Monthly Archives: July 2012

Cheap and free London

Free London attractions

London is packed with world-famous attractions, from royal palaces and historic landmarks to museums, galleries and street markets. And the great news is loads of them are free. Let’s start with the iconic landmarks. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye – you can see all of these without spending a penny (but you will have to pay extra if you want to snoop around inside the Abbey, Buckingham Palace or the London Eye).

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Turner Prize pieces, a dinosaur gallery and life-sized blue whale – they all live in London, and you can see them all for nothing. London is home to over 300 museums and galleries, and many of them offer free admission. Don’t miss the Tate Modern, Tate Britain and theV&A Museum. If you’re with the family, take the kids to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum for a day packed with giant artefacts and hands-on experiments.

V&A Cafe

V&A Cafe

Park life
In the mood for a romantic stroll, a run or a picnic in the sun? Head to one of London’s 8 Royal Parks. Beautifully landscaped and completely free, they’re the perfect place to unwind. You’ll probably stumble across some of the city’s best attractions too – Kensington Palace is tucked away in Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace is perched on the edge of Green Park and Greenwich Park is home to the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum.

Richmond Park

Richmond Park

West End on a shoestring
Travelling on a budget doesn’t mean you have to miss out on London’s world-famous West End theatre scene. If you’re after cheap theatre tickets, head to the official tkts booth in Leicester Square where you’ll find the best seats in theatre at half the normal price. And don’t worry about being palmed off with fakes – tkts is operated by the Society of London Theatre, the industry body that represents London theatres.

If half price theatre tickets are still stretching your budget, we’ll let you in on a little secret. Every night, The Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square offers standing tickets for 10p. But you have to be quick, these are first-come-first-served and there are only 8 of them available each night.

Getting around
The secret to getting around London on the cheap is to do it like a Londoner. So make sure your first purchase is an Oyster card – it’s the fastest and cheapest way to travel around London by public transport.

If you’re travelling like a Londoner, you won’t need to shell out for an organised bus tour. Hop on the top deck of a London bus for a whistle-stop tour of the city’s sights at a fraction of the price. Here are some of our favourite sightseeing bus routes:

  • Number 11 from Fulham to Liverpool Street, taking in the fancy King’s Road and Sloane Square, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral and ending up at the trendy Shoreditch
  • Number 24 from the leafy Hampstead Heath to Pimlico, via Camden Town, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square and Westminster
  • Number 74 from Putney to Baker Street, calling at South Kensington, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park, Marble Arch and Baker Street.

London bus travel

London bus travel

As you wander around London, you’ll come across bike racks with bikes for hire. These are part of the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme, known as ‘Boris Bikes’ to Londoners (after the mayor, Boris Johnson). They’re easy to use and a great way to see the city without getting on a bus or tube. Simply use your debit or credit card to pay a small access fee for a bike, then take it out for a ride! You’re charged for the time your bike is checked out of the dock, but if you dock your bike at any Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme dock within 30 minutes of the last check out, you won’t be charged a usage fee. Find out more about the scheme and costs at the Barclays Cycle Hire website.

How to eat cheaply
Forget the Michelin starred restaurants – if you’re looking for the best food in London, head to the markets. Portobello Road, Camden, Greenwich, Spitalfields and Brick Lane markets offer a great range of cheap and delicious street food from every corner of the world. A treat for your tastebudsand your wallet.

If you’re looking for somewhere to eat cheaply at night, head to the nearest high street, where you’re sure to find chain restaurants like Pizza Express, Café Rouge, Wagamama, GBK and more, all serving tasty food at very reasonable prices. But don’t overlook the independent local restaurants, many of them run great value meal deals to compete with the bigger chains.

Camping
Believe it or not, there are several excellent campsites within striking distance of central London. You can save a huge amount by camping in the capital and it’s more convenient than you might think. Try Abbey Wood campsite in south London near Greenwich, only 35 minutes by train to the centre, or Crystal Palace Caravan Club that’s on a bus route to Oxford Street. Camping is also a great value option if you’re visiting for the London 2012 Olympics.

London Olympics 2012: The greatest show on Earth (and it’s only just begun)

We cannot know yet what these Olympics will bring us, not in the full sweep of the greatest sports spectacle on earth, but tonight you could feel the weight of all the possibilities

It is always the same when we come to this moment of the Olympic Games, this flaring of hope that something unflawed and unforgettable is in the air and it doesn’t really matter where it finds us, whether it is in some foreign place or, as on a rain-smeared evening such as tonight, in our hearts and our home.

