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UNITED KINGDOM:


GREAT BRITAIN:

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Royal Guards in red cloaks.  

Guard Troop riding away from the changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

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iStock.com/peterspiro

 


For more information, including special deals and offers, please visithttp://www.visitbritain.com 

TIME:
Great Britain is 5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST).


TELEPHONE CALLS:
To make a telephone call, be sure to dial the International access code: 011, the Country code: 44, and the City code: 207, unless otherwise noted.


REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:
United States citizens need a valid Passport to enter the United Kingdom.  Stays of less than six months do not require a visa.


LANGUAGE:
The official language of Great Britain is English.


CURRENCY:
The British Pound is Great Britain’s currency.  The Britain monetary system follows the decimal system: A British pound equals 100 pence (e).  Coins include 1 pence, 2 pence, 5 pence, 10 pence, 20 pence, and 50 pence and notes valued at 5, 10, 20, or 50 pounds.  


Band of Grenadier Guards 3

Band of Grenadier Guards during the changing of the Guard ceremony 

at Buckingham Palace

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iStock.com/AMB-MD

 

 

IT’S ALL IN THE TIMING:
Britain is on British Standard Time (BST) from March 29th to October 25 - five hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) in the United States, six hours ahead of Central Daylight Time (CDT) and seven hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Time (PDT).

 


In the fall, the United Kingdom reverts back to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the United States re-adjusts to Standard Time.  GMT is five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST) in the United States.


ELECTRICITY:

 

 

  

Yes, don’t risk frustration.  You will need an adapter, as Great Britain voltage is 240 volts AC at 50HZ, while United States appliances voltage is 120 volts at 60HZ.  British power sockets are designed for standard three-pin square plugs.  Be sure to purchase and bring adapter plugs for your electrical appliances like electric shaver and electric hair-dryer.

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN THE UNITED KINGDOM:
The best time to vacation in the United Kingdom is during late April, May, September, and October.


PRIME SEASON:
Prime Season is during late May, June, July, August, and December.


SHOULDER SEASON:
Shoulder Season is during April, early May, September, and January.


LOW SEASON:
Low Season is during October, November, February, and March.  During Low Season, there are fewer tourists and theater is at its peak.  The days are cold and short.  

 

British Army Cavalry at Buckingham Palace

Cavalry soldiers of the British Army on horseback outside Buckingham Palace.

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iStock.com/Richard Sharrocks

 

 

MAJOR HOLIDAYS (OBSERVED BY GREAT BRITAIN AND WALES):
January 1: New Years Day
January 2: Extra New Years Bank Day: (Bank Holiday observed only in Scotland)

March 17: St. Patrick’s Day: (Bank Holiday observed only in Ireland)

April 14, 2017, March 30th, 2018, April 19th, 2019: Good Friday Bank Holiday 
April 17, 2017, April 2, 2018, April 22, 2019: Easter Monday Bank Holiday  
 First Monday in May: Early May Bank Holiday: 
May 1, 2017, May 7, 2018, May 6, 2019.  

 

  Last Monday in May: Spring Break Holiday: May 29th, 2017, May 28th, 2018, May 27,2019.

August 7, 2017 – Summer Bank Holiday. 

August 28, 2017, August 27, 2018, August 26, 2019 – Summer Bank Holiday.

October 29, 2017, Daylight Savings Time Ends 
December 25 annually: Christmas Bank Holiday 

December 26, 2017, December 26, 2018, December 26, 2019 - Boxing Day Bank Holiday.   

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN GREAT BRITAIN:  

January 1: New Years Day - Bank Holiday 

May 1: May Day - Bank Holiday 
November 5: Bonf
ire Night - also known as Gunpowder Day and Guy Fawkes Day - marked by fireworks and bonfires throughout Great Britain

 November: Royal Auto Club Rally 
December 25: Christmas - Bank Holiday  

 

 

Buckingham Palace Guard, London, UK

Marching the Queen's Guards during traditional changing of the Guards 

ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

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iStock.com/DKart

 

ASCOT:


MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN ASCOT:

 

 

 

Mid-June: The Royal Meeting of Ascot Racecourse

 

 


BATH:


MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN BATH:

Mid-November: Bath Mozart Festival 

 


BIRMINGHAM:

 

Birmingham is an industrial city, located one 1-3/4 hour away, by train, from London. 


MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN BIRMINGHAM
December - first week annually: The National Christmas Lacemaker’s Fair 

 

 


Second week in March: Crufts - one of the world’s most prestigious dog shows 

 

 


BRAND HATCH:


MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN BRAND HATCH
September: British Championship Race



 

BRISTOL:

 

 

Bristol has a heavy concentration of academic science research and is home to Berkeley Castle. 

 

 

CANTERBURY:


MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN CANTERBURY

 


Mid - late October: The Canterbury Festival - a multi-arts event

 

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN CANTERBURY:

The best time to visit Canterbury is during April through October, when the gardens are in full bloom. 

 



CHELTENHAM:


MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN CHELTENHAM
 

 

First two weeks in October: The Cheltenham Literature Festival



CORNWALL:

Cornwall is blessed by having over 300 miles of coast and picturesque small seaside

villages.  Many affluent Londoners maintain a second home here. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN CORNWALL: 

Most visitors motor from London rather than take the train to Truro, or fly from London Gatwick to Newquay, and then rent an auto for a 40 minute, 50 mile drive to Truro. 

 

Using Cornwell as a base locale, serious hikers can experience a 30 mile rugged and highly scenic seaside trek between Portloe and Fowley. Allow three days to complete the walk. 

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHTS REST IN CORNWALL:

The scarcity of lodging has dogged the area for decades, save an isolated B&B here and there. 

Two of the better lodgings are:

The 19 room Idle Rocks (A Relais & Chateaux property-always an encouraging sign of superior accommodations).  Amenities include an upscale pre-fixed /ala carte restaurant.

The seven room St. Mawes Hotel

 

TASTY DINING IN CORNWALL:

The Kings Head in Roseland offers gourmet pub fare.

The Hidden Hut on Truro’s Porthcurnick Beach.  Specializes in steak.  Outdoor picnic-style dining.

Star & Garter in Falmouth.

 

Driftwood----Michelin Star award.

 

 THE COTSWOODS:

 

The Cotswoods is a popular scenic English countryside in west central England.  The Cotswoods denote an area, not a town:  there are actually several small villages that comprise the Cotswoods. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN THE COTSWOODS:

 

The quaint Cotswoods represent a slower, laid-back lifestyle, a sharp contrast with hectic London.  People escape London for the Cotswoods to experience storybook, small-town country-style living in its natural beauty, quaint pubs, beautiful gardens public and private, afternoon formal English teas, country resorts and spas, and fine dining in unexpected places. 

 

The Cotswoods is doable as a 8 - 9 hour daytrip from London, or a 3 - 4 day overnight stay.

KENT:

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN KENT:

Art museum fanciers will not want to miss the Turner Contemporary-one of the country’s largest art museums outside London. 

 

Dover Castle in 2011 opened the secret wartime tunnels, never before opened to the public.

There are several other castles in the vicinity. 

  

 

LONDON:

Tower Bridge 

London was home of the 2012 Olympics.  London’s construction expansion burst at the seams.  The down-at-the-heels working-class, Jack the Ripper East End, once a locale to be avoided at all costs, is experiencing a renaissance with upscale dining, trendy bars and nightlife, AND was the mega center of the Olympics complex!  The nearby Docklands, with its Canary Wharf, continues its several decades of transformation with an infusion of new hotel construction and dining establishments.  Once ignored Spitalfields is now the center of attention. 

Word was that with the dismal world economy and reluctant corporate sponsorship, the English version of the Olympics might have been far less grand
iose and glittering than China’s incredibly dazzling sports facilities.  Construction was scaled back on key construction projects.  A $17 billion budget has been earmarked for the Olympic infrastructure.

LONDON THEATER:

 

Globe Theater 

 

For more information on London theater, please visit:

 

http://www.londonmusicaltickets.com; http://www.Londontickets.uk.com; https://www.facebook.com/OfficialLondonTheater/

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN LONDON: The best time to visit London is during spring through fall to experience the best weather.  Travel to London during mid-March, April and May, September and October to avoid maximum crowds and partake of lowered airline and lodging rates.  Winter months can be cold and dreary (February is bitterly cold, but London’s driest month), but offer a superior theater and concert experience with considerably fewer tourists. 

TIMES TO AVOID:
It’s best to avoid the months of July and August in order to avoid maximum tourists.

WEBSITE:
For information on visiting London, please view this website:http://www.visitlondon.com

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN LONDON:
Late March - first week of April: Lesbian and Gay Film Festival 

 
First week in April: Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race


Late May: Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show 


Mid-June: Royal Ascot: grand racing event that dates back to 1711

 

Last two weeks of June - first week in July: WIMBLEDON - tennis greats compete in this prestigious tournament played on grass, the world’s oldest tennis tournament.  The complex includes 20 courts including Centre Court and Court 1.  Matches take place from 12:00 noon until 9:00 p.m.  Please note that the present Court 13 is being reconfigured and will be the new Court 2 for the 2009 matches.  It will seat 4,000.  The other outer courts will be renumbered.

