Europe always was “the big trip” for Australians, and in 2012 it looks like being even bigger.Our Big Trip Guide to Europe:
Many readers will have been making decisions as tour companies matched exceptional airline Earlybird Europe airfares for the next European summer.
Many of those have booking deadlines of November 30.
It's time to get out and about and plan not just where to go, but what to do and experience.
We often look for something new and different, but the fact remains that the blockbuster tourist attractions in London are just that for a reason.More British travel news and reviews:
So, don't be shy - be a tourist. Some of these are the most touristy things to do in London and I love 'em. Camera, wallet, map, brolly and we're off.
• citycruises.com.Tower of London
• hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon.London Eye
• londoneye.com.Hyde Park
One of my favourite days out, anywhere. Catch a boat from just about any pier, walk through the historic architecture, visit the Royal Observatory and stand on Greenwich Mean Time's meridian line. End up at the National Maritime Museum - entry is free - and see John Harrison's wooden clocks, which solved the longitude problem. I am transfixed again by standing in front of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson's undress coat, which he wore at Trafalgar in 1805.Part of the left epaulette is missing, where the shot that killed him carried it into the wound. There's plenty of places to eat and drink - from the Great British Fish and Chip Shop, King William Walk, to pubs such as the Gypsy Moth, Spanish Galleon or Admiral Hardy where I had a ration of rum and toasted this fine chap who served as flag captain to Nelson and commanded HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. After that, take the rail back to Bank, which puts you on many Underground lines.
• sundayupmarket.co.uk for both.Borough Market
These three in Exhibition Road are all free. It is almost embarrassing having such a wonderful, interesting, inspiring day and parting with only the odd "pound" to check your bag into the cloakroom and £2.70 ($4.20) for a sandwich.In Exhibition Road, I started at the V&A, particularly loving the hall showing British sculpture of the past 350 years. (Lots of art students were drawing the sculptures. Interesting.) The Natural History Museum is a dinosaur-kids' delight - an ichthyosaur from Dorset, stegosaur from Wiltshire and crocodile skeleton from Germany which is about 180 million years old. But I have to say the Science Museum's the best - reinvented and taking me from the original, actual 1829 Stephenson's Rocket locomotive to the 1969 Apollo 10 space command module and beyond.
• nhm.ac.uk, vam.ac.uk, science museum.org.uk.National Gallery
Add serendipity to the mix. Just get out and about in London and something will happen. I was walking past the Royal Geographical Society building (just because I wanted to have seen it) opposite Hyde Park and saw a sign for the free exhibition Rivers in Ice, showing how the glaciers of the Himalaya are vanishing by hanging David Breashears' epic photographs of them adjacent to earlier black and whites, such as those of Vittorio Sella's Jannu Glacier, Nepal, in 1899.
On another day, just wandering, I bump into the Regent Street Motor Show, celebrating three centuries of motoring. Veterans, E-Type Jaguars and Minis set against the Georgian architecture of this beautiful London street.
London isn't expensive. I pay £15 ($23.40) for a set-menu dinner - a choice of two courses from three starters, three mains and three desserts - at Le Metro Bar and Brasserie in Basil Street, Knightsbridge, just steps from Harrods, long treasured by locals and visitors alike. A bottle of very decent red wine is £18 ($28.15).
A full (and I mean full) cooked English breakfast at Arco in pricey Knightsbridge, is £6.60 ($10.32).
I pay £1.50 ($2.30) to leave a heavy bag in a cloakroom at a free-entry museum; £2.75 ($4.30) for tea in Harvey Nichols' restaurant; £9.80 ($15.33) for a large latte, roast beef sandwich and a salad at the National Gallery's cafe.I buy a £20 ($31.20) Oyster card for travel on the mass of public transport - buses everywhere, the Underground to everywhere - and it lasts me four days around central London.
You will notice that I have been quoting all these prices initially in British pounds. That's for a reason. As I go about my sightseeing in London, it feels to me that I am using a pound as I would a dollar. The exchange rate as we go to print means that £1 costs us $1.56. In other words you roughly have to add half again to these prices. But I don't call that expensive.
You have to factor in that you can spend much of your day doing things that are free. I left the hotel at 8am one day and returned exhausted after seeing the sights and going into galleries and museums, and had bought two cups of coffee at £2.80 ($4.38) each and lunch at £13.40 ($20.95). A priceless big day out for a small price.Stephen Scourfield was a guest of Thai Airways and The Capital Hotel and Levin Hotel, Knightsbridge.
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