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Old 09-26-2011, 10:41 PM   #1
sayhello
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Trip Report! DIS Exclusive Knights & Lights/Disneyland Paris, Part 2 - LOTS OF PICS!

Pre-Days D, E & F - London!

So the next morning, I had a leisurely English breakfast at the B&B, and then took a taxi to the Winchester train station. I had purchased a First Class train ticket ahead of time online. It wasn't that much more than a regular ticket and I figured I'd be tired of traveling at that point. While the area & aisles were a bit more spacious in First class, there wasn't *that* much difference. The biggest thing for me was that the train car was pretty empty, so I could just park my luggage in the aisle rather than having to find a spot at the end of the car.

It was a pretty uneventful ride, and in well under an hour, I found myself in Waterloo Station. OMG, was Waterloo Station HUMONGOUS! I really had no clue which of the many exits I wanted, to get to the road to my hotel. I asked a worker if I should grab a cab or not, and he said I'd spend more time getting the cab then it would take me to walk there. So, with my luggage in tow (where *were* those Adventure Guides? ;-) ) I walked the couple of blocks to the Park Plaza County Hall. I got to the traffic circle that the station worker had described, and there was the Park Plaza. In the middle of the circle. I was a little perplexed as to how I was to cross & get to it. As I started to circle around & look for a crossing place, I saw, on my side of the street, The Park Plaza County Hall. It seems the one across the road was just The Park Plaza. How confusing! But at least I didn't have to brave the traffic!

At first they said I was too early to get a room, but by the time I'd finished checking in, a room was ready. I went up to my room on the 1st floor (what we'd call the 2nd floor. In Europe, the 1st floor is the Ground Floor, and then what we'd call the 2nd floor is the first floor. It's confusing, but as long as they mark the floors well, it's OK). I'd gotten a really great deal on this hotel, so I wasn't surprised to not have a view of the Thames or the London Eye (which were just a couple of blocks away). But I was surprised to find that my room overlooked the restaurant on the ground floor. I was well above the restaurant, so it wasn't like people were looking in my room, but it was odd. The nice thing was, I got some natural light from the windows of the restaurant, so I could tell what the weather was like, etc.



It was a very nice room, and larger than what I'd been led to expect in England. There was a lot of marble and frosted glass. It was very modern-looking.



After I got settled in, I decided to head out and get some lunch, and then head across the Thames to the Houses of Parliament & Big Ben. This is the view from just around the corner from my hotel. That's the County Hall, and, behind it, the London Eye. It's amazing how the London Eye is visible from areas all over London.



I found a Chinese place that had an interesting looking menu which included, of all things, some curries. I decided to go for the curry, and it was very tasty. After I finished with lunch, I walked across the Westminster Bridge. I was really in London! There they were, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. (Or, more accurately, St. Stephen's Tower. Big Ben is actually the name of the bell inside the clock tower.)











Westminster Abbey!



The flying buttresses of Westminster Abbey.





I knew we were visiting this area, and taking some tours as a part of the ABD, so I spent this time just wandering from building to building, taking tons of photos and absorbing the fact that I was really in London.



My first Red Phone box. I was hardly the only person taking pictures of this!



This monument shows the various uniforms worn by the women who served in World War II.



I then decided to catch a bus to Trafalgar Square. I wanted to check it out, plus I'd read in National Geographic that the #15 double-decker bus from Trafalgar Square to St. Paul's was a nice ride that went past a lot of nice architecture & monuments.

Trafalgar Square and the Nelson Column, built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar.



A fountain in front of the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. I just thought it was an interesting composition!



I've heard that this plinth is waiting around to have a statue of Queen Elizabeth II. In the meanwhile, it has this cool ship in a bottle. It's really quite a bit more HUGE than it looks!



The countdown calendar for the London Olympics.



I caught the #15 bus, and climbed up to the upper deck of the double-decker. The whole front of the bus was taken up by a group of Asian tourists. I wanted to see the sights, so I sat up amongst them in an empty seat. Their tourguide spoke English, so he & I chatted a bit, and I found they were all from Korea. He asked where I was from, and when I told them, they went "Oh! Ohio! Yes! Yes! Ohio! Ohio!" I guess Ohio must be pretty popular in Korea! ;-)

Then we came up to St. Paul's Cathedral, and I got off the bus. The weather was pretty gloomy at this point, but St. Paul's was just beautiful.



