Bath first or London?

Old Sep 11th, 2004, 06:52 PM
  #1  
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Bath first or London?

Hello all! This is my first post on the boards, but I've been voraciously devouring all of your advice for several weeks now. I am in the beginning planning stages of a 10 day trip for 2 (we are both in our late 20s) to England in late May 2005.

I would like to spend the bulk of our time in London; however, we will be spending at least 2, possibly 3 days, centered in Bath for day trips to Cotswolds area.

My question (first of many I'm sure) is about the order of our trip. Should we start out in Bath or London first?

At the present moment, I am leaning towards London first. We are considering the Abbey Court Hotel in Notting Hill (any comments on this establishment?), so I thought a nice way to ease into the trip would be to check out the Portobello Market. We will be arriving on a Saturday so the antique market will be on. After a relaxing dinner in the evening, I think we would pretty much call it a day and get to bed to fight that jet lag.

We are planning to take a train to Bath, and I am concerned that train plus plane at the end of the trip would make it seem like a million years until we would get home (the anticipation/adrenaline of the trip could not be counted on to get us through at that point!).

Then again, it might be nice to ease into the trip by starting out in Bath! Advice please!

Thanks so much!
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Old Sep 11th, 2004, 06:56 PM
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Reading your title I was ready to suggest that it is always a considerate idea to take a bath before visiting London.

But now that I see what you're really asking, my answer is the same. I think you've already thought it out pretty well. I'd go for heading to Bath first.
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Old Sep 11th, 2004, 08:42 PM
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How complicated is it to get from the airport to Bath?

If you can leave the airport and take the train to Bath in one easy motion, I'd suggest that.

But if you need to go from airport to central London on one train, take a cab to another station, get on another train and leave London to go to Bath,... well, I'd just stop in London for a couple of days and get non-jetlagged.

BAK
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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 05:52 AM
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If you want to go to Bath directly from Heathrow: In the arrivals concourses at Heathrow there are railway desks that sell you tickets for the shuttle bus from Heathrow to Reading, and then for the train to Bath. Buses leave for Reading every half hour or so. I'm told you can buy them now by phone with a credit card on 8 457 000 125, from 8am to 8pm local time.
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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 08:03 AM
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There are pros and cons to both options. There's also the possiblity of sandwiching Bath/Cotswolds in the middle of the trip to break up your time in London and take advantage of the easy transport between London and the airports. I think that's what I personally would choose, especially if your trip starts on a Saturday. Weekends in the Cotswolds and Bath are very busy. Also keep in mind May 30th next year is a bank holiday so the weekend leading up to it will be busy and hard to book hotels.

But before getting to that, if you've been reading the boards, you should know "doing the Cotswolds" is very difficult without a car. Not many of the smaller villages have train stations and the buses are somewhat erratic. How did you plan on seeing the Cotswolds from Bath? Do you plan on renting a car once in Bath? Parking is not always easy. Were you going to do bus tours from Bath? That will limit your options. I also think you lose the feeling of the Cotwolds by just being there during the day and not spending evenings there. You will be with hoards of daytrippers. Bottom line, I guess I'm not in agreement with your proposed plan to center in Bath for day trips to the Cotswolds, whether you do it before, middle or at the end.

I think transportation may rule your decisions. So things to consider...

>There is no direct train from to/from Heathrow to Bath. The bus is probably easier--no changing, but takes 2 to 2 1/2 hrs depending on time of day. Look for info on nationalexpress.com

>The towns in the Cotswolds that do have train service are Moreton-on-Marsh, Stratford-on-Avon, Charlbury. I would not personally choose to stay in any of these btw.

>Oxford is on the edge of the Cotswolds and is a city with trains, car rental places and there's a bus that goes direct from Heathrow and also to/from London (a lot cheaper than the train). The bus from Oxford to London is called the Tube and the Stagecoach (from Heathrow to Oxford) Here's the website

http://www.stagecoach-oxford.co.uk/tickets/fares.html

>you can take daytrips from London to Bath, Bath & Stonehenge, Bath & Cotswolds with Astral tours and Evan & Evans (2 cos most mentioned here) There are plenty of threads here describing pros and cons of these tours.

