Author Topic: London Trip - 8/21-8/31 2022  (Read 3040 times)

Offline itreu001

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London Trip - 8/21-8/31 2022
« on: September 05, 2022, 06:54:34 PM »
When we travel, we use these forums and other sites and we find the guidance helpful and valuable. I hope that this is helpful to someone reading this.

During Omicron, JetBlue had an amazing deal for us, 30k point round trip per person. Since we had Mosaic status with their special deal of spend 15k on their cc from October Ė December 2021, we were essentially given free Extra Space seats as well. This made the deal a no-brainer, and with having 2 free bags per person (with no weight limit) made this a good deal for our family.

We flew from JFK-LHR on 8/21. Checkin and security took a grand total of 10 minutes at Terminal 5. We ended up waiting in the terminal for 2.5 hours before check in. We ate Bakes by Melissa, and brought chickies for food. The Jet Blue flight was good. To London, they give 2 kosher meals. They are Regal meals from Borenstein, designed for Jet Blue. Since Jet Blue has exactly 1 route that provides kosher meals (ours) the meals were fresh and tasty. Dinner was chicken, rice, and vegetables, and ďbreakfastĒ was a fruit cup.

The flight was uneventful. We got our luggage with no problem. We used a heimishe car service to drive us to our Airbnb. We landed at 630am, so we needed an extra day at our Airbnb so we could sleep.

We rented a car from Turo. It was easier because were not able to find automatic transmission cars for our size family at the airport. Plus we then didnít need to schlep our bags to and from the car rental shuttle.

We were very lucky that the exchange rate on our trip was 1-$1.19 USD. This made many things very affordable. 

Monday we purchased breakfast from Danielís Bakery on Finchley. Their food is fresh and very good. They are a bakery that has some seating.

We went to One Ashbourne for lunch. They have an affordable lunch special. Their food is really good as a meat place.

Because we had a car we did not feel marooned and were able to move around. We went to Tesco in Brent Cross and we shopped there. They have many kosher goods that are either certified kosher, or on the KLBD lists which you can download. You will need a Tesco Card for sales, but just ask someone to use theirs.

In the same complex as Tesco is Kosher Outlet which is a discount kosher supermarket. They have limited stock, but amazing deals. For instance Snappleís were 50 pence a piece. (about 60 cents).

We then went to the Brent Cross shopping mall. There is now a kosher restaurant in there but we didnít go to it.

We went to White Fish in Hendon for dinner. We were worried at first because they were out of allot of their dishes at 830pm. But everything they had was delicious and the fish was cooked/fried perfectly. We got desert at the kosher supermarket Tapuach next door (ice cream for kids). The supermarket is fully stocked and one of the few kosher ones that has a whole variety of products and hechshers and not just the super mehadrin ones (and things that are non-cholov Yisroel).

Tuesday morning, we started touring London. We went to breakfast at Novellino near the Golders Green Underground station. We took an Uber there. The dairy food was really good. Itís a little pricy, but the exchange rate is in our favor. We then walked to the tube.

Ok. Let me explain to those that this would be helpful to. There are three options when purchasing tube tickets a) oyster card b) credit card c) buy a ticket. Option b) credit card is the best. You can just tap your credit card (make sure to use one with no international fees), on the turnstile/barrier when you enter and exit, or enter a bus, and it will charge you the discounted fare. That is it. You donít need to buy a ticket at a machine (and pay a higher fare), and you donít need to get an oyster card and load up money on the card. Another important thing to know is that you need a separate card for each person. You cannot pay for multiple people on one card. So if you are traveling with multiple people, make sure you have multiple no fee cards that work.

We took the Tube to Charing Cross. We walked on the Thames from the station to Parliament/Big Ben, then walked past the government buildings, past 10 Downing Street (catch a glimpse) and then to the Horse Guards, and walked into the complex and the horse grounds. There is no need to go to the cavalry museum, unless you really like the British cavalry regiments. We then went to the Churchill War Rooms, which is really cool and a must see. Expect to spend about an hour plus there. We then walked across the Thames. We wanted to go to London Dungeons, but it was sold out, and the line for the Eye was insane. There were street performers, and we then walked back across the Thames making a loop.

We then walked towards Trafalgar Square. We visited the National Gallery which is really really impressive. It is free and no tickets are required. We spent about 45 minutes there.

We then shopped, stopped for coffee and made our way to Piccadilly. On the way we stopped at Dover Market which is a really cool 4 story high end store/mall. We then shopped some more and made our way to a Double Decker tour bus which we purchased on Groupon. The Tour was 90 minutes, but make sure to get there at least 30 minutes before so you can get seats on top. We were happy with the tour, as it hit all the main spots.

