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London First-timer help wanted

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London First-timer help wanted

My husband and I are going to London in late October for a week. We are staying at the Holiday Inn Kensington Forum. It is very close to the Gloucester Road Tube Station.

It will be my first time ever in the UK and I am very excited. I will of course do all the touristy greatest hits stuff as much as possible. I did go ahead and get us the Londonpass. I know some say it’s too pricey, but I liked the inclusion of transportation as well as the free admissions, etc. Plus there are some food discounts like 2 for 1 at Wagamama so I figured that could help. Other than London Eye most of our attractions and transport are paid for now so that is less we have to worry about spending once we are over there.

A few questions:

We are landing at Gatwick. Just our luck that transport is not included in the Londonpass. Should I take the train or the bus to my hotel/tube stop? Also how long will it take to get our luggage and get through Customs?

Transportation to and admission to Windsor is included with Londonpass. Originally I had not planned any other day trips out of the city but am starting to think otherwise. If I do just one other day trip, would you recommend: Stratford on Avon, a Bath and Stonehenge trip, or Oxford or Cambridge? Right now I am leaning toward Bath and Stonehenge.

West End: Everyone says you must go to a West End show. However, I live a few hours’ drive from NYC and manage to see 2-3 Broadway shows a year. Is the West End experience that different from/superior to Broadway? If I don’t do that I can save a bunch of money and spend it elsewhere, but I don’t want to miss out if it is truly worth doing.

We are looking for English pubs- I love beer and can’t wait to sample local ales, as well as pub grub. Any recommendations either within walking distance of our hotel or otherwise easily gotten to?

As a Beatles fan, should I go to Abbey Road Studios? Any other suggestions for Beatles sites/souvenirs?

Money matters: Should I wait until I get there to exchange my money or do it here? Also, I am starting to get the sense that Discover is not too commonly taken in the UK. Is this indeed the case? That is our main card but fortunately we do have a Master Card as a backup.

Any and all advice welcome! Thanks in advance.

Redlands, California
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11. Re: London First-timer help wanted

If breakfast is not included in your room rate, there is a branch of "Paul" cafe and bakery right across from the Gloucester Road tube station for a yummy pastry and cafe au lait; there's also a big Waitrose grocery store and a Boots right next to the station, useful if you forget toothpaste or an umbrella!

I wouldn't go to a musical but you might check to see if there is a "straight" play that interests you--perhaps withe a well-known actor. (Ralph Fiennes was in a play when I was there this spring.)

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12. Re: London First-timer help wanted

I'll echo here (and this is my hobbyhorse) that when in London it's a great chance to see a real PLAY rather than a generic musical. I've seen some of the finest actors in the world on London stages. In fact, I "discovered" Ben Kingsley in about 1978 in a production of "Volpone"--it wasn't a major role, but I did make a note of his performance in my travel journal. When I saw him in Gandhi a few years later, I thought, That's the guy! I love the British playwrights, and the London stage is more likely to do plays from writers around the world, whereas even NY is pretty provincial.

Grab a copy of What's On or Time Out when you get to London (they're weekly entertainment magazines), read the reviews, see who's in the plays, and see the best theatre in the world.

Destination Expert
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13. Re: London First-timer help wanted

What drtee said.

London has an incredibly varied range of theatre (from pub/finge to Shakespeare and beyond). If you do go to theatre don't limit yourself to musicals.

DOn't think you'll be able to get into Abbey Road studios but you could visit Abbey Road itself or just look at the webcam


fancyapint is a reliable source of pint parlours. Day trip - Bath is a world heritage site and easy to do on your own on the train from Paddington and compact with walking tours to get the most of the city.


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14. Re: London First-timer help wanted

To answer the question about Visa posted earlier - yes the same applies as with Mastercard but you only need the PIN for ATM withdrawls. For purchases we now have something called Chip & Pin where you do need a Pin but the machine reads your card as being from a country that doesn't have that and you sign a slip in the usual way.

If you really really want to know more - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chip_%26_PIN

western springs, il
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15. Re: London First-timer help wanted

I would suggest a Beatles Walk with Richard.

Very informative, fun, finishes at Abbey Road.

Lake Tahoe
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16. Re: London First-timer help wanted

I recently returned from visiting family in England and can help in a couple of areas. It took approximately 1.5 hrs to get through customs & immigration. Very crowded. No place to sit, so just have to chill. This is the norm for Gatwick.

Check the Stonehenge/Bath trips on-line before you leave. Better to get an Up Close & Personal trip that gets you to Stonehenge either before it opens or after it closes. Otherwise you just view from a distance. Some charter bus services will pick you up from a local hotel, otherwise you pick up at the Victoria bus station.

The West End is a treat. Shows are very expensive but look at matinees instead. I loved walking around the London streets. Visit Covent Garden and get a Ploughmans lunch at Punch & Judy (Pub & Restaurant). I prefer the back side of the Pub where they have a very nice outdoor (but indoor) lower level area. I go there every time I visit London and its ambience hasn't changed a bit.

England has instituted the Chip & Pin credit card. Some places will refuse to take your card, but just ask for a supervisor and they will swipe it for you. There are many cash machines available where you can withdraw from your Bank with no exchange fee.

Be sure to use the Thames Clipper (boat) to get around. You can pick it up at various docks and it takes you down to the "02" convention center (Tut Exhibit curently), and all the way back to London Bridge with many stops along the way. Great fun. Can get coffee & snacks on there too as seats have tray backs. Use like a bus, get off to visit areas like Greenwich then get back on to travel to the next stop. Wonderful way to see London!

Most of all, have a great trip. London is a fantastic place to visit even for me. I was born there 65 years ago and never tire of sightseeing when I go back.

Hope this is helpful.

space coast, fl
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17. Re: London First-timer help wanted

I agree with everything Yovdo said, except The West End Shows. I think they are much cheaper than NYC! Just go to the half priced sales at Leister Square or the Theater itself. Every show I have seen has been cheaper than NYC.

I took the boat from Westmisister to Geenwich this summer. It's a very enjoyable boat trip.

To me going to a show is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening if you've been to London before. Even if not before!

18. Re: London First-timer help wanted

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