Transportation to Wimbledon: Expect a travel time of 40 minutes from downtown London via The Tube to Smithfields Station.  Shuttle transportation is available from Smithfields Station or take a brisk 15 minute walk to the Wimbledon complex.  For more information, please visit http://www.Wimbledon.com
and/or http://www.Wimbledon.viagogo.com/tickets (for 2017 tickets).  
 

Wanting tickets?  Reserve as far in advance as possible.  Tickets are often available in conjunction with packages.  Center court and Courts 1 and 2 tickets for the semi and final matches command steep prices.  Most tickets are sold through a mail-order drawing that takes place from August to December.  Apply to All England Lawn Tennis Club, P.O. Box 98, London, SW 19 5AE, United Kingdom prior to August.  Be sure to include a self-addressed envelope plus an International Reply Coupon available at the Post Office.  You cannot specify dates or events.  Should you be so lucky, you’ll get whatever Wimbledon offers you.  Hint: Your odds are far greater than winning Publishers Clearing House, actually about one out of six.  Don’t even think of stuffing the entry box - the authorities figured long ago that multiple entries could become a problem.  But rest assured, they have a process that discourages such attempted shenanigans. 

  


Like to patiently stand in long lines?  Ju
mp into your private jet, cross the pond over to London, rush out to Wimbledon and slum it with your sleeping bag for the 1,500 daily show-court tickets.  The whole Wimbledon queuing procedure is actually very civilized.  Forget your friends - IF you are successful, it’s a stingy one ticket per person allotment.  The procedure repeats for the first 10 days of the tournament. Strike two?  Lines begin forming daily at 7:30 a.m. during the tournament for 6,000 outer court passes and standing room tickets for Court 2.  Outer court passes are exactly that, “access,” not necessarily a seat assignment to the outer courts or Court 2.  Have fun standing or “roaming” as it will be.

 

You might try the ticket booth near Aorangi Terrace mid-day, as spectators that depart early, often return their ticket for resale - the proceeds go to charities.  You might at least be able to see a few matches that day. Don’t even contemplate the possibility of scalpers.  Once again, the Wimbledon folks have a unique system that tracks and confiscates illicitly purchased tickets.  Drown your sorrows and visit the on grounds Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum for $17.00 admission. If you struck out, repeat the process the next day, or better yet, rush to the best seat in the house - a television set - also, considerably less expensive. A high-class formal party atmosphere prevails during the tournament.

 

 
Last week in August: Notting Hill Carnival – expect huge crowds 


October - first and second weeks: The Chelsea Crafts Fair - Europe’s best for jewelry, ceramics, glass, and furniture


November – third and fourth weeks: The Cecilatide International Festival of Music - world-class performers


2012: July 27 through August 12, 2012: The Summer Olympics 


MAJOR CONVENTIONS
January 16 - 21, 2008: WWPP and BPPA - Professional Photographers Convention

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN LONDON

While in London, experience the west-end musicals.  Plan ahead and purchase theater tickets before you depart from the United States or end up possibly paying a premium price for decent seating for your desired play or musical.  For more information, please visit http://groupline.com

 

 
If you seek a bargain, check with the Leicester Square ticket booth for discounted last minute theater tickets.  You may also wish to check out the discount ticketing services of Groundline Ticketing at http://www.groundline.com for sightseeing venues.  Their London Travel Cards are particularly valuable in offering unlimited travel on the Tube, local buses, and discounts on 75 attractions.  The cards are valuable in 1, 3 or 5 day denominations.  The celebrated Old Vic is currently under the artist direction of Actor Kevin Spacey.

 

 

 
New St. Paul's Cathedral 
 


DON’T MISS the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, where Winston Churchill chomped on his cigars and planned his nation’s survival and ultimate victory with the Allies help over Germany in World War II.  For more information, please visit:http://cwr.iwn.org.uk 

The museum is open daily 9:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., with last admission at 5:00 p.m., except during December 24, 25, and 26, when the building is closed.  Admission cost is approximately $24.00 per person, seniors are $19.00, and students under age 16 are free.  Admission includes audio available in English, French, German, Spanish, Mandarin and Hebrew, for self guided tour.  Guided tours, albeit very expensive at flat $600.00 (1-10 persons plus per person admission charges) are available.  Ouch! 

