I posted this on Fodors a while back.
I want to thank everyone who gave me advice, tips, scenic drives, etc and let you know that I followed many of your suggestions, but still made this my own journey, which won't be to everyone's liking. Most of the vacation was hassle free and with terrific weather, but there were a few minor glitches(a car accident, a fight in Trafalgar Square, accidental stolen key, an unusual incident involving a pheasant and a gravestone, and sad news from home). My travel companion and I both truly loved England, and as you will see we were able to spend a great amount of time in the beautiful countryside. We will be returning in two years! Can't wait. This was mainly a trip of 2 or 3 nights in one area and then moving on. I know that this way of traveling is not everyone's cup of cream tea, but I loved Texasbookworms trip reports and she advised me to do my own thing. I did, and cannot express strongly enough in words how truly wonderful this vacation was for myself and my companion.
Also, I can write fairly well when I take my time, but this trip lasted almost a month and I would rather just get it written down quickly rather than to try and impress, so please forgive my errors.
Quick rundown of where we went:
Rye(out of the way but worth the drive)
with lots of charming places in between!
Our Hotels/Bed and Breakfasts(for those who want to read only the part of the trip report to see my opinion about a particular place to stay)
3 Abbey Green--Bath, Somerset
Sheepscombe House B and B--Snowshill, Cotswolds
The Queen's Head--Hawkshead, Lake District
Stone House Hotel--Hawes, North Yorkshire
Victoria Hotel--Robin Hood's Bay, North Yorkshire
Guy Fawkes Inn, York
Reviews for all Hotels/Inns have been posted here on Tripadvisor.
Arrived Heathrow at around 10 AM. Customs took literally an entire minute, and we were on our way to find a taxi. Not as tired as I expected we would be. We chose to spend this first day and night in London and then leave for East Sussex the next day and save more of London for the end of our trip.
Taxi took us to Rubens At the Palace and they allowed us to store our luggage but the room wasn't ready(we were too early for check in). The changing of the guard was nearly ready to begin so I grabbed my companion and we walked a good few hundred yards from The Rubens to take a peek(incredibly convenient location). This is my 3rd time in London but my companion's first time out of the US. It was crowded, lots of tourists, and some aggravating pushing and shoving(hope I didn't push anyone TOO hard!), but we were able to see from a good vantage point across the street, slightly elevated.
Back to the Rubens where they showed us our smallish but very nice room. The elevator was tiny and atmospheric, and my friend was like a child with a new toy! The Hotel feels very old world English(though most of the staff were Polish). Happy with The Rubens-gave a review on Tripadvisor.
Rested a bit, and decided to find Fish and Chips for a late lunch, and we sauntered across the street and turned left, and immediately found a pub and went inside. The food was terrible, the service was even worse and I wish I could remember the name--but it's visible from the Rubens across the street and to the left across another street. Also, it was not owned or managed by English speaking people and I'm not sure whether that makes a difference or not, but for the rest of the trip the Fish and Chips were terrific.
We then walked and walked and walked, taking in all of the sights in and around Westminster, and ending up in Trafalgar Square which was enormously crowded, loud, filthy, and violent that particular night(July 2nd) and it looked as though a festival had taken place. We literally observed 3 physical fights in fifteen minutes(I will be involved in one upon our return in 24 days). No one was terribly hurt, but it was the first time we had ever heard the word "Chav" on our trip---and not the last. Still not too sure exactly what that term means? Have an idea.
Ate Dinner at a terrific pub around the corner from Trafalgar Sq. and had Ploughman's Boards. We both loved them, and the beer. Long walk home to bed! Long flight was catching up with us.
I was kind of nervous about this day as it would be the first time I had ever driven on the left. We took a train from Victoria to Gatwick to pick up the car. It was through AutoEurope. The car was called a Vauxhall. We don't have them here in the states. I got in, sat for a bit, and then connected my Sat Nav that I had brought with me. Now is a good time to introduce you to our third travel partner---Simon--the voice of our Sat Nav. In time he became my best friend! and my worst enemy! A stormy relationship indeed!
