“Nothing is certain in London but expense.” – William Shenstone.
Pengennya si nulis lebih cepet biar ga basi-basi banget gitu ceritanya hehe, tapi apa daya baru sekarang deh bisa kesampaian. Well, better late than never ya =)
We went visiting London last year, during Christmas holiday (on December 24th and return to Holland on December 29th). At first we were a little bit worried actually, because based on some info I have read on internet, during Christmas holiday – especially on the 25th of December – (almost) all London transportation does not operate. This means that there’s a possibility that we could be abandoned and only able to spend the whole holiday in the hotel. That would be sooo zzz. Luckily after spending some time searching again on internet (and a little bit of gambling), we could find a good solution to solve the issue.
We departed from Eindhoven Airport. There are several budget/low cost airlines depart from this airport to London. This is handy for us since the airport is closer to our place. We took a flight offered by Ryan Air and the duration from Holland to London (London Stansted) took around an hour and five minutes. We have arranged for car park close to the airport (we used valet parking from Eazzypark for 2 nights and found a nice offer from Groupon) and from London Stansted Airport to the hotel we used Airport Coach/ Bus Shuttle from Terravision (around an hour drive). We ordered the tickets via internet (the price of one way trip from the Stansted Airport to Liverpool Street (in front of the Liverpool station) is £6 for adult and £3 for child between 5 – 12 years). From Liverpool Street (the distance is approximately 1,2 km) to the hotel we took a short drive by taxi.
During in London we stayed at the Premier Inn London Aldgate. The closest tube station from the hotel is Aldgate East (around 300-500 m), and it is located not very far from the Tower Hill (approx. 1 km). Thus, although it’s not really in the center, the hotel has a nice location to travel around. Plus, they also had family room options, so it’s a very good bargain for us to stay there for the holiday.
We didn’t make any plan to go for sightseeing right away after we arrived. Despite the arrival time we also didn’t want to make the kids feel stressed out and not enjoying the holiday. In the evening we walked a bit to fast food restaurant nearby (KFC – food that taste “friendly” and familiar for the kids) and bought meals there for our dinner. Again we didn’t want to make things too complicated for the kids. Btw, KFC here had other sort of menus than one in Holland, where they also offered rice.
On the second day of the trip (25th), we have booked hop on hop off tour bus. Yes…We were really becoming a tourist on that day :p. It’s not that bad actually, but this was mainly because we didn’t have that many options. Either you walk, or you go with this bus. As I said before, all public transports were not operating on that day (well except Taxis, with double tariff – even triple I think – than normal, and you have to order them in advance). In normal days, there are 3 companies operating hop on hop off tour bus, but on the 25th there were only one operated: one from Golden Tours. The ticket price was twice than normal (around £35 for adult and £15 for child). Crazy, I know..but we didn’t have many options as I told you before, so yeah. The closest bus stop from our hotel was at the Tower Hill. So we walked first from the hotel to the bus stop. The weather on this day was not that friendly. In the beginning it was only cloudy, but the minute we sat in the bus it began to rain. Well, you cannot expect much from London weather during winter eh. Anyway, we stopped at several point of interests, and took some photos from the bus.
Oh, have I told you that most of stores and restaurants were also closed on Christmas day? well there you go. But as far as I know, some pubs and restaurants at Leicester Square or Trafalgar Square were open. We had our lunch also at one of restaurants there. The kids were quite enjoying the day although they got wet and received extra cold from the rain. In the evening we had the Christmas Dinner at the restaurant in the Hotel. The food was not that bad, but also not that special.
On the next day (the 26th), the initial plan was to visit the London Eye. There were not so many options to be done on the 2nd day of Christmas in London, because most of attractions or public interests such as museums or historical places were still closed for public. However that didn’t happen. Before we went to London, I actually have suggested my husband to buy the ticket in advance via internet. However, he thought that we could just buy on the spot, because he didn’t want to be attached on one date only (the ticket date is fixed and cannot be changed). I agreed to this and thus we went to the London Eye and went to get the ticket there. When we reached the London Eye, the queue on the ticket booth was already looong, and when we reached the booth the officer told us that apparently we couldn’t buy family ticket (valid for 2 adults and 2 children) there and instead they only offered us the individual ticket. The price difference between family ticket and individual ticket was quite significant, and because of this we then decided to just go back the next day and buy the ticket online.
What did we do then on that day? After having a quick lunch at Subway nearby to the London Eye (my kids and husband are a fan of Subway btw hehe), we then went to watch Starwars VII at Leicester Square. After the movie we just strolling around the China Town, Trafalgar Square and of course Leicester Square :D. Btw, I didn’t recommend to watch movies at cinemas in London. It’s freaking expensive! For the four of us we had to pay like almost £100 for 3D movie. That’s crazily expensive even if you compare to the price in Holland (apalagi dibanding sama harga di Indonesia ya..jauh!). Before we went back to the hotel we took dinner at a Chinese Restaurant in the surrounding of Leicester Square.
