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Trip Report London: Day 1

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Trip Report London: Day 1

Day 1: staying at the Knightsbridge Hotel near Hyde Park - HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Right off the main drag about 3 blocks from Harrods.

Hubby & I got into London about 10: 30 am. Got on District/Circle line and got off at Westminster stop. Very easy to navigate.

Parliament first - you have to go across the street to a smaller white building to buy tickets. Then back across the street to stand in queue for for Parliament. You put on lariats whilst in line and then go thru airport like security and get your photo taken to wear on the lariat. You can then wait in line for the guided tour - quick wait, I believe they start every 30 minutes or so? Tour guide was great - amazing stories & views of Westminster Hall (the only place you can take pictures) and then into Parliament itself. Great info, amazing architecture and we loved that you get to go into both the House Of Lords and the House Of Commons. Tons of statuary, murals -- beauty everywhere! Tours are max of 25 people - so not to bad to stand and hear the tour guide. Loops you so you end up back at Westminster Hall. We thoroughly enjoyed it & definitely worth the money. Took about 1 hour 15 minutes. After we took some pics of the great detailed architecture on the outside of the building - and checked out Big Ben.

Walked across the street to Westminster Abbey- but was closed for the day. ( I believe closed @ 1? )Took pics outside and had a coffee.

Walked back towards the eye but went up to see #10 Downing Street & Trafalgar Square. TONS of things to see along the way - military statues, etc. #10 was closed to the public down the lane and under heavy guard. Trafalgar was quick - and down the lane you can see Buckingham palace. Walked down there for a bit, but gated off for the London Marathon - planning on walking more around tomorrow, but Buckingham not open to the public until June.

Walked back up Trafalgar to Covent Garden - a ZOO! In my opinion really overrated - mostly just a big clothing mall you can see anywhere. If you need to shop I guess this is the place for international/ famous brands, but it was so insanely crowded with tons of people just standing in every entrance or exit with no consideration for people trying to enter or leave. To me - skip it.

Tip: if you need the Tube - skip Covent Garden stop and go down a few blocks to Leister Square stop - much easier.

Took tube back - Picadilly Line this time. Off at Knightsbridge exit and tried to check out Harrod's - but an absolute madhouse. A cattle call. You couldn't try to stop and browse at anything if you wanted to. Looks fun (especially all the chocolatiers!) but will try during the week when (hopefully) less insane.

Walked back to the hotel to unpack, have some amazing afternoon tea and then relaxed after a long hectic day.

Next day planned: Hyde Park, Kensington Palace and V&A.

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1. Re: Trip Report London: Day 1

Thanks for your report, you certainly packed in a lot for your first day. I agree about covent Garden I don't like it either.

As Harrods is open until 9pm in the evening during the week it's better to visit around 7pm when most of the crowds have gone, I only like to visit the food halls which I think are amazing.

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2. Re: Trip Report London: Day 1

Day 2 update:

Started out (after room service) to Hyde Park as the only nice day we're supposed to have this week. We're right off Cromwell Rd for our hotel (main road in front of Harrod's and V&A) so walked up past V&A towards Hyde Park. Go down Exhibition Rd and you can see the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and more. Very touching is the side of the V&A where there are gouges out of the building everywhere - from the siege & bombing during WWII.

You can zig zag a bit to catch Royal Albert Hall as well - and then across is Hyde Park. Not to miss is the Albert Memorial: huge, golden, beautiful and so many details! A stroll around the park - we didn't hit the Diana Memorial Fountain but went west instead to the pond and then to Kensington Palace.

Kensington Palace: VERY confusing as to where to get tickets- it is not marked and people are milling everywhere. The gift shop person told us the wrong place for the tickets as well. Fail. FYI its the second hallway on the left. A bit pricy to enter, about 15 pounds per adult (?).

