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Solo trip report Sept 2010 (looks to be really long)

Illinois
Level Contributor
19,088 posts
16 reviews
Solo trip report Sept 2010 (looks to be really long)

Here is my trip report for my current solo trip to London. DD really wanted to come, but her school is cracking down on vacations during the school year. They didn't actually say you couldn't do it, but they did say that they won't give work out ahead of time, and you only have 2 days to make everything up. Maybe April for Sping Break? Does anyone know if that is a good time to go to North Wales, York , Liverpool, or wherever Alnwick is where they filmed Harry Potter? Oh well, on to the trip report.

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Illinois
Level Contributor
19,088 posts
16 reviews
1. Re: Solo trip report Sept 2010 (looks to be really long)

Day 1 Thurs 16 Sept

Arrived at Heathrow right on time. I only had to wait a few minutes for both immigration and at baggage claim. I bought a 7 day travelcard at Heathrow. I did have a problem in that none of the machines would take either my Capital One MasterCard or my Visa debit card. I know I’ve used them to top up before at other stations, so I wondered if they changed or if the machines at Heathrow are different than the others (which doesn’t make any sense). It said it couldn’t read the MasterCard and that the transaction limit was reached on the debit card. Fortunately, I had enough cash because the lines at the ticket window were longer than at the machines. I used the debit card to withdraw money right after I got to Russell Square, so I don’t think it was my bank that declined it.

Got to the Crescent Hotel and checked in. I had asked for a room above the ground floor for security. When I checked in they said the room wasn’t ready, but they gave me towels so I could use the shared bath to take a shower and change. After the shower, I went into the lounge where they have a computer for guest use, as I wanted to book my Buckingham Palace tickets. No sooner did I sit down than the receptionist came in to tell me that the 1st (UK) floor room wasn’t ready, but I could have one that faced the courtyard instead of the street. The courtyard is only for this hotel and they lock the door to it at 2200, plus the windows are down in a large window well sort of thing that you would need a ladder to get down to (unless you jumped, I guess, but it’s pretty far to jump). She took me into the courtyard and showed me the window and then showed me the room. I had actually stayed in that room before, and I was ok with the window, especially since it meant I didn’t have to come back to get the keys. Once I got in the room, I got online and bought tickets for Buckingham Palace. By this time it was about 1300 and I had no trouble booking a ticket for 1500, leaving me time to grab a quick lunch from a café on the way.

At Buckingham Palace, I realized I wasn’t sure where to go, but I thought it was the gift shop. I happened to already know where the gift shop was from a previous visit, so I headed that way. On the way, I passed the ticket windows, so I went in there. There was absolutely no line, not even 1 person in front of me. They gave me my ticket using the reference number. I had the credit card I used to book but they didn’t ask for it. By this time it was about 1440, so I figured I would go see if they would let me in then, but they wouldn’t. They said to come back at 1455. I wandered through the various gift shops, and noted that there was also no line for ticket collection at the gift shop. Both the ticket windows and the gift shop are on the street that goes down the left side of the palace if you’re facing it from the front (Buckingham Palace Rd?). There was a line for the Queen’s Gallery, but I wasn’t going there. I came back at 1455 and they let me in, but there were a bunch of people who were already in.

Initially, you don’t go right in, you sit on some benches and one of the staff people tells you the rules (no photography, food, drink, chewing gum, or cell phones unless they are turned off). At least those are the ones I remember. After that, you go through airport type security (except they let me bring my water bottle in) and get your audioguide, which is available in several languages, but I don’t know which since I just got English. Then you can go through at your own pace. It was interesting to see the inside, but it was really crowded. Not as crowded as Versailles, but more crowded than Windsor Castle. I thought it was really pretty similar to Versailles and Windsor on the inside. I guess all the state room architects think alike. Lots of gilding and large paintings on the walls. I did learn that the balustrade for the grand staircase would have cost over 200,000 GBP in today’s money. It’s mostly made of bronze. The special exhibition was on “A Year in the Life of the Queen” (or something like that). It had her coronation robes and a bunch of dresses that she wore to various things. I did wonder why it was King George and Queen Elizabeth (previously) and now it’s Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. I suppose I could look it up but I haven’t had time. After you get through the State Rooms (with the special exhibit inj the middle), you return the audioguide and go out to the gardens. The café is on the terrace there. I thought about getting something to eat, but it didn’t look like there were any empty tables, so I just went down and walked through the gardens.

