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A great time was had in Bath, Salisbury, Stratford upon Avon, the Cotswolds and Oxford

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Sep 27th, 2013, 06:44 PM
  #1
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A great time was had in Bath, Salisbury, Stratford upon Avon, the Cotswolds and Oxford

I returned last week from a great trip to England. As usual I travelled with my son who is now 26. He wanted to fly with Virgin Atlantic and it proved to be a great choice. Our flight from Newark Airport was as pleasant as it can be when one is incapable of falling asleep on a plane. Our adventures follow. I like to include a lot of details in the hopes that the information will help someone. I would also like to thank any posters who answered my questions while I was in the planning stages.
Day 1 Heathrow to Bath
Our plan was to take a bus from the airport to Bath. I had decided against taking a train as the bus just seemed easier, no changes. To get to the Central Bus Service Station you have to take a long walk from the terminal, but it’s manageable. The bus itself was very comfortable and the ride was so scenic, loved all the cows, horses and sheep. Our driver actually announced upcoming points of interest, he was super.
Once in Bath we headed to the Henry Guest House, following walking directions provided on their website. Maybe we were just tired or the directions weren’t as clear as they could have been. In any case it took a little longer than I thought it would to find it. We kept asking people if they knew where Henry St was but no one was sure. We dropped off our bags and headed to Sally Lunns for a late lunch. I wanted to go there for high tea and I wasn’t disappointed. I really enjoyed the bun and indulged in way too much clotted cream and jam. I also had a tasty carrot soup. My son enjoyed his beef trencher.
After lunch we wandered around to get our bearings. One of the best things about travelling with my son is his ability to quickly remember where things are, I tend to take a little bit longer. Anyway the architecture in Bath is beautiful and this was a nice first walk.
A little rest was in order so we went back to the Henry Guest House to check out our room. This was the first time I stayed in a bed & breakfast so was looking forward to the experience. The furnishings of our room were charming. My only complaint was the squeaking of the wooden floors, not so great for a light sleeper.
In the early evening we went on the Mayor’s free 2 hour walking tour. Our guide was great, he knew so much about Bath’s history and architecture. We saw quite a lot, although the down side of an evening tour was it did start to get dark after about an hour. Towards the end our group walked through a park which was pretty dark and deserted. I mentioned I would never do that in New York City! I highly recommend this tour.It was over at 9 and we headed back to our b&b. We noticed that everything in town was closed for the night. This was a new travel experience for us. Last year we were in Spain where we would only be starting dinner! Anyway it felt good to get the first real sleep I had since leaving home.
To be continued
jerseysusan is offline  
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Sep 27th, 2013, 07:11 PM
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Looking forward to more!
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Sep 27th, 2013, 07:45 PM
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Oh I do hope you post soon! My daughter and I are off to London next January and are going to do our own thing - we also want to get to the Cotswolds ( hopefully by public transport and not a tour) so Ill be very interested to follow your recount.
Thanks for posting some great details!
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Sep 27th, 2013, 08:22 PM
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Hi Jerseysusan,

You are off to a good start. I love Bath…
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Sep 28th, 2013, 06:59 AM
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Bookmarking so I can tag along...

(I love trip reports about my part of the world, and reading what others think of where I live.)
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Sep 28th, 2013, 10:28 AM
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Along for the ride--you got to go to some of my favorite places, so I'm looking forward to hearing about your adventures.

Well done. (Adding some spacing between paragraphs will make it a tad easier to read if you want.)
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Sep 28th, 2013, 01:38 PM
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bmk
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Sep 28th, 2013, 05:25 PM
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Thanks for the nice comments

Day 2 Mad Max Tour – Stonehenge, Avebury, Lacock and Castle Combe

Before deciding we would not hire a car I made sure we could see what we wanted using public transportation or tour companies. I had read many positive reviews of Mad Max Tours and booked a full day tour with them. I had hoped to eat an early breakfast as our van was scheduled to leave at 8:45. I was assured yesterday by the B&B manager that if I was downstairs by 8 she would have our breakfast ready quickly so we could leave by 8:30. Of course it didn’t work out that way as she was running late. As our food would not be ready in time we grabbed some fruit and dashed to meet our van.

There were a total of 16 members of our tour group which was led by our terrific guide Charles. Our first stop was to be Stonehenge. On the way there we saw a “white horse” on a distant hill. Charles had lots to say about this and the passing scenery. At Stonehenge we were provided with an audio guide which was very informative but made it tricky to snap photos while listening to it. I wasn’t sure what I would think of Stonehenge after reading so many comments by unimpressed posters, but I for one was happy I went. As we got there early we beat the crowds and were able to slowly wander around the circle and ponder.

