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Trip Report: Bath, Cotswolds, York & London in 19 days

Our Trip

My husband and I took our first trip to Europe in 2013. We’ve traveled to 12 countries so far, but this was our first trip to England (or any of the British Isles for that matter). The deciding factor for this trip was being able to get cheap airfare from Des Moines to London…rare, because deals out of Des Moines just don’t exist.

Our itinerary:

Bath (4 nights)
Day trip to Wells and Glastonbury,
Woodstock (1 night)
Stow-on-the-Wold (2 nights)
York (3 nights)
London (7 nights)

Planning

In terms of planning this trip was rather time consuming. Why?

  • There is SO much to see, so lots of research and then deciding what were our absolute “must see and do’s”. And many of the museums in London require timed entry so more detailed planning was needed.
  • In other countries I’ve been able to find comfortable and convenient lodging in the smaller towns for less than $100/night. I knew London was going to be expensive, but I thought that if I spent enough time looking, I could find less expensive lodging in the smaller towns. Nope.
  • Transportation
  • A majority of our trips have included a car rental for a few days and most of these days end up being some of the most memorable ones of each trip, however, my husband didn’t feel comfortable driving in England so figuring out how to get from Point A to B took time.
  • Trains. So many different train companies. Train apps. Railcards. Sticker shock from the cost of train fares compared to other European countries. Timing the purchase of said train fares to avoid draining the wallet. Heathrow Express vs. Piccadilly Line vs. Elizabeth Line. Tfl app. Oyster Card vs. contactless card. TRAIN STRIKES. Getting refunds for train tickets. Private messaging forum members for help in re-routing. Purchasing new train tickets. Transportation…was just A LOT…

Transportation Planning Recommendations:

  • I found the National Rail website good for broad trip planning, i.e. How long will it take me to get from London to Bath? How much will it cost me to get from London to Bath? How much is that ticket 12 weeks in advance? 10 weeks in advance? Ect.
  • Download the LNER train app. One of our (pre train strike) journeys was on a Great Western train so I tried to use that app to purchase tickets but I could never get it to work. The LNER app was very user friendly and neatly stored all of our e-tickets including those from non-LNER train companies.
  • I am 62 and my husband is 58. The Two Together Railcard was the best deal for us. The Two Together Railcard site was easy to navigate, and took less than 10 minutes to produce a digital railcard stored in the Railcard app on my phone. Paid $36 and significantly reduced the cost of our train tickets. When you purchase your tickets you will be asked if you want to add a railcard (to determine the cost of the fare). Technically speaking you can purchase the railcard after the tickets because the only time you need proof of purchase is when you are on the train.

  • If you are going to take a bus on any part of your trip load those apps on your phone. There are many different bus companies that service different regions of England. We used First Bus while we were in Bath, Stagecoach to get from Oxford to Woodstock, and Oxford Tube to get from Oxford to London. We didn’t see anyone using cash to purchase a bus ticket from the driver - they either scanned a pre-purchased ticket from the app or used a credit card.

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BATH

Lodging: Two Crescent Gardens
This B&B is a 10-minute walk from the city center. It was quiet and had a comfy shared living room. A full English breakfast was served from 8:30-10:00, and there were a few other breakfast foods as well (granola, plain yogurt, fruit). On the morning that we took a day trip to Wells and Glastonbury we wanted to get to the bus station before 8:30 and the cook was kind enough to let us into the breakfast room at 7:30. Our only complaint was that the bed was very small. Usually a double in Europe translates to a queen size bed in the U.S., but this bed was equal to a full size bed in the U.S.

Restaurant Recommendations

Clayton’s Kitchen. Best meal we’ve had anywhere in the past three years. We shared a fried goat cheese and heirloom tomato appetizer, our mains were roasted crispy skin duck breast with Dauphinoise potatoes and crispy skin sea bass with asparagus and a langoustine sauce, and a we shared a deconstructed lemon meringue pie dessert. With wine the total was $160. This was our most expensive meal of the trip and definitely a splurge for us but it was worth every penny.

The Scallop Shell. Excellent fish and chips (their signature dish) as well as other seafood dishes. They have terrace dining but serve a slightly different menu up there because it’s on the third level.

Bill’s Bar & Restaurant. Great lunch spot one minute walk from the Roman Baths and Bath Abbey. Indoor and outdoor seating, friendly, prompt service. We had the Chicken Two Ways and Asparagus, Pea & Burrata Salad. Both were excellent.

