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London - 29 Oct. 2010 21:06:23    
Lisa

 

Posts: 1678
Joined: 2 May 2001
From: Marlborough Massachusetts USA
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Sorry for the delay in finishing my report but it's been a busy week! Life returns to normal, I guess! My brain still wants to be on vacation.....

We arrived back in London on the train and the trip back was as enjoyable as the trip up to Liverpool. I really like the option of the "quiet" cars they have now so you are
not subjected to people yapping incessantly on their cell phones and having to listen to everyone's personal conversations. Can you tell this is a pet peeve of mine?
We went via Virgin trains and they are very nice and clean, with friendly personnel.

What can I say about London that hasn't already been said? The city always seems to be more crowded than on previous visits but I love every minute of it. People seem to play well together, which is amazing considering all the different ethnic groups. We checked into our apartment, which was really nice and in a superb location.....right around the corner from Kensington High St., almost across the way from Hyde Park. So close to such a busy street yet we heard no traffic or noise while in the flat. We ate at a nice French restaurant around the corner, which proved a bit challenging because, apparently, the French have never heard of gluten and my need to not ingest any! However, we had an Italian waiter who knew exactly what I needed (God Bless Italy!) so I ended up with a fabulous meal of venison. Sorry, Bambi, but they taste so good!

The first full day was spent touring the Houses of Parliament and I HIGHLY recommend this tour. The place is so beautiful on the inside and filled with such treasures that you are almost left speechless by the grandeur of it all. It starts in the oldest part of the building, Westminster Hall, and I immediately thought of our Tudor. It has an amazing hammer beam roof and I am going to cheat here and provide a link for more information on it. Westminster Hall This explains the place pretty well, better than I could do, and is worth the price of admission. I will say that the tours sell out and I would advise booking on-line so you can print out your tickets and take them with you. We saw the Queen's gold throne which she sits on when addressing the House of Lords and you almost need your sunglasses on when viewing the thing! The chambers seem smaller than they do on TV and it's funny to see the difference between the House of Lords and the Commons......the Lords are all gold and quite fancy yet the Commons are...well, common! Very plain without all the guilt of the other. The tour takes you through a number of area's before you get to the actual chambers that they debate in and it is all very gorgeous with paintings and gold. I mean, we have nice buildings in Washington, D.C. but this makes it look like Washington needs a make-over! My only complaint is that you have to be a citizen of Britain to get into the Big Ben clock tower....very disappointing but I was happy with seeing the inside of one of the worlds most recognizable buildings. After the tour, we shopped in the Westminster Abbey gift shop for Christmas gifts. They really have some nice trinkets in there! We did not go into Westminster Abbey again, though, as we have done so on previous trips and the cost is getting up there. Touring as a couple costs between $40.00-50.00 dollars just to get in the door so we choose our tours more carefully now.

For dinner that night, as it was Saturday, we went to Leicester Square to a restaurant called "Mermaids" because I had read on-line that they had gluten free fish and chips. I know, I'm probably the one and only on this forum who gears my trips partly around food but it's what I have to do. It was well worth it for 2 reasons.....the fish and chips were gluten free and very, very good! It was such a treat to have this English staple again...you have no idea! Almost did the happy dance in the restaurant. The second reason was that I had no idea Leicester Square was such a hot bed of activity on a Saturday night. What a boatload of fun we had after dinner!
It was completely packed with people of all kinds and, as we made our way slowly down the street towards Piccadilly, we heard singing and what we thought was a band. Sure enough, we saw a donkey cart being pulled by Hari Krishna's, with a guy on the cart playing a drum. It was a toe tapping beat and all the Krishna's were dancing and singing, following the cart. This got the crowd going and almost everyone started dancing to the beat, like the Greek dance at weddings. What a spectacle it was and something you just wouldn't see here in the States. It was such a happy crowd and no one was causing a problem. After this we emerged at Piccadilly and that place is another must see at night when in London. The neon and all the people hanging out and having a good time....I miss it already! You have to like big cities and crowds to enjoy this scene but for those who do, it's a bucket list item. Saturday night in Piccadilly, with a walk up to Leicester Square. We hung out for awhile and then headed back to the flat to crash.

