London Lantern

Putting the Spotlight on London

Our November London Trip

25/02/2003, By Cherie Wenderott and Ben Bowman

Reader Rating: 3 from 28817 votes


London was definitely the highlight of our 8 country, 16 city European whirlwind, "trophy hunting" tour, as our tour guide Roland called it. We travelled with Trafalgar, we booked their "cost saver" tour, and boy, did we find out on the 1st day and after that, "cost saver" it certainly was.

Our "transfer" tickets allowed someone to drop us at the subway, and we had no clue where the Paragon Hotel was from there, how to get our suitcases up 3 flights of stairs after someone pointed us in the direction of which subway line to take to the Paragon.

However, with some help from the friendly London public, we were very soon tearing around London from one end (RAF Military Airplane Museum - free, open until 8 pm, great for tourists) to the other (Harrods, Churchill's Bunker, Tower of London, see - left, Camden, Covent Garden, and Oxford and Piccadilly Circuses), we became subway rats. The weather was grand, and while I went to the Versace Exhibit (in London for 3 months at the Queen Victoria and Albert Museum, $10 in US dollars) my beau went to the James Bond Exhibit at the Science Museum.

Our tour group did not clue us in that we would not even see our tour guide until Day 3, after having had 2 days on our own in London, even though I have been to New York, Oxford Circus blew N.Y. out of the water. I love the 3 level window displays of fashion, and Camden Town was great fun, I bought some sequined coin purses with Snoopy, a pink heart and Woodstock for $4 at a store on the main street that I believe we got off the subway at.

On Day 16 of our trip, we returned to our Paragon Hotel, thrilled that we were no longer in France or Italy (the Romans were particularly rude to us; the customer service inside the Vatican and at the Vatican post office featured what I assume to be civil service workers intentionally not working and staring at us as the lines of customers continued to grow longer), we had longed to get back to London, where people spoke English (I must say, the only other place we were in Europe that was friendly and spoke English was in Austria (Innsbruck)).

So, the last night in England, we returned to Piccadilly Circus for our first ever fish and chips, down an alley near what I call the town square in Piccadilly. I believe we paid $4, what a buy, after the cost of food in all the other countries! We watched a drunk man strip naked in the middle of the square, which we laughed heartily about!

Then, we returned to a unique shop in the Trocadero that featured colored liquid rings and bicycle bells (I bought a lavender one with a yellow moon on it). I cannot remember the name of the store, but was interested to find that their goodies had been imported from somewhere in France, a place we obviously never got to when we were in France.

The Versace Exhibit was grand, the pictures I returned home with don't do the bright colors justice, but I did get shots of Liz Hurley's safety pin dress, Princess Diana's dress, and Elton John and Sting's outfits.

We hope to tour England again, as the only country we visit overseas. The friendly subway staff made the staff in Rome (who were too busy smoking on their work time to get us 77 cents exact change so we could ride the subway back to our hotel) look really bad; and the retail store staff in Munich, whose doors to the store were open, but when we walked in, the clerk yelled "VERSTEHE NICHT", which I knew from my high school German class meant "not open", so much for wanting tourists to support the international economy.

I am glad that we spent most of our tourist dollars in London. I hope to never visit Rome again, due to the poor customer service, even though there were some neat stores with fur trimmed purses and tops for under $30.

Cherie Wenderott and Ben Bowman - Wichita, KS

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Re: Our November London Trip

By Joyce O'Brien 01/03/2003, (Rating: 2.9 from 27665 votes)

I agree with you. I went on a 5-country tour in 1999, which ended in London. I have been back to only the British Isles every year since: 2000 London to York; 2001 England and Ireland; 2002 a wonderful week in London. I hope you ate at Porters Restaurant while in London. If not, be sure and do so next time. I have also stayed at the Paragon, but I like the Strand Palace better, mainly for its location. I enjoyed your article; happy traveling in England.

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Re: Our November London Trip

By Pat 01/03/2003, (Rating: 2.9 from 27653 votes)

I have not been to the other countries, but have been to London, England twice. I will go back to England any and every chance I have. Last summer I got to spend two days there before going on to Russia. I love the London Theatre, Westminster/Parliament and just taking in the sights and sounds. The subway is great, the maps easy to follow, and the people wonderful. The museums and Trafalgar Square have something for everyone!

St. Petersburg, Russia is an incredible city, and enough English is spoken/written to make this American feel at home. I would go back if I could come and leave directly through London/St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, legal business required that we travel to Moscow. While I am thankful to have seen Moscow, it was a hard city to traverse, and moreover, a kind word was hard to come by from the inhabitants. Leave Moscow off your list and stay in the St. Petersburg area if you ever have the chance to go to Russia.

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Re: Our November London Trip

By Lavelle Middleton 02/03/2003, (Rating: 2.9 from 27682 votes)

I am planning on a London trip in September 2003 and wonder if you viewed the outlying areas, specifically their dairy farms? Please reply.

