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My London Tips & Review

Oceano, California
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My London Tips & Review

Ok, this will be really long and I'm sure will open up questions, so please feel free to ask any questions! Here goes....

Trip Dates: April 13 ��� April 22 (8 days, with 9th day going home)

Travel Status: Single Girl

Hotel: Bonnington in Bloomsbury (I will post a review on this in the hotel section)

Airline: American Airlines via LAX sprinkles every day but one.

Flight: Was about 10 hours from LAX to LHR. Left LA around 6 p.m. and arrived in London around12:30 p.m. the next day. I flew in biz class and was very comfortable. Was given a small form to complete for immigration and a pink fast track pass for customs. The walk from gate to customs was very long, but it took me only 5 or 10 minutes to pass through, I���m not sure if everyone on my flight got this pink pass or just biz and first class. Then picked up my luggage and used an ATM (which are everywhere in London, usually with a wait) then headed to Hotelink (more on this below). Oh yesl, I used NoJetLag and I think that helped me a lot. Also used Airborne and think that helped also.

Attire& Grooming: Don���t worry so much about what to pack. I fretted over it, but keep in mind comfortable clothes with pockets. And pack in layers. If I had to do it over again I would pack 3 pairs comfy pants that could dress up or down and make sure they have pockets. I had 2 black pairs (1 cargo and 1 velvet jean) and one denim jean. I had 5 mix-match tank tops to wear under the 5 different colored long-sleeve shirts, then over that I had 2 blazers or 2 cardigans to layer on top. Dark colors work best since it can get grimey and you will fit in better. Clothes I brought and didn���t wear included a cute skirt with tights, dressier ���evening��� type tops, and pumps. And don���t forget the rain coat. Mine had a hood. Bring Febreeze for those clothes you may wear more than once. I also never left the hotel without a hat, gloves and scarf. It would get chilly at times or windy, and you never knew when it would rain. I had an umbrella with me but it was easier to use the hood of the coat. As for grooming, forget worrying about fixing your hair. Between the breezes, rain, and the wind of the underground tunnels, you don���t need to fuss with your hair. I noticed very few people had fixed up hair. And make-up, it���s not huge either. I wore very minimal, even forgot one day. And don���t worry about accessories either, I saw very little flashy stuff or jewelry or anything. Leave it all at home. Now, the most important part ��� SHOES. Whatever you do, make sure they are comfortable and broken in. I agree with the no white trainers, but colored ones seemed to be popular. I saw a lot of black loafer type shoes, flats, and boots are very popular. Pointy toes also very popular. I wore my Brighton loafers most of the time with padded inserts and my feet still killed me until about the 5th day. Just try to bring a shoe that���s comfy and a little stylish. Don���t worry about tons of different shoes, you will live in your walking shoes. Oh yeah, bring foot massage lotion with you and massage your feet every single night before you go to bed.

Hygiene: There are no toilet seat protectors in London. If you are a user of them, bring your own. You can get the travel packs at Target or Wal Mart. But I found most toilets to be very clean. Also, bring the antibacterial hand gel everywhere you go! Use it after the tube, going in a building, the toilet, etc. If you see someone coughing or sneezing, turn away. Wash your hands a lot. If you are prone to allergies or head cold, bring what works best for you with you to London. You may need it if you get sick or get allergies. Oh yeah, when you do wash your hands in the bathroom, all they have to dry your hands are those air dryers and we know how well they work. Just be prepared to have damp hands and bring hand lotion in case your hands get dried out from them.

Getting Around: First thing for me was Hotelink from LHR to the Bonnington. It was awful. The shuttle was totally full (14 people) and it took 2 hours for me to get to my hotel and I was the 10th person off! Yikes. I later found out that we had a new driver that did not know his way around. My shuttle from the Bonnington back to LHR the morning of the 22nd was much better and took about an hour. Second thing about getting around ��� make use of the underground! It���s a great way to get around quickly, and inexpensive compared to taxis. I got the 7-day pass for the 21.40 pounds or whatever. Tips about the underground, keep your pass in your pocket because you need it to get in and out. When on the escalator stand to the right so people can walk by to the left. It���s very hustle and bustle. There are maps everywhere so make good use of them so you don���t get lost. It���s ok to stop and look although everyone is rushing by you. You can also get a little fold up map to keep in your pocket. One thing I learned the hard way is sometimes one line will split to go 2 ways and you have to watch the scrolling board at the platform to see which train is coming next and if it���s the one you want. You will know because it will give the end destination of the next train coming. Just pay attention and you will be ok. I found riding the tube after 10 a.m. and before 4 p.m. and then again after 7:30 p.m. made it less rushed and crowded. And use your antibacterial hand gel! As for cabs, I was in one for only a few blocks and it was very nice inside. One other thing regarding getting around ��� the bag you carry. It should be large enough for your camera, bottle of water, hat, gloves, scarf, money, snack, etc. I brought a backpack and quickly found that was a pain in the rear. I also had a large satchel purse with lots of interior pockets which was better to use but I could not put it on my shoulder and it got heavy. I wound up buying a very cool messenger bag at the Camden Lock Market that was perfect. Had secure pockets for everything and I could wear across my shoulder/chest area and access very easily while keeping my hands free. It is also very nice looking, not gaudy or schoolish. And get a good coin purse because I���ll be using coins a lot.

