10 Must-Dos in London

10 Must-Dos in London
10 Must-Dos in London

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Venice Trip Report
Venice Trip Report

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Disneyland California Trip
Disneyland California Trip

32 Things You Must Do On Your Trip To London

32 Things You Must Do On Your Trip To London

London is filled with hundreds, if not thousands of hidden gems, but if it is your first time visiting - or you simply want to make sure you haven't missed any obvious hotspots, then this list is for you. We may have snuck in a few hidden gems too. What follows are 32 places you have to visit in London.

For a tour guide in London look no further than Private London Tours.

1. Piccadilly Circus
Marvel at the electric signs, the Criterion theatre and the statue of Eros. Plus, you'll usually find some live entertainment in the area too.
Did you know that this was the site of the world' first outdoor electric sign? It was installed back in 1910, over 100 years ago.

2. Trafalgar Square
Just down the road from Picadilly Circus, this square celebrate the battle at Cape Trafalgar in 1805.

That's where Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson defeated the combined French and Spanish forces. Now, you'll find the square itself with the fountains, Nelson's column (135ft tall), the Canadian and South African High Commissions, the National Gallery (and the National Portrait Gallery) next door and St. Martin in the Fields church.
Top Tip: You can get a great view of Big Ben and Buckingham Palace (albeit from a distance) from the side of the square which is opposite the National Gallery.

3. Downing Street
Take a peek into the small section of the road that remains - only composed of buildings number 10 to 12. 
You might even get a glimpse of Number 10, the Prime Minister's office.
Just a bit further on you'll find the Cenotaph the national's war memorial in the centre of the road.

4. Churchill's Cabinet War Rooms
Explore an underground world created in case London ever suffered from an air raid.
Of course this underground shelter came into its own during WW2. You too can explore the place where the country was run - from the huge strategic planning rooms with maps of the world, to the modest living quarters. It is all still there to be seen. This place is an absolute gem.

5. Westminster Abbey
Come see the home of the royal wedding.
Having been the place of coronation for all our monarchs except Edward V, Edward VIII and Lady Jane Grey, the abbey has huge historical significance. If you're an architecture fan you'll enjoy looking at the different styles as the building expanded over hundreds of years.

6. Big Ben
The world's tallest four-faced chiming clock.
The secret with Big Ben, is that 'Ben' is actually the name of the bell, not the clock tower. The tower itself is the Elizabeth Tower. For UK visitors only, you can write to your MP and gets  free tour of the tower. The remainder of the houses of parliament is open to all visitors on select dates for a charge.

7. London Eye
The world's tallest cantilevered ferris wheel.
Located just across the river from Big Ben, you'll get great views of the city. The wheel is 135m tall and it takes 30 minutes for one full revolution. Plus before you board watch the fantastic 4D cinema presentation which we say is as good as the eye itself!

8. Tower Bridge
Often confusingly called by tourists, and even some londoners *tsk tsk*, London Bridge. That's not it's name.
The stunning Tower Bridge is an engineering marvel. Upon paying admission you can learn all about how the bridge was built, learn about its past and even walk across the walkway at the top.

9. The Monument
A bit of a hidden gem.
Yes, we said no hidden gems but we had to put this one down. The Monument to the Great Fire of London is 202 feet tall and stands exactly 202 feet away from where the Great Fire of London started - cool huh? Climb the spiral staircase to the top and you get a stunning view of the City. Well worth a visit and a bargain at only £3 - you even get a certificate with the history of the fire on the way out. Note The Monument is not disabled-friendly with no wheelchair access to the summit.

10. The Crypt Cafe
Located in St. Martin in the Fields church at Trafalgar Square.
If you want atmosphere and a nice lunch or coffee, this is the place to come. There's even a small exhibit inside and you'll see the crypt tombstones themselves all around you. It's less creepy than it sounds and really quite romantic!

11. The National Gallery

Priceless works of art, at no cost to you.
Also located on Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery contains priceless works of art - see everything from Monet's 'Waterlillies' to Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers' and so much more. You can spend an entire afternoon in here - and it's free admission. There is also the paid-admission Sainsbury Wing area which contains exhibitions that change periodically.