Our next was to be the nearby Avebury Stone Circles. On the drive there I started seeing houses with thatched roofs which was something I had been looking forward to. I love spotting these architectural details, like all the cool rooflines and chimneys. We stopped to take photos of the Wiltshire? white horse and drove past Sidbury Hill. At Avebury we saw the 2 stone circles which are around the outskirts of the village. What’s different than your experience in Stonehenge is there are no barriers to these stones. You can walk right up to them and touch them if you want. Charles told us a lot about them, he really was so well informed. There is a store right there called the Henge Shop which was fun to browse through and were I bought really nice earrings for my daughter.

Our lunch was to be in Lacock. Mad Max Tours apparently has an arrangement with the St George Inn. We were given menus to look over and Charles called in our orders so the food would be ready when we arrived. My son Kris and I loved our meal. We shared a smoked salmon appetizer. He devoured his fish and chips and I thoroughly enjoyed my ploughman’s platter. The cheeses on it were excellent.

Lacock is a very old and quite charming village. Several films were shot there including Pride and Prejudice and scenes from Harry Potter. This village is small but photos were begging to be taken at every turn, it was beautiful. Of course the battery on my camera went dead while snapping, darn the excessing amount of pictures I took in Stonehenge! This was when I realized I am I technological dunce. It took me about 10 minutes be I realized I could take pictures on my phone, something I am not in the habit of doing at home.

Our last stop was in Castle Combe which was called the most beautiful village in England. Luckily there were very few tourists there besides us. Charles said Lacock remained unchanged for so long as there was an economic downturn several hundred years ago which led to a lack of modernization. I am very happy I took this tour.

Back in Bath we took a short break in our room and then headed out for an early dinner at the Crystal Palace, a nearby pub. I learned the routine is to order your meal at the bar and give them your table number. We both enjoyed our dinner although Kris said his fish and chips were better at lunch. No I couldn’t believe he ate that twice in one day either!

After dinner we attended a play at Bath’s Theatre Royale which is an old and beautifully ornate venue. We saw a production of Another Country. This was my first experience in regional theater and I certainly enjoyed it. You sure can’t buy dixie cups of ice cream at a Broadway show! Kris really got a kick out of this.

to be continued
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Sep 29th, 2013, 01:13 PM
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Day 3 Salisbury

I woke up earlier than I wanted because of the squeaky floor above me. I guess this is the downside of staying in a B&B when you are a light sleeper. In any case we were downstairs by 8 to make sure we were served breakfast on time. However I saw that this strategy was used by everybody staying there. Our eggs were good and we loved the jam served with the toast.

We finished in plenty of time to catch the 936 train to Salisbury (and print out our tickets at the station). The train was comfortable and we enjoyed the beautiful countryside outside our window. The ride was a little under an hour.

Our first objective was the Cathedral and it is a 10 minute walk from the station. This very impressive gothic style cathedral took only 38 years to build which must be considered record time. This is why it is so uniform in style. I had booked the 2 hour tower tour which I was really looking forward to, Kris less so as he is not thrilled with heights. Our guide was very informative and told us information as we climbed up in stages, stopping at different levels. Eventually we were above tthe ceiling of the cathedral and walked across it on a kind of catwalk. It was cool to be eye level with the stained glass. When we got to the part where you continued up in a circular wooden staircase which isn’t totally enclosed Kris had enough and stayed behind with a few members of our group. Well I continued up and was happy I did as you eventually end up in the spire of the cathedral, and then out on the balconies surrounding it. The view from there was great. Going back down was trickier but manageable. BTW I didn’t mention that the church bells rang a few times on our tour and they were very loud. However it was interesting to see them up close. A great tour but don’t go if you are afraid of heights.

After admiring the cathedral on ground level and the beautiful stained glass, we went to the Chapter House next door. One of the 4 remaining original copies of the Magna Carta is there. I was surprised it was such a small document.
At this point it was already 2 o’clock so we headed to the Haunches of Venison for lunch. We both enjoyed our meal at this old pub. I particularly liked my parsnip soup and the accompanying bread.

There were a few places that we didn’t get to see like the Mompesson House which was closed. Also we skipped the Salisbury & Wilshire Museum as the galleries we were interested in were closed for renovation. Instead we took a quick look at Fish Row and Butcher Row, also the Poultry Cross. Additionally we went into the Parish Church of St Thomas & St Edmond to view the Doom painting.

We had dinner back in Bath in an Indian Restaurant called Rajpoot. This was a nice treat for me as we have to take a bit of a drive at home if we want to eat Indian food. Our meals were delicious and I enjoyed the décor.

After dinner we went on the Bizarre Bath Street Theatre Walk. This was such a funny experience, lots of silly humor. We laughed a lot. Unfortunately it rained that evening but no one let it damper the good mood of the group.

to be continued
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Sep 29th, 2013, 01:35 PM
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I'm enjoying your trip report, and looking forward to more!