 

 
 

 

Another worthwhile outing is to tour Parliament, the House of Lords and The House of Commons.  Free 75 minute tours are available to United Kingdom residents year round.  Full tours are conducted on Mondays and Tuesdays from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon and on Wednesdays at 9:00 a.m. and 9:20 a.m.  House of Lords only tours are offered on Wednesdays from 9:25 a.m. - 12:00 noon.  Tours are not conducted on Thursdays.  Full tours of both Houses are offered on Fridays between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.  Parliament is closed on Christmas, New Years and is not in session on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. - noon during July and August, nor Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 noon during September and October.  Young children are discouraged from touring.  Be prepared for considerable walking.  Toilet access is unavailable on tour, so plan a potty break beforehand.

 


Unfortunately only United Kingdom citizens can attend Parliament sessions.  Debates and question times (the most popular) require advanced ticketing.  Non-United Kingdom citizens can attend ONLY by standing in queue and being admitted on a non-guaranteed space available basis.  Admission is free. 

 

IMPORTANT: Other nationals including Americans, are permitted to tour Parliament only during the summer months: 75 minute tours are offered daily except Sundays or Bank Holidays.  Advanced ticket purchase is highly recommended or your alternative is queuing in line the date of tour - a highly civilized, but tedious process, not recommended for the impatient.  A word on security: do not have any of the following on your possession as you enter Parliament or risk arrest and detainment: knives, personal defense sprays such a mace, large luggage or bags, or cameras.  Cell phones must be disengaged. 

Non-United Kingdom citizens should not despair, as they can attend Parliament Committee Meetings that take place Mondays through Thursdays when Parliament is in session.  The Committee Meetings of both the House of Lords and House of Commons, actually, can be quite interesting.  The sessions are similar to United States Congressional committee meeting and hearings, and sometimes heated and lively debate transpires.  Since advanced admission ticketing is not offered, you queue in line and take your chances for the limited space.  Arrive as early as possible at the St. Stephens entrance of the Palace of Westminster and immediately inform a visitor assistant or police officer of your intent to attend a Committee Meeting, whereby you will be directed to the proper queue.  Some committee meetings also take place in Portcullis House, located on Victoria Embankment.


Still another possibility is to attend a Judicial Hearing conducted by the House of Lords who acts as the Supreme Court of Appeal for the United Kingdom (similar to the United States Supreme Court).  Anyone may attend, advanced request for access is not required.  Hearings take place Mondays through Thursdays.  The Law Lords hear about 85 appeals annually.  You’ll be surprised with th
e informality, as the Law Lords wear business suits rather than robes, and sit around a horseshoe-shaped table level with the gallery.  Enter through the St. Stephens entrance where a posting of appeals is displayed.  You will be directed to the proper queue.

 

 Even if you have sworn never to visit another church on your travels, you would be remiss not to make two exceptions while in London and visit Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Both exude Great Britain’s history. 

 

Tell someone you either have visited or plan to visit the College of St. Peter at Westminster and it most likely will draw blanked stares---they probably won’t have a clue what you are talking about.  Reference Westminster Abbey, and a few high-school graduates might understand.  Westminster Abbey and Great Britain’s history are inseparable.  Westminster Abbey was built in 1245.  It has served for centuries as the nation’s traditional place of weddings of royalty, coronation of Kings and Queens, and as a burial site of nobility. 

Poet’s Corner is a memorable favorite of most visitors.  It honors England’s writers, playwrights, and poets with memorials and honorary plaques. 

Buried or honored in Westminster Abbey are Great Britain’s  royalty, Geoffrey Chaucer ,Alfred Tennyson, Ben Johnson, Charles Darwin, Dr. Samuel Johnson, John Keats, William Wordsworth, Charles Dickens, Neville Chamberlain, Robert Browning, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Isaac Newton, and endless others.  

Prime Ministers, War heroes, Saints, individuals and countless others are honored throughout Westminster Abbey. 

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP:  There is so much to see, so definitely hire a private guide.  Not only will you see and comprehend more than trying to do it on your own, but equally important, it avoids the long lines awaiting entrance.  The audio tapes are a poor man’s alternative, but be forewarned you will probably waste considerable time waiting in lines. 

 

The (Anglican) St. Paul’s Cathedral (1708), The Mother Church of the Diocese of London, is also worthy of a visit.  Situated on a lofty bluff, St. Paul’s dominated London’s skyline from 1710-1962, and even today remains visible from miles away in several directions.  The original dated back to 604 AD, the 4th reincarnation was destroyed by fire in 1666.  

