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My first time to Europe with questions!

Hi!

The only non-US places I've visited are Canada, Mexico and Bahamas. This will be my first trip to Europe. After much deliberating, I've decided to just stick with England this first time since time is limited.

I'll have about a week - if I can get a couple extra days in (that is, if the person watching my kids is okay with it), I'll have about 8 or 9 days.

My husband will be in Swindon the week before I leave. My thought was that I'd fly in toward the end of his trip and join him in Swindon for the first night. I want to see Stonehenge, Bath, Warwick, York & London. I'd also LOVE to see a play or 2 while there.

I'm assuming I'll be taking a bus from the airport to Swindon.

I think my main question is should we rent a car and drive (my husband has no problem driving on the left side) or can we take the rail? Or bus? Which is cheaper, faster, easier?

TIA!

I'm starting to get very excited about this trip - my first grown-up trip in over 10 years! :)

Posted by
93 posts

Thanks so much for all the replys!

I'm a night shift nurse, so I don't expect to have as hard a time with jet lag as most people do. Won't I be getting there around 11pm US time? That's the beginning of a shift for me. I hope I'm not too wrong.

Here's kinda what I'm thinking...wondering if it'll work...

Arrive in London Friday morning and head to Swindon. Friday afternoon, rent a car & check out Stonehenge, etc. Go back to Swindon and stay in the company-paid-for-hotel. Sat. morning, go to church in Swindon. Then head for York. How long would it take to get there? Could we make it in time for even song at the York Minster Cathedral at 5:30? Do they do tours after evensong?
Spend the night in York. In the morning, go to Jorvik Viking Center, then the free walking tour and perhaps the York Castle Museum.

cont...

Posted by
93 posts

Stay another night in York & head for Warwick Castle in the morning. Check out the castle, then head for London - or would it be better to stay somewhere near Warwick, then head to London in the morning?

Tue & Wed would be for London and plays in the evening (or the matinee). Fly home on Thursday.

Does this sound doable?

Posted by
8995 posts

I also work the graveyard shift. One a the few benefits of working that late, is that jet lag never effects me. I suppose it's mostly because my body clock is so screwed up:)

Posted by
658 posts

Swindon is a good, if somewhat unexciting place to have as a tourist base. You can get there by either bus or rail ( bus is slower but cheaper - rail is quicker, but not by much ). If your husband is comfortable driving on the correct side of the road then a car is invaluable. You are just 20 minutes drive away from the village of Avebury ( the village set in a stone circle ) if Stonehenge is the church, Avebury is the Cathedral. Stonehenge is less than an hour away from Avebury and Glastonbury is only a couple of hours away ( all require a car ). If you want to see a play, one of the great Regency theatres can be found in Bath ( The Theatre Royal ) and Bristol's Old Vic theatre is not to be sniffed at either. Another place you may want to drive to from Swindon would definitely be Oxford, try having a drink in the Bird and Baby on St. Giles ( The official name is The Eagle and Child ) it's the pub where CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien used to drink. Have fun.

Posted by
7205 posts

Another option to consider is that if you stay in London, you could actually daytrip over to Paris via the Chunnel - perhaps even spend 1 night if possible.

I can't imagine doing Paris in 1 day, but there are SOOOOOO many sites to see in Paris that if I were given the option of even "1 day" I would go. No, I wouldn't go to any museums, but there are lots of other things to see like the Eiffel Towner, Arch de Triomphe, Notre Dame, have lunch at a sidewalk cafe.

Posted by
389 posts

My respects to Tim, but I think staying in England is enough! Al, being a resident gives great advice. I like to limit my moves as it is so nice to have a place to come "home" to when you are running all day. I assume you realize that although York is doable in a day by train, that might be a place to move to and spend a couple of days up there. We loved the North and there are many things there that are unique from the more southern part of the country. Also, if you want to stay in Swindon the whole time you might consider Wales. I'm a personal fan of the country and was especially intrigued by the north where Welsh is still the first language (So. Wales speaks English 1st, Welsh 2nd). Congratulations on a grown-up trip!
Cheers.

Posted by
7205 posts

I'm a big fan of Great Britain, too. But the pathetic currency condition right now is a killer!

Posted by
31521 posts

A few comments on your travel plans. My first impression is that with only 7-9 days in England, you'll have to reduce the number of locations. I doubt you'll have the time to see all places you listed. Another point is that with such a short trip, you'll need to plan VERY efficiently!

Keep in mind that you'll lose the first day in flight and time zone changes. Also, you'll be dealing with "jet lag", so you won't be up to touring speed for a day or two.

One option that might work for you, is to fly into Gatwick and take BritRail to Swindon. One example is a train departing at 10:03, arriving Swindon 12:00 with one change (I much prefer Gatwick over Heathrow).

Given the short time of your trip, hiring a car is probably the best option. However, NOT a good idea to drive in London (aside from the congestion charge & parking, the traffic is terrible). Bus/Coach is cheaper but slower; Rail is faster but more expensive (also, smaller towns might not be served by rail).

cont'd..

Posted by
31521 posts

Here's a few options to consider.....

