Tag Archive | London

London 2018: Wrap-Up

Day 14, Saturday, July 7, 2018

The day had finally arrived for us to fly home from London.  Our flight from Heathrow departed at 10:05 am, so we got up about 6 am (London time) to make sure that we arrived in plenty of time to get checked in… And it was a good thing we did…  It was a mess.  Our first flight was a British Airways flight, but operated by American Airlines, so we tried first to check in with the wrong airline (I can’t remember which one we started at).  The automated kiosks weren’t recognizing us.  We got sorted out and realized we needed to go to the other airline, but those kiosks didn’t recognize us either so we ended up in a GIANT line with all the other travelers who were having problems…  We were there a while.  The counter agent was really helpful and friendly (even pulling Taryn’s suitcase back off the conveyor when she realized she had forgotten to grab a sweater out of it), but it took a loooonnnng time to get there.  Stressful!

Once we got checked in things were smooth, our flight was lovely and we landed in Philadelphia to get through customs and then wait through a 4 hour layover…  Taryn and I did some airport walking to stretch our legs.  We found a Liberty Bell made of Legos and a vending machine in the shape of a delivery truck that sold makeup.  Airports have some cool stuff!  We also had a Philly Cheesesteak dinner and watched some ball game (you can see how much I care about sports).  Probably baseball?  Who knows…

Our flight into Seattle landed at about 9 pm, which means taking an 11:30 pm shuttle home…  My final arrival time at home, after shuttle and taxi was about 2:30 am (Pacific Standard Time)…  I was very, very worn out, all things considered…  The jet lag is real, my friends, and it takes about a week to get over.  It was well worth it for a fabulous trip!

Cost Analysis:

London Pass:
Our 10 Day London Pass was a hit – we really got our money’s worth out of it…  It cost 179 pounds, which came out to $238.37 American dollars.  Here’s what we did with it…

Big Bus Hop On/Off Tour – 35 pounds
Westminster Abbey – 22 pounds
Churchill War Rooms – 21 pounds
City Cruises Boat Tour – 18.75 pounds
Tower of London – 26.80 pounds
Tower Bridge – 9.80 pounds
The Shard – 29.95 pounds
Cutty Sark – 13.50 pounds
Maritime Museum (free but the pass got me their exhibit book free – 5 pounds value)
Royal Observatory – 10 pounds
Royal Mews – 12 pounds
Royal Guards Museum – 8 pounds
Ben Franklin House – 8 pounds
Cartoon Museum – 7 pounds
Southwark Cathedral (free but the pass got me a free guidebook – 4.50 pounds value)
Golden Hinde – 5 pounds
Globe Theatre – 17 pounds
St. Paul’s Cathedral – 18 pounds
Kensington Palace – 19.5 pounds
Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garrett – 6.5 pounds

Grand Total if purchased separately: 287.80 pounds! (297.30 pounds if you include the value of the free guidebooks)

I say we did pretty well for ourselves!  The London Pass had a ton of other attractions you could visit, including other museums, a giant slide, sports stadiums, distillery tours, etc., so I think it would be a good value even for people who aren’t quite as interested in museums.  It was certainly a worthwhile purchase.

Our Oyster Cards (the payment card for the London Tube) were also heavily used; I put 75 pounds (99.67 in American dollars) on the Oyster Card in two different transactions, and ended up with less than 3 pounds remaining on the card when we flew home.  We took the Tube or walked everyplace we went (except for the bus and boat tours), including to and from the airport, so we didn’t have any other transportation fees.

We did two day tours, Stonehenge and Bath for $175 per person (this is American dollars, since we purchased it before we flew over), and The Cotswolds for 59 pounds per person ($77.98 in American dollars).

Our hotel and airfare were booked as a package with Expedia for $2098.08 per person (American dollars).  We stayed in a simple, no frills hotel in the Kensington neighborhood called the Kensington Court Hotel.  It was clean and quiet, and had two double beds and a pull out couch.  We saved money by sharing the hotel room (there were 4 of us).  That worked, because we didn’t spend much time in the hotel room at all, but it certainly isn’t for everyone!  The hotel did include a full English breakfast every morning, with eggs, cheese, mini sausages, pastries, fruit, toast and coffee and tea.  That was nice, because I’m not a person who can skip breakfast, and having some protein really helps!

