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gardkarlsen London - A travel report by Gard
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London,  United Kingdom - flag United Kingdom
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gardkarlsen's travel reports

A few days in London

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London travelogue picture
I had only been to London one time before prior to this trip and that was only for one day. But this time we had plenty of time to look around. We landed in London about noon on Wednesday 31st of May 2000 and we returned from London on the 5th of June.

Favourite spots:
London travelogue picture
There are so many things to see and do in a historic town like London and I don't feel that I can pick out any favorite spots. London is so familiar from movies, TV series and stuff like that and it was unreal to all of a sudden be able to see these places in real life.

What's really great:
London travelogue picture
It is probably a very standard answer but I really enjoyed the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace

Sights:
London travelogue picture
London Eye, HMS Belfast, London Dudgeon, The Millennium Dome, changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace,Tower of London

Accommodations:
London travelogue picture
Our hotel was called Monopole and is located in Sussex Gardens near Paddington Station. The hotel itself wasn’t much to brag about. I guess it was cheap according to London standards (about £40 a night for two people). But the room we got had a hard bed, a small TV with few TV station (not that we stayed in much) and in the bathroom there were no shower curtain around the shower so by the time we finished showering the entire floor was wet :-)

Other recommendations:
London travelogue picture
At first I didn’t know if I wanted to write much about London. I mean, everyone knows about London and there is so much information about the city on the Internet. But hey, every experience is unique so here is a bit about our trip to London.

I have been in London one time before but that was just for one day. At that time we came in from Houston in the USA and it was quite a change to go from a “typical” American big city to a European big city. Houston is a smaller city that London but I was fascinated by the fact that London still has the narrow streets and the feeling of history. But that time I was jetlagged and tired so I didn’t really pay attention to all the things I saw and I really looked forward to going there again.

This time we landed in London about noon on Wednesday 31st of May 2000. Our flight came to Gatwick airport and from there it is easy to go by train (The Gatwick Express) straight into Victoria Station in London. Our hotel was called Monopole and is located in Sussex Gardens near Paddington Station. The hotel itself wasn’t much to brag about. I guess it was cheap according to London standards (about £40 a night for two people). But the room we got had a hard bed, a small TV with few TV station (not that we stayed in much) and in the bathroom there were no shower curtain around the shower so by the time we finished showering the entire floor was wet :-)

The first thing we had to do was get a way to get around London. And I feel there is only one way to do that and that is by the underground. We normally travel around quite a lot so we found out that a weeklong pass was the right thing for us. It cost us about £18 each to get zone 1 and 2 covered. We had to take a picture first but that was no problem since there are photo machines on most of the tube stations. A single trip was about £1,5 so I think it was a smart investment during our 6 day visit. I think that the Metro in Paris is better than the underground. We did run into some problems when taking the tube. The trains was delayed, we stopped on the tracks many times and had to wait and one day we had to take detours because District and Circle line was not running at all. But the staff at the underground seemed very friendly and helpful and I think they help out tourists a lot.

One of the first things that we did was to take a bus trip in London. There are many companies that have sightseeing tours and we went on the Pride tour bus. We took the grand tour that took us around Trafalgar, parliament, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Piccadilly Circus and so on.

I just had to visit HMS Belfast. HMS Belfast is an old navy cruiser that has been put up as a museum on the Thames. It was about £5 each to get into the boat but it was worth it at least if you have an interest in navy ships. We could walk around in the different zones of the boat from bridge to boiler rooms. I was once in the navy and it was fun to see how a WW2 boat looks like.

The boat is located near London Bridge station so it was easy to get to it. We combined it with the visit to the London Eye (www.ba-londoneye.com). This is a huge Ferris wheel that has been put up by British Airways in Jubilee park (across the river from the parliament). The tickets have to be bought in advance and it seems to be very popular. When we came to buy tickets for the next day they only had free tickets at 9 am and 9 pm. So we bought two days in advance. According to our guide in the coach (each coach can take up to 25 people) the wheel opened in early March this year and it cost something like £35 million. When we reached the top of 135 meters we had a very good view of the city. It is strange looking down on Big Ben. The trip took about 30 minutes and we had to queue up for like 30 minutes to get on it but it was worth it. Each ticket costs about £7,5.

Not far from HMS Belfast you’ll find the London Dudgeon (www.thedungeons.com). I guess this is the wicked version of Madam Tussaud.. The place has a lot of things to show how London was back in the good old days. How people were tortured, burnt and so on. There is also a bit of information about Jack the Ripper and The great fire of London in 1666. The line outside the place was so long when we got there. I decided that time is money so I went 100 meters up the street and I bought tickets at the tourist information booth. It was a bit more expensive than usual but we got in pretty fast cause we could get in using the line for people with pre-paid tickets. Our tickets were £11 each.

