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bookworm21

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Hello all, I''ll be going to London by myself and staying there for a full week in mid-March. Other than pickpockets (and the obvious other dodgy characters that are in all major cities), are there any other dangers than a female traveler should be aware of? This is my first time ever traveling outside the country and I''m super excited about it, although everything I managed to find online warns about pickpockets and the unlicensed minicabs.

So any tips or warnings? Thanks!
 

Larissa

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Jul 20, 2006
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I''m an American living in London. I find that I feel really safe here. Just be attentive.
 

rjdodd

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Do you know which area you are staying in?

I''ve never had a problem with pickpockets in London (English, lived there for years - but don''t now), possibly because I looked local but I doubt it. In my opinion there is a much bigger problem with pickpockets in Paris (pushed one of the train one time) and Rome.

The unlicensed minicabs are not all bad - though I would recommend avoiding them if you are female traveling alone (just because). They are cheaper than black cabs (which aren''t all black by the way). Certainly if you are landing at Heathrow or Gatwick with luggage I''d take a minicab (much cheaper than a black cab into the city), really you want to take the train (cheap option) but might have to much to carry.
 

sparkel

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Mar 22, 2006
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Cinderella,

Hi I have visited London a number of times. I never once felt unsafe and I was often out late at night. You just need to be aware of your surroundings as others have suggested. In addition if you look like a victim you are more likely to have things stolen from you. I just made sure to keep my valuables in my front pocket and put my hand in my pocket when I was on the tube. If you look like you belong you won''t have any problems. To answer your question though the only place that I have ever really hear "bad" things about was the Tower of London apparently that''s a bad spot for pickpockets but definately don''t let that keep you from visiting as it is well worth the trip.

I would highly reccomend taking "the tube" aka the subway while you are there as it is a very efficient means of travel. It can be quite expensive to but a day pass before around 9am in the morning though. It gets cheaper after that time. I personally would have no problems lugging my luggage on the train/ tube from the airport but i''m just used to it.

Places I loved visiting, St. Pauls (make sure you climb to the top), The tower, Westminster Abbey, and suprisingly Abbey road studios (even though I''m not really that crazy a beetles fan)

Cheers,
Rebecca
 

ephemery1

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Oh how fun!!! London is one of my most favorite places in the world... I lived there for a few months during college and ALWAYS felt safe. I was always walking around late at night by myself, although in retrospect that may not have been the smartest thing in the world!
I agree with the other poster who said pickpockets/gypsys seemed much more prevalent in Paris... not sure why that is, though. But overall you should feel totally comfortable... it is always an advantage not to have a language barrier, and the people were very friendly and helpful. Now traveling to Turkey on my own was a totally different story... that was mildly terrifying, with all the armed guards at the airport and leering stares, being a young blond American with no male chaperone! But I survived...
 

ladykemma

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wear a lot of black, try to blend in, lower your voice (americans don''t realize how loudly they speak), and for gawds sake don''t wear tennis shoes or keds. they make you a target for pickpockets.

i did not wear my jewelery in public when i lived there.
 

Skippy123

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Nov 24, 2006
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Wow, I love London. It is so beautiful and green. I love how royal everything looks and feels. We stayed overlooking Kennsington and we felt safe. The only time I felt a little unsafe was close to the evening near the Tower of Londo and our bus drive warned us about that area.

I am very jealous of you in a good way!!! Very exciting. Have a wonderful time!
 

diamondsrock

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I don''t really have any advice but want to say good for you! I hope you have a good time and let us know how it went. London is the one place in Europe I would like to visit so I''ll be interested to hear of your travels. Have fun!
 

AmberGretchen

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Jan 6, 2005
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Cinderella - that sounds like so much fun! The DH and I went there for our honeymoon in October and we LOVED it. One thing I''ll add in terms of safety is, if you can, bring a purse/bag to carry around with you that goes over your shoulder (doesn''t have to be accross the body, just not swinging from your hand) and that zips accross the top. I had a marvelous purse that did both of these and I carried all kinds of stuff including our brand new digital camera and never had a problem. I second also the not dressing like an American. There are lots of very fashionable people in London, and dressing so you at least sort of fit in (i.e. no keds or other white sneakers) will help you feel more comfortable as well as not standing outa s a tourist.

