Why do all you Americans do exactly the same route?! I'm so bored of reading people ask the same tired questions about London's major tourist attractions, Oxford and the Cotswolds! Why don't you come and see the REAL UK?? Yes, of course the major London sites are worth seeing but come down to South London! Have a wander around Elephant and Castle, eat at a proper greasy spoon etc! Instead of ticking off the same old tired Beatles list in Liverpool, keep heading north and join the holidaying Brits in Blackpool! Yes it's a bit tacky and run, down but this is real Britain! Why come all this way and just meet other US tourists? Ditch this Rick Steves bloke and his tours. He's clueless. Do it alone. We speak the same language. Yes, we're a bit rough in parts but you'll generally be safe travelling the UK. I know some of my posts on here verge on trolling but it's through sheer frustration!
eat at a proper greasy spoon etc!........................... Yes it's a bit tacky and run, down but this is real Britain
Why spend thousands of dollars, fly in a metal tube for 8-10 hrs, to encounter the kind of thing that is within a 30 minute drive of where I live?
The stuff in the museums, usually one of a kind, is why one would spend the money and take the time to travel
Yes, of course the major London sites are worth seeing
Most folk do not have the finances to see the sites worth seeing to the point they run out of things to do, and then do as you suggest.
Prepare yourself for 'more of the same' kinds of questions, for I suspect they will continue.
Is it too early to say "trick or treat' and 'happy brexit'?
Why? To go to the Albert Arms which was once a proper pub but now is a hip Gastropub? Or to watch the funky shopping center being bull dozed for a new upscale skyscraper. Bye bye Jenny’s.
Very little in Elephant and Castle of interest anymore.
I prefer Ealing.
Why do Brits come to the same places in the U.S? New York, Orlando, Las Vegas and California, right? Don’t bother with a cable car or the Golden Gate Bridge while you are in San Francisco...come on over to Oakland and walk around lovely Lake Merritt and eat at one of our many fine restaurants. We’re a bit rough in parts, but act like a local and you will be fine. Instead of ticking off the same old tired list, skip Muir Woods, the Wine Country and Yosemite and head into the Central Valley to meet real Americans. You don’t come all this way to meet other Brits at Alcatraz or Fisherman’s Wharf do you?
Eat at a 'greasy spoon'? Why would you want to do that? Why would I want to travel thousands of miles to ear cheap, crap food? Likewise Blackpool. It's a dump, a run down, tired shadow of its former self. I'd be quite embarassed if people visited the UK and their only lasting impressions were of 'greasy spoon' food and tacky, naff seaside resorts.
By saying Blackpool is "real Britain" what is defined as "fake Britain"? Sure, I agree with the sentiment that tourists should consider places other than the same old routes but why go straight to the bottom of the barrell? There are 100's of places I'd recommend before Blackpool (not that I'd ever recommend it).
There's always Milton Keynes.
I don’t eat at greasy spoons, so am I not a real Briton? Nor do I like Blackpool (and originating from the north west, I have been there often enough)!
However, I do agree that many of the itineraries posted on this forum are repetitive, but the touristy sites are what people come to see. RS misses out many great parts of Britain, so people should also seek other sources of information.
Years ago I had the worst holiday I’ve ever had in Blackpool and I swore never to go back. Over fifty years later I still haven’t returned, so I’m not about to advise anybody else, from whatever part of the world, to go there. I suspect trolling here, but on the off chance I’m wrong I’d say to my US chums, it’s your money, it’s your holiday (vacation, sorry!) go wherever you choose.
Of course there are parts of Britain that will reward further exploration, but for those wanting a two week snapshot, the tried and tested areas are probably the best. I struggle with the appeal of the Cotswolds myself, but I quite understand why folks would want to visit it as an idea of rural, frozen in time England.
Just, wherever you choose to go have a great trip!
PS. If you are within striking distance of Blackpool, you are within a shortish distance of the Lake District and I know I’d head for the Lakes every time!
Oh, Adrian, Adrian ....... we know what you are up to. Subtlety is not your strong point, is it?
Blackpool, Elephant &Castle and greasy spoons, I think Adrian might be a time traveller from the 1950s. Remember to pack your ration card and dried egg for emergencies!
Adrian, am I right in recalling that "Elephant and Castle" came from "Infanta de Castile," a long-ago reference to a Spanish princess? I've never been there, and it would save me the trouble if you could enlighten me on this. What princess and why -- or did I just get this wrong? (Wouldn't be the first time.)
