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England, Crete and the Netherlands in 2 + weeks

I always use trip reports and the forum in addition to RS's books when I plan. I hope my report is useful to some folks.
Part 1: England (Salisbury & London)

June/July 2018, I traveled with my husband, 16 year old daughter, and 12 year old nephew. We flew to Heathrow on British Airways, nonstop from Seattle. Per RS, went straight to Salisbury. Fortunately, I had prearranged airport pickup with Vic Jones, who has a taxi/tour service in Salisbury. It was wonderful to be taken straight to our inn (the King’s Head) to drop our bags. We couldn’t check in, so we wandered around Salisbury. We stayed for 3 nights. It was unusually hot the entire time, which was a real challenge for our hotel’s AC system. If I had it to do over again, I would reserve the night before we got there so that we could go into our room right away if we needed to. The 12-year-old was exhausted and actually fell asleep at the table at the Haunch of Venison.

Highlights of Salisbury:
- Tour of Wiltshire and environs with Vic. He drove us to the Old Sarum, Stonehenge, Avebury, the Chalk Horse, Lacock, and Bath, in an all day tour of the beautiful Wiltshire countryside. Vic has lived in the area many years, and he shared many interesting insights about the countryside and its notable folks (Sting and Charles Dickens, for example). He also had served in the military and could tell us about the military installations near Salisbury. We could all sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery, and not worry about driving on the other side of the road. We went to the Old Sarum first. It was closed, but Vic got us up close, and we walked about the outside. Lots of locals were walking their dogs at that time, and it was peaceful and beautiful and I think possibly more interesting than if it were open. I recommend getting timed entry tickets for Stonehenge in advance. We went at 9:30 am, and there were already a good many people there. Go early! We had lunch at a pub within the Avebury circle – it was delicious and I got to check my “Yorkshire Pudding, “ “beef pie,” and "pint of ale" boxes. We did a quick tour of Bath – Vic took us up to Alexandra Park, which has a stunning panoramic view of Bath. On our way out of the Roman baths, we heard a local musician playing an acoustic version of “Country Roads,” which was especially fun given that my nephew and I are from WV. This was an especially good tour for the day after our arrival. At times, the kiddos napped in the car from pure exhaustion, but we adults could still look at the thatched cottages and enjoy ourselves.
- Tower Tour at Salisbury Cathedral. You need to be in fairly good shape to climb all those narrow stairs, and you need to be comfortable with heights. My nephew had a bit of a panic attack at one point when we went out onto a narrow balcony. However, the tour is a fascinating inside look at the engineering of the tower and the cathedral, and you are treated to some incredible views!
- Salisbury Museum nearby was also worth a stop, and very good background before we toured Stonehenge.
- Anokaa restaurant. Excellent Indian food. We went in shorts, and they were fine with us, but most locals were dressed up a bit.

We took the train to London/Victoria station, and walked to our apartment with B&B Belgravia. Our apartment was comfortable and spacious, and we really enjoyed having continental breakfast items dropped off in our fridge in the afternoon so that we could enjoy them in the morning. The location in Belgravia was excellent, although the Tube is very crowded from Victoria during rush hour!

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Highlights of London:
- British Museum: We spent hours here on our first day in London. All of us, especially the teens, loved it. I think we used the museum’s audioguide along with recommendations from RS. We took a break for lunch in the museum’s café. I had an absolutely delicious salmon niçoise salad. Refreshed, we were able to keep touring to see more of the museum.
- Tower of London: RS is right – get your tickets online, show up when the Tower opens, and beeline for the crown jewels. I actually found other parts of the Tower, like some of the interactive exhibits in the armory, more fun. We started to join a Beefeater Tour, but there were at least 50 people in the group. It was hot and hard to hear, and we gave up shortly after the tour began.
- Riding the Tube (with the Oyster Card) Even when sweltering hot and packed like sardines, it’s cheap, convenient, and its own illuminating view into Londoners. They definitely dress up for work more than we do in Seattle! They Oyster card made it simple to use public transport whenever we wanted.
- Walking from the Tower of London along the Thames & over the Millenium Bridge to the Globe Theater. We all loved the play we saw, with absolutely top notch actors.
- Harry Potter/Warner Brothers Studio tour. This was consistently one of the experiences that my nephew talked about afterward. He especially loved our tour guide. I had a tour through City Wonders, in part because I waited too long to reserve a ticket and had to book a tour. I like City Wonders because we took the train, so we could re-enter the studio after the tour and stay as long as we wanted.
- Harrod’s. My daughter loved talking about this, for the sheer over-the-top quality of this department store. The clothes are very high end designers, you can buy real estate, the steaks are ridiculously expensive and have their own, suit-wearing meat expert, and we saw a Warhol for sale. We bought some chocolate and ate some very decadent sundaes, but came out with lots of pictures and stories about what we saw.
- Belgravia. Great, convenient, and central neighborhood that seems to be on the upscale side. It has lots of restaurants within walking distance.