The tube is great for getting around, but don''t neglect the buses - they are a really fun way to see the city, even though they usually take longer than the tube. I would suggest getting an Oyster card when you land and load a 7-day pass on it then you can take the tube and buses all day every day. It will seem expensive at first but totally worth it for the convenience factor IMO. DH and I took the train into the city from Heathrow with two weeks worth of luggage and it wasn''t bad at all.

I also second the Tower of London. So much history. Try to take one of the Beefeater tours if you can. Also make sure to see at least one of the major museums. My favorite was the Victoria and Albert (decorative arts), but we also loved the National Gallery and the British Museum. They are all free, so that''s a big plus. Try to get in some theater while you are there too - London theater is fantastic. The half-price ticket booth is in Leicester Square - make sure you walk past all the fake discount ticket booths and go to the little tan-colored booth that''s standing out by itself in the actual square. They will have two sides - one for matinees and one for evening performances with signs telling you what shows are available. If there''s something you''re dying to see that they don''t have, go straight to the theater on the day of and that will give you the best possible ticket price. We got to see Idina Menzel in Wicked this way! If the budget allows, a fancy tea is a fun indulgence as well. We did one at St. James which is in Fortnum and Mason (our favorite department store when we were there...followed closely by Liberty).

OK, that''s enough rambling for me. But I hope it was helpful, and I''m so excited for you - you''re going to have a fantastic time!
 

Catmom

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Oh, you are so lucky! I love London. We''ve visited there several times. I''ve always felt safe there, never any problems but I was always with my husband so I can''t comment on being safe as a lone female. The history [and shopping!] is magnificent. This is one place where you really need to visit all the established tourist attractions. The first time we went we took a lot of the bus tours and were glad that we did because it helped us figure out what we wanted to go back and see on our own. I''m soo jealous. Have a great time.
 

ladykemma

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chinatown by leicester sqare, covent garden, madame tussauds, parliament, london eye, globe theatre, london museum, st pauls (climb to the top), hampton court, roman walls, the strand, #10, westminster abbey and the little castle that''s right behind it, kingston and hampton court, monument where the great fire started on pudding lane, gardening musuem across from big ben (name - used to be wolseys palace in london) , harrods

try to slow down in westminster abbey. really look at the funeral carvings and effigys. really look at the coronation chair. and go see the clothing exhibit, liz''s corset (payre of bodies) is rather fascinating.

try to watch parliament tv while you are there (it''s like watching c-span) to get a real feel of what''s going on.

you can walk everywhere. i went everywhere by myself. never felt unsafe. ditto the bag that goes over the head.

fav restaurants: eat at harrods, shop at harrods
covent garden at the "uphill" end of the street there is a indian restaurant on the right hand side
in kingston there is an upscale french restaurant at the base of the bridge, eat there after a day at hampton court
anywhere in chinatown

avoid the KFC in leicester square. crowded and yuck.
 

decodelighted

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COOL!!! Congrats! It''ll be a great first trip abroad!

1. I always travel with an "across the body bag" for passport, money etc - but it''s a stylish one & doesn''t scream tourist.

2. MARCH IS COLD ... if you''re used to warm climates make sure you have a warm coat/hat/gloves/thick shoes etc

3. Bring raingear .. at least a slicker & umbrella. You''ll be walking & outdoors a lot!

4. Bring more money than you think you need (or budget more on your credit cards) SO EXPENSIVE there -- more than Paris & San Fran & NY for sure!

5. If you like shows, see what''s playing in advance & buy tickets? A night out at the theater could be great solo fun!

I''ll see if I can think of more ...
 

bookworm21

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Thanks for the tips and suggestions, you guys are great! I''m not planning to bring any of my jewelry with me, except for my smallest diamond studs. As for looking like a tourist, I live in a touristy city myself, so I make sure I don''t own a pair of white sneakers. Not that there''s anything wrong with them. I''ve just seen too many tourists wearing shorts, white mid-calf scoks, white sneakers, complete with fanny packs; so....don''t own any of that stuff except for the shorts!