We also went to the Tower of London (tower-of-london.com). There is one great thing about this place and that is the crown Jewels. The crowns and swords and so on were just amazing to look at. But I’m not sure that it was worth the £11 it costs to get into the place cause there is really not that much to see in there. We did walk through the white tower but it got a bit claustrophobic cause there were so many people in there and we had to walk in line around the whole place.

We had a quick stop at the British museum. Major maintenance work is being carried out at the museum so it looks like a big construction yard. We only stayed there for like an hour and we focused mainly on the Egyptian exhibits.

Every time I visit a big city it feels like a lot of the attractions are being refurbished. It was the same in Paris (Notre Dame and Pompidou centre) and it was the same in London. We discovered that parts of St. Paul’s cathedral were closed due to maintenance. We were thinking about paying to get it when we heard an American come out of there complaining that he had paid a normal ticket and then it turns out that the whispering gallery was closed.

We did our share of walking in London (like we always do). We walked from the parliament (we even got to hear Big Ben toll) to Trafalgar square, onto Piccadilly Circus and to Covent Garden. We walked in Hyde Park and on Oxford Street/Regents street to check out some of the shopping facilities. And I must say that I was impressed with Selfridges’s on Oxford Street. That store is really huge! We walked along the river from London Bridge past HMS Belfast across Tower Bridge past Tower of London and to the Monument. The Monument is a 62-meter column and it was made to commemorate the fire of 1666. If you pay £1,5 you can walk the stairs to the top of it. We also walked around Leicester Square and into the little Chinatown near by. It was quite amazing to all of a sudden come over a store that sold fresh Rambutan and fresh Durian. Durian is a fruit that is loved in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. And if you go to these countries during the Durian season you’ll smell it J

One of the places that I really looked forward to visiting before we went to London was The Millennium Done (www.dome2000.co.uk). The first time I got aware of it was when I went to see the last James Bond film and he ended up on top of it. The Dome is “ a whole day of inspiration, excitement and entrainment” and it will only be open this year. It is easy to get out to the Dome by using the tube. It is located near Greenwich so it takes a bit to get out there. We bought tickets at a newsagent in London because everywhere I read it said that tickets could not be bought at the Dome. I think they have changed that cause it looked like there were ticket lines at the Dome. It was quite expensive to get in (£20 each) but we spent all day at the Dome and I must say that it was worth it. The Dome is divided into zones and some are better than others. It got a bit crowded as the day went by especially after the show in the central arena. The show in the central arena wasn’t that great by the way. We ended the day by seeing Blackadder Back and Forth on the cinema located right next to the dome.

I think that the best advice I have to other visitors is to not try and see too much at the time. Some days we ended up travelling a lot without getting to see much. Like when we wanted to see the coronation day salute in Hyde Park. We were going to Hyde Park but then we decided to stop by some stores first. Because of this (and because no one we asked knew were the salute would take place) we ended up getting there as they fired the last salute. Then we decided to go to the Tower of London see the salute there but because of problems on the tube we missed that too. So it felt like we wasted a couple of hours.

One of the most impressive things in London is the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. I thought that it was just a simple change of guards and I never really understood why there is so much fuzz about it. But I understand it now. First of all there was a “parade” of guards and a band that walked up to the palace. The bands played several times during the changing and then there was a parade of guards and band leaving the palace. We got to hear Bohemian Rhapsody (original by Queen) and they played it so well and we got to hear a couple of songs played with bagpipes and I just love that. But if you want to see it all you better get there early. We came there like 10 minutes in advance and the place was just packed with tourists.

We decided that we had to try fish and chips one day since this is the.eh..national dish. We tried in a place near Convent Garden and it was pretty good. Most of the time we just ate breakfast at the hotel and then we grabbed some fast food during the day. We went out to eat on an Asian restaurant one night. It was not expensive and the food was good (and very hot). Being an ice cream lover I did find my way to the Haagen Daaz place on Leicester Square. Try the cookies and Cream. It is wonderful.

The days past so fast in London and all of a sudden it was time to go home. We returned from London on the 5th of June. We did want to see a musical, we wanted to go to a movie, we wanted to go to a marked but we never found the time for this. Most of the times we were pretty exhausted when we came back to the hotel after a day of sightseeing. So if you are going to London stay there for as many days as you can so you can see it all without having to rush through it all. It will be expensive but it is worth it.

But I still have to confess that I do like Paris better than London.

Published on Thursday January 2th, 2003


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