Eating and Drinking: I ate a lot of sandwiches while in London. Restaurants are very expensive and pub food is good and reasonable if you can get a seat. My problem was that I was on the move so much that by the time I finished my day, restaurants were closing and I wanted dinner. So I opted for sandwiches or other prepared food from the markets. The sandwiches are very good and fresh and inexpensive. I���d get some food and take back to my room. Prepackaged food is huge in London. You see people eating on the go all the time. I don���t like that, I���d prefer to sit and relax a bit while eating. Make sure you try lots of yummy things at the markets too. Eating at pubs was good, but first walk in and get your drink and put on a table. Then go back to the bar and let them know you���d like to order food. I���m not an ale or lager drinker but I found the next best thing��� cider. It���s tasty and looks like you are drinking beer and it���s cheap and you���ll get a buzz. The most popular brand in pubs seemed to be Strongbow. Liquor is very expensive to buy so if you like to have a little drink in your room, bring your own from home in a flash or plastic bottle.

Entertainment: Londoners like to read. You see them reading everything everywhere. The newspaper is huge. I read the paper every other day to keep up and make conversation. Their newspapers are like a combination between a paper and tabloid. I also watched local news. The tv in the hotel had only 5 or 6 channels but I guess that���s all there is without cable. My favorite show was ���Cosmetic Surgery Live��� which was on channel 5 at 10:55 p.m. every night. You would NEVER see this stuff in the US. If you want to drop your jaw, check out this show. Also, when you are out, stop and people watch. It���s a great people watching city.

Activities & Sights: Iwas there 8 full days. My first and arrival day I shopped along New Oxford Street. Great shops and people watching. I also got some goodies in Marks & Spencer, one of my favorite stores. They have food and clothes. The next day (Fri) I did The Big Bus tour and it was excellent. I took the green line to the red line for live commentary. Weather sucked but I rode it out. After the red line was done I got on the blue line via the free river cruise from Tower Hill and did the Kensington area. This was very helpful for getting my bearings. Don���t do this on your first day because you are too tired to really take it in. After the bus tour ended I did their ghosts walking tour which was excellent. Saturday I went to Camden Town and shopped. What a fun but crowded area. Forget the Camden Market, too cramped. Head to the Camden Lock Market and the one across the street from it. They were much better. Sat night I went into Leicester Square to meet up with others from here but we missed the mark. I people watched for a while and talked to locals. Sunday I did Stonehenge with Premier Tours and it was excellent. We first did Bath, very nice town. Then Lacok (had to mispell due to TA saying it was a profanity) for lunch and it was very good. Then Stonehenge to walk inside the circle. Unfortunately, the weather was very bad all day. But this tour company is excellent. Monday I began usage of my London Pass and went to the London Aquarium which was pretty good. I also did the London Dungeon, but don���t waste your money. I believe this is where I got sick. Then in the evening I did the Jack the Ripper walk (through London Walks) and it was good but the group was like 70 people and although the flyer says Monday is Donald, we didn���t have him. Still good, but they leave the tour ending somewhere and you have to find your way back to Liverpool station. It would have been better if they ended nearer a tube station. Tuesday was a big day, Tower of London (very good but needed more time), Tower Bridge (also very good), London Eye (had a pre-paid ticket and live commentator, therefore no wait or queue), and HMS Belfast (also very good). This was a really long day but I got a lot of good stuff in. The only thing I wished I had more time for was the Tower of London. I was there 3 hours and I think 4 would have been better. Wednesday I went to Buckingham Palace and caught the tail end of the changing of guards (I got there around 11:30 and it still went on another hour and it was very crowded but if you stand on a street on the outskirts of the palace you see the parade perfectly). Then went to the Royal Mews which was very neat. Then I went to Kensington Palace and walked the park and gardens there and went through the state apartments (very good). Had tea at the Orangery which was ok, make sure you go after 3 or else they are serving lunch. I would have preferred to have tea somewhere else with the ���tower��� of goodies and better service, but for 11 pounds after service charge it was ok. After that went to Harrods and did some shopping. This place is huge, so make sure you get a map. No dress code, people were wearing whatever in there. People were also taking photos which I thought was prohibited. You can find just about anything here. I spend about 2 hours but if I weren���t so tired I would have stayed later. They close at 7 p.m. and are closed on Sundays. Thursday was an ���easy��� day ��� went to Covent Garden for shopping and lunch. Great shops here. Then in the afternoon I went to the British museum, but you could make a whole day here. It���s open until 8:30 on Thursdays. After that I went to a pub for a cider and then headed home to start packing. Friday got up early and began the journey home.

