We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Ongoing Solo Trip Report July 2012 (long)

Which London hotels are on sale?
mm/dd/yyyy mm/dd/yyyy
See hotels
Level Contributor
12,990 posts
16 reviews
Ongoing Solo Trip Report July 2012 (long)

I am currently in the middle of a trip to London. I started with 3 days in Oxford, which I posted on the Oxford forum and then will be in London with a few days in Brighton later in the trip. I'm a little behind on writing the posts, but here's the link to the Oxford part.


Level Contributor
12,990 posts
16 reviews
1. Re: Ongoing Solo Trip Report July 2012 (long)

Day 4 July 10, 2012

I spent the morning doing mundane things like grocery shopping. Afterwards, I caught a bus over to Westminster. They were supposed to be having an exhibit today called “People and Parliament” in Westminster Hall, which I was going to see, mainly because it was in Westminster Hall. However, when I got there, they said the dates on the website were wrong and they had taken everything down today. Fortunately, I’ve seen Westminster Hall before when I took a tour of Parliament on a previous visit to London.

Since I was in the area, I decided to go to Westminster Abbey. It’s been a few years since I was there (2008, I think) as a tourist rather than for services, and it’s been even longer since I did the Verger tour, so I thought I would do that. There really wasn’t much line to get in, and I noticed that you wouldn’t have gotten in any quicker with the London Pass, as they had 2 lines, one for cash and one for credit cards, the London Pass, and something else – prepurchased tickets maybe?

Anyway, the only delay in getting in was a group of students whose teachers apparently didn’t want to go in with them and the staff person didn’t want them to go in on their own. Apparently they didn’t have their student IDs either. The timing worked out well though, as there was a Verger tour starting in 5 min (at 11AM), which was the last one before lunch (I think 2PM was the next time).

The Verger tour lasts about 90 min and was very good (although not as entertaining as the Yeoman Warder tour at the Tower of London). The main benefit to it is that you get to go into the shrine of St Edward the Confessor, which you can’t do on your own. Of course you also get explanations of things, but I’m not sure that is any better than the audioguide. I think that would just be a matter of preference. It’s hard to say though, since it’s been 4 years since I did the audioguide. I did almost get left behind once. The guide doesn’t go into the smaller side chapels like the ones where Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scot are buried, and I guess I spent too much time in the Mary Queen of Scots one. I guess other people don’t spend time looking at the tombs of Margaret Beaufort and the Countess of Lennox (Margaret Douglas).

After the tour, I spent some more time there so I could look at things in more detail than we had time for on the tour. Also, the tour doesn’t include the cloisters, museum, or gardens, so I went to check those out. The gardens were nice, but not amazing. It was interesting to see the funeral effigies that they have there, which for some of them is the closest we’ll get to seeing what they actually looked like. Then I spent some more time in the main part of the Abbey. Part of the time I just sat on a bench in the area where Mary Queen of Scots is buried, and it was interesting to watch people come through. Hardly anyone stopped to actually look at anything, just a long line of people walking through with audioguides up to their ears. I also spent some time just sitting in the main part of the Abbey, as there’s so much to see that you would miss it if you didn’t take some time to stop and look around.

I also thought it was interesting to compare the tombs of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots as James I (James VI of Scotland) paid for both of them. Mary’s is bigger even though she was never Queen of England. Of course, she was James’s mother (and Queen of Scotland, but I don't think that usually got you a big tomb in Westminster Abbey back then), but I don’t think he ever saw her after he was a couple of years old. The tombs actually look pretty similar though. I was also interested to see that Mary I (Bloody Mary) really didn’t have any memorial. She is buried near Elizabeth (or the other way around, I guess), but the only marker is a stone in the floor that says you are near the tombs of Mary and Elizabeth. I guess it makes sense though, as I don’t think anyone liked Mary too much by the time she died, and I can’t see Elizabeth wanting to spend a huge amount of money to bury someone who kept her locked up for a year or so.

I ended up spending a lot more time at Westminster Abbey than I had intended to. I was there until almost 4PM, so about 4-5 hours. Then I walked over to Waterloo Station, as I needed to get a train to Farnborough, where I was going to be picked up to go to the Stonehenge Fire Garden. I did get stopped on the way by some woman who said they were having a campaign to stop the killing in Iran (?) - I wasn’t paying that much attention. This reminded me of the people in Paris who come up and have you sign a petition and then say they want money because you just signed and said you would give them money. I didn’t stop long enough to figure out if that’s what they were doing, but it’s something to watch out for I guess. It’s the first time I’ve seen/heard about it happening in London.

