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Review of our London holiday
London in General
Member Name: eclipse
London in General
Date: 15/08/01, updated on 15/08/01 (120 review reads)
Advantages: easy travelling by rail, plenty of accommodation
Disadvantages: high food prices, big attractions get large crowds at peak holiday times, obviously
It is many years since we last spent a week in London, so this year's holiday proved to be very interesting. We took our 12 year old son as well, this was his first proper visit to the capital.
Here is a general review of what we did and what you can also expect at these tourist spots.
Firstly; not being the type of family that demands all-out luxury, we avoided the London hotels. We opted to spend our week at a Travel Inn, located by Putney Bridge. This proved ideal for our personal needs,
being located in a large family room with a pleasant view straight out to the bridge across the Thames and to Putney wharf. We reached the Travel Inn easily, from Waterloo Station; using the Underground to
Westminster and then via District line to Putney Bridge. The Travel Inn was within easy walking distance of the station, which meant that we had easy access to travelling about, at all times.
The cost to stay at the Inn was £74.50 per night, for the room (not per person). The only slight niggle was having to pay for breakfast each morning; this worked out at around £4 for a child's breakfast
(age under 10) then a pound or so more for adult's traditional fried breakfast or continental.
Travelling on the Underground was, as always, pretty easy. A family
daycard cost approximately £6 total (for zones 1 and 2) which gave access to all Underground trains according to the zones you wanted to travel in. Our first trip out was on the Sunday, to the Tower of London.
We arrived there at around 11am and didn't leave till gone 4pm, so it is quite possible to make a full day of it. Entry wasn't cheap; just over £11 for adults; but in the end, because we were there for so long,
it seemed worthwhile and there was a lot to see.
The Crown Jewels display has been well supported by large wall-to-wall
video-clips of the Coronation and close-ups of some of the jewels themselves. Crowding seemed to be well controlled by zig-zag
walk-ways, roped off, allowing visitors to pass through in a reasonably straight line. The main Crown Jewels can be viewed by standing on a moving conveyor-belt that carries people along; if you miss something,
you can always go round again!
The following day was a visit to the Planetarium and Madame Tussauds.
The crowds and queues were absolutely dreadful, lined up to get "timed"
or advanced tickets. We discovered that there was no queue at all at
the Planetarium door, so we went there first; much easier! You can
buy single tickets per attraction or a combined one. We had a Tesco
voucher discount, so bought a combined ticket that allowed our son to
go in free; cost to us was a slightly painful £28 total.
The last time I was in the Planetarium, it was showing the various
planets and moons, plus constellations rising and setting. Seemed
quite tame, compared to what is being shown now! A starship launch,
out into the galaxy, to explore black holes and lots of other astronomical
features. Visually, extremely spectacular; educationally, dare I say
it, lacking a little. But if it gets people interested in astronomy
science and space-travel, then all to the good.
Madame Tussauds waxworks, as always, impressive; but we could have done
without the massive crowds. The "Spirit of London" was an interesting
feature that I don't think existed when I visited many years ago. There
is a long line of taxi-cab style seats that you climb into, sit down and
then carry you along to view various aspects of London life, past and present. Very detailed, visually superbly constructed and
lots of fun.
Day 3 saw us at the London Aquarium, just down the road from Big Ben; about £8 or so for adults. Again,we were in there for almost two hours;two huge Atlantic and Pacific tanks housed enormous eels, flatfish, sharks and many more.
Smaller display tanks covered
coral reefs, freshwater, beaches and all kinds of
water-environments that you could think of. The cafe attached served huge cups of tea and nice pastries, to round off a busy morning on foot.
The Aquarium is fine for everyone and you can also take a push-chair
round...although to be honest, they are a nuisance to other people, because I had my feet run over several times.
The afternoon presented us with an opportunity to visit HMS Belfast,
moored up just by Tower Bridge. Just over a fiver for adult entry and children go free. Surprsingly, we were here till almost 5pm; there are many levels open in the ship, from gunner towers at the top right down
to the engine rooms in the bottom, so there was a lot to walk around.
They also have their own Walrus Cafe, where you can get a tea and sandwiches or pastries.
