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From Lurid London to Eclectic Edinburgh - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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March 16th, 2011


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10:38 pm - From Lurid London to Eclectic Edinburgh
Next Friday, I will be visiting the United Kingdom for the very first time as an adult (I barely remember the few days we spent there when I was a kid). There is no company dime this time, unfortunately: barilosopher is getting married in St. Andrews on April 2, and I am using his wedding as an excuse to explore a foreign country that speaks English. That INVENTED English, even. I will have about four days in each city (plus a day trip to Stonehenge to cross that off my Life Goals [coupled with Bath because that seems to be the thing to do]), and I am getting all flaily at my lack of planning.

What should I see and do while I'm in London?

I have shockingly little idea of what I'm supposed to see in London. The Tower...of London? London...Bridge? The British Museum? Big Ben? I don't even know. People have also suggested the Tate Modern and Victoria and Albert and the Globe as well as various walking tours. Mostly, I want to see things I saw in Doctor Who.

And speaking of, you better believe I'm planning on going to the Doctor Who Experience! With maidofawesome!

Also, I must see a play, obvs! War Horse looks kind of amazing, and I have a cheap ticket for the night before I leave. Whoa, holy crap, In a Forest Dark and Deep stars Matthew Fox and Olivia Williams!! That could be totally awesome! Although it's a Neil LaBute play, so I will leave feeling incredibly dirty and hating myself, theatre, and humanity. And redflora, flymara, and I are seeing the longest-running play in history, The Mousetrap.

I don't know what to doooooo. Also, where would one go to buy music? I might as well try to find the Sohodolls CD while I'm there. And let's not forget food. Anywhere I should go out for an English?

What should I see and do while I'm in Edinburgh?

I have even less of an idea of what to do in Edinburgh, as I can barely pronounce it. HOW DID THEY FIT THAT EXTRA SYLLABLE IN THERE? G IS NOT A VOWEL. Apparently there is something called Arthur's Seat that is an extant volcano that I must climb so I can say I climbed a volcano. There are lots of ghosts and castles and grave robbers or something. And something called the Green Market, I don't know. There's like this underground city or whatever I want to see, Mary King's Close. I also have a list of interesting local haunts like cafes and bookstores. And sneaker328 says I should take a trip up to the Highlands and go see Nessie. I will be staying with ashfae, who I will finally get to meet after, like, a million years.

Also I have to fill up a bottle of rum for ariiadne or something. So that is one thing to do, but I have much more time to fill!

I may end up playing some of this by ear, but I don't want to miss out on anything I MUST see or do, so throw out your suggestions! Also general UK information/advice like how much cash I should need (this time, I'm going to be charging everything I can because I got screwed on the exchange rate last time), any safety concerns, tips on how to navigate the Tube, etc.
Current Mood: busybusy
Current Music: Sparta - Assemble the Empire

(93 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

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From:sophia_helix
Date:March 17th, 2011 05:52 am (UTC)
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For starters, Bath is super-great! If you wait around in the main square for a bit, one of the free walking tours will start, which is the best thing to do there. You can also pay some money to go into the church or the actual baths or the pump-room, but for us it was really enough just to walk around in a group with a docent and hear entertaining stories. Plus once you're finished, you'll have seen a few places you might want to go back and poke around in, like tea-shops or whatever.

In London, my first suggestion is to go straight to Trafalgar Square, look at the lions and Nelson's Column, then take the walk down Whitehall past Downing Street to the Embankment, where Big Ben/Parliament and Westminster Cathedral are. Then you can walk a little ways up to St. James's Park, go through there to Buckingham, and walk through the Mall back to Trafalgar. It takes maybe an hour or two at most and you've seen most of the most-famous stuff. If you are artily-inclined, the National Gallery is right on Trafalgar Square and has a wonderful collection, of course.

Elsewhere, my favorite thing in London was St. Paul's. If heights don't bother you, take the 500+ stairs to the top because it's an amazing view. The British Museum has a lot of famous stuff, like the Rosetta Stone. And make sure you get a vanilla ice cream with a chocolate Flake in it from an ice cream stand somewhere, because it's delicious.

Westminster is overpriced and not that exciting. The Eye is like 18 pounds to ride and the Tower is also that much to go inside, so I haven't been to either. (Well, I've been by the Tower, and you can see the Eye from everywhere. Another good walk is to take the Millennium Bridge across from St. Paul's to the Tate Modern, then walk south past the reproduction of the Golden Hind and the Globe, then over Tower Bridge to look at the outside of the Tower.)