This is the time when the fear and the agonising stops and when the blood races with the anticipation of great deeds. We cannot know yet what these Olympics will bring us, not in the full sweep of the greatest sports spectacle on earth, but here you could feel the weight of all the possibilities — and the yearning of a people, somewhat battered in recent years, let us be honest, that this might just be a time to make another mark.

These, certainly, where the stirrings among the crowd of 62,000 when the Red Arrows pierced the dusk and Bradley Wiggins, Britain’s first winner of the epic Tour de France, stood in front of the Olympic bell in his yellow jersey and raised his arms to the moist and darkening sky.

There was a superb energy in that moment, a rippling of pride, and as Danny Boyle’s £27m Opening Ceremony show began to unfold with beautiful pace and superb imagery, as a pastoral scene turned into a broiling evocation of the Industrial Revolution, it was as though they might be a new and original Olympics.

It is true that there is something of this about all Olympic Games, even one as bad as Atlanta in 1996, when the traditional compliment of the president of the International Olympic Committee that they were great Games was pointedly withdrawn, because in Georgia they did have Muhammad Ali igniting the cauldron after being picked out by a spotlight that made the heart of the world stand still for a moment. Atlanta also had Michael Johnson running in his golden shoes like some ebony Greek god and Carl Lewis winning yet another gold medal.

What the Olympics have, in their formal, cyclical way, is renewal, a wiping-away of the past and a huge investment not so much in the future but the moment. There has been much argument over legacy, of the value of a £9bn-plus investment in circus in these straitened times, but you had to be a brave and resilient polemicist last night to argue this points too strenuously as the excitement began to swell.

This was especially so when it became clear that Boyle, the maker of Slumdog Millionaire, had won his own gold medal on a fraction of the budget that enabled the blockbusting spectacle of Beijing.

The Queen, having consented to a showbiz invitation from James Bond to take a helicopter ride, arrived to thunderous applause, to be greeted by Jacques Rogge, the Olympic president, who had earlier pushed a maybe fragile national pride up another notch by declaring that Britain had virtually invented modern sport.

For the moment, certainly, it had brought a blast of pleasure and exhilaration which you knew would soon enough be powerfully augmented by the arrival of so many icons from the sports fields of the British past.

As the night wore on, speculation on the identity of the man who would ignite London’s Olympic cauldron became ever more intense.

We knew that David Beckham, whose celebrity if not significant connection with the Olympics had been used so freely in the bidding victory over the favourites, Paris, would make some kind of cameo appearance but finally, seven young athletes of the future were put in charge of the flame by Sir Steve Redgrave, who was also joined in the ceremonials by Daley Thompson, double gold winner Dame Kelly Holmes, long jumper Lynn Davies, swimmer Duncan Goodhew, pentathlon winner Mary Peters and sailor Shirley Robertson.

The seven young torchbearers then ignited a tiny single flame, triggering the ignition of 204 copper petals carried into the stadium by the athletes. The long stems of the cauldron then gently rose towards each other and converged to form a single “Flame of Unity”.

This was a charge of anticipation which will be increased soon enough with the appearance of the titans of today, the men who bestride modern sport and who will be at centre stage of these Olympics.

Usain Bolt, who assuaged growing concerns about his fitness to run in the great race of these Games, the 100m dash he dominated so sensationally in Beijing four years ago, carried the flag for Jamaica.

Jamaica had Bolt, America had Michael Phelps, the tall American swimmer with the huge wing span, who by Tuesday night might well have the greatest haul of gold medals, 21 of them, in Olympic history.

This is the magnetism of the Olympics – and such is the prize Lord Coe, the winner of two Olympic gold medals at the classic distance of 1,500m in Moscow and Los Angeles, stole from beneath the noses of Paris seven years ago in Singapore. The promise was of an inspiration to the youth of the world, and new generations of young Britons long starved of proper sports facilities, and no doubt there will be many who will seek to hold him to that in the future.

But that is the future, something that seemed quite remote in the brilliance and light which came to a neglected, some would say abandoned, corner of east London last night.

The show we were promised, as always, is one of compelling spectacle – and last night it was easy to feel the thrill that every four years comes to new ground – or in last night’s case revisits old terrain.