I walked around and took several pictures of this stately Cathedral.





After that, I walked up the steps to the entrance, and found that the Cathedral had closed at 5. However, they hold a service there after 5, called Evensong, and anyone is welcome to go into the Cathedral to attend the service. I went in, and found a seat under the fabulous dome of the Cathedral. I noticed signs that said NO photography was allowed, with or without a flash. It just killed me, because the inside of St. Paul's is ABSOLUTELY, AMAZINGLY GORGEOUS, and my fingers itched to document it in pictures. But instead I just sat there and absorbed all the beauty, and tried to memorize it. The carvings, the statuary, the paintings, the mosaics. Gorgeous, gorgeous, GORGEOUS! To be seeing all this, while listening to an Angelic choir sing the Evensong service was just an amazing experience.

After Evensong was over, I went in search of a quick dinner. Right on the edge of the square surrounding St. Paul's, there was a store called M&S To Go, which is basically a "fast food" offshoot of Marks & Spencer's department stores. It was aisle after aisle of pre-made meals of all sorts & description. I got a salad, yogurt, a scone and a fruit cup, and sat on the steps of St. Paul's to eat my impromptu Dinner. A few pigeons were staking me out waiting for me to drop something, but I didn't really think they'd enjoy the quinoa and cranberries of my salad, and I wasn't going to share my scone! (The steps of St. Paul's are where the Old Lady from Mary Poppins' "Feed the Birds" is from. I've heard they really don't want you feeding the birds there any more).

After I was done, I caught a bus to head back to my hotel. I could have taken the Tube, but I decided I really wanted to sight-see on my way back.



Returning to the Park Plaza County Hall.



Once I got back to the Hotel, rested up a bit and checked in online, I decided to head down to the Thames and check out the London Eye. I thought it would be cool to ride it at night. As I walked down there (the weather had turned fabulous!) I stopped in various spots to take some night-time photos of the London Eye.





Continued in next post.
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Now posting my Greek Odyssey Trip Report (2013)


Last edited by sayhello; 09-28-2011 at 12:54 PM.
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Old 09-26-2011, 10:41 PM   #2
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I was too late to ride the Eye (it takes 1/2 an hour to go all the way around, and they'd already started the last revolution). So I walked further down towards Westminster Bridge to get shots of the Houses of Parliament lit up at night.





There was a really cool-looking bridge just a bit further the other direction down the river. At first I thought it might be the Millennium Bridge (that bridge the Death Eaters destroyed in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), but I figured out it wasn't. (The Millennium Bridge is much further down the river, near St. Paul's) This was the Golden Jubilee Bridge, and they were 2 identical foot bridges running on either side of a railroad bridge. I decided to walk across them, to see the sights and take some pictures. There were loads of other people out doing the same thing and it felt perfectly safe.

Looking back from the Jubilee Bridge:



The Golden Jubilee Bridge.





The next morning, a bit of jetlag caught up with me. I slept in, and after a morning spent in slow motion, I called a friend of mine who works in Westminster, and arranged to meet her for lunch. She gave me directions for which bus to take, and said she'd meet me at the bus stop. It couldn't have been easier to get there. I'd gotten an Oyster Card the day before, which I highly recommend. Just tap it against the sensor on the bus, and your fare is automatically deducted. No tickets required, and you can reload the card at any Tube station.

We had a lovely, long lunch, chatting and catching up. I had some delicious Fish & Chips (I had to!)



My friend recommended that I check out the Tate Museum, which was close by where we had lunch. I thought she meant the Tate Modern, which I was interested in seeing. But she scoffed at that and told me she meant the *real* Tate -- The Tate Britain. It was a more traditional museum, which apparently has a great collection of Turner artwork.





