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Managing Our Trip to London: a summary

Boston...
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Managing Our Trip to London: a summary

We just returned from spending 10 days in London and all in all we had a great time. We visited several tourist sites but by no means all. We used the tube, buses, and our feet but no cabs. We found places to eat but never came in contact with fish and chips. We saw 2 delightful shows, one of which was Jersey Boys. We walked up to the tkts booth in Leicester Square, bought 2 tickets and found ourselves in great seats. We bumped into the National Portrait Gallery quite by accident and found ourselves in front of the official portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge. We had very fine weather but again quite by accident we happened upon James Smith & Sons (umbrellas and walking sticks) wherein I bought a travel umbrella and the most beautiful ladies umbrella in the shop. This - in spite of the fact that Los Angeles is having a drought. The umbrella is a work of art: take my word for it.

In truth I over-researched London having spent a lot of time on TA asking questions, seeking clarifications. But it paid off. We had little if any trouble and wasted very little time (the bane of the tourist). The only glitch we encountered was with London Walks at the Tower of London. We had tickets to a show in the afternoon so we expected the walk to begin at 11am and when the guide was still fooling around at 11:15 with collecting money, etc., we left. We hopped back on the tube and headed for Leicester Square. In the process we tripped over the National Portrait Gallery. We thought it a darn good exchange, but it also soured us on London Walks. Had we not had tickets for an afternoon show things might have been different, but as it was we were pressed for time.

I remember an entry out here on TA saying that no matter what we do, we'll be recognized as tourists. What a hoot! Every other person we saw either had a map or a schematic of the tube! Brits coming into London from the outskirts have no more idea about how to get around in London than we did!! The only tube trip where we felt a bit skittish was the trip out of LHR! To someone from Los Angeles the tube is simply an underground freeway with connections and transfers. The confusing thing about the tube is getting your bearings once you're out on the street. For that I had a compass and it proved to be one of the most important items I packed. I can't remember a single entry on TA that even mentioned taking a compass. How else to get your bearings? No point asking anyone for directions: we quickly learned to rely on our own resources.

So, what did we learn that is worth passing on? First, take a compass. It will prove to be indispensable. Second, use London AZ or some other detailed map book to get around. Do not even bother bringing a map because none of them has enough detail to keep you from getting lost. Third, study the tube map before coming to London and at least learn which tube lines go where and how they interconnect. It struck us as totally crazy but standing outside of Buckingham Palace we were giving directions to tourists who were so discombobulated that they didn't know which way was north. My little compass got them on their way again.

U.S. expats
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for Windsor, London, Dry Tortugas National Park
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41. Re: Managing Our Trip to London: a summary

yup, cringing.

Illinois
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42. Re: Managing Our Trip to London: a summary

My daughter (15) knows how to use a compass. She learned at summer camp. Of course she also navigated us around Orkney with only an OS map (no compass). Now there maybe it would have helped as they don't seem to feel the need to label the roads and the sheep pretty much all looked the same to me. The military didn't teach me to use a compass.

I'm not sure how this got to be about Americans vs British. I'd imagine we both have equally good (or bad) senses of direction and probably about the same percentage know how to use a compass. (Unless they teach that in school in Britain - they don't here.)

I doubt most people's comments on here have a whole lot to do with the economy or the role the writer's country plays in the world.

London, UK
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43. Re: Managing Our Trip to London: a summary

I tend to look at the sun to tell the rough direction, but I guess saying that will just start another argument about British vs US weather.

I think we may just have to agree that some people find a compass helpful in London and the rest of us don't.

London, United...
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44. Re: Managing Our Trip to London: a summary

Ah! Out of the city I use the sun to estimate direction (and time) but it's often obscured by buildings in the city, hence the usefulness of a compass.

And to correct a perhaps misapprehension, I don't use it in the city for actual route following (as I would in the wilds) - it's one quick glance to orientate myself.

London, England
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45. Re: Managing Our Trip to London: a summary

I think the OP does deserve some praise for helping us out with our flagging economy. I might return the favour and holiday in Detroit next year. We are all in the same boat lets face it.

I like the mental image of the OP and ex military dh marching around London with their compass too. They could use those on maneuvre hand signals to cross roads.

Nijmegen...
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46. Re: Managing Our Trip to London: a summary

The euro has blown the pound out of the water??? I beg to differ. Yes the converter rate is slightly better but not significantly.

And re the compass, as a previous poster said they are not good with street maps. I got very comfused for a while because everything looked different from google maps, untill I was in Westminster and the Thames was on the top of the map.... very confusing for me but I just looked at the signs or Google maps

Nijmegen...
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47. Re: Managing Our Trip to London: a summary

' In Los Angeles we look at the mountains and say "ah, that's north" or at the beach people look at the Pacific Ocean and say "ah, that's west --I can see Hawaii'

You can see an island that is 5 hours away by plane?

Medford, New York
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48. Re: Managing Our Trip to London: a summary

removed (redundant)

Edited: 03 September 2013, 21:49
USA
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49. Re: Managing Our Trip to London: a summary

I started to carry a compass after my first trip to London. I frequently did not know which side of the road I had exited a station onto. Was I on the Thames side and did I have to turn right to get to my destination or was I on the other side and should I turn left? I did not like walking to the next intersection to find a street name and find that I needed to retrace my steps and go back the way I had come. Sorry you did not find my post about compass use from 2007, ReadandWeep: tripadvisor.com/…5877859

I enjoyed your trip report, glad you had a good time, and I am sorry the thread degenerated.

Boston...
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50. Re: Managing Our Trip to London: a summary

I think the compass idea is good. Important to remember that people take in information in different ways. Some of my friends have a horrible sense of direction, and perhaps a compass would never help them, I don't know. But I wish I had remembered the compass within in my iPhone, or I would have tried this on our recent trip to London. Your tip about the detailed map of London is very true. I meant to buy one but kept relying on a cheapie map that left out many smaller streets -- my problem was that I kept under-estimating how far apart things were. London is huge. A good map makes a terrific memento of your trip, as well.