O ya, on the second day of Christmas the public transports were already available, but with a holiday schedule (longer waiting time). The advantage of using public transport in London is that for any children up to 16 years who travel with adult(s) are free of charge. There are several options if you happen to be a tourist here: pay per trip, using travel card (with some options of validity period), or using Oyster Card (refillable). We used Oyster Card for transportation instead of Travel card, because we think that its the most efficient one for us. I still have my old Oyster with some credits in (from my previous visit in 2012 for work), thus we only need to buy another one for my husband. It was handy indeed 😉
On the 27th, we went back again to the London Eye, this time with the entrance tickets in hand ;). It was nice to see some parts of London from above. The London Eye is similar with the Singapore Flyer, only the size is a bit smaller. The technology they use here is also the same, and made by the same engineer (if I’m not mistaken). The duration for one round (standard ticket) is approximately 30 minutes. It’s pity that during our turn the weather was again not that friendly for us: quite gloomy with some drizzles pouring down a bit. But anyway, it still nice for the kids (and my husband and I) to have the experience 🙂
A short info, I just checked the official London Eye website, apparently the family ticket has no longer being offered. The standard ticket for adult if you buy online is around £21 and for a child is around £16-17 (if you buy on the spot the price is around £28 for adult and £20ish for child).
Afterwards, we then went by the subway (they called it as “tube”) to the Tower of London. We had prepared our tickets and bought them via internet before we flew to London. The Tower is quite big, but still can be visited within a day. One of the interesting part of the Tower is of course the Crown Jewels Room where the Royalty kept the royal regalia, including jewels, plate, and symbols of royalty such as the crown, sceptre, and sword there. No guests are allowed to take any picture inside (due to security reason I guess).
After the visit, we went back to hotel. For our dinner, my husband and I went for a walk to grab a take away of Fish and Chips at a restaurant nearby. We tried the very typical english(y) meal at its own original place for the sake of curiousity (and hunger of course =)). I did a bit of research on internet to find a recommended fish and chips resto around our location and I found this one resto called Poppie’s. The taste was quite good although it’s not exceeded my expectation.
On the 28th, finally major musea were open for public. London I think is famous for their museum, and as some of you might already know, the entrance to most of musea in London are free of charge (unlike other attractions where you have to pay like crazy). That is why I think many people (tourists as well as the Londoners) like to come there. O ya, most parks (gardens) here are also free to visit, but then I would suggest to come preferably NOT in the winter season (find a time with the least chance of raining :p).
One of the most acknowledged museum here is of course the British Museum, located in Bloomsburry area (if I’m not mistaken). Another famous one(s) among them are the Science Museum, The Natural History Museum, and the Victoria & Albert Museum of Art and Design (V&A Museum). The nice thing with these three museums are that they located closely one to each other (at Exhibition Road – South Kensington). We actually planned to go to the British Museum after we visit the three museums, but by the end of the day we couldn’t make it. O ya, be prepare for a long queue, especially when you want to enter the Science Museum and The Natural History Museum. But probably it was also because of holidays then the museums were quite full.
The first museum we visited was the Science Museum. According to wikipedia, the Science Museum was founded in 1857 and today has become one of the city’s major tourist attractions, attracting 3.3 million visitors annually.
The museum also has several areas dedicated to children where they can explore and play. On the ground level you’ll find a sensory exploration area that’s fun for younger kids and a few floors up there are also area for older kids where they can experiment, play and discover.
After the Science Museum, due to the intimidating queue at the entrance of the Natural History Museum, we then went to the V&A Museum located across the street of the Science Museum. It was a very short visit, because the kids were complaining and the museum was not as they expected. In their mind, the museum was a place where they would find toys and other interesting stuff related to toys and playing. Apparently it was more serious than what they have thought. We only strolled around on the ground floor, took a bit of photos and then decided to just go to one of the oldest toy store in the world, Hamleys, located at the Oxford Street. But again, the store was so crowded it gave us a headache even to just look around. The kids also were not too excited because of this. So we just did a round from first floor to the last (it has five storeys) and then went back to South Kensington to try our luck of getting into the Natural History Museum.
O ya, at V&A Museum you can find various art pieces from (almost) all over the world, with many kind of forms such as statues, calligraphy, books, or even a carved tusk.
When we got back to museum area, the queue in front of the Natural History Museum was not as long as the first time we arrived. And since the kids didn’t mind to wait in line, we decided to join the queue. If you are a Dino fan I think you will like this museum. It has alot of things related to Dinos. They have a special section for displaying all the dinos and “the living” T-Rex. Even in front of the entrance of the museum you will be welcomed by a giant dino skeleton :p. Bear in mind that you have to queue again inside to enter this special section. Beside dinos, this museum also have many other interesting displays, including animals from around the world (they have a stuffed dodo!), also various kind of stones from the earth. The building itself is very extravagant (typical old big buildings in the UK). You can really see that this museum has been there for quite a while.
We stayed at the Museum until closed (around 7 p.m. if I’m not mistaken). And then we went to Leicester Square again to look out for dinner. Since it’s weekend, most of the restaurants were quite full. Luckily we could get a table at Pizza Express (without reservation) although we had to wait for 30 minutes at the bar to be seated. This Pizza Express Resto is the same like one in Indonesia (previously called as Pizza Marzano – and then changed name into Pizza Express). We liked all the food here, as well as the drinks. And before we were done, they gave chocolate praline for each of us. Lekker klein toetje voor ons 🙂
Finally we went back to Holland on the next day. We had our breakfast at the hotel, took a taxi to the Liverpool Street, and then went to the Stansted Airport by the same shuttle service as before. All in all it was quite a nice holiday for us (although for some days we had quite lousy weather). Just too bad we didn’t have a chance to visit Harry Potter Studio (all were fully booked!), the Stonehenge, the British Museum or other touristic things in the surrounding. I guess we just have to visit UK one more time in the future. And moreover, preferably combine the visit to other cities around London as well.