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Union JackBritish Politics Course & Trip Itinerary, May '06:
revised 31 May '06 with extra travel tips, by Jeremy Lewis.
Information here is purely advisory; definitive information comes from HC and Ms. Jane Williams, Director of Travel.
Meals are non ICOT for 2006.
Please email Jane Williams with your theatre ticket requests, and pick up her 8-page booklet of information.
Plans for tours on British Politics days are subject to last minute changes
as speakers' calendars permit, and dependent on the timing of public transport.
Itinerary | Attractions in London | Attractions outside London | Tips on travel to UK

  • Draft itinerary.
  • M 8 May: 0745 check in at HC.  0830 orientation session with vital, practical information.  Be there!
  • Shuttle to ATL; fly BA, ATL to LGW (overnight).
  • T 9 May: morning at Windsor Castle, walking tours, hotel check-in afternoon.
  • W 10 May: Panoramic tour, Westminster Abbey, lunch, theatre.
  • British Politics tour of Oxford, the city of "dreaming spires"
  • inexpensive, perhaps £17 for train, £8 for tea time, £7 bus tour, optional souvenirs; wear walking shoes for several miles, and expect cobblestones.
  • circular tour by bus, about £7 for all afternoon.  Optional use of taxi to train station, about £5 per ride.
  • Train leaves Paddington at 13:52, arr Oxford station 14:44 (now ICOT, subject to JTW budget)
  • Tour bus around university and city buildings (now ICOT, subject to JTW budget).
  • Afternoon: tour of Oxford University, with stop at Broad Street's university souvenir shops.
  • View glorious mediaeval college, library and church buildings, and the finest preserved High Street in Europe.
  • Note: we will not be able to enter most college's quadrangles, since Oxford will be in termtime.
  • Teatime in Eagle & Child pub (frequented by the Tolkiens and C.S. Lewis).
  • 5pm, tutorial at St. Anne's College with Dr. Nigel Bowles, Vice Principal, Balfour Fellow and director of Master's Studies, on the core executive of the US and UK.
  • 6pm race back to train station for return trip to Paddington station.
  • Leave Oxford station by train 18:30, arrives Paddington 19:25.
  • Race by tube to West End theatres for curtain up, OK for 8pm shows.
  • Th 11 May: Motor coach tour to Roman Bath, a.m., returning via Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral, p.m.
  • F 12 May, ALL: Tower of London a.m,
  • British Politics TBA structured p.m. Recommended tour of Cabinet War Rooms, Churchill's wartime HQ (bunker), near Horse guards parade (non ICOT) or Belfast cruiser (warship) museum on Thames (non ICOT).
  • Sat 13 May: Structured Day: British Politics [offering non-ICOT tour of Cambridge University and Battle of Britain museum.]
  • Sun 14 May: Optional lunch in Wesley chapel and tour museum.
  • FREE DAY: Offering non-ICOT tour of excellent Imperial War Museum on south bank; (The IWM is celebrated for covering not just war, but the life of soldiers and civilians during war, in a way appealing to females and children as well as males.).  Optional soccer match, rugby match, shopping, museums, galleries?  See below for ideas.
  • Mon 15 May: 9:51 and 9:56 Morning tour of Palace of Westminster & Houses of Parliament: Commons, Lords.
  • tour enters promptly at 09:52 with twenty tickets, and 09:56 with 21 tickets.  We must  be at Sovereign 's entrance under Victoria Tower AT LEAST ten minutes before.  (No knives and switch off cell phones.  Toilets are only available half way through tour)
  • New: available additional tour of Jewel Tower, FREE with permit.  English Heritage has now opened this with historical exhibition.  Mediaeval tower, 1365 under Edward III, only part to survive great fire of 1834.
  • lunch in St. Stephen's tavern across bridge road, with division bells, [Westminster Hall closed for construction], walking tour of government zone: Whitehall, Downing St, Horse guards parade.
  • 2pm, Seminar with Prof. Sir Lawrence Freedman, KCMG, Vice Principal for Research and Professor of War Studies, King's College London, on British strategy and foreign policy.
