that is over 900 years old. The Tower of London was built as a palace, then became a prison and fortress. You can see how early kings lived. You get to see the carvings prisoners made in the walls. You get to see an exhibit of ancient armor and weapons. You can see where Henry VIII beheaded two of his wives (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard). And, most importantly, you get to see the Crown Jewels. The actual crowns (there are 2) that were used by Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation are here, as well as several other crowns, some mind-boggling silverware and other precious things. You also get to see ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 6, 2001

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

Transportation Info

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Story/Tip

Quote:
Getting around London is incredibly expensive. A taxi from Heathrow into the heart of the city costs about L40 (that's about $60). Subways (BTW, in the UK a "subway" is a pedestrian underground crossing, while "the underground" is what is known in the US as the subway, the train system; it is also known as "the tube") cost a minimum L1.5, and go up depending on where you're going to (when entering the undergrand stations, remember to keep your ticket with you, because you will need to put it in the machine to exit the station). Buses start at L1.00 and go up from there. I highly suggest buying a Visitor Travelcard. If you live in the USA, you can buy this from ...Read More

Museum Admission (The London Pass)

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Story/Tip

Quote:
Just as transportation in London is expensive, so are all the museums. Entrance to Buckingham Palace, for adults, is something like L11.00. Other big sites aren't any cheaper. What you can do is buy something called The London Pass. This is gives you pre-paid admission to a ton of museums and attractions. Not everything is included, but you do get admission to: Buckingham Palace, the Royal Mews, Windsor Castle, Kensington Palace, The Tower of London and HMS Belfast, to name a few. The pass also gives you access to some lesser-known museums, and if you end up having free time, it might be nice to go to places that you wouldn't necessarily want to pay for, but since admission is already included....Read More

Staying in Touch

Story/Tip

Quote:
International telephone calls are quite expensive, as I'm sure you know. Most US cell phones do not work in Europe. I called up AT&T from London, to see how much it would cost me to call home from a payphone, using my regulard calling card, and they said it was something like $7.00 for the first minute and $2.00 per minute for the rest. I don't think I need to mention that hotels charge outrageous costs. Renting a cell phone is not cheap either. I found an OK deal on cell phone rental through the London Pass (see the museum info section for more info on that) from Orange. The calls were not very cheap, but still cheaper than calling from the hotel and incoming calls were free.

Towns of Windsor and Eaton

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Story/Tip

Windsor Photo, London, England
Quote:
Located about 35-40 minutes from London (see the section on Windsor Castle for detailed information on how to get here) are the two charming towns of Windsor and Eaton, separated by the river Thames. Windsor is, obviously, the location of Windsor Castle. Eaton is the location of Eaton College, a famous prep school that was attended by Prince William and is currently being attended by Prince Harry. These are very old towns and offer interesting looking buildings, streets, views and shopping. There is a hop on/hop off tour of Windsor and Eaton on a double-decker bus with live commentary, which I would recommend. My suggestion is to make a day trip out of a visit here. Come in the mor...Read More