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Be flexible they said....

Be spontaneous. That is not my style so I'm antsy. This is a rebooked trip from the original Covid lockdown. Most of it was copied & pasted from last year.

We are in London now. Plan was to travel to France (yesterday). 1 week London & 2 weeks Paris/Strasbourg. We are in a nice (budget?) hotel in London. Hub by Premier. The room is small but very well laid out. Lots of cubby's for storage. Half block to the tube station. Younger crowd here. Rebooked this because Premier group was good about refunding money from last year. We have been here a week or so. The original plan was to recover from jet lag & move on to France. We don't have a jam packed schedule. Mostly walking or tube to an interesting place & explore. We found a great Christmas square by Sloan square (Leicister?) Tons of good food & the food market was serving champagne! We were sampling lots of stuff....oysters, duck confit, rissotto balls, canolli. We did get our tube stations confused & ended up a long ways from our hotel. As our batteries were running low we Ubered back. (About an hour....but only about 24 GBP. Did laundry yesterday at a cute little laundrymat. Dropped it off & picked up the next day. Annette was the nicest ever.

We were scheduled to train to Strasbourg on Sunday....France discouraged travel from UK on Saturday. We briefly thought about moving our travel day to Friday but ultimately decided to play by the spirit of the request & cancel France. Apparently many Brits moved up their travel & we saw pictures/video of long lines at St Pancras. (Eurostar)

So now we are filling 2 weeks. We extended our hotel for a few days to figure out things. The hotel is a little busier this week. Last week was very quiet. We are going to train to Bath for a few days, then Cotswalds. (I don't know anything about them, but my partner wants to go) Perhaps Stonehenge. The holiday (Christmas & Boxing day) may put a crimp in things. But we'll take it as it comes. We may travel to Edinburgh (I'm Scottish) then train back to Heathrow, get tested & fly home

Covid is exploding here in London. And the mayor is hinting of lockdown after Christmas. Example of behavior....we were looking for food late (10:00 pm) and we were striking out. We walked into a German pub down some stairs. It was quiet on the street. We turn the corner at the bottom of the stairs & there is an oompah band playing (loudly) & everyone is dancing on the table...band included. We LOL'd and had to leave. Pubs are busy especially the smaller ones. Masking is good on the tube. There was a vax protest down by Westminster Saturday. Several thousand that got a bit rough.

Shout out to Portland Travel group peeps! Keep on traveling. and thanks to my travel partner (the lovely & beutiful Sara with an H) for keeping me on an even keel

Posted by
841 posts

Oh, my. You certainly are making the best of a challenging situation.

You might also consider Salisbury (not too far from Stonehenge--fabulous cathedral and the Magna Carta to view) and Exeter (not too far from Bath, as I recall). Enjoy. Hope you get to Edinburgh. I loved that city. Be prepared for it to be cold. It's pretty far north.

Safe travels!

Posted by
23 posts

Sounds like you're managing spontaneity well!

I'm not sure if you want them but here are a few suggestions for winter fun in London: If you want to do a mellow walk on Xmas or Boxing Day, Hampstead Heath is a nice place for a wander as is Kensington Gardens. You can also start your Christmas morning watching the swimmers (Peter Pan Cup, 9am, Hyde Park) then head over to Winter Wonderland (Hyde Park 10am-10pm, buy tickets in advance) if you're up for that sort of thing. Happy Christmas!

Posted by
5865 posts

Yeah, welcome to travel in Covid times! Your plans were much more disrupted, but I experienced a bit of the same in Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany last month. We curtailed the German portion, and eliminated the Netherlands itinerary, with the benefit of staying in Belgium and drinking beer. We added a segment by car, spent more nights in Antwerp, in the end, a very pleasant trip, maybe even a bit more relaxed than we had planned. Took me back to some of my early trips where we left most of it "unreserved" and routinely changed plans. This and an earlier trip in September, I did find Booking.com very useful, would look out a day or two and find a place to stay as we decided on a plan. Cheap rates, excellent places to stay, I suppose a side benefit of travel in these times.