Having lived in Britain for a year, long ago, I can agree that there's a lot more to the place than the tourist "usual suspects." And our host would be the first to agree that his recommended itineraries are far from the whole picture. By the way, one of his recommended cities is Blackpool, though interestingly most of our UK friends here seem to dislike it. (Are they trying to keep it unspoiled by Yankees?)
By the way, one of his recommended cities is Blackpool, though interestingly most of our UK friends here seem to dislike it. (Are they trying to keep it unspoiled by Yankees?)
God forbid! You can have it! I'd even support a referendum allowing Trump to buy it (personally I'd support you having it for free).
Blackpool is the worst place I’ve been in this country.
I’m all for the limited itineraries, tbh. I quite like the level of tourism my region currently gets - I’d hate to be swamped a la Skye.
OK I am now going to defend Blackpool! It’s the kind of place that people criticise even though they haven’t been there in decades.
It’s a run down seaside resort but you can have fun there, Amusement arcades, fun fairs, a pier, the Tower and ball room, trams to ride on and at some times of the year, the illuminations. You will struggle to get food that is a gastronomic masterpiece but chips and freshly fried donuts are heaven in the sea air.
There are lots of similar or worse resorts in the UK. Have you been to Rhyl!?
I certainly wouldn’t go there on holiday and I have NO idea why RS has it in his book, but for a day trip or a fun weekend with friends why not?
Regarding e Elephant and Castle, no one knows how it got it’s name although it is related to a pub of that name in the area. One of the stories is that it is named after Catherine of Aragon, an Infanta de Castile, who stayed on the Southbank when she first came to England
So much to say about the OP. I do agree that if possible people should do research and decide where in the UK they want to see. I also understand that for many people, they’re dealing with a limited vacation time and this may be their only UK trip. Blackpool would an extremely odd choice for a first time visitor., that would be similar to suggesting that someone visiting the USA for the first time skip the Statue of Liberty and visit the Iowa State Fair instead.
Eat at a greasy spoon? Hasn’t every American already done this? When I road trip in the USA, I do try to seek out the local places, but too often I kinda wish I’d just gone to the Chili’s across the street.
Skip the Beatles sights in Liverpool? That’s why I came to the UK the first time. I burst into tears the first time I walked into the Cavern, and it was like entering heaven when I entered John Lennon’s bedroom. As a lifelong Beatles fan, it was like a religious experience.
I do agree that Rick’s UK guides could cover more places and I’d never suggest only using it. But, we know what Rick’s style is. That’s why I’m glad we have these forums, we can suggest other places besides the usual London, Bath, and Costswalds.
Where are the Billy Goats Gruff when they are needed?
That said, the topic of avoiding the obvious is interesting and has impact outside of just the English forum - but there are reasons why the major sights are the major sights - and if one has limited time and resources (like most of us), then wandering Elephant and Castle in preference to the seeing the Tower of London or Buckingham palace seems rather a waste of both.
I think a lot of Americans, especially for their first trip to England will follow Rick Steves book as if it’s a bible, afraid to do something that isn’t in the book. The one thing that I think is crazy is when he tells everyone to start their trip in Bath. If you don’t want to go into London after arriving at Heathrow, there are other places that are a lot closer and easier to get to after flying all night.
" The one thing that I think is crazy is when he tells everyone to start their trip in Bath."
Yes, never understood that advice but if you want "crazy" then watch the video of him in July, driving on the M6 with his phone in hand (illegal) at 50 MPH in the middle lane (illegal), forcing lorries to undertake him on the L/H side.
Guidebooks are guides, not bible's. Guidebooks are there to offer suggestions and opinions, not rules you must follow.
Too many people forget that. They clutch those guidebooks as if they are supplying oxygen.
I’ve got to agree that the start off in Bath suggestion is one of Rick’s worst pieces of advice. It might work out well for his tours to , but London is hardly an intimidating city, even for the first time European traveller. They speak English there and it’s not like a culture shock like perhaps a massive Asian city or someone’s first time in a developing country. I can’t understand the logic of adding yet even more travel time for someone who’s already jet lagged, especially if it is their first time abroad.
By National Express coach the journey to Bath from Heathrow is just over two hours. I don’t think that is onerous after a long haul flight. You can have a nice nap on the bus and arrive in Bath a little refreshed. Our destination from Heathrow is Winchester and the coach journey, just under two hours, is a pleasant ride with lots of leg room and nap-ability.