We do not know yet how well Great Britain will do, whether the man who carried the flag, Sir Chris Hoy, will build on his three gold medals won in Beijing or whether Wiggins will reproduce the glory he found so recently in France. The roll call of heroes has not yet begun and there can be no certainty that it will include even the men who caught the eye so strongly last night, the prodigious Phelps, the extraordinary Bolt.

There are so many other men and women eager to find their moment this English summer and last night they flooded into the light. They were received with something more than mere respect. They were saluted as those who for the next two weeks will explain why it is that the Olympics simply march on and on.
Full article: JAMES LAWTON Author Biography http://www.independent.co.uk

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Top five day-trips out of London

Here are five top escapes to add a different flavour to your London visit.

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

What celebrated wit Samuel Johnson said in the eighteenth century is still true today. But after a few days in any major tourist city, it makes sense to mix things up with a day-trip out of town.

1. Paris

It might seem a crazy idea but now that you can reach the French capital by Eurostar train in just over two hours, travelling at 300 kilometres per hour, a day-trip is eminently possible. You can have a full English breakfast on the train and pause for mid-morning croissants when you arrive before dropping into the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay to see some priceless art.

Then enjoy a lingering French lunch, complete with a glass or two of wine, before spending the afternoon at the exciting Pompidou Centre or meandering around Montmartre. You’ll still be back in London in time for a warm pint! Fast 1 Eurostar trains leave from the new St Pancras terminal in the heart of London.

2. Bath

Heading west from London, you can reach this genteel, historic city in just 90 minutes by train from Paddington. As a World Heritage site, with over 5000 of its buildings protected, Bath has more than enough attractions for a full day-trip. Its main drawcard is the astonishingly well-preserved Roman baths, fed by Britain’s only natural hot springs and giving an intriguing insight into life 2000 years ago.

 

The city is also noted for its splendid Georgian architecture, with the Royal Crescent, a curving street of Regency mansions, the finest example and famous for its connection with writer Jane Austen, who lived in Bath during its early nineteenth-century heyday. With many specialist and antique shops squirreled away among its narrow lanes, Bath is also great for shopping. Finally, if you’re worn out by sightseeing, book into the brand new Thermae Bath spa, taking advantage of the same springs that drew the Romans.

3. Windsor-Upon-Thames

Windsor’s proximity to London and magnificent eleventh-century castle, which crowns the hill above the elegant riverside town, make it an excellent day-trip. In fact, there is so much to see within the grounds of the fortress, from the grand state rooms where the Queen hosts state banquets through to its priceless art collection and the changing of the guard in summer, that you could spend a day visiting just that.

But Windsor has at least 10 other historic sights, including the Christopher-Wren-designed Guildhall and Eton College, founded in 1440, where Princes William and Harry were educated.

Windsor’s other great attraction is its location on the River Thames. From Windsor Bridge you can take a short boat trip or stroll along the towpath and soon reach open countryside. Back in town, Windsor’s riverside restaurants and pubs are very inviting, especially on summer evenings. Trains run regularly to Windsor Central from London Paddington, journey time 35 minutes.

 

4. Brighton

Okay, Brighton’s pebbly beaches and grey seas can’t compare with our own beautiful coastline. But if you are feeling boxed in by landlocked London, Brighton is the best option for a seaside antidote. These days it is an increasingly refined city in its own right, with a flourishing arts scene, including an Artists Quarter where you can buy locally-produced paintings and crafts and European-style pavement cafes galore. Clear the cobwebs by heading first to the revamped seafront for a stroll along the promenade (check out the elaborate Victorian lampposts) and visiting the famous pleasure pier.

Brighton was recently named best city to eat in outside London in the Remy Martin restaurant awards, so make sure you have time for lunch or an early dinner somewhere like the Gourmet Fish and Chip Company at the marina.

The one attraction you simply cannot miss is the Royal Pavilion, an outlandish fusion of Indian, Chinese, Russian and Gothic architecture and interior design and possibly Britain’s most beautiful building. Built for the young George IV in the late eighteenth century, this is an intensely opulent, atmospheric place where the royal would host 36-course dinners for visiting dignitaries. With trains travelling back to Victoria (journey time one hour) until late, you’ll still have time before heading back to London to visit the collection of little shops in the Lanes, behind the seafront, and to enjoy a taste of Brighton’s thriving nightlife.

