I Love London!

I had the opportunity to visit the most vibrantly alive, fascinating, eclectic—and expensive—city in the world. I am so glad I didn't ignore it.


I Love London!

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by The Breeze on March 26, 2006

When we were presented with the opportunity to travel to London, England with a group of college business and theater students, my sister, daughter and I jumped at the chance. I felt that this would be a good way to experience such a world-class city for the first time, giving us a taste on which to build possible future visits.

Our experience with the touring company, EF Tours, was in general very pleasant. Travel, accommodations, dinners, and guided tours to key spots were all taken care of, taking a lot of the stress out of our one-week vacation. After becoming familiarized with our hotel environs and London’s underground navigation system, we were able to fully enjoy our free time and conduct a few adventures of our own.

My week in London was a mind-blowing experience. It felt as if I had been caught up in a whirlwind, constantly in motion and stopping only at night, when I slept like a baby in my hotel bed. London truly has it all, and I wanted to grab whatever came within my grasp during the short time I was there. Really, you would need at least two weeks if you wanted to fit in your most important sights and experiences; there is NO WAY to see everything in one.

On the other hand, London IS the most expensive city in the world. Even if the prices in pounds had been dollars, we would have been appalled at how high they were; but that figure has to be nearly doubled in translation! With that in mind, it would behoove one to be efficient in planning how to squeeze as much as possible into the number of days he or she can afford to stay there.


${QuickSuggestions} The single best item I took with me to London was a sort of nylon wallet attached to a cord that was long enough to cross over my shoulder, enabling me to wear it under my coat or jacket, easily accessible to me but NOT to pickpockets. It had a Velcro closure and slots (secured by their own Velcro tab) for credit cards and driver’s license, plus a zippered compartment for bills and another one for coins. My passport just fit into its own slot, as did my “Oyster” card. This slim, handy item was with me from the moment I left home until I returned, the only exception being when I slept. I purchased it for under $20.00 at Target.

Everyone knows London’s reputation for being rainy and damp much of the time, so you will certainly need some sort of protection from the elements. My sister took a hooded, water-repellent nylon poncho that could be worn over her warm coat or jacket and could be folded into a own pouch. We all had small folding umbrellas. Knowing that March weather could be pretty nippy, I opted for my full-length hooded leather coat, and was very happy with my choice. It was the only item of outerwear I ever needed during the entire week, and kept me both warm and dry. Only once, when there was a torrential downpour, did I use my folding umbrella; the rest of the time, my hood was sufficient.

If you wish to use your own personal blow dryer, electric razor or camera battery charger, be sure to purchase a 3-square-pronged electrical adapter (I found a set of adapters for various countries at Target). I was told that I would also need to use a converter, since our appliances are designed for 110 v. current and the UK has 220 v. current. However, it didn’t effect my charger to use only an adapter.

To communicate with those back home, we found the Internet to be the most convenient way. Some hotels may have Internet access for their guests; ours didn’t, so we frequented the local Internet café. It also had some simple souvenirs available, and changed dollars into pounds.
${BestWay} Most of the famous London landmarks are contained within a one-mile radius, so hopefully you are not averse to a bit of walking. However, you will need to figure out some sort of transportation to get you to certain destinations, such as restaurants, museums, and shopping. The only method we used was the London Underground, or Tube; with a little practice familiarizing ourselves with it, and by having our tube maps constantly in our pockets, we were able to navigate very smoothly by week’s end, with only a couple of mistakes to mar our experience. It got us to all our desired destinations within the city of London. Of course, there are also plenty of buses in London, and taxis, which can be waved down and start at £2 for a ride. (We were told to use ONLY the black taxis.)

The surprisingly compact tube map, found in slots by the entrances to most tube stations, seemed daunting at first with its 15 or so separate lines twisting and turning in all directions. (There are also larger maps on the walls of the waiting areas and in each car.) But chagrin turned into adventure by about day three; if we made a mistake and took the wrong line or got started in the wrong direction, it could always be rectified by getting off and reentering the correct train.

My advice would be to purchase an Oyster card, available in pay-as-you-go form or in 1-day, 3-day, 7-day, 30-day (etc.) increments. It can be reloaded if necessary, saving the necessity of paying the initial £3 deposit again. You can get information and purchase this card online at tfl.gov.uk/oyster, by calling 0845.330.9876, or at tube station ticket offices. You carry this card with you at all times, touching it to a card reader any time you enter or exit a tube station.