The next day we headed to Greenwich...again! Third time there but it was Michael's pick and a perfect day for it. Beautiful, blue sky and perfect temps for a day out.
We took the tube to the DLR rail and that was different! No drivers but it was a short and interesting ride. Goes through the revitalized dock area's, loaded with shops and condo's. We then used the underground tunnel to walk over to Greenwich. The stairs were closed and they had a lift to use as I would imagine all this work is in prep for the Olympics. Lots of scaffolding this time around and workers making things better. If there's scaffolding, it must be London!

We spent the entire day walking around the Observatory and the park, including the Queen's House and the Naval College. It is one of the most beautiful views in all of London, looking out across the city from the top of the hill. Because of the fact it was October 10, 2010 (10-10-10), there were weddings going on so we saw gorgeous brides having their photo's taken. What a great place to be married. We then headed back to Tower Hill on the catamaran boat and that was really cool. Very fast and the views are great.

After having supper at a restaurant on St. Katherine's Dock, we did the Jack the Ripper Tour. Very, very fun and creepy! We walked all over the City of London at night, which is deserted by then, so no dodging traffic and people. It also focused on what London was like at that period in history and wasn't all about the details of the grisly murders. Just enough of both and very interesting! I highly recommend it. After this, it was getting late so we hobbled back to the flat and crashed....it was a long day but lots of fun!

I will end for now as lunch is over and I have to get back to work. More this week-end.....
Post #: 1
London - 30 Oct. 2010 23:16:23    
Lisa

 

Posts: 1678
Joined: 2 May 2001
From: Marlborough Massachusetts USA
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The next day we decided to do one of the Official London Walks and the area of interest was the village of Clerkenwell......a village within London. It lies just on the border of the City and contains one of the oldest churches in the City......St. Bartholomew the Great.
It was a beautiful, ancient church and has been used for many movie settings such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love and a few others I wasn't familiar with. There is a charge for going inside, unless you go for a church service but we were in the middle of a tour and did not do so.....next time! You never would have found this place unless you really hit the backstreets of the City of London. Tiny, little streets! The tour also included Spitalfields market area and executions within ancient city markets that have been held there through-out the centuries. Such historical ground to walk on made you think of all the history which took place there. Clerkenwell is a lovely village and would be a great place to live if only one could afford it. I was shocked at the prices of homes and you would have to be a millionaire to live there but it is right next to the City proper. So much for the recession! The tour lasted 2 hours and was very entertaining and informative. I can't say enough about these walks. They are so interesting and there are quite a few areas of the city that are covered. Something for everyone. I highly recommend them if you like history and want to get to see the real London.

After that we went back to the City as I saw a nice boot shop where I bought a beautiful pair of boots to take home. They were very different than what you see here and that was my one big purchase. We walked around the City for a while longer and then went to dinner on the South Bank. That was enough for one day.

The next day we made the short tube ride out to Richmond Park. I have always wanted to go there and the town of Richmond is very quaint, with gorgeous views of the Thames from up high on the hill. Mick Jagger has a house here and we apparently walked right past it on the main road. I can see why....it sits up high and overlooks the Thames and park leading down to the banks of the river.
It is really beautiful and peaceful, considering it sits on the main road leading up to the park but the views are incredible. The park itself has 5 miles of walking trails and good views back to London. We walked almost the whole thing and spent an entire afternoon there. It is a deer park and as the deer are not hunted and are protected, they are not afraid of humans. We were tripping over them! We rounded a corner and there was a whole family of deer not 15 feet from where we stood. The male had a huge rack on his head and I got a little nervous as I did not know if deer would attack if they felt threatened....these were pretty large males and the racks were downright scary, if used as a weapon. I'm used to deer that run away at the slightest sound but they stood their ground and just stared at us snapping photo's. Very, very cool!