The Cathedral has been the scene of many a royal wedding (including Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer, and funerals of the Duke of Wellington Margaret Thatcher, Horatio Lord Nelson, and Sir Winston Churchill. 

St. Paul’s magnificent dome is one of the worlds tallest.

 

St Paul’s Cathedral remains a working church with both hourly prayer and daily religious services. 

 

 

 

For centuries London was not known for having a skyline of skyscrapers.  A strict ban on height of construction assured preservation of the city’s low-lying architectural heritage.  Instead, heretofore, a structure’s height was associated with the standard set by tall church steeples and cathedrals.  

 

It may surprise you to learn that for centuries the White Tower of the Tower of London was, at a meager 91 feet tall, the city’s tallest structure!  The White Tower was later surpassed in height by a succession of churches and cathedrals. 

 

A combination of factors, including land values, demographics, population growth, migration of the populace, the economy, and efficiencies of new and improved construction techniques, all contributed  towards  a lifting of some restrictions on construction height. 

 

It was not until the 1960’s that a frenzy of construction commenced the current skyscraper boom.  Over 125 mega-structures of 30 stories and above now exist, with many more approved or being built. 

Most are 50-60 stories and 65-75 stories in height.  As recent as 2012, the Tower 42, (at 42 floors in height), was London’s tallest! 

The Shard (2009-2012) is one of the tallest at 95 floors (only 72 floors are inhabitable).  Besides its distinctive exterior appearance, it houses a rare combination of offices (floors 1-33), a world class hotel - the 200 room Shangri-La Hotel occupying floors 34-52), and apartments/condominiums (floors 53-65).  The structure also houses several restaurants including the Aqua Shard (upscale British cuisine) and Hutong (Chinese).  The restaurants are on the ground and floors 31-33.  The Observation deck is on floors 68-72.  The structure is owned by the State of Quarter.  As skyscrapers rank in size worldwide, the Shard pales in comparison. 

32 London Bridge Street, SE195G.

 

30 St, Mary Axe: (more commonly referred to as “The Gherkin” (2003), aka The Swiss Re Building, is an equally distinctive, if not a more significant architectural structure with its double skinned environmental exterior insulation.  This is primarily a forty story office structure.  It replaced the Baltic Exchange, a structure extensively damaged by an IRA bomb explosion in 1992.  It has changed ownership three times:  the present owner is a Brazilian corporation. 

If you must, The Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace is hurry up and wait, and then in a second it’s over.  Be sure to check the schedule posted at www.changing-the-guard.com, as the ceremony does not take place daily.  The Changing of the Guards is so well done – elegant to the end, it’s almost a “must see.”  

 

 

Do it once, but It’s doubtful that you will want to do it a second time on a repeat London visit.  (Was it The Queen who said that ‘no one does pomp and circumstance like the British.  And so it is.) 

 

While in the neighborhood, a more worthwhile use of your time would be to visit the Queens Gallery at Buckingham Palace.  Overlooked by most tourists, you will glimpse some of the Queen’s valuables.  Other choices are:  the Palace’s Royal Mews or a tour of Buckingham Palace’s State Rooms, which are open to the public in August and September.  Timed admission tickets (fee) (tel: 0-20-7766-7300, credit cards accepted) are required for the 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. open hours.  If the flag, atop the Palace, is flying, the Queen is home. 

 

Buckingham Palace is now over 300 years old.  

 

Far more satisfying, particularly to horse enthusiasts, are the Horse Guards at the Whitehall Palace.  The Horse Guard is featured in the annual Trooping the Colour.  The Sovereigns Life Guards - the changing of sentries at Whitehall Palace takes place Monday through Saturday at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.  Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.  The ceremony is brief, taking approximately 30 minutes.  (Whitehall Palace:  opposite St. James Park).  

