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London and ?? in March/April?

Not saying that it can happen - all depending on Canadian government's decision on quarantine upon return; or even work's decision on quarantine upon return; however, London is the only European city I can fly non-stop from my home town. (which is my preference in the current viral state)
It has always been an interest, but I have yet to visit any of UK except for a short day trip between Heathrow and Southampton pre-cruise.
It isn't the greatest time of year for weather, but it straddles our fiscal year and vacations. I could stretch travel to 3 weeks this way. I had great travel plans to rebook the cruise I missed in April for next April, but that is looking like a non-starter. So I am looking at plan B and C that 'might' have a chance of happening.
From London, I am open to elsewhere that might be appropriate for the season. I love museums and art galleries, so expect there to be a lot of inside days wherever I am. I hope there will be Spring gardens available as well - for those more sunny days. I expect 10 days wouldn't be too long, but where else would be appropriate for this time of year? For what it is worth, my grandfather emigrated from Aberdeen but I am not sure it requires a distance train to fill the rest of the time slot. Though I have visited Paris once before, I have also considered it to be an acceptable Winter/early Spring option - if one can go to France from UK at that time, of course.
I am not inclined to drive, but if they run, could be interested in a small group 'stately homes and gardens' type tour - or train itinerary. I always thought I would spend extended time in May or June and utilize a National Trust membership, but not sure that much is open in my time frame.
Recommendations or thoughts very much appreciated.
Edit: I am a bird watcher, and realize this might be early migration period - in which case that could fill a few days too.

Posted by
2790 posts

Since you love museums, York. Someone on this forum had a link to a somewhat expensive but not terrible, company that does "stately homes and gardens" type tour, but probably not that early in the year. It was countryliving.com

Posted by
182 posts

You mention Paris, and that was my first thought - it’s lovely any time of year, and has loads of indoor things to see and do. If you’d rather go somewhere different, consider Amsterdam - you can now take the Eurostar to Amsterdam from London which makes it an easy companion. Lots of museums and galleries and house museums.

If you wanted to stick in England, I like Oxford, Bath, and York for museums/sightseeing.

Posted by
2045 posts

They had a series on PBS not too long ago called “an American aristocrat’s guide to great estates”. It was 6 Shows and each Manor House was interesting. They all give tours, but not all are open year round. She drove to all places but public transportation might be available. I only watched the shows, no research yet.

Posted by
760 posts

I have been to London in March many times. It's a good time of year to be there. In fact I had a trip planned this past March.I was scheduled to depart for London on March 12, 2020. We all know what happened then.

There are so many day trips you can do from London that you could spend three weeks easily. Most people would suggest you break it up and spend some time in the countryside or other cities. The trip I didn't take this past March was mostly London but a few days in York. York is a bit far for a day trip and has enough to keep you buys for a few days. But good options for day trips from London include: Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, Dover, Canterbury, Salisbury, Brighton, Arundel (Castle and town), Rochester (Castle and town). All of those easily done by train. The Cotswolds are best by a tour if you don't want to rent a car. The great thing about a long stay in London with a lot of day trips is you can do the day trips on nice days and stay in London and do museums on rainy days.

But if you have a whole three weeks I'd split the time and go to Paris for some of it. Or Amsterdam. As others said, both of those are easily reached from London without taking another flight.

Posted by
3789 posts

Thanks. I will admit, I am not a fan of Amsterdam, but then my last recent visits were just long layovers from Africa, and Amsterdam arriving at the train station at 7 a.m. is not a pretty walk - at least until they get the streets hosed down after the revelers :-( however, April may mean Kugenhoff - for real(compared to virtual) this time.
Barbara, maybe I can find it via YouTube, but I don't have TV, so no more PBS...and we can't access it from Canada online :-(
Oh, and does anyone have a recommendation for London location to stay? Maybe somewhere near a park? (birds love parks). I have no idea how far out from City of London I want to consider. Thanks

Posted by
18897 posts

On my three most recent trips (all of them long), I spent 10 days, 12 days and 14 days in London. I took only one day-trip. You will have absolutely no trouble occupying yourself even if you spend all your time in the city. Until you've been inside them, it's difficult to grasp how large some of the museums are. I've still only barely started on the British Museum and haven't crossed the threshold of the Museum of London. That's because it took me so long to see the V&A, Imperial War Museum, National Gallery, Tate Modern, etc.

Much time can be spent taking walking tours offered by London Walks. The London tours cost only 10 GBP (a bit less if you buy a discount card or are a senior) and operate on a just-show-up basis, which is ideal given the unpredictable nature of London's weather.

