We used Big Bus tours of London. They received good reviews online and in Rick Steves guidebook, had a discount to book in advance via the web, and stopped only a few blocks from our hotel in Kensington. Found that the Blue buses, which have audio recordings in multiple languages and headphones to plug in, are much more frequent (5 min or so), but the red buses (10-15 min) with the live guides are much more educational and entertaining - definitely worth waiting for the Red at the first switch point.
Tip: Take a seat up top either in the first few rows or toward the very back for the best views. Grab a paper map or download the phone app so you know the numbered stops to plan where to stop at. The guide announces them as you approach so that you know when to get your things together to hop off. Bring your own small headphones for better sound.We used the bus as our transit for the day and took the entire loop, just broken up into several segments as we hopped off for the British Museum, the Tower Bridge Pier, and finally took the bus back to our hotel. Ticket included a Thames River cruise on City Cruises. Took advantage of it toward late afternoon. We boarded at the Tower Pier and cruised toward Westminster. We got in line just after 4 pm and had to wait about 45 min so leave time for queuing if you are on a schedule to get somewhere. Again best views are from the top deck and there is time to get a good photo of Tower Bridge while the passengers all board. The ride was about 20 min plus another 15 to dock and disembark.
Around noon, we transferred to the green line of the bus and it was a 5 min walk to the British Museum from the closest stop. Spent about 2 hours at the British Museum. We had downloaded the Rick Steves Travel App with audio tours and podcasts before the trip and I highly recommend it. The Rick Steves guided audio tour was excellent! Covered all the highlights of the Egyptian, Assyrian, and Greek exhibits in about an hour and was flexible enough that you could easily pause and explore more of a gallery if you were not ready to move on at the pace of the tour. Great turn by turn directions through the gallery and good commentary, if a bit cheesy at times. Rick Steves's phone app was great and included a map to reference during the tour.
Lunched at Savoir Faire, a 2 min walk from the British museum. Had excellent reviews on Trip Advisor and the food did not disappoint. Generous portions that could be shared. We split a bowl of mushroom soup to start and I ordered braised lamb with veggies and mash. Tom had a baguette stuffed with steak, brie, caramelized, and horseradish sauce. Neither of us could finish our entrees. After lunch and the museum, we returned to the bus line and took the bus to Tower Bridge, the launch point of the previously mentioned cruise.
After the cruise, we grabbed a tea and scones to go from a little bakery and we hopped on the bus again for an impromotu afternoon tea and took the last hour of the route around Hyde Park and Kensington Palace to end up back in Bayswater near our hotel, The Hotel Byron. Carnival, an annual three day festival in Notting Hill which is the Caribbean community version of Mardi Gras, is happening this weekend. We saw the stragglers of the parade and festivities dragging themselves home around 7 pm and we were glad we had avoided the area today. The parade continues Monday so we will plan to visit other parts of town again. The party did not extend to the street of our hotel so that area is still quiet and the police are prompt to end the noise by 7 pm and start the cleanup.
After a quick change we headed out to find a pub for dinner. Ended up walking to Paddington Station, about 10 min away. Our first choice place had great reviews as a pub, but didn't serve food. The second choice place was full and we were starting to feel the jet lag so we picked the first place we saw across the street - The Dickens Tavern. Grabbed a quiet corner table and ordered food and drink at the bar. I went for cod and chips with garden peas and Tom got the steak and ale pie. After an hour plus wait, and no food we finally asked what was going on and they explained the kitchen was backed up. We waited another 10 min then gave up and cashed out. It was now 10 pm and we were exhausted and starving so we grabbed shawarma wraps and walked home and crashed. Needless to say we provided an appropriate review for the Dickens Tavern on Trip Advisor and would not recommend it for anything other than a drink.
Tomorrow we are splitting up - me to Harry Potter film studio tour and Tom is doing the Churchill War Rooms and the Imperial War Museum.
Until tomorrow! Christina and Tom