“Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London” sang Ralph McTell – well it’s not that easy but going by coach is. The coach will give any regular car driver ‘miles of smiles’ as the coach takes the pressure away off every day driving, just sit back and relax.
Coaches take over 2 million people per year to London to visit the sights and theatre from all over the country and the world, so let the coach tour operators ‘lead you by the hand’ and take the strain and responsibility of organising trips for either a weekend or longer. London gives me a buzz of excitement because it is our capital city and has history and culture, the seat of our government and the home of our Queen. However, the traffic and congestion are nothing to be proud of, road works and traffic jams, but that doesn’t worry the ‘coach party’ when you are sat in a lovely coach high above the roads looking at the history and hearing fascinating facts given to you from the excellent tour guides that accompany the coaches.
Going to London by coach is easy and very comfortable. Many tour operators will pick you up from your home and take you to the coach pick up point and after putting your cases on the coach you don’t see them until you get to your hotel room. Whether your visit is for history, culture or just for fun, then to look for a local coach operator near to you, visit findacoachholiday.com where there are details about coach trips to London as well as to other parts of the UK.
Our visit to London started at the Tower Hotel next to the Tower of London, a large imposing 4 star hotel in an excellent position with good service and comfortable rooms. We had the bed and breakfast option and enjoyed our evening meal within the area of St Katherine’s Dock which many of the Tower Hotel rooms overlook. It is within easy walking distance of the Tower of London and if you haven’t been to the Tower then this is an excellent opportunity. Try to get on one of the Beefeater Tours, they go a set times, just check when you get through the gate, they are informative and interesting. If you decide to stop for a cuppa then be prepared because these are London prices. The hotel does have a discount offer and for the seniors to enter the Tower of London it was £17 per person but if you go independently just ask for the senior discount.
Our coach was waiting for us after breakfast for a stress free trip through the city to Kew Gardens with lots of interesting places pointed out to us during our coach journey, landmarks and statues and the obscure interesting little ‘tit-bit’ such as the last lamp that is powered by sewage and still working. Kew Gardens is a delightful place to visit, the cost is £16.50 standard and for a concession £14.00. We were limited to the morning but it is such an interesting place for gardeners or non- gardeners to visit. Lakes, Chinese gardens, an enormous, wonderful glass house, with water lilies as big as tractor wheels. The site is large, 35 acres so if walking is a problem then catch the Kew explorer land train, the carriages take you around the with a commentary to explain the wonders of this beautiful site and you can hop on or off at your leisure. Kew Palace is a lovely building and was a much loved retreat for Royalty, including George III and his wife Charlotte and their 15 children. King George came to Kew during his bouts of mental illness and with the quiet, serenity of Kew Gardens, I am sure he found solace in the oasis of calm and beauty of the gardens.
It was a rainy day and at the end of the visit to Kew Gardens our coach was ready to whisk us away to the Waldorf Hotel for afternoon tea – with champagne of course!!! – there is a dress code so smart, but not too casual is the order of the day. Many of our fellow travellers brought either a different top or trousers and changed in the toilets before entering the restaurant, excellent service and food, what a treat. The Waldorf Hotel is ideally situated in the Covent Garden area which is within easy walking distance of many of the famous West End shows. Our visit was for a London ‘taster’ and a theatre trip and our chosen show was the Jersey Boys. It was fabulous and ‘Oh What a Night’ was had by all, the music and energy of the performance was so special that it brings fans back for more. With so many shows to choose from you are spoilt for choice. London theatres have enjoyed a boom in the last decade and many people have gone by coach for day trips or weekends. The coach was a welcome sight as we left the Piccadilly Theatre and it transported a short distance to our next stop our evening meal.
A meal was organised for the coach party to stay in Leicester Square for the evening and have a very enjoyable meal in the Bear & Staff, and the history of London continued, this is a building where Charlie Chaplin performed. London is expensive to eat out, but the coach operators organise the venues and this takes the worry out of the ‘how much’ scenario! The meal was over and our coach picked us up and took back to the hotel. That is another plus for coach travel, you can enjoy a drink with friends and not worry about driving home and in London possibly getting lost.
The next day we had one more experience. We met our coach, put our cases on board for our journey home and then we were taken to British Broadcasting House. This was a guided tour organised by the BBC and anyone can arrange this for themselves or book with a group or coach tour. It is an imposing sight and the old and the new BBC buildings sit very well together, they are called old and new because the new is an extension to the old building and no one could think of another name. The tour starts with a view of the news room and weather broadcasting area that we see on the TV every day, an amazing, wonderful ‘hive of activity’ with reporters sending in news stories and transmitting news all over the world. The studios are in the new building, we went to the One Show studio and sat on the couch, where many famous people have sat. Well it does look good on the television but in real life the studio is small and the green couch was less inviting than it looks on TV. The Old building is also fascinating with microphones that were used by George VI our reigning Queen’s father when he transmitted the first Christmas Day message. The radio theatre is used for concerts and various broadcasts which include the use of coconuts for horse sounds and a bicycle pump with a cork for the sound of champagne popping to help the listener get the ‘feel’ of the broadcast. It gave us a different perspective of where the news and radio programmes come from. We had a very enjoyable morning and had a cup of BBC tea – an age old joke about the BBC canteen – but it tasted just fine to me.
Our weekend was almost over and it seemed to go so quickly but the enjoyment and information we were taking home with us is priceless. Our journey home by coach was a pleasure, no road works to worry about someone to drive and take the strain whilst we had forty winks!!! Coach travel is for everyone, young or old, married or single it is excellent value for money with a social atmosphere a shared experience to make new friends, it is a safe, secure way to travel. So let the coach companies ‘lead you by the hand’ to some very enjoyable places whether it is London or Lake Garda, you will not be disappointed.