I just got back yesterday from a wonderful trip and need to thank all of those on Tripadvisor who helped sort out details, offered suggestions and calmed my frazzled nerves - it was so much fun...
Days 1 through 7 were part of a Globus tour Best of Southern England so days 3,4,5 & part of 6 will give people an idea of the pace on one of the bus tours....
Day 1 [April 22] [Mostly cloudy with some sunny breaks]
Arrived at Heathrow 10:00 via Air Canada and was met by the Globus reps for the included transfer to my hotel, Hilton London Metropole. My room wasn't ready [wasn't really expecting it to be] so they stored my luggage and I set off. Went to the tube station and picked up a Pay as You Go Oyster card with 20 pounds loaded on it.
I caught the 159 bus and sat on the upper deck to see things [Marble Arch, Horse Guards] as I headed towards the Southbank. Got off at the Westminster station, walked over Westminster bridge past Big Ben & Parliament buildings and the Southbank Lion. I then strolled & took pictures until I got to the Tate Modern - enjoyed the views and an iced tea at their restaurant and did a brief tour of some exhibits. Walking back towards the London Eye, I stopped at Gabriel's Wharf at the Pie Meister and had a delicious sausage roll. It was quite crowded around the "Eye" and the fastest carousel that I've ever seen. I walked back over Westminster Bridge and continued to St. Jame's Park to gaze in wonder at all the flowers [having come from snow up to my knees in my backyard in Saskatoon], crossed the blue bridge with wonderful views on opposite sides of Buckingham Palace and Horseguards, walked up Constitution Hill and then began the long walk that took me past the Wellington Monument, along Hyde Park, Marble Arch and at Edgware Road, I decided to just continue on to the hotel. I made it back to the hotel and got checked in by 5:45 and had good intentions of going to the Pub to meet Tripadvisor folks but took off my shoes - elevated my aching feet for a "minute" and woke up at 8:00. Sorry to have missed out on meeting people.
Day 2 [April 23] [Sunny day]
My morning started early [7:00] with an included buffet breakfast at the hotel - busy restaurant but good food - and an 8:00 included Highlights of London tour. This kind of gave me a taste of what the next few days would be like on the tour. We drove by a lot of sights but actually stopped for a visit to St. Paul's Cathedral and later a chance to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. I asked the guide if it would be okay to leave the tour at Buckingham Palace and walked through St. Jame's Park and headed to Waterloo Station to take the train to Hampton Court Palace. Everything went very smoothly, using the Oyster card for the rail trip and I loved the Palace. I joined the Historical Royal Palaces since I planned to see the Tower and Banqueting House and you get a 10% discount in the shops and restaurants. I spent the entire afternoon there enjoying a talk on the Great Vine and a lovely tea in the Tiltyard restaurant. After my return trip to London, I caught the 159 back to the hotel and spent an hour enjoying the sights of Regents street as we were stuck in traffic [the tube is definitely faster but I wasn't in a hurray anyways] Dinner was at the hotel and was quite good along with a gin & tonic
Day 3 [April 24] [cloudy with sunny breaks] [Globus traveling tour begins]
Early start to the day with luggage out by 7:15 and to be in the lobby at 7:45 to be on the coach by 8:00. To those who suggested on tripadvisor that the itinerary seemed a lot - you were right - this was the first of 3 jam packed days of bus travel with short stops in lovely locations that all needed more time to explore] I also confirmed that tour lingo of VISIT is the only time you actually get off the bus to wander around a bit. So... London - Oxford - Stratford upon Avon... Oxford was our lunch stop - we had a walking tour past some of the Colleges and the Radcliffe Camera and Bodleian Library to the covered market - then had an hour to have lunch and explore at our leisure. [I decided that the buffet English breakfasts would due me until dinner with a latte picked up on our lunch stops to allow for more time for exploration] We continued on to Stratford - upon Avon with an included tour in the Shakespeare museum. It was interesting and a lovely place. Our hotel the Holiday Inn was right across from the Shakespeare centre and so that was easy to visit in the early evening.