Pulteney Bridge Coffee. Stopped here for a mid-afternoon coffee and dessert.

Good to know. In my opinion it is a good idea to make restaurant reservations one day in advance. The one night we didn’t, on the day we went to Wells and Glastonbury because we weren’t sure what time we would be back in Bath, we found that restaurants were full for the night.

Highlights
Free, two-hour city tour. Our guide, Jeff, gave us a great overview of Bath from the time of the Celts until the 18th century and then focused on life during the 18th century. Highly recommend!
Roman Baths. Don’t be fooled by what you can see from the street level. There is so much to see and learn underground. You do get to sample the water at the end of the tour but I don’t recommend it. Outstanding audioguide.
Bath Abbey. Self-guided but the employees were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about answering questions.
River Cruise. One hour cruise from Bath to Bathampton. There is a set of stairs at the end of the shops on the Pulteney Street Bridge. Go down the stairs to access the river level.
Spruce Goose Laundromat. Wait! What?? Some of our most memorable trip moments happen in laundromats, and this trip was no different. There was only one other person doing their laundry when we were there on a Saturday morning. It was the Rick Steves guide who was leading the Best of England in 14 Days Tour starting that afternoon. We had a very interesting chat with him.

Glad I packed… Laundry detergent sheets. Laundry on the road can be a conundrum. Sometimes laundromats are beyond a reasonable walking distance (30+minutes), sometimes sinks are too small , or the climate too cold to dry the clothes within 24 hrs . Luckily laundromats on this trip were close enough to walk to because the sinks in England are way too small to wash anything besides a single sock or a tiny pair of panties. I purchased Sheets Laundry Club laundry sheets from Amazon and packed them in our bag. Lightweight, not messy, can tear them easily if you don’t need a whole sheet and didn’t need to worry about the laundromats having soap…and they did not have soap.

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Wells and Glastonbury

Transportation

  • Purchased two Adult-West of England Zone bus tickets from the First Bus app on my phone $17. Once you activate the tickets they are good for unlimited bus trips within 24 hrs.
  • Boarded Bus #173 at the Bath bus station and road for about 1hr 25min to Wells. Makes 65 stops (no joke). Bus was double decker, roads were narrow sometimes only allowing one way traffic. Trees in this region are huge and leafy and overhang the roads so they frequently slapped and scraped against the side and top of the bus. Very noisy! Exited the bus at Sadler Street, city center and walked one block to the cathedral.
  • When we were ready to leave Wells we walked to the bus station (about 8 minutes) and got on the #376 bus to Glastonbury. Duration 20 minutes. If you are sitting on the UK passenger side of the bus (left) there are blue signs for the entrance to the abbey. This is where we got off. When we were ready to return to Bath we boarded bus #376 at a stop across the street from the abbey which took us back to the Wells bus station and then boarded bus #174 back to Bath.
  • This was a full day. We left Bath around 8:15 and returned just after 5pm.

Highlights
Wells Cathedral. WOW! We arrived just after it opened (10am) and were the only ones there for several minutes. What a treat! The cathedral is massive. Beautifully preserved inside and out. The scissor arches inside are breathtaking. I took way too many photos of this arch, and then that arch seen through another arch.
Vicar’s Close. Fantastic medieval street that housed the choral members of the cathedral. Private residences now. If not for the Range Rover parked in the middle of the street you really could be transported back in time.
Glastonbury Abbey. Even though only ruins remain, the site is still impressive. Enter the museum first. Just to the right as you enter are two large touchscreens that give you as much history as you want on what you are going to see. I really enjoyed this feature.
Glastonbury Tor. If you are going to be in Glastonbury do yourself a favor and take the shuttle bus to the Tor. The building next to the abbey is the Glastonbury Tourist Information Center. The parking lot next to the info center is where you catch the shuttle bus. The cost is £4 and duration 7 minutes. If you walk it would be at least 30 minutes one way through commercial and residential areas. We took the shuttle bus and it dropped us off at the base of the Tor. You’ll still feel you’ve accomplished something after you’ve climbed to the top. The sun was shining, the wildflowers were in full bloom, a breeze was blowing, and sheep were bleating. In other words it was perfect.

I wish I would have… found a place in Glastonbury with take-out food because the weather was beautiful that day and it would have been glorious to have a picnic lunch at the abbey, which we saw many people doing.

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Leia, loving this trip report so far! Can't wait to read the rest. The transportation information is really helpful too. Thanks for taking the time to share.

