London Calling


I’ve got a golden opportunity, and I don’t want to blow it. Therefore, I need a little help from my friends.

Today I put down my first payment on a study abroad opportunity in Europe. While I haven’t seen the itinerary, the focus of the trip is a European perspective on broadcast news. We’ll visit the BBC, and SKY, and also venture over to Paris for a peep at Canal Plus. (I believe we’ll only spend a day or two in Paris.)

The profs will arrange the itinerary from May 15 to June 1. And while that will all be enjoyable, I want to take in all I can. Therefore, I plan to arrive a few days early or stay a few days later.

Here’s where the vast knowledge of the Houseflies applies. I’m considering a six-day itinerary. Not sure if I should just see the sights of London or take the rail to Manchester, Edinburgh, or over to Ireland.

As an aside, I don’t want to be the typical American tourists taking a glance at some of the world’s most treasured sites just to check them of my list of things to do.

If you’ve been (or are dying to go), what things in Great Britain must be done/seen/tried/experienced?

The person with the most helpful comment might receive a cheap tourist shirt upon my return!

8 Responses to “London Calling”

  1. Al Sturgeon Says:

    To quote the late, great Sergeant Schultz, “I know NOTHING!”

    (Do I get a t-shirt anyway for being the first comment?)

  2. Sandi Says:

    You can easily take six days in London and still not see everything, as I recall. (I was there for a month in 1997 and a week in 2000). No way to avoid obviously being an American as far as I can tell, at least if you don’t want your feet to fall off! My recommendations are:

    – take public transportation — their system is one of the greatest things about the city. and also walk — London is a great walking city.
    – if you’re interested in art, the National Gallery and the Tate Museum should be on the agenda
    – Stonehenge is overrated
    – under no circumstances waste your money on the touristy, kitchshy museum that has all the torture stuff in it, I can’t remember the name off the top of my head but you’ll know it when you read about it in the guidebooks
    – if you don’t drink, you’ll definitely miss one of the greatest things about London — the pubs. I drank tons of cider when I was there, it’s much better than American hard cider
    – the food is not particularly the selling point of London, but they have good Indian there if you like Indian
    – I enjoyed several of the touristy things like the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey.

    That’s all I can think of without referring to my scrapbooks. 🙂 I hope you have a great time!!

  3. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I’ve never been, so I don’t have anything to offer. I’m jealous, though, if that helps.

  4. Sandi Says:

    Oh, I forgot theater. Other than New York, London is the best theater town in the world, so be sure to see some shows, preferably not of the Andrew Lloyd Webber variety. There is always great stuff playing. Ditto for music, ballet, etc., if you’re into that stuff. There are ways to get discount tickets — I believe there is an equivalent of New York’s TKTS booth in Leicester Square.

    Oh, also Piccadilly Circus is a tube stop and a very large billboard and that’s it. I remember wondering why I always heard the name if that’s all it was.

    If you can, (unless you have some form of free or prepaid transportation as part of your study abroad deal), fly into Heathrow rather than Gatwick. Heathrow is tube-accessible right into the city for less than $3. Unless it’s changed since I’ve been there, from Gatwick you would have to take a bus, taxi, or other ground transportation all of which is expensive.

  5. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I think you should definitely go to some of those quintessentially English “on” places. You know. Stratford-on-Avon. Hay-on-Wye. Jam-on-Toast. Holidays-on-Ice. Man-on-Dog (brought to you in memory of a certain former senator).

  6. Sandi Says:

    Okay, I remembered a few more things. What people think of as London Bridge is actually the Tower Bridge. That said, if you’re going to be there in the summer definitely do a lot of walking by the Thames — nice views. I believe it’s Saint Paul’s Cathedral (where Charles & Di were married) that has a long spiral staircase you can climb to the top for more great views of the city.

    Eating: Note that in many small London establishments, there is an additional charge for eating in as opposed to getting your food to go. I think this is pretty touristy and gets written up in all the guidebooks, but everyone seemed to love this Japanese noodle place called Wagamama. If you want to try fish and chips, get one serving and share — it’s a WHOLE fish they give you! There are tons of American chains in London, so be sure to skip those.

    These are just random observations: if you go in bookstores, you will notice (well, this is my opinion anyway) that the covers of books are much more aesthetically pleasing than the American versions. The exchange rate is quite poor, so remember that 1 British pound (are they still on pounds or did they join the EU and go Euro?) is about 2 dollars. No one in London wears tennis shoes except American tourists, so if you wear the tennis shoes people will immediately know you’re an American. Ditto with backpacks — people there do not carry them. Personally I chose to wear both anyway because I wanted to be comfortable more than I wanted to not be pegged as a tourist on sight. Still that was the most stressful part, to me, of being over there — I generally find Americans obnoxious and embarrassing, which is also the British perception, so I was always extra careful in how I conducted myself to try to counteract the stereotypes.

  7. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Friends who’ve been to Edinburgh said it’s worth the trip, but they had longer stays in the UK than you will.

  8. DeJon Redd Says:

    With all due respect to JU & Al, Sandi has been of greatest assistance.

    – I’ll avoid Madame Tussaud’s
    – I’ll fancy a pint
    – I’ll grab a show in the West End
    – The Brits blew off the Euro, and I expect to get a raw deal on the exchange.

    And I really appreciate your words on Heathrow vs Gatwick. The other students are flying in to Gatwick, but since we’ll arrive early, we have the option.

    Thx again, all!

    Maybe I can learn to post a picture upon my return.

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