Monday: From a morning pick–up in your local area we travel by comfortable coach to London, arriving in the early afternoon. The 4 star 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 can find an hour or so, there are frequent river boats from Tower Pier, just a few hundred yards from the hotel entrance.
Tuesday: After a full English breakfast we take you by coach to Buckingham Palace. Incredibly, with 19 state rooms, 52 principal bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, and 78 bathrooms, it 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. And nobody's changed it since.
In the afternoon it's time to visit the Palace of Westminster. 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 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: Following breakfast, you can either have time at leisure around London, or join our excursion to Richmond and Hampton Court Palace, at a cost of £19 per person. This 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: Thursday: After breakfast today we travel by coach to 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. You may like to visit St George's Chapel, which contains the tombs of 7 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: After breakfast there is still more free time at leisure in the capital until it's time to set off for home in the early to mid–afternoon.