<b>Editor: It would help if you left an e-mail address.</b>

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Re: Our November London Trip

By Patricia Theodorou 07/03/2003, (Rating: 2.9 from 27648 votes)

Lavelle, not certain what you mean by outlying areas? Do you mean countryside, as there aren't many dairy farms near London?! England may be smaller than the US but it has many contrasting areas. Dairy /Farms can be found a plenty in Somerset and Herefordshire. I used to be in the tourist industry so if I can give you a few tips it might help. Like the US there are pretty areas and industrial areas but one common mistake made by tourists from the States is in the scale. Whilst in the States you get on a freeway and happily drive for miles from city to city, outside of London you will find that most of the 'good' things are not in cities. One couple said to me having spent 3 weeks here that they had come to appreciate that the best places were 'in between'. So visit the Cotswolds (this is an area full of pretty villages and attractive scenery, good pubs to have lunch in and quaint inns), visit the villages in Devon, etc. and don't make the mistake, like one couple, who went to Nottingham and took a bus to Sherwood Forest, thinking it would be perhaps a preserved wood with /robin hood memorabilia, and found themselves on housing estate. My best advice is do your homework before you come, get a book from the library, get leaflets from travel agents, you will get so much more out of your trip! Hope it’s a good one.

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Re: Our November London Trip

By Pamela Rogers-Asheville, NC 03/03/2003, (Rating: 2.9 from 27689 votes)

I loved your article and am so glad I read it. I just assumed that all European countries were as wonderful as England and I was hesitantly planning to visit France and a few others next time over there. I really just wanted to go to England but thought maybe I should visit the others. Now I can happily spend my vacations in England. I was planning to go to England in a few weeks but must admit to being a little scared with world events. The hand grenade incident at Gatwick frightened me. Anyway, I can spend a longer time in the summer. Last year when I went to London I was treated with the best hospitality and met the kindest people and all of the history is just incredible. Thanks for your article!!!
Pamela

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Re: Our November London Trip

By Alna de Vos, SA 03/03/2003, (Rating: 2.9 from 27535 votes)

I suggest you still visit France and the rest of Europe...it all depends on your attitude as a visitor to these countries. I also went on the same Trafalgar tour via London to Europe. We were met at Heathrow by a Trafalgar representative who accompanied us to a Trafalgar bus which took us all the way right to the front steps of the Paragon Hotel!! There was some passengers who decided they "did not want to wait for hours" (1 hour after flight) before they could board the bus for transfers to various hotels-they decide to go by tube. We had a fantastic time. Since then I travelled on my own/with friends and saw how rude some people can be towards their host country, maybe they think because they pay in $ they have the right to certain things. The Italians (I have travelled through Italy for 4 weeks last year, also visited Rome, the people were fantastic. I treated them with respect and received excellent service, the same in France. With us on the same tour there was people from New Zealand, as well as Australia. We all had a fantastic time...we also did not see our tour guide the first couple of days, obviously, as the tour only start from the day you leave London. That was mentioned in the brochure-the travel/booking agent should informed their clients. To conclude...if you dish out negativity you receive it by the buckets full!! The Europeans have a rich inheritance and culture, and rightfully we have to respect that and brashness does not go down well with these people. We had a American couple who complained all the way from the UK and back because "they are not used to this or that and the food is so this and that"...I can only repeat what our tour guide said to this couple. If you want familiarity and what you are used to, why did you waste your money to see something different? Because that is what travel is about, to experience something different and have memories of it... Again, if you demand the impossible at home you will also demand the impossible abroad wherever you go. Please adjust your attitude when you leave on a trip...it will be to your own advantage and you will enjoy your holiday so much more! Have a nice trip!!

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Re: Our November London Trip

By Cherie 05/03/2003, (Rating: 3 from 27568 votes)

Your views/experience was different than mine...we GET courtesy/service/respect in the US, especially with regard to places where WE are PAYING someone...to keep their business ALIVE AND RUNNING..
I kissed the ground to return to the US...as the times were 50 years behind in most countrries we visited...no, I did not expect, nor will I tolerate 1) Rudeness from shop owners/Vatican workers 2) No ice in pop...Thank God for the US of A!

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Re: Our November London Trip

By Patricia Theodorou 07/03/2003, (Rating: 2.9 from 27607 votes)

How sad you didn’t have a good experience Cherie! I am English and whilst I love my country I love France and Italy too. I have hardly ever had any problems in my travels in 20 years of visiting those countries but then I did find that if you bothered to learn a little of each language, not a lot, it went a long way. It rarely happens that a foreigner who doesn’t speak English demands/expects that you speak his/her language whilst visiting Britain or US so why should we do the same? Respect for other people is extremely important.

I am now going to say something, which may not seem friendly but nevertheless needs saying. Whilst staying in Italy and France I have had holidays ruined by spoilt, aggressive Americans who think they live in the best country in the world and want everyone to know that. As one man said to his peevish wife; Why did you come, I just wish you'd stayed home.

Quite.