I''ll be staying near Covent Gardens (five minute walk) and Oxford Street. Is that an okay area to be walking around at night? I do want to experience the nightlife at least once while I''m there, even if it''s just dropping in and out of bars or pubs and the like.

I am planning to get an Oyster Card, are those available at all tube stations? I''ve also hired a shuttle to take me from the airport to my hotel and back. Just wanted to play it safe, since I don''t want to be carrying heavy suitcases by myself on the tube for the sake of safety. Call me paranoid, but first time out of the country, and I want to be sure it''s a good trip.


AG, I was looking into booking a fancy tea, do many people take their teas alone? Eating by myself has always been a phobia of mine, so I don''t want to be too uncomfortable by looking out of place.

I''m planning to visit all the major tourist attractions; keeping my fingers crossed that the lines aren''t going to be too bad since I''m visiting in the off season. I''ve also read a bit about the London walking tours. Are there any in particular that you guys have tried and recommend?

Oooh, one more thing: I''ve read so much about Bath (English Lit major); how long does it take to get there if I take a train? Thanks again everyone, I''m soooooooo excited about this trip. And being a true PS''er, I''m REALLY looking forward to seeing those crown jewels!
 

Sundial

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I loved London and felt very safe there. We stayed near Hyde Park and took the tube everywhere. Don't miss the British Museum and the great views from the London Eye!!! We took the train to Bath and it seems like it was at least a couple of hours, but maybe others can give you a more accurate answer.
 

canuk-gal

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HI:

One of my favorite cities, we visited often when my sister/BIL lived there....I always felt very safe and took the tube everywhere (inlcuding to/from airport). Take an umbrella! I envy your trip!

cheers--Sharon
 

Maisie

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I''ll be staying near Covent Gardens (five minute walk) and Oxford Street. Is that an okay area to be walking around at night? I do want to experience the nightlife at least once while I''m there, even if it''s just dropping in and out of bars or pubs and the like.

If I''m honest I wouldn''t suggest going into pubs and bars on your own at night but thats just my opinion. You may attract some unwanted attention.

I''m english and although I live about 3 hours away from London by train I have been there a couple of times (not as a tourist though)

I think you are going to have an amazing time. I would suggest being part of a guided tour if possible. Its easier to find things that way.

I hope you enjoy our capital city!
 

mightyred

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Date: 1/20/2007 1:48:01 PM
Author: Cinderella
Thanks for the tips and suggestions, you guys are great! I''m not planning to bring any of my jewelry with me, except for my smallest diamond studs. As for looking like a tourist, I live in a touristy city myself, so I make sure I don''t own a pair of white sneakers. Not that there''s anything wrong with them. I''ve just seen too many tourists wearing shorts, white mid-calf scoks, white sneakers, complete with fanny packs; so....don''t own any of that stuff except for the shorts!


I''ll be staying near Covent Gardens (five minute walk) and Oxford Street. Is that an okay area to be walking around at night? I do want to experience the nightlife at least once while I''m there, even if it''s just dropping in and out of bars or pubs and the like.

I am planning to get an Oyster Card, are those available at all tube stations? I''ve also hired a shuttle to take me from the airport to my hotel and back. Just wanted to play it safe, since I don''t want to be carrying heavy suitcases by myself on the tube for the sake of safety. Call me paranoid, but first time out of the country, and I want to be sure it''s a good trip.


AG, I was looking into booking a fancy tea, do many people take their teas alone? Eating by myself has always been a phobia of mine, so I don''t want to be too uncomfortable by looking out of place.

I''m planning to visit all the major tourist attractions; keeping my fingers crossed that the lines aren''t going to be too bad since I''m visiting in the off season. I''ve also read a bit about the London walking tours. Are there any in particular that you guys have tried and recommend?

Oooh, one more thing: I''ve read so much about Bath (English Lit major); how long does it take to get there if I take a train? Thanks again everyone, I''m soooooooo excited about this trip. And being a true PS''er, I''m REALLY looking forward to seeing those crown jewels!
I would not hesitate to take afternoon tea on your own. Refresh yourself, dress nicely, put on a splash of perfume and just enjoy the fancies! I would normally not suggest taking a book but if since you are uncomfortable eating alone maybe pop one in your bag and if you feel uncomfortable just sit back and read. I would go the whole hog and do the Savoy high tea and make yourself at home.