I have to admit I didn't really know who Turner was, but she said it like I should know, so I decided to check it out. I lucked out, and there was a guided tour of the Turner collection starting just a few minutes after I arrived there. It turns out Joseph Turner is one of Britain's most "celebrated" artists. It was quite an interesting tour, and I learned a lot from it.

After I was done at the Tate Britain, my friend had suggested that I could take the Thames Clipper boat from Tate to Tate, and check out the Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge, and get a nice boat ride up the Thames while I was at it.



When we got there, I was surprised to find out how close I'd been to the Millennium Bridge when I'd been at St. Paul's the day before. It's only a short block away. I guess I just never looked in the right direction. The Millennium Bridge spans the Thames between St. Paul's and the Tate Modern. It's a really, really cool bridge. Apparently it was pretty unstable when it first opened (the architect said the problem was not with the bridge -- it was how people were *walking* on the bridge!) They shut it down and re-engineered it, and it's now absolutely rock solid.





Me at the Millennium Bridge.





St Paul's.



Portrait of the photographer.





The Tate Modern.



The entrance to the Tate Modern



The Tate Modern was built in the old Bankside Power Station. A lot of people really liked that the design incorporated the old building instead of tearing it down. Personally, I wasn't that impressed with either the building (on the inside) or the collection of art. The art was just not my thing, and the building was very confusingly set up, very segmented. It was hard to get around.

This was one of the few art installations that I actually liked.



After I was done at the Tate Modern, I walked along the Victoria Embankment for a while (along the Thames) then picked up some dinner at Pret a Manger. Pret a Manger is a chain that sells sandwiches, pastries, coffee, etc. They are EVERYWHERE! It's like Starbucks in Los Angeles, where they are on every other corner. The coffee was really good, as was all the food they had there. I then took the bus to Temple Tube Station. There I met up with a Harry Potter-themed walking tour, run by a highly rated company called London Walks. This tour was a nice mix of filming locations, JK Rowling-related spots and historical sites connected in some way to some of the Mythologies that Rowling used in Harry Potter. It was really enjoyable, and I went places I never even knew existed!



After filming one of the movies, this historic hall was rented out & transformed into the Hogwarts Great Hall for their wrap party.



This ancient round temple belonged to the Knights Templar, who some say are the forebears of the Swiss Guard. It was one of those cool places I never would have found on my own.





Continued in next post.
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Check out my Southwest Splendors Trip Report! (2008). 5 parts, full of pics & details & impressions!
My Taming the Last Frontier ABD Alaska Trip Report! (2009)! 7 parts, pictures, stories, & more impressions!
Also check out my ABD/DCL Mediterranean Magic Trip Report! (2010)
NOW POSTING! My DIS Unplugged London/Paris/Disneyland Paris Trip Report! (2011)
Now posting my Greek Odyssey Trip Report (2013)

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Old 09-26-2011, 10:42 PM   #3
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This pub was the tour guide's choice as the Leaky Cauldron.



This very cool building is the Australian Embassy. It's the filming site of Gringott's for the first HP movie.



There was just something about the drama of this sculpture that really appealed to me.



The guide took us to the Lyceum Theatre to talk about the mythos surrounding Werewolves and Vampires. For a period of time, the House Manager for this theatre happened to be a guy named Bram Stoker. Yep, author of Dracula.



It was also cool because I knew I'd be back there in a couple of days, as our ABD included a performance of The Lion King.

Before she became a famous author, JK Rowling worked in an office off this road for Amnesty International.



A favorite hangout pub near where JK Rowling used to work backed up onto this alleyway. You go out the back door, and face this brick wall which is right there. Sound familiar?



I really enjoyed this tour. If you're looking for a walking tour of London, definitely check out London Walks at http://www.walks.com/ They have a large assortment of tours, and I wish I'd planned to take more of them!

I then caught the Tube home, and rested up for my next day in London!

One thing I forgot to mention in Part 1 was the unfortunate tale of my green trousers. I packed a pair of nice slacks for fancy dinners, a new pair of green casual trousers, and 2 pairs of yoga pants. The first day I wore the green trousers, they totally, completely stretched out *so badly* that I had to buy a belt to keep them up! They were just too uncomfortable! But I couldn't spend the entire trip in yoga pants. So, for this next day in London, I decided to indulge in some Retail Therapy and head up to check out Harrods. (I also heard they had a great afternoon tea.)

