Thanks jerry for the followup. I've been studying the threads (this is essentially a Marriott Insiders planned trip) and I'm going to be staying a week at the London County Hall (based mostly on your input - thank you) with a stay on each end at the Heathrow Renaissance, where I intend to use the insights of Navigator Mr. Kamel who has written in this forum Concierge posts. I'll be hitting all the sights (we love walking, but of course will use cabs strategically), catch a few plays, visit the other Marriotts, eat breakfasts at the CLs, grab at least two other meals a day, and certainly hit a few pubs, catching a few football (theirs) games and in honor of arkwright, at least one inning of cricket (although the old Marriott Sam Lords Castle, r.i.p., provided me enough cricket on their 3 channel tv in the 80's to come close to lasting a lifetime). The good news, I don't go until May, so plenty of time to study up. The bad news, I may need that long to be able to learn how to effectively navigate the tube (oyster vs. travel card - name of lines vs. color of line etc etc).
Trust me, I'll be getting back to the Insiders for ideas and thoughts - that's more of a threat than a promise.
You are too kind to pass these nice words on!
Keep this in mind, if you are using points, you should consider forgetting staying at the Ren. at LHR. Having stayed there it is just as easy to stay at County Hall and get the multiple rate discount on points. Remember, they will arrange for you to get transportation to/from LHR, and you may save a lot of points.
erc, we all can give you a lot of tips on your trip next year. I will probably be back there prior to your trip and really try to make it easier for you.
Just a thought! Remember, from County Hall, you can walk to a whole lot of interesting activities.
As jerrycoin mentioned County Hall is in a good position and many places walkable.
Best advice I could give about the tube is to look at the distances between the stations on a map (Google).
The tube map is nicely designed but the distances between the stations are not in proportion particularly in zone 1.
(Harry Beck the designer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Beck )
You could end up spending more money by using it unnecessarily, also London is better experienced above ground walking.
From County Hall it is very easy to walk over the Westminster Bridge to see the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey for example.
You can also walk over the Hungerford Bridge up Villiers Street and then onto Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus.
The main destination that you would want to use the tube for is to go to South Kensington area to see the museums (Science, Natural History, V & A).
From Waterloo Jubilee (Grey) line to Westminster then District (Green) or Circle (Yellow) westbound to South Kensington.
Or walk across Westminster Bridge and get District or Circle westbound from Westminster station.
Once you have done more research then I'm sure if you start another thread there will be plenty of people willing to help out.
So well put!
I really think staying at LHR area is a waste of time. If one arranges to have a car pick them up from LHR and take them back (At the same price as a taxi), you will get much more out of your stay at County Hall than anything at LHR. What do you think?
Having stayed at The Ren. LHR and The Marriott LHR, they are really not worth it and the time just to get to the "Nearby" airport is way too long for me.
jerry and sg
Wow - great stuff. I'll try to frame this so any reader can benefit and it's not just erc's personal thread (you guys are better than travel agents and the price can't be beat!)
I get in flying non-stop from Dulles to Heathrow 10pm est to 10 am London time (fine by me and best airfare/points). I got perhaps the only 'bed and breakfast' rate at the Ren for $65 GBP. According to the Ren's web site there is a free bus from the airport to the hotel (altho it's not necessarily easy to locate where - but I have time). The London city hotels are running pre-paids (I'm going, so not that big of a deal, but as I'm showing, I don't know what the heck I'm doing - yet) 167 GBP (Grosvenor Sq.) and 212 GBP (County Hall). At a 1.6 conversion, that's a significant chunk of change variance from the Ren and I'm pretty sure those city hotels do not include the 20% VAT (one of my prior 'vents') the Ren is net/net.
My thinking was; I'll see how we feel, use the Navigator's Mr. Kamel insights for last minute fine tuning and willingly, if necessary, burn a day learning the intricacies of the underground.
Similarly on my return, either get to the Ren chill at the hotel, and have as tef says, a few night caps reminiscing about the previous week's activities or if I'm still gung ho, blow it out in London with the bags at County Hall and late nite it back to the Ren for my following day noon departure.
I'm studying London Pass and similar offerings but most likely will just craft my own itinerary, willingly paying a potential premium for the flexibility to go 'with the flow' of the trip. My activities will be designed around the home base of County Hall.
