Tuesday, 14 May 2013

London's Calling...(2)

Our only full day in London and a bit of forward planning would not have gone amiss. My daughter really wanted to go to Madame Tussauds, while my son wanted to go on a city tour on a red, double decker bus. There were lots of leaflets at the hotel, but it was difficult to figure out how to  do both things best. If I had spent a little time studying this online before we left, I would have seen that there is a combined CityTour/Tussauds ticket, which is cheaper than buying the 2 things separately. But what if my children had changed their minds before we arrived in London?? I had imagined there would be a concierge service at the hotel, but, maybe in these days of booking everything in advance online, that is very much a thing of the past. Please bear in mind the last time I was in London as a tourist was 1996! Yes, way back in the Olden Days when they probably didn't even have Starbucks, let alone WiFi! But, I digress. In the end we bought 1 day Travelcards for the Tube for zones 1 and 2 (from the man at the ticket window Jennifer, - not from the scary-looking machines) and zoomed off to Baker Street to see what the queue at Tussauds was like. It was a 3 hour wait:{ However, just along from Madame Tussauds was a souvenir shop with an office of "The Original Tour" inside, where we asked for advice on the best way to spend our money, ermm, time. The lady there was very helpful and sold us tickets for the city tour with "free" river cruise, actually at the same price as the advanced booking price online.


London with kids
 
 She then told us to get off at Trafalgar Square, go into their office there and purchase Madame Tussauds tickets from them, slightly cheaper and with priority entrance, then hop on again and continue the tour. So, that's what we did and it worked out perfectly! After a couple of hours on the city tour bus, we hopped off and used our Tube tickets to take us back to Madame Tussauds, where, brandishing our tickets, we had the briefest of waits. After rubbing shoulders with all kinds of celebrities (albeit wax ones!) we hopped on the Tube again to Green Park and walked through a very green park to look at Buckingham Palace. Then back on the Tube again to Tower Hill, where we (and about 500 other tourists) boarded a river cruise down the Thames.

London with kids
 
As the boat made a stop at the London Eye, we got off there

London with kids
 
and 2 mins later were relaxing in our hotel room. We'd had a lovely stay and definitely want to return again soon to see some more of the sights. And go shopping!!

Monday, 13 May 2013

London's Calling....

On a recent trip to the UK to visit family, I decided to treat the children (and myself, of course) to a couple of nights in London before flying back to Switzerland. As I was travelling on my own with the children, I reckoned that 2 nights would be plenty, but another night/day would have been nice, although I'm sure my credit card was glad I kept it short and sweet! We started by taking the train down to London from Telford, which is just north-west of Birmingham. Having heard all kinds of horror stories about trains in England being expensive and delayed by leaves on the line, or both, I decided to play safe and book online in advance here. And I was glad I did. The site is very easy to use and you can see the different prices at a glance i.e. the more off-peak the train, the lower the price. Once you book your train online and pay by credit card, you are sent a code. You can then print your own tickets at machines at the railway station using the code and the credit card you booked with. So, having arrived at Euston station in London, we took a black cab to the hotel, as we had our suitcases and wanted to save a bit of time. With hindsight, it would have been quicker and alot cheaper to use the Tube, as the roads were terribly congested and the journey took quite a long time. But anyway, the children got to travel in a black cab. We stayed at the Premier Inn County Hall (thanks for recommending that, Kim!) which is situated in a great location right next to the London Eye and about 3 mins walk from Waterloo tube station. I booked the hotel directly on the Premier Inn site. I couldn't fault the hotel - the rooms were clean, comfortable and modern and the hotel restaurant came in handy too. After settling into the room we set off literally around the corner to the London Eye. I hadn't managed to book this online, so we had to queue for tickets and again to get on, but we were so excited about going on it and the weather was so fabulous, it didn't seem to matter. You can book in advance online here. Well, what can I say? The whole experience was spectacular. I particularly liked the fact that they don't cram each "pod" full to capacity, so that you have plenty of room to move around and enjoy the view from all angles.

London with kids

We had booked the "Day and Night Experience" where you can go on at night as well, so we simply popped out again after dinner at the hotel. And the "Night Experience" was arguably even better than the "Day Experience":

London Eye at night

The next day was our only full day in London and in retrospect a bit of forward planning would have helped......more on that tomorrow!

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