We then took an Uber back to our Airbnb, but ate dinner at Burger Bar off of Finchley. It was really good, and they are open until 1030pm, which worked into our schedule (there are a few places in GG open until at least midnight, Pita for one).

The next morning we booked a walking tour for the Changing of the Guards which meant we needed to be at Piccadilly at 915am. We brought breakfast at Danielís, and took food to go for lunch from there as well. We took an Uber to the tube, and took the tube to Piccadilly. We marched along the procession with the changing of the guards. We didnít get a up close view of the change, but got an upclose view of other stuff. It was fun. We then walked back to Piccadilly, did shopping. We went to the Royal Academy of Arts (big museum, free, no tickets needed) and walked through Burlington Arcade (super fancy shopping). We then went to Leicester Square, (purchased tickets at TKTS for Hamilton for the following night) and saw street performers. We then walked to Covent Gardens and spent about 2 hours there shopping, taking a class at the Apple Store with free design graphics, and just interesting stuff. We then took the tube back to GG to eat. We ate at Canteen or Soyo. The meat meal was really really good. The kids then took an Uber back, and we walked in GG shopping. We went to Kosher Kingdom which is a complete kosher supermarket, bakery, sushi and all. The prices on the locally made stuff were very reasonable. They mostly only sell items that are CY and have heimishe hechshers, there is a minyan factory around the corner from them.

Wednesday morning, it was raining, and believe it or not we forgot to pack ponchos with us, so we found a dry goods store in gg and bought a few. We then bought bakery goods in Grozvds to go (they sell sandwiches as well, and ate breakfast again at Novellino.

We had tickets booked 5 months in advance to tour Buckingham Palace. We booked a package to see the Queens Gallery, The Royal Mews and the Palace State Rooms. Unless there is an exhibition you really want to see, do NOT go to the Queenís Gallery, it is overpriced, small, and a complete waste of time. Itís the true definition of a tourist trap. Do see the Royal Mews, as it is a collection of the Royal Carriages. The State Rooms at Buckingham Palace is one of a kind. It makes the Newport mansions look like rental housing. It is opulence and majesty. The self guided tours are only given in July and August, and you need to book them 5 months in advance. We spent 15 minutes in the Gallery, 40 minutes in the Mews and about 2 hours in the Buckingham Palace tour. All of the tours are self guided and they give you free audio headsets to listen to.

After we left, they exit you on through the grounds, not near the entrance. We then took a double decker bus to Oxford street to Selfridges. Selfridges no longer has kosher takeout in the food court. They only have a few wrapped sandwiches. This also means no Shabbos takeout. We stopped there, at Marks and Spencer and at Primark.

We then walked to Reubenís for dinner. It is one of the few kosher restaurants in the City area of London. They are short staffed. The food is good. However, you MUST have a reservation. You must come on time to your reservation. They have no problem telling you that you missed your time. We saw this happen to someone who showed up at 6pm for a 530pm reservation.

We then took an Uber to Victoria to watch Hamilton. It was a good show. We then took an Uber back to our Airbnb. We then went to Tesco for Shabbos shopping (they close at midnight).

Friday we did shopping for Shabbos. We ate out by friends Friday night, and purchased takeout for Shabbos day. On the Forums someone mentioned Reichís for takeout, but they were closed. We ended up purchasing food at Kosher Kingdom, and the prepared foods at a few of the places on the same block as them (there are numerous). There are no shortage of options. We went to the mall at Brent Cross, there is a kosher restaurant there Kanteen, but we already ate. We went for breakfast to Bread, which has amazing food and we ended up eating there two more times in our trip. The salad plates are amazing, and cheaper than anything weíve had in a really long time in the States, Israel or in Canada.

Shabbos day we davened at Kinloss Shul, we were greeted by the Assistant Rabbi when we entered. He told us the main shul had no AC, but chazzanus, and the side shul had no chazzanus and AC, we picked the side shul. We had a nice Shabbos. After Shabbos we got pizza from Pizzaza in Golders Green. We beat the rush, and the pizza was decent.

Sunday we bought breakfast to go from Danielís. We took an Uber to Kew Gardens. It is beautiful and stunning. There are trees there older than 350 years and its endless. We were with kids, so there is only so long you can spend there. The Park is about a 10 minute walk to Kew Pier, so we then took a boat ride (90 minute) to Westminster. They only have 2 or 3 a day, so you have to time it right. We then went to London Dungeons (you MUST book in advance, or they sell out). The kids liked it allot. Its an interactive horror show. We purchased a combo ticket with the Eye. Surprisingly I liked the Eye allot. I really donít like ferris wheels, but its not a ferris wheel, its really a 30 minute experience (with AC). Except to wait at least 30 minutes online to get in, unless you buy fast pass.  We then ate dinner at Tish. You need to make a reservation in advance. The restaurant is Manhattan quality, but the prices for the mains are much cheaper than Manhattan prices.

