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Trip Report - 9 Days in the UK (w/ day trip to Paris)

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Baton Rouge...
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Trip Report - 9 Days in the UK (w/ day trip to Paris)

Okay, so we're back. I will join the myriad others who post trip reports here because I hope that someone may glean useful info from it, as I have from the many reports I've read. Thanks again to everyone for sharing your passion, time and knowledge with others. This forum helped to make our trip the success it was!

It truly was a wonderful trip. In hindsight, some things I’d do differently if I could do it over again:

• Confine ourselves to a narrower geographic area

• Build in more down time in the beginning of the trip

I know we were so advised, but what can I say? :)

Things I would do again:

• Purchase a GB Heritage Pass (although they didn’t allow us to skip ticket lines anywhere – perhaps just a misconception of mine – we still had to queue for tickets; we just didn’t have to pay for them. This was no problem for us because we didn’t encounter significant lines at any of the attractions we visited)

• Purchase BritRail passes – so easy to use; great for flexibility if traveling via train

• Definitely stay in Holiday Inn Express hotels – excellent value for money if budget is major concern and DH is scared by the term “B&B” - fearing I’m not sure what – maybe being surrounded by lacey, flowery things??? :)

Anyway, the report is below, and it's quite lengthy. I apologize in advance, but I gleaned useful tips from the minute details of others' posts, so I've included a few of those details...

Baton Rouge...
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1. Re: Trip Report - 9 Days in the UK (w/ day trip to Paris)

Thursday, Sept. 8 - Fly Northwest Airlines BTR-DTW-LGW.

Friday, Sept. 9

9:45 am - Arrive early at LGW after airsick flight (a distinct pleasure I've never before - or since:) - enjoyed). After snaking through immigration and joining up with my brother-in-law and his wife, the 4 of us boarded the Gatwick Express (our Britrail passes were our tickets). We arrived at Victoria station at 11:45.

We caught the tube to our Finchley Road hotel - Express by Holiday Inn - Swiss Cottage, which I highly recommend for its cleanliness, friendly staff, location and price. For more, please see my review of the hotel (coming soon).

Big Bus Tour:

We bought lunch at the nearby Sainsbury's and were on the Big Bus Tour at Baker St. for 1:00. We stayed on the red route with our live tour guide (none of the blue tour buses we saw had live guides) as far as Tower Hill, where we got off and joined a river cruise. It was great!

We strolled from Westminster to Victoria station, where we picked up the bus tour to Harrod's. We got off there for tea (knowing it was overpriced but some among us had never been and wanted to check the place out). Refreshing break considering the pouring rain outside :)

British Museum:

We then tubed to the British Museum, where we perused the Ancient Greek, Roman and Assyrian rooms before heading back to the hotel for supper and sleep.

Saturday, Sep. 10

Westminster Abbey:

We took the tube to Westminster then walked over to Westminster Abbey, arriving around 9:15. We bought tickets and enjoyed our self-guided tour. Upon emerging we noticed loads of police and several news vans and camera crews setting up across the street. Thinking we might be able to witness some important political moment (on a Saturday???), we made our way over to the barricades to enjoy this unplanned glimpse into Something Important.

Not a political speech, it turns out, but the filming of a few scenes from the upcoming Da Vinci Code movie!!! We lingered for about 45 minutes, watching as Ian McKellan, Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, Audrey Tautou & Jean Reno rehearsed and then shot a scene. A nice, unexpected thrill to kick off the trip!

The Park, the Palace & the Guards:

We then walked through St. James Park to the Horse Guards Parade to watch the end of the guard-changing ceremony there. We followed the horses to Buckingham Palace, where the guard-changing ceremony was just beginning. We strained to see for a few moments, but it was drizzling, so we headed for the Royal Mews. We used our GB Heritage Passes to get in, and we enjoyed seeing the animals, the coaches and the cars and learning a bit more about the royal family and some of the traditions associated therewith.

St. Paul's:

Our visit was followed by a hearty lunch at the nearby Bag O’ Nails pub, where we worked out what to do with the rest of the day. We decided to catch the tube from Victoria station to Bank to visit St. Paul’s…which turned out to be complicated due to the scheduled closure of the District/Circle lines and the unscheduled closure of the Oxford Circus tube station. But we persevered and it was well worth it.

