Book Club Trip to England

Old Jul 10th, 2013, 06:31 PM
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Book Club Trip to England

We are back from a wonderful two week book club trip to England. So many of you helped in my two years of planning leading up to this trip. it was a unique trip and a very interesting group dynamic. It will take me several days to get a trip report completed and posted but will kick it off now with a few notes.

Who we are: Six members of a book club in Colorado and one brave husband who tagged along with his wife. We all met in London, coming in on different flights with four of us coming from a week in France prior to this trip. The six of us ladies range in age from 48 to 62 and many of us work together as well. I was the unofficial leader of the group, having planned the itenarary and made all the reservations.

We met on June 6 at our hotel, The Holiday Inn Kensington Forum. This was a good hotel in that we were a three minute walk to the Gloucester Road tube station, had several grocery stores and fast food restaurants and Starbucks next door. I needed to ease the group into the travel spirit and this was a familiar setting to start from. The hotel is a twelve or more story typical Holiday Inn that served lots of flight crews from the airport. It was clean, quiet, and had helpful desk staff. Price was just over $200 per room per night. We had 4 rooms but all on different floors.

On day 1, the group went in different directions for sight seeing as some were new to London and some were repeat visitors. Four went to see The Book of Mormon that night and loved it. Two went to War Horse and enjoyed it as well. Theatre tickets were all purchased in advance from home.

Day 2, we again split into small groups to see the London sights. I took H. who was using a cane and needed knee surgery as soon as we got home. She almost didn't make the trip due to the pain but with plenty of alcohol over the next two weeks and pain medication, she soldiered on.

She and I took the tube, armed with our one day travel card, and started at The British Library. The Library is free. We were amazed with the treasures room, seeing such beautiful maps, books, letters, lyrics, Bibles, from the likes of Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll, the Beatles, Lady Jane Grey, Queen Elizabeth, Handel, and a Magna Carta as well. helped set the mood for our book club themed tour. They have a well stocked gift store there with all kinds of literary souvenirs.

We asked several employees for directions to our next stop, The Charles Dickens Museum, but no one knew where it was. We found a nearby hotel whose doorman pointed us in the right direction. It was in walking distance but with H and her bad knee, it was a little too long but we didn't know that until we were almost there. The Dickens Museum has undergone a recent remodel and was delightful. He wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby while living here. The house had a lot of his personal belongings, manuscripts and other exhibits about his life. There was a lovely backyard patio where we had a scrumptious peanut butter cookie. The cafe had several tasty treats to choose from. The gift shop had a good selection of Dickens themed stuff. Admission to the house was 8 pounds.

Since H was hurting from the walk and from climbing up and down the stairs in the house, we took a cab from there to the British Museum. Had a very chatty cab driver and he dropped us right at the front curb at the British Museum. We spent the next three hours or so roaming about the glories of the British Museum. Had a fantastic goat cheese sandwich at one of the cafes.

Incredibly, we had time and inclination to head next to the Museum of London via the tube. This is a free museum, donations welcome, as was the British Museum. Very good museum giving the history of London from prehistoric times to modern times with great exhibits on the London Fire, the Plague and all the other historical biggies. okay, by now, we were museumed out and our feet were killing us.

We headed to St Paul's Cathedral to meet the whole group for Evensong. We were thrilled to get to sit in the choir loft area. Evensong was lovely, though the organist had the night off and I really missed hearing that organ. Still, there is nothing like being in a cathedral when a service is happening and you experience the space as it was intended, a place of worship, over a tourist attraction. Evensong is free and you can check the cathedral website for times.

All 7 of us headed to the Counting House for dinner. We had an upstairs room with a large table, great service and a fun atmosphere, watching all the young professionals on a Friday night kicking back with friends. Yes, many of us had the fish and chips, which were good, though not spectacular. A tube ride back to the Holiday Inn and day two was in the books.

