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Author Topic: London trip-report  (Read 3022 times)

Aimless

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London trip-report
« on: 31 May 2014, 18:02 »

Wotcher!

The ginger and I will be in London 8th-15th Aug to celebrate our first anniversary as an old married couple. since neither of us have been there as adults we'd really love to get some tips on

- where to live (fairly central or very close by tube/bus, hotel or airbnb)
- what to do (shows, events, circuses for the masses :o)
- where to eat :D (tasty and unique and underrated)

Any all help would be appreciated and also let's have beer and/or curry
« Last Edit: 22 Aug 2014, 16:23 by Aimless »
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Barmymoo

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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #1 on: 01 Jun 2014, 02:27 »

Find somewhere a bit out of the centre that's walking distance to a tube station. You might end up taking a 45 minute tube journey into the city but it's worth it for the drop in hotel prices.

Speaking of tubes, you can buy a Visitor Oyster Card which will make travelling much easier (no need to queue for tickets) and also cheaper than buying individual tickets or even day passes. You have to get this before you come to the UK though. Here is a slightly out of date map showing the walking distances between Tube stations if you want to avoid the crush. You can use an Oyster card on the bus as well, which is quick except during rush hour.

Lots of museums are free or relatively cheap; my friend suggests taking a boat trip from Westminster to Greenwich. You can find a lot of stuff on the Time Out website - I haven't used it but it looks good and is apparently fairly comprehensive. If you want to go to West End shows in particular, my London-dwelling friend suggests looking at Theatre Monkey to make sure you're getting good value tickets. You can often get cheaper tickets for good seats on the day if you queue for a while (but you can't guarantee getting one - this is a good option if you don't really mind what you see).

As for where to eat, I haven't really got any suggestions particularly. Look for places off the tourist trail (this is true wherever you visit though). Food in London is more expensive than in the rest of the UK but some places are more reasonable than others.

Irritatingly I'm not free that week, I have the following week off but I'm on the postnatal ward that week. I might have a couple of days free but won't know until the week before in all likelihood. If I can come down and visit I will join you for a beer/curry!
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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #2 on: 01 Jun 2014, 04:05 »

Also check out these passes.
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Aimless

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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #3 on: 01 Jun 2014, 05:00 »

Thanks! Both those passes should come in handy :)

Re. accommodation, we'd like to avoid 45min tube rides, and the reason I'm asking here is partly because when searching airbnb it's surprisingly difficult to figure out which neighbourhoods/areas are reasonably central and nice! >_<
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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #4 on: 01 Jun 2014, 07:10 »

The museums, definitely. I'd recommend the British Museum in particular, though you won't get through all of it properly. The science and natural history museums are also good, but (I think) not as good. I've not been to the V&A, so I can't speak for that one.

They're also free, which is handy.
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Ben

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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #5 on: 01 Jun 2014, 07:34 »

London hotels are pretty infamous, with good reason. They also aren't cheap. If you want to be central, you could try around the Lancaster Gate area. But "stay outside the centre" gets my vote, too.

Most tourists over-extend themselves, getting around Central London isn't quick. Hyde Park, St James' Park and Green Park are the main open spaces in the centre and a good place for open-air lunch if the weather is good. Look for Pret-a-Manger, a sandwich chain which seems to be on every street corner and cheap, by London standards anyway. Tesco Express are a good source of sandwiches and drinks, too. J D Wetherspoon's are a chain pub that serves passable beer and pub food at reasonable prices. Starbucks and Costa are what you would expect, as are McDonalds. Remember that it isn't usual to tip in the UK and table service in pubs is largely unknown.

"Fries" are the things you get in MacDonalds, crisps are what Americans call "chips" and are sold in pubs, with beer. "Chips" are big, greasy fried potato slices eaten with fried fish, battered sausages, or on their own, usually doused in salt and vinegar. Brits love them, Americans usually find them revolting and the Dutch smother them in mayonnaise.