The other fun thing we ran into was we came upon what looked like a caravan village.....something that looked like a partly run down gypsy village. We thought it kind of odd out in the middle of the park as it also had a fence around it, with a security guard standing on the perimeter. We approached him and started talking with him and, as it turns out, this was a movie set being prepared for a scene, which was to be shot later on. The guy was so very friendly and was chatting away with us but would not allow us to take pictures. Understandable, so we started to leave. I ran back because I wanted to know what film it was, so I would be sure to watch it when it came out. Well....it was for the upcoming sequel to the Sherlock Holmes film, with Robert Downey Jr. That was so cool and the guy said he hoped we would go to see it when it came out. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Robert Downey but he wasn't on set yet....bummer! Oh, well! That's the closest I'll ever get!

After our day in the park, we went back to London and had dinner in a great French restaurant in Kensington. This time, the owner knew what I was talking about with regards to my needs and it was a delicious meal. Very French, very good and it's a good thing we walked back to the flat because you cannot eat in a French restaurant without imbibing a lot of wine! Just when your glass gets a little low, someone comes along and fills it. Not wanting to insult anyone, we obliged them and it was really good wine. It's so nice when you don't have to drive......

The next day was our last day in London. We decided to just walk around the city one last time and see those things we wanted to see and to pick up some essentials......tea from Whittards. We started out at Somerset House and hit a used book fair, where Michael bought a couple of books he found interesting. After that we walked over to Covent Garden and bought some tea. I decided to limit the amount taken home due to the limitations on what I could pack because Whittard's offers a deal if you order on-line. You get 20% off your order, which more than covers shipping costs and then I can order a boatload without having to carry it home.
We then walked over to Trafalgar Square and ended up in the National Gallery. There was an exhibition which just opened up that day entitled: Canaletto and His Rivals. He was an Italian painter from the 16th century and included a display of a few others who were his rivals at that period in time. Oddly enough, some were his relatives. It was an astounding exhibition and to this day, it amazes me how anyone can paint a picture that gorgeous and lifelike. They are all Venetian scenes from that time period and so wonderfully detailed, it was just incredible. It was a really good exhibition and worth the money. Not too crowded either, which made it nice. Always go early when they first open and the crowds are minimal.

Afterwards, I totally crashed from 12 days crammed with sightseeing so we went and got a cappuccino and snack and stood out on the plaza to drink in the scene and all the people. I could have sat there for hours......Trafalgar Square is great for people watching and just looking at all the action. After a while, we went back to the flat, packed our bags all the while grousing that we had to leave so soon and then went out to dinner.

Out flight home was uneventful and very comfortable but kind of a downer as we really could have stayed another week, had not work schedules gotten in the way. I really need to win the lottery or something because my travel needs do not match my wallet.
We totally enjoyed ourselves, yet again, in the UK and the weather could not have been better. Your country is always so welcoming and I really appreciate the good weather we always have.....keep up the good work! My niece is going to do a semester in London, starting in January, and she will be there until June. The little wench will be living in Kensington, right near to where we stayed so I am already scheming on maybe going again, just for a quick week, to see her there. I am saving my pennies hard because I would love to be there with her. We'll see.......

(in reply to Lisa)
Post #: 2
RE: London - 4 Nov. 2010 11:19:26    
marie

 

Posts: 2038
Joined: 4 May 2001
From: Bristol Rhode Island USA
Status: offline
Lisa - it sounds like you really got to do a lot on your trip. I was interested in your report on Richmond. I still have not gotten there and it is on my list.
Glad you had a great time.

(in reply to Lisa)
Post #: 3
RE: London - 4 Nov. 2010 14:52:39    
Lisa

 

Posts: 1678
Joined: 2 May 2001
From: Marlborough Massachusetts USA
Status: offline
Hi Marie!
We did do quite a lot but you are only there for a limited amount of time and it never seems to be enough. It's also different being on vacation and pushing yourself as opposed to everyday life. There still were things we didn't accomplish due to lack of time.