Next up: We leave London and start our two week trek to book club heaven.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 07:10 PM
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Livetoroam, great start! You covered a great deal in one day. I will be following along...
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 09:46 PM
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What a great start to your book club themed trip, livetoroam! Can't imagine a better stop than the British Library for you! I remember being mesmerized by Jane Austin's notebook & spectacles there. I look forward to reading more about your trip!
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 12:05 AM
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Yes!
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 12:10 AM
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on for the ride
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 04:54 AM
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Great concept. A book club trip to England! I 'm on board for thisbone.
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 05:09 AM
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Following! Can't wait to read about your adventures!
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 07:16 AM
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Thanks everyone. I just spent an hour writing up the next stop and thanking everyone who had helped plan this and lost the entire write up. This attempt will be shorter!

I do want to thank a bunch of people who answered my questions or gave a tip when I was planning. janisj, flanneruk, PatrickLondon, G Hopper, Underhill, ElendillPickle,stokebailey, avalon, Morgana,albionbythesea,mimar, MissPrism,to name just a few. Thank you, thank you!

Okay. We left London on Saturday morning. We did not want to pick up our two rental cars in London so opted for a tour out of London that stopped at Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and then on to Bath. I contacted Premier tours and they would let us take luggage on the bus and leave us in Bath as the tour would return to London that night. My group walked next door to our hotel for pick up at the Park International Hotel. Pick up was on time and then they took us to Victoria Station where it was chaos. All pickups from all over town were brought here and we re boarded new buses based on the tour you were taking. People everywhere and confused people everywhere. We eventually ended up on the right bus but it was a double decker and packed. Quickly reminded why I don't like to travel in organized bus tour fashion. But we were off. Tour guide pointed out such tidbits as the hotel that Kate Middleton stayed at the night before the wedding. We arrived at Windsor Castle.

We opted out of the organized lunch in Windsor so had more time to tour the castle. Loved it. I really enjoyed St. George's Chapel where Henry and Jane Seymour are buried, as well as Princess Margaret and the Queen's parents and grandparents. The knights banners hanging in a row were impressive too. We grabbed a sandwich in town and the herd boarded the bus for Stonehenge. But wait, the tour director announces that Premier has changed the tour order to do Bath first and then Stonehenge on the way back to London. This would not work for us as we were getting off in Bath. I talked with him about my dismay and he said it had just changed last week. I said we would not have taken the tour if that had been the order. He said, so sorry, call the company for a refund. A few minutes later, he comes back to my seat and said he had called them and the office said if the driver wanted to brave the traffic and road construction to go to Stonehenge first, he could. Our driver, Martin, was up for it so we were back in business. Yay Martin! The rest of the bus was asleep and could have cared less where they were goig and in what order.

After a drive of over an hour through yellow rapeseed ( canola) fields we arrived in windy but sunny Stonehenge. We had about an hour there. We got our audioguides and walked the circle around the stones. It was not very crowded. I was there as a little girl and you could walk amongst the stones. I guess there is a brand new visitor center being built and visitors will soon be trained in from over a mile or so away. Anyway, it was enough time to see the stones, contemplate the age old question of how they got there and why, and to people watch.

Drove through more lovely rolling hills, through the tank training and crossing property and into beautiful Bath. Again, the bus passengers slept through most of it. The bus dropped us behind the Cathedral and we retrieved our bags and said goodbye to them. Sad for them that they only had one hour in Bath. Thankful that we had 2 nights!

We had a five minute walk to our BnB, the Apple Tree Guest house. Walked by the cricket fields and watched them play a bit. The Apple Tree is in a great location, about an 8 minute walk to the Cathedral, Roman Baths etc... It was clean, quiet, and the hosts, Les and Lynsay, were warm and friendly. They cooked a full English breakfast each morning, gave us directions, and left chocolate in our room each day. Each room had a private bath. We could have used a common room as there was no place to gather with others except in your bedroom.

We walked back over the bridge to the Cathedral area, had dinner and walked along the Avon River and around the streets just getting a feel for the city.

The next morning, after a horrid night of sleep ( I was in a triple with two snorers). Yes, I had ear plugs. No, they did not drown out the snoring. We headed to the meeting place for the Mayor's free walking tour of Bath. They had so many people meet there that they broke us into three groups with different guides. Our guide, Carol, was fantastic. She was passionate, funny, clever,knew everything about the city and enjoyed telling it. We spent 2.5 hours with her and learned about the architecture of the Royal Crescent, the Circus, the history of the Roman Baths, the current controversies over the new hotel complex, and of course, literary and movie information. We went into the Assembly Rooms where Jane Austen used to attend and could almost picture her there. Or one of her characters! Fun movie fact: Keira Knightely shot a scene off the balcony inside the Assembly rooms for The Duchess. The tour guides can not and will not take tips. Which is too bad as Carol was so brillian that I would have given her fistfuls of pounds if I could have.

