Posts Tagged With: London

Busy with Bookings

With less than 7 weeks until we leave we have everything pretty well organised.

However, one thing that was not booked was our carparking at the airport in Brisbane.  We live 80km (50 miles) from Brisbane and have limited options of people who could take us to and from the airport.  It is just easier to drive ourselves and park the car securely.  Whilst this comes at a cost we factor it into our holiday expenses.  There are several options either at the airport or off-site and serviced by a shuttle-bus.  Thanks to a ‘hot deal’ (their words) and a discount code we managed to get undercover valet parking located 3 minutes walk from the international terminal for less than outdoor parking at an off-site facility with shuttle-bus transfers.

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The other bookings are a bit more exciting.

We had already booked tickets to the ‘Classical Spectacular’ at Royal Albert Hall which I have written about previously.  You can read the post here.  As a result of snippets of information gleaned from various sources I found and booked 2 more shows.  The first is Liza Pulman in a show titled ‘Liza Sings Streisand’ at the historic Wilton’s Music Hall.  The other is a play titled ‘The Ferryman’ which has great reviews and is playing at the  Gielgud Theatre in the West End.

I particularly love the fact that it is highly unlikely that we would have the opportunity to see any of these shows here in Australia and of course, the venues are unique to London.

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Staying Safe

Apart from the occasional pickpocket or bag-snatcher, safety is not necessarily a prime concern when visiting other developed countries with similar values to our own here in Australia.

However, in the light of the events in various parts of Europe and the UK in recent years, and particularly in the past few weeks and months, it would be remiss of us not to seriously consider our safety while travelling.

We are not about ditch our plans and realise that there are risks whenever you step outside the front door no matter where you are.

Nevertheless, I did say to GMan yesterday that I do not think I will be walking across any bridges while we are in London.  Pedestrians on bridges have been targeted twice in a matter of months in the UK capital.  I can only assume that the ‘reasoning’ of the perpetrators is that there is nowhere for the pedestrians to escape.  What an awful thought process!

Even though I would love to attend a Remembrance Day service in November that may be off the agenda as I feel that being anywhere there is a large gathering may be too great a risk.

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We will continue to monitor the situation over the coming months but at this stage I do not envisage making any other adjustments to our plans.

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Countdown – 7 Months

I realised this week that in 7months we will be in London at the beginning of our next overseas adventure.  In the 2 months since my last post we have organised a couple more things.

We booked our accommodation for the night in Cardiff.  As usual, we aimed to find somewhere that was fairly central.  We opted for a large chain hotel which is within walking distance of the train station were we will arrive from Swansea.  It is close to the city walking tour, the stadium as well as the departure point of the cruises to waterfront.  It will be a brief look around but we are looking forward to visiting Cardiff as it will actually be the only place on the trip which we have not been to previously.  The other places on our itinerary are London, Swansea and Cambridge.

The other thing we did was buy a lightweight down jacket for each of us from Uniqlo.  They squash up and can be rolled into quite a small carry bag,

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While it is not high-end fashion, I hope the jacket will not scream ‘tourist’ as I step outside the door.  I chose a mid-grey as it will co-ordinate with the other clothes I will be packing.  I will do a separate post at a later date about what I will be packing but it is mostly black, grey and red and of course, denim jeans.

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Farewell to Old England Forever

On our last day in England we took a final look around London before catching our flight home that evening.  However, unlike some of our ancestors, I do not think it will be forever.  In fact I am sure we will be back again as there are many areas that we have not seen and others that we would love to explore more.

During our trip to Stratford-upon-Avon we had broadened our knowledge of Shakespeare and his life and times.  Now it was time to round out our experience with a visit to The Globe Theatre.  This is actually the 3rd Globe Theatre and has been built as far as possible to replicate the earlier versions.  We couldn’t get on the stage but here we are in front of it.

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One of the obvious concessions is the addition of a sprinkler system atop the thatched roof.  Hopefully, this will avoid it succumbing to the same fate as the original which burnt down due to the misfiring of a cannon during a performance of Henry VIII.

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The entertaining and informative tour helped us to imagine the reality of the theatre experience in Shakespeare’s time.

Our next stop was the Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garrett located in the roof space St Thomas’ Church.  This seems a bizarre location, however, the wards of the old St Thomas’ Hospital were built adjacent to the church which provides the explanation.  This small and quirky museum is not for everyone but I found it particularly interesting due to my career in operating theatre nursing.

Here are a couple of views.