12. M andMs World
Yes, it's a shop. Yes, it sells Mand Ms.
A relatively young shop in Leicester Square, M and Ms World is filled with chocalately goodness. The best bit however, is all the London touches that you'll find throughout the store. From a giant red London bus at the entrance, to M and M statues crossing a mini-Abbey Road and paintings - it's great fun.

13. Chinatown
Located just off Piccadilly Circus.
Stepping into Chinatown is a culture shock, it's round the corner from one of the busiest tourist destinations in London and yet still manages to maintain an intimate feel. It's well worth the visit but don't expect anything huge - it is a small area made up of only a few streets and is nothing like it's New York equivalent.

14. Leicester Square
A good spot to people watch.
Here you'll find 4 very big cinemas (you must just bump into a star or two at one of the many world premieres that take place here), M&Ms world and in the centre a garden which is surprisingly chilled and a nice place to relax.

15. Covent Garden
A cute square that's filled with shopping and dining.
If you fancy a nice place to eat or just snack, then Covent Garden could be right for you. Make sure to go into the covered building itself and down underground where you will find some incredible little shops that are definitely worth the visit. There's also some name brands too including one of the biggest Apple stores in the world.

16. St Paul's Cathedral

Whether you step inside, or simply admire from the outside, it's worth a visit.
Situated on the highest point of the City of London, St. Paul's is well worth a visit. It is the fourth ST. Paul's to be on the site - this one has been here since 1710. It was the place of Charles and Diana's wedding, Margaret Thatcher's funeral and the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrations, amongst many other events. Inside, it is stunning and well worth the price of admission - make sure to get an audio guide too for the best experience. You can even find Christopher Wren's tomb, the architect of this and nearly 50 other churches in the City. Plus, if you want a bit of exercise then climb to the top for the most unique view of London (at almost the height of the London eye, but definitely better situated) - it's only 528 steps to the top.

17. The Millennium Bridge
Great views.
Not much to say about this bridge apart from the fact that you can get some great views looks in every direction, from Tower Bridge on one side to St. Paul's to The Tate Modern. It's worth a crossing. Also, do a bit of research and hear about it's troubled past.

18. The Tate Modern
Modern art at its finest.
A world renowned gallery that is definitely worth a visit. You'll be perplexed, amazed, shocked and probably laugh a few times. Free admission and worth a few hours of your time. Top Tip: Get a lift to the cafe at the top for some great views and a relaxed setting.

19. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
A step back in time.
Admire it from the outside, or go inside and take in a show.

20. The Shard
The tallest building in Western Europe (1004ft/306m).
Designed to look like a shard of broken glass, The Shard is quite the bold statement. It consists mainly of restaurants, offices and accommodation but you can take a lift to the top for a viewing gallery (admission is charged - slightly more expensive that the London Eye) and admire the city at its finest. If you fancy it, you can even stay at the Shangri-La hotel inside too (starting at £450 per night).

21. The Tower of London
My favourite thing in all of London.
This is a must-must visit in my opinion. Miss it, and you've not been to London. This 950-year old castle standards at the heart of the city and is a true reminder of London's gruesome past - hear and see the old royal palace, prisons, the zoo, the area of beheadings, and even see the crown jewels. Do a tour with one of the "beefeaters" once inside (free once you've paid admission) and get some genuinely gruesome history thrown into your holiday.

22. Buckingham Palace
The official residence of Her Majesty, the Queen.
The palace is a true masterpiece. Outside you can admire the Victoria Memorial and the guards.And don't forget to watch the Changing the Guard ceremony which takes place every other day most of the year, and daily in the warmer months - be sure to know when it is on before you go. During the summer, you can actually step foot inside and marvel at a small percentage of its 775 rooms and the royal gardens. Get tickets for the State Room tour (summer only) here.

23. Harrods
The largest store in UK
Harwich is hugely popular in London, featuring luxury goods to either buy or simply gaze at. A typical visit to the store will take in excess of three hours and you'll get to see everything from the Egyptian staircases with their stunning details and live opera singing, electronic sections, an afternoon team room, luxury boutiques and the stunning food court. Harrods is definitely worth a visit.