 

5. Oxford

Aptly nicknamed “city of dreaming spires” because of the ancient university that dominates it, Oxford simply drips with tradition and history, with many of its colleges dating back 700 years. The city is also compact and ideal for walking around.

Many colleges are free to enter, so it is easy to get a feel of how idyllic it must be to study here. The grounds of the central New College, off Hollywell Street, are among the most captivating, especially in summer, with their neatly trimmed lawns, flowers and internal cloisters. But other colleges like Trinity and Magdalene, which has its own deer park, are also lovely and surprisingly expansive.

Oxford also has some outstanding museums, including the Ashmolean, which has a large collection of art and archaeological artefacts.

No visit to Oxford would be complete without a go at punting — pushing a long narrow boat down one of the city’s rivers, the Cherwell or the Isis, using a long pole. Finally, quench your thirst in an atmospheric pub like The Bear, dating to 1242 and one of the oldest inns in England. Oxford is 50 minutes by train from London Paddington.

Link: http://travel.ninemsn.com.au/world/london/655113/top-five-day-trips-out-of-london

Travel Editor:
Best value Tours – www.SightseeingTours.co.uk

 

Private Guided Tours for the 2012 Olympics

Tours in the area of the games

London’s professional BLUE BADGE TOURIST GUIDES can take you on a guided tour of the Olympic park area with views of the main sites for the 2012 Games.

Venues right across London and beyond will be used for different sports, however most events will be concentrated in the 500acre/200ha new Olympic Park in East London.

Our tours will show you how this former industrial part of London has been transformed into a green corridor, connecting the River Thames and the beautiful new Thames Barrier Park, through the Olympic Park, to another large area of sport, leisure and nature – the Lea Valley.

Construction in the Olympic Park is now complete and ready for the Opening ceremony on 27th July. Various test events have already taken place in the different venues, trees have been planted across the parklands and you will view some of the iconic Olympic buildings from the perimeter of the park (no admission to the interior of the park).

Discover the history of London’s Royal Docks, as you travel to the Boxing, Judo, Weightlifting, Wrestling, Table Tennis and Taekwondo venue. View the North Greenwich Arena, venue for Artistic Gymnastics and Basketball finals.

Cross the River Thames to the Shooting in Woolwich and picture horses jumping in front of the Maritime Museum in Greenwich, set in its splendid Royal Park. Enjoy the panorama from the Old Royal Observatory above.

You can experience any of the above by car, coach, public transport or on foot.

Spend a day or half a day visiting the Olympic venues, or fit an Olympic briefing into your East London or Greenwich sightseeing tours. We can also plan tours with emphasis on particular sports or urban regeneration, and engage specialist guides to provide technical information.

http://www.tourguides2012.co.uk

Travel Editor
Best Value Tours – www.SightseeingTours.co.uk
Private Guided London Tours

UK Olympians share their tips for tourists visiting London

There are only four days to go before the start of the Olympics so Team GB don’t have time for sightseeing but they have revealed their tips for tourists visiting London during the Games.Image via ecofoodrecycling.co.uk

Olympics sponsor British Airways asked the London 2012 hopefuls what they would get up to in a day off from their intensive training.

The London Eye was the most popular tourist attraction, with a quarter of athletes recommending it as their ‘essential London’ tourist visit, closely followed by Buckingham Palace (17 per cent) and the River Thames (5 per cent).

Rower Zac Purchase said he loves to take afternoon tea: ‘It’s such a fantastic British tradition, and what better place than the nation’s capital city to give it a try? Choose a good hotel or restaurant and dress up. Make an occasion of it and you won’t need any more food for days!’

Gymnast Louis Smith said she’s most likely to be found enjoying a concert at the North Greenwich Arena, which is handy as that’s where she will be competing for a medal when it hosts the London 2012 Gymnastics during the Games.

Heptathlete Jessica Ennis meanwhile admits to being a shopaholic and likes to hit the shops on Oxford Street.

Unsurprisingly, triathlete Helen Jenkins recommends walking everywhere and picks St Paul’s Cathedral as a must-see along with Hyde Park, which will host the London 2012 triathlon course.

Rower Mark Hunter suggests a trip down the River Thames, while sailor Ben Ainslie’s continues the nautical theme by picking Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square as his favourite landmark.

Wheelchair racer Shelly Woods’ favourite place – The Mall and Buckingham Palace – also has a clear sporting link; it’s here that Shelly will be competing in the marathon later this summer. With years of training and preparation for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, it’s no surprise that our athletes’ top advice for visitors is to ‘plan your visit’ and ‘walk everywhere’.