It's recently restored and was the home of Victoria growing up as well as when she was married and after Albert died. You can tour the King's apartment ( pretty nice with some great paintings) and then the Queen's apartment ---but be warned. You really don't get to see much of anything for the Queen's apartments. They've moved most of it out and just have a very "arty", bizzare mixed media art installation in all the rooms that are mostly about the little prince (Edward III?) who was going to become king. Not much in there and very uninspiring. Then you can see the "Victoria Exhibit" which was more fun than I thought after the disappointing Queen's chambers. It focuses mostly on her courtship & marriage to Albert and then her ascension to the throne and her grief over Albert's death. Some great stories, pieces of clothing & jewelry and great movie footage of Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Many great paintings & photographs as well of her throughout the years. Then past the pretty large gift shop. There is a small cafe that seemed popular in the gift shop - pastries looked good. Then out to the gardens (small but pretty) and we walked up past the Orangery - very long line ( you can have tea there) so we skipped it & walked back through Hyde Park. A LOT of cyclists and kids on their razor scooters -- some knew how to "drive" and many didn't - so beware!

Then stopped at a Patisserie for brief lunch and then to V&A Museum.

I'm amazed (thank you England!) that V&A is Free - Free! You had to pay for the Cecil Beaton exhibit, but otherwise free and amazing. We only had time to get most of the main floor (Renaissance and some Asian) and were blown away. Words or pics can't explain how much there is to see, the beauty, the detail! You may need a neck brace as we hurt from looking up so much. There are pieces that are probably 50 feet high! Dizzying and worth it (but your neck hurts afterwards).

We need to go back (closed @ 5: 45 pm) to check out the rest. I cannot believe how much there is. Note: don't bring your screaming 2-3 year old in. WHY would you bring such a small child in and then not control it? We had kids running amok, touching things they shouldn't and screaming/ yelling just to hear the echo.Thanks for ruining it for everyone else. Sigh.

Tired after the day - so back at the hotel tonight.

Tomorrow: Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, Buckingham Palace (outside) and trying to tackle Harrod's!

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3. Re: Trip Report London: Day 1

Things should be less busy (if wetter should the forecast prove correct) tomorrow.

Kentucky
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4. Re: Trip Report London: Day 1

Nice reports. The Knightsbridge hotel is part of the Firmdale group, isn't it? How spacious was your room? And quiet?

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5. Re: Trip Report London: Day 1

Yes Traveling Guy - part of Firmdale. The best hotel we've ever stayed at. Great service that really pays attention. Room on 5th floor- Superior room (mid level). Will be posting a review soon. Room is great - beautifully done, great bed, big desk, good flat screen w/ lots of channels, amazing stocked mini bar, great marble bath, an "honesty bar" downstairs where you can make yourself any type of drink, grab water, grab an ice cream..... great afternoon tea - phenomenal flavor.

Room is good size for London- plenty of room for two with a separate hall to the bath up some stairs. View of Harrod's from the room - extremely quiet. We never hear anyone, not outside, not from the hotel.

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6. Re: Trip Report London: Day 1

sounds perfect! Thanks....

Nijmegen...
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7. Re: Trip Report London: Day 1

I love trip reports, thanks for posting!

When I visited the houses of parliament last July I was blown away at how beautiful it looked. Well apart from the off white plastic telephones.

Did you feel Kensington Palace was worth the 15 pounds entry fee? The reviews arent that good and I dont like the sound of the arty room displays...

Looking forward to reading the rest!

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8. Re: Trip Report London: Day 1

Orange Tigger 7: Not sure it was worth that much, I'd have paid a bit, but that was a lot for one ok section, one bad section and one interesting section. I don't mind that it goes towards restoration, but it was nothing like other sites or palaces.

Nijmegen...
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9. Re: Trip Report London: Day 1

Thanks for explaning. Have decided against going to Kensington Palace btw, people are saying it was better before the big refurbishment which cost millions

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10. Re: Trip Report London: Day 1

Day 3: very cold, rainy & windy. Not good start.

Got some coffee & pastry at local shop down the street & hopped on the South Kensington tube line and got off at Westminster.