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Bookmarking. Love the format so far.
I’ll be visiting all these places in August, so can’t wait to read more. Will especially be looking out for any restaurant suggestions and experiences.

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Woodstock

Transportation
- The broad plan Bath → Didcot Parkway → Oxford → Woodstock
- We were traveling on a Sunday and the train from Bath to Didcot was packed…lots of people standing in the aisle. When we reached Didcot the train to Oxford had been replaced by a bus due to a viaduct repair. Had we been able to board a train we would have reached Oxford in 20min. However, because of the replacement bus it took us 1hr 15min.
- The replacement bus dropped us at a parking lot near the Oxford train station and a cluster of bus stops where we boarded Stagecoach bus S7 to Woodstock. The 45min ride to Woodstock was…interesting… as the bus quickly filled with people headed to a festival that was being held outside Blenheim Palace. We still had to stop at every one of the 35 scheduled stops, but at the last half the bus driver had to tell those waiting for the bus, that it was filled and they would have to wait for the next bus…lots of angry people.

Lodging: Blenheim Buttery
This B&B consists of a few rooms above the Blenheim Buttery restaurant. It was old and creaky, but the bed was definitely an upgrade from the one we had slept in the previous 4 nights. The bathroom was a bit hazardous. It had a 3 inch step down about 2 feet into the room (as in, the sink was on one level and the toilet and shower was on a lower level).

Highlights
Blenheim Palace. Arriving later in the day worked in our favor as the crowds had thinned out by the time we arrived. I wasn’t sure how long it would take us to tour the palace and grounds so we didn’t grab an audioguide, but the signage throughout the palace was very good. There were several costumes from the Netflix series “Bridgerton” that were replicas of the original coronation gowns worn through history that were on display which I really enjoyed. We also loved walking through and reading about the stables and the horses at the palace. We watched a cricket game on the lawn but never did figure out…the rules??

Restaurant Recommendation

The Punchbowl Inn. Our expectations for dinner this night were pretty low. It was a Sunday before a bank holiday and very few places were open. But the warm welcome we received at this restaurant was so appreciated. We had the Sunday Roast (beef for my husband and chicken for me) and both were very good. Each table had a deck of the U.K. version of Trivial Pursuit and we had a great time failing miserably to answer the questions. We loved the vibe here so much that we ordered dessert (also good) and lingered over coffee.

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Stow-on-the-Wold
I went back and forth many times during the initial planning phase of this trip on whether or not to include a couple of days in the Cotswolds. I knew that my husband would LOVE the Cotswolds, but I also knew that without a car, getting from town to town was only possible with the use of several taxis or a guided tour. In the end we used a taxi to get into and out of Stow-on-the-Wold, and hired a private guide to take us on a full-day tour of the Cotswolds. Toward the end of our trip I asked my husband what had been his favorite day or sight that we’d seen and he said “the day with Peter in the Cotswolds.” So for us, including time in the Cotswolds, even though it was pricey, was the right choice.

Lodging: Number Nine
Sweet little B&B with some high-end features. The bathtub / shower had so many handles and buttons that I needed my husband to figure it out and translate for me. Our room was very good sized with an extremely comfortable bed, and had a mini fridge. Our host, Merlyn, gave us a breakfast menu and we let her know what we wanted the night before. After five mornings of the Full English Breakfast I was thrilled to have porridge and fruit.

Restaurant Recommendations

The Old Stocks Inn. Fantastic! Fixed price two or three course dinner. We shared a salmon and fennel starter. My husband had a halibut main, while I choose a pork belly roulade with black pudding and mashed potatoes. We shared a lemon meringue and apricot tart for dessert.

Highlights
Cotswolds by Car. Peter Shelley does custom tours of the Cotswolds. I contacted him about 4 months before our trip and he sent a base itinerary to me as well as suggested places for customizing it. One place I really wanted to see was Sudeley Castle so he wove that into our plan. He picked us up in his Range Rover and off we went. Peter is a vault of information on everything Cotswolds. My husband was interested in hunting so we learned about and saw horses and hounds used for fox hunting on Boxing Day. Our day included sights on back roads as well as better known sights such as the Broadway Tower and the weaver’s cottages in Bibury. If you want to see a lot of the Cotswolds in one day’s time this is the tour for you.

Glad I packed… Air Freshener Spray. I’ve never packed this before, but it was a great addition because things can get smelly with two people in a small room. I ordered Citrus Magic Natural Odor Eliminator Spray, 3-Ounce, Pack of 3 from Amazon. No problems going through security.

