26 November 2011
We normally have a short holiday break in the weeks running up to Christmas. The last two years were to Disneyland Paris and Center Parcs in Sherwood Forest . We were not planning to have one this year, but our daughter was doing a school project on Florence Nightingale and so we wanted to visit the Florence Nightingale Museum at St Thomas' Hospital. As it was approaching Christmas we decided to have a weekend in London to visit the museum and see some of the Christmas markets in London.
Travel to London and on the London Underground
We travelled to London on Saturday afternoon. We drove by car to the London Underground station at Hillingdon. There is a monitored car park at the station which costs only £1 per day at weekends (more during weekdays). This avoids the problem of finding a parking space in London and avoids paying the congestion charge.
Children under 10 are free on the underground when accompanied by and adult. We used an Oyster card for our travel. A deposit is needed for the Oyster card and then it needs to be topped up with credit. When using the card it automatically deducts the single fare, but then when reaching the daily maximum for the zones travelled (the same amount as a one day travelcard) remaining travel (within those zones) for that day is free. The card can also be used on buses and trams. For the underground you need to use the card on entry and exit, but for the buses and DLR trains only swipe once per journey.
We didn't take a pushchair so didn't have any of the issues associated with taking a pushchair on the London Underground.
Some of the underground trains were busy. I was ashamed by how selfish some of the passengers were. On more than one occasion adults pushed passed our 3 year old to beat him to an available seat, and one 8 month pregnant women had to stand because nobody would stand to allow her to sit down. This included someone sat in the priority seat - which specifically states it should be given up to someone that is pregnant - who was more interested in keeping the seat so he could carry on playing games on his smartphone.
One thing about the underground is to factor in the time spent travelling. We found that time seamed to go quite quickly when trying to get around so we ended up with a very late evening when travelling for a meal and then back to the hotel on Saturday night (although that was partly due to a long wait for food at the Rainforest Cafe).
As per a previous visit we stayed at the Express by Holiday Inn hotel at Southwark. This is a nice hotel that includes free breakfast so is particularly good value.
We had booked a family room, which included a double bed and a double sofa bed which was already made up. The only problem with the hotel was that the TV didn't work. It had a box on the TV (freeview / hotel TV) which had a European plug, but was missing and adapter.
The hotel is about 10 minutes walk from the Southwark tube station or very close to the RV1 / 381 bus stops. The 381 provides the most direct route to Waterloo station, but the RV1 seams to run more frequently and I believe is only a little further.
Southbank Christmas Market
We weren't able to travel to London until the afternoon and didn't arrive at the hotel until late afternoon. We took the bus to Waterloo for the Southbank Christmas Market where we had a ride on the carousel and a look around the stalls.