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We then moved on to something a bit more mainstream – the Tower of London.  Although we did not tour  the tower we were interested to see the current installation of ceramic poppies in the area surrounding the tower.  This being done to commemorate the British servicemen killed during World War I as 2014 is the centenary of the outbreak of that conflict.  This is a work in progress and the final one of the 888,246 poppies will be ‘planted’ on Armistice Day (November 11th) 2014.  Each poppy represents a British or Commonwealth soldier killed during World War I.  It is a sobering thought to consider when viewing this work.

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It is fitting that the final things we saw before leaving London were these two statues at St Pancras Station.  They are located just neat the platform for the Eurostar on the upper level.  This 9 metre statue titled ‘The Meeting Place’ stands on a plinth surrounded by images of travel and trains.

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It is certainly impressive but I actually prefer the one below.  This is of the former Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman and commemorates his successful campaign to save the station from demolition during the 1960’s.  The words from his poem, ‘Cornish Cliffs’ are inscribed around the base.

And in the shadowless unclouded glare
Deep blue above us fades to whiteness where
A misty sea-line meets the wash of air.

 

 

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Time to say goodbye and catch the train to Heathrow Airport for the long flight home.  We had booked into the traveller lounge (at a cost) so were able to relax for a couple of hours before boarding our flight.  There was food, drink and internet access included in the entrance fee.  However, the most important thing was the shower facilities.  After a day of sightseeing in what turned out to be the warmest day of the entire trip we were very grateful for a refreshing shower before setting out on a flight of almost 24 hours.

I hope you have enjoyed following our adventures through the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland and in the words of the friendly flight attendants, “We look forward to seeing you when next we travel”.

There will be one more short post regarding the budget and costings for the trip.  I need to finalise the figures before I write that one.

 

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Opulent and Over-the-Top

We started our trip in London and had allowed for 2 days at the end of the adventure to see a few more things in the capital.  One of the things that I wanted to see was the Royal Albert Hall and take a tour of this magnificent venue.

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Unfortunately, it was closed for maintenance so I had to be content with seeing it from the outside.  I am sure it is stunning inside but I will have to save that experience for another time.

Directly opposite the hall, in Kensington Gardens, is The Albert Memorial.  It was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her husband, Prince Albert and is an over-the-top Victorian extravaganza.

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From here we made our way to nearby Knightsbridge and that most famous department store, Harrods.  I had heard of the Egyptian escalator and here it is.

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We wandered through the food hall and just shook our heads in amazement.  Then there were the Christmas goodies.

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This was too much for me and I had to get out and back into the ‘real’ world for a while.

In the midst of all the high-end retailers we stumbled upon a Peruvian food street stall in Jermyn Street.  We bought a very modestly priced lunch of spiced chicken, rice, quinoa and salad.  Once we were re-fuelled our next stop was Fortnum & Mason’s where we were greeted by the doorman.

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The staircase was more like the entrance to a grand home than a department store.  It was replete with red carpet, red velvet-covered handrails and chandeliers on every level.

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The Christmas decorations were amazing – not a single paper chain in sight!

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This was one of the window displays.

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Our final stop was Liberty of London.  I do not have any photos as I was in a state of sensory overload by this time.  You will just have to believe me when I say that chandeliers, decorations, the stock and prices were all just over-the-top.  These are just 3 examples, albeit fairly extreme ones, of the consumerist mindset.  I also saw shop after shop selling clothes, homewares and jewellery in unbelievable quantities at ridiculous prices.

Everything we saw today had to be seen to be believed but there is clearly no understanding of the concept of ‘enough’.  It is really difficult to reconcile the extravagance that I witnessed with the reality of so many in this country who are struggling to keep a roof over their head and feed the family 3 meals a day.

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London – Ups & Downs

On the morning of our third full day in London we packed up our cases ready to check out of our accommodation.  Our hosts kindly agreed to hold them for the day while we were out and about.

This is the entrance to where we stayed.  It is a studio apartment attached to a basement flat in Bayswater.  A great location and only about ten minutes walk to Paddington Station.

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Our first stop was to be a visit to the Sherlock Holmes Museum.  This was the queue when we arrived at 221B Baker Street at about 10am.  We could not believe our eyes.

122 blogI discovered that you had to buy your tickets at the gift shop and then wait in line to get in so that was what we did.  After moving barely 10 feet in half an hour we could see that it was going to take hours to reach the head of the queue and neither of us were that desperate to spend so much of our precious time there.  I attempted to get a refund but was only able to get a credit for the gift shop so bought a souvenir teatowel as well as a heavy fabric shopping bag.  I discovered that the queue is regularly 3 hours long on all weekends, school holidays, through the summer and at Christmas-time!

