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A week in London and a week on a Rabbies Tour of the Outer Hebrides

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Sep 21st, 2015, 07:53 AM
  #1
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A week in London and a week on a Rabbies Tour of the Outer Hebrides

My 30something son and I traveled to London and Scotland earlier this month. Growing up, he traveled with my late husband and I, but this was his first trip out of the country in more than a decade, and his first to the UK. Third UK trip for me.

London
We used public transit exclusively in London, and bought Oyster cards on arrival at Heathrow. I was able to turn them in for refund at Kings Cross station on our way to Edinburgh. Very simple to use.

We rented an apartment for our 1 week stay:
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~hamlet_uk/index.htm
This jjanet recommended flat worked well for us, and at US $167 a night, a bargain for London.

The St. Katherine Docks area has quite a good selection of restaurants. We enjoyed:
http://bravastapas.co.uk
http://www.pingpongdimsum.com/venue/...e-docks-london
http://www.whitemulberries.com (our morning coffee stop)
http://malarestaurant.com
http://www.caferouge.com/locations/st-katharine-dock

We also made good use of the Waitrose grocery store ajacent to the apt. complex. Waitrose has quite a nice selection of premade salads and sandwiches.

Our one special, pre-booked meal was at:
http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/nopi
Really terrific

We did a number of walking tours through London Walks, always a favorite London thing for me, especially the evening walks:
The Literary London Pub Walk
The Ancient City At Night
and
Pie Crust to Upper Crust Culinary Destinations – Afoot, Fooding & Feasting in The Strand & Covent Garden

I can also recommend a food tour with samples:
http://www.eatinglondontours.co.uk
In addition to good food, a really fun walk throught he East End--lots of street art.

We only spent one day outside of London. I had bought tickets to visit Highclere Castle (the Downton Abbey place) months ago. Fun to see a building that felt so familiar in person. Interestingly, the main rooms didn't feel nearly as huge as the appear on screen.

Museums were a big hit with my son, and he spent loads of time in Victoria and Albert, various Tate museums, and The British Museum.

Our 2nd day coincided with the last day of the Magna Carta exhibit at the British Library, and I'm really glad we made a point of seeing it, as there was unexpected personal connection for this Pennsylvania resident. A portion of the exhibit was a discussion of Willian Penn and his trial. A brief description of the trial and it's legal importance here:
http://www.nytimes.com/1999/04/18/ma...the-court.html
The exhibit also included a large, early map of SE PA with so many place-names that still exist today. Fun!

And, of course, an enjoyable Fodor's GTG!
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...don-1-sept.cfm
elberko is online now  
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Sep 21st, 2015, 08:15 AM
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Excellent information, elberko. Great you could have that time with your son.

I've looked at those St.Catherine's Dock apartments thanks to janis, and they do look like a bargain.

I'll look forward to the rest.
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Sep 21st, 2015, 10:27 AM
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Enjoying your first installment and look forward to more. You mentioned buying your Oyster cards at Heathrow, was this at T-5 or T-3 ? I have to get six of them when I arrive next June (LHR) and wondered how long it actually takes.

BTW, I've always found the London Walks are one of the best things to do in London.
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Sep 21st, 2015, 10:41 AM
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I honestly don't remember which terminal (we had flight complications and didn't arrive on originally planned flight...), but there were a number of machines in addition to the manned window I chose, so I don't think it would take very long if you know what you need.
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Sep 21st, 2015, 11:41 AM
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How long for Oyster at the tfl counter depends on how many people are ahead of you in line. Once I got there just before a 20-person group, was out within a few minutes.
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Sep 21st, 2015, 11:44 AM
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Brava, elberko!
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Sep 21st, 2015, 02:08 PM
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Thanks for the Oyster card "how long does it take" comments.

As before, looking forward to hearing more especially about your Rabbies Tour of the Hebrides.
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Sep 22nd, 2015, 07:22 AM
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Rabbies Tour

I can drive a manual transmission, but I’ve never loved driving, and driving in the highlands was not appealing. A large guided tour on a large bus did not appeal either. Rabbies tours are a good compromise. This was my first one, and I would do another.