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP:  When visiting for the ceremony, be sure to visit the Household Cavalry Museum (1750), which provides a “behind the scenes” look at the ceremonial and operational role of the Household Cavalry Regiment.  The Cavalry has existed since 1661.  Ceremonial uniforms, musical instruments, many 350 years old, are on display.  Horse and rider training is explained in the Museum.  You also can actually visit the Working Stable Block (17th century) where the much pampered horses are housed - you may observe horses being groomed, fed and watered.  Gift shop on premises.  The Household Cavalry Museum is open daily (except April 22

Harrod’s is a must, whether you enjoy shopping or not.  Be sure to check out the one-of-a-kind food court.  Harrod’s has a website, so be sure to visit: http://www.harrods.com

Harrods Department Store at Christmas, Kensington, London

iStock.com/Adam Petto

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MUSEUMS

 

 

 
 


The immense British Museum is one of the world’s top museums with 94 galleries, including the “borrowed” Rosetta Stone from Egypt, the “borrowed” Elgin Marbles from Greece, and all the world’s treasured archaeology that one could grab early on.  However, the treasures have been excellently preserved. http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk  

The Science Museum will fascinate anyone for a few hours.

 Patrons of art should not miss The National Gallery with its works of the world’s most renowned and recognized masters. The Gallery is near Trafalgar Square-considered geographically as central London.

The National Portrait Gallery is conveniently near the National Gallery.

The Victoria and Albert Museum is renowned for its extensive galleries of stained glass, paintings, textiles, architecture and jewelry.  The stunning Tate Modern Museum is well worth a visit. The Tate Modern Museum and the Tate Britain can be accessed via the Tate to Tate riverboat ferries (fee) that operate every 40 minutes between the two galleries.  A bonus are the river views of Big Ben, the London Eye, and Parliament.  

 

 

 
 
Tower of London, Wall of old City in foreground
 
 
 
Long-Time Guard at the Tower 


The Tower of London is officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of Tower of London.  It draws hordes of tourists.  If you are part of an organized professional tour group or with a private guide, your guide will usually be successful in cutting the horrific lines for the Beefeater guided tour of the Tower.  A written request two to three months in advance is required to attend the 700 year old ritual, The Ceremony of the Keys. 
Things move right along once in----to discourage dawdling, you literally travel via a moving sidewalk conveyor belt through the tower.  Next!  

 

Beasts at the Tower of London

The Tower of London

Tradition and rumor have it that if the ravens leave the Tower, Britain will fall.  Six ravens, therefore, are kept in residence and are encouraged to stay.   

 

In Medieval times, the Tower was the residence for the Kings.

Henry III and Edward I used the Castle. 

The Tower was originally built by William the Conqueror and was the royal residence.   Both Henry III and Edward expanded the building.    

 

 
 

 

Alas, the seemingly always reliable Big Ben (1876) suddenly stopped working in 2015, and is badly in need of repair.  Big Ben (13 tons): “The King of all Clocks” celebrated its 150th anniversary ( in 2009. 

The 315 foot tall tower (roughly 16 stories), has long been a symbol of London.  The minute hand heretofore kept meticulous time.  It is wound three times a week.  Residents are accustomed to the chimes ringing out “like clock work” every quarter hour!  During WWII, Big Ben observed a minute of silence every night at 9:00 p.m. 

 

 

This imposing famous tower offers a great photo opportunity.  Only residents of the U.K., however, are permitted ( no children under age 11), to ascend the staircase to view the clock’s 5.6 ton mechanism up close.  Even residents must secure tour tickets (free) from their Member of Parliament, typically encountering a minimum three month wait.  

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: 

 

Gather a bucket and spoon and head off for a guided tour tracing the steps of the elusive and infamous Jack the Ripper.  There are several excellent tour guides offering walking tours of Jack’s former playground.  Do your research beforehand, and you’ll enjoy the outing even more.  The best is Ripper expert, Donald Rumbelow who conducts walking tours of Ripperville under the name of LondonWalks.  The same company offers an excellent variety of other unusual London tours that would add immeasurably to your London sightseeing experience, not to mention avoiding queues.  The majority of the walks are two hours in duration.  The walks are slow paced and not grueling, averaging 1-1-1/2 miles in length, and should pose little or no difficulty to the average person. 

Rumbelow’s Jack the Ripper Walk is offered every Sunday night, most Mondays, most Tuesdays, and occasionally on Fridays, always at 7:30 p.m.  Inquire whether Rumbelow will be your guide.  London Walks Telephone :  020 7624 3978 or  020 7794 1764. 

  

 


Outside London, in Berkshire, is Legoland Windsor. 

Weather permitting, a boat trip on the River Thames, is a nice experience. 

 

 
 


 

 

 


Kids in tow?  They will enjoy the London Eye (a gigantic Ferris wheel).  The real question is whether your wallet will enjoy the world’s most expensive Ferris ride, a one-time around 25 minute revolution will set you back over $70.00 per person, children and seniors around $50.00. 
The views from this glorified ferris wheel are spectacular.  If pressed for time and budget, skip. The Millennium Dome in the East End has been renamed the Q2. 