To get to important sights outside of London, I would advise checking out the many guided tour companies that are available. Since EF Tours planned our tours, I have had no experience with any of these, but they are easily compared on the Internet or in any travel guide you might purchase.



Norfolk Plaza Hotel

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 9, 2006


Our week’s stay at the Norfolk Plaza went without a hitch. The staff was, for the most part, pleasant and helpful. Although not what I would consider plush, I would give the room a rating of excellent as far as cleanliness and comfort: the two standard double beds were made up each day, bathroom scoured with clean towels in place, personal items neat but not disturbed. In spite of the chill in the March air, we kept the thermostat near off and it was just right for sleeping. The room was provided with a telephone, a television, a small hand-held hair dryer and a coffee pot with individual packets of coffee, tea bags, etc. There is a bar available to hotel patrons on the lower level.

 

Each morning started at 7am with a buffet-style breakfast (it was included in our room rates) and was served in the breakfast room on the lower level. It consisted of croissants and two other types of rolls, dry granola and another type of cold cereal, hot cereal, various plain and fruit flavored yogurt cups, bowls of sweet grapefruit sections or other canned fruits, cold cuts and sliced cheeses, and pitchers of orange juice and grapefruit juice. If you wished a pot of tea or coffee (served in your own individual coffee press), it would be brought to your table. We took advantage of this meal each morning, and it provided us with enough energy for a full morning of dashing here and there throughout London.

 

Room rates for our double were £120.00 or $204.00 during off-season months, and £130.00, or $221.00 from April through October. These rates are inclusive of the VAT (value added tax).

 

I might add that the experience of two others in our group was not quite as pleasant. Their basement room was not equipped with a tub, but simply a shower and drain which overflowed into the bathroom, causing the floor to be constantly wet. In addition, there was a problem with leaking pipes. However, they were quickly moved to another, acceptable room when the problem was brought to the staff’s attention. Also, one of the desk attendants was less than kind to some of us, though we had been polite in our requests. Perhaps she was under stress in her life, or had difficulty in dealing with large groups of guests. I didn’t let her behavior spoil my mood.



Norfolk Plaza Hotel
29 33 NORFOLK SQUARE
London, England
44 20 77230792

Cafe Fish

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 3, 2006

Passersby can see lobsters and other fish in the window of this restaurant bar and grill. I can safely say that only fresh fish is served here, because I noticed no "fishy" odor at all, from the moment I set foot inside the entrance. Our whole group was served fish and chips. I didn’t get to see a menu, but had no complaint about the food. The portion of fish (I didn’t find out what kind it was) was quite large and very tasty. The chips (which we Americans would call fries) were adequate. A bowl of ice cream was served for dessert. The servers were pleasant, the decor was classy and the atmosphere conducive to enjoyment of the meal. I would definitely eat here again.

Cafe Fish
36-40 Rupert Street
London, England, W1V 7FR
+44 20 7287 8989

Chiquito Mexican Grill and Bar

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 3, 2006


If you’re dying for Mexican food while in London, then this restaurant might be a good choice. It is VERY (like, In Your Face!) Mexican, with its brightly colored exterior and interior, its music and menu… all scream out MEXICAN. The Chiquito we were in, right on Leicester Square, seemed new. And perhaps, if you ordered an entrée from the menu, it would be good food. We, however, weren’t so lucky. The tour plan was that we would eat from the buffet, which seemed like a sensible idea, as there are all kinds of preferences in a good-sized group of people. However, in this case, it wasn’t such a great plan. First of all, the buffet was very small. A couple of bean dishes, spicy meat, a few salads… I didn’t really count, but my guess is that there were about 10-12 choices. This meant that there was a lot of waiting, since only about 8 to 10 people could fit in that cramped space at any given time. Then, by the time you got near the food, some of the spaces were empty, leaving little from which to choose; not only that, but everyone I talked to agreed with me that most of the selections were not that good. I finally discovered one item that tasted pretty good: some sort of tuna, which could have been out of a can, for all I know. To make matters worse, each of us was given one medium-sized plate and there were no replacements, so if you didn’t care to finish an item that you didn’t care for (i.e., too hot) you were stuck with it on your plate for the duration.