24. Hamley's
The finest toy store in the world has been going strong for over 250 years. 
Hamleys claims it is the oldest, and largest toy store in the world. It spans seven floors with over 55,000 toys inside. Youll find everything here from model planes to food to books and even the Royal family made out of Lego. For the Harry Potter fans, there is even a place where you can buy a broom to fly on. I recommend you get the elevator to the top and then work your way down.

25. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
Larger than Central Park in New York. 
These two Royal Parks join up to make 900 acres of pristine land in the centre of London. The parks are a perfect escape from the busy London lifestyle and are perfect place to go for a stroll, have a snack, people watch, row a boat on the Serpentine Lake, or take in one of the many sights. Near Marble arch, you will find Speakers Corner when people come to exercise their right to free speech: explore the princess Diana Memorial playground, and fountain; find a statue of Peter Pan; go horseriding; or visit the stunning Italian gardens and fountains. During the Chirstmas season, the hype is stepped up one bit further with Winter Wondelans a huge free admission area featuring traditional food, theme park rides, Yuletide singalongs and much more.

26. Oxford Street and Regent Street
Shop until you drop
If you want to go shopping you have found the right place, London is filled with places to spend some money. Oxford Street is Europe's busiest shopping street, at 1.5 miles in length and featuring several flagship stores. Your find the likes of Disney, Marks & Spencers, John Lewis, House of Fraser, Selfridge's and many more on this one road. When you reach Oxford Circus, turn onto Regent Street to find yet more shopping – Hamley's, Liberty's, Swarovski, the Apple Store, Hollister andBurberry just to mention a few.

27. Selfridge's
Second only to Harrods in terms of price and luxury.
Selfridge's is located a little bit more centrally than Harrods, being on Oxford Street, and thus is busy year round. Inside this department store you'll find all kinds of boutiques and even places to eat. It's definitely worth your time. The store has been in its iconic location for over 100 years and was founded by an American, Gordon Selfridge. 

28. The Science Museum
From the past to the future, the science museum has it all. 
See how steam engines work, how space shuttles get to the moon, experience being in a flight simulator, watch a movie at the IMAX 3-D cinema, play in the interactive kids area, learn about modern surgery, and much more. The price? Nothing.

29. The V&A Museum

An incredible Museum of design. 
I had heard about the wonders of the V&A museum several times but it wasn't until this year that I visited it. I was blown away. The incredible rooms themselves and the incredible artefacts inside them really leave you with a sense of awe. Some of the sculptures and designs simply have you thinking "how did they do that?". Whilst you're there don't forget to visit the gardens in the centre of the Museum, these are stunning particularly at night. Admission is free.

30. The Natural History Museum
A favourite for people of all ages
Located just across the road from the science museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum holds worldwide status. The interior is filled with marvellous exhibitions from prehistoric ages to modern medicine. Don't forget to visit the Butterfly house, or the earthquake simulator, but the absolute highlight for us has to be the giant Tyrannosaurus rex animatronic which is really lifelike. Admission is free.

31. British Museum
Artefacts from around the world
The British Museum is located somewhat further away from the other museums, but it's definitely worth the trek. Inside you'll find everything from sarcophagi, to Viking artefacts, to 2000-year-old coins. You will also be amazed by the incredible beauty of the building itself. Admission is free.

32. The London Dungeon
Spooky fun and a little bit of history. 
If you want to learn about London's gruesome history, how about experiencing it for yourself? In the London Dungeon you go from room to room and learn (and experience) London's horrible past, from the Great Plague, to torture devices, and a boat ride from hell, to an executioner's drop. Check out the full review here. Get your tickets at AttractionTix here.

For a private, guided tour of London look no further than Private London Tours.

Working at Disneyland Paris - Day 127 to 152 - Halloween Soiree, more training, empty parks, and much more

Working at Disneyland Paris - Day 127 to 152 - Halloween Soiree, more training, empty parks, and much more

10th October 2014 (Day 127) to 4th November 2014 (Day 152)

It's time for the latest round-up on what has been happening over the last month or so at work at Disneyland Paris. If you want to see a full index of posts, you can of course click here to see these.

