Saturday, September 24, 2011

Arrival in London 10/September 2011

Hubby and I spent 5 nights in London (10/September – 14/September) and two nights in Sidlesham for the Goodwood Revival (15-16/September) . We rented an apartment through which was located on Matthew Parker Street, around the corner from Westminster Abbey. We stayed at the Jolly Fisherman B&B in Sidlesham. We also had one night at the Heathrow T5 Sofitel. To plan the trip I used the Rick Steves' London, DK Top 10 London, and forums and internet research.

Our itinerary:
Saturday: arrive 11:40am. Car to apartment. 1630 tour of Parliament. Dinner reservation 1930 at Cinnamon Club.

Sunday: British Museum, British Library, Courthalt Gallery

Monday: 9:30am Buckingham Palace (Dutch Landscapes, State Rooms, Royal Mews), Apsley House, Victoria and Albert, Harrods.

Tuesday: Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral, Millenium Bridge, (walk by Shakespeare's Globe), Tate Modern. Dinner reservation 1800 at St. John Restaurant.

Wednesday: Westminster Abbey. Lunch reservation, The Square 1330. Churchill War Rooms and Museum.

Rick Steves' London is not his best effort but since I have used his guides for years, we took it with us. The DK Top 10 was good but seemed a little light, I guess, so I didn't refer to it while on the trip. It's helpful for putting things in groups. I would have loved to use the Eyewitness Guide but it's just too heavy to lug around…

Saturday: We flew British Airways in World Traveler Plus class (aka Premium Economy). We got a good price on this upgrade from coach and it was very worth it for the extra leg room, a wider seat and quieter cabin. It was a pretty empty flight and all went smoothly. We both were able to doze a little. Entertainment unit was good food was decent, really.
Our big 777 at IAH
We arrived a little early at Heathrow T5. I was surprised by the ease of entry into the country—border control agent asked a few questions and then waved us through. I think it took all of 20 minutes from getting off the plane until we were looking for the ATMS by the Krispy Kreme (underneath a Thomas Cook sign as adamhornets, IIRC, reported). Our driver, Maureen, from Londonconnection, was waiting as prearranged. It took about 45 minutes to get to the apartment where we were met by Christina. She gave us a brief orientation to the small but comfortable and perfectly adequate flat. We unpacked, cleaned up, and headed out to find a pub before our Parliament Tour at 1630.

The weather was partly cloudy and cool. We marveled at the view of Westminster Abbey as we headed to The Sanctuary where we had our first proper English pints (well, a half lager for me). Lovely. Hubby had scoped out the area a little earlier and directed us to a second pub, Feathers, where we had a second pint and half. Lovely. We then walked to Parliament for our tour.

Pretty safe area of town!

Having a pint at the Sanctuary some 3 hours after landing in London!

The Parliament tour starts with security and a picture for your Visitor's Pass. Very official-like. We gathered in the gorgeous Westminster Hall , which dates back to 1099!, and along with 22 other folks had an hour and a half tour of the impressive buildings. We began where the Queen arrives for the Opening of Parliament Speech, went into the gorgeous and opulent House of Lords before being allowed to sit in the seats of the less impressive House of Commons. The guide did a very good job of making the Houses come to life. I couldn't believe how many Members of Parliament and Peers there are, something like 1400 altogether compared to our 635 or so; or that constituents can hang out in the hall of Commons and send for their MP to come for a chat—can't see that happening in the House of Representatives any time soon! At any rate, the tour was fabulous. We bought a couple of souvenirs and took a bunch of photos in Westminster Hall. The view outside was of Big Ben and Parliament Square and one of the Houses—impressive!

Big Ben was our view as we entered Westminster Hall
Westminster Hall at 5:58pm; just before they closed the doors for the day!
The beamed ceiling has been there since day 1

We trekked the short distance back to the apartment to rest and change before dinner at the Cinnamon Club, also a short walk away. Dinner was outstanding. We loved the food, the French beer, the friendly but efficient service, the atmosphere (the book lined upper gallery was gorgeous). It was simply excellent. We walked to Victoria Station to get our 7 day Travel Card then took the bus back to the apartment to sleep. The bed was a "queen" which is more like a double in the US, so a bit small. We were so tired we slept well anyway. Excellent first day!

Goodnight, Big Ben!

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