So I guess my advice would be to order from the menu if you choose to eat at Chiquito; better yet eat someplace else!
Chiquito Mexican Grill and Bar
20/21 Leicester Square
London, England
+44 (020) 7839-6925

Mimo's Cafe Bar

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 3, 2006

Without a plan for lunch on our first day in London (a Sunday), we chose this place simply because we were hungry and no other place in the area near our hotel was open. We were not sorry. The young waitress was so sweet and eager to please us, and we were treated so kindly, which made for a pleasant first London dining experience. I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich, and asked if it was grilled. The waitress brightly assured me, "We can do that for you!" which led me to believe that it really wasn’t intended to be, and I was getting it "made to order." In any case, I enjoyed every morsel, and my friends all enjoyed their meals as well. Although nothing fancy, I would classify this as typical English dining fare, and a place I would return to again and again if given the opportunity.
Ө Paddington

Mimo's Cafe Bar
19 London Street
London, England
+44 (020) 7706-7175

Shish

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 3, 2006

In this restaurant you choose whether you want your shish served as a wrap rolled with fresh vegetables in pita bread, or served with a side of your choice. I chose Lamb Kofta, which was minced and marinated with garlic, pine kernels, parsley and cumin and served with a gently-seasoned couscous. For a side I chose humus, pureed chick peas with lemon, tahini sauce, olive oil and garlic. A basket of herbed flat bread and pita was passed. This was a pleasant and satisfying meal. My meal was included in my package, but if ordered from the menu it would have cost £11.80, or about $20.00.
Shish , Hoxton/Shoreditch
313-319 Old Street
London, England, EC1
(020) 7749-0990

Wagamama

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 3, 2006

This noodle bar was one of my favorite dining experiences while visiting London. I saw many of these in other locations during my stay. It’s a very clean, modern, upbeat restaurant with the slogan
Positive eating – Positive living. The young man who served us was experienced, savvy and efficient. I chose ramen: a "big bowl of noodles in soup" with nice big chunks of chicken. It looked like so much that I didn’t think I could possibly eat it all, but I did, probably because it was so light and tasty. Served with big pitchers of ice water or peach iced tea. £6.60

Wagamama
4A Sreatham St
London, England, W1H 9AB
+44 20 7323 9223

British Airways London Eye

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 3, 2006

Having read about this popular attraction before my trip, I was determined to experience it while in London. Some others were lukewarm, or totally disinterested in the idea, but fortunately for me, my daughter wanted to do it too. I considered it definitely worth the £13 it cost (children/£6.50).

The London Eye is a 135m tall observation wheel on the South Bank of the Thames River. About 35 futuristic looking glass-enclosed capsules are attached around the outside of the wheel, and they provide passengers with an excellent view of London and its surrounding area—about 25 miles on a clear day. Passengers may sit on a padded bench in the center of the capsule or walk 360° around the perimeter, taking pictures or simply taking in the awesome sights.

The wheel never stops its revolution; it is constantly moving slowly enough that the 8-10 people ushered into a given capsule can simply walk on. The capsule is then closed. It takes about 30 minutes to make a full revolution—just long enough to see plenty, but short enough that no one gets bored. Even though it was overcast and even a little drizzly on the day we did it, we were able to get some excellent shots of the city. The slight fogginess actually added visual interest, especially when rays of sun appeared here and there on the surrounding landscape. Riding the London Eye was an experience I will never forget!

If you go online to www.ba-londoneye.com you can get a 10% discount on tickets, and they can be combined with a London Eye River Cruise Experience down the River Thames (we didn't have time for that).

Hours for the London Eye are 9:30am-8 pm daily. Lines (both for tickets and for embarkation) are shorter on weekdays.



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

Covent Garden

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 3, 2006

This raffishly enjoyable section of London is a people-watchers’ delight. People of every age and style frequent the potpourri of shops and eateries that make up this network of stalls, arcades, and pedestrian malls. The Piazza, which dominates the scene, is likely at any moment to come to life as a musician, mime or actor begins to draw a crowd. During the short period of time that we were browsing, we saw one young mime doing an audience-participation skit, and later an older guy in a different area had a cute little girl assisting him in a rope trick.

I was glad I got the chance to explore here for about an hour, and would have liked to return if we had had the time.

Covent Garden
Covent Garden
London, England, WC2
+44 20 7836 9136

Fortnum and Mason

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 3, 2006


I loved shopping in this lively and spacious specialty store, looking for just the right edible gifts to take to friends and family back home. Their chocolates are delectable, as well as their other sweets, and packaged so creatively as to make them nearly irresistible.

It was fascinating to browse through the many unique offerings. There is every type of chocolate imaginable, combined with every nut or flavor imaginable. There is an extensive jam/jelly/condiment section: I bought lemon curd (nearly intoxicating), orange curd and lime marmalade. And there are so many sauces, for every occasion!