Definately go to the British Museum if you can. The architecture alone is breathtaking let alone the works of art inside! I love the Greek area. I would also recommend the London Eye if just for the aerial views of the House of Commons and the touristy area of the South Bank, but pre-buy your ticket ahead to avoid the lines.

Here is a good website to help you explore the area you are staying in: http://www.coventgardenlife.com/ . There are always lots of people around Covent Garden, and there are loads of police.

Here is a website I have used when planning tour stuff. http://www.offtolondon.com/touring.html . I think a pub crawl tour would be fun and I am embarrassed to say I would love to do the Harry Potter tour!


Have fun!
 

rjdodd

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Jan 4, 2007
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Sounds like you''ve though ahead...

First thing is to buy an A-to-Z (A to Zed not Zee), everyone has them, including the locals. Cabbies are only people who know where all the streets are.

Covent Garden & Oxford street are very safe, so you shouldn''t have any issues alone at night. Covent Garden is just to the north of the Strand wich is the English version of Broadway (but without the neon) - it''s where a lot of the theaters are. CG is also a very trendy area, so there will be more wine bars than pubs (and fewer louts, but more yuppies). So you''d probably still get hit on in a bar alone, but they likely be less rowdy about it....

Bath is about 2.5 hours from London by bullet train - from Waterloo I think. Everything in Bath is within walking distance of the train station too. There are also coach tours that will head out from London with a guide, and company. If you do head down there make sure you stop in somewhere and have a cream tea - fresh clotted cream and scones (don''t think about you arteries).

I''d avoid Harrods, it''s very touristy. Selfridges (Oxford Street) or Harvey Nicks (Knightsbridge - same general are as Harrods) are much nicer (though more expensive too) - Fortnum & Mason is very nice too (the Gentleman''s Relish is wonderful stuff).

Two very famous place to have High Tea would be Browns Hotel or The Dorchester, both are in Mayfair within easy walking distance of Covent Garden. Both pricey, but a once in a lifetime thing - semi formal dress I think is required (best check). I would suggest a reservation for either (they may be required), you could also ask if they have any other singles and maybe join someone else for Tea. Maybe not your thing. The Ritz is also good, the Savoy is very close to CG but is not what it was (a gentle put down only).

As for dress, I think white trainers (they are not sneakers over there) are fine, I wore them - but definitely no baseball caps. Also, dress like its 10-15 degress warmer than it is.
 

ladykemma

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are you claustrophobic? if so, avoid the covent garden tube station. walk over to leicester square.

ask me how i know! ha ha.
 

fire&ice

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Some of my highlights - Winston Churchill''s War Room - if you like history it can really give you a feel for how London was during WWII.

You''ve got to see the British Museum - especially the Rosetta Stone. Yeah, the Grecian stuff from the Parthenon is great! I wonder if it will forever remain as some controversy how the Brit''s acquired it.

The little jewelry room in the Vicoria and Albert is worth seeing. I think they close it certain times of the day - so look into that.

And, of course the Crown Jewels!
 

starryeyed

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Look RIGHT before stepping off the curb!

Theatre is more affordable than NYC - get as much as you can!

Dinner @ 8pm is standard. For more affordable eats, try the ethnic stuff - Indian, Malaysian, Moroccan, etc.

BIG MONEY! Last I looked the FX was almost 2:1. Yikes.

The Hop-On-Hop-Off tour in the double decker red bus is a great thing to do your first day in order to get an overview. Try not to get hit by it - LOOK RIGHT!

Ride the London Eye, the big ferris wheel. Look for the "Gherkin", the Swiss Re building that looks like a giant pickle. One of those architectural wonders.

Take the train from Heathrow to London (Paddington) - it's MUCH cheaper than a cab and very comfortable. It's called the Heathrow Express. You can cab it from the train station to your hotel.

Dress fashionably.