  • Air to LGW, rail to Swindon (lose first day in flight)
  • Swindon (1 day?)
  • Rail, Bus or Car to Bath
  • Bath (2-3 days) Use tours in Bath to see Stonehenge, Avebury or other sights in that area. Check out Mad Max Tours to see if this might interest you? You might also consider a side trip to the Cotswolds?
  • Train to London (3-4 days?). For shows, check out the 1/2 price tickets booth in Leicester Sq.
  • Fly home from LGW (preferably) or LHR (use Gatwick Express from Victoria Stn. - about 30 min. & UK$14.90)

Depending on exactly what you decide to see, & how long you want to spend in each location, you might not even need a Car.

You might want to leave Warwick and York for a future visit. I don't think you'll have time? York is a wonderful city, and it would be much better to plan 2-3 days (the Railway Museum alone can take the better part of a day to tour - there's also York Minster, the Museum, etc.)

Good luck and happy travels

Posted by
104 posts

Wasn't Swindon the site of the BBC show "The Office"? ;-)

Anywho, if you do plan to drive, as others have said, do not drive in London. Get a rental car at the airport outside the city. We drove to Bath, Stonehenge, Oxford, and then up to Edinburgh during our trip last summer. Highway driving was great, driving around locally was harder to get used to being on the wrong side of the road. Oxford was difficult for us to drive in because the map we had did not indicate that several of the roads were actually pedestrian only throughways. But in general, we did find having a car to be very convenient, especially if you have a decent amount of luggage to take with you.

Definitely go see a play or two in London. Go to Leicester Square by 10am and get tickets for a show that same night at the TKTS booth for 25-50% off.

Posted by
970 posts

Hi, Scrapper. You'll have a great time in England. Hope you can stretch your trip as long as possible.

If you have not purchased tickets, look at Continental's flights into Bristol from Newark, NJ. Bristol is a much smaller airport than either of the London airports (Heathrow and Gatwick) that you'd typically fly into, and with many fewer hassles, especially when you depart. Don't know about transportation from Bristol airport to Swindon, but, if it was me, I'd be much happier driving from Swindon to Bristol to meet you than from Swindon to London.

If your husband is willing to drive, do that. It will save significant time.

Try to combine a visit to Stonehenge with a visit to the nearby town of Salisbury. Stonehenge often is anticlimatic -- you see the circle of stones and then what? Salisbury is an easily walkable city with a delightful cathedral and good pubs and restaurants. So, go see Salisbury, and then drive out to Stonehenge.

Cont'd in second post.

Posted by
970 posts

...Stonehenge often is anticlimatic -- you see the circle of stones and then what? Salisbury is an easily walkable city with a delightful cathedral and good pubs and restaurants. So, go see Salisbury, and then drive out to Stonehenge.

London I'd do by train from Swindon. You could "commute" from Swindon by train (lots do every day), but you'll need to check the time of the last train to Swindon in the evening. Failing that, stay in a hotel. There's no reason to drive in London. Seriously.

I've done York as a daytrip by train from London. Leave early, come back late. I'd overnight in London.

Bath, etc., are also well within range of London or Swindon.

Buses are often cheaper than trains, but slower (more stops, plus traffic).

Posted by
970 posts

Scrapper, yes, most flights from the east coast are night flights that get you into London in the early morning, which is about 11pm in the States. Dunno about LA flights. I've done a few night shifts in my time and agree that it's good training for a nightime transAtlantic flight. You will need to allot up to 2-3 hours to clear passport control, security and customs on arrival. Sad but true.

Getting to York is faster by train then car. A daytrip by car from Swindon is possible, but it would a very long day. Consider going into London by train and then the train to York. (Trains from Swindon wlll stop at Paddington Station. You'll need to get across town to King's Cross station. That's what the Tube is for.)

You can see a lot in London in two days if you aren't too worried about sleep. Make a list of what you want to see and a backup list to use when something disappoints. I'd guess you'd save about 4 hours a day if you stayed in London.

Posted by
93 posts

here's where we are so far...
Fly out on a Wed and get there Thur am. Go through checks and stuff and bus/rail to Swindon. Spend Thur. adjusting, checking out Swindon (if there's anything to see there), picking up whatever toiletries I couldn't fit in my quart-size bag, looking over brochures, etc. OR: head over to Bath by myself and explore. Stay over night in Swindon.

Friday: early afternoon, head to Stonehenge, maybe Bath, too for a quick peak, then back to Swindon.

Saturday: check out and head for York, perhaps stopping in Nottingham for church, then onto York and the Minster. Stay in/near York overnight.

Jorvik Viking Center, walking tour and perhaps the Castle museum.

Head to Warwick either that night and stay somwhere along the way or leave in the morning.

Husband is wondering if there is any Robin Hood Thing in Nottingham to see - would need to do that after leaving York.

Monday: Head to Warwick Castle on Monday, possibly after stopping in Nottingham..

Posted by
93 posts

Monday night: head for London, turn in car. Probably stay just outside of London.

Tues & Wed: London

Thur: fly home

I think we'll like the freedom of having a car, but definitely not in London!

My girlfriend that grew up in England may be coming over tomorrow night - I'll certainly be picking her brain if she does!