Becoming obsessed with... a tv show called “The Repair Shop” where people bring in broken family heirlooms and a team of crafts people repair and restore these treasures. By the time we left the Cotswolds my husband was already Googling “where can you watch The Repair Shop in the U.S.?”

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Roman Baths. Don’t be fooled by what you can see from the street
level. There is so much to see and learn underground. You do get to
sample the water at the end of the tour but I don’t recommend it.
Outstanding audioguide.

I was constantly surprised how many people skipped the entire museum and just rushed to the Baths for their photo and then out the door. There is so much to see and learn.

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York

Transportation

  • Train strike day.
  • Taxi from Stow-on-the-Wold to Oxford. Oxford Tube (bus) to London (exit Marble Arch stop). The Tube Central Line (Marble Arch) exit at Oxford Circus, switch to Victoria Line, exit at King’s Cross / St. Pancras. Train from Kings Cross to York (this train operated by Grand Central was one of the few not affected by the strike)
  • I was really stressed out this day because there was no margin for error. We asked the taxi driver who took us from Woodstock to Stow to pick us up in Stow and drive us to Oxford. We boarded the Oxford Tube at its origination point at Gloucester Green Station in Oxford city center. We made several stops in Oxford and it wasn’t long before the bus was completely full. There were LONG lines of people (50+) at some of the stops who were told by our driver that they would have to wait for the next bus. I was so happy that we got on at the origination station
  • We left Stow at 8am and arrived in York at 3pm

Lodging: St. Raphael Guest House
This B&B was about a 12-minute walk to York Minster. The breakfast here was outstanding! Huge loaves of three different kinds of bread with homemade jams, mixed fruit, cereals, yogurt, plus made to order hot choices. Once again our double room had a full size bed instead of a queen. One night we returned from dinner to find all of the guests outside and the fire alarm blaring inside. After a moment of panic, and being thankful that I had my passport in my money belt it became apparent that it was a false alarm. On the positive side it gave us an opportunity to meet and talk to the other guests.

Restaurant Recommendations

Blue Barbakon. This is a family-run Polish restaurant southeast of The Shambles. The three course meal for £26 was a bargain. My husband had a charcuterie plate followed by a hunter’s stew and for dessert a hazelnut apple cake. I had tomato basil soup followed by three different kinds of pierogi and for dessert a salted caramel chocolate cake. The entire meal was excellent, but that salted caramel chocolate cake…OMG!

The Star Inn the City. Our meal here was also very good, but not as memorable as the Blue Barbakon. It was also significantly more expensive.

I missed out... on having Afternoon Tea at Betty’s Tea Shop. I didn’t realized that waiting to book three days out would be a problem, but it was. Plan B was to walk up and put our name in for the day of - but the line of people was half a block long. If Afternoon Tea at Betty’s is on your “Must Do” list, book two weeks in advance.

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York (cont.)

Highlights

  • York Minster. Out of all the churches we visited on this trip, York Minster was my favorite. A few minutes after we arrived a clergyman stepped up to the microphone, introduced himself, asked for two minutes of our time for a short prayer and then announced that he would be walking through the church all day and to please feel free to talk to him. True to his word I saw him sitting, talking, and praying with people during our visit. It was a much needed reminder that we were in God’s house, not a tourist attraction. And what a great way to minister to people
  • Walking the City Wall. Gave us a chance to see York from a different perspective. Got to peek at some amazing gardens, and take some incredible photos of York Minster.
  • The Shambles. The ancient street of the Butchers of York. The food court has numerous choices for lunch and the entire area is jam-packed with people. The crazy part is that at 5pm everyone - food truck employees, shop people, and tourists disappear. I got the best photos of this area around 5:30pm. Totally deserted.
  • The York Dungeon. A 90 minute experience where you walk through about 10 live actor shows with “volunteers” from your group of about 25 people reenacting 2000 years of York’s history. We thought it was a fun way to learn the history. The plague lady was especially good in a very creepy sort of way.

We would have like to have visited the National Railway Museum but a good portion of it is closed right now because of renovations. We did go to the York Castle Museum but did not enjoy it.

I wish I would have packed…warmer clothes. It was cold in York! And also 3 out of 7 days in London. I bought a pair of gloves and a polartec jacket when we were in York. I did pack a lighter weight scarf, a polyester/spandex full-zip hoodie, and a lightly lined raincoat, but I was still cold. A warmer scarf would have also been a good addition.