I tested my Chase chip card out in the train ticket machines and it worked fine. I’ve never been able to use my swipe card to buy tickets from a machine, so I was happy to see this one worked. So far I’ve used it in a National Express (coach) ticket machine, a Post Office self service machine, a TFL machine to get my travelcard loaded on my Oyster, and now at a train ticket machine. The only one that asked me for a PIN was the Post Office machine, and then I just hit Enter and it worked fine. This does not seem very secure to me, it seems like it would be better to have a PIN, but I guess better this way than not working at all.

At Farnborough, I met up with JumpinBug, and we had a nice dinner in a pub in a little village whose name I can’t remember right now, and then were driven out to Stonehenge for the Fire Garden. We were lucky, as it didn’t rain while we were there. The fire garden was pretty cool. They had the barriers down so you could walk up among the stones, which was nice. They had torches and other fire sculpture-ey things around, which created a nice effect. I wondered if this is what it was like back when they used it for ceremonies or whatever they did. (I don’t think anyone knows for sure how it was actually used originally. Stonehenge is fairly far out of London, and I didn’t get back until after 1AM, so that was it for the day.

West London
Level Contributor
10,128 posts
2 reviews
2. Re: Ongoing Solo Trip Report July 2012 (long)

Thanks for the Oxford descriptions, which exhausted me just reading them, because I hadn't realised that you could visit Blenheim Palace so easily from Oxford.

If you're currently staying in the Barbican area, you might be interested to know that HMS Ocean is sailing into town today (Friday) for the Olympics:


which could be a good photo op.

Since you were last here, there's a new cable car system going over the Thames at Greenwich.

Edited: 7:05 pm, July 12, 2012
Level Contributor
2,479 posts
10 reviews
3. Re: Ongoing Solo Trip Report July 2012 (long)

btgm trip report!! Looking forward to some good reads :-)

I am always fascinated by the effigies. I like to imagine the actual person that was once lying just underneath.

Level Contributor
12,990 posts
16 reviews
4. Re: Ongoing Solo Trip Report July 2012 (long)

Thanks Glyn. It doesn't look like HMS Ocean will be coming up this far, will it? I would have thought it would just stop when it gets to Greenwich (assuming it's coming from the east).

Burlington, New...
Level Contributor
221 posts
5. Re: Ongoing Solo Trip Report July 2012 (long)

btgm, just as a point of reference, I don't know if you are aware but Mary Queen of Scots was originally buried at the Cathedral of St Peter St Paul and St Andrew in Peterborough. In 1587 James 1st had her remains moved to Westminster Abbey. Also \, still buried at the Peterborough Cathedral are the remains of Catherine of Aragon. Which I hope to see when I visit there in Sept.

Enjoy your journey my friend,


Toronto, Canada
Destination Expert
for Family Travel, Honeymoons and Romance
Level Contributor
21,565 posts
25 reviews
6. Re: Ongoing Solo Trip Report July 2012 (long)

btgm..............many thanks for the report, and looking forward to the Brighton portion...................

Roeselare, Belgium
Level Contributor
1,606 posts
20 reviews
7. Re: Ongoing Solo Trip Report July 2012 (long)

Hi btgm,

I enjoyed reading the start to your report: Fascinating details about Westminster Abbey! Makes me wish I was in London again... After your many visits, it sounds lovely that you can take time to leisurely revisit favourite sights and sit back to watch other tourists rush by :-)

Travelling without you daughter this time?

Level Contributor
3,043 posts
42 reviews
8. Re: Ongoing Solo Trip Report July 2012 (long)

Yay I was waiting for your trip report, looking forward to a long read!

Leeds, United...
Level Contributor
2,825 posts
57 reviews
9. Re: Ongoing Solo Trip Report July 2012 (long)

Nice to see James VI get a mention!!!

Level Contributor
12,990 posts
16 reviews
10. Re: Ongoing Solo Trip Report July 2012 (long)

Yes, monicavn, DD couldn't come this trip as she is at summer camp for the whole month of July. Fortunately, I can email letters to them and they print them out and give them to her. She can then write on a form they have and they will scan it in to the computer and email it to me. It works out great since I'm overseas, but even writing letters from home it took a long time for them to get there, so it worked better for that too. I can't imagine how long it would take mail from here to get there since it took 5 o 6 days to get to her from the US.