We ended the tour in front of the Roman Baths so joined a medium sized line to get in. Admission was 13 pounds. Interesting place, especially the partially excavated sections. Fairly crowded but we could still get around. Go early when it opens if you want it less crowded. People were buying bags full of souvenirs from the gift shop but we passed on through and headed to the Cathedral.

My favorite part of the Cathedral were the angel sculptures that climb up and down the ladders on the outside. Carol had told us that they left side they are climbing up to heaven to get the word of God and then are coming down the right side to bring the Word back to the people. I loved their faces and their postures and took way too many pictures of them.

We met the group at The Pump Room for tea. It was calm and peaceful inside with a pianist, violin, and cello playing in the background. Enjoyed our scones and clotted cream,sandwiches, tea and pastries. Scones and clotted cream became an addiction for me.

The group split up for the remainder of the evening. Some shopped, some watched the street performers and drank beer, some walked the river and all the side streets. We had sunny, dry weather and people were sitting along the river and all over, enjoying it.

Required Reading for today: Jane Austen and Edward Rutherford's Sarum.

Next stops: Salisbury, Wilton House and on to Dorchester
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 08:35 AM
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Hi again Livetoroam,

That was funny about the folks sleeping on the bus and not caring when they went to Stonehenge. Glad that your accommodations worked out. Bath is lovely, especially being showcased by a great guide.

Now I will have to look up Edward Rutherford's Sarum …
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 08:50 AM
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Terrific! It already sounds like you had better luck w/ your six-lady book club group than I did . . .
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 08:53 AM
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Well Janis, we did have some drama, some hurt feelings and some irritations along the way but are all still speaking to each other and everyone loved the trip!
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 09:25 AM
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Salisbury, Wilton House and on towards Dorchester

We got up and head a full breakfast cooked by Les and Lynsay. They called us two cabs to take us to the Hertz office where with some trepidation, we picked up our two rental cars. They were more spacious than I had thought and we had 4 ladies in one car and three people in the other. The hardest part was winding our way out of Bath to the A 36 to Salisbury. Once out of town, it was smooth sailing with lovely countryside. We followed Rick Steve's parking advice and found the parking garage in Salisbury with an easy walk to the Cathedral.

I think this is my favorite Cathedral. So hard to pick, and I know I don't have to pick a favorite, but if I had to, I would pick Salisbury. The setting in all of that open grass around it, is unique. The tombs are fantastic. I would read a tomb and it was surreal, all of these knights, chaplains, ladies in waiting to Henry 7th, 8 th and earlier. Stained glass that was different shades from other places. There is a chapter house with a copy of the Magna Carta in it. We watched workers suspended by ropes dangling off the sides of the Cathedral and hoisting themselves over the steep ledges. Just an incredibly beautiful place. There is a suggested donation to enter, a cafe and a gift shop.

We all grabbed a quick sandwich walking back through the streets to the parking garage. Next stop was just outside of town to the Wilton House. We took a tour of the house and heard how the Double Cube room was a top secret location for D Day planning with Eisenhower and company. Much of the house has been used for film sets. Of course, we were interested in the Pride and Prejudice connections but The Young Victoria, Madness of King George and Johnny English all used interior shots there. I need to go back and re watch then all to see if I can spot something familiar.

The grounds were lovely, with a slow moving river, bridges and fields. We had tea and scones in the cafe and enjoyed just relaxing in such a posh place.

At last, we had to head for our next BnB where we would be staying for the next three nights. It was a good, long, winding, small little road just past Cerne Abbas to our spot. The drivers were freaked out about the narrow lanes, tall hedges on each side, and other road obstacles but we made it.

We check into this perfect farmhouse called Field Farmhouse. Karen met us with snacks and let us in to our rooms. We had one cottage with washing machine, sitting areas and a kitchen. We all quickly got back into the cars and drove 5 minutes up to Cerne Abbas to the Royal Oak Pub for a spectacular dinner. They have a new manager and chef and we went back three nights in a row.