And their advice for avoiding tube chaos? Make like Bradley Wiggins and get on your (Boris) bike.
Full aricle: http://www.eturbonews.com/26595/insider-top-tips-visiting-london

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50 free things to do in London: part two – east and south

A clutch of great museums, plus a farm and dinosaurs in a park – there’s plenty to do that’s free in east and south London

Period front room at the Geffrye Museum

Period front room at the Geffrye Museum

EAST

Geffrye Museum, Hoxton

What would your living room have looked like 100 years ago? 200 years ago? This Hoxton museum explores how tastes in English home furnishing have changed over the centuries, from 1600 to the present day. A series of mock interiors are chronologically arranged along the length of a row of early 18th-century almshouses. An outdoor herb garden completes the picture, while a modern wing offers temporary exhibitions.
• 136 Kingsland Road, E2,             020-7739 9893      , geffrye-museum.org.uk, open Tues-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun and holidays noon-5pm

Museum of London Docklands, Canary Wharf

Docklands MuseumThe MoL’s eastern outpost covers the history of London’s docks. It’s one hell of a story. Somehow, the museum manages to pack in the rise and fall of the British Empire, the formation of the Royal Navy, the horror of the slave trade, the fire storms of the second world war, the death of the docks in the 1960s, and the massive redevelopment of Canary Wharf and the wider riverside since.
• West India Quay, E14,             020-7001 9844      ,museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands, open daily 10am-6pm

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

Photograph: AlamyLondon has more than a dozen city farms dotted around the inner boroughs. All of them offer a family-friendly taste of rus in urbe and a chance to meet domesticated animals. The Spitalfields farm is one of the more central options. It also distinguishes itself with the annual Oxford-Cambridge Goat Race, which takes place annually on the same day as the more famous boat race.
• Buxton St, E1,             020-7247 8762      , spitalfieldscityfarm.org, open 10am-4.30pm

Valence House, Dagenham

Valence House, DagenhamLondon is replete with small, local museums. One of the best area-specific examples can be found in the borough of Barking and Dagenham. These parts of London are often overlooked by visitors, but are steeped in social and cultural history. Valence House tells their story with aplomb, inside a largely medieval building that retains part of its moat.
• Becontree Avenue, RM8,             020-8227 5293      lbbd.gov.uk, open Mon-Sat 10am-4pm


SOUTH

Crystal Palace Park

Dinosaurs at Crystal Palace Park

Photograph: Stephen EmmsThis much-loved space takes its name from the giant Crystal Palace, which stood to the west of the park until it burned down in 1936. It was originally constructed in Hyde Park, to house the 1851 Great Exhibition, but was shifted to Sydenham the following year. The building’s footprint can still be seen. Nearby, a landscaped lake is noted for its population of sculptures depicting dinosaurs and extinct mammals. These date back to 1852 and are the oldest such models in the world. The rest of the park offers a pleasant mix of open space, an athletics stadium, woodland and family facilities.
• Sydenham, SE20,             020-8778 7148      , visitlondon.com

Royal Museums, Greenwich

Greenwich museums

The National Maritime Museum buildings and Observatory on the hill in Greenwich. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the GuardianWith its hilltop views, riverside setting and world heritage status, Greenwich makes a great free day out in itself. But this corner of south-east London is also packed to the gunwales with cultural attractions. The Royal Museums comprises the National Maritime Museum (free), the Royal Observatory (partly free), the Queen’s House gallery (free) and the restored Cutty Sark (quite pricey to go in, but you can gaze from outside). All are worth a visit.
             020-8858 4422      , rmg.co.uk, open daily 10am-5pm

Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

Photograph: Martin Argles for the GuardianThe elegant college complex has been a landmark of the Greenwich riverfront since it was initiated by Sir Christopher Wren in the early 18th century. Originally built as a hospital for injured sailors, it later served as a naval training academy. Today, most of the buildings are used for educational purposes, but two blocks are open to the public. The Painted Hall is lavishly decorated with paintings by Sir James Thornhill, while the nearby Chapel is resplendent in gold. The college is built on the site of the Palace of Placentia, birthplace of both Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I.
•             020-8269 4799      , ornc.org, open daily 10am-5pm

