Sunday: Meet up at your chosen airport for your flight to London, where on arrival we will transfer you to the 4 star Tower Guoman Hotel for check in and free time before the first of five nights stay. The Tower Guoman hotel is located right in the heart of London on the banks of the River Thames, next to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. If you’ve an hour or so, there are frequent river boats from Tower Pier, just a few hundred yards from the hotel entrance.
Monday: Ease yourself in slowly with a free day in London, or see some sights. Ten of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK are in London, mostly free, and within a mile or two of each other. Then there are the Science, the V&A, the Natural History, the British and the Imperial War Museums. The first three of these are right next to each other, and the others are just a few tube stops away. And they’re all free entry. Or a more energetic challenge is to walk the Monopoly Board of famous place names including Piccadilly, Pall Mall, Oxford Street, Leicester Square and the Angel, Islington, plus all the stations.
Tuesday: Incredibly, with 19 state rooms, 52 principal bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, and 78 bathrooms, Buckingham Palace is considered small by world standards. Carpets as big as cricket fields, state rooms the size of bus depots, cathedral-high corridors dripping with Holbeins and Van Dykes, this was nevertheless a family house, and a happy one too, full of song and parties, until the day Prince Albert died. Then Queen Victoria shuttered herself and the Palace away in sorrow and perpetual mourning. At last, in 1901, Edward VII and his fashionable Marlborough Set friends brought joie de vivre back to Buckingham Palace, and had the whole place done out in the latest Belle Epoque colours, gold, cream, more gold, a riot of reds and pinks, and still more gold. Probably not your taste but still, it’s the ultimate show home, and an amazing place to visit.
Everyone knows what the Houses of Parliament look like – from the outside. This afternoon is your chance to see SW1A 0AA as only MPs normally see it, from the inside. Walk the same halls and corridors as the Prime Minister under the stony gaze of his marble-statued forbears. Explore the august committee rooms overlooking the Thames, where once the noxious ‘Great Stink’ made government work impossible and forced legislation to clean up the river. Visit 11th century Westminster Hall, built by King William Rufus who demanded that it should be huge in order to impress the Saxon peasants (and then complained it wasn’t big enough). If politics seems small on the TV, it’s positively overpowering in real life as you stand in the House of Commons itself, scene of the most momentous and dramatic debates of modern times
Wednesday: Today you can either amuse yourself around London, perhaps going to the Tower of London or the London Eye, or come with us to Greenwich, home of GMT and London’s naval history. The place has a fishing village feel to it, with small streets, shops and little pubs with sailing themes, and the newly-restored Cutty Sark parked in the middle of the main square. But it’s also got neo-classical grandeur in the form of the vast Maritime Museum. If you like model sailing ships you’ll never want to leave. Trek up the hill and see the little panelled rooms of Christopher Wren’s Royal Observatory where John Flamstead catalogued 3,000 stars and enraged Newton by not divulging his data. Here you can also see John Harrison’s ingenious sea clocks, famous from the novel Longitude, and the largest refracting telescope in Britain.
Thursday: We visit a magnificent 4 storey Edwardian mansion, beautifully furnished, with electric chandeliers, lifts, flushable toilets, a secret garden, a wine cellar, and a library with 200 printed volumes specially written for it by Hardy, Kipling, JM Barrie and Conan Doyle. Yes, you guessed, it’s a doll’s house, built by Sir Edwin Lutyens for Queen Mary, and you’ll love the location too – Windsor Castle. This 11th century property has been home to monarchs for 900 years and is the Queen’s favourite residence, with 500 staff, 1,000 rooms and more gilt, velvet and Old Masters than you can shake a tiara at. Did you know there was a Queen Elizabeth before Elizabeth the First? Well, she’s buried in St George’s Chapel, along with 6 other queens and 11 kings. The castle once also contained a siege catapult called Lady Gunhilda, which is thought to be the origin of the word ‘gun’.
Friday: Still more free time at leisure in the capital, before we transfer you back to the airport for your return flight.