I always recommend St Paul's Cathedral. Go to the Whispering Gallery while you are there. London Eye is spectacular but you MUST book in advance. Do the American Tourist thing and walk across to Westminster, it's only a few minutes walk from the Eye. Those open-top buses are fun, so is a trip on the river - book this near Westminster Bridge. Depending on your tastes, the best museums are the Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert - all these are close together. British Museum is good, that's in Bloomsbury, near Kings Cross

Coventry Garden and Trafalgar Square are close and popular with tourists.

Avoid the Tower of London, Madame Tussaud's and London Dungeon. The Tower is a magnet fir every bus party and tour group in London, the other two are over-priced disappointments.

The Underground is THE way to get about. It has the great advantage of actually going to useful places, unlike the Heathrow Express which leaves you stranded on an outlying suburban platform at Paddington.

As I don't know your nationality some of this May be superfluous.

Have fun



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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #6 on: 01 Jun 2014, 08:51 »

It isn't usual to tip here? I've always tipped and so does everyone I know  :?

Also, Tate Modern is having an amazing Matisse exhibition, with only his cut outs. I really wish I'd make it to London this summer to see it, but that seems unlikely. Anyway, you should go if you're into that sort of stuff! It looks incredible!
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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #7 on: 01 Jun 2014, 08:58 »

I don't know how fancy you want your accomodation to be, but when I was in London I stayed in the following hostel (Careful: Hostel, not hotel. So if you want an actual hotel, this is probably not for you):
http://www.palmerslodges.com/home/
They have two hostels in London. I stayed in the one near the Swiss Cottage Tube Station (like, not even 5 mins from the tube station) which is very central. While the rooms don't have huge comfort, it's cheap and rather nice for a hostel (actually very nice, I think) and they have rooms for two on top of the hostel-typical larger dorms. When I go to London again, I'd totally go back. Maybe at least have a look even if you've only considered hotels up to now!

About activities and things to visit, I have two tips that are somewhat outside the classical tourist canon (but not secrets either):
- The Borough Market in Southwark on the southern bank of the Thames (sort of near this weird skyscraper, The Shard). You can look it up on Wikipedia and most tourist guides probably have it as well. This is a really good place to go for food; there is one stall that sells very good kangaroo burgers (if you're into that). Basically, there is all other kind of food you can imagine, too.
- Brick Lane and the surrounding area in East London. Go on a Sunday, then there are several markets (vintage clothes, more food from all over the world; when I was there they also had one for second-hand books) filled with lots of actual Londoners. There is a flower/plant market somewhere near the north end of Brick Lane in Columbia Road (it's a bit of a walk) and lots of the houses are full of interesting Street Art - I liked it a lot. Brick Lane and the Columbia Road Flower Market took us roughly from a late morning to four o' clock in the afternoon, but we also went very slowly looking at all the shops, buying things, getting food...

One more food/drinks recommendation: Gordon's Wine Bar, which is near Charing Cross Station. It's usually very crowded, but nice if you manage to get a table outside.

-- Metope posted faster than me --
OHHH YES, I second Tate Modern! The permanent exhibition is worth seeing as well! And it's free.

Edit: Fixed typo.
« Last Edit: 01 Jun 2014, 09:09 by Mlle Germain »
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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #8 on: 01 Jun 2014, 09:02 »

I tip at restaurants, usually, and I often but not always tip taxi drivers. In the USA it seemed like it was usual to tip more, like the person who packs your shopping bags or whatever, but that isn't done here. Oh and I tip hairdressers, or I did when I got my hair cut!
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BeoPuppy

Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #9 on: 01 Jun 2014, 10:40 »

See the Tates!

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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #10 on: 01 Jun 2014, 13:49 »

Brick Lane is also the place to get a curry (it's over ten years since I went there of an evening, but I doubt it's changed much).

What May said on tipping (where restaurants only means seated service).