Well, I turned the key, started her up, and off we went---right into a roundabout! I learned to love them after a few days, but on day one I dreaded every roundabout we approached. My brain and my actions were like two separate entities, and the 2 lane roundabouts caused some slight confusion. Anyway, we made it to the Motorway and it was a smooth, FAST drive from that point on. Wow, but the English DO drive quickly! I figured "what the hell" and joined in on the rat race. We made it to Rye by 11:30 that morning, and I found myself navigating up a narrow cobbled street(Mermaid St) to the guest parking behind The Mermaid Inn. Unbelievably, this was where I had my minor accident. The turn was very sharp, and a rather portly woman was standing immovably at the entrance leaving me very little room to maneuver. I asked her to move over just a little but was met with resistance, reluctance, and finally--regurgitation. She was either sick, hungover, or had simply eaten too much that particular morning, or year. My attempt to squeeze past her corpulent visage failed, and my car scraped the entrance wall. I continued driving on behind the Mermaid Inn, parked, and took a look at the damage. A dent and a long scrape. I chose not to inform AutoEurope until we dropped the car off in York. The woman then moved across the street.
Rye is an enchanting small town. So very old, with flowers, foliage, extremely tame wild birds everywhere, and very few people. We checked into the Mermaid and it was like stepping back into the 15th century. Creaky floors, secret staircases, wood paneling everywhere, and a labyrinth of corridors and public rooms. We loved the place! Our room was on the second and a half floor(best way to describe it) with high, beamed ceilings, and a view looking down to Mermaid St. We walked the entire town, feeling like we were in a postcard. Visited Lamb House(home of Henry James), Ypres Tower, and the Parish Church of St Mary. Went to the top(belfry) and then outside on a circular widows walk type of balcony which affords a terrific view over the town and landscape. Visually stunning. The cemetery is also one of the most beautiful I've seen, right in the center of town on a hill(as is the church) and clearly a place meant to be visited for reasons other than dead relatives. We met a kind elderly woman sitting on a bench in the cemetery, and she gave us a history of the place. This town had very few tourists while we were there, and it just seemed to be filled with nature. The seagulls, doves, rooks, blackbirds, and some sort of small brown cute bird were so very loud! They seemed to be everywhere, and were completely unafraid of humans. Everything was lush, and this is when my friend and I noticed a kind of mossy fragrance in the air. Clean, earthy, and rich. It never left us the entire trip. What is it? Some Dutch people we met later said they notice it every time they visit England.
The kind old woman(Eddie) instructed us to visit the Rye Pottery shop and purchase something to remember the town. I did, and even though it was expensive pottery, it was exquisite and worth the cost.
Late in the day we drove to Beachy Head and waded into the sea, and climbed the Down towards the lighthouse. A lavender sky was forming above the white, chalk cliffs. This was a truly incredible day filled with so much beauty and history. Weather was sunny all day with a temperature of about 68 degrees fahrenheit. We figured we were just lucky and the rest of the trip would never be able to match this place or this weather. We were wrong. I'm actually worried that I'm going to bore you readers with constant talk about how beautiful this was, or how magical that was, but it was how most of our trip unfolded.
Returned to Rye and were too late for Dinner at most places but an Indian restaurant was still open and I hate to confess this on top of the terrific day but it was some of the best Indian food we've ever eaten. I always ask for something as hot and spicy as they can make it and am usually wishing it were spicier, but this place gave exactly what I requested. Wish I could remember the name. I have receipts scattered about from every place we visited so if anyone really wants a name of a place just ask me and I'll look it up. Oh wait, I just remembered that it has the word "Ghandi" in it's name. Something like Ghandi Tandoori.
We seemed to be the last people awake in Rye, so Joey went up to the room and I walked through the town again. Wonderfully alone.
Rye deserved 2 nights, and I will come back again and explore Southeast England, the Downs, Brighton, and the many castles in the area. It was out of our way completely but I am so glad we decided to take the drive and see it anyway. Such a remarkable place and I would strongly recommend that anyone visiting there should stay at The Mermaid Inn.
Next: Bath and The Cotswolds.