  

LONDON TAXIS: 

London’s fantastic taxis are no longer the bargain of yesterday, but don’t even think of renting an automobile, as the traffic is horrific and parking is expensive.  Be careful which taxis you select: stick with the traditional black taxis for reliability and honesty.  London has over 25,000 black taxis!  Several reputable drivers have opted for red and other colors.  You can hail a taxi in the street, but like most cities, it can be an ordeal in inclement weather.  If the yellow sign atop the taxi is on, the taxi is available for hire.  A ten percent tip rounded to the nearest dollar is customary.  Be leery of so called meter-less “mini-cabs” that park outside nightspots.  The mini-cabs are generally less expensive than the black taxis.  Always negotiate a fare beforehand.   Do not use unlicensed mini-cabs.  Many of these curb-side operators operate without insurance, do not meet safety standards, and do not have fare meters.  

Good luck securing a taxi just prior to theater time or when it’s raining! 

 THE LONDON TUBE: (subway)

 

 

LONDON DOUBLEDECK BUSES: 

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP:  Beginning in the summer of 2014, you will no longer be able to pay cash when riding the buses.  All passengers henceforth are required to purchase an Oyster Card which can be purchased in Tube Stations.  For a full list, consult: www.tfl.gov.uk

Oyster Cards can be reloaded with any amount of money at ticket machines or in advance from VisitBritain. 

As of 2014, unlimited trips on buses for one day is 4.40 pounds, a day pass: 20.20 pounds.  


The traditional black taxi and a red double decker in the downtown of London

Copyright

iStock.com/Eva Katalin Kondoros

 

 

     
 
 

 The pandas at the London Zoo are also worthwhile visits. The animals enjoy rarefied air.  The official residence of the American Ambassador is directly next door.  

 

 Lloyd’s of London;  Don’t even think of trying to visit and tour unless you’re in the insurance biz or have insurance industry connections.  In most places, ringing a bell is symbolic of celebrating a happy occasion.  Not so here.  Everyone shudders on the floor of Lloyd’s when the big bell is rung-an indication of a ship or freighter sinking somewhere worldwide and insurance payout dollars going down the drain!  The new modernistic and highly controversial building defies the old tradition one would expect. 

 

Once a year the building is open to the public for London Open House, a city-wide event.  You must reserve:  www.lloyds.com/openhouse.   

 

Don’t despair, just looking over the Old City of London is fascinating.  


 

 The newly refurbished St. Pancras station is the London home of the high speed passenger train, Eurostar, with departures for France.  The Eurostar will propel you through the Channel, London to Paris in 2 hours and 15 minutes!  For more information on the Eurostar train, please visit:  http://www.eurostar.com

 

St. Pancras International Station

Central London Railway Terminus

Lesser, but worthwhile museums:

The Guildhall:  houses ruins of the Roman Amphitheater.

 

The Wallace Collection:

 

The house of Sir John Soane:  known for its displays of the Hogarth cartoons and paintings.

 

 

The Royal Artillery Museum.

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN LONDON:

 

 

If you have been to London a number of times, you have invariably passed by the multi-columned Royal Exchange a number of times.  Now in its third reincarnation of the original (1571) following disastrous fires, it no longer is home to Lloyd’s of London (occupied for over 150 years).  It is presently a luxury shopping center the likes of tenants:  Hermes, Bvigari, George Jensen, Tiffany & Co., Boodles, Paul Young Fine Chocolates, a total of thirty merchants plus several restaurants and bars.  Most merchants close at 6:00 p.m., with restaurants and bars open later.  

The larger stores maintain limited hours on Sundays.


An absolute must is to peruse thro
ugh the world-famous Harrod’s, which offers food courts, 30 restaurants and four and one half acres of merchandise.  Harrod’s is open Monday - Saturday: 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. and Sunday noon - 6:00 p.m.


Liberty, a department store, is known for its distinctive fabrics and prints as well as designer fashion and exotic wares.  The store is open Monday - Friday: 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., closing at 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, Saturday: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., and Sunday: noon - 6:00 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

Spitalfields is an historic market known for its textiles, arts, crafts, clothing, art galleries and dining.  The market is open Monday through Friday: 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.  For more information, please visit: http://www.visitspitalfields.com


London tailors (make sure they’re British and not a Hong Kong transplant!) are among the best for custom-made clothing.

 

The Docklands:  former scruffy warehouse area on the Thames, turned tourist magnet for its dining and shopping.