Posted by
27743 posts

Do you mean that you have Scottish ancestry or that you have a Scottish (UK for this month anyway) passport?

Posted by
27743 posts

Sloan square (Leicister?)

Sloane Square is miles away from Leicester Square. And Sloane Square is on the Circle and District Lines whereas Leicester Square is on the Piccadilly and Northern (Charing Square branch) Lines. The two places have completely different vibes.

If you found a food market near Sloane Square that was probably the one outside Partridges at Duke of York Square. The food you found sounds like the usual posh nosh found at that market. Tasty too, but you need deep pockets. Partridges is one of my favourite stores in London. The Saatchi Gallery is across the spot of green.

Just around the corner from Duke of York Square is the home of the Chelsea Pensioners and the Chelsea Flower Show on their land.

If you are going to the Cotswolds at this time of year expect it to look a bit washed out - in the very short December days under leaden skies the honey colour of the stone doesn't look its best (but if you are Scottish you may prefer it to the Granite City in winter). Look above the shop doors for the Christmas trees in lights attached to the building. Best seen after dark - easily done in December!!! Shortest day tomorrow and then summer will be on the track to return...

Posted by
112 posts

To clear up confusion my grandfather emigrated to the US....so I say I'm Scottish...emphasis ish

Nigel you nailed it on Sloan Square & Partridges. That was it. Very tasty. We loved it.

I don't feel it would be safe for a car hire (rental) Heck I'm not safe walking on the left! I have had my head on a swivel the entire time. I have no idea where traffic is coming from. We may well hire a car & driver

Posted by
2017 posts

Sounds like you are going with the flow.

Have a good trip!

Posted by
5262 posts

With all that unexpected time you might as well get out of London for awhile. Bath is a good idea, and there might be some guided tours from there to the Cotswolds or Stonehenge. (Mad Max tours, recommended by RS and many posters, isn't doing them till March.) It's difficult to enjoy the Cotswolds without a tour or a car, and winter isn't the best time to go there.

Another way to Stonehenge is via Salisbury, reachable by train from London. A shuttle bus leaves the Salisbury station for Stonehenge. And, as noted, Salisbury has a very fine cathedral and other sights.

You might also consider either Oxford or Cambridge, reachable by train from London.

Posted by
10056 posts

Hi Mark and Sara!

You have a great attitude! At least you are “there” and having novel experiences.

We loved Salisbury so I second BB’s advice. If you can get a place at Pear Tree Service Apartments, do. Wonderful place. We also were quite taken with Richmond in suburban London and near Hampton Court Palace and the lovely Kew Gardens.

Scotland is also a nice idea as I believe (per friends who live there) that their approach to the virus has been more conservative and there (was? Is?)less spread than in London or in England for that matter.

Anxious to find out what you choose and wishing you a safe trip!

Posted by
102 posts

Ahoy Mayberry on the Willamette! Glad tidings and merry wishes on this Christmas Day/eve to you and the lovely Sara with an H from one of your fellow travel group admirers. Way to keep the chin up and embrace the circumstances! The greatest travel memories come from the most serendipitous occasions never planned in any travel itinerary in my opinion.
Head north young man to your homeland. Embrace your heritage and see for yourself Scotland that is its own strikingly beautiful country apart from England. Hear for yourself the sound of Scots from a native tongue. Look up your Scottish roots through scotlandspeople.gov.uk. There is nothing more Outlander than standing in the church your ancestors were married in or looking up their address and seeing it present day. When you can connect your dot on the earth with your roots 100 years ago,it’s pretty magical. Both my husband and I trace roots to Scotland. Regardless, Scotland stands out for the sheer natural beauty, the incredible warmth of the people and the history it offers. It will also give you a second country experience without crossing hard borders.

If you land in Edinburgh, I can recommend the Best Western Bruntsfield Hotel. Please keep us updated. You are on our minds. You’re going to have great stories when you get back!