Lee Ann
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Sep 29th, 2013, 01:50 PM
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I'm also enjoying your trip report.

We really enjoyed Salisbury Cathedral, Avebury, and Lacock too. Stonehenge not so much but I'm glad we went.

In the Lacock cloisters, did you see the photography exhibit? We did when we were there and that was quite interesting too.
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Sep 30th, 2013, 04:42 AM
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jerseysusan:

Shame your breakfast was not ready at the Henry Guest House on your first morning as promised by the B&B manager. All the B&B's we have stayed at have offered cereal, yogurt etc. and many immediately offered some toast with your first cup of tea/coffee.

I laughed when I read your son had fish & chips for lunch and dinner. Good for him.

Very nice trip report with lots of detail. If possible share the cost of your lodging, tours etc.

Looking forward to more.

Sandy
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Sep 30th, 2013, 05:36 AM
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jerseysusan:

delightful report

jerseyvirginia
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Sep 30th, 2013, 05:43 AM
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Susan, I am so glad that you were delighted with Stonehenge. I first went back in the day when you could walk among the stones and there were maybe a dozen other people there. The next time was with two nephews who had put Stonehenge on their must see list. We were there on a sunny Sunday afternoon with a zillion tourists. It was different for me but still impressive. The twelve year old with his simple camera even managed a picture from behind the ropes with no other people in it and sheep grazing in the field just beyond.

I loved hearing about you trip to the top of the cathedral spire. My climbing days are over. Recently heights have become the stuff of which nightmares are made for me.

Thanks for sharing. Do continue, please.
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Sep 30th, 2013, 06:31 AM
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We too did the Mad Max tour approx 10 years ago. Sounds like it hasn't changed much (and needn't), including the meal at the George. I have some photos from that trip on my wall.

(We also ate at the Crystal Palace back in Bath)

Thanks for helping me relive some great memories!
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Sep 30th, 2013, 01:27 PM
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thanks again for the nice comments

europeannovice - I didn't go into the Lacock cloisters as I spent all my time there walking around but my son did and enjoyed it.

SandyBrit - I could have eaten the items you mentioned at the Henry Guest House but made the rookie mistake of thinking my meal would be cooked in time. Live and learn, I knew better after that experience.Ill dig out some cost info and get back to you.

Day 4 Bath and Stratford Upon Avon

This morning I risked ordering poached eggs with my breakfast knowing we were not in a rush. Sure enough the tables ordering scrambled eggs were served first. As I won’t usually bother to poach eggs at home they were worth the wait.

We got to the Roman Baths when they opened at 9. Your admission includes an audio guide which we both found very interesting. I found the baths to be a fascinating place to spend a few hours. You leave with a great understanding of what it must have been like so many years ago. Of course no visit is complete without tasting the pumped water. Believe me when I say that vile only begins to describe it.
Upstairs in the oh so elegant Pump Room a bridal party was taking pictures. I was originally considering having tea there put decided against it.

We next went across the way to the Bath Abbey. It has wonderful carvings outside and beautiful stained glass. You can go on a tower tour but we chose not to.

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party was our next stop. This tiny eatery has an Alice in Wonderland motif. We had a scone and took lots of pictures. This was followed by some shopping. I bought some excellent cheese in the Market and a few other goodies.

We had a light lunch in La Tosca which serves a Spanish menu. Kris was thrilled to have an opportunity to order jamon and I am always happy to have cheese and olives. The other highlight for Kris was the Cruz Campo beer. He loved it in Spain and you can’t buy it at home.

It was then time to say goodbye to Bath and head to Stratford upon Avon. We retrieved our luggage and walked over to the bus station. Our ride was scheduled to be about 4 hours which included a change in Bristol. The bus to Bristol was kind of a pain as we had to keep our luggage in front of us. The change ended up taking much longer than scheduled as the driver of the bus to Stratford was due a break and took it before we could leave. The ride was drearier than I hoped as it was raining but the scenery was still beautiful. Entertainment was provided by the 20 something woman across the aisle who spoke loudly on her cell phone to a friend. It always amazes me what people will say in front of strangers.

Our bus pulled into Stratford about 40 minutes late and I felt terrible as the owner of the B&B we were staying in was picking us up, and the rain was pouring down. He was as charming as could be about it and we were soon at the Adelphi Guest House. I learned during our stay that Simon and Sue Cowan are always charming, just really nice people. Our room was on the top floor but Sue had Simon bring our luggage up for us. We both loved our room. It was beautifully decorated, I slept in a very comfortable canopied bed and Kris had a nice twin. We loved the products in the bathroom, and got a kick of the hot water bottle hanging up near the shower. The system there is to fill out a breakfast menu for the next morning which we happily did – so many yummy choices.

