Newest Review: ... the bottom. Ironically these ones would usually end up waiting with us for the train anyway. However what was most frustrating was when the... more
Nothing is certain in London but expense.
The City of London (England)
Member Name: carl_lazarevic
The City of London (England)
Advantages: Tourist attractions
Disadvantages: Too Big, too busy, too expensive, not disabled friendly.
I have heard a lot of good things about London, which is one reason why; when Vicky and I needed a break and only had a few days spare, we jumped onto the bus to spend a few days sightseeing in our own country. Unfortunately the fact that we had to get the bus was the first thing we picked up on. You see driving in London is not something one does if one wants some recreation. London is an extremely busy city, and so traffic jams are a frequent annoyance as you navigate the city's streets. If that wasn't bad enough you also have to pay a toll on many of London's roads and as a result the cost of driving would be too great.
Due to this we have always preferred using public transportation whenever we have needed to visit London. This means that upon arrival you will have to figure out the local transportation system. Thankfully the city council has built their famous underground railway to take you anywhere you need inside the city limits. Despite an initial panic on looking at the map we found the underground no harder to navigate than the average road map. It was quite a handy little service really as; other than one changeover to get to the hotel, we found we could get to all the big stations from the hotel in one journey.
Unfortunately the underground did not come without a large sting in its tail. You see my wife Vicky is disabled, and the designers of the London underground did not give a thought to this when slapping the thing together. Of the 56 stops in zone one of the underground (the only zone we needed to use for tourism) five stops proudly advertised their disabled access on the map. Unfortunately this left 51 stops in which Vicky had to climb three flights of stairs on and off the Underground. Usually an escalator was made available for one flight, but otherwise you had to climb them unsupported yourself. Luckily for us Vicky is able to use a crutch (and my right arm) for small journeys so navigation was possible. However if you are dependent on a wheelchair then you will find the Underground impossible to use and so seeing any of the sites outside the train stations will involve a series of extremely expensive taxi fares. Even for someone as mobile as Vicky the two night trip has left her in agony and unable to walk to the bathroom without my support. (Temporarily)
This unfortunate situation is something that the local population did not really help with. You can encounter selfish people anywhere, but in London you tend to meet those same selfish people in a major rush. People will often barge past you on the escalators in an effort to save precious seconds before they reach the bottom. Ironically these ones would usually end up waiting with us for the train anyway. However what was most frustrating was when they would run for the train to make sure they get seats, even if that meant taking the seats reserved for the elderly and disabled. Sadly it's true that these people are everywhere, but in the hustle and bustle of London it was a lot harder for Vicky to cope. So if you do have any physical disabilities then please take that into consideration when planning your trip.
Now so far this review has been pretty bitter and negative, but there was a reason Vicky and I decided to go to London as tourists. London does contain several popular tourist locations and Vicky and I had a blast with the ones we chose to visit.
The London Eye
Our first stop was the famous London Eye. This is one giant Ferris wheel that towers over the London Skyline and enables a fantastic view of the city. Sadly we did not find the skyline all that interesting as 99% of the buildings are functional rather than beautiful. It was enjoyable enough at first pointing to different places (the building from The Apprentice, Buckingham Palace and Big Ben) but around half way to the top (after 10-15 mins) we had seen everything and were getting bored. This left us a further 30-40 minutes to contemplate the fact that we were towering over a giant open sewer. Your ticket also includes entrance to the London Eye 4D tour, a 3D movie of the London skyline with seagulls floating at you. We never bothered to go in to be honest.
Our ticket to the London Eye was a combination ticket with the famous wax museum, so this was our next stop. This was far more like it. We had a lot of fun looking at these statues and taking photos of ourselves with various celebrities. The models were placed on the floors with no barriers between you and them, so getting close and admiring the detail is allowed. You are also allowed to get really close and pose with the celebrities, although I did not risk physically touching any of them.
Each floor was themed according to the celebrities you would see, from actors, singers, and historical figures. One notable floor was 'the vault of horrors' which recreated some of history's biggest killers. It also included one series of corridors where real people would run out of the shadows in mock attacks. None of them made physical contact but it was a creepy experience that made me start a few times, and Vicky kept her eyes firmly closed the entire time.