Required Reading: Sarum by Rutherford, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet

Next stop: John Fowles and Mary Anning Day in Lyme Regis
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 10:07 AM
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What a fantastic trip report! Thanks for sharing it with us, livetoroam.

Lee Ann
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 10:59 AM
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enjoying hearing about your adventures! thanks for sharing!
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 11:06 AM
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I see you don't mention the Cerne Abbas Giant,
I assume that as proper refined ladies, you averted your eyes ;-)
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 11:17 AM
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Enjoying this too

Have you read Cider With Rosie or anything else by Laurie Lee? I live only a couple of miles from Slad village and the valley he so lyrically describes.
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 12:07 PM
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Julia, someone else mentioned Cider with Roses when I was planning and I still need to read that. lucky you for living in such beautiful surroundings!

MissPrism, Ahh, the Cerne Giant. Hard to miss his specialness. ��
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 12:39 PM
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My next installment before I take two days to hike Mt Democrat here in Colorado. Desperate measures are needed to burn off the scones and clotted cream from the trip.

We woke up on Tuesday, June 11 to cool temperatures and rain and fog. Karen at the Field Farmhouse cooked us a great breakfast and pointed us down the road to Lyme Regis. This was a day we had all been looking forward to for a long time! Lyme Regis has Jane Austen connections ( two book club members are huge fans) but it also is where John Fowles wrote and set the story The French Lieutenants Woman. The movie of the same name with Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons was shot here. AND, if that were not enough to get us to visit, the book Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier was written about fossil hunter Mary Anning. This was enough to propel us through horrid fog 45 minutes or so to Lyme Regis.

We were to meet Natalie Manifold from Lyme Regis walks at 11 for our French Lts Woman walk. Two of our group were now not able to walk since the reservation had been made so they opted to visit the museum and fossil shops while we walked. The weather was misty but no longer raining as we headed down part of the coastal path. Natalie stopped at places along the way to read us excerpts from the book and to share anecdotes about Fowles and the making of the movie. We visited his house and writing studio which is now private property and met the eccentric guy who lives there. The views of the coast were lovely and all of the ferns and wet greenery was refreshing. Our walk was a little over two hours. Natalie knows her Fowles but the cost was a little high and there were no refunds for those who were unable to go. We paid $49 per person and I thought we had better walking tours for a lot less in other places. However, the scenery was spectacular.

Natalie pointed us to a good fossil shop and to the Town Mill bakery for, yes.... Scones. After fortifying ourselves with those, we headed to the museum which is housed in Mary Annings former home. Great exhibits about her and her fossils as well as some Fowles and Jane Austin material. Cost was 4 pounds or so. D and I then walked around the Jane Austin gardens, admired the street lights that were in the shape of ammonite fossils and finally got to The Cobb. It was windy and the tide was starting to come in. We walked the length of the Cobb. Neither of us had Meryl Streeps hooded cloak to look romantic in at the end of it but we pretended.
Spent some more time just walking around this fun, hilly seaside town. Bought some fossils and enjoyed the views. Our two cars left town about 45 minutes apart. Car one got caught in a detour for a traffic accident and had to go 30 miles out of the way and followed a tank. What is with the tanks on the road? I was in Car 2 and the accident was cleaned up and we went straight through so missed the tank excitement. Once we were all reunited, we headed to Cerne Abbas for a look at that giant.

The Cerne Giant is this huge chalk outlined dude with prominent male parts displayed on a hillside outside of town. I guess you can hike up to him and have a go at increasing your fertility if you have sex on the giant. Or so they tell gullible book club ladies. None of us came home pregnant so who is to say. We had another great dinner at The Royal Oak pub and called it a day

required Reading: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier, John Fowles FLW and of course, Jane Austen

Next stop: Thomas Hardy Day and Lawrence of Arabia as a bonus
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 01:02 PM
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Wonderful. I think I'll have to start an official book club so I can refer to your trip as an incentive and goal! Any excuse to get back to favorite places (like Bath, Salisbury, Stonehenge, and the British Library) and see some others you got to see.

Carry on!
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 02:07 PM
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Thank you for sharing your adventures. I am looking forward to Thomas Hardy day, as I love his poetry, especially Darkling Thrush.
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