PS - Jerry, as an avid reader of this forum, I was able to pick up your very diplomatic reference re: the Ren on your previous post (two posts ago) - ha ha. Thanks sg for providing the backdrop for even more insights - I know we don't want to appear to hammer any property, but I would much prefer to know beforehand the potential headaches, like you guys have advised, than to have to come back and warn others. I appreciate your efforts and realize I have to 'study up' in order to maximize them, so I certainly will. Thanks
This is a nice way to travel along the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich see the sights from a different perspective.
Greenwich is also worth visiting for the rest of the day:
National Maritime Museum
Plenty of things to see and do!
For your visit to London it could be of interest to check into "2FOR1" entry to over 150 top London attractions, restaurants, theatres, exhibitions and more, when you travel by train to the capital! To take advantage of these offers just browse our list of 2FOR1 London attractions. I believe the Heathrow Express train qualifies.
Blava and Gem
Thanks for the thoughtful input. Blava that's a great listing and they have real deals, that I would be interested in - like a Blood Brothers bogo and many restaurants looked interesting. I'm still a bit far out (May 13) for their eligibility, but I'm marking it down as something to come back to. The Heathrow Express is 18 GBP plus a 5 fee so two at 46 GBP would still be a decent deal, when compared with the 10 GBP tube, depending on how many bogos they let me buy off of the National Rail ticket; it may only be good for the day of travel - I'm looking into it.
Gem - your info is terrific also and I intend to take the tube at least one way between County Hall & LHR. I first must get from LHR to the Renaissance and that's where I'm tracking down the aforementioned free bus - both ways. Kudos to Marriott for at least mentioning it - but they only tell you where the bus is at the hotel, not the airport.
What I'm finding is it seems that the city goes out of its way to make things complicated; Oyster vs. Travel - oyster requires deposit, isn't good for attraction bogos, but does automatically calculates different zones at lowest fare. Travel card good for bogos (which are legitimate offers, not just low occupancy attractions) but bogo deal cards can only be purchased at railway station ticket offices not underground, airport, or online - sheesh, and so on and so on. The more I study, the less I know (apparently it takes an Insiders village to raise this idiot) . I may just take the tube, walk to nearby attractions from County Hall, take a cruise, eat at all the great Insiders recommendations, and hang out at the Leicester Square kiosks and pick up theatre deals there. I'll also use the concierge for one or two shows, thus my vigilance toward deals elsewhere.
Or I may not worry at all, if Chairman Ben keeps throwing money at the problem and driving up the prices of my assets thru money chasing deals, it may not matter; either I'll be euphoric over the continued rise, or the whole thing will have burst by spring and the only tube in London I'll be interacting with will be the boob tube in my hotel room (eating yogurt from the morning concierge lounge buffet!)
Oyster v. Travel (or is it really paper v. electronic?)
Thank goodness for the internet, and that others have already analyzed this problem for us. Anyways, some quotes that consider refunds, frequency of use, type of use, etc to consider in making a choice. And after reading all the comparisons, one person on Frommers summed it up by saying,
"In spite of the research you have done, you still seem to have missed the point that the question is not Oyster vs. Travel Card, PAYG (on Oyster) vs. Travel Card (on Oyster) or Travel Card on paper. The paper-based vs. Oyster-based travel card is only an issue if you want to take advantage of the two for one sightseeing offers available to users of the paper-based travel card. Otherwise, the Oyster-based travel card is more convenient than the paper one, since you can add PAYG credit on the Oyster for journeys outside the Travel Card zones you have chosen. For most visitors 4 days is the break-even for PAYG vs. Travel Card. More than 4 days, the Travel Card will be better, less than 4 days PAYG will be better."
Other considerations per Frommers
Lol - you are too funny. That's why we're all here - to help one another. It sounds like you are off to a swimming start. I just ran across this most informative and enjoyable thread; don't know how I completely missed it. Excellent job Jerrycoin in starting it. Many thanks! I don't make my maiden voyage to London until 2014, so am bookmarking this informative thread. So helpful, and thank you to all.
I stay in London frequently (Grosvenor House aka JW being my favorite, although I've stayed at numerous other London Marriott properties). I've also stayed at LHR Ren night before flights or when I need an inexpensive stay for Marriott promos.