Day 4 [April 25] [sunny then cloudy then sunny]
Itinerary: Stratford - Broadway - Tintern Abbey and Bath [Optional excursion to Castle Combe]
Another busy day - we stopped in Broadway for about an hour - unfortunately not much was open but it was a beautiful area to walk around, then on to Tintern Abbey for an included Cream tea and a chance to visit the ruins [totally beautiful] before continuing over the Severn Bridge to Bath. We had the included tour of the Roman Baths and then an 1 1/2 to eat and explore. I managed to get to the Jane Austen museum, retrace steps taken 30 years ago by finding the railway station and I think the hotel that I stayed at and then spent 1/2 hour quietly at Bath Abbey. We were then taken to the Hilton Bath City and at 5:00 headed off to Castle Combe - a busy ending but totally beautiful and worth the extra time and effort.
Day 5 [April 26] [mostly cloudy a few sunny breaks and really windy]
We got a late start [wakeup call at 6:45 instead of 6:15] thanks to Stonehenge not opening until 9:30 :)
Stonehenge was interesting we did the tour before there were many people there - I imagine that later in the morning it would be jam packed because there were a lot of people there by the time our coach tour left. We then continued to Salisbury where I spent our entire 1 1/2 hour break at the Cathedral. I had decided at that point that I wasn't going to run for spot to spot and would just concentrate on what I could actually see in the 1 1/2. Salisbury Cathedral was one of my favourite visits from 30 years ago and it inspired the same feelings again. From Salsbury we continued along the countryside stopping in Arundel for a 20 minute rest stop and on to Brighton. A tour of the Pavilion was included and afterwards since it had turned sunny I spent time in the gardens between the Pavilion and a museum. It was beautiful there and a nice bit of a peaceful break. We then went to the Brighton Metropole which was the most disappointing hotel of the trip - 5 out of 17 rooms were changed mine included because of some mold. Our farewell dinner at the hotel was nice - and it was a nice bracing walk to the Pier - since the one across from the hotel had burned.
Day 6 [April 27] [sunny with cloud & a bit of rain]
Brighton- Royal Tunbridge Wells - Leeds Castle - London
We set off from Brighton to Royal Tunbridge Wells and had an hour to wander around - but again nothing was open - continued on to Leeds Castle [the reason I had chosen this particular tour] It was beautiful with the grounds/moat & castle - the grounds/park were gorgeous with Peacocks, swans, ducks... the castle tour itself was interesting and then I spent time in the gardens [not much was out due to the late spring but I imagine it is beautiful later in the year] I got a latte and spent the rest of my time sitting in the park by one of the lake areas just taking in the beauty. As we left, the area got busier so I was glad of our early start. We continued on to London arriving just before 3. The tour was technically over - my room wasn't ready [Hilton London Metropole] so I stored my luggage again and walked to the Wallace Collection. I spent the rest of the afternoon there and slowly took in parts of the exhibit. Later I walked back to the hotel and had dinner at there. I treated myself to a cocktail at the Minako at the Met lounge and enjoyed the wonderful view of London.
Day 7 [April 28] [cold and grey a few sunny moments]
Tour officially ended today, I slept in, had a leisurely included breakfast, watched people and eventually met up with one of my friends whom I would be staying with for the next week. We caught the 27 bus to Camden Town and walked to their place. After I settled in, we talked about what we should do for the day since my other friend [his wife] was at Hampton Court Palace for the day. We took a bus and went to explore the War Rooms and Churchill museum - ending up spending the entire afternoon at that incredible place. Caught the bus back to Camden town and later all had dinner at home.
So that was the first week for me my highlights were: my walk on the first day - tiring but the best way to see London; St. Paul's Cathedral, Castle Combe, Salisbury Cathedral, Leeds Castle, Wallace Collection & Churchill War rooms.
Things that were a bit of a miss: Brighton & the Royal Pavilion; Bath - Roman Baths; changing of the Guard [a lot of waiting about]
I also do not think that I will ever do a full coach tour again. I'm a bit too independent and although it gets you to the places you want to see, there is little control over how long you can spend at any location, also as many have mentioned on trip advisor so much time is spent on the bus. They may be perfect for some but no longer for me.
Part 2 of my trip report will have a very different tone