Get an Oyster card for the tube -- and dang, I wish I'd given you mine because there's a 4-pound fee to get it started. You can refill it online, and it's the cheapest way to get around. Everything is horribly expensive, sadly. Pizza Express has better food than the name sounds like it should, and Cafe Nero is another chain with OK prices, but if you have access to a microwave I suggest getting takeway from Tesco's grocery chain that you can heat up. Oh, and when you buy anything from a cafe or lunch place, they'll ask you if you want it "takeaway" (which may be hard to understand since all London cashiers seem to be foreign), because there's a surcharge for eating in the place.

Finally, the streets will mess you up for a while. Look right when you start crossing, and left at the island!
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From:sophia_helix
Date:March 17th, 2011 06:00 am (UTC)
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Oh, and you will need a lot of cash, I'm sorry to say. London has bankrupted us twice now, even though we tried to plan ahead. I don't know if charging everything is the best plan because we had huge surcharges when we got home the first time, but maybe your bank is different. Like I said, the Oyster is 4 pounds to get started (or at least it was last August), and you swipe it every time you go through a turnstile in or out. If you want to put more money on it, I think there's like a 5-pound minimum at the machine. Prices vary between zones, but expect to spend probably around 4-7 pounds a day getting around depending on how many stops you make. Again, depending on where you eat, probably 15-20 pounds a day to feed yourself (unless you can make breakfast at home or other non-restaurant options). The museums are all free, but the cultural things like Westminster or St. Paul's or the Tower are not, which is why I recommend only going to St. Paul's.
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From:sabra_n
Date:March 17th, 2011 06:42 am (UTC)
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THEATER. LOTS OF THEATER. Go to the RNT, pick a show, and get rush tickets. Same goes for the Donmar Warehouse and Menier Chocolate Factory, if you can get tickets. I have no idea what any of those spaces are playing right now (except for Frankenstein at the RNT), but still. It's like a theater pilgrimage. DO EEEET.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 17th, 2011 07:02 am (UTC)
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Frankenstein is sold out! But I'm getting advance tickets for the three shows I mentioned so I don't miss them. I don't want to gamble on rush tickets, though I might one night if I don't have anything else planned.
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From:mawombat
Date:March 17th, 2011 07:48 am (UTC)
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In London, I recommend the London Dungeon.
In Edinburgh, the National Gallery.
And then just stroll around both cities.
I'll be in London from April 12-17 -- if our times coincide, let me know.
Otherwise, have fun!
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 17th, 2011 07:54 am (UTC)
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Ooh, a DUNGEON? Where's that?

I'll be back home by April 12, alas!
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From:cucumbersarnies
Date:March 17th, 2011 08:21 am (UTC)
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Where are you staying in London? Do you want to just do the big sights or are you interested in just wandering and soaking up the atmosphere?
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 17th, 2011 04:16 pm (UTC)
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I'm staying with a friend in Leyton, so I'll be Tubing in and out. And I want to see the big sights AND wander and soak up the atmosphere!

You! Aren't you there? I was trying to remember who else I knew there.
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From:cucumbersarnies
Date:March 17th, 2011 08:53 am (UTC)
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Also, the reviews for "In a Forest Dark and Deep" have been fairly bad- that it's typical Labute, and the female character is underwritten.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 17th, 2011 04:12 pm (UTC)
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I've seen pretty good reviews myself. But it's Matthew Fox and Olivia Williams! Onstage!
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From:kerrypolka
Date:March 17th, 2011 09:08 am (UTC)
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What should I see and do while I'm in London?

Me! I mean, not the "do" part.

Also HOW DO YOU KNOW ASHFAE WHAT WHAT THE INTERNET IS TOO SMALL AGAIN.
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From:ariiadne
Date:March 17th, 2011 02:19 pm (UTC)
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Sunil and Ashfae and I are all part of the same old skool group of online journaling types! Pre-lj, even! I have known them both for about 10 years, though I forget exactly the sequence of connection.
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From:kerrypolka
Date:March 17th, 2011 09:19 am (UTC)

and now for actual answers to your actual questions

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Also, where would one go to buy music?

Soho and Camden I think? Maybe not Camden. I will ask the Mr.

I have no idea what good places are for people who want to do Tourist Things are, but I can tell you that Greenwich is amazingly beautiful to walk around, has several good museums and is exciting because of the PRIME MERIDIAN OMG.

A weekly Oystercard is the best decision, as you won't have to do that annoying thing of "ooh can I afford to take the Tube there or do I have to walk a three and a half miles or shall I just skip it?"

Also I work three minutes from St Pauls so I can totally take you out for lunch when you visit there, if you like!

There is much food. I think a good plan for fooding is to figure out where you'll be and make food plans based on that?
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 17th, 2011 04:22 pm (UTC)

Re: and now for actual answers to your actual questions

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Oh! Yes! I have been told to go to Greenwich and I keep forgetting to slot it into my tentative itinerary. Muuuust figure out where it fits.