Have fun and remember LOOK RIGHT!
 

sparkel

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Mar 22, 2006
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Cinderella,

I was in Covent Garden area at some pubs until nearly midnight by the time I got back to the tube. I didn''t feel unsafe but I also wasn''t by myself (I think I would have been fine by myself though). I think as long as you are aware you will be fine. I also forgot to mention before how completely amazing the National Gallery is. If you like art (Monet, DaVinci etc) it is a must see they have some AMAZING works there. I also did the imperial war museum while I was there and their Holocost exhibit was incredible as was some of their recreations of trenches and the like (actually had a wierd trenchy smell to it, maybe i imagined it!). It was a little harder to get to the war musem but definately worth the trip IMHO.

I''m so excited for you, you will love it. Just make sure that you remember to plan for the jet lag b/c it nearly kills you the first day if you don''t sleep on the plane on the way over. (Pretty sure that you had said this was your fist overseas trip).

Rebecca
 

TravelingGal

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About the tennis shoe/keds thing. That''s debated all the time on the travel forums and the general consensus (and my opinion) is that it''s hogwash. Sorry, but they can pick you as an American despite your shoes, and certainly when you open your mouth, which you are bound to do. (Sheesh, the photos you will be taking are kind of a dead giveaway that you are a tourist!) It''s YOUR vacation...dress in what you want that makes you comfy, even if that means sneakers. Just be sensible, respectful, and aware.

I have been to London a few times and I have always felt safe. But I''m from Los Angeles, so I guess I''m used to big urban situations. I agree with the over the body bag...I just like the security and comfort.

I don''t care much for Harrod''s EXCEPT for the food hall. That''s fun to go see. I would also second Brown''s for tea. Less ostentatious than tea at the Ritz, and it was a lovely tea. I went by myself (as I tend to travel alone). The host was so gracious and seated me a very cozy booth that was not in the middle of the room so I could people watch during tea. He was very kind, winked at me and told me that Princess Diana liked to sit where he was seating me. Not sure if he was kidding or not, but I remember he put me at ease, as I felt pretty conspicous. I have a somewhat amusing story about tea that I wrote a few years ago if you are interested.

I liked Westminster Abbey because I was an English major in college. It was pretty cool to see where Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Mary I, and Mary Queen of Scots are all buried.
 

bookworm21

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Hmm...Browns is sounding like the best option for tea now. I''m definitely booking one when I get there.

I guess checking out the pubs and bars are out of the question then. I don''t particularly relish being hit on (it doesn''t happen to me much, so I wouldn''t know how to handle it), so I''ll stick with the daytime activities and the theater. I''ll be seeing as many shows as I can, since San Francisco doesn''t have much in ways of shows.

Has anyone ever been to the Globe Theater? That''s one of the attractions on my list, and I''m wondering whether the productions are up to par. The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and the British Museum are at the top of my list; in fact, the British Museum was what really interested me in going to London before I became an English major (just like TG!).

So many people are recommending the London Eye, but I''m deathly afraid of heights and can totally see myself sitting there with my eyes covered and whimpering. Drat. Can''t do it. I freaked out at the top of the Stratosphere in Vegas. I''m a chicken.

It''s going to be soooo expensive there. I''m checking the exchange rates practically everyday, and it doesn''t like like it falls below $1.95 per British pound. Drat yet again.

Sparkel, thanks for the tip about jet lag. I''m hoping that I can sleep on the flight over, as it is an overnight flight and I would be arriving there at 1030 am. I''m planning to sleep on the plane, check in the hotel to drop off my luggage, get some Indian food, then start sight seeing my first day there. Hopefully, I''d be able to adjust okay and enjoy my first day. And yep, it''s my first overseas trip.

i am planning to bring a pair of sneakers with me for the sake of comfort; I really don''t think I''ll be able to walk all day in heels. My feet would kill me and never forgive me.

Thanks again everyone!

 

sparkel

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Joined
Mar 22, 2006
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Cinderella,

I have been to the globe theater. I had yard standing which litereally means that you stand for the performance. I went to see the tempest (they did a more interprative production of it which was not my fav but I enjoyed it). If you do standing "seats" its only five pounds and honestly I didn''t find it THAT bad. Just make sure that you get there a little early so you can get a spot along the wall so you can lean. I''m tall so I could still see overtop of everyone no problem. Just be prepared that if it rains umbrellas are not allowed in the yard standing section which is open to the elements. I would suggest going though esp. if you are an english major. I was an english minor and I loved it.