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Ohh, thank you for the reminder to book Betty’s. I'm planning to go next month.

Enjoying your report and looking forward to reading about London, where I will be visiting next year.

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I've never booked Bettys. Always just strolled in, sometimes ended up at a room I didn't prefer or a table in the middle, but never a significant wait. But that was pre-covid. Interesting to know - thanks.

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My last day there will be a Wednesday. Maybe walking in on a mid-afternoon weekday will be ok without booking. I just looked at the website and don't really want to be in the fancier piano playing room where they take the bookings. Leia, did you go on a weekend?

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On a Monday I looked online to book a spot on Thursday or Friday that week, and all of the online bookings were taken for a full week. So, I reframed my thinking to be okay with putting my name in - in person - for a spot on the first floor. When we were walking in the general direction of Betty's that Thursday my husband saw the line first and asked "I wonder what that line is for?"....and it was for Betty's. And then his next question was "We're not going to wait in a line that long for tea, are we?" Nope. Oh well.

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London (Days 1 and 2)

Transportation

  • Our 2hr journey from York to London’s Kings Cross station was uneventful! Sat across from a family from a town near York who were going to London for the weekend. It was their 8-year-old son’s first time on a train, and first trip to London. He was SO excited!
  • Purchased our Oyster cards with the 7-day travel pass and started “Tubing”

Lodging: The Chronicle by Supercity Aparthotels
- Nearest tube stop: Chancery Lane / Central Line
- Studio apartment, although it seemed more like a 1-bedroom because there was a wall between the living-dining-kitchen area and the bedroom.

- After being in tight quarters for 10 days this apartment was AMAZING. It had a washer and drying rack, big, comfortable bed, kitchen with all the basic items needed to cook a simple meal, and the shower was nicer than ours at home.
- It was a splurge at about $350/night but no regrets.
- It was in an -office neighborhood- so very few restaurants close by. This was the only negative.

Day 1
We arrived in the early afternoon and were able to check-in to our lodging immediately. We unpacked, read the instructions for the washer and got a load of laundry going. Next up - grocery shopping. We had breakfast in the apartment every morning and ate dinner here a couple of nights. Threw in another load of laundry and then did a couple of FaceTime calls to my parents and mother-in-law to check in on them.

Day 2

Trafalgar Square. Loud and packed with people protesting the government in Iran.
National Gallery. There was a long line of people waiting to get in so I was glad I had pre-booked a timed entry. LOVED this museum! There were a lot of people here but it didn’t feel crowded. The Sainsbury Wing is closed for renovations so the paintings that are usually housed there have been relocated in the museum. I wanted to see “The Arnolfini Portrait” so approached one of the employees stationed in the room we were in. You know that feeling of dread when you approach a Home Depot employee to ask in what aisle you can find the caulk? And they give you a blank stare, pull out their phone, type for 5 minuets, and then find another employee who pulls out their phone…. I should not have worried! The gentleman gave me polite and concise directions to the location of the painting. I think I could have asked about another two dozen paintings and would have also received a clear and immediate response. If only all customer service could be this good!
London Walks “Westminster at War”. In my opinion London Walks is the best tourist attraction in the city at just £15 for two hours of knowledgeable enthusiastic guiding, with 100 or more? different tours to choose from. We love WWII history and our guide Joanne gave a great tour.
St. Martin’s in the Field. After the London Walks tour we popped into the church and stayed for about 20 minutes so we could enjoy the choir practice.

Eating Recommendations

Muriel’s Kitchen. We had lunch in this self-serve cafe inside the National Gallery. Salads, sandwiches, hot mains, pastries and cakes. The food was good, reasonable priced, and we had no problem finding a place to sit and eat.

The Marquis. This is a small pub located between Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square. You can get food upstairs (burgers, fish & chips, etc) and drinks downstairs. There were two guys playing guitars and singing rock from the 50’s and 60’s. It was fun just hanging out with a bunch of strangers enjoying a laid-back Sunday.

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If you want to have a meal at Betty’s and don’t mind that it is not a formal “tea” you can go and get in line and have breakfast or lunch. We ate at Betty’s in May 4 times (3 breakfasts and 1 lunch) and waited from 15 - 30 minutes in line. We loved it so much! Beautiful setting, delicious food, very professional service. We never made a reservation there.

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London Day 3

AM / East End
After two days of beautiful, sunny weather we woke up to weather that felt about 30 degrees colder so I put on my Polartec jacket and gloves again. We took the tube to the Liverpool Street stop and followed the RS East End Walk.