Harrods is the craziest, most decadent department store ever! The decor is *quite* impressive. This is the "Egyptian staircase".





Unfortunately, as a shopping destination, not so impressive. To begin with, I wandered all over 2 enormous floors of Women's wear, and couldn't find anything in my size. The largest I could find was the equivalent of a size 12. I'm not *that* much larger, but I am not a 12! I asked, and had more than one salesperson tell me they didn't sell anything larger than that. There turned out to be one tiny corner of one floor of one Designer that had a few items in my size. That was it. I did manage to find a very nice, but grossly over-priced pair of jeans, and a pair of dark khaki pants. And one saleslady told me about a Plus Sized shop on Oxford Street, which was quite far away. It was more than a little infuriating.

THEN, all the salespeople I talked to told me that if I took my receipts down to Harrods' offices, they would refund the VAT for me, so I wouldn't have to do it at the airport. What a great service, I thought! Well, it wasn't until the transaction was all done that I found out that Harrods charges for this "service"! No-one mentioned it, there were no signs that said it, but when I looked at the bottom line of the form, my £56.67 refund had become £39.50! They'd kept 30% of my refund! They'd already stamped "VAT Refund" all over my receipts, so I was pretty much stuck at that point. But I really thought that stank!

Then, since I was pretty hungry at that point, I decided to check out the infamous Harrods Food Court. It was pretty amazing, but also extremely chaotic. I managed to purchase some food, and then went to find the seating area so I could eat it. That's when I found out there was *no* seating area! You could buy food there, but there was no-where to eat it! I asked a worker, and she said the only seating was for the restaurants. She suggested I go to one of the cafe's and purchase a coffee or something. Then I could eat there. I did that, until I saw that the cafe' wanted £8 for a coffee! I picked up my stuff, and walked outside to eat my lunch on a bench.

So Harrods? Cool to look at, but I've had a better time shopping at my local Macy's...

After that, I decided to head up to check out the store I'd been told about on Oxford Street. I did find a nice top there. Then, I went to catch a bus back to Waterloo station. Well, there was construction on Oxford Street, and it seemed that everywhere a bus stop was for the line I wanted, it was blocked by construction. I just kept walking and walking. And walking and walking! I *did* run across London's Disney Store, so I went in.



They didn't have much that wasn't the same stuff you can buy at any Disney Store. I got an "I London" badge (button), and a refrigerator magnet with Minnie and Big Ben on it.



I ended up in the Oxford Circus area (it was!)



(Notice the Apple Store sign above). Whoa! It was *some* Apple Store!



I eventually did catch my bus, and returned to Waterloo Station. I really loved having that station as a "home base". It was easy to get back to the hotel, knowing I had Waterloo as a landmark.



I spent that evening packing up. For, the next morning, I was moving to The Chancery Court Hotel, where my ABD was to start. It was hard to believe it, but my Knights & Lights trip was almost here!

Continued in Part 3. -- Buckingham Palace & Day 1 of the ABD.
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NOW POSTING! My DIS Unplugged London/Paris/Disneyland Paris Trip Report! (2011)
Now posting my Greek Odyssey Trip Report (2013)


Last edited by sayhello; 10-09-2011 at 11:10 PM.
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Old 09-27-2011, 06:23 AM   #4
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I love love love your trip report!!!!
Please keep them comming because i wnat to now the rest of this story....
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Old 09-27-2011, 07:14 AM   #5
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Yay, second installment!!

ITA about the Tate Modern. There were several exhibits that DD and I felt we could have done better ourselves, and others that we just wondered "....why??" I guess I'm just not a fan of modern modern art. (I like 20th century "modern art.")

I can't believe how many fewer people are around Westminster in your pictures than there were in August! I'm not sure if I have a photo or not, but I can tell you it was like swimming in a can of sardines to cross the bridge and wander around the Parliament building. So glad you got to do it at a more civilized time of year!