Posted by
112 posts

Thank you all for the good wishes. It's Christmas Day so Merry Christmas to all!

We are presently in Bath until after Boxing day. Then on to the Cotswalds. We found a tour guide to take a day tour of a few villages out of Cirencester. It's all last minute so we haven't really had time to plan or research. I'm sure we are paying too much for everything than if we had researched at home & planned everything out. But it is what it is....and it's only money. With the low tourist count it has been easier to get into things. The guide at Stonehenge said they are down about 75% this year. We had a lovely walk from the visitor Center out to the stones. We took the bus back because it was a bit windy & misting out there.

My Grand dad was from Glasgow. On another trip we will go over there. I have a recording of him talking about the "old country". At some point I think he mentioned a couple roads. So will try to walk the same roads he did. Maybe find his cottage? Thanks for the mention on tracing heritage. I'll follow that line and see what I can track down

Posted by
15 posts

Sounds like you're mastering the art of flexibility and enjoying unexpected adventures. Looking forward to hearing more at our next PDX meeting.

Posted by
112 posts

TL;DR Back home safe & sound

the longer version...

We got outta London (bus) and into (the) Bath on the 22nd of December. It's a nice train/bus station there. Walked to our Air BnB and up 3 flights. Very convienent location with a Tesco supermarket on the bottom floor. Looked out over a square that a green grocer setup every "regular" day. Decided we would try to get Stonehenge in before Christmas/Boxing Day. So we hopped a train mid morning & ran over to Salisbury. We had a tour bus scheduled & it was at the train station waiting for us. Bingo bango bongo....we are out at Stonehenge. While not a great day for weather it wasn't bad so we walked out to the Stones. Through a field, a little woods & then more field. Very few people out there. One guide said they are down 75%. We missed the big event on the 21st (solstice). Very interesting & glad we went. On the way back to town we stopped at Salisbury Cathedral to view one of the most impo rtant documents in late modern history (the Magna Carta). I had no idea any copies existed. The building itself (apart from the Salisbury Cathedral) was very nice. Smallish by comparison but stained glass all the way around. The structure that housed the MC was underwhelming. Slightly more than a tent. No pictures inside. Glad we stopped. We walked back into town & the rail station & returned to Bath.

Christmas eve we decided to tour the Roman baths. (in Bath) We spent about 2 hours there which was more than I expected. it was very interesting. Close by is an attraction offering warm water pools in the mineral water. We grabbed a couple swimsuits at the discount spots good store & got an appointment for the baths (in Bath!) We got a 3:00 appt & wandered over. It's a nice setup with towels & robe & slippers included. 2 pools, with one on the ground floor & one on the rooftop. When we got done near dark we wandered over to the cathedral in town. (right by the big shopping center....you can't miss it) It was beautiful...all lit up in red & green with the bells ringing on Christmas Eve.

to be continued

Posted by
112 posts

Continuing...

Christmas eve in Bath dinner was a modest affair.A quick run through M&S grocery & we were set up. As the 4 Yorkshiremen commented....we were 'appy for what we had.

https://youtu.be/ue7wM0QC5LE

Christmas & Boxing Day were quiet. We walked Bath a bit going up to the Royal Crescent & over to the Rugby stadium. Rugby team was having a tough go & on a good losing streak. We didn't see any tailgating going on. One pub was offering discounts on beer until the first score. I bought a couple jerseys at the Official store. We didn't get reservations for Christmas dinner so we got locked out between the restaurants closed and the ones fully booked. But...what is always open on Christmas? Chinese! So we had Chinese for Christmas. Unfortunately it was eminently forgettable. Ah, well Barry Bonds didn't hit a home run every AB either.