We did the Outer Hebrides & Skye Adventure 6 Day Tour:
https://www.rabbies.com/tours_scotla...tour.asp?lngen

Rabbies uses a 16 passenger minibus. Passengers on our bus included 4 Americans, the rest were from England, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Romania. About half were in their 30s/40s, the rest older but all active. The bus held quite a bit of luggage—half of the people had bags I’d call large.

When you register, you choose the level of lodging you would prefer, Rabbies does the booking, and you pay the B&B/hotel directly. I chose standard B&B, and all were just fine. Pick-ups most mornings were at 9am and this worked well, even in Portree where we were scattered in 7 different places! In the evening, the driver would point out a few dinner choices before dropping everyone off to choose how to spend their evening.

We had frequent stops for sights, and toilet/coffee/lunch breaks. At sights, there was usually a generous “time to be back”, so you could decide on your own how to spend the time. Never felt rushed, and had the opportunity for some nice long walks.

We had pretty decent weather—occasional drizzles, no downpours, and some sunny days. I really enjoyed all our stops, but Lewis was probably my favorite—we spent some time watching a Harris cloth weaver run his foot pedaled loom, visited a “Black House”, and the standing stones at Callenish. Stornoway on Lewis was interesting, too—a perfectly normal little British town on the edge of miles and miles of peat bogs.

I think 6 days is about the limit I would do on a bus—the last day felt long, but we did have a lot of ground we needed to cover. A few of our fellow passenger were stringing together 3 different tours, which sounded a bit much.
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Sep 22nd, 2015, 08:52 AM
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Happy to hear the rest of your vacation went well! We were delighted to meet you and your son at the London GTG! Our remaining time in London, York, Keswick, The Cotswolds and Bath was wonderful, though seeing Benedict in Hamlet from 5 rows back, had to be the highlight.
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Sep 22nd, 2015, 08:56 AM
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It was nice to meet you too, gailscout! Glad your trip was good.
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Sep 24th, 2015, 11:05 AM
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Hi elberko,
Can you remember ABOUT how long it takes, using public transport, to get from the St. Katharine Docks area to...say Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, etc..the usual tourist attractions?
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Sep 24th, 2015, 11:25 AM
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I honestly never paid any attention, and rarely went straight to a timed thing. Never felt like we were on the tube forever, though, other than maybe the first day from Heathrow. VERY close to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, though.
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Sep 24th, 2015, 12:12 PM
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>>Can you remember ABOUT how long it takes, using public transport, to get from the St. Katharine Docks area to…<<

Not long at all really - other than the several sites w/i walking distance (the Tower, Tower Bridge, Borough market, Southwark Cathedral, the Monument, etc).

Especially for sites on/near the Circle District lines: Tube time from Tower Hill to Big Ben/Parliament/Westminster Abbey/the Eye would be 11 minutes + the time to walk over to the station. For places around Covent Garden/Trafalgar SQ it would be even less - Tower Hill to Embankment take 9 minutes.

To other sites would take a little longer because you would have to change tube lines. To Russell Square (the British Museum) is less than 20 mins from Tower Hill
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Sep 24th, 2015, 12:28 PM
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Liz, thanks for the great report. I'm glad you were able to travel with your son.
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Sep 24th, 2015, 12:38 PM
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Just realized I hadn't posted to the thread before --

Was a great GTG -- 11 people!

Looks like you enjoyed the Rabbies tour.
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Sep 24th, 2015, 12:39 PM
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Thanks, mvor.
He was a terrific travel companion--upbeat, flexible and good at logistics, my usual thing. It was nice to relax and let him handle some of it.
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Sep 24th, 2015, 01:57 PM
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Thanks, janisj..Exactly what I wanted to know.
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Sep 24th, 2015, 02:30 PM
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Glad to hear you enjoyed the Rabbies tour as it certainly offers options if you don't want to rent a car.
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