That leaves the cost of lunches and dinners, souvenirs/gifts, and booze (I enjoyed the ciders there).  I spent $596.84 (American dollars) on these miscellaneous things.  It isn’t exact since sometimes my friends paid for something for me, and sometimes I paid for something for them, but it probably pretty much evens out.

All in All, Itemized (in American dollars):

Airfare/Hotel: $2098.08
Oyster Card/Tube Fares: $99.67
10 Day London Pass: $238.37
Day Trips/Tours: $252.98
Meals/Snacks/Souvenirs/Misc.: $596.84
ATM Withdrawal for Misc.: $133.17 (I withdrew $100 pounds on our first day, and that lasted me the whole two weeks, without feeling like I had too much to try to spend at the end).

Grand Total for Two Weeks in London: $3419.11

Of course, nobody will have the exact same trip as we did, but that gives some idea.  The reality is that London is a big city, with big city prices, not to mention airfare from the West Coast of the U.S. is a lot!  I don’t feel like I skimped, and don’t feel like I splurged, and in the end came home with a lot of amazing memories of the places we visited and the friends I spent time with.

Until next time, I’ll keep saving!

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London 2018: Afternoon Tea

Day 13, Friday, July 6, 2018

After our visit to the museums, Taryn and I went back to the hotel and got freshened up for our afternoon tea.  We had been on the hunt for an afternoon tea to try while we were in London, and had asked around.  A few places that had been advertised were considered by the people we asked to be quite touristy, and some of the others were quite expensive.  We decided to go have a simple afternoon tea at the K&K Hotel George, which was reasonably priced and only a few minutes walk from our hotel.

We got a little dressed up and walked over for our tea.  We sat out on the back patio, and enjoyed our tea.  Finger sandwiches, scones, cookies and sweets, and tea.  For a small additional cost, you could add sparkling wine, so of course I did!

Our afternoon tea!

The day was a little hot for sitting outside, but we had fun chatting and catching up, and enjoying sampling the goodies that came with our tea.  It was good to have some girl time!

Pinkies Out!

After our tea we took a walk and enjoyed seeing a bit more of the neighborhood.  We went to a few of the neighborhood shops to use the last of our British pounds before we had to depart for the airport in the morning.  I got some postcards and Taryn got some chocolates and candies for her kids.  It was a nice ending for our London vacation.

Tube Stations:  None.  We walked to the tea and back, as it was only a few blocks from the hotel.
Costs: 15.50 pounds (I don’t think they charged me for my sparkling wine…)
FitBit Steps: I forgot to write it down!

London 2018: Museums

Day 13, Friday, July 6, 2018

It was our last full day in London, and we slept in; we all needed the lazy day.  I got up about 9 and was the first one up!  Once we got moving, we walked over to the Natural History Museum; it was a little over a mile walk.

Me with a Petrified Tree, outside the Natural History Museum

 

Pillars at the Natural History Museum

I thought the Natural History Museum was a little disappointing.  They have a huge section with taxidermy animals, but the specimens are old.  The museum doesn’t want to obtain new specimens, for obvious reasons.  The cute armadillo was an exception though!

Armadillo!

The dinosaur exhibit is cool, and very crowded.  They have a lot of dinosaur fossils and casts hanging from the ceiling, which makes it a little tough to see them, but I understand that they don’t want everybody touching them.  They do have a lot of information on how dinosaurs lived; what scientists know about their lives based on how their legs and claws are shaped, what their teeth tell us, etc.  It is impressive to see the educated guesses they can make based on the fossil evidence.

A dinosaur!

 

A whale skeleton

They need to do some dusting though!

We had a snack at the museum cafe; I had lemonade and pesto pasta.