Horniman Museum, Forest Hill

Horniman Museum, Forest Hill

Photograph: Sean Smith for the GuardianForest Hill is about as far off the standard tourist trail as you get. But nestled on the verdant hillside in a set of newly spruced gardens you’ll find one of London’s best museums. The Horniman has a bit of everything. A natural history collection – including the famous badly stuffed walrus – forms the core of the museum. You’ll also find a small aquarium, rooms full of unusual instruments and textiles, a display of anthropology and a damn fine cafe. Outside, the unusual architecture and views towards central London match the indoor wonders.
• 100 London Road, SE23,             020-8699 1872      horniman.ac.uk, open daily 10.30am-5.30pm

Imperial War Museum, Lambeth

Imperial War Museum

Learn about camouflage at the Imperial War MuseumAt times deeply moving, even harrowing, at others inspiring, the IWM never fails to impress. The grand premises originally served as the Bedlam asylum, but now house dozens of military vehicles, historic documents and often overlooked but spectacular art galleries on the top floor. Be sure to wander the grounds, too, where you’ll find a section of the Berlin Wall, a pair of giant naval guns and a Tibetan Peace Garden.
• Lambeth Road, SE1,             020-7416 5000      , iwm.org.uk, open daily 10am-6pm 

Summer Evenings at the Roman Baths.

Relax and enjoy the romantic torchlit ambience of the Great Bath and avoid the crowds by visiting on a summer evening.

Evening view of the torchlit Great Bath from the Terrace

Evening view of the torchlit Great Bath from the Terrace

Many tourist race through Bath and have a very limited time to enjoy the splendours of this historic City.  We highly recommend spending the night in Bath and maybe visit Stonehenge or Windsor en-route.  The evening visits to the Romn Baths are truly awe inspiring. The site and shop are open until 10.00pm every evening in July and August (last admission 9.00pm). No need to book, just turn up.

As darkness falls, the ruins of this vast Roman building are an awesome sight. By the light of flickering torches, you can walk on 2000 year old pavements, providing a truly magical atmosphere. With its steaming waters and Roman artefacts this is an unforgettable and unique experience.

“A rare treat to enjoy the unique delights of the Roman Baths in the late summer evenings, as the sun goes down and creates an awe-inspiring atmosphere.”

Visitors may round off their evening with a meal in the Roman Baths Kitchen in Abbey Church Yard where last orders are taken at 9.30pm.

For more details about the Roman Baths and its late night opening log on to the website at  http://www.romanbaths.co.uk/ or call 01225 477785.

The Roman Baths shop will also remain open and the restaurant at the Pump Room will be open for evening meals – last orders need to be in by 9pm. For reservations call 01225 444477.

Travel Editor
Best Value Tours – www.SghtseeingTours.co.uk

 

Top spots to see the Royal Family in Britain

So you’re going to London to visit the Queen. But where to find her? Well, there’s a good chance she (or one of the other Royals) might just be out and about at one of the locations below – and not just in London either. We can’t promise a royal audience but if you’re in the right place at the right time you might just get a royal wave. Read on to discover Her Majesty’s favourite hangouts…

Buckingham Palace, London, England
Buckingham Palace is not only a London landmark but the official London residence of the British monarch. Nineteen state rooms in the palace are open for public viewing each summer, from late July through early October, with complimentary audio tours. Visitors to the palace should be sure to keep their eyes peeled; Her Majesty has been spotted strolling through the gardens with her Corgi dogs and is known to enjoy a sneaky peek at visitors admiring her home.

Find out more

Windsor Castle, Windsor, England
Just a quick jaunt by train from London, Windsor Castle is one of the Queen’s official residences and where she spends most weekends. Open year-round, visitors have been known to spot the Queen through the windows overlooking her garden. Locals have also said they often see Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh departing down the long driveway in Windsor Great Park. Your chances go up if you visit around Easter, when she takes up residence for a month.

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Anglesey, Wales
The chances of spotting the Queen in Wales are on the rise with Prince William, her grandson, living in Anglesey to work as a search and rescue helicopter pilot. Prince William is said to be enjoying his time there, taking in the beautiful Welsh scenery as he flies over Snowdonia National Park. He’s also been sampling the local cuisine – including an Anglesey burger van, ‘The Flaming Grill,’ that he loved so much he gave them the Royal Seal of Approval.