Tate Modern - an amazing building conversion, fine collections and special exhibitions, sometimes even concerts (Nic's played there a couple of times, once playing some strange music that was written by the composer George Antheil in the 1930s as a response to a book of pictures by Max Ernst which was projected as he played - sadly the video is no longer available).
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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #11 on: 01 Jun 2014, 15:28 »

Thanks for the tips! :D

Our search for accommodation has been a little frustrating because we're looking for private rooms for seven consecutive nights and would also like a bathroom to ourselves. However, we think this may be the best alternative we've found so far to a regular hotel: http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/247-London-Studios/London/84154?dateFrom=2014-08-08&dateTo=2014-08-15#facilities

Decent studio apartments with kitchens/kitchenettes but I'd love some info on the location, eg. if the area is summat pleasant in its own right, if it's reasonably close to other places of interest etc. The hotels we've looked at are at least 50% more expensive, which is palatable, and the locations seem all right, but I really like the thought of being able to cook every now and then.

Thanks for the tips on places to eat and please keep 'em coming, esp. places with nice atmosphere, good places for eating unusual dishes, really really traditional dishes or with a nose-to-tail kinda theme =) I only had Duck & Waffle, Flat Iron and "a buncha curry-houses on Brick Lane". I'm hoping to have a nice long list by the time we get there! Brick Lane was one of the best places for food when we were in London many years ago, not only because the food was delicious but also because the service was great esp. in comparison to many other places.

I'm actually a little apprehensive about experiencing once again what I've since come to think of as "London service". We usually tip, but London is one of the few cities we've visited where we frequently felt like we really didn't want to because of poor service and/or surprisingly unpleasant staff. No doubt we were just unlucky but it is a little scary nonetheless :o



Tips about fun markets and the like are really great, the more the better! We'll be hitting a museum or two, and maybe some sort of concert and/or musical or play, but most of the time (weather conditions permitting *fingers crossed*) will be spent roaming around on foot.
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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #12 on: 01 Jun 2014, 15:41 »

LONDON AUGUST QC MEETUP

THIS IS FUCKING HAPPENING

WHO IS IN? I AM SO IN

(If Aimless is cool with that)

Ben

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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #13 on: 01 Jun 2014, 18:22 »

Curry houses are usually a fairly safe bet, pick one that looks ok and you probably won't be disappointed. Personally, I don't think the British have a clue about hotel-keeping generally and I usually stay in Holiday Inn or something similar that has a reasonably modern, purpose-built building with en-suite. Welcome Break (now Days Inn ) are the same sort if thing. One good thing about working for oil companies is that the expenses flow fairly freely so if in London I just let HR do the booking with Radisson or similar, or go home on the train because ECML run pretty much 24/7.

Borough Market is interesting, you will probsbly recognise the location because it is much used for "period" location filming . It also has one if the few remaining "early doors" pubs open from 0600-0900 to serve market workers. There used to be quite a few of these around the Strand area when Covent Garden and Billingsgate were working markets but they are long gone. London Bridge or Southwark tube for this one.



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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #14 on: 02 Jun 2014, 02:58 »

Service in the UK is definitely different from service in the USA in my experience. There's not quite so much attentiveness (as a result, I often felt quite irritated by how much people hovered in the US!) and maybe more delays. But the flipside is that you absolutely may choose not to tip if you don't feel that the service was good, and their response will be "huh, no tip" rather than "oh shit, how am I going to buy dinner tonight?!".
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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #15 on: 03 Jun 2014, 15:37 »

LONDON AUGUST QC MEETUP

THIS IS FUCKING HAPPENING

WHO IS IN? I AM SO IN

(If Aimless is cool with that)

If meetup = beer & food and hanging out then I don't see why not, how hard could it be? :o I'm hoping to rope in people from at least two other forums as well :)

So, is this location okay or horrible:

http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/247-London-Studios/London/84154?dateFrom=2014-08-08&dateTo=2014-08-15#facilities


??
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Aimless

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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #16 on: 06 Aug 2014, 13:58 »

Wheee!

Thanks for the tips :) we leave for London on friday and so far the only things that are set are a wedding and dinner on our first anniversary :) reservations for our (my) restaurant wishlist have been very difficult, I was probably weeks late when I started :o I'm told Leicester Square may be a good place to buy cheap tickets for various shows so we might check it out just for that, but for the most part we'll probably be strolling around, go to markets, maybe take a trip on the Thames. Oooor if the weather's anything like I've heard, we'll be at a hospital so the missus can get IV fluids and an ice-bath. I'm a little terrified because, though I have cute white company, I am ugly, sour and bald and also have a most suspicious name.