I know this was a lot of info. Please ask any questions you may have!! I know I forgot some good tips in here.

Oceano, California
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1. Re: My London Tips & Review

Airline: American Airlines via LAX sprinkles every day but one.

Was supposed to read:

Airline: American Airlines via LAX

Weather: Chilly and breezy, sprinkles every day but one.

Seattle, Washington
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2. Re: My London Tips & Review

Thanks Rum - this is great! I leave on Saturday and will be taking a lot of tips from you. I'm even on American from LAX -but stuck in economy unfortunately (got free tix with miles)

Glad you had a good time - sounds like you were very busy and enjoyed everything to the maximum.:)

Pacific Grove...
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3. Re: My London Tips & Review

Very fun to read about you and your adventures, rumrunner01.

I'm relieved, though secretly disappointed, to know that I won't have to pack a cute skirt with tights. ;-)

Tony

Central Coast

Detroit, MI
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4. Re: My London Tips & Review

Thank you rr01, you are great for putting that all down for our benefit! I am printing it out and using it to finalize my packing list.

Dumb question, is bottled water available everywhere there like it is now here, from vending machines, etc.? I hate to lug a bottle around, especially because as I remember, trash barrels are scarce in London. But if they have vending machines with bottles of water at the Tube stations I'll be able to stay hydrated and dispose of the bottle after. Let me know, I appreciate it!

Virginia
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5. Re: My London Tips & Review

Hi RumRunner,

Thanks so much for all the useful London intel. I have a couple questions after reading your review.

I'm flying BA. Companion booked Hotelink for me, I have a voucher in hand. Any suggestions for avoiding delays, based on your inbound experience? Do they have a standard route, drop off in certain areas first? Would you use them again?

Also, we are staying in Covent Garden, so any specifics you want to share about that area -- your impressions, shopping, restaurants, activities -- would be welcomed. I've been to London and elsewhere in UK during my college days, but never spent time in that area of London.

Many thanks.

Serena (Countdown: 18 days)

Upminster, United...
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6. Re: My London Tips & Review

I dont think there are many vending machines for bottled water, but you will be able to buy it nearly everywhere in Off Licences (Liquor Stores), newagents, or small supermarkets.

As for using hand gel after the tube, we are a hardy lot in London despite :-

During Autumn of 2000, a team of scientists at the Department of Forensics at University College London removed a row of passenger seats from a Central Line tube carriage for analysis into cleanliness.

Despite London Underground's claim that the interior of their trains are cleaned on a regular basis, the scientists made some alarming discoveries. The analysis was broken down. This is what was found on the surface of the seats:

4 types of hair sample (human, mouse, rat, dog)

7 types of insect (mostly fleas, mostly alive)

vomit originating from at least 9 separate people

human urine originating from at least 4 separate people

human excrement

rodent excrement

human semen

When the seats were taken apart, they found:

the remains of 6 mice

the remains of 2 large rats

1 previously unheard of fungus

It is estimated that by holding one of the armrests, you are transferring, to your body, the natural oils and sweat from as many as 400 different people. It is estimated that it is generally healthier to smoke five cigarettes a day than to travel for one hour a day on the London Underground.

It is far more hygienic to wipe your hand on the inside of a recently flushed toilet bowl before eating, than to wipe your hand on a London Underground seat before eating.

It is estimated that, within London, more work sick-days are taken because of bugs picked up whilst travelling on the London Underground than for any other reason (including alcohol)

Watford
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7. Re: My London Tips & Review

DZM,

You can buy bottled water from supermarkets (easily the cheapest), newsagents, coffee shops and many other places and on some Circle Line tube platforms that have small shops that sell newspapers, sweets etc.

Bins are still in short supply on the tube so keep a small plastic bag to put any rubbish in, keep it in your day bag and dispose of at the end of the day.

Watford
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8. Re: My London Tips & Review

Mr Cellophane,

Thank you so VERY much!

Serena,

Hotelink usually start their drop offs in West London (Kensington, Earls Court) as that is the nearest area to Heathrow. The further east you are staying the later you are likely to be so Covent Garden would be towards the end but it all depends on how many people on the mini-bus and where they are going.

I am not a big fan especially during the weekday morning rush hour when the journey can go on forever but I have a friend who swears by them.

Virginia
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9. Re: My London Tips & Review

Thanks Adam. Welcome back!

Flight arrives Friday at 7:00 am, during the weekday morning rush -- yikes! Perhaps I'll take a Benadryl and try to sleep for the two hours from LHR to CG.

All the talk about germs from the Tube gives my inner nurse an urge to bring disposable latex gloves...just kidding, really. Rode the Metro in DC for years and survived it without damage to my health, except maybe to my hearing.

Serena

Pacific Grove...
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10. Re: My London Tips & Review

That was a delightful inventory of cooties, Mr. Cellphane.

But at least NOW I understand your name...

I have no doubt that you shrinkwrap yourself prior to leaving home each day!

:-)