We saw an interesting mix of old and new because (according to Joanne of London Walks) 30% of the East End was bombed during WWII. This part of London is filled with fabulous street art. I loved it almost as much as the National Gallery. We stopped for several minutes to watch an artist working on a piece. It is unbelievable how such a realistic face can be created with three cans of spray paint.

Eating Recommendation

Beigel Bake Brick Lane Bakery. This is an experience!!! Fresh baked bagel aroma wafting out the door? I’m going in. I had to look twice at the prices because it’s like the 1990s in here. Be aware that when it is your turn in line you better have your order ready and spit it out fast without stopping or you will be reprimanded! I was just half done with my cream cheese on a seeded bagel when my husband told me he was going back for round 2. He ordered a bagel with salted beef and ate it in record speed. In between mouthfuls of the second bagel he said “You aren’t going to tell anyone that I went back for a second one, are you?” Since I think he was referring to his personal trainer at the gym, I’m sure that it’s okay to write it here.

PM/ Churchill War Rooms
Even though the previous day’s ‘Westminster at War” tour was a spur of the moment decision, we booked our time here about three months in advance. But, what a great pairing! I enjoyed reading about the special Bell Telephone scrambler system that encoded, carried, and decoded conversations and could not be hacked. I appreciated the additions of recorded memories from the people who actually worked here during the war. We spent about two hours here. Make sure you are well rested?? before you visit because there are very few places to sit down.

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I'm so thankful you are posting this report, as we are visiting many of the same places you did. Thank you for such a detailed report and for the restaurant recommendations!

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2494 posts

Wow, you weren't kidding about the bagel shop prices. Just took a peek at the menu.

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London Day 4

AM / Tower of London

I purchased a “Tower of London Early Access Tour with a Beefeater” from Get Your Guide and left with mixed feelings about it. Our group met near the Tower Welcome Center and we spent about 30 minutes with a guide from “Get Your Guide.” The best way to describe the information she gave us? It was the tabloid version. “During Covid lockdown a body was discovered in the tower that is believed to be that of Anne Boleyn.” What?? That one had me Googling before we even stepped inside the tower complex. “The royal family is weathering yet another scandal with the news of an affair between Prince William and one of Kate’s bridesmaids.” I Googled that one later in the day.

Once inside the complex we met our Beefeater who spent maybe five minutes talking to us, recommended we visit the crown jewels first before it got crowded, and then said he was available for photos if anyone was interested. So, mixed feelings. Early access was nice, but the guiding was zero out of ten. Tower tickets for two people cost about $85. The “tour” which included the tower tickets cost about $160.

It took us less than five minutes in line to enter the Jewel House and the seeing the jewels were definitely a WOW moment. And it wasn’t just the jewels that were impressive, but all of the swords, and trumpets, and the largest golden punchbowl I’ve ever seen. We also enjoyed the museum inside the White Tower.

Eating Recommendation

New Armouries Cafe. After a great experience with the cafe in the National Gallery we decided to eat lunch here before leaving the Tower. So many choices, great value, and the food was very good. For dessert I grabbed a large bowl of fresh, sliced strawberries topped with an enormous amount of clotted cream. I could have eaten another bowl…or two.

PM/ Westminster Abbey

I had planned for us to take a ferry from the Tower Pier to the Westminster Pier but it was cold and windy that day and a boat cruise just did not sound appealing so we took the tube instead.

Westminster Abbey was packed - with both living and dead people. Because of the sheer volume of people I couldn’t really wander at my own pace, I was just one person in a mass that moved in the same direction through the abbey. I felt like I missed quite a bit, but I’m not sure what I could have done differently to change that. We’ve visited many churches in Europe but Westminster Abbey wins the prize for the largest number of elaborate full body tombs. I especially enjoyed seeing the tomb of Queens Elizabeth 1 and Mary 1 (I’m a Tudor geek) and also that of Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk.

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London Day 5

After three days of 20,000 steps per day on the Fitbit we needed a recharge so we spent the morning in our apartment. When it was getting close to lunch time, my husband asked “How long does it take to go to the bagel place?” About 25 minutes. But it’s our vacation and we can go wherever we want, so bagels it is.