Morning opening of attractions:
So, usually in the morning when I start at 8:00am I am one of at least five people who help to open Indiana Jones, but recently I was asked to open La Cabane des Robinsons...this involves doing some basic safety checks, setting up the queue line ropes and then doing a walkthrough of the treehouse. This walkthrough involves an incredibly long checklist which must easily detail over 200 different items that I have to check for the 'show' part of the attraction - that means making sure that things like lights, spoons, books, candles and many other show elements. It is tedious to say the least but it guarantees that when things have gone missing they can (eventually) be replaced.

Photo: Disneyland Paris

On this day I also had the luck of opening La Plages des Pirates which is an outdoor playground area, and Le Passage Enchante de Aladdin which is a walkthrough telling the story of Aladdin - this also involves another checklist looking at all the items and effects that should be working.

Formation de Bons Gestes:
Disney invests a lot of time and money into training its Cast Members - so while you may think that your initial training is all you will get, it certainly isn't. One of these extra bits of training is 'Les Bons Gestes' which is a two-hour session talking about good posture and practices to take, especially when lifting heavy loads. It was taken by a medical professional and was actually fairly interesting and I did learn quite a bit.

The Halloween Soiree:
I signed up to work the Halloween soiree which ran on the 31st October 2014 from 20:30 to 01:00. I was given a shift finishing at 23:45 which in the end ended up being really great as I was able to get the RER straight home. For anyone finishing late, there are taxis made available to take you home which is great.

Photo: @InsideDLParis (Twitter)
Halloween during the daytime was officially (numbers-wise) the busiest day since I have been here. It felt like a typically busy summer day and although I can't tell you exactly what our maximum wait time was...it didn't feel as busy as weekends in September which are to be avoided.

The soiree however WAS busy...very, very busy and that I can safely say that it was the busiest I have seen the park since I've been here. Although, I can't reveal numbers, the Halloween party was sold out (making me wonder why there wasn't another one on the 30th October like they do in the States). The park closed officially at 19:00 and the party started at 20:30 as I mentioned earlier, however from 17:00 party-ticket holders (who were given orange wristbands) could get in - this meant that from 17:00 to 19:00 party-goers were mixed in with regular park guests and it was at this point that it did start getting busy - from 19:00 to 20:30 all rides were open as usual but only for guests with wristbands and the queue lines got busier and busier and I think we eventually topped out at about a 50 or 60 minute wait time. Considering there were tonnes of characters out, and unique live shows I was very surprised to see how busy the rides were.

One of the fun things about the soiree was that we were allowed to be creepy and I admit to making quite a few guests jump. We were also allowed to be made up so my friend and fellow Cast Camille did a wonderful job of turning me into this...

Halloween soiree make-up
Overall, it was a fun night and it was a different atmosphere and adventureland was done up in a  slightly spooky fashion. There was Pirates of the Carribbean music and projections too which was cool.

Photo: @InsideDLParis (Twitter)
I was not a fan of having Fastpass open during the special event as it meant that everyone tried to get in the line without a Fastpass complaining that the regular lines were too long...which is what happens daily but it was intensified to 10x or 20x more often during the soiree. I understand that the lines are long and there is limited time but asking to skip through the Fastpass lane is unfair on others. At €41 (and Annual pass discounts making the price as low as €28) the soiree is excellent value in my opinion for entertainment from 17:00 to 01:00 (8 hours), especially considering the one-day ticket price is €88 for a few hours more and there were lots of unique bits of entertainment on that evening. I did hear, however, from guests that character organisation was not great.

The parks are empty
Literally 24 hours after the Halloween soiree is over the parks are incredibly empty - they are 10% of the number of guests today (4th November) than there were on Halloween for example. And there are about 20% of the number of guests that were here during a typical summer day. The result is 5 or 10 minute queues everywhere except for the characters. Not bad for the most visited place in Europe. Even Crush's Coaster and Ratatouille have had posted queue times of 5 to 15 minutes!