The associates are very pleasant as well as patient, willing to answer any questions and even supply a sample if you are in doubt. Although there were plenty of shoppers browsing throughout the store, for some reason I didn’t feel crowded or rushed here. And surprisingly, prices are not nearly as high as one would expect in such an elegant store; in fact, compared with elsewhere in London, I would actually consider them affordable!

[SIDE NOTE: While in London, be sure to try the Original HP Sauce. It’s a brown sauce with a distinctive taste which is served in most restaurants. It is made of all natural ingredients and goes well with just about everything. I bought a bottle of it at F & M to take home, though I’m sure it is available at any grocery store.]

Fortnum & Mason
181 Piccadilly
London, England, W1A 1ER
+44 20 7734 8040

Harrod's

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 3, 2006

Although I was aware of Harrod’s reputation as the palace of department stores and expected to find prices that were over my spending limit, I thought I would surely find at least one single item that I might consider worth its price for a souvenir. I didn’t. The main floor was nothing but a huge, crowded tourist gift shop. There were tons of trinkets monogrammed with Harrod’s logo, including many adorable Scottie dog (Harrod’s symbol) items, but I couldn’t even bring myself to pay the amount charged for a simple pencil ($12)! The rest of the store had very beautiful decor and elegant merchandise, it’s true, but I’ve seen just as nice or nicer. The food halls were extraordinary, especially the huge chocolate section.

My favorite part of Harrod’s was the Egyptian Escalator (the owner of Harrod’s is from Egypt). Lined with hieroglyphic balconies, ornate sconces, and papyrus-plant lamps, I was dazzled by its sculpted bronze details and its surrounding marble floors. Riding on it made me feel like I had stepped into a heavenly realm.

Nevertheless, I would not consider Harrod’s a must-see, especially if you have limited time. If you do decide to check it out, be sure to pick up a copy of their free Store Guide to help orient yourself.
Harrods
87-135 Brompton Road
London, England, SW1X 7XL
+44 (20) 7730 1234

Kensington Gardens

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 3, 2006

There is an elegant and peaceful atmosphere in this park, which was formerly the grounds of Kensington Palace. It was actually a nice walk from our hotel, but to get there from elsewhere in town you would use the Lancaster Gate/Queensway tube stop. It is adjacent to Hyde Park, to the east, and a very pleasant place to just stroll along the straight, wide, tree-lined paths. Scenes in the movie, “Finding Neverland” were shot in this park. Since the flowers had barely begun to expose their shoots in March, we didn’t get to appreciate the South Flower Walk, but I’m sure it is beautiful in its season. There are direction signs (which are sometimes just a little bit confusing) and some lovely statues, most notably the golden Prince Albert Memorial (facing Kensington Road) and the enchanting bronze Peter Pan Statue. Both of these are well worth seeing and photographing.

We briefly crossed over to Hyde Park to see the memorial fountain for Princess Diana, but it was disappointingly nondescript, I didn’t even wish to try photographing it.
Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
W Carriage Drive
London, England, W2 2UH
+44 20 7298 2100

The British Museum

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 3, 2006

I kept telling myself that it would be overwhelming to try to squeeze a quick visit to one of the world’s greatest collections of human cultural history into our 1 week in London, but how could I not at least check it out? I mean, at least we could see the Rosetta Stone, if nothing else… So I dragged my companions to the Tottenham Court Road Tube stop and we forged on.

The first shock I received after walking in the main entrance was discovering that photography is allowed!! This was almost too much for me to take, especially since that was the day I had absentmindedly left the hotel without my camera! Luckily, though, my daughter had hers, and allowed me the use of it whenever I wished. We allowed ourselves only a few hours here, soaking up all that we possibly could.

The museum is divided roughly into the following areas: Britain & Europe, Ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece & Rome, Americas, Asia, and Africa. There are free gallery “eyeOpener” tours, guided tours, and audio tours available; we found the museum guides to be quite willing to help us locate a particular section or answer a question. In addition to hours of potential browsing, there are lectures, workshops, films, and children’s activities, such as drawing materials, games, and free hands-on sessions with genuine museum objects. There is a marvelous souvenir shop (though rather pricey), the Court Restaurant, a couple of self-service cafes, and even a family picnic area with vending machines.

For me, one of the most unforgettable sights was kind of hidden away back in the Greek & Roman Antiquities area. It was a Caryatid, which is a sculpture of a maiden that served as one of six columns of a building on the Acropolis of Athens. It was made in 415 BC and stood 2.31m tall. To me, the loveliness of this piece really stood out.