I usually strongly discourage people from staying in London and taking a bunch of day trips, because London hotel rates are comparatively high. However, for an early-spring trip that approach is worth serious consideration. That would allow you to make day-trip decisions based on the weather, though I'd recommend researching transportation costs carefully, because some rail trips might be painfully expensive for tickets not purchased well in advance. For destinations reachable by bus, there's unlikely to be a significant price penalty for buying a ticket late.

Other cities/towns with multiple and/or unusually good museums include Oxford, Cambridge, Bath and Norwich. I wouldn't day-trip to any of those from London, because I think you'd have insufficient time to take in all the sights of interest to you.

There are small-group (van) day-trips to the Cotswolds offered from both Bath and Oxford in high season; I don'r know anything about the tour schedules in March and April or what the villages and countryside look like at that time of year.

I took some day-trips to attractive small towns while I was staying in Cambridge and Norwich, but I was there in August.

Posted by
18897 posts

In terms of where to stay in London, for a museum-lover's first trip I'd recommend staying within the area circumscribed by the Circle Underground line, and I'd want to be a short walk from one of the stations, ideally a station served by at least two lines since the need to transfer adds to travel time. If you work up a list of day-trips you might like to take, you can take into consideration which of the many local train stations you may need to get to. A theatre-lover would probably prefer to be within walking distance of the theatre district, though I think that's a fairly expensive area for hotels.

The Premier Inn chain (well-priced business hotels) has locations all over the city. A look at its website will give you an idea of how hotel rates vary by neighborhood. The PI Hub hotels are a bit less expensive; I believe the rooms are smaller. (I'm not suggesting you need to stay at a PI; the hotels are well-run but lacking in local character.)

Posted by
1865 posts

I really liked Bath and would recommend it for an overnight trip. I enjoyed the Roman Baths-the audio guide was very helpful. Bath also has a fashion museum-it's not my thing, but my wife and Mother-in-Law really liked it and it was even an interesting way for me to pass an hour. There is also a free walking tour of Bath that leaves outside the the Baths a couple of times a day that was worth the time.

We were supposed to go to York in September so I can't give any recommendations from experience but I was interested in going there to trace my Viking roots. Opinions on the Jorvik museum seem to be love it or hate it. The Yorkshire Museum apparently has a botanical garden, it wasn't on my radar though. I did get several recommendations to visit the National Railway Museum.

Hampton Court Palace was a very close second to the Tower of London as my favourite site in England. It's an easy day trip via train from London. We stayed in Covent Garden which is a very lively theatre district in London, but honestly, if my wife or daughter were to go on a solo trip to London, I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable with them staying there. We always felt safe, but it is busy with quite a few drunks on the weekends. I saw a travel show about Hampstead Heath which is a park in north London. I didn't make it that far but it might be a location worth investigating.

Here's a link to a trip report I posted about my trip. I wasn't a solo traveler and we were on a mission to visit family as well as hit some bucket list items, but there may be some nuggests you can pull from my visit that interest you. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/trip-report-london-to-bath-to-the-cotswolds

Posted by
3789 posts

Some good advice continues to come. Thanks all.

Allan, I sew and have done costume and clothing history as a volunteer and college student, so the Fashion Museum sounds interesting indeed. I have that pegged as my first section to visit at the V&A...I can hardly wait.
acraven, I used Premier Inns around Heathrow and in Southampton. Thanks for reminding me of this...though to be honest, I would most likely look for a well placed short let (with lift). I found the Circle subway route. I was thinking around Kensington Gardens, but maybe I need to go a little further south to get more subway access. As you say, I could most likely easily spend the entire time in London with short forays out from there.

Aside from here, I am asking London birdy questions from the right forums, and they have group day trips (if we ever return to that), which would let someone else get me to where the birds are migrating rather than me getting myself there.

I hadn't even thought of the theatre. Who knows when they will be returning, but I sure enjoyed Andrew Lloyd Webber's free weekend shows on YouTube these past months. There has been a lot of London virtual theatre, but a lot was too 'off Broadway' for my energy. I guess I just need to see where that is on the map and see what I can find near it.

Posted by
288 posts

Hi Maria, how lovely to ponder ideas. We stayed at number63 . It is very convenient to the tube and right across the street from Hyde park. Very reasonable prices. Good breakfast, but not fancy
The Victoria and albert fashion was a favourite of mine too and it was fairly close.