Kudos to you if you can sleep on the plane I envy people like you! (Gravol is the only thing that does it for me in those situations).

Rebecca
 

ephemery1

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If you are traveling alone, definitely ask about an upgrade to first class... they often have at least one empty seat and it makes sleeping SOOO much easier. And they usually seem happy to give it to somebody who is dressed nicely and speaking politely. Although if you''re flying Virgin or British Airways, you''ll be impressed by how much nicer their planes are than any of the airlines we''re accustomed to in the states!

I lived right across the street from the British Museum... I just had such a pang of happiness when you mentioned it! One of my classes was in the Globe theater, so I got to act in a production on stage there... so much fun.
I saw about 40 shows while I was there, so they''ve all sort of run together... but some of the best were the Fringe Theatre (equivalent of off-Broadway) shows in tiny little theaters in random parts of the city. Oh and people eat little dixie cups of ice cream at the intervals... so bizarre, but kind of a cool tradition!

There is a restaurant chain that was fun (and easy to go by yourself, as everyone just sits at the same big long tables) called Wagamama... sort of a Japanese noodle house... and not super-expensive. There are a million of them... one in Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Bloomsbury, etc. If you want to check out a pub, I''d just go early for lunch and sit at a table (although you often still have to go up to the bar for service)... you are more likely to get hit on if you are there in the evening and actually sitting at the bar, so I wouldn''t worry about it too much. Keep in mind that a sandwich with "pickle" is not what you think (weird brown goo, not kosher dills)... and "with salad" just means lettuce and tomato on the sandwich.

Don''t worry about the London Eye... it was interesting but very touristy... and really not worth it if you are afraid of heights.

And yeah, it''s expensive. You''ll see something for 5 pounds that would ordinarily be $5 over here, and think "hey that''s reasonable" before you realize with the exchange rate, it''s more like $10.
 

TravelingGal

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Dec 29, 2004
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17,193
Yes...heels are bad! Not great for some of the cobblestone streets you''ll see in Europe.

And while I don''t see anything wrong with wearing white sneakers, if you want to be more hip, buy a pair of fun trendy ones!

I like going into pubs/bars alone...but yes, it is very intimidating (especially in some parts of ireland!) The key is you have to sit AT the bar. My tip would be sit and have a beer or two, don''t get drunk (never a good thing to do when you travel alone), and just be open and friendly with people who want to chat to you. Yes, people will try to pick up on you, but you can be friendly from an arm''s distance and usually get some interesting conversation.

And as for Browns...since you are thinking of doing it, here''s my story there...I think you may appreciate it as a first time overseas solo traveler...

-----------------------------------------

"Tea for One"

The one thing that most tourists feel compelled to do in London is have afternoon tea. To do I right, you have to go to a posh London hotel like the Ritz, pay a ridiculous sum of money, and sit in a lovely drawing room feeling very proud of yourself.

The last time I was here, I was with some friends…some of whom did not have a lot of money to blow. So at that time, the opportunity to have a veddy veddy proper English tea was lost.


Deciding that tea at the Ritz was far too imposing for a commoner like me, I decided to have tea at the equally posh but more inviting Raffles Brown Hotel. I had wanted to make it my “perfect London day” so I started out touring the Westminster Abbey, then went shopping for a suitable shirt for tea (everything I brought was casual). Then it would be tea at Brown’s, followed by an evening play at the West End.


It was with some anticipation I got ready for my formal evening out. I had brought one pair of black slacks with me (purchased after much searching at home). I absentmindedly slipped into my slightly wrinkled pants (slightly wrinkled, and not completely wrinkled because I skipped the stupid trouser press this time!) and blinked a couple of times when I struggled with the zipper.


Perplexed, I looked down and was stunned to discover that I had brought the wrong pants. My smart new cotton slacks where hanging in my closet, while I had brought THESE: my vile, micro-fiber, cheapo pants I wore at tradeshows! The pants I had purchased ages ago at a few pounds slimmer, and were now refusing to zip up all the way!