You don’t really walk IN the gardens. You walk down a cement path (maybe parts of it was dirt) that goes along the edge of the gardens with the gardens on your right and a wall on your left. The gardens were nice, but I’ve seen better ones. For a backyard it was amazing, though I spent between 1.5 and 2 hours there (including state rooms but not gettng there, and I don’t think I missed anything major. It would take longer if you listened to all the accessory parts of the audioguide, like where they talk about specific paintings, but I only listened to probably ½ or 1/3 of the accessory things.

Anyway, you come out near Hyde Park Corner tube station, and I came across Wellington Arch. I was going to go in, but it was closed for a function. I saw Apsley House, but didn’t go in because I figured it would be closing soon. I walked around and looked at the memorials by Wellington Arch as I hadn’t seen them before. There was one to the machine gunners from the Great War (WWI to the Americans). There was also one to commemorate the bond between New Zealand and the United Kingdom and their shared sacrifices in times of war. It is made up of a bunch of metal columns. I couldn’t figure out the significance of it. I guess I’ll have to look that up sometime too. There was another one that I didn’t get up close to, but I think it was for various branches of the service in the Great War as it lists places like Flanders. Then of course there’s the statue of the Duke of Wellington on his horse.

After that I made my way to the Ship and Shovell for the mini-TALF meet that wasn’t so mini. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t find it, as I had printed out a map for it but now I can’t find it, so I guess I left it at home. Fortunately, I had written down that it was on Craven Passage, and that was on the “Continue Your Journey From Here” signs with maps at Charing Cross. I remembered the station too. I had to look for a minute to see which one was smaller, since neither is very big. Then I figured out that since I knew where Embankment Tube was and that is right on the Thames which is south of where I wanted to be, the one that was in the direction of the Thames must be the right one. I recognized k1w1brad’s red hat, although I totally missed the significance of the blue balloon (I think I mentioned this on the thread about the meet, but I was thinking someone was having a birthday party. One of the things we do in the US is tie balloons to the mailbox to mark the house for birthday parties. I guess they do it for graduation parties and wedding receptions too, but with a 12 year old my main focus is birthdays.). Oh well, I’ll blame that on jetlag.  Anyway, I did find them, and it was nice to meet everyone. It was nice to meet Leagle, k1w1brad, Parklandwalk, Alison78, Greciansteve, Flannan and Mr Flannan, IloveLondonandNYC, Kennydon, EalingBlue, and Gilliganuk (we still need to set up something with the kids, but I don’t know when we’ll be back as DD wants to go to Germany next summer to see castles. She also wants to go to Northumberland? Wherever Alnwick Castle is. Also to North Wales to see more castles. I guess we can plan a lot of vacations around castles. There are castles in Spain too. I don’t know about Italy.) Wow, I wonder if it’s legal to have that much in parentheses. It was a really fun night, even if Adam didn’t show and Brad left at 1900. I think the staff person was about ready to start throwing things at us if we didn’t leave, so we left. After that, I went back to the hotel (after much advice on the safest way to go (yes Leagle, I made it back)) and went to bed.

Just so you know, the only ones whose names met the approval of the word spell check were k1w1brad and Alison78. So now you guys all know what names to give your kids if you want their name to be in spellcheck. I was going to do Day 2 today, but I really have to go to bed. Don’t want to spend all my vacation time on TA or sleeping in the hotel when I could do that at home way cheaper.

Los Angeles...
Level Contributor
592 posts
2 reviews
2. Re: Solo trip report Sept 2010 (looks to be really long)

When a king is ruling, his wife is the queen consort. It's a title, but the queen consort isn't the monarch, so even though the current queen's mother was Queen Elizabeth as well, Elizabeth I was the Tudor queen, and Elizabeth II is the current queen. Elizabeth II's mother doesn't show up in there. It's much the same way that when a woman marries a prince, she becomes a princess, or when she marries a duke, becomes a duchess, etc.

To the best of my knowledge, men who marry women who carry their own titles don't get the honorary matching title. Prince Philip was born a prince from the Greek royal family, but when he married Elizabeth, he renounced that title and was styled a duke in his own right. Several years after Queen Elizabeth's accession to the throne, he was also given the title of Prince, but I'm not sure when/how that happened. Anyway, the moral of the story is that there is king consort.

