We visited lots of different places to celebrate my 20th birthday last year and these are the main places we visited over a couple of different occasions.
by katykicker on July 26, 2009
London Dungeon is somewhere that I have visited twice now and the most recent one was last year.London Dungeon is located on Tooley Street and with London Bridge being the nearest railway station.Tickets prices are dependant on when you visit and if you book in advance.The London Dungeons experience will begin as soon as you arrive to either queue or use the priority booking entrance and there will be actors there who may well be a little bit cheeky or even down right rude but this is really just in jest and although I found some of their comments a tad inoffensive I only had to wait around 2 minutes to enter and then when we left the one actor I disliked had left his post. You can choose to pose with your head in stocks at the start of the experience and your friends/family holding axes etc and you will be given a raffle ticket to collect a photograph at the end (which you have to pay for of course).You will then go through to the first actor-led experience which is called ‘Labyrinth Of The Lost’ after you have a brief talk with one of the actors there about general safety and how it works (i.e. just work your way around, don’t go back and if you have any problems or illnesses tell one of the actors). This area is a large mirror maze which you have to work your way around and as you are generally going around with a few other tourists or visitors this can become quite funny and takes a fair few minutes to work around. I found this to be relatively easy but some people suffered as they just didn’t seem able to follow the maze around.‘The Great Plague’ is the next area which is set in 1655 when London was riddled with the plague. You will hear lots of noises and shouting and there is an unpleasant smell in this area supposed to represent just how bad it was back in those days. It’s going to be extremely hard to make a smell like that and it’s not disgustingly overpowering so was bearable while we stood and listened to the actor telling us some facts. This area is going to be changing in 2009 and I understand that this is going to show an old fashioned operating theatre and how they used to operate on people with some comical effects.‘Traitor: Boat Ride To Hell’ is the next experience and here you will be sentenced to death in a court room and then led out to the boat (where you will receive safety tips and the odd cheeky comment – ours was ‘keep your hands to yourselves love birds!). I am quite scared of water even though I’m a fantastic swimmer and we took our seats in the boat in almost darkness and then once we left the boarding station it got pitch black and there are lots of sound effects to make it all the more scarier. On the first visit I was really upset and did not like it at all, whereas on the second visit I knew that it was nothing to be scared of and therefore rode it with a smile on my face and knowing roughly what was coming. This is one of my favourite parts of the Dungeon experience as it feels like you’ve gone really far but it’s barely anywhere and not actually scary when you ignore the sound effects!‘Sweeney Todd’ is shown in almost darkness and we walked past Mrs. Lovett’s Pie Shop before being greeted by the lady herself (an actor of course) who took us in to Sweeney Todd’s barber shop where we saw a model who appeared to have had their throat cut and then we learnt some history about the fictional Sweeney Todd and how he murdered victims in his barbers shop and then Mrs. Lovett used them as fillings in her pies. Some people may be picked out from the crowd to experience a ‘close shave’ and then their chair will tip back making them think they are going to fall in to the cellar.‘Jack The Ripper’ is a fantastic experience in which we learnt about the killings by Jack The Ripper in 1888. First we were taken to Buck’s Row where we learnt about the first three murders complete with ‘witness accounts’ then we were taken through a corridor complete with models of the dead prostitutes with their intestines pulled out and their throats cut. We then went on to learn about the last two murders and saw animations (which looked very old fashioned – brilliant!). Eventually we end up in the Ten Bells pub in Spitalfields which is set in 1898 and we are talked to about the Ripper by the barmaid (or barman!) and then the lantern on the bar seemed to move by itself, the lights flickered, went out and then an air blast went off near the ceiling and made a Ripper come out completely with a knife and because my fiancé is tall (6’2" he had his head right near the blast of air but thankfully he knew it was coming before we went in otherwise he would have had such a fright!).‘Great Fire Of London’ is one of the last exhibitions and this one is set in 1666 with an actor telling us information about the Great Fire Of London which started in Pudding Lane. We were then shown a small educational film narrated by Tom Baker before having to escape from the fire down a ‘street’ with lots of fake fire and hot air blowing around to add to the effect. We then walked through a revolving tunnel of red and yellow lights which is designed to make you think you are in a fire but neither time has it made me feel like this.