I keep trying to think where you would find some warmth after a long winter. Would south coast i wonder? Torquay etc

Posted by
18897 posts

I imagine the Channel Islands would be a bit warmer and sunnier than the mainland, but if you're going to the bother of flying somewhere, honestly, I'd probanly pick Andalucia. Plenty of flights from London to Seville, I assume

Posted by
617 posts

With 3 weeks for London + ???, you could go almost anywhere in Europe. But if you want simple, no-connection train itineraries, it would either be:

  • Edinburgh (and/or the Highlands) by the Caledonian sleeper. Leave London by train in the evening, sleep and eat on board, and arrive in Scotland in the morning.
  • Paris or Brussels by Eurostar.
Posted by
3789 posts

thanks for the updates.

I had a lovely 3 weeks in Spain (mostly Andalucia) in 2017 and I would like to avoid extra flights. I will admit, that I have had the overnight train to Scotland on my radar for 'whenever', but even Scotland is looking farther than I may need to go. There is looking to be lots within short train ride from London. As I haven't seen any of it, I guess the UK world is my oyster.
I don't need 'warm', but thanks for considering that Lisa. Channel Islands may be lovely. I do wonder, however, if they will be as limited in guests as they are now? Not that long ago, they were only allowing people from Isle of Man as both sets of islands were pretty Covid free. I can keep an eye on that.
I will review the lodging options. Though I will be honest that for this solo traveler, I still try to seek out apartments for $100Cdn. I realize that won't work well for London, but I would like as close as I can to that sort of pricing. And where ever I stay has to have a reading chair - which makes budget hotels almost an impossibility.

Posted by
389 posts

Not being much of a twitcher I’ve just browsed this website for bird watching locations but seems March may not be the best time https://www.birdspot.co.uk/days-out/10-uk-bird-watching-spots
Slimbridge is in the Cotswolds, but most of the other sites are near the coast. Dorset has some lovely coast and wildlife including Brownsea Island and shouldn’t be busy unless there is a heatwave! You can see Puffins on Skomer if you head over to West Wales which is very beautiful but not best served by public transport

Posted by
3789 posts

ryanandgill, thanks for checking this out for me. I actually did read that article yesterday. I guess it is near the top of Google searches :-) I also am members of some birding forums - one that originated in UK, so I have been getting some assistance from them on what is closer to London. I was looking at late March, into April, which brings me better luck. And then of course, there are lots of birds that don't migrate and many of them would be new to me....thus the reason to consider staying near a park.

Slightly off topic, but since 'finding' birding, it has been a great enhancement to my solo travel. Hobbies and finding common interests with locals gives you a window into their lives and that 'local' perspective Rick talks about and many of us aspire to reach.

Posted by
1639 posts

hey hey MariaF
just to give you a few options:
cross-pollinate.com
aladyinlondon.com
sussexbloggers.com

tripsavvy.com/london
freetoursbyfoot.com/london
streetsensations.com
hope this gives you some insight of things to see do and stay. we loved london, so much to see and do. next time i would travel outside of london to see more. enjoy your time when you go.
aloha

Posted by
3409 posts

I stayed for a week at the end of March, beginning of April two years ago and it was a great time to visit London.
I stayed at the Premier Inn Waterloo and found the location quite good for proximity to the river and transportation options.

You have enough time to really think through what some of the things you might be interested in are and just how far you would be willing to go on a day trip.

Some of my day trips have been Bletchley Park and Portsmouth. I picked the first because of my interest in math and history and the second simply because my Grandfather was stationed at the shipyard for short period of time during WWII. They were really fun days. Think of what interests you and follow up on those interests.

Posted by
389 posts

On a good weather day in London head out to Richmond Park. It’s a huge park with deer. You should be able to see or certainly hear the green parakeets that have made the park and many parts of South East England their home. Many entrances to the park but you could consider taking the train from London Waterloo to Norbiton, walking through the park and out the other side through to Richmond which has both tube and train options back to London. You’ll get some great views down towards the Thames. A good 5 mile walk in total.
https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond-park/richmond-park-attractions/wildlife/birds

Posted by
3789 posts

Thanks for the tips and links princess pupule, Carol and r&g (if I may). Looks like there will be plenty to keep me in the London area. I would add a few overnights (or 2-nighters) to some locations, I think. I am not a fan of short trips, but also don't want to limit visit to day trips when they need more time. I note Richmond Park is enroute to Hampton Court. That would be another place of interest. That could be an interesting 2 or 3 days.

Posted by
2624 posts

The London Elizabeth Hotel is across the street from Hyde Park, two minute walk to Lancaster Gate Tube Station, and about a 10 minute walk to Paddington Station.

Posted by
4697 posts

You have a lot of good ideas here. Easy day trips from London would include Windsor and Hampton Court. For Bath, Oxford, and/or York I'd recommend at least an overnight stay. March wouldn't be a good time for Scotland, I think. I hope this trip can come off for you.

