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Old experienced traveller in England in the spring!

I just got back from a three week trip traveling around England (side trip to Edinburgh) by train, mostly alone, staying in b&bs and guest houses, taking tours out of the cities I stayed in. I'm an experienced solo traveller, and at almost 80, experienced at being older. It was a greatly rewarding experience.

A few tips:
* in small guesthouses, the single room is at the top of the stairs (think maid's room). While it often provides a good view and privacy, it's pretty awful to wrestle a suitcase up to it, and some people may have trouble with stairs. Be warned if this can be a problem for you.
* If you can manage a backpack at all, consider using it as your main "suitcase" - I use the one Rick sells. Getting a big roller bag on and off a train is awful. You can usually get luggage carts at large stations/airport etc. Just hoist your backpack on at the last minute. Then take a little roller bag as a carry on if you have to have one; I just use Rick's Civita bag..
* Before you go through airport screening, empty your water bottle but take it along. Fill it after you get through the screening. THe civita bag has a mesh pocket on the outside for one; I carried a little umbrella on the other side, and it being England, used it several times.
* Wherever you stay, before s/he leaves the room after carrying your bag in, get your host/porter to explain the shower. In eight different guest houses I encountered eight different ways to turn on or use the shower. In one you had to pull a cord outside the shower on the wall to turn on the hot water. I live in a retirement village. Cords in the wall there mean "call for help." What was I supposed to do, on the third floor of a top-rated B&B, stark naked, with a male host? I took a cold shower!! Someone should make a book showing the different kinds, like explaining different coins!!
*Seriously consider making day-trips using local BUSSES! Trains even in England go through uninteresting areas and have hedgerows on either side. But local English busses (sit on the upper level!) take you through neighborhoods you'd never see otherwise. I was enchanted, in York, to see bright yellow bicycles on almost every lawn, as I rode through North Yorkshire - they were commemorating the Tour de York bicycle race the day before. In England, at any rate, the Information station helpers will plot your journey and even print off what you need to do, on train or bus. Or use an app on your ipad, like rome2rio.com, to plot your way.
* If you have a smartphone or tablet, download Rick's England guide to your Kindle app. A lot easier to carry around than a book. Also, get the app CityMaps2Go before you leave home for the cities (even small ones like York and Durham). If your smartphone has GPS, you won't need wifi or cellular to see where you are on the map; if you get turned around you can figure out how to get where you want to be.

Posted by
1840 posts

I'm glad you had a good time. We all need a cold shower once in a while. Plumbing in Europe can be perplexing. My wife seems to have the knack of figuring out how to make the various showers work, that is until we had a computerized shower in Ukraine. I'm catching up to you in age and hope I can still have as much fun as you did on your journey.

Posted by
14248 posts

Great advice, particularly about the shower. I now know to look before I get undressed, lol. Back in the Dark Ages it always seemed like it was the toilet flushers that were different and sometimes mysterious but those seem to be more standard or at least easier for me to figure out.

Did you have the CityMaps2Go on your phone or tablet or both? I have a new iPad Mini and will take it this time so am trying to figure out how it can be useful. Already downloaded the RS guide on to it and it seems easier to navigate than on the Kindle.

Glad you had a good time!

Posted by
920 posts

Laughing--I've taken a cold shower or two in the UK and Europe. Great advice. Sometimes light switches and bathroom exhaust fans seem hard to figure out as well. I'm 90% sure I did something wrong when I had a London hotel exhaust fan one time that never seemed to turn off. Even called the front desk, but they reacted like I was nuts/clueless so I shrugged and went back to bed. To

Thanks for sharing your report!

Posted by
902 posts

Also laughing about the shower experiences. I was so relieved to find an actual bath tub at one B&B as it meant I didn't have to figure out how to get hot water. Too bad there wasn't much hot water any way! The other perplexing thing is to figure out how to get some heat out of whatever contraption is on the wall that looks like it might warm up the room after coming in from a nasty cold day in April. We are so spoiled in North America!

Posted by
529 posts

Yes, those pesky showers, laughing. I have had several perplexing occasions. Once, in Wales, to operate the hot water a switch on the outside wall of the bathroom had to be flipped. The switch was red, by the way. I remember thinking it might activate a fire/emergency alarm. I, too, have an ipad mini. I always take it along. I am loving the idea of Maps2go, it sounds like a useful app.

Posted by
6372 posts

Clare, I like your style. We have about 10 years or so to go before we match you in age, so it's good to know you had a successful experience. I also like that you use a backpack and the Civita bag. I use the Appenzeller backpack, which RS calls a day bag, as my main piece of luggage, and my husband uses one even smaller. The benefits are many: they meet any airline's definition of "carry on," and they leave your hands free. And they're much easier to handle on cobblestones, steps, trains, etc. I know some people can't carry a backpack, but we wouldn't use anything else.

Keep travelling, Clare, and let us know about your other trips.