Wednesday, January 28, 2009

London Calling (with Houseguest Blogger Amy)

My good friend Amy was in town last night and stayed over at the manse. So I thought it would be fun to create a new feature called "House Guest Blogger" where I make all my house guests contribute a post to the blog (hey, listen people, there's no such thing as free lunch)! Amy has a "bi-continental" lifestyle, splitting time between Philly and London, and she decided to share her favorite tips for visiting Londontown.

Me: Why is now a good time to visit London?
Amy: Well the exchange rate is really good right now (about $1 =£ 1.42), and plane tickets are really affordable (check out US Air). Plus, the Spring is my favorite season in London- it isn't too crowded like in the Summertime, and at least the rain is warm rain.

Me: What are your favorite tourist attractions?
Amy: There are a few tourist-y things that are expensive but worth it. The Tower of London is amazing (admission + a tour costs £16.50), and I was blown away by Churchill's Underground War Bunkers (admission £12.95). The views from the London Eye Farris wheel (tickets £15.17) are spectacular- you can see the whole city (but if you have a window seat flying into Heathrow, make sure you look out as you land- you might see the same views for free!) There are also a ton of great things to do that don't cost a thing. My favorite museum is the Victoria and Albert Museum of decorative arts, where admission is free. There is an incredible Chihuly chandelier in the main rotunda that is worth the trip itself. I played soccer in college, and my husband and I love get into the British "football" experience. We go to games of the Queen's Park Rangers, a local "minor league" team. The fans are wild and the games are great- the season runs roughly from August through March. In my opinion, the best park in the city is Battersea Park, on the south side of the Thames. It has beautiful gardens and fountains, and a great rolling lawn which is perfect for picnics. It's also less crazy crowded than crazy Hyde Park (which is crazy).

me: What's the best way to get around?
Amy: The tube is by far the best way to get around London. It runs on a schedule, so you can plan your trip out ahead of time on Make sure you buy a daily or weekly pass, as they are almost always more cost-effective than purchasing single-ride tickets. If it's a nice day out, London is a great city for walking- which you might want to do during rush hour when the subway is insane. You might think you have seen a crowded subway in New York, but you have no idea. Cabs are expensive, but to and from the airport, there is a great service called Just Airports which will take you for about £27, rather than closer to £50.

me: What do you like to do at night?

Amy: London has a pub culture that is really great. I like the Duke of Clarence and the Drayton Arms, which are both on Old Brompton Road. They both have a young clientele and good food. There's a great website, Fancy a Pint?, which rates, reviews, and maps all the pubs in London, so you can find one that suits you in any neighborhood. If you're going to the pubs you need to anticipate that the service is usually pretty slow and lax. On the bright side, you can pretty much hang out at a pub table for hours without anyone hassling you, if you want to.

me: Any tips for avoiding jet lag?
I always book a window seat on the red eye. I bring my noise-canceling headphones and an eye mask, and sometimes I'll take a Tylenol Simply Sleep. Once I land, I go right to bed and take a 1-2 hour nap, which tides me over until I go to bed that night. I find that the adjustment is a little harder on the way back, so I try not to book anything important right after I get back.

Thanks, Amy! Future house guests, stand warned!


Monina Dolan said...

i love your "houseguest" blog entry idea…brilliant!

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