A September 2001 trip
to London by Sergey
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.
Hotel | "Park Lane Sheraton"
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 in the room, and to have one put in cost L4.50 per person per stay. The doors seem to be made of paper, because I could hear everything that was going on in the hallway, especially the maids as they got ready for their morning duties. The smaller of my two rooms was what I think was called an Executive King, but didn''t feel that way. It had a small desk in a corner, the two beds that they call a King, a TV, a round table with an armchair, and a large closet with a safe inside. All electric was 220V, except for a 110V razor plug in the bathroom. The bath had a separate shower and tub. The other room was a suite, with a large bedroom (again with 2 beds that they call a King), an L shaped desk thing with 3 electrical outlets (1 220 UK, 1 220 European and 1 110 US), armchair and a TV. The other room had a sleeper sofa, armchair and a TV. There was an actual hallway separating the two, with closets. The bathroom was large and the shower was combined with a large jaccuzzi (could fit 2). However, the jets were not working.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on October 6, 2001
Park Lane Sheraton Hotel
Attraction | "Houses of Parliament"
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
Berkshire, England SR4 1NJ
+44 1753 869 898
Wellington Barracks Birdcage Walk
London, England SW1E 6HQ
020 7414 3428
The London Eye
South Bank of the River Thames
London, England SE1 9TA
+44 (870) 500 0600
If you stand on the bridge, you can feel the surface vibrate with traffic.
London, England SE1 2UP
+44 (207) 403 3761
Across from the Houses of Parliament
Attraction | "Kensigton Palace"
London, England W8 4PX
+44 (20) 7937 9561
20 Dean's Yard
London, England SW1P 3PA
+44 (20) 7222 5152
Attraction | "Westminster Abbey Chapter House"
Attraction | "Catamaran Cruises"
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
Attraction | "Big Bus Tour"
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 live commentary (not the Catamaran Cruises tour I described in another section, but very similar) from either Embankment Pier to the Tower Pier, or the other direction.
Big Bus Tours-London Sightseeing Tour
48 Buckingham Palace Road
+44 (20) 7233 9533
London Transport Museum
39 Wellington Street
London, England WC2E 7BB
+44 (207) 565 7299
+44 (20) 7286 8811
Attraction | "Harrod's"
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 8, 2001
87-135 Brompton Road
London, England SW1X 7XL
+44 (20) 7730 1234
Attraction | "Old Royal Observatory"
The best way to get here is to take the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) to either the Cutty Sark or the Greenwich stop.
The Observatory is located on a rather steep hill, and walking up to it can be difficult for the elderly.
Top Of The Hill, Greenwich Park
Buckingham Palace Road Pall Mall
London, England SW1A 1AA
+44 (207) 321 2233
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 with the controls.
The museum is about a 5-10 minute walk from the Colindale underground station (there's also a bus) or you can take a bus to the Mill Hill Broadway rail station, and get into London (King's Cross Thameslink station) that way.
You can go to http://www.rafmuseum.com for more information.
The Royal Airforce Museum
Grahame Park Way
London, England NW9 5LL
020 8205 2266
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 walk from the London Dungeon and is about a 5 minute walk from the Tower Bridge, on the opposite side of the Thames from the Tower of London.
London, England SE1 2JH
+44 20 7940 6300
Attraction | "The London Dungeon"
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.
28-34 Tooley Street
+44 20 7403 7221
King William Walk
London, England SE10 9HT
+44 20 8858 3445
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 the world's largest diamond. There is an interesting exhibit about the evolution of the crown, how it is made, and how the largest diamond came to be part of the Crown Jewels.
I would highly suggest going on a guided tour with one of the Yoeman Warders of the tower. These tours start right at the entrance. Beware, the last tour starts at 3 PM. There is also a series of several short (about 25-30 mins) illustrated (with slides) talks by a Yoeman Warder, that is held daily at the Lanthorn Tower (one of the many actual towers inside the compound, which you can easily find once you go inside and are issued a map of the place).
Don't do anything bad at the Tower, because Yoeman Warders are actually a type of military officers and do have police powers on the territory of the Tower, despite the nice costumes they wear.
This is also the site of the actual Traitors Gate (see entry on the London Dungeon) where prisoners were brought into the Tower by boat.
If you would like to see the Ceremony of the Keys, which is one of the oldest continuing ceremonies and takes place in the evening, then be sure to write ahead of time (at least a month) to: The Ceremony of the Keys, Waterloo Block, HM Tower of London, EC3N 4AB. You must enclose a stamped addressed envelope and request the date that you would like to attend.
Because of its age, the Tower is full of cramped, circular staircases. Keep this in mind when you come to visit.
Tower of London
London, England EC3N 4AB
+44 (207) 709 0765
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 http://www.raileurope.com. This card is available in 3, 4 and 7 consecutive day periods, and is available for different zones. I highly suggest buying the all-zones card. This means that you can take the tube, or the buses, or the Docklands Light Railway or the National Rail train when you're traveling within London and in the vicinity. If you do not buy this pass before going to the UK, you will have to get a photocard in London and then buy your pass there. Any pass other than the visitor travelcard and a single-day travelcard requires that you have this photocard. You can go to the official London transport information site for info and links to resellers in other countries. This is located at http://www.transportforlondon.gov.uk/. Click the "Help for Visitors" link on the main page.
I want to point out that I did not notice any airconditioning on the trains of the underground, while the stations were quite comfortable temperature-wise. The stations are extremely deep, often with multiple escalators. At some stations you still have to go up stairs to get to the escalators. I would recommend against going on the underground with luggage, even though the Piccadilly line does go to Heathrow.
Another thing to keep in mind is that trains on the same line don't all terminate at the same station. There are often two separate branches of the same line towards the end points, so be careful which train you get on.
The London Pass also has other offers, like comission-free currency exchanges at certain locations, restaurant discounts, etc.
When you get your Pass, you'll also be given a guidebook, which tells you where all the attractions are and how to get there, gives a short description and gives you hours and telephone numbers.
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 morning, visit Windsor Castle, visit Eaton College. Walk around the streets. Go shopping. Sit by the river and relax. There are also apparently river cruises around the area, but I wasn't able to go on any.
I ended up spending the entire day here, and found it highly relaxing and enjoyable.