American Indiana Jones cast came over
Although here is no Indiana Jones ride at Walt Disney World, the Disneyland Resort certainly has an incredible attraction that is not to be missed. A few weeks ago some Cast Members came over from the Disneyland Resort who worked at Indiana Jones and wanted to bring us a present - so they had a frame made with photos of all the Cast from the American ride, and brought us all queue line decoder cards and Fastpasses from the Californian Indiana Jones Adventure attraction.

Our team leader was talking to them about the differences and I don't know what we managed to do for them but we definitely gave them a load of ride height "diplômes"/certificates to take back. In case you've never seen one this is what our diplômes look like (they allow a kid that's too small to skip the line later when they are tall enough and to get straight onto Pirates that day without having to wait):

Photo: Disneygazette.fr

4 hours doing Propreté
In something that is becomingly increasingly frequent at work, people from Attractions are being asked to help out with Proprete (custodial/cleaning). A couple of week ago it was my turn to help out during the afternoon - I have no problem doing this as it gives you a different perspective of your work location and as long as it isn't a daily occurence it should be fine. I learned quite  bit about Adventureland by doing the rounds and discovered little passageways and details I had never seen before.

Propreté is a very relaxed job in comparison to attractions as you work at your own rhythm, but i did notice that these Cast have an incredible attention to detail and can see even the smallest thing on the ground that I would very easily miss. You spend a lot of time simply walking around and sweeping and then once or twice a day you will do the trash and empty all the bins in your sector of the land - this involves moving a big green bin which quickly becomes heavy as you empty the trash cans into it. I noticed as well that in propreté you get a lot of guest interaction and they will ask you about anything and everything. In the four hours I was there two people asked me for the location of the smoking areas, whereas I have been working five months in attractions and the same number of people have asked me the same question. I also learned a few handy tactics for when we are sweeping the queue line and doing the trash that will come in handy. Overall, it was an interesting experience but as I have said it is not something I would want to be long-term.

Parc Asterix for Halloween
We went to parc Asterix for Halloween recently.

I will link to a separate blog post on this subject once that has been uploaded.

Ate at Bistro Chez Remy
Last week I went to eat at the flagship new Ratatouille restaurant "Bistro Chez Remy" which is located inside the Ratatouille: The Adventure ride building itself.

The atmosphere inside is great and the Imagineers have done a great job - as you step inside the restaurant you can immediately see the attention to detail to make you feel like you have shrunk to the size of a rat. The starter consisted of a salad with cheese which I asked for without cheese and came...with cheese, the main which was the steak was excellent as were the fries the ratatouille was alright though I had never tasted this dish before and the chef's sauce wasn't great in my opinion - I much preferred the sauce at Blue Lagoon. Overall, the price was €40 for 3 courses (and €30 with the staff discount) which I felt was appropriate but a tad expensive considering the interior atmosphere isn't exactly premium. Though the service could have been much better and more attentive, the food and decor made up for it.

I went bowling for the very first time yesterday and it was actually really enjoyable. Although, I was worried about not being great considering it was my first time, I had quite a bit of fun and didn't do too badly.

I came third out of five the first round, and then second to last (but only by 3 points) during the second round. I would definitely go back!

Carte Vitale paperwork:
In the never-ending saga of paperwork in France, I am still waiting for my permanent social security number (note that this took process only two weeks in the UK for my cousin). I did get a letter through for my Carte Vitale which I attached and photo and sent it off so hopefully that will come back soon.

New security procedures and the safety challenge
The last update is to do with ride security. As Safety is the most important thing at Disney there is now an updated Ride Access Control procedure which in theory makes it much more difficult to accidentally send a vehicle or power up an attraction when someone is working inside the ride - it's a welcome change though I do remember it already being implemented in the States over a year ago. At the same time this is a company-wide safety challenge which rewards Cast Members for knowing all their safety procedures.

Coming up:

The next couple of weeks are set to be exciting as tomorrow it is Bonfire Night which brings with it fireworks on Lake Disney, and next Monday is the beginning of the Christmas season (and lots of new entertainment). Visitor-wise I am expecting it to be a very quiet season (Excluding Saturdays) until about to 20th December when things should start to kick into gear for the busiest part of the year.

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