Greenwich:

My brother-in-law the engineer wanted to stand on the Prime Meridian, so we caught the DLR to Cutty Sark station and trudged up the hill to the Royal Observatory. In hind sight, we probably should have just sought out supper and saved Greenwich for later when we could have done more, but we didn’t, so we headed back to the hotel, bought groceries and ice cream at Sainsbury’s and called it a night.

Sunday, Sept. 11 - Stonehenge & Bath

We were at the Waterloo rail station around 8:00 to catch the 8:20 train to Salisbury. We arrived just before 10:00 and caught the 10:00 #3 bus out to Stonehenge (10:25). Again using our GBHP’s to get in, we listened to the audio guides and took lots of pictures and were on the 11:05 bus back to Salisbury. It was raining, and we decided to catch the 11:54 train to Bath.

We arrived in Bath just before 13:00 and strolled leisurely to the Roman Baths. We again used our GBHP’s to enter and spent about 1 ½ hours touring the Baths. The weather had cleared and we traipsed around the city, snapping photos and shopping for a while. We were all tired from a few hectic days, so we caught a train back to London around 16:30. A very packed train. After dinner at Pizza Express, we turned in for the night.

Monday, Sept. 12 - Paris

We caught the 7:09 Eurostar to Paris via Lille and arrived at Gare du Nord at 10:59. We caught a taxi to the Eiffel Tower; walked to the Arc de Triomphe; strolled down the Champs-Elysées, where we bought lunch; spent a few hours in the Louvre (very crowded); walked to Notre Dame; then taxied back to Gare du Nord area, where we had crepes for supper and caught the 20:43 train back to London. A long day – and we thought it was worth it. Surprisingly, it felt like a leisurely day.

Tuesday, Sept. 13

Our last full day in London – we slept in a little and arrived at the Tower of London around 10:00. We had purchased our tickets in advance, so we went right in. Saw the Crown Jewels first then took a Beefeater tour with Derek – who was fabulous. We ate our pre-made sandwiches there in a courtyard – it was a glorious day. We left around 2:00 and strolled along the Thames for a while. We reserved seats on a 9:00 am train to Edinburgh. Then DH & I went to the British Library to see the highlights, and my in-laws went to Regent’s Park. We all met up for supper later at an Aussie pub near the hotel – Walkabouts.

Wednesday, Sept. 14

We caught the 9:00 train to Edinburgh via York. It was a beautiful ride, especially just before we arrived in Edinburgh. We caught a bus to the Premier Travel Inn – Lauriston Place then walked to Edinburgh Castle. We spent a few hours there (DH & I got the audio guides). We then popped into the Whisky Heritage Center (on the recommendation of DH’s cousin) and took the quick tour and a dram of whisky each before seeking out supper at a restaurant on the Royal Mile. Sorry – I know it’s ghastly but I don’t remember the name of the restaurant – I believe it may be part of a chain, but we didn’t realize that at the time. Supper was good, being inside was very nice, as the weather was windy and quite chilly.

Thursday, Sept. 15

DH & I slept late, bought breakfast at a Tollcross-area bakery, and caught the 15A bus to Rosslyn Chapel. Which was exactly the little gem I remembered from my 2001 trip. I enjoyed sharing the experience with my husband this time. We caught the next bus back to the city centre (having spent about 45 minutes at the chapel), bought lunch at a sandwich shop and caught the bus to the Royal Mile. We walked to the Palace and enjoyed the wonderful weather at the beautiful palace in its glorious environs.

After popping into an internet café, we just roamed around the Old Town before having dinner at the hotel and settling in early.

My in-laws saw the Palace in the morning then spent a lovely afternoon on Loch Lomond.

Friday, Sept. 16

We walked to the rail station and caught a 10:06 train to Carlisle, where we were planning to visit Carlisle Castle before heading into London. After our exposure to so much cold and wind, however, we were feeling a bit under the weather and none of us felt up to walking through more of it. We settled for lunch in the Carlisle city centre before catching a non-stop train to London Euston. We then tubed over to Victoria station, caught the Gatwick Express, and walked to the Premier Travel Inn near the North Terminal. We had supper at the hotel and settled in for our departures.

Saturday, Sept. 17

My in-laws were at the airport for 9:15 to catch their non-stop flight back to Houston. We arrived shortly thereafter to catch our LGW-DTW flight and learn that our DTW-New Orleans flight had been canceled. So we spent the night in Detroit. And we finally made it home early yesterday afternoon.

