Thursday, October 8, 2015

London-on-a-Dime (Free Tours)

Way back in the '70s, my father owned a dog-eared copy of Europe on $5 a Day. He loved planning frugal trips for his family of six and Mom aided and abetted him by packing peanut butter and Tang in her purse to provide cheap meals. We stayed in dingy hostels, never bought souvenirs, and NEVER took any form of transportation if walking was feasible.

When my husband and I traveled to England recently for our 30th anniversary, my dad would have been proud. We pinched pennies so hard  you could practically hear them scream. But we had so much fun that I decided to devote a few posts to how we did it in case someone else needs suggestions.

On our first day in London, we took the free Sandeman's Tour. It was a three hour walking tour of Westminster (half of it in the rain), but it showed us how easy it was to walk around the city. Check the website for meeting times and places. My travel book said our tour was at 3 p.m., but when I checked online it was at 2.

Almost all museums in London are free, but did you know that many of the museums offer free tours? The museums are so loaded with artifacts that you don't know where to start, so a guided tour, focusing on a specific exhibit, was extremely helpful. Our favorite free tour (at the Victoria and Albert Museum) lasted just over an hour and took us through the Medieval and Renaissance rooms. The guide was terrific. We also took a half hour free tour at the British Museum on Assyrian history. Later we returned to that same museum armed with a pdf we had downloaded from the internet, "The Bible and the British Museum." This self-guided tour took us through the Assyrian and Persian rooms, pointing out archeological finds that confirmed biblical accounts. Unfortunately the second half was hard to follow since some of the exhibits had been moved and we couldn't follow the map. Still, it was great to see biblical history verified.

Lastly, we took a train to Oxford to do the C.S. Lewis tour. We felt deflated when we discovered it was only on Wednesdays. BUT all was not lost. I was in Blackwell's bookstore (where the tour originates) and looked down and saw an Oxford tour booklet for 3 pounds (about 5 dollars). The subtitle said "Self-guided Walking Tour" so I snatched it up and Dan and I wandered the streets of Oxford at our leisure, stopping in at restaurants and book shops as we followed the map around the city. Lovely! (The tours from Blackwells normally cost 8 pounds (about $12 each).

No trip to Oxford would be complete without a trip to the Eagle and Child Pub where the Inklings met weekly. This stop was not on our walking tour, so we sauntered across town to enjoy a glass of non-alcoholic ginger beer and to browse in a nearby book store.

Incidentally, we took one very expensive tour to Canterbury Cathedral, but these free ones are what we'll remember the longest.

(Other posts: dining and book shopping.)


Farm Girl said...

Oh what fun!!! I am so glad you are writing about it. It sounds just like a fun thing I would love to do someday. I look forward to more posts.

they call me mommy said...

Thank you so much! My sister, mom, and I have a plan to visit England next year...this is SO helpful! :) Can't wait to hear more! Oxford and the Eagle and Child are a main item in our minds, so neat!

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

What a trip! You give me hope that my own dh and I might be able to afford it once our children are old enough to be farmed out for any length of time. (Ha!)