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Tour of London– Part 1

September 27, 2011

Cheers Mates!

After 2 weeks in 4 different hotels, 9316 miles of travel including a total of ~26 hours airborne, dozens of pints of beer, and thousands of sightseeing steps, I was looking forward to returning home and sleeping in my own bed.

No matter how nice the hotels are, I always find my bed most comfortable and relaxing. I promise not to leave you, my dearest readers, without word for so long again (at least for the next few months Smile with tongue out). I don’t have any future trips of this magnitude planned for the rest of the year, so I’ll be back to my regular boring blogging, eating, running and working routine in no time.

Needless to say after a week of conferencing in Anaheim and many long hours preparing for my presentation, I was ready for a well-deserved vacation. My hubby read my mind (and picked up on numerous hints) and surprised me with a trip to London, UK.

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Never being in London, and being a huge fan of the Tudors series on Showtime, I agreed without any hesitations (more like squealed with excitement like a 9 year old), even though careful planning was required as I only had a three hour break between my flight from Anaheim and the flight to London.

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Eric met me at the Seattle airport where we did a quick suitcase switch and after parking the car, we began the long journey to explore one of the most marvelous and iconic places in the world – the Heathrow airport Smile

Have you seen their Duty Free selection?! Miles of beautifully lit aisles with the latest make-up, fragrances, sunglasses, watches, sweets, etc. all at a much cheaper price that in USA. My tip is get to the airport early if you can as it’s the best place to shop in London. Everywhere else super-expensive.

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We finally landed in London on Saturday September 24th. I did not even feel the jetlag– I was so full of excitement! I have so much to tell you about the trip! I figured the easiest way to share my experience is to break it into separate sections, like a tour guide so you can use my post as a reference to plan your next London vacation. Over the next few days I’ll cover:

  • Lodging & Transportation
  • Sites
  • Cambridge Trip
  • Running in the UK
  • And of course my favorite topic of all, Dining

I’d like to forewarn you that the content is based on my personal experience in the UK over the last few days, and it’s not a comprehensive list of sites, restaurants, hotels, etc., but hopefully you’ll find it interesting and valuable nevertheless.

Lodging & transportation

One thing that I was not prepared for is the size of London. In March, Eric and I visited Amsterdam where we covered all major sights on foot and took public transportation only once to get from the airport to the hotel. Well, that did not work in London. We spent roughly 75GBP (~$1.60 per GBP) just on the tube (London Underground train) tickets in 5 days in London. My advice is to research whether there are a weekly pass or “Oyster card” that offers a better rate for the length of your stay. The good thing is that the day passes also give you access to double decker public buses, which we did not take advantage of, but it might make more sense to use the buses so you can get city views. The tube is the fastest way to go, but I recommend you travel off peak hours after 9:30am and outside 4:00-7:00pm (the passes are cheaper, plus you avoid the crowds). The longest tube ride we took is to get from Heathrow airport to central London (just over an hour). I actually recommend to use the tube to get from and to the airport, but budget in for the travel time. This is the cheapest and fairly straight forward way. The taxi ride was quoted at 80 GBP (unless you book in advance where some sites claim they can do it for 40 GBP). The express train is 15 GBP per person and is a great way to go if you’ve got lots of luggage, traveling with kids or need to travel during peak hours when the tube is super busy—but it only goes to the northwest of London, far from where we stayed. One thing to keep in mind is that the weekend schedule for the tube can be limited due to maintenance so look for announcements for tube line closures to plan your route.

Another way to travel in London is by the Thames river clipper. We used it once to go to Greenwich and it was 5 GBP per person each way, or 12 GBP unlimited day travel. It was a very beautiful and comfortable ride, worth trying at least once.

We stayed at two different hotels while in London both near the London Tower on opposite sides of Thames. The first pick was Hilton Tower Bridge.

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We got a great deal on it as September tends to be off season for most European vacations (great time to travel if you ask me). $270 per night for the executive suite which included breakfast buffet (and we are big fans of European Hilton breakfast bars based on our experience in Amsterdam and Barcelona). The breakfast is totally worth the extra $30 per day. Their spread included everything from the breakfast menu, and I mean everything you can possibly imagine that could pass as breakfast is out on the tables, and if for some unexplainable reason, they did not cover something you might want, you can ask and they’ll make it for you. (Well, maybe not steak and lobster, but you know what I mean).

The second half of the trip we spent at the APEX hotel in the financial district.

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The price was slightly cheaper vs. the Hilton (without the breakfast, which my disappearing waistline was happy with) but they had free wireless internet access (maybe I should not tell you this, as there goes my excuse for not blogging last week Winking smile), a fridge which came in handy to store snacks and breakfast essentials and a good-sized room.

Both hotels were in a close proximity to the tube and had a number of good pubs and restaurants in the neighborhood, but more on that in upcoming posts…

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2011 10:19 am

    London is a great city but you are right so expensive! I was there in January for work and was so happy to be getting paid back for all of my transport! Couldn’t believe the prices of cabs & the tube! Excited for you to be back in action!

  2. September 28, 2011 11:57 am

    It’s good to be back. After all the fish and chips and beer, I was looking forward to detoxing before my big run. 🙂

  3. September 29, 2011 3:21 am

    I wanted to go to London every since I was a kid; for some reason I’ve always had a draw towards it. Finally went this summer and I absolutely loved it! 🙂

    Thanks for posting!

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