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.