The British Museum is open daily from 10am until 5:30pm (8:30pm Thursday and Friday). Admission is free.
British Museum
Great Russell Street
London, England, WC1B 3DG
+44 (207) 7323 8299

The Tower of London

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 3, 2006

I came to London with no preconceived ideas whatsoever about this famous sight, so I was nearly overwhelmed upon seeing its size and scope. The only reason I visited was because it was included as part of my tour package, but I was not at all sorry I did! It is a must-see for anyone visiting London, especially if you're a castle lover. More than just the old tower I pictured it to be, the Tower of London has been a fortress on the Thames, a palace, a treasury, and a prison and execution site during its nine + centuries of existence.

Even though I am not particularly a history buff, I enjoyed the adventure of wandering up, down and around the many spiral staircases, hallways and wall walks throughout this network of ancient towers. It gave me the feeling of how it must have been to live in such a long-ago age. We saw rooms of all sizes, armor, weapons, prison cells of both commoners and the gentry, and even a prison privy.
Another interesting section was the crown jewel collection, an awesome sight!

There were many legends and ghostly stories to read about, and probably many more to be told; if your interest and time allow, you might wish to take one of the Beefeaters tours. Also, a sound guide called “Prisoners of the Tower” is available for a small charge. There are a few interesting gift shops—the Tower Shop, the Medieval Palace Shop and the Jewel House Shop—on the premises as well.
Tower of London
Tower Hill
London, England, EC3N 4AB
+44 (207) 709 0765

Ye Olde Mitre Tavern

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 3, 2006

We wouldn’t have been aware of this charming pub had I not read about it at, you guessed it, IgoUgo! We nearly gave up finding it in spite of the excellent directions provided by pepperpot in her review, but we persevered, for which I am extremely grateful. Of all the sights we saw while in London, I believe that this one will always be one of my fondest memories.

Tucked back down a skinny alley behind big office buildings and stores, this ancient tavern (restored from the original, built in 1546) is like a precious gem hidden among ordinary everyday rocks. The pedestrian alley leading to it is so narrow that, even armed with map and directions, it is easily overlooked. It is just like a doorway with an office on one side and a jewelry shop on the other. As we were passing it, I just happened to notice a small, unobtrusive sign up above marking Ely Place. Walking down this alley, after about 25m, you come out into the lovely Ely Courtyard, and the golden wood and leaded glass windows of Ye Olde Mitre almost beckon you to come inside. I was thoroughly intrigued, and nothing could have kept me from entering.

The young bartender (who didn’t look old enough to be serving alcoholic beverages) kindly encouraged us to find any table that suited our fancy. He politely pointed out that nothing more than “snacky foods” was available to go with our beverages, which was fine with us, as we knew we would be having dinner in just a few hours. We soon warmed up in the close, intimate quarters. After placing our order, we bypassed the slightly crowded main room, opting to check out the upstairs. To our delight, the light, airy room up there had a dartboard, a printed history of the place, and a fascinating view from its windows. We were served our cheese toasties (topped with tomatoes and a kind of relish) and some peanuts with our pints of ale. It was such a comfortable place to sit and gab, and no one made us feel like we had to rush out of there.

Ely Place leads off Charterhouse Street at Holborn Circus. But probably the best way to find it is by heading west on Greville Street from the Farringdon Tube stop, then turning left (south) on Hatton Garden. Walking on the east side of the street, keep your eyes peeled for this door in the wall. When planning our visit, we were most surprised to discover that Ye Olde Mitre Pub is actually on the Central London map on page 97 of the London Planner (C9)!

The gates of Ely Place and the Mitre Tavern are closed at 10pm every night. You might want to ask about the adjacent Chapel of St. Etheldreda, which has also stood through the centuries along with the Mitre, and been restored as well.
Ye Olde Mitre
1 Ely Court
London, England, EC1N 6SJ
+44 20 7405 4751

Theatreland

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 3, 2006

We were fortunate in that our London tour included two plays! Included here are my impressions of both experiences, as well as some tips I learned.

First of all, you can find out what’s playing by perusing your free London Planner guide. If you know what play you would like to see, tickets are available online, but a 25% booking fee is added to the price. You might be able to get cheap return tickets by calling the theater’s box office. But the best bet of all is to go to the half-price TKTS kiosk, located on Leicester Square. Go there after 10am on the day of the show and check the board. If your play is listed, you can get tickets usually at half price. Even with the added £2.50 service charge, that’s a good deal. (We were told to avoid other dishonest outfits nearby that advertise “official half-price tickets,” as they may be forgeries.)

