London in Autumn 2012

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Kids: 
13 years
13 years
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London. Yes, that beautiful huge city. We came back again to enjoy its elegance and diversities. From our last visit it passed almost ten years. Our delight hasn't vanished after all that time, so we decided to take our oldest child with us (13Y). After we made final decision and bought plane tickets, some of our friends expressed  interest to go with us on this 3-day trip. In the end we were in seven with another 13Y old child. This was the largest group that we ever traveled in our own arrangement. Based on our previous travels we decided not to take smaller kids with us because of all-day walking, eating junk food, and enormous crowd in the tube.

Since our visit lasted only for 3 days (two and a half to be precise), we were quite sure that it won't be enough to see everything that needs to be seen in London even for a brief visit to some of the most popular attractions. So we decided to make detailed plan before the trip in order to see if that would satisfy all of our group members.

We bought plane tickets months in advance, for a very fair prices even not traveling with low-cost companies. As usual we booked our accommodation through booking.com. The hotel itself wasn't anything extraordinary, but it contended all of our needs: it has vary fair prices, it was safe, near the tube and rooms did have their own bathrooms. It was exactly what we expected of a two-star hotel.

DAY 1 (British Museum )

After landing to Gatwick airport we took the First Capital Connect train to London Bridge station. We were surprised to find out that the train ride took around 1 hour instead of half-hour as we were told, but later found out that there are fast and slow trains on the same route. From London Bridge train station we had direct link with tube to our hotel (Northern Line). The train tickets we bought previously on the web, so we just collected tickets on the ticket machines. For tube we purchased Oyster Cards for adults, and Daily Travelcards for kids. The Oyster Card is definitely way to go on the London tube. You need a 5 pounds deposit and you can add as much money as you wish. The tickets are cheaper than the tickets bought for a single ride, and if you have enough rides during the day, then the charges stop at the daily travelcard. In the end, you can return your Oyster cards and you will receive full refund for 5 pounds and everything that remains on the card. To fill Oyster card you can use ticket machines on every station. But be sure to take a good look, because some machines don't give back change, and all of them don't accept Maestro cards that are issued outside of UK, like ours.

Since the check-in is after 3 PM, and we managed to come earlier, we just left our bags in the hotel and proceeded to British Museum. The museum is really huge and it hold vast number of very different artifacts. Since we had two teenage girls with us, we had to go directly to see Egyptian mummies and other artifacts from that part of the world. We had impression that there was largest crowd of all rooms in the museum. Sometimes it was really hard to keep company together, so we made arrangements in case we split to meet again on a certain spot at precise time. This arrangement is very useful and we decided to take the same arrangement in next attractions too.

Although we spent more than three hours in the museum we didn't manage to see not even briefly most of exhibits on the display there. Personally I was very surprised to see such a number of exhibits from roman, Greek, African and Asian past. After some time our two teenagers became very tired and their will to explore more of the museum faded with every step they made. We adults remembered our visits to museum while we were teenagers and agreed that with the year values in your head change dramatically. Now we really appreciate all the things that we can see, but we do admit that when we were in their years we also had other ideas and interests. But I really hope that they will respect what they had the opportunity to see.

The entrance to the museum is free. The museum is enormous, you need plenty of time for the visit - but you should visit it. But be aware that kids do have their own ideas and interests.

Travel ling back to our hotel the peak time hasn't passed yet, so we were squished in the tube eagerly awaiting our station. After this experience we definitely wanted to avoid peak time, but it won't be a problem since tomorrow is Saturday.

 

DAY 2 (London Eye, Aquarium, Parliament & Big Ben, Westminster Ab., St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, Hamleys)

Even if the weather wasn't sunny at least the rain and fog spared us for some time, so we decided to take a ride on the London Eye. It is possible to take combination tickets for London Eye and Aquarium, so we did it. Frankly speaking, it isn't a great saving at all. The buying of tickets itself took about half an hour, and then we waited for another twenty minutes to big wheel. It speaks for itself about the number of visitors, and it hasn't changed in last ten years when we were last time. It seems that it doesn't matter that the prices for this attraction is so high it really became one of the must-see things in London. Beside my husband and me, other members of our group were for the first time in London. In some way I envied the others, because I saw in their eyes the amazement of being for the first time here which I also did had when I was for the first time here. I had the opportunity to visit great part of the world, and lot of different countries, cities and cultures, but their is something very special about London - you don't have the impression to be stranger here. Nobody will make fun of you if you don't speak perfect English or if you worn two different socks this morning, because, actually - nobody cares. So many people, so many races, nations and cultures and everything is functioning flawlessly. Tube is my second love in London. It so simple to find your way around it, streams of people walk in same direction in the peak times without loitering, and the culture of obeying the rules of nice behavior like standing on the right side of the escalators so that people in hurry do have left side to overpass. Fascinating!