‘Drop Ride To Doom’ is the final part of the experience and this is where you are treated as a criminal who has been sent to hang at a Prison and then you will be taken from your cell to a seat in a small ride which makes you have a small drop as if you are being hung and then a photograph is taken (yes, something else to spend money on!). You are told before the start of the ride that you can opt out if you suffer from back problems or are pregnant and because I’m scared of everything and anything I chickened out and just said to the actor ‘I can’t do it’ and was shown through a different way ready to see the pictures.We spent a couple of hours in the Dungeons and were very pleased for the price that we paid. The experiences are fantastic and well acted throughout with some people always trying to catch them out or come up with a smart question but the actors seem to be infallible! The only disappointment for me was the fact that we could not receive our picture (the one from the beginning with the axe and the stocks) because they had given us the wrong raffle ticket and although they searched through many pictures and we pointed out the people before us in the queue they just could not find our picture and this was a real disappointment to us as we were already decided that we would buy it for the novelty factor and unfortunately we didn’t get many opportunities to take photographs whilst travelling around the Dungeons. The London Dungeons are definitely worth a visit and is fun for the whole family although you may want to avoid taking very young children as this can be a little scary for them but it is mostly atmosphere more than anything scary actually happening. Be prepared to be called out of your group to demonstrate things or to try stuff out but always remember that they are very health and safety conscious so there is really nothing to be afraid of.The experience at the Dungeons is one that I won’t forget for a long time and even though it’s been over a year since we went I can still vividly remember walking around and waiting at the start for more people to join us. It is fun going around in a group (it was just Tom, my fiancé, and I) and we were with lots of foreign tourists who were jabbering away in their native language but were quiet at all the appropriate times. If you speak lots during the live actor parts you may well receive a few sharp words but just remember that they are actually employed to do this and not just being rude!Opening times are available at www.thedungeons.com
Big Ben is one of the most instantly recognisable Landmarks in London. Big Ben is a large clock tower that is located at the North-Eastern side of the Palace of Westminster and it is the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world.The clock first began chiming on 31st May 1859 and has only stopped or been stopped on 9 occasions either due to WW1 or WW1 or due to weather conditions or stoppage for urgent repairs. The film has been featured in many different films over the years including Shanghai Knights, The Thirty-Nine Steps & it also appeared to be partially destroyed in an episode of Doctor Who.The clock tower stands at 316 feet tall and is one of the tallest clock towers in the world. It’s height just fills me with awe every single time I walk by and I always find myself stopping for a few moments to watch it and wait to hear the oh so familiar chimes ringing out. The tower is made from brick with stone cladding and on the rare occasion that anybody is allowed inside the clock tower there are around 330 limestone steps to be walked up. The interior of the tower is closed to the general public due to security reasons.Big Ben is in close proximity to the London Eye so when going around on the Eye it’s possible to really understand just how high Big Ben is! Big Ben is the name of the bell itself which was rumoured to be named after Sir Benjamin Hall who oversaw the installation of the Great bell.I believe that Big Ben is something that all visitors and locals in London should have their photograph taken outside of. It towers over Westminster in an amazing way and it’s just one of the most phenomenal Landmarks in London. Because Big Ben is located in the centre of London there are so many different areas to visit in the close proximity and it’s easy to plan a fantastic day out around the viewing of this fantastic clock tower.One of most iconic moments I can remembering seeing Big Ben was at the Millenium when I was at a friend’s house and we saw it on television and I will always think of it when I remember the start of the year 2000. I fought to stay up all night and was amazed that I actually managed to do it, as did my friend. I usually hear the chimes each year whenever I am, be it a friends house, nightclub etc. I believe that if you know an MP they may be able to arrange for you to have a tour of the interior of the building so if you are fortunate enough to be in this position then I would definitely recommend it. Also, night time is the best time to view the tower (in my opinion) as it’s lit up and really stands out in the almost dark night sky. I would have to rate a visit to Big Ben as being 5/5 as it’s the ideal background for any tourists photograph in London and if you stand on Westminster Bridge there is usually lots of people around who are willing to take photographs for you (be careful if you have an expensive camera of course!).