For a small additional fee (though if you have purchased a full price ticket this would be included) we were admitted to the Marvel Comics section of the museum. This was my reason for visiting, and it was here that I lit up like a school boy on Prozac. There were several Marvel statues inside including Spiderman, Ironman, Wolverine (the Hugh Jackman variant I am afraid), Nick Fury, and a two story high rampaging Hulk. I was disappointed with the limited number of statues to be honest. Captain America was notably absent. Yet I did enjoy certain photo points such as a Wolverine claw you could place your hand into.
However the day was not fully made until we witnessed the Marvel 4D tour. This was a fun 3D movie that saw the Marvel heroes defending London from the sinister Doctor Doom. Throughout this really cool film you will be treated to a degree of interactivity with the characters. For instance when Hulk sneezes into the camera you get sprayed with water, and when robot spiders flood Madam Tussuad's jets of compressed air ensure you can feel them at your feet. We both wanted to do this twice, but could not.
The London Museum Of Film
The next day I managed to beg and grovel Vicky into joining me at the film museum. This was actually an exciting experience for me, and Vicky insists my excitement was infectious. There was some cool memorabilia inside to photograph including the actual Gong from the old J Arthur Rank films, Brandon Routh's Superman outfit, and even Little Nellie from You Only Live Twice. These and other things managed to entertain me until we hit the Harryhausen exhibit where photography was sadly not allowed. There was some very cool memorabilia inside including a fully preserved Bubo the Owl. Plus the memories brought back seeing original models and surviving meshes from some of Harryhausen's classic monsters got me pumped up to watch some of his films again. There was also a Chaplin exhibit that we were not interested in and a disappointing Star Wars room with not one piece of original memorabilia.
Green Park And Buckingham Palace
What a dive! The palace itself is a fairly basic building with nothing but a few guards to make it stand out. While it was entertaining to see the guards doing their funny little march I soon grew bored. The park outside the palace was also a fairly poor effort, with no play areas for kids, no flowers, and no gates. There was nothing but trees, grass, benches, and pigeons. We decided not to picnic there after all.
The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre
Our final stop was Vicky's choice, but one that I was able to enjoy as well. I have seen a few of the Phantom of the Opera movies but none of them captured the sense of horror as well as the opera does here. It helped that Vicky and I had the good seats as management saw her disability and upgraded us to the second floor rather than the balconies. Yay management! The singing and acting on display was phenomenal and the sense of spectacle and wander was captured nicely through superb use of smoke and mirrors. The illusion of water in the sewer scenes was particularly eerie. I would definitely recommend it, and in fact it was I who came up with the idea of going back next year to see another play.
There is plenty more to see and do in London; including The London Dungeons, Big Ben, and Downing Street (snore). I would heartily recommend visiting Covent Gardens for a coffee and a sandwich while you are there as I found it a very pleasant spot to sit and relax. Though as with anywhere in London it tends to get decidedly busy, so you should pick your time wisely.
In terms of accommodation I cannot comment on an average experience. There are tons of hotels in London, but Vicky and I stayed in a basic bed and breakfast Travelodge and got what we paid for. Cold undercooked breakfasts, broken windows, and a mouldy bath were not entirely pleasant. There are plenty of much nicer places to stay in London but this was all that we could afford.
The reason was that everything in London is so expensive! Two packets of crisps, two bottles of Pepsi, and a chocolate bar set us back nearly £8. On the Underground we purchased one day passes for zones 1-2 which set up back £7 a day and lasts until 6:00PM. The day we went to the theatre we had to buy a single fair back for £4.50. We lucked out on a lot of the attractions as they were generally considerate of Vicky's disability. The Film Museum cost us £12 as I got in free as Vicky's carer. Eating out cost us an expensive £50. Though I have to be honest, this was in order to recreate our first date at TGI Fridays. All in all we spent nearly £600 on our first two day trip as everything was so expensive and we had to add travel and accommodation onto our tourist ventures. For fully able bodied people you can add a little extra to that, but you will have the benefit of enjoying yourselves pain free. Also I should admit that on returning to London we have learned to count our pennies and either eat fast food, or homemade sandwiches. This frees up significant money for sightseeing.
I would probably recommend London only if you can handle a lot of walking/standing and have some spare cash. The exhibits are definitely worth a look, though the city and architecture is fairly bland. If you can afford it then the shopping is always popular, and the theatres well worthwhile. Just don't expect a weekend of rest and relaxation and you should be fine.
Summary: The exhibits are defenitely worth a look, though the city and architecture are fairly bland.