It sounds like a great trip so far. It's too bad your DD couldn't travel with you. I understand schools discouraging vacations because they don't want students to get behind, but I wish they could make more exceptions for trips that will obviously be educational. Not everything can be learned in a classroom.

3. Re: Solo trip report Sept 2010 (looks to be really long)

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Illinois
Level Contributor
19,088 posts
16 reviews
4. Re: Solo trip report Sept 2010 (looks to be really long)

Ah, so Queen Elizabeth II's mother was actually Queen Consort Elizabeth but they leave out the Consort? I knew she wasn't in the line of succession or listed as one of the Queen Elizabeths when talking about rulers. I just wondered why she wasn't Princess Elizabeth. Although I guess that would have been confusing too, since Queen Elizabeth II was also Princess Elizabeth at the time.

I wish DD could have come too. Travelling has been educational for her, but you can't really say anything that would imply that the teachers are not absolutely essential to her education. I think it's the new principal really, since he's been adding all kinds of new rules since he started this year. He took out all the days where they had 1/2 a day due to teacher education too.

Edited: 18 September 2010, 08:09
Hampshire, United...
Destination Expert
for Amesbury, London, Windsor
Level Contributor
8,032 posts
63 reviews
5. Re: Solo trip report Sept 2010 (looks to be really long)

Just to add to the King/Queen discussion:

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_isn't_the_Duke_of_Edinburgh_the_king_of_England

I like the 2nd answer better, not least because they know how to spell 'precedence' ;-)

One day we'll meet up with the daughters. Hey, we have castles in Hampshire, too you know! But we could certainly be tempted to Wales...

Wisconsin
Level Contributor
110 posts
12 reviews
6. Re: Solo trip report Sept 2010 (looks to be really long)

Thanks for posting the trip report. I have started traveling with my daughter who is 9 years old and am also finding it harder to pull her away from school and activities, but I feel that life is too short to put things off!

We went to Germany (Bavaria) in August and had a wonderful time, although she did tire of seeing Castles and Cathedrals, there are so many!,

But since our first trip to London in 2009, can't stop thinking about going back! So we are planning a trip for sumer 2011. My daughter is also a huge Harry Potter fan, we saw the Half Blood Prince in London and also went on a day long Harry Potter tour with Capital taxis.

Have always read your posts with interest, thanks again.

Illinois
Level Contributor
19,088 posts
16 reviews
7. Re: Solo trip report Sept 2010 (looks to be really long)

Yes, I wonder if she'll burn out on castles eventually. After Germany, she wants to see the castles in North Wales and Northumbria (?) where Alnwick castle is. (Where they filmed the outside of Hogwarts).

We were ok missing school until last year. It didn't affect her grades, but it seemed to disturb the teachers. Her science teacher refused to let her make up an experiment and gave her a zero on it. She still got an A in science, but it made me reluctant to take her our of school this year. IMO, travel is educational (at least when we do it), but it's hard to convince the teachers of that. I'm sure she knows more about WWII and the history of Europe than her friends. Oh,well.

Illinois
Level Contributor
19,088 posts
16 reviews
8. Re: Solo trip report Sept 2010 (looks to be really long)

Well, I'm still not sure I get the King/Queen thing. It seems that if Prince Philip doesn't get to be King (which I actually understand the logic of) then Queen Elizabeth (wife of George) shouldn't have been Queen, but I suppose expecting things to be logical would be expecting too much. :)

Illinois
Level Contributor
19,088 posts
16 reviews
9. Re: Solo trip report Sept 2010 (looks to be really long)

Day 2

This morning I went to Bletchley Park. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is where the British code breakers worked in WWII and where they cracked the Enigma and Lorenz codes. In the process of breaking the Lorenz code, they also incidentally built the first computer. There is quite a bit to see there if you are interested in the subject. It was easy to get to, just about 45 min on the train from Euston. It was 14GBP for an off peak day return. You can get a discount with a travelcard, but for me with a zone 1-6 travelcard, they still charged me 13.30, so only worth it if there’s no line at the ticket window, as I’m told you can’t get the discount at the machines. I don’t know how they calculate the discount, if it’s always the same, or if it depends on where you’re starting and ending your journey. I took the 0924 train (the first off peak one) and arrived at about 1015. I finished around 1600 and thought I saw most of it.

