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Just back from the UK...so if you have a question..fire away

Just got back having gone to Paris then the Nottingham area and then the last 5 days in London. Be advised that I am originally from the UK so might be able to answer odd type questions as well as the usual travel stuff. Visited Chatsworth House and Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, Southwell Minster, London Eye, Tower of London, Crown Jewels, National Gallery and Fortnum and Masons. Also went to the south coast to Hastings and hit Bodiam Castle on the way back. So if you have any questions about entry costs, tube travel, train travel, distances, time and chocolate...then ask away
My list is a bit limited where we visited as we were stuck for time as we were visiting family. But I can probably give an idea or two about some side trips that might not be known to all and sundry if you just follow the guidebook ideas
Cheers...from a very sad returned holiday maker...Pete

Posted by
643 posts

I can relate to the very sad bit. My wife and I just returned Oct 1st from a 10 day trip to London. We can't wait to go back!! What a wonderful city London is. So easy to get places, and the people were great, the food was great (pub grub with a pint of Ale makes me happy!) and the history is overwhelming for a Yank who thinks a 100 year old building is super old!! We want to return to the National Gallery, it is so huge, we didn't get to see all the rooms despite a nearly 3 hour visit. Did you buy anything at Fortnum and Mason?

Posted by
993 posts

No questions really. I'm just having an F&M moment. I saw Alan Rickman there once in the China dept and told him I loved him. Shameless..

Posted by
1427 posts

I've been there 12 times - love it and plan to go again next year!!!

Posted by
643 posts

Alan Rickman, he plays Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies. He's my favorite character in the films, he really brings that character to life. Fantastic actor.

Posted by
3580 posts

If you plan to carry some F & M marmalade back home and are not checking your luggage, it's best to buy it in the duty free shop at the airport. Two jars were confiscated from me a couple of years ago as I went thru security at Heathrow. Oops! I wasn't considering that it wouldn't be allowed. The airport shop usually has a selection of products from F & M.

Posted by
101 posts

Did we buy anything at Fortnums? Wellll yes. Prices are pretty outrageous but when you consider that they probably stock the best of the best...well you get what you pay for. We bought a selection of jams to bring home plus we paid just over 10 pounds for a very nice can of Christmas coffee. Hopefully on christmas morning it will be worth it, but Im sure the memories will be worth it when we see the tin!
We also went up to the 1st floor and went to their Ice Cream bar called Parlours. Had a $24 Sundae that was outrageously extravagant and two pots of tea that the waiters kept filling up with hot water. Can't really think of anything more refined than Tea at Fortnums [apart from the fact we were at the end of our long day traipsing around the city so we were a tad tired!]
They did have a 5kg bag of potatos for sale at what worked out to $32 a bag...were they gold plated we asked ourselves!
Just before we went into Fortnums we found St James Square which is tucked in behind the store. For anyone that wants a quiet break and sit down in the middle of a busy city then go here. Its just west of the Haymarket. Cant think of the street you go down but its south west of Picadilly Circus. Leaves were just starting to turn on the trees and you could only hear the birds, London is like that.

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643 posts

I bought a nice pair of white silk handkerchiefs at F&M. They were in a nice presentation box and the price was around $32, but every time I need to wear a suit and tie, I can carry one with me and remember our trip to London. I think it was worth it, and knowing how seldom I need to wear a suit (less than once a year), these handkerchiefs will most likely last a lifetime.

Posted by
101 posts

We actually packed all our jams and foodstuffs in our suitcases so we didnt have any issues with it getting seized. Just made sure it was wrapped up securely and padded between items..actually it was padded between bags and bags of Thorntons toffee...all safely stowed away for the christmas season..or so my wife thinks!!

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993 posts

Dave, Too right. It all started with Hans Gruber and escalated with Robin Hood, the Kevin Costner version.

F&M is on Piccadilly. Pete, you didn't happily make it to Rye did you while you were in Hastings??

Posted by
101 posts

Sorry, passed the sign but didnt have enough time. I have been there before with my parents many years ago. It is one of the Cinque Ports [for those that dont know, they are five ports on the south coast..think it had something to do with raising a navy..or maybe fishing..geez..my lack of english history knows no bounds these days]
I know I have some pottery from the old Rye Pottery but thats about it. My wife loved this part of the UK. Trees were just turning..cool blue sky day..and a perfect walk about Bodiam castle..