We moved on to the Cotswalds the following day. Hoping to train to Cirencester...well Kemble then taxi the last miles. Started out our 1st train was cancelled. NBD as they run on the hour. We caught the following train to Swindon. Supposed to be about a 20 min layover but that train was cancelled too. Next train an hour & a half...plus we still would have a taxi ride from Kemble into Cirencester. We were dragging a bit so we made a executive decision to just taxi ride to Cirencester. We arrived in much better shape & right on time. One thing we noticed right away was the masking indoors was way below the rest of our trip. As in almost none in our hotel. That was a bit off putting.

I had contacted a tour guide to tour the Cotswalds a few days prior. One guide in the morning & one in the afternoon. Transport by taxi (set fee). The lead guide asked us to test prior to our day. We were in the process of testing at the time so it worked out well. 2 negatives. On the day we met our guide we started in Cirencester & walked the town & discussed history, Romans, the cathedral. & sheep. We did an all day tour visiting many towns (Bouton on the Water, Stroud, Painswick, Broadway, Chipping something or other) All very cute. A rest day (laundry day) in Cirencester & on to Edinburgh.

We had heard some disruptions on the smaller train lines so made a reservation with only 1 change. We had no issues with the train. Arrived Edinburgh (Waverly) & walked a half mile to our hotel. We had such a nice time at Hub by Premier in London that we booked a Premier Inn at Edinburgh. It was located on a wide alley in New Town. Rose Street iirc. Lots of pubs & eateries on the alley. I think this would have been a hopping place on Hogmanay (NYE) but the city cancelled it as Omicron was hitting hard. Masking in Edinburgh was probably the best on our trip. On our arrival day (Dec 30th) I started feeling a cold coming on. Coughing up phlegm but no fever. Not unusual at the end of a long trip. But just to be safe I did a home test. It came back positive! Shoot!!! After a day of quarantine we decided to get it checked at an official site. About a day later we trammed out to the airport & did a PCR test. They said most test come back by 10:00 pm the next day. They beat it by 3 hours. PCR test was negative. I wondered if I had done the home test wrong. I may have put too many drops of indicator fluid on the test panel.

We saw a few sites & walked the Royal mile a few times. The first time I heard the pipes by a busker on the Royal mile it brought a tear to my eye. That was when I remembered that grandpa emigrated from Scotland to the US in about 1921....100 years ago. He was from Glasdow & I hope to get over there before long

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112 posts

The end....

a couple days in Edinburgh after NYE. A bit quieter as I was feeling under the weather. We had a "Whiskey Experience" scheduled but cancelled (due to my cold) I didn't really want to be in closed spaces hacking up a lung & getting the stink eye. I loaded up on antihistamines & that took the edge off. We did tour the Edinburgh castle. We did walk by the Johnny Walker store. Looked really nice but wasn't quite open yet. There was a festival/carnival along Princes Street, The organizers routed entry through Princes Street Gardens. It was nice though nothing blooming. The carnival was the usual tourist gee gaws. I was looking for my clan colors. No luck. We are one of the smaller clans so i was not surprised. I did find some scarves & other family stuff up on the Royal Mile.

Soon enough it was time to train to Heathrow for our return home. We arrived at Waverly & found our platform quick enough. Boarded on time & were on our way. Very nice train trip with about 5 stops in the North then a 2 hour run to Kings Cross in London. Our coach was not crowded so we moved around a bit in our coach. At Kings Cross we decided to Uber out to the airport instead of using the Tube. We stayed in the airport terminal at Eurotel. It was nice enough with good finishes & a good bed. It was a bit small for us & we would stay off site in the future I think. The one big issue at the Eurotel is that the cafes are on the air side of security so nothing for us to sit & eat. We grabbed some meat, cheese, salad & beer & ate in the arrivals hall. Not exactly glamorous but we got our bellies fed. The next morning we got up, checked our bags & ate in the Virgin lounge. Which was awesome. Had a Irish coffee as an aye opener.

Soon enough we were back in SFO where we overnighted then flew on home to Portland. Once again instead of buying breakfast we used the Alaska lounge at SFO to eat & relax