I did a very detailed trip report here: London Heathrow Renaissance Trip Report Feb 2011 (w/ pics) - FlyerTalk Forums . While it says Feb '11, the info is valid as of Feb '12. It also includes details on where to get the free bus from LHR to the hotel & bus #s to look for/stands.
The LHR Ren is a good alternative to in-town Marriotts if price is an issue, there's a promo going on, or one needs to be at the airport at oh-dawn-hundred or gets in late at night.
Nice information! Looking forward to hearing more about other London dining choices. What is really helpful for all of us is good places that are reasonably priced, and fun to visit. When one has to take a taxi, even from County Hall, there are few places under 10 British Pounds each way.
erc....I was looking for a bus in Dublin and used skype to call the hotel directly and ask them...it was a matter of walking out to the correct bus stand...probably similar at LHR....also you can't go wrong with the County Hall!! We have stayed there many times and appreciate the public bus stop almost directly in front...so convenient to hop on and take a tour of the city!! I always go to the upper deck and look around...I've had some wonderful "tour guides" aka normal everyday folks just by being curious, (of course my family pretends they don't know me...lol)
We have been tossed into the Twilight Zone of Insiders. These are older posts, branched off from a superb discussion lead by you, chrisf, ark, sg, gemprincess and the many other London experts. Not knowing whether the response was from yesterday or like several others, posted months ago and already discussed, I am jotting this note to you, because I want you to know how appreciative I was/am for all the contributions.
I arrive on the 17th, just after the MI World Tour stop at County Hall. I stop at LHR Renaissance for a 'base camp' strategy and then off to County Hall. My entire agenda (even my wardrobe - dark, no khakis or 'trainers') has been planned with info from this forum, sites, meals, shows (many events at discounts).
All Insiders who are first timers to London should (like IAHFLYR, pluto77 kharada46 and myself) start here on Insiders first, terrific info on all aspects of a trip to London and beyond. Thanks to all the contributors, can't wait to get there, rain or shine.
ERC: many have given you some great advice. here are a few more: From County Hall, there are many BUSES (those big red ones, mostly accordion type vs a few double deckers) and you can find bus routes (better in my view than the tube) on the tranport for London web site http://www.tfl.gov.uk/. County Hall is very strategically located, so many major bus routes stop outside, accross the street (in front of the Hospital) or behind near the waterloo station Natl Rail area. If you use a bus, you need the Oyster card. Up to date: Oyster requires a GBP5 deposit. Buses are less expensive than the tube. Better views from the bus anyway. Getting from LHR to Paddington, if you so chose, take the Heathrow connect (GBP9.50) va Heathrow express (GBP 21) (both are one way fares) and you can pick up a tube line to get you to the Westminster station and then its a short walk to the hotel. Half price ticket booth for theatre is located in Leicester Square. You can find what they have before you go over at http://www.tkts.co.uk/leicester-square/ For food options, that is tough, aside from deals oither have posted, we go for Pret A manger (pre made sandwiches); and do hit the Marriott lounge for good H'ors D'Ouvers when they have them. Anyway, dont want to repeat great advice others gave, so go an enjoy.
Yes it is calling, I'd love to do a trip over the Christmas Holidays however; have heard quite a bit of the shopping in closed. Guess it will have to be during the Open 2014, IF, BIG IF, I can get my lovely wife to want to explore some golf while enjoying entire UK experience. We shall see how well she and I negotiate on this trip!
Looks like you've had some good advice so far. Here is my 2 cents worth.
Transport: I wouldn't worry about this at all. London has a very good transport network with a range of options. Your best bet is to expore on foot where possible as County Hall has a great location- consider a Saturday morning stroll to Borough Market or Tower Bridge. A few strategic taxi trips and you'll be fine. I wouldn't bother studying the tube maps or bus maps as even Londoners don't know the whole thing. I would suggest asking the concierge who will get you door to door. From Heathrow, you havea few options. The easiest and most expensive is a taxi which I would personally avoid as it can take a long time to get across town. At the other end of the spectrum, the tube is the cheapest but stops at all the small stations. The Heathrow Express to Paddington is probably your best and most direct option and you can take a tube or cab from there. Meanwhile, for getting around town, tubes are often the quickest way and if you miss a stop, you can always backtrack. Buses are cheaper (£1.40 wherever you go)
and you can see more than from the tube but these take w while longer. You can pay in cash on the bus (cost £2.40). As teh Oyster card gives a little more flexibility, I would go for this option personally.