Westminster Abbey: two queues - one for cash, one for credit cards. Both long. The cash seemed to be moving faster, so hopped there. About a 10 minute wait - with everyone trying to poke your eye out w/ their umbrella. Got through queue - dealt with people standing in every doorway possible. You can get a map and then an audio guide for free. I laughed as the main narrator is Jeremy Irons - for some reason, although I've seen him in tons of movies I just thought of Scar from "The Lion King." Very much worth the cost - TONS to see with architecture, history. Many kings & queens buried there, along with merchants, politicians that were movers & shakers in there day. Crypts from the 11th century up to the present. NOTE: a lot of the tiny chapels & crypts are very narrow doorways and you have to fight to get in. People insisted on blocking them, walking broad-way with giant backpacks and strollers. I wanted to be a Cardinal and kick them all out. There is a section too for writers (Chaucer, Shakespeare, George Elliot, Lewis Carroll, Tennyson, Byron, etc.) and a section with some admirals, Prime Ministers, etc. Also you go around an open air chamber, see some areas restored after WWII. There are some places to do prayer/ light a candle and a very small gift shop & cafe. Definitely worth the hassle and crowds.

Westminster Cathedral: Walked about 10 blocks to the Cathedral. It's a working Cathedral - so tried to be respectful of the worshippers. Was surprised it was built in 1905 - looks older. A bit more of a dark, dour "serious" church - but take the time to walk around the edges to see all the tiny chapels. Most are in the theme of a saint and have beautiful mosaics. A very basic church in the middle, very modest. Maybe took us 30-45 minutes. But a nice side trip and it's free (donations are appreciated.) There is a big tower you can climb for free to see a view of London - but I think its 300 steps or so and we were way too tired. There is apparently a little exhibit as well of some church items - but you need tickets.

Buckingham Palace: we braved the very cold blowing wind to walk down Buckingham Gate Rd to Buckingham Palace. About a 10 minute walk. Still fun to see and think of what ceremonies/ parades we've seen on TV right THERE! Lots of gates & statuary to take pics of. Then headed across St James's Park to the "Green Station (?)" Tube stop (5 minutes?) and took PIcadilly LIne 2 stops to Knightsbridge and to Harrod's.

Harrod's: we knew this would be mayhem having stopped in on Saturday. Still crazy - but definitely less crowded on a Monday. Stopped at the Jo Malone fragrance counter - great service. Then to the food court area - bought chocolates & truffles from a few different places. Again, friendly, fast, courteous service. Walked through mens dept a bit and then upstairs to level 2 with the intention of having tea.

Walked through the "gift shop" area which was madness - but ok. Got a few cheesey souveneirs but not many as, of course, overpriced. Bathroom facilities very clean. Many tourists taking pics with the oversized Harrod's bears - but MAN (!) they took 5 minutes to take one pic and made everyone wait. (sigh). Then to Harrod's tea house - the horror of our day.

Worst experience ever - just wanted to give a warning as so many planning trips on this forum ask about afternoon tea.

This was the worst experience I've ever had - I've had better service at a McDonalds and at a Tesco.

Wasn't that busy when we went - half full. waited for over 5 minutes before anyone even looked at us. Then it was 8 waiters who looked at us, but didn't even acknowledge us in a "someone will be with you shortly " or anything. I wanted to leave - hubby thought we should try it out. Finally a manager came over - said "for two?" then walked away. She bussed a table, grabbed a platter, signed a paper, talked to three waiters, grabbed one menu, walked away again, walked passed us twice then finally seated us. Everyone we saw waiting got this same treatment.

Waiters were clueless and very slow. Ordered two kinds of tea ( full w/ sandwiches and then a tea w/ sweets). Waited forever. Tea was really really weak. When food finally came -no plates for us. We never got plates, had to shove all the food together and borrow those plates. One of my pastries tasted like Cherry Nyquil, the scones were not warm and all the sweets & sandwiches were dried out. We later heard the waiter tell another table everything was pre-made & brought in. Ew. No no one came to check on us. Place was filthy. Had to beg to get the check - which was $81 in USD. $81! I know it's Harrod's and in London, so I expected to pay quite a bit, but not for the worst service ever. Then the waiter didn't want to take my payment - we were eager to get OUT of there asap and he said "I'll come back for your payment" - yeah 15 minutes later.

People spare yourself the pain & avoid it like the plague - I'm writing the General Manager now.

Now back to the hotel for some peace and quiet.

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