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Travel & Holidays in later life

THE CAPITAL FREE SHOW THAT IS LONDON


Stand on Westminster Bridge and look around at the free show that is London: the Houses of Parliament - Big Ben - Boadicea - the constant traffic on the Thames - old County Hall and The Wheel.

It's one of the world's most famous sights, which pulls in tourist millions from all corners of the globe. But there's nothing to pay as you enjoy the passing scene. Within a few minutes' walk is rich sightseeing choice along the pomp-and-ceremony circuit: Westminster Abbey, Whitehall, Downing Street, past the Horse Guards and along to Trafalgar Square. 

Dominating the pedestrianised north side of Trafalgar Square is the National Gallery. Walk through the  colonnaded entrance, and enjoy the rich experience of great paintings. Go back often as you like - pop in whenever you're passing, to enjoy your favourite masterpieces again.

Travel Facts

 

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TRAVEL FACTS

Weekend break programmes are available at many London group hotels which charge higher prices during weekdays. A ready-priced capital package holiday can include transport by express coach or rail. 

Often, varied sweeteners are added to the package - a Travel Card, transport maps, and discount coupons for museums and entertainment. Ask your travel agent for quotes.

The website www.touruk.co.uk
/london  is superb for everything about London, including details of all the 107 museums

For  theatre tickets, look at
www.officiallondon
theatre.co.uk/tkts  

For more information see Visitlondon

 

In London, call personally for information at Britain Visitor Centre, 1 Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, SW1Y 4XT. Open: Mon-Fri 0900-1830, Sat & Sun 1000-1600; Jun-Oct, Sat 0900-1700.

Travelsphere escorted holidays

 

Trafalgar Square It's free, every time. Any gallery of equal status abroad would charge several pounds for entrance.

A standard guide-book mentions 117 London art galleries and museums. Some are huge, all-embracing collections that cover the whole range of human experience: the British Museum, the Commonwealth Institute, the Tate Gallery and the Tate Modern. Most are free.


Then there are the smaller collections with minority appeal, each complete in its highly specialized field. Typical museums are devoted to Dentistry, Fire Insurance, Wine, Sherlock Holmes, Cricket... and so the list continues.

There's no need to go museum-mad! Nothing kills enthusiasm faster than to go slogging through galleries hour after hour, ticking off another priceless masterpiece every minute. Check through a full list of What's Open, and decide which ones fit your personal tastes. 

Interested in theatre? London offers possibly the world's richest theatrical choice. If there's at least a dozen shows you'd like to see, and you have time for only a couple, save money by going to the Leicester Square Half-Price Ticket Booth. 

They sell tickets for many West End productions on the day of performance, at half price plus 2.50 service per ticket. Go early in the day for the best choice. Seats closest to the auditorium are sold first, and work backwards through the day. The booth is open 10-19 hrs Monday to Saturday, 12-15 hrs on Sunday.

A Horse Guard in full costume Visit the free Theatre Museum in Russell Street, Covent Garden, housing a huge collection of costumes, models, designs, paintings and playbills. 

For a different London, travel to Mansion House, official residence of the Lord Mayor of London, and stroll through the City. The last few years has seen some spectacular buildings to change the skyline.

For the best overall view, however, go to the Monument, commemorating the Great Fire of 1666. It costs 2 and plenty of energy to climb the 311 narrow spiral steps, but you get a certificate to prove you made it. The reward is a classic close-up of historic London - St. Paul's, the Thames, the transformed Docks, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. The Monument will be closed for refurbishment for 18 months from July 2007.

The Millennium Bridge, and St Paul's CathedralThanks to the Millennium burst of new attractions, another superb view has been opened up by what's best known today as the Wobbly Bridge. With its design problems long since fixed, it offers a splendid pedestrian route between the Tate Modern Gallery in a former disused power station, directly across to St Paul's.

But for the most stunning views of all,  take the half-hour ride aboard the Big Wheel. The cost is 13.50 adults, kids 6.75, over-60s 10.80, but not on weekends or in July-August.  Advance-book online at www.londoneye.com for a 10% discount and no need to queue for tickets.

The London Eye also operates a River Cruise Experience, with departures from the London Eye Pier. That's likewise with 10% discount for online reservations

Shopping is another big attraction, especially during the after-Christmas Sales, with Oxford Street, Regent Street and Knightsbridge pulling the crowds. But it's also worth visiting the converted Covent Garden Market. In addition it has good restaurants, pubs, wine bars, and street entertainment from buskers and jugglers to mime artists and Punch and Judy shows.

Visit the Silver Vaults in Chancery Lane for an unrivalled treasure display of antique silverware. Forty dealers are clustered in this single location. 

Browse among the bookstores around Charing Cross Road. Go discount-hunting for photographic and high-fi goods in Tottenham Court Road. Admire the luxury jewellery windows of Bond Street. 

For the price of a bus-ride, here are some more suggestions for seeing the free show that is London.

Go on Saturday to King's Road, Chelsea, where trendy Londoners do weekend shopping in their stylish costumes. Or visit the Saturday antique and junk market in Portobello Road, lively with good atmosphere.

A corner of Tower of London At the other extreme, go to Petticoat Lane market on Sunday morning - noisy, crowded, full of vitality. Keep up your strength with jellied eels or cockles.

Explore the wealth of London's parks. Stroll around The Serpentine in Hyde Park. Admire the flowers in neighbouring Kensington Gardens. Feed the ducks in St. James' Park. 

Travel out to Kew Gardens, and take a world tour through greenhouses that range climatically from Arctic to tropical. Entry costs 13; concessions 12 April to October. Kids( under 17) free if accompanied by an adult.

To enjoy London, just relax and leave your car at home! Buy a Travel Card, to slash the cost of inner London transport.

Consider these other South East suggestions

LONDON - rooms at reasonable cost

NORFOLK BROADS - by slow boat

OXFORD - Just Pottering around 

WINDSOR - Enjoy a Royal Wekend


"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

"Time Out" Visitors Guide to London - Seventh edition of Time Out's excellent guide with good photos and maps of the central areas.

London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd - a mammoth 800-page story of the tumultuous life of London across the centuries, makes a fascinating life story that will enhance your experience and understanding of the capital city today. 

London Insight Compact Guide - a handy pocket guide with 14 suggestions for walks around selected highlight areas.

London (Rough Guide Directions Series)  - a stylish and handy guide with good maps and guidance also to the less obvious areas of the capital.


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