  • Walk across bridge (or take one stop on Jubilee tube to Waterloo station) to 57 Waterloo Rd, on the south bank, seminar room 6.13B in the James Clerk Maxwell Building. Take the lift to the 6th floor.  Transfer time 15 minutes, either way..
  • Freedman is a prolific author on strategy, and the official historian of the battle fo the Falklands, 1982.
  • 3pm return to Commons via south bank and Westminster bridge for
  • 4 pm seminar with Andrew Turner, MP (Con - Isle of Wight), MA Oxford University, on the future of the British parties and their leadership.
  • T 16 May: FREE DAY: optional shopping, museums, galleries?
  • Dr. Lewis will participate in Freedom of Information Act implementation course at Local Government House, with CFOI, 1:30 - 4pm.
  • W 17 May: Early morning leave hotel by coach; Depart LGW, arr. ATL, shuttle to MGM

  • Attractions within London for your free time: popular choices, good value for time and money:
  • Westminster area: Parliament Square, Whitehall, Downing Street (now blocked off for security), Horse Guards parade and changing of the horse guard, plus Cabinet War rooms -- a fascinating underground museum, worth over an hour.
  • Eat where the MPs do: in the pubs across the Westminster bridge road (east side) from Parliament. Some pubs have division bells in them so you can hurry back to cast your vote.
  • Art galleries and museums:
  • Tate modern art museum on the South Bank -- an interesting new gallery
  • National gallery of art, north side of Trafalgar square.
  • St. Paul's Cathedral, north bank, east end -- if open despite renovations
  • Churchill's wartime bunker headquarters, near horse Guards parade -- a fascinating 90 minutes or so.
  • HMS Belfast, a WW2 naval cruiser, is a floating museum on Thames, west of Tower.
  • Globe Theatre on South Bank
  • South Bank 'cultural ghetto': Hayward Museum and other museums of modern art and films. Ugly concrete buildings but great shows, near Waterloo Station.
  • Museums of Science and Natural History, and Harrod's fancy department store, South Kensington, very posh district.
  • Tate gallery, a hike along north bank of river, half way west to Chelsea -- but marvellous art collection.
  • Walks, often the best way to see European cities if you are fit (no high heels, please!):
  • along trendy King's Road in Chelsea, three art colleges and numerous fashion boutiques, plenty of punks with wild hair and makeup -- plus some Sloan Rangers, the upper crust equivalent of 'preppies'. [King's Road or Sloan square tube.]  Trendy pubs for lunch.
  • Green Park and St. James's park, Admiralty Arch and the Mall, lovely strolls to Buckingham Palace.
  • Marble Arch [tube] for Speaker's Corner, where eccentrics argue (loudly) for all kinds of points of view.
  • Walks on the Jubilee walk, along the river, popular for ever changing views and people watching, some street performers and shows.
  • Views with less walking:
  • River cruise with cockney commentary, from points on the Embankment down to Tower Bridge, Greenwich and back.
  • St. Catherine's dock (near Tower bridge) museum of tugs, fire boats and life boats, with Pickwick Pub (great food)
  • Docklands light railway, evelated train tour of the dramatic, newly built high-tech business buildings on the site of the old docks. A good couple of hours without much walking.  Board near tower Bridge.
  • Trafalgar Square, Nelson's column, National Gallery of Art, excellent lunch in St. Martin-in-the-Fields crypt,
  • London Eye, south bank opposite Westminster, a huge Ferris wheel with great views from the gondolas -- but allow time to queue, and pay for tickets.
  • Open-top or double decker bus tours vary from London Transpport (cheap, but driver just calls out commentary when he has time) to commercial (tapes and headsets, but more expensive)
  • Shopping on Oxford Street from Marble Arch (west) to Bond and Regent Streets (east).
  • Major department stores are all there.  Selfridges is the most 'London' of them; Marks and Spencer a major British institution.
  • Eat a good pub lunch at the Hog in the Pound pub, go down to cellar.
  • Bookworms? browse political (some left wing) bookshops on Tottenham Court Rd, Foyle's bookstore's large collection.
  • Souvenir shops? Plenty near hotel on Southampton Row, but Post Office is a hike and shipping home is expensive -- so keep things small enough to fit in suitcase. Airmail to US takes about 5 working days, surface mail takes about 6 weeks by ship.