Finally, I'd suggest you read the rants and raves on Fodors for the Abbey Court Hotel (some people feel it's a bit shabby). If you want to stay in that area and don't mind cats, you might check the Pembridge Court Hotel. I think they may be on the same street or right near by but it seems to get better reviews. Just a heads up, the Portobello market starts VERY early and by 9 or 10 it's packed. So depending on what time you might arrive if you go straight to London, it may not be a very relaxing way to start the trip.

I really hope my post doesn't come across too negative. Just trying to help you plan a great trip.
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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 08:11 AM
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We've always found it best to do the London portion of the trip first - when you have fresh feet. London is a real walking city and the slower pace of Bath can help you unwind after the bustle of London.

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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 08:22 AM
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BTW, it would be helpful to know whether either of you have ever been to London, or Europe before. Just trying to gauge your travel experience.
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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 11:58 AM
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I have been to Paris and have traveled throughout Spain but never to London. This is the first time I am planning my own trip as opposed to using a travel agent.

As far as exploring the Cotswolds, we planned on small guided tours to some of the towns as my husband is completely opposed to driving in England (keeps mumbling about that opposite side of the road thing...). I realize this limits our choices of towns to visit and may prevent us from sampling the true flavor of the region, but I had to make some concessions for the hubby.
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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 12:22 PM
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I totally understand the desire to avoid driving there but still feel staying IN a Cotswold village is more of a different experience to London than staying in Bath which is another city. I would consider staying in Woodstock which is the town where Blenheim Palace is located. I think there should be info on the web or on this board on getting to Woodstock. If it were my trip, I'd do a day trip with one of the tours to Bath and wherever you choose and then perhaps end the trip with an overnight at Woodstock. The town is lovely and Blenheim is fantastic with lots to see. It's not too far from Heathrow if you're leaving from there. You could also arrange a day trip to Bath on your own via train.
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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 12:27 PM
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London will have a fast pace, they'll be lots for you to do, you'll find it relatively tiring. Bath has far less to see so go there last, treat it as a means of winding down from London's frenetic tempo.

As for your decision to stay in Notting Hill - do you have to stay there? I'd like to recommend more central area. Maybe you could advise your budget so as to enable one to suggest alternatives.
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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 12:33 PM
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I also just remembered someone recently posted about a private guide who was very reasonably priced for the Cotswolds. He/she (can't remember) picks you up at the train station and drives you around. Do a text search. Try typing cotswolds guide in the box above or maybe cotswolds tour. There are also a number of previous threads on cotswolds without a car.

Good luck planning!
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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 07:48 PM
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Hi kvdragon, Its interesting reading your post because I had the same concerns. We are leaving in exactly 1 month YEAH! and plan on spending our 1st day in London on the hop on/hop off bus tour and getting off at places like Harrods, (none too taxing for jet lagged brains and bods), eating an early dinner and going to sleep. The next day we are going to the Cotswolds for 2 days and 1 night. The main reason for us doing it is we also want to be in London on Sat. (portobello) and Sun. (speakers corner) and leaving that Mon. is too close to when we fly home. A few pointers from someone who has really relied on this site and the wonderful people who help you and am still planning last minute details. Since its just you and your husband you really should use Priceline for a great hotel deal. There is no good reason not to! Be realistic about how much sightseeing you can cram into 1 day. Maybe save Bath for another time, or the Cotswolds. We were going to do both in 2 days and were persuaded by Fodorites(including Mclaurie) I think, to drop one or the other. Last thing, we are 4 women doing a girls trip and twice your age (almost), but if we can drive it, so can you. Rent the car when you get to Bath or the Cotswolds. Let hubby be the navigator. You're young, your reflexes are good. Have fun planning this trip. For me thats almost as good as actually going!
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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 08:54 PM
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With regards to budget, we are shooting for a hotel in the proximity of 125 GBP per night. We have no firm committment to the Notting Hill area. Suggestions of reasonably priced alternatives are welcome!