DD and I spent a rainy afternoon in Harrods, and I was very put off by the sales people and the prices. We treated it more like a museum of consumables, and did enjoy looking at all the high end luggage and stationary stuff. And we loved the puppies and the dog spa! There is a very nice little Italian restaurant in the bottom - we ate at the bar and enjoyed watching the chefs work their magic, which they then shared samples of with us. But, like you, I found the famous (infamous?) food halls waaaaaay overstimulating and chaotic. I can't imagine that being a regular shopping destination.

Glad you found something to wear though. And you look great in the pictures!

Can't wait to read more, thanks for sharing!
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Old 09-27-2011, 08:25 AM   #6
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Wow, that was quick. The second installment was great! Love the pictures! So, out of all your ABD trips, which one was your favorite? I can tell that you enjoyed them all, but I was wondering if you like the European trips better than the US trips or are they all so completely different that you can't decide?
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Old 09-27-2011, 09:08 AM   #7
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I don't often read full trip reports but your's is wonderful and I can't wait for your next post.

I love the pic of you reflecting in the silver orb btw...great idea!
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Old 09-27-2011, 09:41 AM   #8
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I am really enjoying your report and photos
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Old 09-27-2011, 08:02 PM   #9
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Looking good Toby

Looking forward to the report. I want to go back....
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Old 09-27-2011, 09:38 PM   #10
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I almost feel like I am in London reading your trip report!

I am amazed at how much you accomplished in a day. Actually it makes me a bit exhausted reading it -- how did you do it?!

Can't wait to read more!
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Old 09-27-2011, 10:07 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yvet View Post
I love love love your trip report!!!!
Please keep them comming because i wnat to now the rest of this story....
Thanks, Yvet. More soon!

Quote:
Originally Posted by kristilew View Post
Yay, second installment!!

ITA about the Tate Modern. There were several exhibits that DD and I felt we could have done better ourselves, and others that we just wondered "....why??" I guess I'm just not a fan of modern modern art. (I like 20th century "modern art.")
I like modern art. Just not *that* modern art!

Quote:
I can't believe how many fewer people are around Westminster in your pictures than there were in August! I'm not sure if I have a photo or not, but I can tell you it was like swimming in a can of sardines to cross the bridge and wander around the Parliament building. So glad you got to do it at a more civilized time of year!
I didn't really think about it, but you're right. It definitely wasn't that busy. It seems in Europe that vacations really do end at the end of August. Disneyland Paris was really empty!

Quote:
DD and I spent a rainy afternoon in Harrods, and I was very put off by the sales people and the prices. We treated it more like a museum of consumables, and did enjoy looking at all the high end luggage and stationary stuff. And we loved the puppies and the dog spa! There is a very nice little Italian restaurant in the bottom - we ate at the bar and enjoyed watching the chefs work their magic, which they then shared samples of with us. But, like you, I found the famous (infamous?) food halls waaaaaay overstimulating and chaotic. I can't imagine that being a regular shopping destination.

Glad you found something to wear though. And you look great in the pictures!
I was really starting to regret not bringing my jeans. At least I found a nice pair at Harrods! Still not much of a fan of the store.

Quote:
Can't wait to read more, thanks for sharing!
More soon! Glad you're enjoying!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diskidatheart View Post
Wow, that was quick. The second installment was great! Love the pictures! So, out of all your ABD trips, which one was your favorite? I can tell that you enjoyed them all, but I was wondering if you like the European trips better than the US trips or are they all so completely different that you can't decide?
Man, that's a hard question. Southwest Splendors still has a special place in my heart. Here in the good old USA, but amazingly spectacular, and a great combination of activities. But I loved Alaska! Part of that is that I just plain love Alaska, but it's a great itinerary, too. The Med cruise was an amazing mix of different places and activities. And this trip was just fabulous cities, with the added bonus of sharing it with a bunch of DIS folks. If I *HAD* to pick one, I still think Southwest Splendors would be my favorite, but it's a close, CLOSE contest! ETA:I'm already going to have to change this answer. These trips really were all so different, and enjoyable for such different reasons. I just can't say which is my favorite. I really loved them all!