Richmond Park is quite nice and very large, although there is a road running through it, near to the entrance of course, and is used heavily by the locals. It got busy at rush hour in the afternoon but the rest of the park is country and quiet. The train station is in the center of town and the walk up the hill to the park entrance is about a quarter of a mile....easy. Nice walking and plenty to keep you busy for an afternoon. There is also a rest area, with bathrooms that are the nicest public restrooms I have ever seen.

We also passed a thatched cottage somewhere near the end of the walk and it was gorgeous. I think it was a private home but not sure, as it's inside the park. Then there were the deer.....unbelievable. They just did not care that you were there and didn't move when approached. We saw a whole family, complete with babies. I highly recommend a side trip there as it's only about 20 minutes tube ride from Kensington High St. station. Richmond itself is a nice little town with shops and restaurants and lots of coffee places......and beautiful views from the main road of the Thames down below.

I still think about the trip daily and miss going out and about, exploring. Every trip I have been on, I could repeat and still have as much fun. I miss the public transportation and the ease of getting about without a car. Yes, they are having strikes on and off right now but still, overall, you cannot beat it as compared to what we don't have here in the States.

One thing I noted this time....dining out in London has gotten pricey. With the down economy and high rents in London, they have started to go the "al a' carte" route more often there. I know I cannot eat at cheap eats like everyone else but this time, we spent a lot of money on the evening meal. Most we've ever spent and we only ate at two high end places the whole time we were there. Michael was charged for the bread they brought to the table! Want a potato and veg? That's extra!
We ate well and the food was delicious and I didn't get sick BUT it cost a bundle. That is my only complaint about the whole trip. Next time, I will investigate some of those gastro pubs to see if they are cheaper and what kind of menu they offer.

(in reply to marie)
Post #: 4
RE: London - 4 Nov. 2010 17:24:19    
marie

 

Posts: 2038
Joined: 4 May 2001
From: Bristol Rhode Island USA
Status: offline
Richmond sounds lovely. I was going to go there last November, but got scared off by all the comments on the hotels I was looking at (just under the approch to Heathrow), then never found the time when I was in London.

As much as I want to go into the countryside, I am still trying to figure out whether I can squeeze a few days in London this spring. Gee maybe if the stock market bounces back to 5 years ago - well a girl can always dream

( I think you should add this trip report to BT-DT just a thought)

(in reply to Lisa)
Post #: 5
RE: London - 4 Nov. 2010 18:18:58    
Lisa

 

Posts: 1678
Joined: 2 May 2001
From: Marlborough Massachusetts USA
Status: offline
I should add that it might be better to stay in London vs. Richmond as there is quite a bit of air traffic going right over the park...at least in the afternoon. I found the same to be true at Kew Gardens also. We went there on a previous trip and the air traffic was non-stop. With 2 major airports in that vicinity, it can't be helped, I guess.
We didn't notice it as much walking around the town of Richmond because there was traffic noise also but in the park, there was a steady flow of flights over the park.
I guess as I live in a city center myself, I learn to tune things out pretty well. It might bother other people but the deer didn't seem to mind either. It wasn't bad enough to put off going to the park or town but it is there, in the background.

Yes, I thought about posting this to BT-DT and most likely will this week-end. I hope Barry isn't offended that I didn't contact him but I did not want him to feel obligated to meet up with us in London or elsewhere. He is such a gracious host and really goes out of his way to be the ambassador to all things British and I just didn't want to bother him this time around. We will be back, have no doubt....Britain isn't getting rid of me that easily! That ought to get him running scared......

(in reply to marie)
Post #: 6
RE: London - 26 Oct. 2011 10:41:08    
Gerald

 

Posts: 6
Joined: 7 Jul. 2011
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Hey Lisa,

I am new here, but I read your report about London with great interest. I love Kew Gardens and kids love it, too. Used to go there a lot. It is true, though, there is a lot of air traffic sometimes. Depends on the schedule of the airport. They change it up once in a while. Still worth going to Kew Gardens.
A family I know lived in Kew for quite a bit and moved because of the noise. I would definetely prefer staying in London instead of Richmond.

(in reply to Lisa)
Post #: 7
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