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Feedback on a planned trip?

Hello all! I'm new to this forum, but I've spent several days searching and browsing through various posts.

I am currently planning a trip, and I would love any critique/feedback that any kind soul might wish to offer. We are planning as if travel will be back to "normal" 14 months from now (also, all adults are vaccinated, if that will be relevant), but of course we understand things may change.

The details:
Planning an early July 2022 trip to London, the Cotswolds, and Paris for 6 people. My parents (early 70's and active), me and my husband (early 40's), and our two girls who will be ages 12 and 9 at the time of the trip. My parents have traveled quite a bit (my dad is retired Navy). I spent a summer living in London as a student in 2002, but I have not been back to Europe since then. It will be the first trip to Europe for my husband and daughters.

Our primary focus for the trip is seeing the main sights, obviously, but also having a fun, family experience -- letting the girls experience and enjoy being in different countries is more important than ticking off every possible sight. They both do much better when given unstructured time outside, so I've tried to include that most days. My younger daughter's request for London was a "fancy tea party" and for Paris was to " be fancy and eat in the Eiffel Tower." My older daughter is very interested in history, animals, and the environment. Her only request so far is to "see flowers." My husband is willing to pretty much go with the flow, but he has requested that we see some gardens. My parents and I have seen most of our "must do's" in England and Paris already.

I'm trying very hard not to over plan and pack too much into each day. I also am going into the trip with the expectation that if we only get one thing on our itinerary accomplished in a day, then it will still be an awesome day. And we can always go back!

That said, here is what I am tentatively planning:

Day 1: Arrive in London (flight will likely arrive quite early in the morning)
Wander the city by foot
Possibly ride a hop on/hop off bus
Ride London Eye

Day 2: London
British Museum
Afternoon Tea at Kensington Palace or Wolseley
Harrods/other department stores to window shop

Day 3: London
Tower of London
Borough Market for picnic lunch
Enthusiasm permitting: St. Paul's or London Museum

Day 4: Cambridge
Possibly book a tour guide from London
Tour the town and 1 or 2 colleges
Punting Tour with student as guide

Day 5: London
Buckingham Palace (tour palace & gardens if open; otherwise see changing of the guard)
Churchill War Rooms

Day 6: travel to Cirencester via train/taxi or private hired car from London
Pick up rental car in Cirencester
Wander around Cirencester, ending at Corinium Museum
Browse the shops in Black Jack Street
Roman amphitheater

Day 7: Cotswolds
(If we are able to get tickets, tour Highgrove Gardens/have tea)
Avebury
Stonehenge
Enthusiasm permitting: Visit Hidcote Gardens or Blenheim Palace

Day 8: Warwick Castle
Explore Warwick Castle
Possibly visit Hidcote Gardens or Blenheim Palace on the way back

Day 9: Cotswolds
Drive north, then spend the day driving/hiking south
Lavender fields near Snowshill
Broadway Tower
Cotswold Farm Park
Upper Slaughter/Lower Slaughter
Bourton-on-the-Water
(return rental car)

Day 10: Travel to Paris
Private car to St. Pancras Station in London/Eurostar to Paris
Wander around the city, seeing Il de la Cite and Sainte-Chapelle
Cruise the Seine in the evening

Day 11: Paris
Eiffel Tower (hopefully get a lunch or afternoon tea reservation at Restaurant 58)
Louvre Museum

Day 12: Versailles

Day 13: Paris
Tuileries Garden/Musee d’Orsay
Montemarte/Sacre Couer

Day 14: Fly home from Paris

Thank you in advance!

Posted by
1489 posts

Sounds delightful! One thing I wanted to mention was that Bourton-on-the-Water has a Miniature Village (model of itself) - I’m guessing that would delight your daughters.

Posted by
4894 posts

Day 1 - try to stay on your feet and be outdoors. Maybe take a walking tour?

Day 2 - the British Museum is huge and you easily spend the whole day there so you need to be very selective and work out in advance what you want to see. Visit Liberty after the BM, as it’s more traditionally British than Harrods.

Day 5 - I think that the Changing of the Guard is overrated and it’s a lot of hanging around for ages beforehand.