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Anglesey

Balmoral Estate, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
One of the Royals’ favourite summertime retreats is Balmoral, set amongst the magnificent scenery of Royal Deeside. Here you might spot the Queen as your neighbour – as you can take up residence on the same property where the Queen stays by renting a lovely cottage on the Balmoral estate. The grounds, gardens and exhibitions are open to the public from April 1 through July 31.

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Queen’s Birthday Celebrations, London, England
Trooping the Colour is an annual event to mark the Queen’s official birthday. Held every June in central London, Trooping the Colour is the biggest royal event of the year with Her Majesty the Queen always in attendance. Tickets for the parade are in short supply but if you don’t manage to snag one for yourself, just stand along The Mall, which runs from Buckingham Palace to Admiralty Arch for a great chance of spotting the Queen.

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Trooping the Colour

Royal Ascot, Ascot, Berkshire, England
Attend the horse races at Royal Ascot and there is always a good chance of spotting the Queen and Prince Phillip in a horse drawn carriage during the Royal procession. Dating back to 1711, these prestigious races are held annually in the third week of June. Her Majesty is known to take a keen interest in the historic Royal Ascot races and she has owned 20 winners over the years.

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Royal Ascot

Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland
Positioned at the end of Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace is used by the Queen for one week at the beginning of each summer when she carries out a range of official engagements and ceremonies. Steeped in history and perhaps best known as the home of Mary, Queen of Scots, Holyrood Palace adds to the historic atmosphere of the Royal Mile. Her Majesty has often been spotted leaving Holyrood in her car – chauffeur driven, of course.

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Chelsea Flower Show, London, England
As Patron of the Royal Horticultural Society, the Queen regularly attends the opening of the Chelsea Flower Show. This event is a regular fixture in the Royal calendar and Her Majesty is often accompanied by other Royals. If you are in Britain in late May, this is a great opportunity to possibly catch a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth II. And a top opportunity to see some of the world’s most innovative gardens.

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Chelsea Flower Show

Braemar Highland Gathering, Scotland
The patron of Scotland’s best-known Highland Games is none other than Queen Elizabeth II herself and this celebration of traditional Scottish sport and culture is almost always attended by members of the Royal Family. The Gathering is always held on the first Saturday in September and is the place to see tossing the caber, Scottish country dancing, pipe bands and more.

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Madame Tussauds, London, England
If all else fails there is always one place you are guaranteed to meet the Queen – and even shake her hand! Madame Tussauds is a top London visitor attraction and just a stone’s throw away from Regent’s Park and the bright lights of the West End. Her Majesty can be spotted there, or at least a waxwork version of her, along with the likes of Prince Charles and his two sons William and Harry. It might not be the real deal but it could be the closest you’ll get so don’t forget your camera!

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Kate & William at Madame Tussauds, London

  – Visit Britain – http://www.visitbritain.com/en/GB/

Best Value Tourswww.SightseeingTours.co.uk

10 quick day tours outside of London during the Olympics

London is a tremendously vibrant and energetic city that is the home to some of the greatest museums, nightclubs and restaurants in the world. However, with the 2012 Olympics taking place over the next few weeks, the streets of England’s capital are destined to be a little more hectic with sports lovers from around the country, continent and world set to visit.

For those of you who are looking to spend the next few weeks in London, but do not have every day filled with Olympic inspired events, here are some fun places that you can visit in a day.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Stonehenge

Near Salisbury and within two hours of London this prehistoric monument has become a central part of English folklore. This collection of stones were dragged across the country 5,000 years ago and have plagued the minds of archaeologists since their arrival.

Here is a link for more information on Stonehenge. To get to Stonehenge from London you can get the train from Waterloo station.

Bath

This unique city is surrounded by archaic architecture with Roman Baths, Abbeys and springs all within a short walking distance of the city’s central train station. All of this illustrious history is also surrounded by a host of city centre shops and is largely free of traffic.

 

Here is a link for more information on Bath. To get to Bath from London you can get the train from London Paddington.

 

Winchester

The former capital of England, Winchester has an unspoilt cathedral which was built in the 11th century and is the burial site of several Kings. It’s only an hour from London so can easily be combined with a trip to another city on the same day.

Here is a link for more information on Winchester. To get to Winchester from London you can get the train from London Waterloo.

Canterbury

This World Heritage Site has 2 castles, 6 museums and a spectacular cathedral, with Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales having immortalised the area. Only an hour train journey from central London, this is the ideal day trip venue for people visiting the city.

