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30 August 2017

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Melanie B

Oh how very, very exciting! I hope you have a most delightful trip.

bearing

Me too! I hope I can blog more regularly than I have been. I'm so glad for my posts from last time.

MrsDarwin

Wow, what an endeavor! You'll have an amazing time.

Jamie

Safe travels! What a cool adventure!

mandamum

There is an order of nuns right at Tyburn corner where I used to go to Mass occasionally when I spent a semester there.

I don't know how it might work with your timeframe, or if your people are interested in classical music, but back when I was there ('97) one could stand in line in the early morning for cheap seats for "Proms" in the Royal Albert Hall that evening, and stand right up in front of the orchestra on the ground floor for some amazing classical music concerts (not to mention the adventure of meeting different people in line and beforehand who also really wanted to come stand right in front of the orchestra).

Have a lovely time!!

Michelle

If you're heading towards Genoa, I highly recommend Sestri Levante. It's an Italian tourist town with nice beaches and few foreigners. Cinque Terre is an easy day trip on the train.

Penelope

Oh how exciting. What a thrill to be able to do such a thing.

Tabitha

I look forward to following along via blog post, like I did last time. Godspeed in your travels!

Beth

Oh my! How exciting! It's me, Beth. Your lurking reader of all the years and a Londoner of 18 years. Wish I'd known you were having booking problems, I defined could have helped but then I "know" you and you have no knowledge of me.

I am excited that you are visiting the city that has captured my heart and thus my life. I do so love it here. I am terribly excited to read your travelling posts again. Your eclipse post was just wonderful.

bearing

Thanks for the recommendations, mandamum and Michelle. I knew about Sestri Levante, and if the kids want to do beaches and the weather is still good, we may well head that direction.

Beth, exciting! Didn't know I had any London fans. Well, recommendations would be welcome! I have a couple of weeks before we get to London and figure it all out.

Beth

Erin, my last comment was in 2010! I read on a blog reader so you probably don't register a hit from my London address unless I click over to your website which I rarely ever do as I read a few blogs on the go on my phone and rarely ever comment. I have read your blog since you started it, I was on the TCC list back in 2004 and have read your blog ever since then. It seems odd to me that you are visiting my home town and you know nothing of me or my life and I have followed yours for 13 years here on this blog - feels like a friend is visiting and I should invite you over but how weird that you don't know me at all. Anyway, I am the worst person to ask for recommendations - I am a detail person and rarely can get the bigger picture - after 18 years I still don't know what I would say that the best parts of London are. The places you have listed are all definitely worth visiting - Greenwich photo op develops a queue quite quickly but there are strips of metal marking the meridian in several places if you want the photo of one foot in each hemisphere. The Science museum gets woefully packed - do get there for opening and to beat the school children (however, school has just started and most schools won't be making class trips this early in the year) eating in the area can be tricky due to the paucity of museums, even the most dreadful of cafes will be full so packed food is ok, there are courtyards to eat in or try to eat out of the 12-2 ish lunch hour. The British Museum is wonderful and the crowds centre around the mummies so visit those early if you want a good look in - the whole area is lovely, I do so love passing a day there. Trafalgar square is great - check that there aren't any events going on when you want to visit - now that it is pedestrianised there are a lot of events going on - protests also can bring a bit of unease to the area so just check up before setting out. If you take public transport be sure to tap in and out at the beginning and end of your journey even if the barriers are open, otherwise you will be charged the maximum fare for the day. Ubers aren't really a money saver in central London (more so in the outer zones) as they don't know the fast routes like the black cabbies do and Ubers aren't given kind leeway like black cabbies are by other traffic (buses and cars, other cabs). Have a lovely time on your hols!

Beth

Oh dear, how dreadful to have not put paragraphs in there - sorry for the nightmare of that comment.

Beth

Also. Thinking of a few more tips for London - the mantra of all visitors to London who take public transport should be "stand on the right" - on the long and many escalators please stand on the right so as not to block faster moving passengers - this is signposted every meter on the Underground but so few tourists abide by it and Most British people won't ask you to move, they will just quietly seethe while standing behind you on the escalator.

Take bags with you to the grocery stores or better yet use online grocery shopping - you can have it delivered to a temporary address, if you have Amazon prime they have 2 hour delivery slots and can deliver wonderful foods from Whole foods (amazing cheeses) for just an optional £2 tip with a minimum £20 order. Schlepping groceries in London is a drag and the grocery stores are crowded. I have had groceries delivered for the past 15 years. If you are near a food market then all the better.

Also at the British museum the Rosetta Stone is also very busy, in 30+ visits I have never once had any quiet time to admire it, a queue likewise forms for photo ops and then you are expected to move along so do get to it early if you want the best look.

Gastro pubs are often overpriced - basic pubs can be good - just read up reviews. For fast food that is edible Pret A Manger & Paul's are decent. Noodle bars (such as Wagamama) are often good and are more child friendly than many places and Mexican food has arrived in London in the past 7 years so you can now eat a decent burrito at made to order shops.

Avoid travelling on public transport in Central London during rush hour - particularly the 5-6 hour.

If you need to ask for a favour or solicit information from a local, opening with an apology will go a long way towards endearing you to them, you just can't apologise enough while in the UK.

Bearing

Beth, this information is super helpful! I honestly never would have thought about grocery delivery. We had the good luck to have a grocery store across the street from our apartment in Rome three years ago and it was such a lifesaver -- we tended to eat lunch out at restaurants but eat dinner in the apartment, just because it was more peaceful with small children, and I figured it would be the same in London. Although as a lifelong lover of food and cooking, one of my favorite activites when abroad is browsing through grocery stores.

