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Wednesday, July 24

Our Visit to London - Do You Know About Zebra Crossings?

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Note: We recently returned from three MARVELOUS weeks in Europe! Over the next little while, I'll be sharing our adventures with you {as well as some of the things we learned}. We chose to plan our own trip because we couldn't picture ourselves on a tour bus with a bunch of other tourists. Whenever possible, I'll explore the myths & stereotypes that I've always heard & if they are true or not. I'm going to be honest about our opinions & experiences - in doing so, I hope I don't offend anyone. 

Two things about London: one - it is much bigger than I thought, and two - we loved it.
At the gates of Buckingham Palace

As with all the places we visited, be ready to spend a lot of money. At the time of this writing, it takes about $1.50 US currency to buy one pound. {England, Scotland, & Northern Ireland do not use Euros.} Things are already expensive & when you add the conversion rate, it is downright painful!

Whenever possible, we tried to stay in places that travel guru Rick Steves recommends. We were really happy with all the places we stayed except our London stop - The Jubilee Hotel. We did not feel that our bathroom was clean enough, the hotel smelled funny {thanks to incense burning}, & the staff was grumpy {except for the elderly owner who we met briefly}. But it was in a great area - a private garden square surrounded by homes which faced it. AND it did have a pretty door {there's a silver lining} . . .
The Jubilee Hotel
Many of the "homes" in London have four floors. Back in the day, they were built for wealthy families. The servants lived in the underground level. The family used the street level & second floor rooms, & the governess stayed on the fourth floor with the children. Because of restrictions on these historical buildings, elevators cannot be installed. Our hotel room was on the fourth floor - which was good because I ate too many chocolate croissants in Paris anyway!

Which brings me to food. We really liked Nando's. Make sure to order the chicken which is their specialty. PLUS they have ice & soft drink refills {thank you Lord!}. PS - when you order ice with your water or soda in Europe & the UK, they look at you like you're nuts. And my absolute favorite place to pick up snacks or a quick meal is Pret a Manger. It is so good.
It seems that many of the places to eat are also pubs. And they are some of the prettiest, oldest buildings in the UK. 
Which brings me to my next tip - don't expect a quick meal. I'll talk about this more in a future post, but it was not uncommon for us to spend two hours or more eating lunch or dinner.

IMPORTANT TIP: Because the British drive on the left side of the road, you'll have to train yourself to look the "other" way first when crossing on foot. Luckily, a lot of the roads are marked, "Look Left" or "Look Right". It sounds silly, but it helps! Our son {who lived in England for two years} taught us about about "zebra crossings" {pronounced like Debra}. They are marked with black & white striped poles with a yellow ball on top.  Pedestrians can cross these any time without having to wait & cars are required to stop. We loved them!

Doesn't Hunny look so cute carrying my pink backpack for me? 
Highlights of our visit: Buckingham Palace, St. James's Park {where the kids also slack-lined}, The London Eye, Westminster Abbey, & Big Ben.  My sons rented bicycles & had a ball exploring without us. We also attended a theater production of Agatha Christie's The Mouse Trap. It has been playing at St. Martin's Theatre for 60 years! There was so much more I wanted to see, but we ran out of time. 
The London Eye & {bottom right} The Big Bus Tour
A must is the Big Bus Tour. The tour guides are so interesting & informative. For instance, we learned the original purpose of four post beds. The canopies were designed to catch rats which had a tendency to fall out the thatched roofs. The tour bus is a great way to see the city quickly. Riders can hop off & on all day long. 

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you'll have a hard time finding a place to use the bathroom.  :-(  Ask for "the loo" or "the toilet" though - not the "restroom" {unless you don't mind being snickered at}. When you do find a place to 
. . . "go", you may have to pay for it. We paid a pound, BUT look what a fancy toilet we got . . . 
We did use "The Tube" or subway, but sometimes you can actually save money riding the cab. I loved their clean, nice taxis and it made me feel like I was in a TV episode of Sherlock Holmes. {Insert one of my big, toothy grins here.}
The London "Tube"
The subway was also clean, & during some parts of the day VERY crowded. IMPORTANT TIP: Remember where you put your ticket! It is inserted in a machine before and after your board the train. No tickey no exit!

  • English people are cold. FALSE. We ran into SO many friendly, kind people. I just don't agree with this stereotype. Click here to see what we thought of the French.
  • The weather is awful. ?  We had great weather, but my son has lived in England & he said it rained most days.
  • They eat lots of fish & chips. TRUE. This item is usually on the menu. And "chips" or fried potatoes come with just about anything you order.
  • All English women dress classy like Kate Middleton. FALSE. Oh my, I saw some crazy getups. Especially in London.
Bottom line: I would love to visit London again. I never thought I'd say this, but I liked it much more than Paris.

Some other articles about our trip:


  1. Michelle,
    It is so fun reading about your European vacation! I can't wait to read your future posts too!

    I've been to Paris and I think it is the sketchiest city in Europe (that I've been to anyway). I'm glad you survived the pickpocketing and taxi rides! My aunt got groped by a weirdo right after we got off the train there! It was crazy! My favorite places there are Sacre-Coeur and the Rodin museum (lots less crowded than the Louvre!). Versailles is also amazing to see.

    I lived in England for a year (I did a study abroad program there for college). I met my hubby there who was serving a mission. He's never been to London so reading your post made me want to go there so bad! I agree with the double decker tours - they are so convenient and you get to see so much. Next time you have to do Tower of London and see all the pretty crown jewels on display!

    I can't wait to see what you thought of Scotland. In my opinion, the Scots are the friendlist people of Great Britain and have such pride in being Scottish.

    I'm just a little jealous of all the fun things you got to do...looks like you got to do so many things and have lots to tell about it!

    Kelly Vincent

    1. Darling Kelly, Thank you so much for stopping by & leaving your thoughtful comment. I'm bummed that I didn't get to see your favorite sights in Paris. Versailles was at the top of my list, but we just couldn't make it happen. I'm looking forward to blogging about Scotland. But here's a little hint - we loved it. I agree with you about the people! AND we tried haggis, of course!

      Hope you are having a great summer.

      Warmly, Michelle

  2. Haggis, I love that you tried it! Awesome! Can't wait to hear more!

  3. Hi Kelly, I've been enjoying reading about your European adventures and can't wait for the Scottish instalment. Loved Kelly's comment that we Scots are the friendliest - yay Kelly, I like to think we are (yes I'm Scottish) - and we definitely are proud to be Scottish (just don't ever ask if we're English, we don't tend to appreciate it too much!). We've got an independence vote coming up and I really, really hope that some day not to long from now I can have a Scottish rather than a British passport. I'm curious to know the myths you have about Scotland/Scots, hope I don't have to read with one covering my eyes in horror at what you make of us!

    1. Sorry Michelle I called you Kelly!! I got confused between your commenter and you - so sorry!!

    2. Hello Mags, I'm so excited that someone in Scotland is reading my blog. WAHOO! Thank you for taking the time to leave your comment. And don't worry about the name thing - no biggie - Kelly is very cute & I don't mind being called her name! We loved being in Scotland & I'm looking forward to blogging about our stay. Don't worry - I have lots of good things to say!

      Warmly, Michelle


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