Day 7 - if you include the excellent Hidcote, then you have in excess of 6 hours driving planned before you start seeing anything. I can easily spend 3+ hours here, even without any Covid restrictions. Stonehenge is the geographical outlier - you can get much closer to the stones at Avebury, so could you drop Stonehenge?

Day 8 - you would be rushed to fit in Warwick Castle and Hidcote into the same day.

Day 9 - again you are trying to cover a lot of ground and something may have to give.

Posted by
2 posts

Such helpful suggestions from everyone, thank you!

For replies/questions, I'll go day by day rather than poster by poster.

Day 1: I was debating skipping the London Eye, but I felt like the kids might enjoy it. I've been twice (and enjoyed it both times), but if people are cranky, it might be an easy thing to drop. Ideally I'd like to just do our own walking tour, then wander over there and ride the Eye if the kids seem interested. But I know that may not be possible any longer with needing advanced tickets.

Day 2: I agree Harrods is super touristy, but I guess I had it in my mind as a "must do." But my girls probably don't know or care about it (and, honestly, my little one's idea of perfect shopping is Smiggle (the British "Claire's Boutique," which we will take her to at some point). And if I could walk to Liberty after afternoon tea, that might just be simpler!

Day 3: Thank you for the tip about Borough Market being busy! And I will definitely look into the Columbia Road market on a Sunday! My daughter would love that!

Day 5: I have been debating the Changing of the Guard. I guess I need to talk to my family members and see if anyone sees that as a "must do." I've done it several times, and I'm not sure I've ever seen much more than the back of other tourists' heads.

Days 7-9: Thank you for the tip on how much driving that was! I had mapped it out, but I don't think I'd looked at everything all together. My main plan for the day is the two henges -- I planned to do both because I think the contrast would be fun for the kids. But doing Avebury first would allow us to skip Stonehenge if we feel it's unnecessary. I'll forget about driving all the way to Hidcote that day.

I may have to give up on Hidcote or Blenheim. I was hoping I could fit in a couple of hours at one of them after we had our "main activity" for the day, but perhaps that isn't feasible.

I had no idea that Day 9 seemed like too much! So grateful for forums like this because on the map it all looks so compact! I'll cut some of that, or move it around to a different day. Perhaps we could check out some of those small towns on the day we see Avebury and Stonehenge.

Is there anything you'd recommend doing after Warwick Castle, on the way back to a hotel in Cirencester? I was thinking that Warwick Castle would take us 3-4 hours, plus drive time that puts us at 6 hours. Maybe even just a fun town to stop at for dinner?

My goal was to only have 3 hotels for the trip. Packing up and moving 6 people for 1 night seems daunting. I was hoping that we could basically devote an entire day for traveling from Cirencester to Paris. One option would be to take a taxi to a train station in Kemble, a train from Kemble into London Paddington, then a taxi from Paddington to St Pancras, then the Eurostar to Paris. Alternatively, I was hoping to hire a private car/taxi to drive us from the hotel in Cirencester to St. Pancras in London -- essentially the same idea as hiring a car to drive you to an airport. Google tells me it's a 2 hour drive. Maybe I'm wrong and that isn't something that is possible?

Thanks in advance for any help/insight!!

Posted by
6082 posts

My two cents. You don't all have to stay together all the time, do you? You can split up and do different things as you see fit. and noting that energy levels are different. You are the expert on whether the Eye, Changing of the Guard, and other places you've already been, are worth the effort, so follow your instincts.

Posted by
653 posts

Hi Jessica,

You have already received some great suggestions. I have a few more for you to consider.