I opened my home for bed and breakfast when we lived in a beautiful village in the Cotswolds a few years ago. It was my HOME, not a hotel and perhaps it was a new concept for some Americans (most of who were charming) but it was a real eye-opener for me regards some Americans and their attitudes. My guests stayed in rooms far nicer, more elegant and comfortable than in a hotel and for far less. I made people welcome and did everything I could to make them comfortable. Most people appreciated what was on offer. I had scores of people return and some delightful guests came from America time and time again but after 3 years I had to ask the tourist board to please not send me any more Americans. I would rather have been empty. Two ladies who started opening their homes to guests gave up after 1 year as they were so stressed and the reason they gave, the American visitors. I find this very sad as I am still in touch with a lovely couple from Seattle.

So please, please, for your own sake and ours, enjoy Europe, enjoy England but please remember we are not an extension of your own country and we have the right to be different.

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Re: Our November London Trip

By Judy P. King 06/03/2003, (Rating: 2.9 from 27574 votes)

I agree that your own attitude has a lot to do with how you are treated in other places. I have found that wherever I go, in the U.S. or abroad, there are wonderful people and not so wonderful people. But since I love something about almost everywhere I go & I let it show, people respond in kind more often than not. I spent 3 days in London in June 2001 with my 18-yr.-old daughter & her friend & we loved it! So much that I didn't want to leave for Paris for the rest of our trip. But I found that our wk. in Paris & 2 days in Nice were also wonderful. Everyone we had contact with---desk clerks, taxi drivers, museum guides, shop owners & clerks, waiters, postal employees, people on trains, people on the street---everyone was friendly & helpful, or at least polite! I am a little peeved with the French government right now, but I know from personal experience the French people are wonderful. And the English, too! Give love & respect, 9 times out of 10 you'll get love & respect. When you don't, shake it off---life is too short to hold grudges.

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Re: Our November London Trip

By Patricia Theodorou 07/03/2003, (Rating: 2.9 from 27495 votes)

Please do not be put off Pamela, everyone has different experiences. A few tips. If you walk into a shop in France, the nearest assistant will say
'Bonjour Madame' (or Monsieur), it is considered polite to say 'Bonjour' back. You will get better service!

Likewise in Italy, but in Italian of course.

You can follow that up by, ‘Does anyone speak English’, if you cant manage anything further.
I was brought up with the myth that the French and Parisians in particular were rude. So was astounded at how polite they are. We found people very helpful and have spent three Christmas shopping trips having a wonderful time. Rome like Paris is a smart city and people are busy and can be more abrupt but it helps with both cities if you realise that their working hours are different and in some places still have a traditionally long lunch hour as on the whole they treat food with respect and are not so hot on 'fast' food some people considering it 'uncivilised'. Avoid the chain eateries and take a long leisurely lunch, which is usually very good value.

As for London, well, I was born there and love visiting it and can recommend Greenwich with its Maritime museum, a visit to Southwark Cathedral, a church where generations of my ancestors were married and baptised, for its history. The usual attractions of course, the Tower, St Paul’s, etc. but try the smaller museums and houses also to get a real feel of what it was like, such as Dickens House, the Wallace Collection and best of all the Museum of London.

If you like art, whilst visiting Trafalgar Square and the National and the Portrait Galleries, go under Admiralty Arch into the Mall (Buckingham Palace is at the end of this long ‘street’) and look for the Mall Galleries on the right. With luck you will find an exhibition on featuring contemporary artists, as this is where various Royal Societies exhibit. Enjoy!

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Re: Our November London Trip

By Frank W. Werneburg 03/03/2003, (Rating: 3 from 27568 votes)

Hi Cherie! There is a little misunderstanding in your article. In German "verstehe nicht" does not mean "not open". "Ich verstehe nicht." means "I do not understand." Your German teacher seems to be not really good. :-)

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Re: Our November London Trip

By Cherie Wenderott 05/03/2003, (Rating: 2.9 from 27448 votes)

I meant to say "geschlossen" (spelling) not verstehe
Cherie Wenderott

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Re: Our November London Trip

By Richard Wyland 03/03/2003, (Rating: 2.9 from 27489 votes)

Yes, one should see as much of the World as possible. But London is just so fantastic, it's hard for me to spread-my-wings and see other countries. I especially enjoy Venice.

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Re: Our November London Trip

By Kanga 08/03/2003, (Rating: 3 from 27537 votes)

Cherie, people will tend to treat you as you treat them so have a little respect!!! You may be surprised at how nice people are to you if you do them the same favor. I am glad I wasn't on your tour as I don't think I could have dealt with your incessant complaining!

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Re: Our November London Trip

By Robin 04/10/2004, (Rating: 2.9 from 27741 votes)


I have to say that it is not just the Americans who upset French shopkeepers by seeming to be unfriendly. In England unless you live in a tiny village we do not generally smile and say hello and goodbye to shop staff unless the shop has its own policy forcing the staff to do it first, and even then we might just muter or ignore them :) In France shop staff will usually greet you and expect a greeting in return. When they are ignored is when they might turn surly.

We accuse them of being rude when in actuality we have been rude to them as soon as we walked through the door and brushed aside their friendly greetings to tell them what we want from them. I know that there are many very friendly people in both England and America but sometimes we just slip up because of a slight cultural difference.

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