Sunday Check in 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 to spare, 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 After breakfast today we visit Buckingham Palace, and then the Palace of Westminster in the afternoon. Buckingham Palace is considered small by world standards, despite having 19 state rooms, 52 principal bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, and 78 bathrooms. Some of the carpets are as big as cricket fields, state rooms are the size of bus depots, cathedral–high corridors drip with Holbeins and Van Dykes, yet 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 Époque 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. Here's 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 her 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 eleventh–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 on the London Eye, or join our optional excursion to Richmond and Hampton Court Palace, at a cost of £19 per person. This price includes admission to the palace, the famous maze and gardens, plus a multi–language audio guide and costumed guided tour as well as coach transfer and a visit to Richmond.
Thursday 11th–century Windsor Castle has been home to monarchs for over 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. Whilst there we visit a magnificent four 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. Nine hundred years is a lot of history, and if you watched The White Queen on TV you'll know there was a Queen Elizabeth before Elizabeth I. Well, she's buried here in St George's Chapel, along with six other queens and eleven kings. The castle once also contained a siege catapult called Lady Gunhilda, which is thought to be the origin of the word 'gun'. There will also be some free time for you to look around the town before the coach transfers you back to the hotel in the late afternoon.
Friday One final breakfast and a free morning, then in the afternoon we will transfer you back to the airport for your return flight.