  • Music? Virgin Records near north end of Tottenham Court Rd is the mecca for popular music lovers.
  • On any town's high street (including Bath or Salisbury), buy from these excellent shops.
  • books and newspapers from WH Smith's
  • pharmacy products from Boots the Chemist's
  • clothing from Marks and Spencer's
  • Theatres: walk along Shaftesbury Ave, a mile southwest from Hotel area, to Leicester square, and find the discounted tickets booth on south side of square.  Theatres are mostly located along this mile; if you reach Piccadilly's bright lights, you have gone too far
  • Sports: mostly difficult to access but try West Ham soccer game, accessible from tube station East Ham, walk a mile, relatively well-behaved fans.
  • Jazz?  Soho is still the place for evening life, mostly legitimate variety but some clubs in Soho are a bit naughty.
  • Ronnie Scott's jazz club is top rated, but I can't say I've been there.
  • Pizza Express's original location, in Soho, is a good jazz club -- the other locations serve great pizza in stylish surroundings.
  • Dining, ethnic foods?
  • For ethnic foods, close to the hotel on Southampton Row (and almost everywhere else) there are good Italian, Chinese, Indian and Pakistani restaurants.
  • Chinatown is where you would expect to find good Chinese, often with a Hong Kong flavour.
  • Art galleries and museums often have good cafeterias these days, at fair prices.
  • For English pub grub (food), try fish and chips, steak and kidney pie, quiche and chips, ploughman's lunch, and bangers and beans. Much improved in the last generation.  About £5 - 7 a meal, plus whatever you wash it down with.
  • The Pizza Express on Southampton Row is stylish and great quality, for about £9 - £10 a dinner.
  • Verdi's Italian restaurant on Southampton Row is good and traditional, similarly priced.
  • Tips?  Much cheaper than in US.  Normally just leave change -- and 12% service may be included in waiter-service restaurants.  Read the menu and bill carefully, lloking for 'service included'.
  • Other attractions possible, but about an hour out of London and non ICOT (on your own time and dollar):
  • Bletchley Park, codebreakers' museum, http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/, half an hour north west of London by train.
  • Hampton Court Palace, half an hour south west of London by train, brilliant if expensive ticket.
  • Cambridge university city , an hour northeast of London by train, absolutely gorgeous.
  • Duxford imperial war museum, about a 15  minute bus ride from Cambridge.  Spectacular collection of Battle of Britain aircraft.
  • Twickenham national rugby stadium, southwest of London (rugby fans are generally well behaved).

  • Tips on travel to UK:
  • gadgetry:
  • expect all door knobs, light switches and taps to turn the other way.
  • expect showers to be less lavish -- and taps more eccentric -- compared to the US.
  • hotels:
  • expect hotel rooms and beds to be tiny compared to the US (land is expensive, like Manhattan).
  • keep your hotel key card safe on your person -- it's easy to get locked out of your room.
  • continental breakfast is generally free, but hot food requires your booking receipt with "English Beakfast" stamped on it
  • traffic:
  • expect traffic to drive on the other side, in the other direction, and to be really rushed and crowded.
  • be really careful about crossing the roads -- they are the fourth most crowded in the world.
  • traffic lights go from amber to red; then to red & amber combined before green.
  • cross a road half way, and wait between the pedestrian bollards for the other side of the road to clear.
  • electrics:
  • electrical plugs in UK have three pins, contain a fuse and work on 220-250 volts -- you'll need a plug adaptor.
  • leave your high-powered hair dryer behind; converters overheat on heavy current, so buy one hairdryer locally and share it.
  • rechargers for cell phones, Palms and cameras work fine with a converter.
  • services:
  • Russell Square's northeast corner has tube station, post office and tourist gift shop within a minute's walk of Royal National Hotel.
  • post: lightweight letters and large format postcards cost 72p in 2006 to post to US, and will arrive in 5 working days.
  • postcards cost 10p to 30p, or 50p for fine art type, so shop around.
  • currency can be changed without commission at banks and post offices; buying and selling prices are posted.
  • avoid "bureaux de change", they're expensive.