Posted by
1 posts

Hi Pete,
I'm planning our family "once in a lifetime" trip to England next July. I am trying to find a good place to stay in the Nottingham area for 1 night as we make our way from the Cotswolds to York. I've looked online, and in Rick's books, but he has very little about that area, and the websites weren't that great. Any ideas?
Thanks,
Harriet

Posted by
1 posts

Hi Pete - and others,

I will be in London in mid-November. This is my first trip to the UK. We will first be in Oxford, checking up on a visiting college student spending a year abroad at Oxford, then travel to London. Our stay in London will only be for 4 days. Does anyone have MUST SEE suggestions. I have read the Rick Steves' London book and it is loaded with information. Thanks in advance.

Posted by
158 posts

I too can relate to the sad after returning .....went in May........so much to see and do in London and your side trips sound great....if I were going again really soon, I would be happier....

at any rate....tell us more about Chatsworth House and Hardwick Hall.......and Southwel Minster........

I have a AA guide with out of the way trips and hope to use it more next time.....

Posted by
101 posts

Chatsworth is in Derbyshire and just off the M1 motorway. Very nice to visit, I think it was about 11 pounds each to go in but he had buy one get one free etc. You can buy various passes, either the whole grounds, just the house etc etc. They have a very good cafe/restaurant with great cream teas etc. Very nice shops with a great selection of products. About 5 minutes drive from the main house there is the Farm Shop with lots of locally produced meats/pies/jam/cookies etc. Bit pricey but the bacon was superb the next day.
Hardwick Hall was on the the way back and on the opposite side of the M1. Didnt pay to get in but the staff let us step on the grounds inside the wall to take a few photos. Only reason we didnt tour was that it was the end of the day and we were a bit tired. But you should see Chatsworth and Hardwick together as they are both linked to Bess of Hardwick who was the second most powerful woman in England in her day [first being Elizabeth I]
Southwell is a very small but very english town just east of Nottingham/Mansfield area. Nice for a couple of hours to walk down the high street, stop for a coffee and tea and then walk round Southwell Minster. Very nice stained glass and architecture and you could happily spend a morning there and then trundle off to Lincoln for the afternoon. Apparently there is also a Workhouse Museum that my mum and sister have been to and thats a reall eye opener!!

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101 posts

Also meant to say that CHATSWORTH is where they filmed "The Duchess" with Keira Knightley. We did the tour of the house which takes you through a lot of the main rooms. Only thing we didnt like was the new display in and around the house grounds of a lot of modern art. It just doesnt go with the rest of the house and we thought it spoilt the view, especially the giant sleeping baby..maybe google it and see what you think, its right in the middle of the grounds..dont get me wrong..modern art is fine..but not outside a very charming and well preserved English Estate!!

Posted by
101 posts

Good grief, also meant to say that Southwell is where the original Bramley Apple tree is. Yes, odd I know but all Bramley apples stem from this one tree. Just another useless fact that I appear to be full of tonight!!

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4 posts

Our family is visiting London over the Christmas holiday. Any suggestions for pubs in the Paddington area? And with that in mind, how can we make reservations without email contacts? Thanks.

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4 posts

Thanks for the offer Pete! Just what I need: I will be getting married next May, and we wish to travel to Europe for the honeymoon; it will be our first time.

My plan so far is to fly to London, stay a couple of nights in Central London to see the typical sites, and then chunnel to Paris for a week. Is this the same transport system as the Railpass?

We prefer B&B's to hotels-- we want to interact with people, not be pampered. We enjoy history, theater and food, are in our 40's and we like to walk. The B&B business in Paris is so user-friendly, but I'm having a little more difficulty finding quality, detailed info on London B&B's. Suggestions? Either of reputable web sites, or of great centrally-located places that you know? Around $125 USD per night seems desirable, since we plan to be out a lot. Thanks!

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7 posts

We will be in England and Scotland for 6 weeks - driving from location to location. Do you know where we might be able to get a "disposable" cell phone for use while we are there - One that has a limited number of minutes for use in-country? Are they available at the airport (we are flying into Manchester)?

Thanks,
Terry & George

Posted by
101 posts

Terry & George I sent you a message re the cell phones. Rob, when it comes to B&B's I really dont have much of an idea though for the kind of money you will probably find yourselves further out of the city. If you happen to have any kind of Military connection, i.e ex servicemen etc then you may want to look at the Victory Services Club [close to Marble Arch] or the Union Jack Club. Both cater to serving and retired military personnel and I believe they have reciprocal agreements with the US Military. Good prices and centrally located. I have stayed there in the past.
As for good pubs, not much help there either Im afraid when it comes to London. You can't turn a corner without find a pub. I would suggest just googling London Pubs/Paddington and see what you come up with. Most pubs in central London, especially near the business areas are reasonably high end or at least tidy, good range of beers and good food because of the area and type of people they aim to attract so you probably can't go to wrong
Pete

Posted by
2664 posts

Rob~~The Swan Pub, 66 Bayswater Road is a great pub. It's across the street from Kensington Gardens. If you take the Central tube line and get off at Lancaster Gate stop when you exit the tube station turn to your right go to the corner cross the street and walk about two minutes and The Swan Pub will be on your right.