Lessons Learned: Really need to book Harry Potter far in advance.
Listen to RS's advice about Westminster Abbey arrival. We had tickets for our last day there, but didn't make it to the Abbey until shortly after it opened. After standing in a very long, winding security line for 10 minutes that it didn't move much (and knowing there were other priorities for the day), we gave up, gave our online tickets to a family in line, and just took our photo with WA i the background.
My husband took a late evening stroll to Buckingham Palace. Great view of the palace without the crowds. We weren't interested in the the changing of the guard.

Next in our trip: Crete.

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Thanks for posting this interesting and informative report. We've been to Salisbury but not right after flying in, that's a great idea. It's a beautiful town with one of England's best cathedrals; we also enjoyed the museum. Glad you enjoyed your time in London, but too bad about the Abbey, I can spend hours in there! Something to save for next time.

Looking forward to Crete and the Netherlands!

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Crete
On our last day in London, it worked really well for us to leave our bags at our B&B, spend half the day taking in more sights, then picking them up and taking the Gatwick Express from Victoria Station. Yet another reason why Belgravia, walking distance from Victoria, was so useful. We flew Easy Jet to Heraklion, picked up our rental car, and (because we arrived a night) stayed overnight at the Capsis Astoria. We visited the Heraklion Archeological Museum and Knossos before driving to our villa in Gavalochori. We stayed just 3 nights – I wish it had been longer. We were returning to Gavalochori, which we had loved 6 years ago on a longer tour of Greece.

Highlights:
- Heraklion Archeological Museum and Knossos: When we were here last time, the museum was under renovation. It was thrilling to have a chance to see the full collection. It is a wonderful introduction to Greek history and artifacts, and a very good idea to see before Knossos. I could have spent an entire day there.
- Knossos: We have enjoyed this both times we visited. The partial reconstruction helped us understand what it might have been like when all of the walls were brilliantly painted. It is very hot – bring water and a hat. If we had had more time, it would have been great to tour with a guide. We had a very welcome lunch at the café near the entrance. The food was delicious, the drinks were cold, and our waiter impressed us by speaking no fewer than 5 languages as he moved around to converse with guests at the tables near us! That café also had made wonderful fresh squeezed juices.
- Gavalochori: This is a small village – I can’t even remember how I found it last time. We did not schedule anything for the 3 days so that we could relax and enjoy the sunshine and swimming. The village has a bakery where you can buy fresh, hearty brown loaves of bread, rusks, and delicious cookies every morning. There is an interesting museum in a traditional house, an olive oil mill, a women’s cooperative, and a few very good tavernas. It is definitely more built-up with European vacation homes than last time.
- Kalyves: The beach is beautiful, with water that is clear and at the perfect temperature. In part of the beach, you there are large sandbars off shore, and after a short swim, even my 12 year old nephew could stand up in the water. At many restaurants/snack cafes, if you purchase drinks and snacks, you can use their umbrellas and chairs on the beach for free. The day that we paid for 2 chairs and an umbrella, it was something like 5 Euros for the whole day. We spent hours hanging out on the beach and swimming, and eating local seafood (the teens had several “American waffles” with ice cream).
- The Food: If I could eat Dakos and horta every day of my life, I would. The food here is so delicious – the grilled seafood, the local cheese, the luscious fruit, the wine, and the complimentary raki at meal’s end.
Lessons learned:
- Booking.com does not always stand behind their reservations. I booked a villa with shared pool from Villa Philia through Booking.com in Aug. 2017. In mid-June, 2018, I received a message from the property saying “the house is not available those days.” With Booking.com’s urging, the owner found is another possible rental, but it did not have a pool. We ended up finding another property, Villa Koumos, which was a higher price but was willing to allow us to rent for fewer than their usual minimum nights because they had space open. Villa Koumos was a superior property, so we were very happy in the end. Lesson: Beware when booking far in advance through Booking.com – your reservation may not be honored. On the big plus side, we found Villa Koumos, which was beautiful and spacious with a fantastic view. The owner was very gracious.
- Mosquito bites can trigger big reactions: My daughter got some huge bites & needed a quick visit to the doc for a cream to calm them down!

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Enjoyed your report. Always nice when you can go back to visit a place that you found was special.