Where to go: It is worth making the most of the local area. You could easily spend a day without taking public transport e.g. London Eye, Westminster, wal along the Thames, food markets, street theatre etc. London Theatre is well wortha look- most are aroudn Covent Graden which is closeby and teh Old Vic and Young vic are close to your hotel too. For eating, head to Hawksmoor for steak, Gordon Ramsay on Royal Hospital Road for haute cuisine and the Wolsey or Delaunay for brunch/comfort food. The best restaurant at a Marriott is Maze in Mayfair. For sports tickets, it is worth booking these up in advance (I'm not a sports fan so afriad I can't help here). For events, check out the Time Out London website.
Hope taht helps a little.
I agree with the theatre recommendation. Something special about the theatre in London. Saw the Phantom at Her Majesty's Theatre years back and truly enjoyed the evening. Then Chinese food near Picadilly.
We love the pubs for meals, too. Great atmosphere, sometimes good food and great beer. One of my favorites, just north of Trafalgar Square, by the National Portrait Gallery, is The Chandos (29 St Martin's Ln City of Westminster, London WC2N 4ER United Kingdom). It's a Samuel Smith pub - and I am a big fan of this Yorkshire brewer. The Grenadier on Wilton Row, Belgravia, London, about half way between Harrod's and the Buckingham Palace Gardens. In a beautiful quiet neighborhood and the night we were there, had a nice dinner near the fireplace. Sale e Pepe, about a block away from Harrod's on Pavilion, is a great italian place that has been around over 30 years. http://www.saleepepe.co.uk/
There are some cruise boats, near the Parliament area - and they serve beer on board. Can be a nice way to get your bearings when you first arrive. Takes you down to the Tower Bridge area and back.
Another nice area is St. Katherine's Dock. Dickens has been there for a long time and provides for outdoor seating, weather permitting. http://www.skdocks.co.uk/
Well, how about that - a tip of the hat to the ol' community manager, he knows his stuff, resurrecting from the dead this link, good job Andy (or whoever is playing Andy this week).
andrew_p , thanks for the insights, especially the ground transportation info. My biggest concern are/were spots (like Gordon Ramsey's Petrus) that are outside my two and half mile walking radius (or at night). For evenings I'm leaning toward cabs, daytime the bus. Your tip about the concierge, especially given jerrycoin's endorsement of Nic and others is probably my best bet - just ask them the best way to get to places like the Portobello Market - that's what I'm going to do.
psudad et al. the play's the thing for sure (I just missed tickets for Midsummer's Night Dream at the Globe, hey has anyone been a groundling? Is it bearable - that's all that's left). I've got five plays booked and will be circling the tkts at Leicester for deals (I had one friend who just walked up to a theatre and tickets were on the board - how about that?!).
Deals from sg/blava and others - I've got Thames cruises, hop on hop off doubledecker bus tours, London Eye, Shard, and several museums, galleries and markets, and of course meals to feed an army. Tally ho.
Just a few pointers on travel. Assuming your nearest tube is Westminster (or Waterloo), here's how to get to some of the places you mentioned. For Portobello Market and Notting Hill, take the Jubilee (grey) line to Bond Stree and Change onto the Central Line (Red) for Notting Hill Gate. The market is a short walk. Whilst in the area, the Lonsdale is a good pub and Cafe 202 is good for a bite to eat or a coffee. For Petrus, I think it's in Knightsbridge so take the Jubilee Line to Green Park and change for the Picadilly line to Knightsbridge. I haven't been to Petrus but I have heard some mixed reviews of late (contradicted by tripadvisor though). Le Gavroche or Dinner by Heston Blumenthal are close by too and worth considering. If you fancy cocktails before, the Blue Bar is pretty interesting.
As a general rule on transport, the key is to pick an area for half a day and find a few good things around. Travelling around on tubes and buses is an "experience" but not the best use of time. For example, you could take the South Bank as one area (say Westminster to Tower Bridge), Soho, Covent Garden, and the Embankment as well as Kinghtsbridge/Mayfair as another. There are plenty of good places in all the cnetral areas and this will help you avoid transport fatigue.
Hope that helps- enjoy!