After that, we headed over to the Victoria and Albert Museum next door.  This is a giant museum with exhibits on everything you could imagine.  Asian artifacts, the Italian wing, historic ceramics, mid-century furniture, clocks, glass, modern ceramics…  They had it all.  Five floors and many, many wings of exhibits.  It was far too much to see in one day, and we didn’t even try.  This place was definitely a gem.

We wandered until we were getting hot and burned out on museums for the day.  Taryn and I were going to go have an English Tea!

Tube Stations:  None.  We walked to the Museums and back.
Costs: Both the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum are free.

 

London 2018: Stratford-Upon-Avon

Day 12, Thursday, July 5, 2018

After Bibury and Bourton on the Water, we were nowhere near finished with our tour of the Cotswolds.  Shottery was our next destination – the village where Anne Hathaway grew up.  In case you were wondering, I’m not talking about the contemporary actress Anne Hathaway, but rather William Shakespeare’s wife.  The cottage where she grew up was a cute little Tudor style cottage, built beginning in 1463 by Anne’s grandfather, John Hathaway.  Anne was born in the house in 1556.

The Hathaway Cottage

The home was occupied by the Hathaway family for thirteen generations; the home was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1892, and the trust arranged for the family members to continue to take care of the cottage and tell family stories.  The last member of the family, William Baker, was there until 1911.  One admission fee included all the the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust properties, including the Hathaway Cottage, the Shakespeare Birthplace Home, the New Place (where Shakespeare lived after he married), and a couple other places we didn’t have time to see.  Taryn and I opted in for the tours; the guys decided they would rather just wander the towns and hit the pubs.

It was fun to see the home, including some of the original Hathaway belongings.  The garden was amazing!  The Hathaways were tenant sheep farmers who eventually acquired enough wealth to purchase their property, before later experiencing a decline in fortune and having to sell the property and become tenant farmers once again.  What goes around comes around.  Enjoy it while it lasts, I guess – it is all fleeting.

We went to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see the Shakespeare sights next.  Shakespeare was born there in 1564, and also returned there in approximately 1613, after making a name for himself in London.  Shakespeare died in Stratford-Upon-Avon in 1616, and is buried there.  The bus dropped us off and set us loose upon the town.

Taryn and I stopped first at the school Shakespeare attended, The King’s New School, which was available for free for all boys in the district.  Shakespeare would have attended there from the age of seven, after grammar school ended, until the age of 14, when he likely would have entered an apprenticeship program for another seven years.  There is no record that Shakespeare ever attended university.

Shakespeare’s School

The school tour was interesting because they had an interpretative talk where the guide explained what the boys would have learned, the expected behavior and how long they would be in school each day.  As it turns out they went to school from 6 am to 5 pm, 6 days a week!  That’s a lot of learning!  The school has the original historic headmaster’s table and several original desks, where they carved their names in to memorialize their time in school.  After the interpretive talk, in the next room they had a place where you could try to write your name with a feather quill pen.  It is tougher than it looks!

The Headmaster at Shakespeare’s school

 

Original desks at Shakespeare’s school

We had a bit of extra time so we went over to the Shakespeare New Place.  It is an exhibit on the site where Shakespeare lived with Anne Hathaway after they married and came into some money.  The house is gone, but the home next door was built around the same time period – 1530, and the exhibit went through there so we could see the style of home where he lived.  They had manuscripts of Shakespeare’s work and other interesting artifacts.

We had to meet back up with the bus tour guide so he didn’t think we had gone AWOL, but he was ok with us not staying with the group (the pace of the group was annoyingly slow).  We told him that we were off to find the next museum; Shakespeare’s birthplace home.  The original home is still standing; it was built in the 1500s.  William Shakespeare’s father Jon was a glove maker and wool dealer; the home was built with his business occupying part of it.  In 1568 John became the Mayor of Stratford.  He originally rented the home, but records show he purchased it in the 1550s.  It looks modest now, but it would have been a fine home for the time!