After settling in we headed out for dinner. We wanted to eat in the Windmill Inn but it was 8 o’clock and all the tables were taken. A waiter said it might be an hour before we could be served so decided to wait for a bit as it was still pouring out. When a table opened we sat down only to be told the kitchen was closed. I was irritated as the waiter could have warned us that the kitchen would close. We ended up at the Garrick Inn where I have a very good beef and ale pie and mashed potatoes which was served with tons of gravy.

To be continued
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Sep 30th, 2013, 03:00 PM
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A waiter said it might be an hour before we could be served so decided to wait for a bit as it was still pouring out. When a table opened we sat down only to be told the kitchen was closed. I was irritated as the waiter could have warned us that the kitchen would close>>

I'd be beyond irritated if a waiter did that to me. I think they think that they can get away with it with tourists. but they forget the power of the internet. Have you had your revenge on TA?

following your report with interest, susan. i love reading about people's trips around Britain - enabling us to see ourselves as others see us, to adapt R. Burns.
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Oct 1st, 2013, 05:43 AM
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annhig - you're right I was much more than irritated, poor choice of words. I was actually livid. I've never posted on TA before but I know I should, for both positive and negative incidents. I do make use of the site. I think I will this trip.
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Oct 1st, 2013, 05:23 PM
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My husband and I also just returned from two weeks in England last week. Your trip report is giving me inspiration to write one of my own. Looking forward to reading about your adventures! Great start thus far!
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 12:47 PM
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Day 5 Cotswolds

We started our day with a delicious breakfast. Kris had porridge made with Scottish oats which was a first for him. He also had smoked salmon on a bagel. He ate smoked salmon every chance he got. We didn’t expect it to be on so many menus but he loved it. I had a wonderful fruity pancake with bacon. Both of us indulged in very rich hot chocolate.

Today was our day for the Cotswolds. Before I agreed to depend on public transportation and day tours I made sure this would work for the one day I had available to see some of the Cotswolds area. I originally planned on using Mad Max tours but they discontinued the day trip I expected to book. Their offshoot company Lion Tours was my next choice but they could only accommodate one of us. I next decided to book a tour out of Stratford with Feriatum Tours. They took about a week to get back to me only to inform me that they were no longer booking group tours. Instead they offered to book a private tour at a reduced rate as they took so long to get back to me. At this point Kris and I really thought about what we should do as we didn’t originally expect to have the expense of a private tour. DH said we should do it but before we said yes we researched other private tour options. We finally decided to go with Feriatum Tours because of the discount they offered. I am only giving all this background because of how the day turned out.

The plan was for the representative of Feriatum Tours to come to the Adelphi and run my charge card on his machine. Instead he called shortly before I expected him hoping I could pay him in cash. I said that would not be possible. He said he had a problem with his machine but we could go anyway. Well the driver showed up shortly after this and led us to our car for the day, a taxi! We were expecting a fancy car and a knowledgeable driver. At this point I decided we had to make the best of things or not be able to see the Cotswolds. I realized what I already knew. One, you get what you pay for and two, you shouldn’t make plans with a company you can’t find on TA.

Our driver had a partial list of our agreed upon itinerary and thought he only had to drive us for 4 hours instead of 8. I set him straight and we were on our way. He ended up being pleasant enough but didn’t know enough about the places we planned on seeing. I wanted him to know where to stop in each village and how long we should spend there. As he was a taxi driver this was beyond his capabilities.

We ended up seeing:

1 Chipping Campden – St James Church
2 Broadway
3 Broadway Tower – boy it was drizzling and so foggy that we could barely see 3 feet in front of us.It was spooky!
4 Stanton
5 Bourton on the Water – loved it even though there were lots of tourists
6 Lower Slaughter – beautiful watermill
7 Bibury – we had lunch there at the Trout Farm. I remember we enjoyed our food but we will long remember that one shouldn’t add sugar to a carbonated lemon drink. Kris did this and was quite surprised at the volcanic reaction that ensued, so so funny!
8 Cheltenham – Neptune’s Fountain. Our driver took about an hour to find this once we reached Cheltenham which was such a waste of time. We were so mad.

Despite my displeasure with the taxi we had a good day. The villages we visited were so charming, really beautiful spots!

Back at Stratford we had dinner at Lambs of Sheep St. This restaurant was more upscale than the pubs we had been dining in. I especially enjoyed my Roasted Summer Squash Soup with toasted pumpkin seeds. One observation – soup in England is served very hot! This is from someone who can’t abide lukewarm soup.

After dinner we walked around a bit but most stores were closed and the town was kind of deserted. We headed back to the Adelphi and watched some telly.

to be continued...
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