Debary
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2. Re: Trip Report - 9 Days in the UK (w/ day trip to Paris)

Wow, Britfan, my feet hurt just reading your report! I can't believe you did so much, especially on the first day. You must be in terrific shape.

I couldn't believe it when I read that you saw some filiming of the Da Vinci Code! We were right there at the Cabinet War Rooms from about 10:45 on! Right there and missed it. Darn. The most we could say was we saw Princess Anne being chauffered across the Westminster Bridge. Pales in comparison.

Thanks for posting, sounds like your good planning paid off.

Seattle
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3. Re: Trip Report - 9 Days in the UK (w/ day trip to Paris)

Britfan: Wow, you sure did a lot in such a short time! Will you be posting photos?

Salem, Oregon
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4. Re: Trip Report - 9 Days in the UK (w/ day trip to Paris)

(before I launch into the long report):

<<• Confine ourselves to a narrower geographic area>>

Yesssss!

Thumbprint. Magic word.

Salem, Oregon
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5. Re: Trip Report - 9 Days in the UK (w/ day trip to Paris)

Please note: this trip report is by brit travel fan, not britfan. I founded an organization called British Travel Fans, but because it's such a long name for a handle I shortened it to britfan for this forum. She said maybe that's where she picked up the name. I think she's my doppelganger. :)

(OK, to the long report.)

Baton Rouge...
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6. Re: Trip Report - 9 Days in the UK (w/ day trip to Paris)

Thanks for taking the time to read (or at least skim :) ) my report.

Our feet did hurt but only for a while. I wish I could say that I am in great shape (I suppose that after the trip I should be, but I failed to mention that a large part of my motivation for taking the trip was my addiction to all British snacks - sweets, dairy products, etc.) I think (hope) it all kinda balanced out :)

Sorry for the confusion re: brit travel fan vs. britfan. I shouldn't have picked the name, I guess, but I use britfan on other boards because I frequently describe myself as an Anglophile, but some people don't understand exactly what that means (fearing it's something akin to pedophile, I fear) so I decided that I'm a Britfan. The moniker was already taken on this board when I registered, but I didn't realize just how active Britfan is and that I might actually contribute also and thus cause confusion...

I apologize for the off-topic aside...

Baton Rouge...
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7. Re: Trip Report - 9 Days in the UK (w/ day trip to Paris)

Okay, forgot to reply to Lee B. - yes, I plan to post pictures, but they're all saved on my in-laws' laptop, and I'm waiting on the disk they're mailing me.

And, Britfan, I know...I've even read Susan Allen Toth's books and am familiar with her thumbprint theory, but I guess I'd forgotten how wearing it all can be. Also, when I travelled in Britain before, I was 18, and I hadn't planned much in advance, so there was a lot of built-in down time as the girl I was travelling with and I tried to figure out what we wanted to see and do...and we had longer and visited fewer places...ah, well, c'est la vie!

Planning in advance can lead to the tendency to overplan and overbook, though we were definitely flexible with our plans and willing to change things at a moment's notice...we knew what our priorities were, but I fear we had too many scattered too far for this brief trip...better luck next time, right? :)

Salem, Oregon
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8. Re: Trip Report - 9 Days in the UK (w/ day trip to Paris)

You really did pack a lot into your days, especially the day you went to Westminster. Is your husband a racehorse, too? Mine used to be, but he's slowed down a lot. You wouldn't believe what all we did in 4 days in London on our first trip! :)

It makes a big difference, I think, if you know what you're going to an attraction for. I notice that you went to 3 galleries in the British Museum. I think that makes a lot of sense. If you can't devote 3 or 4 hours to a museum, there's no reason you can't at least catch whatever gallery(ies) appeals to you most. The internet is a great asset in that regard.

Burbank
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9. Re: Trip Report - 9 Days in the UK (w/ day trip to Paris)

Thanks for your report..I was wondering if you may tell me what you paid for the round trip ticket to Paris and back..I had been looking at doing the same thing and was wondering if there was enough time in the day to cram a trip to Paris in..it looks like you did it!

Did you buy your tickets online?

Thanks

Cynthia

Raleigh, NC
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10. Re: Trip Report - 9 Days in the UK (w/ day trip to Paris)

Hi Brit_travel_fan, thanks for the report :) How much are the bus tours? Are the red buses double deckers?