We have gastropubs at home and were more interested in basic pubs anyway. :D I am glad to have a recommendation of local fast food and casual food places, because with a passel of kids it's often the most practical between stops, and the little ones are intrigued by same-but-different (Two of my younger children have been reminiscing for years about how the French McDonalds had curry sauce for dipping, and little mango shakes for the kids meal.) Noodle bars would probably be well received too! So I am glad to hear that.

We will be staying a couple of hundred meters from the Holborn tube stop, near Bloomsbury garden. If reading online reviews is a good place to get info about good pubs and the like, what sites should I be looking at, do you think? Something like Yelp?

Also, thanks for the tip about pre-apologizing. It should be easy to drill that into the children. Standing on the right is hard to make them do, we have been trying for years, but I will work on it intensely for the next week or two :D

Kathgreenwood

Another long term reader and London resident chiming in!

- Food Shopping
There's a very decent sized Sainsbury's directly opposite Holbourn tube, you'll be able to find everything you need, it's the best for price v. quality (plenty of organic, good range of nice cheeses/ smoked meats/ bread/ preserved veg etc if you want to make a picnic) and the basics range is perfectly fine and you can save money on simple stuff. (You'll be able to buy any essential household/ toiletry supplies in one trip aswell).

For pleasurable food browsing: cannot reccommend Borough Market highly enough, it's touristy, but with good reason, and it's the kind of tourist location that's a pleasure to take visitors to, not one that locals avoid like the plague. There are food markets popping up everywhere these days, you'll probably chance accross several without planning, but check out the word food pop-ups at the Southbank Centre, and markets at Covent Garden and King's Cross. It can often be cheaper to buy an enormous sandwich/ bowl of something and split it than go to somewhere like Pret-a-Manger.

You can also order deliveroo from almost anywhere in Central London to your house.

-Pubs
I would skip Yelp (we have it, but I don't know anyone who'd post a review, so I think those who do so aren't especially representative) and just check google maps for your nearest 'Sam Smith's' pub. It's a brewery which owns dozens of pubs in central London - many within walking distance of where you'll be. They're extremely cheap, relaxed and well preserved with original victorian features (stained glass/ carved wooden booths), often in historically significant buildings. It will be busy (although civilised) with post work drinks, but daytime and weekends will be quieter.

[map for the pubs: http://www.samsmithschallenge.co.uk/map.php]

Kathgreenwood

General Bloomsbury Area with Kids Tips.

You've chosen probably the best area, millions of museums within walking distance. Check out the smaller one's, e.g. UCl's Petrie Museum of Egyptology if you want, and you're likely to have the place semi-to-yourself. (Even the British Museum will be quiet first thing in the morning., some treasures in the British Library as well, which is close by). There are tons of Georgian Squares for letting of steam in. I strongly advise taking a walk through the back streets of Inner and Middle Temple (historical legal district, beautifully maintained). You can visit Temple Church and Sir John Soame's absurd c.18th Wonderkammer house, tiny, free to enter, stuffed to the rafters. Also The Foundling Hospital Museum is very interesting and accessible for kids. (check out the musical chairs in the Handel exhibit on the top floor), and Coram Fields, very close by, has a (modest) adventure playground and petting zoo. It's free to enter, you can only get in if accompanied by a child, and there are (gentle) guards at all the entrances, so the kids can run around freely.

Catholic Stuff.
More history to name, but Westminster Cathedral is truly beautiful, and hasn't lost itself to the tourism industry the way Westminster Abbey has. Brompton Oratory is ... interesting, it's the big name in English traddism, certainly worth popping into en route to the V&A for Mass or a candle.

I can also heartily recommend a walking tour of London's Catholic/ Christian history offered by possibly our most enthusiastic and resolute anachronism: Joanna Bogle (Dame of St. Gregory).

Please let me know if I can help with anything else!

Kathgreenwood

sorry last one, here's the link for the walks: http://www.catholichistorywalks.com/forthcoming-walks

Beth

Yes, the Sainsbury's at Holburn station should be sufficient for what you need for groceries. You also have Superdrug and Boots nearby should you need a chemist.

I second Coram's Fields - it's a quirky urban playground on the former site of the foundlings hospital and has a few basketball courts that may be free during the day. (The toilets are usable but relatively dire.) I agree that the area you've chose is brilliant. There is also the unusual "The People's Supermarket" near Coram's Fields which is a community food cooperative - not as scrupulously clean as other grocery stores but interesting and has some decent prices and locally sourced food.

I also second the John Soames house recommendation - one of my favourites. There is also Hummus Brothers near where you are staying which is inexpensive and good for falalfel, tzatiki, pitas, etc.

And Borough Market is also on my list of recommendations, we also take visitors there.

The Transport Museum is very child friendly if they are at all interested in transport of course - lots of interactive exhibits and numeric punch card to keep them moving along. It has a dressing up and small imaginative play area and realistic simulated tube driving.

Have coins for using public toilets should you need to - from 30p to 50p at many stations and in tourist areas. Many coffee shops and other places can require a purchase to use the toilets (with a code for the doors).

Have fun, Erin and family!

bearing

Kathgreenwood, Beth, you have no idea bow great these tips are. And I am glad to hear that our neighbourhood is going to work. I knew about Coram's Fields and the transport museum, but not about the Petrie, nor about the Sam Smith's pubs (though I'm familiar with the brews). I will look into the history walks.

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