DAMN IT!


Trying not to be too disappointed by this unforeseen outfit change, I put on my new ultra-suede shirt. I glanced at my reflection on the way out and sighed. I had bought these pants for tradeshows because I wore comfortable flat shoes and these pants didn’t drag on the ground. Unfortunately, now I looked like Noah should have built me an ark because I was flooding in a big way. They looked completely silly with the heeled boots I had bought specifically for this evening.


Still, I made it to the hotel, and tried to be most dignified when I gave the name the reservation was under. “Of course, miss,” the distinguished gentleman said. “Right this way.”


He led me to a warm, yet grand drawing room filled with dark woods and oversized chenille chairs in various shades of burgundy. He pointed out my choices to sit…both tables were in the center of the room, within easy view of the door.


I must have looked a little nervous, because he offered me a third choice: a lovely booth in the corner. I smiled gratefully and told him I would love to sit in the booth, as it was much better for people watching.


“Very good miss,” leaning towards me a little, he said conspiratorially “It’s the seat that Princess Diana would have chosen.”


Feeling a bit like a princess myself, I took a seat in the cozy booth. I took a look around and was impressed with the serving ladies. Well dressed in tidy white shirts and burgundy skirts, they wore sensible hose (nude, as I would imagine they aren’t allowed to wear sexy black hose. Some wore the dreaded “suntan” color that you stop wearing at 12 years old and don’t wear again until you’re 80).


I began to feel a bit out of place. The room was filled with older ladies and gentlemen. To my right was a group of very handsome people. They were chicly dressed…especially the three perfectly coiffed blonde women, with their big diamonds sparkling in the soft light.


I was asked if I would like autumn or afternoon tea. I couldn’t tell much of a difference and was momentarily perplexed as to what to choose, since it happened to be both autumn and afternoon. I settled for afternoon tea. She then asked me what kind of tea I would like.


I glanced down at the tea invitation. I couldn’t pronounce half of them. Feeling dumber by the minute, I said, “Earl Grey, please.” Two words, one syllable each. Rather impossible to screw up.


I watched the lady go to the good-looking group of people to take their tea orders. Eavesdropping, I could tell they were also American. They all ordered afternoon tea over the autumn tea. Then, she started to ask the ladies in the group what tea they chose.


“I’ll have a dar-jling,” one lady said.


“Oh, you will have the dar-jeh-ling?” confirmed the serving lady. She sounded the slightest bit amused.


“Oh, um, yes. The dar-jeh-ling.”


The serving lady turned her attention to the gentlemen. “And you sir?”


“Um….I’ll have what I can pronounce. “Earl Grey.”


“Yeah, me too,” the next gentlemen said “Earl Grey.”


And so they ordered…four Earl Greys and two Darjeelings (now that they knew how to pronounce it). The entire time I listened, I sat with a most gratified smile on my face. It was extremely satisfying to know that I was not the only dolt in the room.


Americans can go into a coffee shop, order a double shot of cappuccino mulatto with frothy foam and a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, herbs and spices, whipped into a frenzy without batting an eyelash. But when asked the venerable question “one lump, or two?” we turn into blithering idiots. We are hopelessly ignorant about tea. All the glittering diamonds in the world on your fingers won’t change that.


My tea was presented to me in a confounding array of pitchers, jars, strainers, etc. She poured my first cup of tea and left me to fend for myself. Flummoxed, I began to feel uneasy again.


I took the silver tongs and nearly flung the lump across the room as I couldn’t get a grip on the sugar. Looking uneasily for the cream, I spotted a smaller pitcher with a closed lid on the far end of the table and tried to peer down the spout to determine its contents. I slowly tipped it over my tea and retreated abruptly when something that looked suspiciously like hot water appeared. Feeling rather dejected, I spied the cream….right next to my cup.


I may be seated where Princess Diana would have sat, but I highly doubted she would have dumped hot water into her tea when the cream was right under her nose!


I had my glasses on, so I could observe the room better. As I took the first sip of my tea, I realized that my glasses were slipping off my nose. I had started to perspire from my nervousness!