Here is a link for more information on Canterbury. To get to Canterbury from London you can get the train from London Charing Cross, London St Pancreas or London Victoria.

Stratford-upon-Avon

The birthplace of William Shakespeare, Stratford keeps it’s building’s aesthetics akin to the era of the great bard with many of the town’s buildings adorned with black and white timber frames. A sensational place to visit and shop at with many street performers filling the streets to evoke a creative vibe.

Here is a link for more information on Stratford-upon-Avon. To get to Stratford-upon-Avon from London you can get the train from London Marylebone.

Warwick Castle

A wonderful venue to visit in the summer, Warwick Castle has several dominating intact towers and ramparts surrounding its walls and is a picturesque tourist attraction. Archery, falconry and jousting each take place during the few warm weeks of the season.

Here is a link for more information on Warwick Castle. To get to Warwick Castle from London you can get the train from London Marylebone.

Cambridge

Most famous for its university, Cambridge is also the home to several gothic style College buildings that run alongside the city’s tremendous parks and grass. You can even enjoy punting along the River and the magnificent King’s College chaple is one of England’s greatest wonders.

Here is a link for more information on Cambridge. To get to Cambridge from London you can get the train from London Liverpool Street.

Oxford

Another infamously academic city and the home to one of the world’s greatest universities, Oxford is know as the “City of Dreaming Spires”. The city’s glorious courtyards and buildings have inspired generations of writers and scholars and several scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed there.

Here is a link for more information on Oxford. To get to Oxford from London you can get the train from London Paddington.

Windsor Castle

An official residence of The Queen, this castle is the largest and oldest in the world and has been a Royal home for over 900 years. Located within an hour of London, Windsor Castle is surrounded by a host of greenery and is a perfect place to witness the Windsor Changing of the Guard.

Here is a link for more information on Windsor Castle. To get to Windsor Castle from London you can get the train from London Waterloo.

Brighton

Looking for a relaxing city within a short distance of London where you can stroll along the beach, shop and drink, then Brighton is the city for you.

Here is a link for more information on Brighton. To get to Brighton on the train from London you can catch the train from London Victoria.
Needless to say all these tours can be booked through ‘The Sightseeing Tours’ website at discount proces

By Gregory Wakeman | Yahoo! Contributor Network

BestValueTours – www.SightseeingTours.co.uk

London 2012: A tourist’s guide to the transport system

Here’s some friendly advice for tourists and Olympic visitors to try and make the transport experience as easy as possible.

Do yourself a favour, save some money and get an Oyster Card

Do yourself a favour, save some money and get an Oyster Card

  1. Get an Oyster card – if you’re travelling a lot it’s far cheaper. Or get a one day, or weekly, Travelcard which gives you unlimited travel for particular zones if you are making lots of journeys.
  2. Avoid cash fares at all costs. You’ll find a breakdown of fares here.
  3. Do let people off trains before you get on.
  4. Do stand on the right on escalators – if you don’t, Londoners love saying “excuse me” to people in the way on the left.
  5. Get a map. The Tube map is not representative of actual distances. Sometimes it’s much easier and much more pleasant to walk. For example Embankment is 200m from Charing Cross.
  6. By all means try and talk to people in the carriage or on the bus – if they ignore you they’re not being rude, that’s the London norm.
  7. If the weather is hot and you get the Tube, be prepared for sauna conditions on some lines like the Victoria and the Northern. The top deck of some buses can also get very toasty.
  8. Do get your Oyster Card ready before you approach the gates – do not do it once you are blocking the gate.
  9. Be aware you don’t have to press the door “open” button on the Tube: if you do, it’s a clear sign you’re new to town. However on overland trains you do have to press the “open” button on the doors – and no, I don’t know why there’s this difference.
  10. Even if there are no gates on, for example, the Docklands Light Railway, always touch out with your Oyster Card – sometimes you need to look carefully to find the yellow circular readers. If you don’t it will charge you a full fare – about £7.
  11. Don’t be afraid to ask directions. Helping lost tourists is a badge of honour for some Londoners (I’m not vouching for the directions though). Or ask the Tube / bus staff – normally they are pretty nice.
  12. If you are lucky enough to have tickets for the Games then you will need to leave plenty of time to get there. The Get Ahead of the Games website shows you what it will be like.
  13. If you use a night bus, be prepared for anything

Travel Editor
Best Value Tourswww.SightseeingTours.co.uk