If anyone's up for beer, coffee, afternoon tea, board-games, TMNT, croquet etc you holla :)

Oh yeah, I do have one more practical question: what's the best option when it comes to prepaid phone- and internet services for a week? Where's the easiest place to buy a sim-card?
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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #17 on: 07 Aug 2014, 10:25 »

Not in London, basically... or at least not in central London. And ideally not in a branded phone store.
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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #18 on: 09 Aug 2014, 05:10 »

After a seemingly interminable trip, through a London that was just as grey and wet as I remembered, we arrived safe and sound at our flat late last night. The walls are thin and one of us has to go out for the other to be able to turn around in it, but it's nice and, all in all, we're off to a promising start :) grocery shopping came close to being our undoing but hunger is the great educator as they say and so we managed to procure enough sausages and tea to last us a few mornings. I regret not having brought a jacket but today the weather is lovely and we're roaming around covent garden + the river gawking at the wonders of the big city. Seeing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime tonight! My UK number is +447459749226, if you're in the neighborhood, if you'd like to join us for tea later at the savoy it anywhere OOORRR if you know where we can buy a small French press holla :o
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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #19 on: 10 Aug 2014, 08:08 »

Wish I could afford to come hang, but sadly not.

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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #20 on: 10 Aug 2014, 18:01 »

once Intermittently Crappy Weather Bertie passes and the weather picks up again we'll be spending a lot of time munching on sammiches and reading in parks, gardens etc :) the savoy woulda been like volunteering to be robbed, we steered clear of their bourgeoisie tea
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Aimless

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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #21 on: 22 Aug 2014, 16:19 »

So we made it there and back, safe and sound and only a little worse-for-wear :) We had a good time and, though I was more of a grumpy old man than usual, I have few regrets.

Getting there was much easier than I remember it being the last time we went. Heathrow seems to be a "better in than out" kinda place, and I appreciated the smooth tech-facilitated passage through. The wife was stopped once because she looked like she was under 18, but no-one tried to offer me a walker :o

At the airport, we bought two visitor oyster-cards and topped those up a couple of times during our stay. These were among the best purchases of our entire trip! Less awesome were the two lycamobile sim-cards we bought. During the entire trip, we (mostly I :o) were plagued by incredibly crappy connection, patchy coverage and constant ads from lycamobile. Worst of all, we could not send texts or make calls to Sweden. The one good thing about lycamobile was that we had unlimited internet, which proved to be a life-saver as well as a source of constant anger (more on that later). GPS was good, too, and I'll concede that it may be unfair to expect the same coverage in London's subway as I get in Stockholm's.

Getting to our little studio flat in Queen's Park was easy and I was very pleased with our accommodation. It was small, but clean and neat and cosy. For some reason, they'd chosen to fit the room with two dozen extremely harsh soul-searing bluish-white LED-spotlights, which was hell to come home to at night, but we could use the light above the stove for a cosier ambience. We had about 2 non-contiguous minutes of wifi-access, which made planning things (and listening to spotify :o) a little more difficult. Nevertheless, I was happy. We were very close to the subway station, and getting to most places was a piece of cake.

But where did we go? Well, we're kinda rubbish tourists, so much of our time was spent meandering through the city from one restaurant to another. We walked by the river, went to the Oxo Tower, did some shopping... we made sure to check out Camden Market (where we found some great presents and saw some wire-fu) as well as Borough Market (no kangaroo-burger, but a damn' good serving of injera). Hurricane Bertha had fortunately been downgraded to Intermittently Crappy Weather Bertie, and we had a few days of sunshine.



One lovely day, we sauntered around in Green Park where we came across the friendliest old man and his two adorable demon-spawned grand-nephews. We chatted for an hour and learned about the ancient martial art of conkers, and then we were joined by an Irish family and talked about Irish banks. Oh yeah, overall, Londoners were surprisingly friendly when they weren't trying to push us down the stairs or in front of speeding cars :) also on the theme of People, we met up with an old classmate of mine whom I hadn't seen since 4th grade, and it was hella fun =)

I liked the London subway system. Trains came often and mostly on time, and, apart from an unpleasant experience where rush-hour and a rain-shower came together in a perfect human storm of rage, journeys were pleasant. Tube stations were usually less modern than in Sthlm (especially on the hateful northern line), and nowhere near as accessible, but some were instead far more futuristic than I'm used to:


I stood there, transfixed, for several minutes.

