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Aviation nerd in London, England. What to see?

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Aviation nerd in London, England. What to see?

Old 20th Dec 2022, 08:44
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Remember that a 'day' in the UK in winter is about six hours long.
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Old 21st Dec 2022, 20:45
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Gatwick is awesome. Had a wonderful day there with the 2 1/2 year old daughter of one of my sons friends who my wife & I child minded for.

When I announced my early retirement to my wife she said "well you know we will be childminding Phoebe" to which I replied "over my dead body". I conceded, apart from marrying my wife, that was one of my best decisions. I have four sons all older than Phoebe's mother, none of them have produced us a grand child yet. Phoebe was the light of my retirement until Covid hit. We used to take her to all sorts of places, she was a sponge for knowledge and I know not why, loved aircraft especially the Red Arrows. At Gatwick we went into the Shackleton, she was up and over the spars in the blink of an eye and took up residence in the Captains seat, looking like she belonged there and knew what she was doing.

Before she turned two, I taught her how to use my pressure washer to clean cars, she loved that and later how to use a cordless drill and my DSLR. Sadly the epidemic put an end to all that because my wife is clinically extremely vulnerable.

Although I know that my eldest two boys will probably never have children, I remain hopeful that the younger two will.
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Old 21st Dec 2022, 21:26
  #63 (permalink)  
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If you're limited to public transport, within London,

- RAF Museum, Hendon
- Imperial War Museum, London
- Cabinet War Rooms
- Science Museum, aviation parts.

First's free, second and third are the same organisation - take out a year's membership and it'll pay for itself quickly enough. Fourth is also free. On which point, if you are able to grab a car, go North a little and try to do one or both of...

- Imperial War Museum, Duxford
- Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden.

Think of Duxford as a British Chino, it's very much one of the world's greatest aviation museums. It also incorporates the American Aviation Museum, which is impressive, but a load of stuff most Americans haven't had a chance to see as well.

Shuttleworth has a mindblowing collection of early aeroplanes, cars and motorbikes, a very large proportion in flying condition. They also do open workshop days between Christmas and New Year - check their website. I can't think of anywhere in the world similar.

Duxford's a (very) full day, Shuttleworth maybe half a day when things aren't flying. They're not far from each other.

Heading West, just about do-able by public transport you might also consider if it's a nice day, West London Aero Club at White Waltham. Huge amounts of history, and one of the biggest flying clubs in the UK, with a selection of fun aeroplanes if you don't mind paying (or catch one of us members when we're around and free). Aeroplanes from Super Cubs to a 2-seat Hurricane are available, although the latter is understandably very expensive.

G
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Old 22nd Dec 2022, 00:24
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He's here for a week, from America, over Christmas, with his family.

Admirable though many suggestions have been, a good number have been completely pointless unless he was here for a month, in summer.

Science Museum. Free, accessible by Underground, bus - or even foot depending on where the hotel is.
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Old 22nd Dec 2022, 18:03
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For future reference - since having a car when in London is pretty close to pointless - is Duxford readily accessible via public transit? Or is Uber/Lyft a viable option?
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Old 22nd Dec 2022, 18:17
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Whittlesford Station is 20 - 30 minutes walk from Duxford, but I've no idea how many trains stop there. It's far from being a teeming metropolis.
I believe there used to be dedicated buses from Cambridge railway station on airshow days, which I imagine will have many more trains, but I only know that from seeing signs as I drove past.

Duxford is the thick end of 50 miles from London, which I know is just around the corner by North American standards, but is a long way here. The cost of a taxi, of any sort, I suspect would be astronomical.
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Old 22nd Dec 2022, 18:56
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London Liverpool Street to Whittlesford takes about an hour and appears to be a half hourly weekday service. Various taxi firms in nearby Sawston.
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Old 22nd Dec 2022, 20:27
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If it wasn't closed for the winter, I was going to suggest Morayvia.
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Old 22nd Dec 2022, 20:57
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Public transport to Duxford is pie-in-the-sky even to us who understand the unusable volatility of our train 'system', leave alone an American visitor!
Car rental is the only practical way and is absolutely doable. 50 miles is a mere hop!
Duxford us the Jewel in the Crown exactly as Genghis said. A world class site all the better for hosting operational aircraft. For sheer concentration of interest I know no better, even Udvar Hazy which though stunning is simply too big and diverse to comprehend. Duxford is the distillation of all that to my mind.
The same is true for Old Warden, but in even more so for castor-oilers as it is a genuinely unique global asset. Old Rhinebeck is the only competitor and there are not many aviation sites I can think of (in fact this is the only one) that absolutely trumps (oops - sorry for cussin') anything Statside - and then by a country mile. OW stuffs the lot - it is a flying museum literally unique on a Global scale.
You'll see nothing much at Duxford that you can't see in the USA though it might take several thousad miles of travel to do so, but Old Warden? You'd scour the world and not see them all.
It all depends on what floats your boat, WW2 and swift metal or Bleriots, linen and castor oil up to the original Comet and Mew-Gull. They are really best done as a series.
Of the in-London museums only the Science Museum really scores, and despite many interesting exhibits the collection is necessarily small (as it is in cerntre-ville) but is appallingly badly captioned and described. If you don't already know what you are looking at you'll learn next to nothing from the briefest of banal and infantalised notes provided.