Monday we ate at Bread in the morning, and then took a bus, and tube to the British Museum. We booked tickets in advance (free), but there was no need. It is stupendous. If you are looking for the Jewish angle, make sure to look at the siege of Lachish and the various stuff from Babylonia. We then went shopping and more shopping. We then took the tube back to Golders Green and ate at Pita. The food was standard Israeli fare but good. They are open past midnight most nights.

Tuesday morning she did some last minute shopping for gifts, then went to Bread again for breakfast. We then bussed and took the tube to the Tower of London. Make sure to take the tube to the Tower of London station which is right next to the ancient wall of London from the Roman times. It is right across from the Tower. Expect to take a few hours to tour the entire complex. We didnít even see the Crown Jewels because there was at least a one hour wait to see it. It is a must see, and we are glad we did it. We ate dinner at Humus Bar in Golders Green. It was really good. I rented a car using Turo, and then returned it. There werenít that many other options with automatic transmissions for larger families. Plus we rented it from a location close to where we were staying.

Wednesday morning we flew back on Jet Blue. Because we are mosaic we should have gotten Fast Track at LHR, but they did not allow us to. We got to use the lounge with our Amex card, and that was fine. We flew out of Terminal 2. Our flight took off on time, and we had extra leg room (for free because were Mosaic). The only issue was that there were too few people on the plane, and we had to sit in the back to redistribute weight for the first hour. The kosher meal was Hermolis (dairy/eggs) and then were was a snack an hour before landing from Hermolis again (fruit cup). We were the only international arrival in JFK for Jet Blue and we have Global Entry so landing/customs/immigration was 1-2-3.

A few observations, groceries and kosher food are far far cheaper in the UK than in the USA. Things that are imported are going to be more expensive, but staples are cheaper. Tesco Express in the City is charging about a pound for a can of soda or bottle of water, but a Duane Reade or Walgreens in NYC is charging almost $3.00 a piece. The kosher restaurants are much much cheaper on the whole for main dishes and steaks. Its 40-50% cheaper.
We had a great time in London. If you keep kosher there are so many options. You need to download the London Bet Din App for help and info. There are so many things to do and see, it is a first class city. We were also lucky with amazing weather, so that was very helpful. I have read in so many places that the food is not up to snuff, but that was not our observation. In fact the bakeries we went to were always fresh, and food was plentiful. In Golders Green the kosher bakeries were not Hungarian bakeries, but more German.

I hope that this is helpful to anyone planning a trip to London in the near future.

Offline yitzy93

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Re: London Trip - 8/21-8/31 2022
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2022, 05:44:16 PM »
Just came across this. great trip report! So much detail!

I live in gg, within a stone's throw from some of the places you mentioned!
Just a couple observations. You mention needing a card to shop in Tesco. You're probably refering to the Tesco Clubcard, which is a standard loyalty card and not at all a requirement to shop there. It gives access to some discounted items but with COVID and all there haven't been that many IME.
I'm surprised you compare Tish to Manhattan standards. I was never impressed and try to avoid it. They are better known for their drinks and cocktails. Delicatessen, just down the road is rated far better and is one of my favourite restaurants in London. Also, how did you miss Tony Page? It's also in town, opposite Hyde Park and also  one of my favourites, but less frequented. (it's pricey and too far out of gg)

All in great trip report with lots of useful information! Thank you!

Offline lakewood34

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Re: London Trip - 8/21-8/31 2022
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2022, 10:13:36 AM »
I went shortly after covid restrictions were relaxed and for a period of time I was the only person in the room with the crown jewels besides the guards. They have a moving walkway past the crown jewels and i walked  back to the moving walkway a few times .I remember seeing the ropes to hold lines on the side of the entrance. I  now know what they were for.
I also did the walking tour and found it quite interesting. The benefit of the walking tour for myself was not so much the narration as they position you properly for seeing the initial ceremony as they leave the barracks and knowing where to go and when to go there to march alongside the guards. After the tour  was over I went to the palace and as the changing of the guard takes so long I was able to get up close by the gate for the latter part of the ceremony as people got bored and left
Yes the tap and go is great for the busses and tube  and saves you from keeping track of tickets etc. In addition there is a daily cap on charges so if you use it a lot in one day they will automatically cap the charges. It's obviously better if you have a no fee card on international charges but even if you don't the convenience is definitely worth three percent.

Offline itreu001

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Re: London Trip - 8/21-8/31 2022
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2022, 07:17:45 PM »
Iím just seeing the reply now.

We couldnít get a reservation at delicatessen, so we ended up at Tish. We werenít with the crowd that would appreciate Tony Page. At the same time there are many good options that we didnít have time for.

We had a really nice time.