Posted by
4 posts

Hi Pete,

I'm only going to be in London for about half a day before heading on to Doncaster for some meetings for work.

I'm thinking of storing my luggage at Kings Cross (that's where we have to take the train from) and seeing a few sights. I was wondering, is it worth it to get some currecy exchanged before I go or will most touristy places accept credit cards for their fees?

Thanks for the insight,
Stormy

Posted by
101 posts

I would recommend having a few pounds in your pocket. Just in case you want to hop on the tube or take a bus. Also if you just want to get a coffee and a quick meal etc it will be a lot easier than using a credit card. Plus, there are lots of little souvenir stands scattered around the city, if you want to pick up some cheapish souvenirs they will probably only take cash.
All the big tourist attractions will take credit cards though. We only have the basic magnetic stripe kind whereas the UK has the chip in the card type but they all take both kinds so it really shouldnt be an issue.

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1 posts

I returned from London on the 17th of October. It was my first trip and I loved it! I am already planning my next visit. I recommend the British Library, Westminster Abbey, and Charles Dickens Museum

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643 posts

Cheap souveniers like 10 postcards for a pound, like I found in Picadilly Circus!

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70 posts

Maybe this is a silly question... but do you know if there are any Monty Python attractions in England at all? My husband is a huge fan and neither of us have ever been to England. We'll be staying in London for a week in late April-early May.

Posted by
101 posts

Re Monty Python. I dont believe there are any musuems, displays etc for Monty Python. They always seem more popular in the U.S. and Canada in the last few years.
The only thing I can think of would be the musical Camelot, I would check to see if its playing in London when you go over. Apparently its hilarious and full of "in" jokes if you are a Monty Python buff.

Posted by
57 posts

I believe he means "Spamalot". I saw it in the US and it is great fun (if you really enjoy "Grail").

The castle where most of scenes took place in "Grail", is in Scotland (near Stirling). If you get a chance to go there, GO! It's a hoot. We were complete idiots there, recreating the scenes from the movie. The gift shop even has coconuts to lend and a booklet put together about the scenes from the movie that they will let you take and return before leaving.

There must be places in the London area where Monte Python scenes were shot, although most of them would be silly.

Posted by
17 posts

Hi Pete, thanks for the info. We are 2 Aussie couples who will be in Europe August/Sept 2009. Any suggestions of reasonable priced accommodation in London/or near suburbs, price of tube tickets,price of average pub meals,beer wine costs or car rental companies,
thanks Steve

Posted by
668 posts

Steve:

We have stayed at the Limetree - in Rick's book - close to Victoria Coach station and near railway.tube station.

Don't buy point to point tube tickets. A day pass costs about 50p more. If I remember it was 4 pounds v 4.50 if you bought it after 9:30am Before that I think it was 6 pounds.

Do't even think about driving in London. (1)Traffic is dense. (2) there is "congestion fee" for driving there (3) where are you going to park? Pub;lic transport - buses, tube, even a cab if you have to, are convenient and cheap.

Never though of London as a holiday destination, but afetr 2 visits, I would go back in a minute - as Samual Johnson sid "He who is tired of :ondon is tired of life" Have agreat trip

Iain
Edmonton, Alberta

Posted by
711 posts

Pete,
What is your opinion about Christmas in the Cotswolds? Have you been there during that time? Is it as charming as the rest of the year, or is it just drab, dreary, and dead? I appreciate your help.

Darren

Posted by
101 posts

Well christmas in the UK is generally damp and dreary from my experiences as a child and growing up there. So my best advice would be to find the best scenery that looks good on a grey day!! Also maybe somewhere that has a nice pub that will be open christmas day for a pint. Cotswolds would be fine though I think there are nicer places to see in the UK. A lot of people pick the Cotswolds because its mentioned in RS alot but with a bit of research there are lots of other small towns and villages out there waiting to be discovered. I personally like the south coast, Sussex/Kent area.

Posted by
711 posts

Thanks for the info, Pete. It's kind of what I expected, so I should still have a great time. I grew up in Pittsburgh, so grey, cold and dreary are a distant memory, but one I'm used to.

Darren