Paris is wonderful of course, with as much "indoor" appeal as London in that cold wet season. Eurostar tickets are very expensive unless bought way ahead, and changes in travel restrictions could jeopardize your investment. If you're going to Paris, give it enough time to fully appreciate. I'd stick to London and other easily reachable English locations if it were my trip.

Posted by
3789 posts

Thanks Dick, for the support. Yes, I have pretty much decided to stick to England. However, if the weather mid April is looking good, I might go north.

I found out Rabbie's tours also covers England, so that is a source should I not feel interested in organizing my own logistics....though between the train and National Express Bus, it shouldn't be difficult.

It is at times difficult to be optimistic between news and working covid 5 days a week, but I'll practice my British stiff upper lip and 'carry on'.

Posted by
42 posts

We live in London at the moment and if you enjoy walking, try looking into neighborhoods slightly North of the heart of the city like Primrose Hill/ Belsize/St. John’s Woods. It is a beautiful walk through Reagents Park to reach Oxford Street and there is very good bus connections everywhere. Many folks are not using the Tube at the moment, though that is also an option. London is a very walkable city, so you don’t need to stay really close to the attractions.

Along with Hampton Court Palace, you might want to visit The Wallace Collection, Hampstead Heath for birding, Sir John Shane’s house (he bought the sarcophagus of SETI i when the British Museum didn’t want it!), National Gallery, Tate Britain, and walking along the canal from Camden to Maida Vale (Little Venice).

If you want to see some countryside, you might want to look into St. ives in Cornwall. It is a long train ride (5.5 hours from Paddington), but you see a very different side of England there. St. Ives is a quant old fishing village that writers, painters, potters, and sculptures took over at the turn of the century because of the light in that part of the country. There is a Tate Museum, Leach Pottery Museum, and lots of different art galleries selling current artwork. If you enjoy hiking, the South Coast Path goes right through town and winds along the coast. St. Michael’s Mount is not far away and is also worth a visit. Right now you just need to precook tickets to tour. We booked a holiday cottage from SoSt.Ives and stayed at Carbis Bay which is the next town over. (Not sure if the B&Bs will be back up running next Spring.)

I would also just add that you are smart not to try and book travel outside the UK ahead of time. A lot of residents have had to cancel their plans last minute as the government has changed the quarantine country list with just 24hr notice. Once you get here you can decided to take the Eurostar for a quick overnight trip under the channel (Highly recommend Bruges in Belgium actually over Paris or Amsterdam).

Enjoy our trip!

Posted by
42 posts

Autocorrect changed the one Museum name...it is Sir John Soane’s. I would also say Scotland is fine any time of year too. We went in December to Edinburgh and took a small bus tour to Stirling Castle. Was a really fun trip regardless of the gray skies and some rain. I also forgot to mention that Greenwich was also a fun trip to take, especially if you go by boat down the river and then the train back to London. Also the various walking tours through the streets is fantastic too, though not sure which companies are running at the moment.

Posted by
3789 posts

benowitzea, thanks for the extra recommendations. I wonder if the Cornish peninsula gets the warm ocean currents...which might make it a tad warmer. It sounds lovely for getting away from the frantic city.

Good point about the lower use of the Tube. I normally use public transit myself but as I do go into work, I have taken to driving again. Fingers crossed that by Spring, it will be easier....otherwise, I won't be traveling then either. Fingers crossed.

Posted by
2790 posts

Maria F, I just realized I never answered your question about York. The Shambles is interesting. The cathedral has some of the oldest stained glass in the UK. I loved the York Museum and I'm on the side of those who enjoyed Yorvik-but it is like a Disney ride. One of the best things I did was the free tour by a local person where we walked the wall.

Posted by
18897 posts

I suspect the Channel Islands would be a bit warmer and sunnier than the mainland, though perhaps not very different from Cornwall. I can't speak to what the islands are like in March/April because that is not a time of year I am willing to go to northern Europe. For your, it will probably feel positively balmy.

In normal times there are flights as well as large ferries. I've had very bad luck with ferry cancellations and had to buy a next-day EasyJet ticket back to London following my 2018 visit; it wasn't as painfully expensive as I had feared.

We have a poster here from Guernsey. If you want to explore this option, a separate thread with "Guernsey" or "Channel Islands" in the title will probably catch her eye.

Posted by
3789 posts

I understand the Islands have more restrictive access at present, and I would assume they will continue to do so. For this visit, I wouldn't want to expect to visit. Just as the Caribbean Islands are being quite conservative on how they open up to tourists. Islands make it very difficult to create a robust enough infrastructure for massive outbreaks. At another time, however, the Channel Islands would be wonderful to consider.