They have several enigma machines, apparently there were some that produced a more difficult code than others, which I didn’t know. There were different ones for the army, navy, etc. They also have rebuilt an example of the first computer. Apparently after WWII, they were all destroyed, but they rebuilt one using authentic parts from the war years, directed by the guy who invented it in the first place. They also had a display of wartime toys and posters, which seemed kind of incongruous to me, but that’s ok. I’m just not really sure what they had to do with code breaking.

Well, I guess now that I think about it, they had other displays that didn’t have anything to do with code breaking, like an exhibit on the paratroopers that captured Pegasus Bridge and a garage with vintage cars in it. They have an audioguide which was about average I would say. I also took their guided tour which they have at intervals through the day, and the guide was definitely more entertaining than the audioguide. They also had an exhibit on Ian Fleming where they discuss how his work during the war may have influenced his writing.

There’s also a monument to the Polish code breakers, as they had the inspiration to break Enigma in the first place and then turned it over to the British after Poland was invaded. There is also an exhibit on women in espionage, which I found interesting. Also, there is an American Garden which is supposed to represent the alliance between the US and UK and has plants to represent each state. The audioguide describes each one, but I wasn’t interested enough in the individual plants to listen to more than one. The garden is pretty, though.

Oh, there’s also a Churchill exhibit, but it’s not as good (IMO) as the one at the Churchill Museum in London. The one at Bletchley Park is more a collection of Churchill memorabilia and not so much informative. They did have a Union Jack there that still shows scorch marks and damage from being used on D-day. I ate lunch at the cafeteria there, which was decent but not amazing.

I had tickets for The Railway Children at 1930, and they recommended to be 30-60 min early, so I headed back to London. The Railway Children was at Waterloo station, so I headed over there. It was only about 1715 when I got there, so I decided to wander around. I went past the Florence Nightingale museum, but it closed at 1700 so I didn’t go in. Instead I walked down through the Archbishop’s Garden (which is called Lambeth Palace Gardens on my Streetwise London map). It was a pretty little park with a playground area for kids and some tennis courts.

After I made my way through the gardens, I walked past Lambeth Palace (which is right near the Museum of Garden History, which was also closed). I didn’t know anything about Lambeth Palace, but apparently it’s the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury with access through guided tour only. According to their website, they are currently accepting enquiries for 2012. They have a library too, but I think it’s mainly for research, and it was closed anyway due to the Pope being in London. So I just took a picture from the outside and made my way back to Waterloo for The Railway Children.

The Railway Children is a play based on an apparently famous children’s book of the same name and of which I had never heard. The play was staged on the former Eurostar platform at Waterloo station. I guess that’s where Eurostar left from before it started leaving from St Pancras. They use an actual steam train as one of the props. The train is from the Railway Museum in York, which I guess is where the play started before it just recently moved to London. I had not read the book, and still enjoyed the play.

It seems like a good play for children if anyone is wanting to take kids to the theatre. There were a couple of kids across the platform from me who looked to be about 4 or 5 and they seemed to enjoy it. There was one of those little minitrains that goes in a circle in the lobby. I think it was 1.50GBP/ride. There was a sign about inflatable games, but I didn’t see any of those.

One nice thing was that if you wanted food or drinks at intermission, you could order them before the play and they put them out on shelves with your name on them, thus there was a much shorter line for refreshments than I’ve usually seen. The play ended a little before 10, so I decided to wander around a little before going back to the hotel, so I went up towards Westminster Bridge to see the London Eye and Houses of Parliament all lit up.

I crossed Westminster Bridge and then walked up to Embankment to take the tube back to Euston for my hotel. (Yes, Leagle, there were about a million people still out.) I just grabbed a sandwich from one of the take away places at Euston for dinner (I hadn’t eaten before the play because I had lunch at 1500.) For future reference, the take away places in Euston are apparently open pretty late. All the other restaurants I passed were closed since it was after 2300.

Watford, United...
Destination Expert
for London
Level Contributor
44,230 posts
50 reviews
10. Re: Solo trip report Sept 2010 (looks to be really long)

We keep missing each other! First I couldn't make the pub meet and then your train passed through Watford Junction, barely a mile from Hornets Towers. Next time I hope and thanks for posting.