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London & York in September - Draft itinerary & questions

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A friend and I will be winging our way to England for 10 days on vacation. We've both been before, but my former trip (in 2005) was primarily focused on ancient sites in southwestern England ( Stonehenge, Avebury, Glastonbury, etc). I did spend a scant three days in London and managed to get in a lot of the highlights (Westminster Abbey, St Pauls, National Gallery, British Museum) but that still leaves quite a lot to see! So to celebrate my 50th this year, I'm heading back with my friend to see much of what I didn't see the first time and to go to York. I'm a history junkie, so I've always wanted to go to York.

Here's our planned itinerary so far:

- Saturday- Arrive in London at noon. We're spending the night in London to recuperate a little from jet lag and don't have big plans for this aft/evening. Our hotel is basically across the street from the British Museum, so we may pop over there for a while - or go shopping. And of couse we have to eat. I know that Dickens' birthplace/museum isn't far away, so perhaps I can talk my friend into going if we have enough energy. If anyone knows of any good shopping or dining in the area, please add your two cents!

- Sunday - Catch the train (at Kings Cross Station) for York. Check into our hotel (The Grange).

- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday - the medieval city of York! Nothing but the hotel will be pre-booked in York. High on our list of sights to see are the York Minster, the Viking Museum, shopping at the Shambles, walking around the city walls, the National Railway Museum, tea at Betty's, the Castle Museum, and a day trip to Castle Howard (where the BBC version of Brideshead Revisited was filmed, which we have both seen). We're also considering hiring a driver for a trip to several Yorkshire country towns or parks - perhaps even to the seaside (Scarborough). I'm trying to find out if the heather wil be blooming, which would be cool to see.

- Thursday - Catching the train back to London. Our hotel for the rest of our stay will be in Kensington, not far from the Victoria and Albert museum.

- Friday - Most of the day will be devoted to a trip to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio for the tour. In fact, tickets have already been booked! When we return to London our evening plans are to hit a museum, since many of them are open into the late evening on Fridays.

- Saturday - Probably a trip to Windsor and then theater in the evening.

- Sunday - AM - Hyde Park for speakers corner. Afternoon theater (Matilda, the musical),

- Monday - Tower of London (because neiher of us have been there before). We're planning to get there when they open and head straight to the Crown Jewels. After the Tower of London, it's off to the Tower Bridge, because I really want to see this marvel of Victorian engineering. If we have any energy after that, I would like to perhaps take the tour at the Globe theatre or go to the tea museum.

- Tuesday - fly back to the US

Some other things we want to do in London if we have time: a double decker bus tour (maybe at night?), the Churchill War Rooms, Buckingham Palace or Kensington Palace.

Specific questions:

- Trains - Will second class be sufficient for the London/York trip? Should I purchase the tickets now or wait until we get to London? As for the tube, we don't plan to use the tube really until we get back to London. So we'll have 4 to 4.5 days taking the tube around town. Would an Oyster card make sense? Or daily tickets? And I've read that both the Tower of London and Churchill War Rooms have 2/1 deals with the National Rail. Can we use our York/London tickets for that?

- Restaurants - Need restaurant recommendations for the areas we will be in - Kensington, Bloomsbury, York, etc. My friend isn't keen on bangers and mash but does like fish and chips. I, on the other hand, woud really like to try a place that specializes in meat pies. Indian food isn't really high on either of our wish lists. Maybe a restaurant that puts a modern twist on British favorites?

- York - I've read pretty much every thread that I could find on York, and am now really looking forward to this part of the visit! But any new comments would also be appreciated. I would really like to see the Yorkshire countryside (is the heather in bloom in September?), but niether of us wants to drive. So we are considering hiring a driver for a day. If we did that, where should we go?

Thanks in advance for any comments and suggestions. Although I haven't posted in a long time, I've been a member of Fodors since 2001 and have always valued the Fodorites experience.

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