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European Vaction (thanks neilb)

By jmgarvin ·
So a few weeks ago I asked about some stuff to do in London for a few days...Here's my update:

Sunday (Day 0): Land at Heathrow. Spent almost an hour in the immigration line. It seems having multiple desks open as multiple flights land is too hard to do at Heathrow. We also had to take a shuttle to the tube because the Heathrow tube is closed for repair. Once we get to the tube we have to get off after only one stop, so we get as far as Acton before we are forced off (the line was closed for a few stations). We are shuffled on to a bus and start to head to the next station. The problem started when our bus driver got lost. We spent a good 10 minutes in an intersection trying to turn around to get back on the right track. During this time I met a nice Aussie fellow who was taking a teaching gig in London. He had a surfboard and a crazy idea of swimming around in the English Channel...To each their own I suppose.

We FINALLY make it to the next open station. We hop on the tube and continue on (having to change once to get to King's Cross). We walk for about 5 minutes to get to our hotel and check it...I want to die from lugging our luggage all over...

We clean up and head down to the Eye (Bus it, learn it, love it). The Eye was pretty impressive. It was interesting to see most of the London landmarks from a single area.

We finish with the Eye, walk around the river a bit, and decide to head back to the hotel for some rest. It would have been a quick shot, but bus 341 blows past the bus stop and continues on (we even waved it down, but the driver had no intention of stopping). 15 minutes later, we get a bus and are on our way.

Blister count = 0
Pounds spent = ~40 (Eye, travel, and small dinner)
Frustration with the "Mind the Gap" Lady: mild

Monday (Day 1): Tourist day in London. A quick walk to the British Museum (not far from King's Cross...~10 minutes walking). I was VERY impressed. Not only was the museum free, but the displays were VERY well done. I finally got a chance to see the Rosetta Stone and some of the middle age clocks (~1550s). Plus, the cool Victorian stuff...

From there a short walk to Picadilly. Did the quick rounds around there (too busy and frustrating). So we decided to hit Covent Gardens. I must say that while it is over priced kitch, it is a nice place to hang out for a bit. We had some tea and a stale scone (I think it might have been made when London was founded, but I might be a few years too short). We listened to a street performer singing opera (quite talented!) while eating our petrified scone and sipping tea (with lemon no less).

We had a little trouble getting around in that area as the Teddy Bear Factory covered about 1/4 of the map. So on our way back we didn't realize that Oxford and New Oxford are different (one heading east the other heading west). We wander down Oxford for a while, then we realize our mistake after hitting a cross street that Teddy Bear Factory isn't covering. Nice area with lots of shops though...Lots of pick pockets and bums too!

We end up back at the hotel, freshen up, and then head out to our Jack the Ripper Tour. The tube was running efficiently that day, but there was some confusion on the King's Cross station to leave out of (there are two). We were told to go to the small one, but the tube map showed that it wouldn't work, BUT the tube fellow said that was the one...we asked another person and he told us to head to the main station, which was the case.

The Ripper tour was interesting, but sad at the same time. Very few of the original buildings are still standing. Too bad we'll never really know who the Ripper was. Too much FUD has been planted and too much time has passed. It also didn't help that papers were trying to beef up the story with "letters" from the Ripper.

Blister count = 4
Pounds spent = ~50 (kitch, travel, Ripper Tour, and small dinner)
Frustration with the "Mind the Gap" Lady: medium

Tuesday (Day 2): We headed down to Salsbury, Stonehenge, and Avebury. In Salsbury I traded my Duff Beer hat, to a lemonade vendor, for a London hat. Apparently Simpson's fans are everywhere.

Salsbury was amazing. If you want to see a very well preserved version of the Magna Carta, head there. Stonehenge was somewhat of a disappointment (too busy and too far from the stones), but Avebury made up for it...we sat in the "devil's chair" (I think our tour guide made up the name) and played with divining rods.

Blister count = 7
Pounds spent = ~90 (tour and a nice dinner)
Frustration with the "Mind the Gap" Lady: Angered

Wednesday (Day 3): Check out time. Take the Tube down to Waterloo station...the tube was running behind due to something or other.

We did the Duck Tour that was very cool. It is the Ducks from WWII and they are part of history (part of D-Day). It was nice to go down the Thames river and get some nice shots during low tide.

After the Duck Tour we head to the Tower of London and do the tourist thing there. We think about hitting the "London Dungeon," but honestly it looks super cheesy and costs a bundle (IIRC about 25 pounds/person). The wife and I recreate a picture of when we first met at the Tower of London, I hope it comes out....

We take the tube back to King's Cross. Funky smell in the cars REALLY makes us want it to hurry up.

We need to get to Heathrow, so we head back to the hotel and we take a hotel car (with a VERY nice driver who was down to earth and a great guy) to the airport.

We spend 45 minutes at security trying to get through...once again only a handful of stations open for a huge number of passengers. Somebody needs to fire the manager of Heathrow and properly manage that place. What a friggin' mess.

We end up in Frankfurt and get through passport control after some delay (the inspector was slightly **** and was curious why Americans were coming from London to Germany)...After a little explaining in my **** poor Germany (to grease the wheels), we get through.

Rent a car, drive to hotel our hotel in Heidelberg, and then check out Heidelberg. We find out Germany is under construction (historic sites, roads, etc) all at once! It should all be done in 2011 apparently.

Blister count = 7
Pounds spent = ~60 (duck tour, travel, and a nice lunch)
Frustration with the "Mind the Gap" Lady: Will swallow her soul!

The rest was in Germany so I won't bore anyone with those details. Needless to say London was interesting, but far too busy. I think a major part of the problem was the state of public transporation there. I really enjoyed the Duck Tour and would HIGHLY suggest anyone take one. I'd also suggest a good tour to Salsbury and Avebury. We used Astral Tours and they did quite a good job.

Thanks to all who provided suggestions!

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by neilb@uk In reply to European Vaction (thanks ...

The posh "Mind the Gap" lady is known as Sonia because she "Gets on yer nerves!". You can get a recording off the web to bring back those happy memories.

I'm glad you enjoyed yourself and got some good weather - sunny, but not too hot for sightseeing. I would have warned you about Stonehenge as it's rare that you can get near enough but you do have to try it so I'm glad that Salisbury and Avebury made up for it. Local legends attribute mystic powers to the Devil's Chair such as the ability to summon the devil if you run round it 100 times anti-clockwise. It doesn't work or I miscounted. Trying does work up an appetite for a beer, though.

Regard the hour waiting in line as payback for fingerprinting and making my old Mum (77) take her shoes off at your end!


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You never know when old ladies might be packing guns!

by jmgarvin In reply to Sonia

Ya, airport security is pretty silly here. It was funny going through US Customs with some German bread...high comedy....

HA! I'll have to go back and run around the Devil's Chair 100 times and see what happens ;-)

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