PM/ London Walks

We loved the London Walks tour we did on Sunday so we booked another walk this afternoon. We went on Old London with Fiona. The tour started near St. Paul’s and we made our way toward the Tower of London. We learned about the great fire in 1666 that destroyed one third of London. She talked about the churches that were rebuilt by Christopher Wren, and we went inside one of them - St. Mary Aldermary. The space is still a beautiful historic church but at the entrance there is a cafe, tables available for anyone to use (your own sack lunch), comfortable chairs and free WiFi. We thought this church was pure genius.

My favorite part of the tour was seeing the Queenhithe Mosaic. The mosaic is nearly 100 feet long and tells the history of London from the Roman invasions until Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. The River Thames is the central part of the mosaic and the top and bottom part of the mosaic includes pieces of pottery that washed up on the shoreline, were cleaned and dated and placed in their relevant time period on the mosaic.

Eating Recommendation

Bravas Tapas. A 9 minute walk east of the Tower of London. This gem is hidden near the St. Katharine Docks Marina and has inside and outside dining. The food was fantastic!! We ordered gazpacho, a fennel and pineapple salad, grilled octopus (better than we had in Sicily last fall), a slow cooked pork belly (we ordered a second one because my husband took more than his share and then felt bad about it), and a caramelized brioche pudding. If you are near the Tower of London you definitely want to eat here.

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Be aware that when it is your turn in line you better have your order
ready and spit it out fast without stopping or you will be
reprimanded!

Is it like a Soup Nazi experience from Seinfeld fame? If so, I'm in.

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14251 posts

Thank you so much for your thorough and detailed TR. I LOVE details!!

Did I miss when you traveled? I'm assuming it was June-ish?? lol....

I was at Betty's in York in May but did not have to wait more than about 5 minutes but I went early-ish for lunch. I also had afternoon tea at the Betty's in Harrogate and ate so much I felt like a python that ate a goat so just opted for lunch the second round, lol. A good reason to go back! Fat Rascals...yum!!

"Queenhithe Mosaic"

This is new to me so I have now added yet ANOTHER thing on my "to-do" list for London. Thanks, I think. I just saw it on google street view so now can work it in next time. I love this about London Walks -- you really can come across some interesting side things! I agree about the Westminster at War walk as well. I've done it a couple of times and it's excellent.

Laughed about your comment on not ever finding airfare deals from Des Moines...ditto from Spokane. I try not to even read the threads where people are finding really inexpensive flights...too depressing!

Thanks again for the thorough TR!!

Posted by
3821 posts

Leia, thanks for writing your excellent trip report!
I enjoyed reading it.
Great information about transportation, buying train and bus tickets.
Thanks for the names of your restaurants and the review of each one.
You did a wonderful job of planning; impressive.
We love all the places you mentioned in your report; with Bath, Wells and York being favorites.

I agree with you--Not impressed with the performance by GetYourGuide.
“During Covid lockdown a body was discovered in the tower that is believed to be that of Anne Boleyn.”
Cannot be true, because they've known for years where her body is located; in a grave under the floor of the chapel.

So glad you took a couple of London Walks. They're just the best!!

Posted by
17 posts

Great report! We traveled many of the same places and your words brought back great memories! The scissor arch in Wells was a highlight for us too!

Posted by
104 posts

London Day 6

Late AM / British Museum
We had such good luck with the museum cafes at The National Gallery and the Tower of London that we made a plan to eat lunch at the cafe first and then tour the museum. Bad decision. The Court Cafe had grab and go sandwiches, a few desserts, and limited seating. So we left, got lunch at a deli on Museum Street about a block away, and then went back to the museum.

We did not enjoy the British Museum. It was VERY crowded. But then so was the Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey. Somehow those places had a better plan for moving huge numbers through their rooms while still making sure everyone left mostly satisfied. The crowd in front of the Rosetta Stone was seven people deep, there were half a dozen or more school groups, very few places to sit down, and the wait for the toilet was 25 minutes. For us, the negatives outweighed the positives.

PM/ British Library
We did enjoy the British Library. The Early English Bibles were especially interesting. Somehow I’d forgotten that it was illegal to translate the Bible from Latin to English (or other languages). Trying to read them was impossible - it didn’t look like English! We also liked Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook with the backward, mirror handwriting.

Posted by
104 posts

London Day 7

AM / RS The City Walk
As I’m writing this it seems a bit backwards that we would do this walk / see this part of London, on our last day. But it actually worked out well as we had more context to build on, primarily as a result of the London Walks tours we went on.

We spent quite a bit of time at St. Clement Danes. This is a Royal Air Force church and memorial to those who died in both of the world wars. Seeing all of the ways that the church honors those servicemen was very touching. A few blocks away is the Temple Church - a crusader church from the time of the Knights Templar - also very interesting.