Me at Shakespeare’s Birthplace

William Shakespeare was the third of eight children to be born here, on April 23, 1564.  When his father John died in 1601, William inherited the house (he was the oldest son), and lived there for the first five years of his marriage.  Later he leased the house, and it became an inn, and it was an inn until 1847!  According to the Trust, when Shakespeare died he left this house to his eldest daughter, who left it to her daughter, and then it was inherited by the descendants of one of Shakespeare’s sisters.  It remained in the family until it was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1847.  Other sources dispute that and say the home passed out of the hands of Shakespeare’s family in the early 1800s.  It is so incredible to know that England was thinking about historic preservation over 170 years ago!

We toured the home and saw where there were historic names etched in the glass from people who visited the home over 100 years ago – it has been a tourist attraction for a long time!  We also got to stand in the room where the bard was likely born!

After our tour, we had a little bit of time to wander around Stratford Upon Avon, so Taryn and I got some ice cream to cool down on another hot day.  We also poked around in a few of the shops in town.  It was such a fun visit, but soon it was time for pile back on the bus.

Stratford Upon Avon

 

Me and Taryn in Stratford Upon Avon

The bus dropped us off about 7:30 and we went to the Admiralty Pub near Trafalgar Square once more.  I had a mini-pie – the sweet potato and Stilton one (so good!) and some peel and eat Atlantic Prawns.  We got back to the hotel about 9 pm for some cider and British game shows.  They are fascinating, and so very different from American game shows.  It was another great day!

Mini Pie!

Tube Stations:  The bus dropped us off on Gloucester Road.  Gloucester Raod to Charing Cross (The Admiralty), to Earl’s Court (hotel).
Costs: Bus tour to the Cotwolds and Stratford Upon Avon – 59 pounds, Shakespeare admissions – 22.50 pounds, snacks for lunch, dinner at the Admiralty Pub
Fitbit Steps: 9,700 steps

London 2018: The Cotswolds

Day 12, Thursday, July 5, 2018

During our trip, we also booked a tour to visit the Cotswolds and Stratford-Upon-Avon.  It was a bit of a last minute decision; after we so briefly visited the Cotswolds on our Stonehenge tour, Taryn and I decided we wanted to see more, so we booked online that night with the same tour company, Golden Tours.

The Cotswolds is a country area outside of London, known for its rolling hills and natural scenic beauty.  It is a general term for a collection of small villages in the scenic valley; the common interpretation of the word Cotwolds is “sheep enclosures in rolling hills.”  If you have seen the historic stone villages and cottages in movies or photo spreads, you have likely seen the Cotswolds.  Stratford-Upon-Avon a small town located on one end of the Cotswolds area – it is famous for its famous historical resident, William Shakespeare.

On our tour, we stopped first in Bibury, a historic village in the Cotswolds.  Many of the cottages there were built during the 1400s; they were so cute!  We only had about 25 minutes to wander around there though; it felt a bit rushed.

There were cute swans on a quiet stream running through the town, and a fantastic looking inn with beautiful gardens.  What a relaxing place to spend an afternoon!

Next up was Bourton on the Water, another adorable town nicknamed “The Venice of England” for its low stone bridges over the river.  We had about 45 minutes there; it was certainly someplace I would like to spend a couple of days.  There is a museum there that we didn’t have time to check out.  We wandered around, took some photos and poked around in a couple of shops. I bought a polished serpentine stone at a rock shop there too.  What a great place!

Note: When the tour guide says to be back at the bus at a certain time, be sure to be there.  One lady arrived back late – the rest of us were stuck waiting for about 15 minutes.  She got dressed down by the tour guide!  It was nice that he said something, but I do think he went overboard with the public chastising.  I’m glad it wasn’t me!

After your time in Bourton on the Water we piled back on the bus – we still had much more to see.  Next we were on our way to see the Shakespeare sites!

Tube Stations:  None – We walked to where the bus picked us up.

 

London 2018: Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret

Day 11, Wednesday, July 4, 2018

After Kensington, we ended up back at the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret (remember it was closed on Monday?).  This ended up being one of my absolute favorite visits in London.  The museum is located in the garret of St. Thomas’ Church, which was originally St. Thomas’ Hospital.  The herb garret was there first, and had a long history of use drying and storing herbs for use in the hospital.  When they rediscovered the space, there were opium poppies still hanging to dry in the rafters.

