Listening to your Google music using an iPhone while offline

I've been using Google Music (or Google Play) for a while now and really like the interface and functionality. Easy to share music from device to device, easy to upload - and it doesn't require any of the iTunes restrictions that I find so annoying.

Sadly - unless you have an Android powered smart phone, you can't listen to your Google music tunes while you are offline. You must be online and able to stream tunes. While getting ready for a flight to London I started looking for a way to listen to my google music tunes while i had no internet connection and found:

Melodies Pro - A Google Music Client
Melodies Pro

This $0.99 app for the iPhone allows you to quickly sync a playlist to your iPhone from your google music account. The tunes are then downloaded (with cover art and music details) right to your phone so you can listen off line. This transformed Google Music from streaming to something much better and more useful.

In practice I found it to be easy to use, and stable. On a flight back from London I was able to listen to tunes all the way home. Background playing works with no worries. I was able to modify/update the playlist from my phone via the web version of Google music - then the app simply updates and downloads the new songs added to the playlist.


Why you shouldn't go to London this year

I'm just back from a vacation to London with my daughter and while fresh in my mind I thought I'd post a few words of advice.

1. My overall suggestion regarding a trip to historic and beautiful London this summer? Don't go.

London is an amazing place full of history and things to do and see for all ages. Unfortunately you are unlikely to actually see any of these amazing things due to the crushing burden of fellow tourists from all corners of the earth. It took us literally 1.5 hours just to get through customs - and that was just the beginning...

Heathrow airport chaos damaging London's reputation, mayor says

Passengers face long delays at border-control desks in London's Heathrow and, with the Olympics coming up, the concerns are mounting.

2. If you've heard of it, stay away.

Simple rule. If you have heard of the tourist attraction, then don't go. We literally had to put our heads down and shove like we were trying to get onto a Japanese commuter rail just to walk the sidewalk on the way to the London Eye. On a Sunday afternoon (5:00pm). In the pouring rain. After I had already bought tickets online to avoid waiting...Then we waited in a 1/2 line (which was required to learn which line you were actually supposed to wait in). Then we were directed to the real line  - which was then 1 hour long. In the rain. Surrounded by thousands of other tourists - all pushing for their place in the


In the end, this was the best view we had of the London Eye. We left, with paid tickets in hand and ran for our life.

3. London is the land of lines (see definition above). 

Everything requires waiting. Want to ask the concierge about dinner plans? Line up. Want to use a restroom? Buy a subway ticket? Walk down the sidewalk? Get into Harrods? Wait, push and pray.

4. If you must go and must go to a tourist attraction - go as early as possible. 

In some cased, waiting in a 20 minute line (just to get in and stand on another line) is your best option. Find out opening times and get there immediately.

5. Bring an umbrella and good waterproof walking shoes. 

There is a lot of standing and walking and lots of rain. Bring good shoes, a raincoat and prepare to wear them both often.

6. Pack light and bring a large wallet.

Compared to London, New York City is a discount destination. Public transportation can be had inexpensively (buy all day Tube passes - best bargain to be had) but everything else is expensive. Attraction tickets, taxis, hotels, restaurants are all overpriced and once again... crowded.

If this was the London experience in April, I can only imagine the living hell that will greet visitors this summer when it actually gets busy...


Best way to get from Heathrow (LHR) to Watford Junction for the Harry Potter Studio Tour

I'm in the planning stages of a trip with my daughter to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford, England. As I've started gathering resources I thought I'd post them here in the hopes of saving the next parent a few hours of research...

1. Start by booking your studio tickets. These seems to sell fast and should be booked at the start of the planning process.


2. Now that you have your tickets, it is time to sort out how to get there from Heathrow. Although it is only about 20 miles, I've found that taxis in London can be both slow and very expensive (traffic). There are two public transport options that I've found.

a. Rail Service
It seems as though each ticket is about $40 and the trip takes roughly an hour. You can view schedule etc. on the national rail website

Getting to the train station from LHR is pretty easy - there are bus/shuttle services that will take you there and there are manned ticket stations where you can ask about tickets.

b. A better option (although I haven't taken it yet) seems to be the easy bus  - for a whopping $2.00 per person you can take a direct service no transfer bus from Heathrow straight to Watford.

Although a bus isn't as romantic as a train - the price and lack of transfer makes this a pretty appealing option...


The studio tour website says there is a free shuttle from the train station to the studio - I'll post the details after we've made the trek.

3. Book your evening stay in Watford
As we will be flying into London from the US, we'll be plenty tired by the end of the day - the tour is supposed to take 3 hours (we'll see...) so I think our best bet will be to stay in Watford proper. The best options for hotel can be found on trip advisor here:

We've chosen to stay at  Holiday Inn express.

4. Figure out how to get around before you get there.
For this I love google maps - particularly the street view.

View Larger Map

I strongly advise using the street view option to get the "lay of the land" before you go over - this makes it much less disorientating after you arrive. You can literally walk the route to your hotel before you even get there.

Good luck and enjoy your trip!