Thank you for the feedback and suggestions I have receved thus far.
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Old Sep 13th, 2004, 04:52 AM
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Posters here have obtained the Holiday Inn Mayfair for well under 100GBP per night, its location is second to none - far more central than Notting Hill. I'd recommend it for its position alone.
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Old Sep 13th, 2004, 01:58 PM
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You've gotten lots of reasonable suggestions/advice -- but a couple od additional things you should consider.

1) Bath is not that convenient a location for touring the Cotswolds. It would be better to base in a Cotswold village or in Oxford. A car is by far the best way to see the Cotswolds, but If you are dead set against driving you can hire a local driver through the Tourist Information Center in whichever village you are staying.

2) Unless your flight arrives at LHR at 6a.m., you likely won'tbeable to do Portobello Rd on that Saturday. If you arrive mid morning, by the time you clear immigtarion, transfer to your hotel/check in, and get to P. Rd it will be mid afternoon, and you will be Totally exhausted). Unless you can be at Portobello Rd by about 8 a.m. you should probably skip it - by 10 a.m. the place is TOTALLY swamped and you can barely walk let alone see anything. Not somewhere I'd want to be on my first jetlagged morning - in a massive crowd.
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Old Sep 13th, 2004, 09:50 PM
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With regards to your budget, if you go with priceline its going to cost you way less then 125 pounds/nite. Maybe $125.00! Big difference and you'll probably have a much nicer hotel in a better neighborhood (for tourists anyway). Again, thats why we're doing the hop on/hop off bus when we get off the plane. Its EASY. We may not even move off the bus. Just kidding, After an 8 hour flight, we'll probably want to move around some. Whatever you decide, trust me on this. Sometimes you will get conflicting advice on this site, but its always something thats been considered seriously by the people who answer you. And its done with the best of intentions to save you problems on your trip.
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Old Sep 14th, 2004, 07:31 AM
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I agree with janis' comments. Some more thoughts..

It was in fact on zwho's thread about the Cotswolds that the guide I referred to earlier was mentioned. The guide is Genny at Tourgems.com. The poster, ggnga said

"I did a 2 day tour with her and it was wonderful. I am using her again for my friend and I for a 2 day, 1 night trip again this October."

Here is the link to that quite long thread (started by zwho's travelling companion natjgc) asking where to go outside of London in which this guide is mentioned. While some of it is not relevant to you, I think it's worth reading for ideas/perspective on what you're planning. It is also true we did discourage zwho in this thread from trying to cover both Bath and the Cotswolds in just 2 days, but since you said possibly 3, I think that's doable.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34520874

There are many, many threads on driving in England. I've learned by now not to try to convince people to do something they don't want to do, but we do warn people that without driving, getting to the nicest bits of the Cotswolds can be a challenge.

As to the London portion of your trip, I personally see nothing wrong with the idea of staying in Notting Hill if you understand it may not be a "typical" location choice for tourists. Westbourne Grove has a lot of trendy shops and restaurants and is in that general area. You can read some info here

http://www.londontown.com/LondonStre...grove_202.html

BTW, londontown is a good place to "shop" for hotels too,

Most people like the idea of staying near a tube stop that has 2 or 3 tube lines intersecting and Notting Hill Gate does fit that bill. Staying near the Gloucester Rd. or South Kensingtons tops are also a popular options. Here's a URL for the tube map to get your bearings

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/pdfdocs/colormap.pdf

I don't know what sort of hotel you'd prefer, but the Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel is very well regarded and should be within your budget if you shop carefully. It's a newish hotel that's a renovation of an old bank building I think. The rooms are evidently large. It's clear across town from Notting Hill (I think it's at the Holborn tube stop). The benefit, aside from large rooms and a nice hotel is it's within walking distance of the theater distr. around Covent Garden. The downside is the area is more a business area (it's where all the law courts are located). However there's a lovely open green park not far away, right in front of the Soames Museum which I visited the last time I was in London. If you type the name of the hotel in the search box, you'll find a number of threads about it.