  • If you are renting a flat for the family, it might be nice to arrange for an early check-in. I have traveled with family to Europe and like you arrived early in the morning. I arranged to check-in early (had to pay for the extra night). It was well worth to extra $ to have a shower and place to rest if the kids are tired.
  • On your first day, if you can stay outside and moving, it will be easier to stay awake. I am usually too tired to plan, so taking a guided walk may be a good option. London Walks are some of my favorites and you don't need to book ahead. Here is the link:https://www.walks.com/. The other option is to explore some of London's best gardens. Kensington Palace has some nice gardens. There is also a list, including some hidden gems on visitlondon,com. Here is the link: https://www.visitlondon.com/things-to-do/openspace/garden/london-gardens.
  • British Museum is huge. I have been at least a dozen times and the best times I had was when I took a tour by the docents. The British Museum has a great family desk and options for tours, so something you might want to consider as well.
  • Borough's Market. I really love going there, but it is only open certain days for the full market and it can be a zoo. If you go, I recommend going early and planning to eat at the market. It is also a great place to get souvenirs. I also liked Smithfields market in East London. It has a mixture of boho arts/crafts along with food and if you love curry, you are a short walk from Brick Lane.
  • For Paris, I took my 12 & 15 year nephews a number of years ago. They had three favorite things--visiting the Arc de Triomphe and watching traffic, the Pompidou, and the Eiffel Tower. For the Louvre, I wish I had taken advantage of the family tours, I think it would have been a better experience.
  • Public transport is great in both London and Paris, so if you are comfortable, you can split up and do different activities during the day.

Hope you have a wonderful time.
Sandy

Posted by
242 posts

I think you are being very optimistic to try and add Blenheim Palace into either day 7 or day 8. A visit will take several hours. The house is stunning and the gardens and grounds are extensive. Entry is expensive and you can’t do it justice in the time available.

Day 8 - Warwick castle will take several hours. Make sure you are there when they fire the trebuchet! If you have time, The Lord Leycester Hospital is also well worth a visit with its wonderful collapsing timber frame construction and also has a very pleasant small garden behind it.

https://www.lordleycester.com/

Don’t miss St Mary’s Church in the centre of Warwick and the marvellous tombs of the Warwick family.

Also in Warwick are Hill Close gardens.

https://hillclosegardens.com/

These are a rare survival of Victorian gardens used by townsfolk who lived above their business and had backyards filled with workshops, wash house, privy and a stable. If they wanted to grow plants they had to rent a plot of land, called a detached plot, which was usually on the edge of the town.  In many ways these were the precursor of todays allotment.  The Hill Close Gardens in Warwick are a rare survivor of the once common detached plots found in most towns and cities but which have now disappeared under housing or have become overgrown and lost.

Families rented their garden for many years and grew flowers, vegetables and fruit. Some people even kept pigs and poultry here. Others had a lawn and the gardens were designed for leisure rather than food production for the family. Some even had a summer house.

The gardens have been lovingly restored and there are information boards with the history of the families who rented them. The gardens are surrounded by tall hedges which makes them feel secluded and prtivate, with a network of narrow paths giving access to the different gardens.

Each is very different and it is great fun to wander freely and explore the different gardens. There are seats scattered around the gardens and this is a wonderful place to sit on a warm summer’s day. Even though it is only a few minutes walk from the centre of Warwick (near the race course), it feels miles away in the countryside.

There are lots of pictures here.

http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/gardens/england/west_midlands/hill_close/index.html

This may be a better use of time than heading to Hidcote?

Posted by
19214 posts

Since you're planning to spend several nights in or near the Cotswolds, I encourage you to be flexible about what you do on each day. Wait to take a look at the weather. Your Cotswold village visits and walking will not be much fun on a rainy day, and you currently have that penciled in for the final day before heading to Paris, giving you no recovery opportunity if the weather gods don't smile on you.

There's an artisan-chocolate stand at Borough Market that as of 2019 was selling little bags of seconds (not quite right cosmetically) at a bargain price. They are quite a good deal.

The British Museum is extremely crowded, especially on rainy days (per my London Walks guide). The guide also said the Egyptian section is the most packed, and that was the case on the occasion of my 2019 visit. If you don't decide to take some sort of family tour, I highly recommend checking out the museum's website an identifying a few sections of interest--ideally not all of them on the ground floor (which in many museums seems to be busiest part).

In nice weather the line for the London Eye can be quite long, yet buying tickets ahead of time means guessing about the weather (unless you don't care), which is very difficult to predict. If you opt to wing it, it would be worth checking the Eye's website as you walk over to see whether you can snag tickets without too much delay.

In any weather you'll want to get your tickets for the Churchill War Rooms ahead of time. My warning about that site is that it has two parts: the war rooms themselves, where planning took place and critical decisions were made, and the Churchill Museum, a full-fledged museum about the great man's life. The war rooms are physically non-descript; there's an audio guide (don't remember whether there's an extra charge), but it doesn't take terribly long to see that area, which I remember as a bunch of cramped offices with the odd telephone, typewriter or cot. The hallways are narrow, and I can only hope they don't have to do any social distancing. I would consider the site very overpriced if not for the Churchill Museum, where I spent hours and wished for more time. Honestly, if you don't anticipate enjoying the Churchill Museum section, I'm not sure this is a great use of your time and money with two youngish children.