WE WILL ROCK YOU
The Dominion Theatre
Tottenham Court Road

This colorful, loud, upbeat musical, set to the music of Queen, was very professionally performed by a highly talented cast. Every minute held the audience nearly spellbound, and we all left feeling uplifted and in a positive mood.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
Her Majesty’s Theatre
Haymarket

Perhaps the very thought of being able to experience this wonderful musical right in London made my expectations too high, but The Phantom of the Opera was a disappointment to me, and to my companions as well. The problem was the theater: Our seats were in the balcony, and we were pointedly instructed just before the production began that we were absolutely NOT to lean forward at any time, lest we obstruct the view of those behind us. Being a VERY old theater, the seats were extremely close together, to the point that my knees were literally smashed into the seat in front of me. Furthermore, the seats were positioned in a straight line from front to back; since most of the action took place in the center of the stage, I could see practically none of it, as my view was blocked by the person in front of me! When the performers moved to one side of the stage, I could see that their costumes were exquisite, but I could only catch a glimpse. The music sounded wonderful, but woe to me if I tried to lean forward to look down into the orchestra pit! I actually found myself nodding off to sleep a few times, and my sister said the same thing had happened to her.

In short, the Phantom of the Opera was a very frustrating and disappointing experience, and not worth the £37.50 ($63.75) that our tickets cost. I would have done better to stay at home and watch a DVD of it! I do not recommend seeing this play in London.
West End of London

London, England

Parade at Buckingham Palace

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 16, 2006

To our good fortune, a special parade took place in London during the time of our visit, and our EF tour guide made sure that our group was able to see it from a great vantage point.The parade took place at Buckingham Palace; the occasion was a visit of the President of Brazil.
I shall never forget the sound of marching footsteps as battalion after battalion of soldiers paraded past us. I have no inkling as to how many men were in this parade; just when I would think it was surely over I would hear yet more tap tap tapping sounds of yet another group marching…It was truly awesome and exciting. When three coaches appeared, I was not sure which one held the Brazilian President and which one held the Queen of England, but I continued snapping away with my camera. Here are four of my best shots…

Lovely Londoners

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by The Breeze on April 16, 2006

I don’t believe I am alone when I say that it is sometimes with trepidation that I visit a foreign country. Knowing that Americans are not always accepted in a positive way, I feel a certain shyness. I found the people of Great Britain to be more than pleasant. On numerous occasions, we were treated with such friendliness that I now feel a definite kinship with the English, as if they were my cousins. Forget the stuffiness that is portrayed in some English movies; in reality, they are warm people with a marvelous sense of humor! For example: My sister and I were attempting to make sense of a set of directional signs in Kensington Gardens when a very nice gentleman came walking by with his dog. He asked if we needed any assistance, admitting that the signs made no sense to anyone, and quickly pointed out the correct direction to the Peter Pan statue. He was anxious to tell us about the day he met an American president in those gardens, not far from where we were standing, and his friendliness helped make our day even more delightful!
Later that same day we were riding in the tube and trying to plan how and where to fit in tea that day. A lady sitting across from us, overhearing, proceeded to give us her helpful advice as to the best place. She answered all of our questions better than any guide book.On the day of our visit to the Tower of London, my sister was reluctant to enter a confined spiral staircase and opted to stay behind. So the rest of us forged on, not knowing that the passage would be one way and our tour would wind on and on through the many twists and turns of the structures there. In short, it was over an hour before we were able to meet up with her again, and we worried about what she would do while waiting and wondering when we would return. Finally, we asked one of the beefeater guards there if he could somehow help us locate her. Through our description, he was able to immediately alert the other guards on his cell phone, and we were quickly reunited. I know… that was part of their job, you might say. But the cheerfulness with which they did it, showing no impatience or disdain for our bewilderment, helped us return to normalcy.At Windsor Castle we spoke at length with a man whose business was to rid the area of pigeons because they annoy ravens, which have traditionally been considered good luck and are therefore greatly desired. He does this with Willow, a trained hawk acquired from Phoenix, Arizona which chases the pigeons and returns to its owner whenever he whistles. This fellow was more than happy to explain all of this to my sister and me, and turned out to be one of the most interesting features of our day there.

http://www.igougo.com/journal-j53082-London-I_Love_London.html

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