We then moved on to the next part of the plan for our day – a tour of Lord’s cricket ground.

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We were lucky to arrive just as a tour was about to start.  We spent a very interesting 1.5 hours in a small group with a knowledgeable and articulate guide.

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The pavilion is a magnificent building.

It was a relatively short walk fr9om Lord’s to Abbey Road and the iconic zebra crossing outside the Abbey Road studios.

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This is a busy road, yet there were plenty of crazy people trying to replicate the photo on the cover of the Beatles’ album, Abbey Road.

We bought some lunch and then had a change of pace as we sat and ate it overlooking the lake in Regent’s Gardens.

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We then caught the train to Camden with a plan to catch a canal boat back along Regent’s Canal to Little Venice near Paddington Station.  This was not particularly successful as Camden was crowded with masses of people at the markets which did not seem to be particularly appealing to us and we could not locate the canal boats nor a departure point.

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After a short stroll along the canal towpath we gave up and caught the train back to the station closest to Buckingham Palace.

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We can now say we have seen Buckingham Palace but I did not find it all that fascinating.  The building is quite ugly compared to many of the buildings we have seen so far.

Our final stop for the day was near the back of the Palace where we saw Wellington Arch and several memorials, including this fairly recent Australian one.

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We made our way back to Paddington, had dinner at an Indian restaurant, collected our bags and made our way to Euston Station where we boarded the Caledonian Sleeper for our overnight train trip to Fort William in the highlands of Scotland.

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London – Day 2

It is several days since I wrote my last post so a bit of catching up to do.  I will rewind to where we left off in the previous post.

On our second full day in London we started once again at Paddington Station to buy our rail tickets for the day.  As it was Monday morning we felt the full force of weekday crowds.

As an aside I can definitely recommend making a Sunday your first day in London as it eases you gently into this very busy city.

We took the tube directly to St Paul’s where we planned to start our day.  This was our first glimpse of the cathedral.

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The interior of the cathedral is amazing, however, there is no photography allowed so we have committed it to memory.

There are over 500 steps to climb to reach the top of the dome and we really wanted to do this so had been training for it by regularly climbing numerous flights of stairs during our lunch breaks over the past few weeks.

After a guided tour of the cathedral we set out on the climb to the top.  We made it and were rewarded with 360 degree views of London.  Here you can see the Millenium Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

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After the cathedral we walked down Fleet Street, past the Old Bailey (Central Criminal Courts),

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visited Dr Johnson’s House

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had lunch at Ye Old Cheshire Cheese,

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walked through Leadenhall Market,

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and saw the Monument to The Great Fire of London.

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By this stage my feet had just about had enough and there was a big black cloud threatening to drench us so we made a dive for the nearest tube station and headed for home.

We stopped at a local supermarket on the way and picked up some meat and vegetables to prepare for dinner.

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Hello London

It is now just 24 hours since we set foot in London.  What an amazing time we have had already.

We caught the train from Heathrow to Paddington via Earl’s Court with a short walk to our accommodation.  After a very welcome shower we headed out for a light dinner and called in at a local pub on the way back.

This morning we went back to Paddington Station to buy our Rail Pass and tickets for today.

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We also met a bear.

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The Paddington Bear shop was not open when we went past but we will definitely be going back as it looks amazing.

Then it was time for some sightseeing.

Marble Arch near the entrance to Hyde Park.

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3 London icons in one photo.

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As you can see it had been raining.  At first it was very light as we left our accommodation, however, when we got to Marble Arch it was steady and the next thing it was heavy.  We spent a bit of time under a shop awning while we decided our next strategic move as clearly it was not the weather for strolling.  We hopped on the Tube again to Westminster and headed for the Churchill War Rooms which was on our list of things to see while in London.  Standing in a relatively short queue was OK until the next downpour.  We spent about 2.5 hours at this venue which included a break for lunch at the cafe.

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A large mug of steaming hot vegetable soup was just what we needed.

Unlike most museums photographs were encouraged.  This was the War Cabinet Room.

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When we came out the sun was shining so we continued our walk.

Big Ben

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and the Houses of Parliament.

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A stroll through the tranquility of St James’ Park.

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This really was the calm before the storm.  Within minutes of taking this photo, we could see a huge black cloud in front of us, we were nearly blown off our feet and the rain came down in torrents.  Oh, and there was a bit of thunder to make it really interesting.  It was all over in 5 minutes but by that time we decided that we had done enough for one day.

