London On the Surface

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Friday, January 2, 2037

MONEY / CREDIT CARD

*Credit cards are widely accepted there. Visa / Master cards are better choices.

*Best also is to carry an ATM card and draw cash as you need. Do this as soon as you arrive at a London airport.   However, do have some money exchanged in the States before you leave, just in case you need cash.  I have exchanged some dollars into pounds sterling one time at Heathrow Airport, London, without any problems.  Most of the ATMs in UK don't charge a fee only your bank will charge a fee for using non-network ATMs.   Typically, the ATM withdrawal will be the going exchange rate for that day.

*Traveller Checks are only good to use in big cities.  I found them to be very inconvinenced.  Often time, you have to show your ID when using them.  I have tried to use travellers checks in smaller towns in the past and found to be unsuccessful.


RESTAURANTS / FOODS
I don't have any particular recommendations.   There are so many restaurants with diverse choices of food in London.  I have been to some of the restaurants, but the few that I like are far away from central London. Main fare here is Indian, so try some Indian food if you can.  
 

TRAVELLING AROUND LONDON
*Best on foot - if you like walking
*Bus or Underground (the Tube)  help if you need to get to somewhere faster or want to give your legs a rest -  I use something called the "Oyster Card" (primarily for central London but the area covered is expanding).  Fares are discounted when using this card + it is convenient.  http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/oysteronline/2732.aspx

 
THINGS TO DO & SEE - Here are a few Famous London things to do and see
Here is a good website for things to do in London for free  http://golondon.about.com/od/thingstodoinlondon/tp/free_London.htm

Below are a few of the things I have experienced, which I think anyone would enjoy too:

*St. Paul's Cathedral http://www.cathedralsaintpaul.org/climb to the top of the dome to see London

*Westminster Abbey http://www.westminster-abbey.org/visitor/ - is a must to see inside during visiting hours.  I have also attended service there for the experience and that also let me see the inside when I had missed the visitor time.

*Tower bridge

*Trafalgar Square (in front of National Gallery) with giant lion sculptures

*Big Ben - try to visit the Houses of Parliament if you have a chance - it would be a treat if you are there when the house members are in session - (yep... you will see a familiar scene as "seen on TV") -  Nearby are Westminster Abbey, the River Thames - Big Ben is wonderful to view both in morning and nighttime when the lights are lit up.

*Jack the Ripper tour - this is a very touristy thing to do but it is very interesting tour if you are up for it.

*See the West End of London - for nightlife, musical shows and plays, large screen movie theaters, restaurants, and nearby Chinatown.

*If you like Shakespeare's plays, then you might want to see a show at the Globe Theater  http://www.shakespeares-globe.org/.

*Ice-skating at Somerset House http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/  - don't forget to bring an extra change of clothes (pants), just in case of getting wet on the ice. - Available during Winter time only.

*Evening concerts at St. Martin-in-the-fields
http://www.stmartin-in-the-fields.org/jserv/concerts/viewmonth.jsp?month=11&year=108
I went to the Handel - Messiah concert.  This sure was a wonderful London experience.  There is also a wonderful cafe in the crypt here if you want dinner, to grab a quick bite or have some tea.

*Parks and gardens - here are a few of my favorite parks in London: Hyde park, Regent's park, Kew Gardens.  All very pretty, especially during Spring, of course.

*When you have some time pass by the queen's house, Buckingham Palace, and see the changing of the guard - great pageantry please check the website for times.  Winter schedule is less frequent than Summer.  http://www.changing-the-guard.com/

*Proper Afternoon Tea - is expensive but it is a must experience.  You get to enjoy typical English food - save your stomach for it, so you can enjoy fully.  I had a traditional afternoon English tea time at the Ritz. You would want to dress properly for this occasion - check the website for dress code.  Some will require advance reservation for afternoon tea.  This list has some locations that serve traditional English tea: http://www.londontown.com/London/Top_Afternoon_Tea_in_London/


SHOPPING
*Harrods http://www.harrods.com/ is must for all first timers (floors of clothing, house hold goods, foods, you name it - afternoon tea is served here too)

*Fortnum and Mason - interesting food store http://www.fortnumandmason.com/ - this place has been around since 1700's

*Oxford Street - famous shopping street - it is crazy here.

*Bond Street - famous shopping street for high end and designer stores.


MUSEUM
If you like museums, there are many state run museums that are free admission

*British Museum - http://www.britishmuseum.org/ great Egyptian collection - free

*Natural History Museum - http://www.nhm.ac.uk/ - great for kids - free

*National Gallery - http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/ paintings and arts - free

*British Library - http://www.bl.uk/ last time I was there - Lewis Caroll's hand-written notebooks for Alice in Wonderland and several copies of 7th century Bible were on display.


MARKETS  
http://www.streetsensation.co.uk/markets.htm 
My favorites are:

*Borough Market http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/index.php?module=whats_on:161

*Covent Garden http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covent_Garden

*Whole Food Market - many floors of havenly yummy food.

 
DAY TRIPS
Here are a few of the great places for a daytrip:
*Straford-upon-Avon - Shakespeare's hometown
*Cambridge - nice college town
*Oxford - nice college town
*Lake District  - very charming area with lakes and hills - perfect for hikers, trekkers, bikers & padders
*Stonehenge - quite a distance from London, but a must see if you have a chance
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