Food-wise, the undisputed highlight was the dinner we had, at Clos Maggiore, to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. I don't know if we were unusually lucky, but we got the perfect table (at my request, a cosy corner-table where we could sit side-by-side), friendly, fun and impeccable service with great attention to detail, perfectly executed and very tasty dishes (I'm not a fan of rabbit, but the braised shoulder of Loire-valley rabbit was probably the most satisfying starter I've ever had) that were fairly priced, a house red that stood head and shoulders above most restaurants' special selection (their wine list was the size of a novel, way beyond my ability to parse) and, wonder of wonders, my favourite dessert wine in the whole wide world to go with the most scrumptious dessert. Even the music was great, and we left the place very very happy :)





Wrt entertainment, I regret to say we did see some TV (I've decided I prefer British commercials to Swedish ones), and saw Guardians of the Galaxy again (this time in IMAX, and god DAMN is 3D ever so much better that way! The movie was also a lot more enjoyable this time around). However, what I enjoyed most was the theatre! I have generally been averse to paying to watch shows here in Sweden, apart from amateur student productions. Swedish theatre is (in my limited experience) often distractingly weird or extraordinarily melodramatic and I feared this would be the case with British productions as well. How wrong I was! We only saw two shows--The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and The Phantom of the Opera--but both were just so much fun. The theatres themselves were pretty and gave the whole experience an air of luxury, but it was all about the actors and the lighting and the sets and the music and both times I was just enthralled. Next time, we'll screw everything else and just go to shows.


END OF PART ONE
« Last Edit: 22 Aug 2014, 16:25 by Aimless »
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Aimless

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Re: London in August: where to live, what to do?
« Reply #22 on: 22 Aug 2014, 16:21 »

PART TWO

As I said earlier, I spent much of the trip silently or vocally swearing at my phone, at its apps and at the internet as a whole. Rarely have I experienced so much tech-related frustration as I did during this trip, and it threatened to ruin much of the experience for me. I suspect I am tech-addicted, but I don't think it's unreasonable to expect things like bookings, looking for directions, searching for shows etc to work without constantly having to start over from the beginning. But the less said about this the better. One app did work flawlessly, and that was the one for thetrainline.co.uk which took us to the most pleasant phase of our trip: a Welsh country wedding :D



the trip there was enjoyable, though seat-reservations were unexpectedly cancelled and though Paddington felt like the mythical Pandemonium. Once there, man, everything just felt so good. Everyone was busy, and we were feeling a bit shy, but we did meet lovely people and just enjoyed ourselves. I was introduced to the concept of glamping, which I've brought back with me to Sweden, but we slept in a room in a barn that's in the process of being turned into a house. I slept better than I had in weeks, and, the next day...







It was all kinda



But, in the end, it was



Especially for the man of the hour, the well-spoken, courteous and very lucky gentleman pictured above, who no doubt has a wonderful life ahead of him together with his lady :)

The following day, after a night of great food, good company, dancing (to a rockin' playlist) and blissful sleep, we took off to Cardiff, where we spent a final pleasant night and day gorging ourselves on grilled meats before heading back home to Sweden. I had the great misfortune of seeing The Broken Eye at a Waterstones and then discovering, too late, that it wasn't out on Kindle yet. The ginger had the fortune of finding, like, six awesome fantasy books. And that brings my report to a close. I can't wait for the next go :)
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Re: London trip-report
« Reply #23 on: 23 Aug 2014, 00:17 »

It sounds like overall you had a fabulous time! There's never any signal on the London Tubes, it's not just a Lycamobile thing, but I'm surprised signal wasn't better in London in general. The futuristic talking hologram is a bit creepy... they have a similar one in Euston station which tells you not to fall down the escalators.
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