Quote:
Originally Posted by katrina1122 View Post
I don't often read full trip reports but your's is wonderful and I can't wait for your next post.

I love the pic of you reflecting in the silver orb btw...great idea!
Thanks, katrina1122! I'm so happy you're enjoying my Report. More should be up soon.

The orb just turned out great. Plus, I got a picture of myself with St. Paul's Cathedral!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cotillard View Post
I am really enjoying your report and photos
Thanks, Cotillard. So glad you're enjoying it!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jmccormick View Post
Looking forward to the report. I want to go back....
Thanks, Jim. It was great to go, but sad that it's over. I think we need a do-over! Definitely! Tell Pete!

Quote:
Originally Posted by *WDW*Groupie* View Post
I almost feel like I am in London reading your trip report!

I am amazed at how much you accomplished in a day. Actually it makes me a bit exhausted reading it -- how did you do it?!

Can't wait to read more!
I got exhausted!!!

Honestly, I allowed myself to say "That's enough for today" or "I'm sleeping in this morning". A part of me feels like I'm "wasting time", but it really does help me recharge and keep going.

More soon!

Sayhello
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Check out my Southwest Splendors Trip Report! (2008). 5 parts, full of pics & details & impressions!
My Taming the Last Frontier ABD Alaska Trip Report! (2009)! 7 parts, pictures, stories, & more impressions!
Also check out my ABD/DCL Mediterranean Magic Trip Report! (2010)
NOW POSTING! My DIS Unplugged London/Paris/Disneyland Paris Trip Report! (2011)
Now posting my Greek Odyssey Trip Report (2013)


Last edited by sayhello; 09-29-2011 at 01:18 PM.
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Old 09-28-2011, 07:56 AM   #12
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This is really making me want to go to London now! I am really enjoying your report.

Did you feel that there was a big difference in the quality of your experience from walking around London yourself to when you were back at the same places during the ABD portion?
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Old 09-28-2011, 12:07 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emilymad View Post
This is really making me want to go to London now! I am really enjoying your report.

Did you feel that there was a big difference in the quality of your experience from walking around London yourself to when you were back at the same places during the ABD portion?
You *should* want to go to London! It's a fabulous place!

As far as the quality of the experience... it's really hard to compare. The time I spent wandering around London by myself was just that -- wandering around, absorbing the atmosphere, taking tons of photos. But, especially that first day in Westminster, I didn't go inside anywhere, nor did I have a guide. But I enjoy wandering. However, it was fabulous to go back with ABD, go through Westminster Abbey for a private tour with our local Blue Badge Guides, enjoy it with the others on the ABD, take group photos, and, again, have our fabulous local Guide to tell us all about what we were seeing. Two VERY different experiences. I enjoyed both, but part of it was being content that first day, just wandering around, because I *knew* I'd be back for a more in-depth experience.

Does that answer your question?

Sayhello
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Now posting my Greek Odyssey Trip Report (2013)


Last edited by sayhello; 09-28-2011 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 09-28-2011, 05:42 PM   #14
emilymad
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sayhello View Post
You *should* want to go to London! It's a fabulous place!

As far as the quality of the experience... it's really hard to compare. The time I spent wandering around London by myself was just that -- wandering around, absorbing the atmosphere, taking tons of photos. But, especially that first day in Westminster, I didn't go inside anywhere, nor did I have a guide. But I enjoy wandering. However, it was fabulous to go back with ABD, go through Westminster Abbey for a private tour with our local Blue Badge Guides, enjoy it with the others on the ABD, take group photos, and, again, have our fabulous local Guide to tell us all about what we were seeing. Two VERY different experiences. I enjoyed both, but part of it was being content that first day, just wandering around, because I *knew* I'd be back for a more in-depth experience.

Does that answer your question?

Sayhello
This really help! Thanks! Now just to win the lottery...
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Old 09-30-2011, 05:38 PM   #15
LSmith
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I absolutely love your detailed trip reports with pictures (all of them)! One of the many places I haven't yet visited is England and you are making it look so good. I'm hoping to take my family and father there within the year.

Thank you very much for taking the time to write the trip report.
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