This is (unless it's much changed) along the lines of "This the Apollo 14 Space Capsule. It was called Kitty Hawk. It carried the third crew to land on the moon" and that's all you get!
A National Disgrace imho.

The Imperial War Museum is the other National Disgrace. 85% of the content is WW1 trench warfare, mayne 10% RAF with about three or four aircraft on display and 5% Northern Ireland and the Falklands. You could do that museum from end to end and apart from the (incongrouous under the circumstances) big rifles out front be quite literally unaware the UK ever had a Navy...

Do Duxford and Old Warden if there is time. They are our two finest and closest unless you go to Cosford to see how we whupped the USA (and how!) for 15 years or so in early experimental jets until we lost out cojones...
Look it up, eh?

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Old 22nd Dec 2022, 23:19
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Yet again... There's at best a couple of days, and it's winter.
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Old 23rd Dec 2022, 04:01
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oicur12,

I hope you enjoy your trip to the UK. Please do tell us which location, from the plethora of advice offered, you selected and what you thought of it.
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Old 23rd Dec 2022, 04:35
  #72 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by DHfan
Yet again... There's at best a couple of days, and it's winter.
Indeed.

With the very best will in the world, Duxford, outstanding though it is, really isn't feasible....let's be honest . Getting there in daylight, ok, not too bad, off peak...getting back, at night, on the M11 / rush hour then having to contend with the North Circular...no way, and certainly not for a visitor to the UK.

I've long thought Duxford's lack of public transport access is the downside to visiting an otherwise absorbing site.

Cosford ?....the same really, True, it is directly accessible by rail, however, as well as the usual chaos of travelling in the UK over the festive season, there's a few additional hiccups this year. The OP is here to enjoy himself, and take back some happy memories.....being stranded at say, Wolverhampton with the anything but scenic views from the station, or at the shopping mall that doubles as a railway station called Birmingham New Street wouldn't be a happy memory.

As others have said, he should stick to the London area only, use the Tube / walk / bus.....please, don't even think about driving or getting a taxi, the congestion and costs will empty his bank balance very rapidly.

We look forward however, to the OP's final choice for the day and how he found getting around.
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Old 23rd Dec 2022, 08:40
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Originally Posted by Krystal n chips
We look forward however, to the OP's final choice for the day and how he found getting around.
Yes, do hope the OP reports back & tells us a little of his adventures.....!!
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Old 23rd Dec 2022, 09:46
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Having rented cars in the UK over these past few months by necessity, unless you have won the lottery recently I wouldn't consider this to be viable!!
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Old 23rd Dec 2022, 15:40
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This recommendation will be of little use to the OP, but I thought it worth the mention as a spot well worth the visit should one's travels take them near Cambridge. "The Eagle" in Cambridge is a very charming pub with some wonderful history. "During World War II, The Eagle was frequented by RAF and American airmen who, during their downtime in between airstrikes, drank and socialized here. At some point during the war, the military guests began using candles and petrol lighters to burn their names, squadron numbers and other doodles onto the ceiling."

There is, smudged onto the ceiling, the outline of a woman. The barmaid was purportedly very "friendly" with the aircrew that visited during the war. One night, she was hoisted up to the ceiling while her figure was smudged onto the ceiling.

Wikipedia - The Eagle Cambridge



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Old 27th Dec 2022, 16:34
  #76 (permalink)  
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Greetings and thanks very much for the advice, it was very helpful.

We just arrived home after a busy week in London with amazing weather, cold but manageable and really only minor rain periods that didn't stop the tourist activities.

Like all short vacations, my intentions were way too ambitious considering a little jet lag for the first several days however I did manage to see the Churchill War Rooms and the aviation section of the Science Museum.

Both thoroughly enjoyable and I was really impressed with the Science Center.

It turns out a former colleague was in town for a 737 course and we decided to head up to Duxford on Saturday........however it was closed and the mission diverted to lunch and a bottle of Rioja.

Much time was spent enjoying the pub culture, interesting beers and awesome pies or bangers and mash. Delightful.

Some fancy tea and scones in Liberty and an amazing beef wellington at Fortnum and Mason.

I did manage a little aviation photography on the brief taxi out in Heathrow and I will attach some pics.



Cheers all, Im off to find an authentic English pub here in CA.
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Old 27th Dec 2022, 16:37
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Last edited by oicur12.again; 27th Dec 2022 at 16:39. Reason: not secure
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Old 27th Dec 2022, 16:41
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Old 27th Dec 2022, 16:44
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Old 28th Dec 2022, 09:40
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Glad you enjoyed your trip to London and surrounds and managed to keep away from the shopping expeditions ;-) As always, plans and reality on the day can differ, but it sounds like you managed to do alright with what was available. Our pubs, especially the older traditional ones really are a treasure not often fully appreciated by the citizens, until they've been turned into a theme pub, or pulled down to make way for 'luxury flats'. Glad you were able to enjoy this somewhat unique British fixture and some traditional fare as well. You should come back in the summer!

Nice clear photos, even more impressive if shot from inside the cabin.
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