Date of Trip: May 2011
Pre-cruise: London 3 nights at the Sanctuary House Hotel. We booked through booking.com but credit card was not charged until date of arrival. Issue with this is the conversion rate of the Great British Pound to the US dollar had gone up. Thus it cost us much more than anticipated. Location was great- walking distance to Westminster Abby, St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Bridge and River Thames Cruise stop, Big Ben, the London Eye, Whitehall St., the Churchill War Museum and Trafalgar Square. Tube stop, St. James Park just 2 minutes away and Westminster stop about less than 10 minutes. Near a HOHO bus stop, too. Although I brought and used a Voltage adapter and did get to charge my camera battery, I “fried” my curling iron. I should have bought & used a Voltage converter.
We booked Exclusive Airport car service @ £44 per car from Heathrow to our hotel. Our street was blocked off due to construction, so our driver had to go around by an alternate route. Traffic was very heavy on a weekday morning. It took almost 11/2 hrs. to get to the hotel from Heathrow. I am glad we weren’t in a taxi. We shared a car from Smith’s Exclusive Airport with another couple to Southampton @ £160 total/£80 per couple to Southampton on 5/22.
London: Pre-purchased the London Pass including Tube tickets. You must visit a majority of sites listed to yield a good return on this purchase. Only regret was buying Tube ticket for 1st day, as we did not use it. • Westminster Abby tour w/ audio guide • Churchill War Rooms Museum – Lunch at their cafe • Walked to the Horse Guards staging area and through the arch to Whitehall Street • #10 Downing Street is blocked from view • Trafalgar Square • Official London Visitors to purchase Original HOHO tickets £22.50pp • Walked across to the pickup spot for the Narrated Blue route tour. Went around totally without getting off. This gave us a good perspective of where sites of interest were located. • Got off near Piccadilly Square and walked to the Mall • Buckingham Palace photo op • Walked back to the hotel via St. James Park. • Had dinner at the Queen’s pub corner of Tothill & Broadway
Day 2: • Simple breakfast at EAT nearby — good coffee and croissant sandwich • Took Tube @ 9:30AM to Tower of London • Tower of London tour — group que for London pass was long — lots of school Age groups in London from all over the world. Beefeater tour was from main gate. We did our own tour with audio guide. • Walked to the Tower of London Bridge — did tour of engine room and historical museum • Walked along the Southbank of the River Thames. We had hoped to walk to the Millennium Bridge but that was not possible directly. I didn’t want to get lost. • Walked across the London Bridge to the Tube stop and had a very long walk underground. Took tube to St. Paul’s Cathedral • Toured St. Paul’s • Had lunch in nearby deli. • Returned to our hotel by Tube • PM: Took Tube to Covent Garden — There were many theaters in this area. • Walked to Porter’s English Pub for dinner where we met two new friends from Cruise Critic. Three of us tried the special 3 English pie sampler- wonderful and so filling. With our London Pass, we received a bottle of wine.
Day 3: • Had a difficult time finding an open place for breakfast. All nearby shops were closed. Our hotel appears to be in a business district. Our hotel offered Continental Breakfast @ £9 or full English breakfast @ £12, which I thought too expensive and reviews of the food weren’t positive. • Took the Tube again from St. James to So. Kensington • Walked to the Victoria & Albert Museum — very nice with lots of historical artifacts, paintings, silver, clothing etc. • Walked to Harrods’s for a little local shopping in their logo shop. Bought English Tea canisters and some souvenirs with Harrods’s logo. I wanted to have lunch in their Food Court, but it was much too crowded to attempt to sit down. • Took the Tube back to the Westminster Bridge • Walked to the River Thames City Cruise dock. • Although the HOHO ticket also gave you a River Thames one-way tour, it was valid for 24 hrs. after purchase only. Our London Pass allowed us unlimited privileges on this same tour boat. We were going to stop and ride the London Eye, but it was a beautiful day and riding the boat was a leisurely way to see the city from the water. • Got off at the Tower of London. Found a Black London Taxi que and went to Sherlock Holmes Pub for a late lunch. • Traffic was horrendous with 3 bridges closed on a Saturday for construction. It must have taken us an hour to get to Trafalgar Square. If I had known, we would have taken the Tube. Taxi fee was £30 but the driver felt bad and charged us just £25. • The Original HOHO bus company is no longer giving discount coupons for the Sherlock Holmes Pub Fish & Chips lunch. We bought it @ £8.95. It wasn’t as good as the first night’s dinner near our hotel. I found I don’t like Mushy Peas! • We walked back to our hotel through the Admiralty Arch along St. James park • Had a drink & desert at our hotel in the Fuller Pub. (This pub was a busy place on the week nights, with standing room only. We couldn’t get in earlier in the week.) • Point of Note: it does not get dark in the UK until after 9PM • We walked past Big Ben and the Parliament building for evening photo op’s • We walked across the Westminster Bridge for Sunset photos of Big Ben and along the banks of the River Thames including the London Eye. There were hundreds of tourists in this area doing the same thing. Police presence was very apparent.
Day 4: • Went to 8AM Sunday service at Westminster Abby • Had a continental breakfast at the Methodist Hall Cafe • Checked out of our hotel by 10:30 AM to meet our new Cruise Critic friends who picked us up in a car from Smith’s for Airports which was pre-booked to Southampton.