by katykicker on July 17, 2009
Harrods is a department store located on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, London and is part of the Harrods brand which have several other enterprises under it's belt such as Harrods Aviation & Air Harrods. The store itself is something that I find to be instantly recognisable as it is currently one of the largest department stores in the word and is one that I thoroughly visiting, even if just for a browse.The store itself occupies a 4.5 acre site and has around 300 different departments within. It really would be quite possible to spend several days exploring the different areas of the store and spending enough money to clear all third world debt! Several of the departments within Harrods are world famous for their displays such as the Christmas department and the world class Food Halls.You really could buy almost everything possibly to own within this store with departments such as beauty, clothing (men's, women's, children's & infant's), electronics, bridal, pets & pet accessories, food, drink, toys, gifts, stationery, home wares etc. The list really is endless and you could probably buy at least one of everything you could ever need to furnish a home including sofas, beds, curtains etc. There are two memorials within the Harrods store dedicated to the life and love of Dodi Fayed & Diana, Princess Of Wales who died in a car crash in 1997. The first memorial contains photographs of each of them, a candle for each of them and some mementos such as a wine glass from their last dinner, with Diana's lipstick & an engagement ring supposedly purchased by Dodi the day before they died. The second memorial is a bronze statue of the two dancing underneath an Albatross to symbolize 'holy spirit' and it is entitled 'innocent victims'. Both of the memorials are quite moving and it's possible to visit them and pay respects to Dodi & Diana while at the store.Harrods is always seen as a real luxurious store and this is exactly how I would describe it, however, it is possible to visit here with some budget restrictions and still pick up some lovely items, especially when they have a sale on. The store will also sometimes host exclusive designer pieces or collections such as the recent Paul Smith Greene Street bag which is exclusively available for purchase in Harrods stores. As well as being able to shop instore it's also possible to shop online at the Harrods.com website but I would always advise a visit to the flagship store if possible as it's just something that's really not to be missed, even if just to find something cheap to purchase to get a Harrods carrier bag (yes, I am one of THOSE people!). There is a slight dress code in Harrods. The majority of people will be granted access but anyone not wearing a shirt, or with their chest hanging out etc may be denied entry to the store and this is usually enforced quite rigidly. The store is always well decorated, whatever time of year, and there is plenty of staff on hand to help with whatever your needs or requirements are. There is a rumour that whatever you want as a customer Harrods can get for you (within the reaches of the law of course) but whether this is true is probably not available information until you are a multi-million and having a spending spree in store.Harrods offer many services in store including wedding lists, registering for gifts, in-store beauty treatments, financial advice and personal shoppers to help you find anything you could ever need. It's not unusual for the store to be very busy at all times of the day all year round because of the many tourists that flock to the Knightsbridge store to try and pick up something quintessentially English and you will find lots of pieces like this in addition to the many Egyptian pieces showing Mohammed Al Fayed's natural heritage.Opening Times are as follows:Main StoreMonday to Saturday: 10am - 8pmSunday: 11:30am* - 6pmSUMMER Opening (Monday 20th July – Saturday 22nd August)Monday to Saturday: 10am – 9pmSunday: 11:30am* - 6pmFrom Monday 24th August: normal Main Store opening hoursSelected Food Halls openMonday to Saturday: 9am – 8pmSunday: 11:30am* - 6pm* Browsing only between 11.30am and 12 noon on SundaysI would advise a visit any day of the week as it's always going to become crowded in some areas as they are just so hugely popular with all different nationalities. A visit to London is never quite complete without a visit to Harrods so why not stop by yourself and spend a few thousand on that gorgeous telephone table or just buy yourself a packet of cigarettes and ask for a bag.I am going to rate Harrods 5/5 as the store is magnificent and there should be something for all ages to marvel out. Whether it's the latest toy, the delicious fish on offer in the Food Hall or the gorgeous bed linen everyone in the family is catered for so get out your credit card today and treat yourself, you deserve the best. The only reason I have marked it down by 1 star is because some of the everyday household items are drastically overpriced.