On the way home we stopped at the supermarket and picked up some meat and vegetables to prepare for dinner.  So it is a quiet evening with home-cooked dinner and doing some washing.

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Weekly Countdown – 7 Weeks

As promised at the end of my last post, I have spent more time finalising our transport options in Dublin and London.

Dublin – we will arrive by ferry from Holyhead at about 5.30pm on a Tuesday evening.  There are some public transport options from Dublin Port but we have decided that a taxi to our accommodation will be the most efficient use of our time and money.  We have 2 full days in Dublin and most of our sightseeing will be close to the city centre.  I considered the Freedom Card or Hop-On, Hop-Off bus but since we will do a lot of our sightseeing on foot it is really not worthwhile.  We will catch a bus or LUAS to Kilmainham Gaol and then the Airlink bus to the airport on the third morning to pick up our hire car.  This will still only be about 1/3 of the cost of the Freedom Card.

London transport options are much more complex than Dublin.  There are so many variables – how long will you be in the city, how many trips are you likely to make, which attractions will you visit.  The options are endless – Oyster Card, Travelcard (1 day or 7 day, peak or off-peak), London Pass (how many days) with or without travel component, 2-for-1 offers, Heathrow Express vs Heathrow Connect.  Whether to buy a Travelcard online, at a National Rail station, load in on an Oyster Card?  Which are valid for 2-for-1 offers?  Some options can be mailed to non-UK addresses, some cannot.

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Are you confused yet?

The first thing I realised when confronted with making a decision about the transport options was that we needed to consider what attractions, sights and venues we wanted to see.  Not what the passes ‘allowed’ us or what other people thought we ‘should’ do.  So, we made a list.  Some things may not get done and others may be added but we needed a base to use if we were going to ascertain the best value tickets.

Here is what we worked out:

1  We would not get a London Pass (with or without travel) as we would not get value for money due to the things we want (and do not want) to see and do.

2  We would not restrict ourselves to off-peak tickets as these are only valid after 9.30am.  To maximise our sightseeing time we plan to be starting out before 9.30am.

3  Many of the things that we wanted to see and do were covered by the 2-for-1 deals available with National Rail.

4  A Travelcard can be used for the 2-for-1 deals BUT it must be a paper ticket purchased at a railway (not Underground/tube) station.  You cannot purchase it online either nor have it loaded on an Oyster Card.

5  A 1 day (including peak) Travelcard is £9 or a 7 day Travelcard (anytime) is £31.40.  Since we are only in London for 3 days it would be cheaper to buy 3 x single day Travelcards, however, I am going to spend the extra £4.40 to get a 7 day one so that we do not waste time and energy buying a new card each day.

6  We will catch the Heathrow Connect train from Heathrow to Paddington when we arrive on Saturday evening.  We will go to the ticket office and buy our 7 day Travelcards so we are ready to go the next morning.  We will also buy a Two Together Railcard (not to be confused with 2-for-1 offers) which is valid for discount travel throughout the United Kingdom.

7  Here are some of the places we hope to visit with the 2-for-1 deals.  The savings are listed beside the venue.

  • Churchill War Rooms – £17.50
  • Lord’s Cricket Ground – £18
  • Tower of London – £22
  • River Cruise – £18
  • Old Operating Theatre – £6.50
  • Wellington Arch – £4.20
  • Royal Albert Hall – £12

The potential savings are £98.20 based on this sample so I definitely think it is the best option for us.

8  The cheapest transport option for Zones 1 & 2 in London is prepaid travel loaded on an Oyster Card which has a daily cap of £7/day.  My choice is £10.40/day more per person but the additional savings at various sites and attractions makes it worthwhile.

If you are looking for the best deal it is important to do your research beforehand and be sure of what you are looking for.

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Weekly Countdown – 9 Weeks

As the title says, it is nine weeks until our trip.  In fact, the flight is scheduled to depart a little after midnight on Friday night/Saturday morning so we will definitely be in London in nine weeks.

Thanks to the wonders of Google Maps I have been able to pinpoint where we will be staying and have worked out that we will easily be able to walk from Paddington Station to our accommodation which is approximately 600 metres from the station.

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I have discovered all sorts of gems while trawling the internet.  One is that 200 seats are available by open ballot for the ‘Last Night of the Proms’ concert.  It is 5 days before the end of our trip and our tentative itinerary has us in Cornwall.  Nevertheless, I have entered the ballot and will change the itinerary if we are lucky enough to be successful.  I know that it is a very slim chance but you have to be in it to win it.  We will know whether or not we have been successful in the second week of July, well before we leave.

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