The Stairs up to the Museum

About 1822, the surgical theatre was opened in part of the garret and operations on women in the adjoining women’s ward were conducted (previously the surgeries had been done on the ward).  Imagine surgery during that period.  No anesthesia, no antibiotics, surgeons didn’t wash their hands prior to operating, and germs lived in the lining of the instrument box.  There were up to 150 men watching the surgery (it was a teaching hospital).  Almost all the patients were in poverty, because if you could afford it, you were treated and had your surgery at home.  Most people died after surgery.  Makes you want to sign up right?

When St. Thomas’ Hospital moved to a new location in 1862, the operating theatre and herb garret were sealed off, with items still inside.  It was rediscovered in 1957, and opened to the public in 1962 – a space that had been untouched for 100 years!

When we visited, there was a school group there for a presentation, so we got to sit in, as long as he promised to not try to answer the questions the presenter asked the students.  It was fascinating – I really enjoyed listening and seeing the demonstration of the instruments.  It was hilarious to see the student’s faces when she passed around the tool used for removing bladder stones!  The one drawback was the heat in that space.  Imagine being in an attic with no open windows and no air conditioning on a day in the 80s.  It was roasting hot!  Several people left during the presentation because it was so hot, but I wanted to stick it out because it was so interesting.  The presenter had a couple of fans, which she kept pointed at herself!

After the presentation, we had a chance to poke around the herb garret and see what medicinal herbs they used back in the 1800s.  We also looked around the operating theatre after all the students left and saw the original operating table, surgical instruments from the time, and looked out into the gallery when men watched and learned surgical techniques.  It was really cool to see!

After our visit, we went over to the Thameside Inn for disappointing nachos, but the cider hit the spot and cooled me off!

For dinner we went to the Rock & Sole Plaice in Covent Garden for fish and chips, on the recommendation of our Stonehenge tour guide.  I really wanted the rock fish, but they were out, so I ordered the calamari appetizer.  Taryn loved her meal, but Brandon thought it was just ok.  I am sure I would have loved the rock fish more!

Then we headed back to the room for an early evening.  We had done a lot that day!

Tube Stations:  Notting Hill Gate to London Bridge (Old Operating Theatre), London Bridge to Covent Garden (Rock & Sole Plaice), Covent Garden to Earl’s Court (hotel)
Costs: Old Operating Theatre – 6.50 pounds (free with London Pass), nachos and cider, dinner at Rock & Sole Plaice
Fitbit Steps: 17,000 steps

London 2018: Kensington Palace

Day 11, Wednesday, July 4, 2018

After the Changing of the Guard we were off to find some lunch.  We stopped in at the Bag O’ Nails pub, another in the Greene King chain, but the menu was different than we had seen before.  I had the tomato and mozzarella salad topped with a balsamic drizzle.  It was good, and did some good at satisfying my craving for salad…

Then we went to Kensington Palace.  Kensington Palace was built in 1605 and expanded in 1689, after it was purchased by the royal family.  A number of royals have lived at Kensington, including Queen Victoria and Albert, Princess Diana and currently Prince William and Kate.  The state rooms are open to the public to tour, and there are several exhibits inside.

Taryn and I toured the rooms and exhibits.  The rooms were plainer than the other royal residences that we visited.  You could sit on some of the furniture in some of the rooms and take photos here (no flash), and I thought the exhibits were more interesting than the rooms themselves.  One exhibit details the life and love story of Queen Victoria and Albert; it was perhaps the best love story I have heard in awhile.  I’m a sucker for a good love story.

Another exhibit shows many of the suits and dresses that Princess Diana wore during her royal life.  There was so much 80s and 90s in that room!

 

I thought the gardens were the most impressive part of Kensington Palace.  The formal garden is beautiful, and Taryn and I spent some time wandering and checking it out.

Tube Stations:  Hyde Park Corner (Buckingham Palace) to Notting Hill Gate (Kensington Palace)
Costs: Kensington Palace – 19.50 pounds (free with London Pass)