by katykicker on July 15, 2009
Buckingham Palace is one attraction in London which is often high on many tourists list when coming to visit London and I had walked past a few times and found myself in awe of the beauty of the building. On a trip to London last year I decided that enough was enough and I was going to visit the Palace and experience it's true splendour and beauty for myself. The nearest tube station is Green Park and this is where we departed. The Palace is well signposted and took just five or ten minutes at an average walking speed (read - slow). Buckingham Palace stands amazingly tall and is one of the most instantly recognisable landmarks in the world. It has 828,818 square foot of floorspace and it is absolutely gigantic! It is visited by around 50,000 invited guests each year who attended the Summer Garden Parties, Dinners, Lunches, Breakfasts and is currently open to the public for 60 days in the Summer (26th July - 30th September this year), however, this will be increasing in the future due to the increase in Government funds being granted for palace repairs. There are several ways to book tickets for a visit to the palace and there are two types of tickets available. Tickets can be booked on the day from the ticket office on Buckingham Palace Road, on the website www.royalcollection.org.uk (£1.25 booking fee applies) or by calling 0207 766 7324 if you are a wheelchair user or want to book one of the BSL Interpreted & Lipspeaking tours. Visit The State Rooms (Free Audio Guide):Adults £16.50Over 60 + Students (Valid ID required) £15.00Under 17 £9.50Under 5 FreeFamily (2 Adults & 3 Under 17's) £44.00Royal Day Out (State Rooms, Royal Mews & Queens Gallery)Adults £29.50Over 60 + Students (Valid ID Required) £26.50Under 17 £16.50Under 5 FreeFamily (2 Adults & 3 Under 17's) £78.00The palace is open from 09:45 - 18:00 (last admission 15:45). The visit that we went on was the State Rooms only and as there were just two adults it cost us £33.00 which for the time we spent exploring was quite reasonable. We purchased our tickets on the day and each ticket is printed with an allocated start time (in 15 minute increments) and you must attend in your time slot or you will miss out on your visit. There was a short queue to go in and then we went through metal detectors and were checked if we had any metal bits on us (I did!). Once this had been done we were all handed complimentary headsets which were very easy to use and as we walked through the rooms it told us when to play the next bit as it explained each of the rooms to use. Also, under many of the paintings on display there were codes which could be input in to the headset and then individual guides on that painting would begin. I found this audio guide to be fantastically informative and it was very easy to work. I believe that less tech savvy people would be able to operate these as well. As well as the audio guide there are guide books available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese & Russian. We spent around 2 and a half hours browsing around the State Rooms and looking at all the equisitive decor & artwork. I was amazed by how luxurious some of the rooms really are and it was fantastic to imagine that the Queen has been in these rooms and had guests here. Everything was immaculately clean and although I looked hard to spot crumbs or dust I was duly disappointed.Once the State Rooms had all been seen we headed out in to a small area of the Queen's vast gardens. Here there was a small cafe type area to purchase ice creams & bottles of water, as well as a gift shop, toilets & baby changing facilities. However, if you do take a baby to visit the State Rooms you must book your pushchair in at the beginning and retrieve it at the end of your visit.It is possible to visit the State Rooms for only a short time if you want to rush through as there is no restriction (besides opening & closing times) on how long your visit can take. Also, if you want to see the changing of the guards this is currently taking place at 11am at the front of the Palace and lasts for around 40 minutes. We did not see this on this occasion but I intend on go back in a couple of months to see this. The gift shop was quite a nice visit and contained the usual London style souvenirs as well as some Palace souvenirs, some at a reasonable price, some not.Overall we had a lovely afternoon visiting the State Rooms & a small area of the garden. It was fairly nice weather without being unbearably hot and I was kept nice and cool inside the Palace without being frozen by air conditioning. I hope that we will return again in a years time and take a few friends or relatives with us. Also, if you want to visit the Palace outside of these opening weeks then you can always just so and stand at the gates for the changing of the guard or to see if the flag is up indicating that the Queen is in residence.A trip to Buckingham Palace is highly recommend but it's probably not the most ideal place for babies or young children because they will find it boring and I saw a few younger children trying to touch things and just generally acting very bored and making a loud racket, also, who wants to be the parent that everyone else is tutting at? This is my reason for voting 4/5 but I would definitely recommend it as the perfect places for adults to visit, especially if you get a slightly rainy day and want somewhere gorgeous to shelter worst learning something new.