Also I work three minutes from St Pauls so I can totally take you out for lunch when you visit there, if you like!
Oooh, I think I like this idea. I will let you know what day that is likely to be.

There is much food. I think a good plan for fooding is to figure out where you'll be and make food plans based on that?
Yeah. I just know I need to have some AUTHENTIC chicken tikka masala. I need to get a Lonely Planet guide or something; what I did in Budapest and Barcelona a lot was to just pick restaurants in the guide that were in my area. I found some winners!
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From:soundingsea
Date:March 17th, 2011 11:07 am (UTC)
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Super-cool! Have a fantastic time. :)
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From:adinarj
Date:March 17th, 2011 11:54 am (UTC)
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Personally, I liked the V&A better than the British Museum. I thought there were more interesting things there. You might have a different opinion.

I highly recommend the London Walks tours--I did two. And there's the hop-on, hop-off bus tour which was awesome, and you get three walking tours in that (Changing of the Guards, which I missed; Rock & Roll, which was a ton of fun; and Jack the Ripper, which was highly recommended by everyone.)

The TARDIS is right outside the Earl's Court tube station, so if you want to see it, that's where it is.

Charing Cross Road is home to about 20 different used-book stores. Oh, sorry--shops. It's heavenly.

The South Bank is beautiful, especially at sunset, and the Globe is near there.

Highly recommended investment: Not for Tourists guide. Amazing little black book, plus a map which helped me tremendously.

If I think of anything else, I'll let you know.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 17th, 2011 04:23 pm (UTC)
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The TARDIS is right outside the Earl's Court tube station, so if you want to see it, that's where it is.
Oh!! Thank you! I DO WANT TO SEE IT.

Charing Cross Road is home to about 20 different used-book stores. Oh, sorry--shops. It's heavenly.
Oooh.
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From:raelee
Date:March 17th, 2011 12:51 pm (UTC)
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I have no helpful hints but I forgot to say this the first time I read about this trip... I'm SO JEALOUS!!!
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From:jeeperstseepers
Date:March 17th, 2011 01:29 pm (UTC)
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Oh yay, you're doing Stonehenge/Bath! I'm glad.

I believe I advised you to consider going to Inverness/the Highlands as well. If you have the time for it, you should consider it. If you don't go there, you should go somewhere outside of Edinburgh. You don't need that long there, and you should get to experience some of the more Scottishy Scotland.

My only advice about the Tube in London is this: always look at the map closely and think about whether you actually need to take it. Sometimes you end up doing just as much walking as you would have done if you'd just walked to your destination, except you do the walking underground instead of above ground. And above ground is better.

Do you own Neverwhere? One thing I loved about being in London after reading that book was seeing many of the places and things that are spoofed or mentioned in it. You may want to just scan the pages quickly to remind yourself of the places in it so that when you're walking around London, you can go "Oooh!" when you see them
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 17th, 2011 04:24 pm (UTC)
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Oooh, I do!! Thanks for the tip.
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From:ashfae
Date:March 17th, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)
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Pronounce it Edinburra! ;) *must go answer email before I get on a plane tomorrow!*
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From:trailer_spot
Date:March 17th, 2011 03:28 pm (UTC)
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I can see that you already have more than enough suggestions for London. If you'd still like to see the travelogue I wrote about my week in London 18 months ago, use this tag and scroll towards the bottom of the page. Or look at the galleries directly.
Let me know if you have any questions.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 17th, 2011 04:24 pm (UTC)
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Awesome, thanks!
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From:prophetkristy
Date:March 17th, 2011 03:59 pm (UTC)
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St. Andrews!! OMG, I am sooo jealous. How big is your suitcase? please take me with you!

....so I had an absolute blast exploring the ruins of the cathedral there AND the little nearby castle. I could spend another three days there just doing that.

Edinburgh: since I <3 castles and old churches, I hiked the Royal Mile, which has a castle at the top AND a castle at the bottom! I stayed at a hostel that was just off the Royal Mile and it was very nice.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 17th, 2011 04:25 pm (UTC)
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I WANT TO SEE ALL THE CASTLES. AND THE RUINS.

I won't have much time to explore St. Andrews, it looks like, but where do you recommend I go if we have a couple hours before the wedding?
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From:riani1
Date:March 17th, 2011 04:02 pm (UTC)
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I don't know how big a history buff you are, but I would happily pay that much to get into the Tower to see the arms and armor and to see all the old castle bits. I don't know if the Crown Jewels are a separate charge or not, but you can see the crowns and all that.

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