Maymester at Gray's Inn
Advice/Recommendations from 2007 Maymester Group
- Go eat at a restaurant called Nando's. Especially if you're living at the Colonnade flats or near the Russell Square Metro stop, many people in our group loved this restaurant in the Brunswick Shopping Centre that Professor Samuels recommended to us. Nando's is a South African/Portuguese place w/ great chicken/food. Ask Prof. Samuels to take you there if you can't find it. Go there even if you're not living near Colonnade. There are some other good places to eat at this Brunswick Shopping Centre, but Nando's is far and away the best place.
- Watch out for American bank fees when withdrawing cash from ATM's. I would recommend taking out cash as little as possible and therefore taking out cash in big amounts (but also pay attention to pickpockets! We had one instance of a person getting his wallet stolen.). I got charged at least $5 (by Bank of America) each time I took cash out from an ATM in Europe (London, Paris, Barcelona), which became quite expensive. However, after the trip was over, I found out that I could have used Barclay's Bank to withdraw money without fees for my Bank of America account. I wish I had known that beforehand. I probably wasted $200+ in fees ... .
- TRANSPORTION FROM AIRPORTS
This advice will be helpful even if you're NOT living in the same flats as we did:
If you are not time-pressed or have heavy bags, take the Tube to and from Heathrow. If you fly into Gatwick, the Tube is not an option, but a short train ride is, although when you are coming into town, a cab/car service may be a better option. Last year, 10 of us booked a bus when we arrived at Gatwick, and it was very convenient b/c we all had heavy bags, and they took us directly from the airport to where we needed to pick up the keys to the flats. I think it ended up costing us around $25 a piece.
The usual way to get into London from Gatwick is to take the train (the train station is in the airport * just follow the signs) to Victoria Station. From there you'd take a taxi to Russell Square (or wherever your flats will be located). You could take the Tube from Victoria to Russell Square Station, but the Tube is clumsy with luggage. But much cheaper than a taxi. If you take a taxi, be sure you are traveling with at least one other person, preferably two or three.
From Heathrow, the cheapest way to get into town is simply to take the Tube from Heathrow to Russell Square. Luggage is a bit of a pain, but it's a thrifty way to get into town. The taxi is simply too expensive (i.e. over $100), although if you can arrange a big group (or have no other choice b/c you're getting in too early in the morning or too late at night), it may be worth your while if your bag situation is simply too cumbersome for the Tube.
There are also car services. From Heathrow or Gatwick you can book a car service much cheaper than a taxi. Call or email to book. Car service from Gatwick to Russell Square is about 70 pounds. The car will hold 3 plus luggage. 70 divided by 3 is about 24 pounds, a bit more expensive than train/taxi but MUCH more convenient. Here are two reliable car services: Airport Express, email@example.com, or dial 011 44 870 44 30 500. Another is Gatwick Car Service, 011 44 208 866 8300. These services should work from Gatwick or Heathrow. You can find others on line.
If you do get a cab, put the bags in the car/van yourself, or the cabbie will charge a "handling fee."
- Storing bags: You can store bags at Heathrow if you're going to be traveling after the Maymester course is over and don't have a place to keep them while you're away. We used the "Excess Luggage" service at Heathrow, and it cost about 7 pounds (=$15) per bag per day.
- Shopping: The Oxford Circus area of town is great.
- Cell phones About 2/3 of the class got cell phones while they were in London. We all went to Carphone Warehouse and got a cheap cell phone, and incoming calls are usually free, and calls to America are quite cheap. Mine were only 5 pence/minute to call to the U.S. Skype is another option for calling the states. About 2 cents/min. Not as convenient as a cell (you need an internet connection and some form of headset thing for the computer) but it's very cheap. Everyone in my flat brought their laptop, and we all had internet connection. With Skype, you can call a number of countries for that price. You can get an actual phone number so you can receive calls, but you have to pay more (few dollars a month I think).
- Play/Theater tickets Go to the Leicester Square Tube stop and go to the center of the actual Leicester Square. I would suggest that you do NOT buy from the small shops that advertise tickets on the walk to Leicester Square as "Half-priced Tickets" – there's nothing wrong with these stores, but the ticket office in the building at the bottom of the square is usually going to have better seats and more plays. One side of the ticket office has tickets to matinees, the other side has tickets for evening shows – make sure to stand in the right line. Don't be scared if the line is long b/c it goes pretty fast, and this is the best place to get "half-priced" tickets.
-Play recommendations: Blood Brothers; Wicked.
- Bars, clubs, restaurants recommendations: Nando's restaurant (as previously mentioned); Knight's Templar pub – ask Profs. McWilliams and Samuels, and they can tell you where this place is; a Moroccan club called Bedouin was a class favorite; the bar/club called Tiger Tiger; Enterprise pub (at the corner of Red Lion and Theobald's Road?).
- Museums: British Museum; Museum of London; National Maritime Museum; The Sherlock Holmes Museum; Cartoon Museum; National Portrait Gallery; Tate Gallery; the National Gallery.