by katykicker on July 14, 2009
As a young child London was something that conjured up some amazing images for me and I never imagined that one day I would live a 30 minute train journey away from London Liverpool St. Suddenly all of these wonderful places and areas I had only read about in books or seen on the television were mine for the exploring and as I became a young adult it was even better as I could just flit off to London whenever the mood took me and funds permitted.I have visited the London Eye twice now, once back in 2005 and once more recently and both times I have been very fortunate with nice weather & relatively clear skies enabling me to see further and further across longer on the two seperate trips.The London Eye is a beautiful wheel which stands on London's South Bank in close proximity to Westminster Bridge & Hungerford Bridge. It stands 135 metres high and holds 32 identical pods which each weigh 10 tons and can hold around 25 people. It's very simple to get a ticket you can either book online in advance, print reservations on the day or just turn up when you want to go and join the queue to purchase your ticket & then join another queue to visit the pod. There is good safety when visiting the pod with handbags being searched and staff members checking each pod before the next set of people 'board' and ensuring (with the use of mirrors) that there is nothing sinister on board that could be potentially harmful to members of the public. The pods themselves are continually moving and when it's your turn to board you need to get on as safely and quickly as possible (it's only moving at 0.6mph) and the pods are air conditioned with some seating in the middle of each one. If you are disabled or have a disabled person in your party then they can either slow down or stop the eye to enable safe boarding of wheelchair users or people with disabilities. Each pod is fitted with a telephone incase of emergencies and one revolution of the entire eye will take around 30 minutes, however, don't be alarmed if you stop momentarily as it could just be something with a disability boarding (I have panicked just a tad both times this has happened!). Once you are up in the pod it's possible to see vast stretches of London and what you will see depends on how high up the Eye you currently are and what the weather conditions are like. Some of the places I've most enjoyed seeing from this height in the past are the BP Tower, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Houses Of Parliament etc. I found that the pod moves very slowly and although I was very apprehensive both times I went, due to the height, I was pleasantly surprised with just how enjoyable it was and how little I noticed we were moving. All of a sudden we were just at the top and I was amazed!Both times I have visited I have been in a pod with around 5-10 people and I think anymore would feel like a bit of a crowd, especially when posing for a photograph towards the end of the rotation. Also, on one occasion I was in a pod with somebody who was scared of heights and she had taken her two children on to the pod and just spent the whole time laying on the bench wailing and sobbing and this really upset her children and made everyone else in the pod feel really uncomfortable. As the London Eye is now owned by the same group that own several other big attractions in London, including Madame Tussauds, it is possible to book online and save a great amount, we recently visited the Eye, London Zoo & London Dungeons for around £70.00 for two people and compared to the usual prices we said lots! This would be my top tip for anyone who wants to visit any attractions in London as there is nearly always discounts to be had.The London Eye is great for locals and tourists alike as you really can see so many different things from up in the sky. The view on a clear day is just amazing and hasn't failed to impress me on the two occasions I've visited. I will visit again and I will continue to recommend it to friends and family. It's a very smooth ride and one that's pretty unique. It's amazing that as a small child I wouldn't go on the 'big wheel' but now there's a real 'big wheel' in London I'll happily step foot on it and let it carry me around. I have heard about some queue times of around 30 minutes in the past from friends who have visited but I have never had this problem and find that 2pm seems to be the ideal time for my 'flight' and therefore this is the time that I would recommend if you are going to be visiting the London Eye.I am a huge fan of the Eye and it's a place I've thoroughly enjoyed just walking by each time I've been in London. The size of it never fails to astound me and I remember when it was being pulled up over several days and they filmed it and showed it on the news. From that moment on I always wanted to visit it and although it took me 5 years I was so glad I did.I am hoping to get in to London again for the New Year and will enjoy the firework displays launched from the London Eye in the evening of New Years Eve. My rating for the London Eye is 4/5 and I would recommend it for most people except those who are extremely frightened of heights, however, I would say I was quite scared and this helped me get over my fears but this is not going to work for everyone with a fear!
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