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT’S REST: 

 

The toniest areas of London are Mayfair and Belgravia: there is a choice of several outstanding hotels in either area, none of them are inexpensive.  

 

 

The luxurious 300 room Shangri –la Hotel at the Shard is an excellent, albeit expensive choice if you demand the best and crave modern glass towers.  The rooms are good sized, but you pay a huge premium for the views.  


TASTY DINING IN LONDON:

You’ve got to be kidding?  Tasty Dining in London"?  No, actually, gourmet dining is alive and thriving, thank you, in London.  It has become a magnet for aspiring wannabees, as well as celebrity chefs, with a constant proliferation of exciting new restaurants.  Whether your tastes run French, Italian, Indian, or Chinese, you’ll discover outlets equal to any world capital. 

If you insist on English cuisine, stick to Dover sole, a delicacy revered in fine restaurants worldwide.  Prime rib roasts are another safe bet. Fish and chips can be outstanding or dreadful, greasy, depending on the restaurant.  

 

If you had time for only one meal while in London, and you just won Publisher’s Clearing

House’s $100,000 a week contest, Wilton’s should easily be your number one choice.  This place is and exudes class-no fish and chips place here!  It epitomizes British tradition (since 1742), décor and first rate seafood cuisine.  Your bill may be indicative that you purchased the fishing boat that hauled in your catch, but oh, what a meal!   The place is not dripping elegance, it’s just refined and dignified stuffy. 

 

If you crave a hunk of cow, mosey over to Roast, (that’s the name), serves some mighty tasty Scottish beef as does the Rib Room of the Jumeirah Carlton Tower.  Don’t be lured by the Simpson’s tourist meal.  The carver at Simpson’s started a tradition long ago of bribery:  tip him and your slice of moo cow is suddenly a more generous cut! 

 

If visiting a pub, you order your drink and food at the bar and a barman or barmaid will deliver it to your table. 

 

Attending a Tea?  There’s a difference between “High Tea” and “Low Tea.” 

Low Tea is in the afternoon at 4:00 p.m.  Finger food is served.  Low Tea has declined in popularity in recent years. 

High Tea is served at around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. 

 

Protocol is to allow the tea to brew for a few minutes after the water has been poured. 

You should cut a scone in half with a knife, spread jam and clotted cream on it and eat the halves open-faced.  

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN IN LONDON TOWN:

THE LONDON THEATRE:

New York Theater does not begin to hold a candle to the quantity and quality of London Theater. 

It all began with a fellow named Shakespeare. . . .

 

There tend to be more successful theatrical productions that come across the pond  to the Big Apple than originate stateside.  

Securing a ticket is equally expensive in both cities, especially for the more popular extended engagements. 

 

Actually, there are more similarities to the world’s two theatrical titans than differences. Both locales sport older former movie/vaudeville palaces transformed into musical/play venues with moderate, limited seating capacity.  Musicals, due to the expense of production, gravitate to the larger theaters.  Over all, the concept works well, as limited capacity translates to higher ticket pricing - the old saying:  keep them craving for more.  Alas, supply and demand.  

 

London’s West End, with over forty live theaters is akin to New York’s Broadway.  Other areas of London house additional live theater venues similar to NYC’s Off-Broadway. 

When it comes to old, they don’t get any older than the famous Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (1812 - no relation to suburban Chicago’s same name theater).  A 2013 re-do restored it’s elegance. 

 

Be forewarned that many of the historic theaters still have their original seating-anticipate a cut-rate airline seat with little leg-room and you won’t be far off in anticipation of an evening of potential agony. 

 

The Coliseum sports the largest seating capacity in London with 2,358 seats. 

 

The Ambassador Theatre with only 446 seats is the smallest. 

 

There’s no contest on which is the longest running play in London.  ‘The Mousetrap’ has performed continuously since 1924. 

It is not at all unusual for London’s plays or musicals to exceed 20-30 years of extended booking performance. 

 

The Royal Opera House (1858), seating capacity:  2,256, is home to opera and ballet. 

 

The intermission traditional has long jumped the pond.  Purchase a cocktail or wine as you enter the theater, be given a number, and pick it up and consume it in the lobby come break-time. 

Don’t imbibe too much, however, as many of these older historic theaters have limited, cramped restroom facilities! 

 

 

LONDON PUBS:

The Fox and Hound:

 

 

 



LANCASHIRE:


MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN LANCASHIRE:

 

 

 

 

 

July 17 - 20, 2008: British Open