My wife and I recently returned from our first trip to England which included six days in london and three days travelling through other areas. I'd like to thank the members of this forum who contribute regularly, as I read these posts for several months before we left and gained much valuable information which made our trip almost trouble-free. I apologize for the length of this post as we did a lot.
Day 1 : Saturday: Arrived in Heathrow at 6:30 am after an overnight flight from Washington DC. I knew we'd be pretty beat, so I didn't plan much. We had previously arranged transportation to the Thistle Westminster by Hotelink, which was easy to find in Heathrow and very convenient. The Thistle Westminster itself is in a very nice location a block from the Victoria tube stop, and maybe a two block walk to Buckingham Palace. The hotel was clean, the staff were very helpful, and the room was nice, if a little worn. There are lots of places to eat around Victoria station. We headed immediately for Westminster Abbey, about a 10-15 min walk. Be sure to take the Verger tour, as you get to see the Shrine of Edward the Confessor and several king's and queen's tombs that the other people cannot access. Our guide was Maureen who was very knowledgable and explained everything. After this we did the Original Bus Tour and got a general feel for the city and where things were. By this time we were ready for sleep.
Day 2: Sunday: Tower of London - arrived early and got admitted in the first group. Since the Beefeater tours had not started yet, we went right for the Crown Jewels. No line at all. Then went back and joined a Beefeater tour. Those guys are delightful, and very amusing. We ate lunch in the cafe right next to the ticket booth, which was very good. The best fish and chips I had while there. Then we went to the Cabinet War Rooms, which were fascinating, and a must for any history buffs. Got some pictures of Parliament and Big Ben while we were there. In the evening we did the Jack The Ripper walk with Don Rumbelow. Found it very interesting, but not scary at all. He is rather graphic in some descriptions though, so it may not be appropriate for small children.
Day 3: Monday St. Paul's Cathedral. Walked up all 542 steps. My wife is a real trooper. The views are incredible from up there. I recommend making the hike if you can. In the afternoon, we went to the British Museum, and followed the guide Rick Steve's book. We didn't see the whole place, but the book takes you to the highlights. The trip is worth seeing the Rosetta Stone alone. By this time, our feet were complaining loudly.
Day 4: Took the Train from Paddington Station to Bath and checked in to Meinze's Waterside Inn. A nice place walking distance from the train station. They kept trying to get us to eat in their dining room, but there are many wonderful places to eat in Bath. We went to the Roman Baths, which were much more extensive than I thought they'd be. It's really a very nice museum. We saw the Abbey, but didn't go in. In the evening, we did the Bizarre Bath walk, which is basically a moving standup comedy routine with a little magic and very little about Bath, but extremely entertaining. Recommended if your looking for something to do in the evening.
Day 5: Took the Mad Max full day tour of Stonehenge, Avebury Circle, Lacock, and Castle Combe. Paul, our guide was wonderful, and described things well, but did not overwhelm us with information. The van is limited to 16 people, so it's a nice small group. It was a nice relaxing day, and our feet got some much needed rest.
Day 6: Took the train to Bristol, picked up our rental car, and did some genealogical research we had planned. It was nice to get the marriage cerificate of my wife's great-grandparents. The staff at the record's office were very helpful, and had it ready in two hours. Driving through the city was tense though, since I had not driven on that side of the road before. Then we drove to Thornbury Castle for the night. It's not cheap, but if you want one or two nights of luxury in a castle setting, this is the place. It's absolutely beautiful, the rooms are exquisite, and the staff are excellent. Dinner is formal, so bring appropriate clothing.
Day 7: Drove to Stratford Upon Avon and visited the Shakespeare House, and the nice exhibition. A must for any Shakespeare fans. The went on to Warwick Castle, which is what a castle should look like. There's a lot to do there. we drove back to Bath for night and stayed one night in the Lansdowne Grove hotel. It's in a unfortunate location on the side of a hill leading out of Bath, and a long walk to the city centre. The room was plain with a very high ceining, but comfortable. We opted to take a taxi back from the city instead of climbing that long hill.
Day 8: Drove back to London and returned the car. Went to the British Library which has a room full of literary treasures. It houses an excellent exhibit of Shakespeare, Handel, rare bibles, and even original Beatles songs. The place was almost empty, but well worth the visit. That evening stayed at the Thistle Kensington Gardens which was not as nice as the Thistle Westminster, but ok. It was a longer walk to the tube, and now, the Queensway station is closed for the next year. Food is available on Queensway, but that street is one of only two places where I felt uncomfortable about my wallet. The other being Picadilly Circus due to the crowds.
Day 9: Shakespeare's Globe Theater tour which was very nice, then walked back across the Milennium Bridge, and did Buckingham Palace in te afternoon.
Day 10: Took the Train from Waterloo station to Hampton Court Palace. A very interesting place with much history, and beautiful grounds. Highly recommended.
Thanks again to all on this forum who helped make our first trip abroad a very positive experience.