The glasses started to fog up, and I couldn’t really see anything in front of me, much less the rest of the room. Forced to take off my glasses, I felt my body temperature start to rise to uncomfortable levels.


You see, both ultrasuede and microfiber are forms of polyester. That might not mean anything to you, but when you are in a room and start to feel warm, wearing polyester is a problem because it CAN’T BREATHE.


I felt my body growing clammy from perspiration. Seriously afraid I would overheat and blow a gasket, I tried to surreptitiously blow air into my face…and down my shirt! It was as if I was in a sauna…and pouring hot fluids into my body wasn’t helping any.


All of this was going on while people were calmly going about their business of having tea.


It took several minutes and several deep breaths to get the panic and perspiration under control. I guess at this point, you may be wondering why I paid around $50 dollars to sit in a fancy room and torture myself.


Don’t think I wasn’t asking myself the same question. I don’t really get tea (as you can plain see) and a lot of British folk don’t understand why American people pay wads of cash to sit and pretend to be fancy. For your $50 all you really get is the equivalent of two sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a pot of tea, a small glass of champagne, and a few scones the size of a ping pong ball.


But as I sat in the room, my body (now) at a comfortable temperature with a delightful assortment of cakes and cookies in front of me, I was content. Having tea in a posh hotel lets you get away from the craziness of London. I leaned back in my booth and listened to the melody drifting from the piano, and realized that $50 wasn’t a bad price to pay for a few hours of good people watching, fantastic tea, a few moments of severe discomfort, and the right to pretend to be fancy.


Sure, you could have tea in America. But then you wouldn’t be an American having tea in London. I’d even venture forth to say that I’d do it again, and encourage anyone to have the experience, at least once. Trust me, you will enjoy it.


Just wear breathable fabrics.
 

poptart

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
May 23, 2006
Messages
1,899
Haha, great story Traveling Gal! I''m sorry you had such trouble with the tea! My family is big on the whole tea thing and even though we live in the US, my mom would take me to these little British type tea houses when I was younger for high tea. And every afternoon in the summer my aunt would invite me over for tea... no joke! But there are a whole lot of mechanics involved with drinking high tea, what with the leaves, the strainers, cream and sugar, haha. It sure can be intimidating!

Cinderella: I hope you have fun in England, I don''t have much to offer as I''ve never been there.

*M*
 

Larissa

Shiny_Rock
Joined
Jul 20, 2006
Messages
276
Date: 1/22/2007 3:10:22 AM
Author: Cinderella

I guess checking out the pubs and bars are out of the question then. I don''t particularly relish being hit on (it doesn''t happen to me much, so I wouldn''t know how to handle it), so I''ll stick with the daytime activities and the theater. I''ll be seeing as many shows as I can, since San Francisco doesn''t have much in ways of shows.
I know you don''t know me, so this is a bit forward, but I work in Central London. Right outside Victoria train, Oxford Circus is about 2 train stops away for me.

If you are at all interested in checking out the pubs for a drink or two, I could meet you someplace for an hour or two. I know this is teribly forward...I just remember being stuck in major cities on my own and not feeling comfortable leaving the hotel after dark...which gets boring after about 2 nights, let alone a week.

Hope I didn''t insult or make you feel uncomfortable by asking/offering.
If so, it''s really safe to go out on your own...really. The main reason I rarely do is I get bored sitting alone by myself in a pub/restruant.
 

TravelingGal

Super_Ideal_Rock
Joined
Dec 29, 2004
Messages
17,193
Date: 1/22/2007 2:30:56 PM
Author: poptart
Haha, great story Traveling Gal! I''m sorry you had such trouble with the tea! My family is big on the whole tea thing and even though we live in the US, my mom would take me to these little British type tea houses when I was younger for high tea. And every afternoon in the summer my aunt would invite me over for tea... no joke! But there are a whole lot of mechanics involved with drinking high tea, what with the leaves, the strainers, cream and sugar, haha. It sure can be intimidating!

Cinderella: I hope you have fun in England, I don''t have much to offer as I''ve never been there.

*M*
Yes, it sure can to a Korean girl whose experience with tea is pretty much green. Pun intended.
 
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