We did a fair amount of wandering down narrow streets that are plentiful in this part of town. It was a gorgeous day, so perfect for wandering. We ended our walk at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The colors used inside the cathedral are much more vibrant than any of the other churches we visited on this trip. It reminded me of the Monreale Cathedral we visited last year.

PM/ Borough Market
We arrived hungry…which I strongly recommend as there is no shortage to great food here. We ate the best wrap of our lives at Wyndham House - roast chicken, chicken stuffing, crispy chicken skin (YES!!), mayo, greens and sweet chili sauce. I think the “wrap” part is to trick you into believing that you are making a healthy choice. We believed it as we were crunching through the crispy chicken skin. Humble Crumble was another favorite - peaches with classic shortbread crumble and topped with fresh whipped cream.

After we finished grazing we did another lap through the market to gather items for a dinner picnic in our apartment - bread from Bread Ahead Bakery, cheeses from Neal’s Yard Cheese shop, meats from Brindisa, a jar of fig jam, and a box of fresh strawberries which all fit in a sturdy, insulated, padded handles Borough Market bag (our trip souvenir). The bag has been in heavy use at our local farmer’s market and grocery store since we arrived home.


This forum has always been a huge help to me when I am planning our trips. It was especially helpful for this trip as the British rail system was much more complex than I had originally anticipated. I did write one trip report for our first trip to Europe back in 2013, but have always hesitated since then because I didn’t think I was well-traveled enough to write anything helpful, or witty enough to write anything interesting to read.

I decided to be brave after this trip and write a report. I truly appreciate those of you who took the time to write a reply. It made my heart happy to know that I had something helpful to offer, and give something in return for all of the help that I have received.

We’re off for another adventure in just 10 weeks. This time to Vienna and Budapest with a couple of day trips.

Leia

Posted by
2494 posts

Well, now you'll have to report back about Vienna and Budapest so I can bookmark that for my trip next year 😊

Thanks again for sharing.

Posted by
14251 posts

Well, never worry again about having something "helpful" to write! Your writing style is excellent, very readable and as I posted upthread...found out some new things although I've been going to London since 1973 hahaha!!

I love the British Museum but that is one place I have to go first thing in the AM. To me it .... and many museums in Europe....don't have enough air circulation or AC and it gets hot quickly with all those people. I agree about the crowd around the Rosetta stone. I've skipped those galleries for year but finally went in May because I got in right at 10 and practically ran there before it could get jammed up.

BTW, I just downloaded the Stagecoach bus app for a trip to Orkney in a month!

What a wonderful time you had!

Posted by
296 posts

Leia,

Just coming back to thank you for this trip report. I bookmarked it when I first read it and am now revisiting it as our trip is in 4 days. Your report is very well done and easy to use as a reference since you made each area so easy to find. Thanks again!

Posted by
7013 posts

Leia, thanks so much for this wonderful trip report! As Pam noted, you write very well and it's very easy to follow. I found out a TON of information from your post that I will be coming back to again and again before I leave for my 5-wk trip to England in March of 2024. I will be in several of the places you traveled to, including York, London and possibly Glastonbury. I can't say this enough. It was very helpful information in a very readable setting!

It is hard for me to read about all the crowds and timed entrances. The last time I was in London was 1999 and I don't remember waiting in a single line. I was there in late September, which probably made a difference, but I think that everything is just more crowded now and I will have to get used to it.

He ordered a bagel with salted beef and ate it in record speed. In between mouthfuls of the second bagel he said “You aren’t going to tell anyone that I went back for a second one, are you?” Since I think he was referring to his personal trainer at the gym, I’m sure that it’s okay to write it here.

I laughed out loud when I read this!!!

Posted by
130 posts

Thanks for your in-depth trip report. I’ve bookmarked it for help planning next summer’s trip.
Happy Travels :)

Posted by
104 posts

Gosh, I'm just so happy that this info has helped all of you!

@maryellen and @Tammy...I'm also doing a daily countdown until our next trip. We leave for Vienna and Budapest in 5 days.

Posted by
2596 posts

I enjoyed reading this! I think I must have been traveling myself when you first posted because I missed it. We did some of what you did in 2019 so fun to read your accounts. We are taking our niece to London this coming May and your observations and restaurant recommendations will be handy.

We didn’t rent a car in 2019 but do not recall traveling as being as complicated as you detail. But maybe it is a bit like childbirth….