From the London Eye we had fascinating view of the parliament building, the Big Ben and on the Thames filled with touristic boats. Even if the view from the London Eye is somehow limited, you will get much better picture of the surrounding area then standing on the road. The ride itself takes around 25 minutes to make full circle. Again, like in tube, it's fascinating how well is organized on the Eye. People are entering and leaving capsules without the wheel actually stopping at all.

After the Eye, we proceeded to a nearby Aquarium. Sharks, glass tunnel and huge diversity of sea and river animals occupied us for the next couple of hours. My favorites are the penguins. Those little agile animals, relentless and quick swimmers were too fast for my camera. One of the best things to see (and try) is a hurricane simulator capsule, where you can enter and try how it looks like for a couple of minutes.

After leaving the Aquarium we wanted to see Westminster Abbey, but exactly at same time there were union protests in front of the House of Parliament and surrounding streets. We saw later in the news that there were more than 10000 people. This happening distracted some of our plans, because some of the streets were closed by the police forces. But, we had a rare opportunity to walk over the Westminster Bridge since there was no traffic, and actually to sit in the middle of the bridge and take pictures with Big Ben beside us. It's clear that all the tourists were doing the same. Then we proceeded to the St. James Park where we made a short break in order to rest our feets and to eat some sandwiches. The squirrels running around you are so familiarized with people around them that they will with any hesitations eat from your hand and even climb to your shoulder.

After short rest, we proceeded to the Buckingham Palace where, as usually, there were thousand of tourists taking pictures in front of the luxurious fence. So we did too.

In order to satisfy another wish of our teenagers we've proceeded to the Regent Street to the well known toys store - the Hamleys of London. I admit that we were very tired at that time and that the heat and crowd in the store wasn't pleasant. Nevertheless we made our way through all five floors, took some pictures near the Queen made of Lego bricks, and went away to a nearby Starbucks in Oxford Street for a refreshment. We spent some time on the souvenir shops in Oxfords street and then went to a Pizza Hut.

DAY 3 (Tower Bridge, The Tower of London, Greenwich, Natural History Museum)

While the weather on the previous day was in favor, today we couldn't manage to skip the rain. Nevertheless, with lot of good will and enthusiasm we've visited Tower Bridge and Tower of London which are located in close vicinity. The bridge itself is really attractive, and if you are lucky (like we were on the previous visit) you can also see on the rare occasions lifting of the bridge to surpass large sail boats underneath.

The Tower of London itself holds the story of some other, older times. Like it is not in the center of a large town. It has preserved its uniqueness and by visiting it you will probably travel back in time.

After visiting this two attractions we've made our way towards Greenwich. The rain continued to fall, but our good will was still with us. We didn't enter the museum of the Greenwich Royal Observatory, but instead we've visited the Planetarium. The atmosphere was beautiful, the film was interesting and i was really enjoying it. Some of our groups members have taken a short nap in the pleasant chairs and have missed great deal of the film. In the end we were very happy - both of us - those who were watching film and those who were taking a nap.

After the return to the center of London we decided to proceed to the Natural History Museum. The problem was that the museum is open only until 6PM, so we had only two hours for a short visit. nevertheless we made our way to see dinosaur bones and the large blue whale which is the largest exhibit in the museum. The part with the dinosaurs is the absolutely crowdiest part of the museum. Entrance to the museum is free, but we couldn't notice that some dusting would be appropriate. It seems that some of the dust was here even when we were last time - almost ten years ago. Nevertheless, we were very to end this joyful visit and to return back to our hotel.

DAY 4 (Going home)

It was time to fly back home. Tube, train and back to Gatwick. We had absolutely no issues apart from minor delay of the plane because of the fog in London. We returned our oyster cards, we got back our 5 pounds per card and all remaining money deposited on it. We also took care to go with the fast train this time, so the ride took only about half an hour.

All in all we were happy and we already started to prepare new trips together.

Gallery: 
Tower Bridge
London Aquarium
London Aquarim
Inside the Tube
London Eye Capsule
The House of Parliament from London Eye
Crocodile at London Aquarium
Penguins at London Aquarium
St. James Park
Buckingham Palace
Union protests
The Tower of London
Greenwich Royal Observatory
Natural History Museum
The Tube
The Tube
British Museum
British Museum
Places: 

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