Another well regarded hotel here is the Rembrandt which is not far from Harrods.

There is no question that the best deal in London is using Priceline where you can bid in dollars. You must read biddingfortravel.com to understand the system etc.
Good luck!
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Old Sep 14th, 2004, 01:45 PM
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Thank you everyone for your advice thus far. Ok, the plan has evolved into this creature based on all of your suggestions:

Days 1-6 in London (I am now considering Rubens at the Palace. Yes, I know it's not Notting Hill, but after some consideration I decided it might be nice to be a bit more central. I found a rate of 109 GBP per night which seems reasonable.)

Days 7-8 in Bath (I am considering the Paradise House Hotel. It looks gorgeous! We plan to take a day to tour the town of Bath itself. The other day will be used for a tour of the Cotswolds area including a stop at Stonehenge. I am investigating Tour Gems and Mad Max Tours-- "Let them do the driving!" my husband says. He cannot be swayed.)

Day 9 in Woodstock (mclaurie, you convinced me...Blenheim Palace does look lovely! I am considering The Bear for accomodations. After touring the palace we can get to know the town a bit.

Day 10 Oxford/LHR Since our flight leaves in the evening, I thought it might be possible to wander around Oxford for a few hours in the morning before we leave for Heathrow. I'm not sure if this is realistic though.

What do you think?
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Old Sep 14th, 2004, 03:49 PM
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I think the general plan sounds excellent. I won't comment on hotels or prices since I have no personal experience with those. Just do your research (or start a new thread asking for hotel advice). I know the Rubens gets good reviews here. Some of the other hotels owned by the same co. (Red Carnation) are also quite good. I think 41 is just a few floors in the same building and is done as a boutique hotel. the Milestone also gets good reviews. Don't make yourself crazy, but do make sure you're getting the best price available. Check the hotel's own website but also check others. Here's a thread on various websites to check.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34469622

Also, I assume you know the VAT (value added tax) is quite high and will add 17.5% to the price. Some websites include this in the price and some don't. Some websites have prices that include breakfast and some don't.

I can't really give an opinion on spending the last day in Oxford. It somewhat depends on what day of the week it is. I understand many of the historic buildings at the University are only open to the public on a weekend when classes are not in session. Not sure where to stow your luggage for the day since I know it would be easier to get to Heathrow from Oxford than Woodstock. I hope you saw my mention of the bus called the tube that my husband recently used to get from Oxford to Heahtrow. Very inexpensive.

Another option would be to go to Windsor for the last day which is very near Heathrow and very "tourable" in a day. Same problem though with with luggage. I know for sure though that this would be a pleasant last day whether weekday or weekend.

Here are 2 very good older thread about Oxford and Blenheim

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...=2&tid=1336849

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...=2&tid=1366468
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Old Sep 14th, 2004, 11:21 PM
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The Oxford Tube doesn't go to Heathrow: it goes to central London without stopping at the airport.
There is, though, a different, every 30 minute, ("The Airline": Oxford's creativity in slapping silly brand names on everything has soared as its market share in the Nobel Prize industry has slumped) bus direct to Heathrow, usually taking an hour.

Getting to know Woodstock takes about 5 seconds (though its free museum has a couple of interesting things, including the only representation of the local Roman mosaic - either destroyed by idiot souvenir hunters or hidden by academic fascists almost as soon as it was discovered). I've been unable to find anywhere you can leave bags in Oxford.

If you can't solve this problem and have a free morning, try walking across Blenheim to Coombe: a real village, with some ace medieval paintings in its church (look for the bit showing what happens to naughty ladies). Ask your hotel to show you the right-of-way entrances to the Park. which mean you don't have to fork out again to keep the Churchills in the style they seriously believe they're entitled to.

Incidentally, weekday (and termtime) opening times in Oxford are virtually identical to weekend times, and are at www.ox.ac.uk/visitors. Even though access to colleges is limited all year round, and many of the city's wonders are part of working academic institutions, it's still an interesting place to wander through if someone has discovered a way of handling the bags.
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