Parents can leave push-chairs at the end of the gang-plank, once on board; believe me you'll never get round the ship trying to wheel one.
This is an attraction perhaps overlooked by many people, but is quite cheap and well worth the time.
Day 4 was spent entirely in the Science Museum; and although the full
whack of ticket prices was expensive, it was worthwhile. To cover museum entry plus virtual rides plus IMax cinema cost us a total of £41. Ouch! But in the end we all three had probably what turned out to
be the best day in the whole week. If you go nowhere else at all in
London, visit the Science Museum. We were there all day and still didn't visit all floors. The IMax presentations change regularly; you choose which film you want to see when you book. We chose from the
Mir Space station, Dinosaurs, the Earth and SolarMax; opting for the last one eventually...and this proved to be outstanding historical and
scientific coverage of the Sun, it's formation, life-span and general
behaviour. These films are not likely to suit small children, since the
sheer size of the images (not
to mention to sound level) could be frightening. The film itself was about 45 minutes long, so it wasn't a short shot-in-the-arm thing.
The virtual simulation rides are the kind of thing you go on BEFORE lunch, not after! Having staggered out of the one on Floor 3, I didn't feel quite up to another in the new Wellcome Wing. My husband went on
it and said that it wasn't quite so violent. He saw a "trip to a comet" simulation. The other one on Floor 3 was a right switch-back
roller-coaster type with very steep ups, downs, sideways rolls and death-defying drops into bottomless chasms. Please note that this one only gives you a metal hand-rail to hold; if you get sweaty hands, you
might slip around on your seat. Definitely not for very small children.
All rides are included in the full-coverage ticket prices, otherwise you have to pay for them separately.
The Science Museum is easily reached via the Underground, and once out
of the station, a long pedestrian tunnel allows you to walk right
through almost to the front door. The displays and hands-on exhibits
are outstanding, and one can hardly fail to be impressed.
Our final few trips covered visits to the Maritime Museum, Royal
Observatory and Kew Gardens. We chose to use one of the cruise boats
to reach Greenwich, starting from near Tower Bridge. Fares were approx. £5 to £7, children slightly less. You can also get a third off this price by producing a valid railcard (which we didn't know about).
Having negotiated the Thames on one of these boats, in the middle of a thunderstorm, we arrived at a very soggy Greenwich, to make our way to the Maritime Museum. Again we were here for some three hours,
viewing the history of various passenger liners, racing yachts, submarines and other subjects too numerous almost to remember. The
SeaPower section currently houses some outstanding artwork, mainly
oil paintings of ships in ba
ttle. Some of these are quite enormous and
are a little difficult to appreciate in their present hanging positions.
The restaurant produces good meals and we took ours at around 2pm,
after the main lunchtime rush.
The Royal Observatory is reached via a long straight walk, away from
the Maritime Museum and up a fairly steep hill, so you'll need some
extra energy. Flamsteed House contains a wonderful collection of
time-pieces and astronomical equipment; you can stand outside on the
Meridian Line at 0 degrees; a climb to the top of the dome brings you
to the huge telescope. The R.O has arguably one of the best Gift Shops
you are likely to come across; you will find it hard to keep your
money in your pocket, with beautiful globes, glass thermometers,
time-pieces, books and astronomy prints all lined up in front of you.
There is nothing here that isn't quality.
Crowds can cause jams, especially round Flamsteed House and in the
Telescope Dome, so be prepared for this if you go in a busy
Kew Gardens is a huge, peaceful park and we were here on our third
visit. Entry fees are modest (about £6)and until the end of September
there is a Japanese display, including garden layouts and use of plants.
The central building is the Palm House, with a steamy tropical upper level and a small aquarium in the basement. For most plant variety, visit the Princess of Wales Conservatory; several floors displaying
everything from waterlilies to cacti.
Both The Orangery and the new White Peaks provide good restaurant
facilities; White Peaks specialises in Burgers and Pizzas, if you are
Taking a London holiday can be expensive; however, although we disposed
of well over a grand on this trip,(inclusive of accommodation, entry
fees and food) it proved to be an excellent
alternative to our normal countryside haunts such as Yorkshire and
ke District, especially with Foot and Mouth still persisting.