Edited to add: I don't think I've ever read anything encouraging about the Changing of the Guard on this forum, but here's some info that may be helpful: https://www.london-forever.com/changing-of-the-guard/#:~:text=Another%20alternative%20for%20those%20who%20want%20to%20attend,%28and%2010am%20on%20Sundays%29%20for%20approximately%2030%20minutes..

Refer to the fifth paragraph for a mention of the Horse Guards Parade, which has drawn positive comments here.

Posted by
2303 posts

I was hoping that we could basically devote an entire day for
traveling from Cirencester to Paris. One option would be to take a
taxi to a train station in Kemble, a train from Kemble into London
Paddington, then a taxi from Paddington to St Pancras, then the
Eurostar to Paris.

I would suggest the train, buy a ticket from Kemble to Paris. See https://www.seat61.com/european-travel-from-uk-regions.htm#buy-a-eurostar-through-ticket for more information. Or if Kemble is not available, maybe Swindon.

Alternatively, I was hoping to hire a private car/taxi to drive us
from the hotel in Cirencester to St. Pancras in London -- essentially
the same idea as hiring a car to drive you to an airport.

Except that airports are usually located outside cities with plenty of wide roads leading to them. St Pancras is in central London and the road there looks like this: https://goo.gl/maps/81xpGsGcfvGF3QnN8

Google tells me it's a 2 hour drive. Maybe I'm wrong and that isn't
something that is possible?

If Google says 2 hours, that probably means 2.5-3 hours in reality. And with London traffic, I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up taking 4 hours.

Posted by
993 posts

Westminster Abbey is definitely worth considering as well as The National Gallery.

Posted by
26087 posts

St Pancras is in central London and the road there looks like this:

That's a good image, Badger, but it doesn't show all the road works around Kings Cross/St Pancreas.

Posted by
134 posts

I have to agree with the above poster who cautioned that you may get sleepy on the Hop On Hop Off bus. My daughters and I did this on our arrival day in 2018, and we kept nodding off.

Westminster Abbey is stunningly beautiful, and if your daughter loves history, this is kind of the ultimate. Along with the Tower of London.

Posted by
4947 posts

We stayed in Chipping Campden at the Volunteer Inn and used it as a base to visit the Cotswolds, Oxford, Blenheim Palace and Stratford Upon Avon.

Warwick Castle is great for kids.

You didn't include Bath, it deserves a day.

Posted by
1925 posts
  • The traffic in London can be so frustrating that I question anyone who considers the Hop on/off bus. Depending on the health of your group, I'd consider walking around and using the Tube.
  • I'm glad to see you're considering the London Museum, personally I enjoyed it more than the British Museum, but that's because I love local history museums. 2-3 hours is what you'll need.
  • Warwick Castle. I loved it. The parking lot is quite small. We got there about half hour before opening and the lot was already full. We ended up at a pay lot at St Nicholas park which is about 10 minute walk back to the Castle. Bring change to pay. After you leave the castle spend some time wandering the town, there is a street with some great Tudor buildings.
  • One of my favourite short drives was between Upper and Lower Slaughter. It's a single track road and I'm not sure what I would have done if a car was coming the other way, but the tree canopy we drove through was incredible. My must-do list now includes a hike between the two Slaughters next time I'm in the area.
Posted by
15 posts

The Louvre is an exhausting, overwhelming experience. By all means, visit the courtyard and the see the building. But I would recommend visiting The L'Orangerie instead. It's less crowded and modest-sized. Monet's Waterlillies are wonderful and accessible to people of all ages. Your group could probably spend 20 minutes in that room alone, simply watching the way the changing light through the skylights plays upon the images of light in the paintings. Just a thought.

Posted by
2303 posts

That's a good image, Badger, but it doesn't show all the road works
around Kings Cross/St Pancras.

Thanks for that comment Nigel, I haven't been to that part of London in a couple of years, so I'm not up to date with the roadwork situation!