  • the cheapest way to obtain pounds or euros is to use a cash machine (ATM) connected to the right network for your bank.  HSBC machines work with Regions Bank, for example.  Most work with Visa network.  They used to be free by law, but are now allowed to charge a fee for service, so read the screen carefully before you confirm the transaction.
  • small supermarkets, like Tesco's, are found in Bloomsbury.
  • The purchasing power parity prices in 2006 are about one pound to one dollar -- but the currency exchange rate of $1.90 to the pound makes everything almost twice as expensive.  So don't buy much.
  • Sandwich meals are about £4 and pub lunches (fish or pie and chips) about £6-7, with dinners about £10.
  • public museums are now mostly free again (hooray) and independent foundations just a few pounds -- and excellent guide books only £3-5, a great souvenir.
  • travel directions can be obtained from hotel concierge or friendly London bobby (police officer -- named after Sir Robert Peel, the creator of the police and later prime minister).
  • road crossing routes, pedestrian subway tunnels and barriers near tourist attractions are constantly changing.  For example, Parliament square (formerly via tunnel) is now open again to road crossing (hooray) but Parliamentary visiting is subjected to tight security and searches.  Tower of London plaza is now open (hooray) with no need to trample in puddles around the construction (double hooray).
  • Underground trains ("tube"):
  • Tube or underground is quick and easy to navigate, though you'll miss the sights above ground on the way.
  • tube stations and carriages have topological (rubber stretch geometry) full system maps and single line maps.
  • notches on the lines indicate stations that do not facilitate changing lines.
  • circles on the lines indicate stations that are network nodes: here you can change lines.
  • note the name and colour of the line, then the direction and the station at the end of the line.
  • some lines run parallel for several stops, then diverge.
  • if on the wrong line, look at line map above the door of your carriage; get off at the next circle node and change lines.
  • keep your travel card safe but away from other magnetic cards; if your travelcard becomes demagnetized (10% of them do) just show it to the attendant at the barrier and walk around.  During a quiet time, try to trade it in at the ticket office for a functioning card.
  • Covent garden tube is hugely popular in evenings with the young pub crowd.  You can avoid queues for the lifts there, by taking a ten minute walk from Leicester Square tube or Holborn tube.
  • Leicester Square tube is central to west end shows, and you can buy half-price, same-day show tickets just outside the station from any officially-licenced agent.  Cheap tickets in 2006 ran from £20 up to £64 (and I was very satisfied with tickets below £25 to Phantom, Chicago and Movin' Up!)  Generally London is much better value than Broadway, particularly for shows that originate in London.  "Les mis", Cats and Evita for examples have been better productions in London.
  • allow half an hour to get across central London by tube, more in rush hour or by bus.
  • buses:
  • buses give you plenty of scenery, but plan your route carefully in advance; they wend their way around London rather than driving straight routes as in Manhattan.
  • bus routes are numbered and bus stops around any public square are lettered, with local maps posted on the stops.
  • the top deck of a bus gives you great tourist views, but in 2006 these are due to be eliminated to comply with EU disability access laws.  The only double-deckers permitted will be on tourist routes.
  • Equable weather pattern:
  • wear tennis shoes or trainers; high heels will quickly break on cobblestones.
  • bring multiple, thin layers of clothes to allow for all weather; fleecy jacket needed in January and windbreaker with thin sweater in May.
  • around southern England in January, expect high temps average about 50F (range 40-60F) and in May average about 70F with range about 60-88F.
  • "Hot" in Britain is over 85F, and 90F is rare, even in July.
  • Room temperature in Europe is 68F, compared to 75F in USA; energy costs are about five times as high.  Therefore people tend to wear warmer clothes indoors and save water compared to the US.
  • although we have been miraculously dry on HC trips, expect rain any month in Britain.  Although the yearly average is only 25" (half of Montgomery's) it comes in frequent, light drizzle.  (Wales and Scotland, being more mountainous, are wetter, windier and cooler.)
  • January is dark and grey, May is light and grey; all year can be windy (windiest country in Europe, great for sailing and wind turbines).
  • Stonehenge before dawn in January is cold, wet and windy: wear everything you've got, including woolly hat.  In the afternoon in May it is cool and windy, and likely to be wet.  The path is only partly paved and partly grassy, so wear garden shoes.
  • for links, see Courses index, PSC 321 British Politics.