Yeah. I'm not a great fan of Bath (though I found two museums that interested me), but I like the idea of ending a trip in the city from which you will depart, which is likely to be London for folks visiting England and traveling back to the US. To avoid checking into London hotels twice, that means starting the trip somewhere else, and Bath makes sense for logistical reasons. Buying last-minute train tickets to another desired stop could be painfully expensive. So I think hopping on a bus to Bath is a clever idea, if it's to be part of your itinerary.
I do agree there's no need to avoid London as a first stop for fear that it's too large, etc.
What acraven said:
". . . I like the idea of ending a trip in the city from which you will depart, which is likely to be London for folks visiting England and traveling back to the US. To avoid checking into London hotels twice, that means starting the trip somewhere else, and Bath makes sense for logistical reasons. Buying last-minute train tickets to another desired stop could be painfully expensive. So I think hopping on a bus to Bath is a clever idea, if it's to be part of your itinerary."
That's exactly right, and why RS suggests it - not because Bath is the most important place to go. If you live in a country I would expect you to have all sorts of contrary options, opinions and advice for first and only time travelers there.
Contrary to what you might perceive, I doubt more than 1/2 of 1% of Americans have heard of Rick Steves, and those who have only have a vague idea from his TV show (on Public Broadcasting, along with Downton Abbey). I rarely find someone who recognizes the name when I mention it. Those of us who do use and prefer his guidebooks over the alternatives, don't follow them sheepishly. They just present information on places we've already decided to go. And he does mostly mention places to eat and stay that are not exactly posh.
I’ve begun two trips in Bath and both timed I thought it was a wonderful place to start a trip. What’s another two hours transit on the first day, which is not going to be a super fun or productive day due to jet lag. It’s a lovely place to walk around and stay awake until bedtime.
Most people going to England for the first time seem to think they won’t be back l, so of course they want to hit the highlights. I fail to see a problem with this. Hopefully they get back to see more.
The main challenge facing the various tourism bodies in the UK is to get visiting people from outside the country to go anywhere else than London at all. They have been trying to push that boulder uphill for years but it still dominates along with tick the box sightseeing style itineraries that tends to lead to short stays. They have been trying to promote more of an experience-orientated destination without downplaying London unduly which has worked in some markets (e.g. Nordic) but not that much at least yet in others.
Bath is only 11th on the list of initial destinations from statistics. After London being way out ahead and then Edinburgh, the next few are large cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, probably affected a result of people visiting family and their sheer size as anything else.
When we went to the UK last year, we saw the touristy stuff in London, but we also stayed a few days in Wales. We drove around and saw ancestral houses. We stopped at roadside cafes and I got to speak with real people like the sheep farmer who now owns the farm where my ancestors lived in the early 1800's. I loved hearing the Welsh language spoken. And yes, we did have to stop on the road to let a sheep cross the road. Wales was beautiful and my favorite part of the trip. (The driving was horribly stressful for me, but worth it.)
Adrian, because people want to see places they think of as familiar, having seen them on tv or in the movies or heard about from friends. On my first visit to England, many years ago, I wanted to see the major tourist sites, naturally, and I pretty much did. But I stayed in Clacton on Sea. Okay okay I stayed with friends at not cost. I admit, Rick is my guru, but that doesn't mean if he likes something that I will or versa whatsit. Last year I didn't like Wagamama. I did two of his self-guided walks with the route pages torn out of his guide book. The City walk and this year the East End. Is Speedys café and sandwich bar a greasy spoon? I went there for the third year in a row and got the mug. We found a new coffee shop in Bermondsey with an unprintable name. I love London.
We often stay at one of the Premier Inns in Southwark. We like the neighborhood, although that Shard thing gets in the way, and we're near the Borough Market. Its a very walkable neighborhood and we did walk from there to St. Pauls and down to the Old Cheshire Cheese where I saw another lady reading pages ripped from the Rick Steves London guide. We both laughed about it.
We try to do a bit of the tourist and a bit of what we like. BTW afternoon tea the The Savoy is overpriced. I felt like our waiter was going to slap my hands if I poured my own tea.
Is Speedys café and sandwich bar a greasy spoon?
No, not enough formica and harsh fluorescent lighting. It look like a sandwch bar that sells breakfasts and other meals. I'll agree that the food looks as cheap and unappetising as a greasy spoon (chips and fried onions on an English Breakfast!).
If that’s the Speedy's Cafe that appears in Sherlock Holmes it’s not a traditional greasy spoon but it does serve ‘traditional’ English breakfast food. It’s been going for years and provided me with many a hungover bacon sandwich when I worked in the area 20+ years ago.