England help- September 2024

Old Feb 10th, 2024, 09:45 PM
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England help- September 2024

My son and his family have been stationed at Lakenheath Air Force base and Iím finally getting to visit!

Iím planning to fly from LAX to LHR on September 19 and back on October 1 or 2- havenít secured flights yet but plan to this week.

I want to see where they live, meet their friends and tour around their favorite places - Bath and the Cotswolds, maybe Cambridge.

Iíd also like to treat them to a weekend in London or Paris, or Edinburgh, if they wish. (What I donít want to do is show up and just stay with them for 12 nights.)

This will be my first time to Europe and my daughter in law doesnít love me. It will also be my first ď big tripĒ without my husband who passed away in 2021, so although I am normally happy to travel solo- this feels like a major event without him by my side.

I guess Iím looking for some ď solo travelerĒ encouragement and maybe some itinerary help. (Should I fly round trip or open jaw and leave out of Paris or wherever we travel to?)

If they choose to come to London ( my granddaughter will be 3) we will do the aquarium, parks, the train, and World War Two historical places for my son.

if I do London on my own, I want to go to the theater, the Portrait Gallery, find Maitaitomsís Cheese Toasty place, see Windsor and the Crown Jewels and whatever else I can fit in!

This will get me started- thanks!

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Old Feb 10th, 2024, 10:21 PM
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Sorry about your DH - I can see why this might be a difficult trip for a few reasons.

Just some quick initial comments - Lakenheath is a loooooong way from Bath and the Cotswolds. There is no easy/direct east/west road link between the two sides of the country. Lakenheath to say Stow-on-the-Wold is a 3-ish or more hour drive, to Bath more like 4 hours. So IF you do head that direction I'd plan on a two night stay MINIMUM.

If there might be family 'issues' I'd want to keep things as easy as possible, and probably stick to one country

You will have just 10 or 11 usable days depending on whether you fly out the 1st or 2nd. (you can't count on doing anything on arrival and departure days.

Do they live on base or in a nearby town or city? LHR to Lakenheath is a slog being a 2 to 3 hour drive depending on traffic -- and arriving on a Friday would likely make the traffic snarly. I'd imagine your son would be driving to LHR to pick you up?? If that isn't in the cards I'd maybe plan on staying your first night in London and taking the train to someplace like Bury St Edmonds (depending on where they live - there are other options) the next morning. Trains run from both Kings Cross and Liverpool Street with a change at Cambridge. A little over 2 hours.

If you do visit London as a group -- of course you can take the train. But if they want to drive -- I'd plan on driving to someplace like Stratford (NOT Stratford-upon-Avon ) and park there taking the tube into central London - it would be about a 90 minute drive.

Last edited by janisj; Feb 10th, 2024 at 10:24 PM.
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Old Feb 10th, 2024, 10:32 PM
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meant to add - a great weekend trip would be to York. About a 2 hour train ride or 3 hour drive and sooooo much to see and do for the whole family. The Minster, Shambles, AMAZING railroad museum, the Your Castle museum -- one of the best family-focused museums in the whole country, boat trip on the river, etc.
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Old Feb 10th, 2024, 10:33 PM
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Thanks Janis- they do not live on base, their address is Brandon. He may pick me up or I may possibly use his favorite ď Taxi GalĒ that many of the airmen use or I could stay in London and take the train as you suggested. It will depend on his work schedule but I also know several of his friends who are stationed there so there is a chance one of the boys would come get me too- weíve got options!

Last edited by lynni; Feb 10th, 2024 at 10:36 PM.
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Old Feb 10th, 2024, 11:07 PM
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Brandon is a small town about 5 miles from the base which actually has a train station. Kings Cross > Cambridge > Brandon takes about 1:40. If DS or friends pick you up - that's great. But if not, staying the night near Kings Cross and taking the train the next morning would be easy.
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Old Feb 10th, 2024, 11:36 PM
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Ok, going to be an interesting visit.
1) find out where your son has visited during his time (exclude them)
2) East Anglia has a bunch of nice places like Ely, Cambridge, Ipswich, Colchester which he may have been to and lets get them on or off the list early on.
3) York is a special visit as is Durham (probably less so) and lets you see what old cities must have been like
4) does the DIL have any special interests? Not sure this is good idea but maybe plan one visit around her.....
5) October is relatively low season so crowds should not be a problem and while weather may not be great it should not be an issue
6) think about maybe taking an appartment to act as base so if you decide to see the Cotswolds you can also visit say Oxford and other sites over 2 or 3 days. Hotels are fine but if you want to reconnect then airbnb or similar is a good way
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Old Feb 11th, 2024, 12:11 AM
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I'm wondering if splitting your trip roughly into thirds might be a good idea. So a third of the time staying with them, a third on your own and a third where you're all away together, so it's neutral ground.

For the offer of a weekend away for them, I'd make the offer early (now?) give them both time to think about it, look at accommodation, do they want something relaxed and easy or a busy sightseeing time in a big city. There are some lovely old English pubs in villages where they could stay and have meals too. Maybe offer to mind your granddaughter while they go if you wanted.
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Old Feb 11th, 2024, 12:21 AM
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Travelling without your husband won't be easy but something that helped me was having plans for the next day sorted out the night before. Where I'm going, how do I get there, etc. First thing in the morning was the hardest but once I was out the door and doing something, the day got easier from there.
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Old Feb 11th, 2024, 12:35 AM
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just a note re pubs with rooms . . . You mentioned your GD is three. Many pubs with rooms have a lower age limit -- sometimes 12 years old, sometimes 16+

As for the solo bits -- London is a wonderful place for a solo traveler. Soooooooo much to see and do, all easily accessible by public transport. I've posted many trip reports either exclusively in London or with London as part of the itinerary - 80% being as a single traveler -- click on my screen name if you want read some of them. Its a very safe city and even going to the theatre and dining late is fine for a single woman.
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Old Feb 11th, 2024, 01:32 AM
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I live near RAF Lakenheath (all American buses in the UK are RAF), and in fact am retired from the USAF. There are lots of interesting things to see in the area, including Bury St Edmunds, and its role in the Magna Carta. It has ruins of an old abbey, with beautiful gardens, including a playground suitable for your 3 y.o. granddaughter. Bury St Eds has a walkable town centre with lots of interesting independent shops.

Other interesting places within an hour’s drive of Brandon include Cambridge, Ely, and Lavenham, one of the best preserved medieval villages in England. I love having afternoon tea there in the Swan Hotel.

There are lots of trains from Kings Cross to Cambridge and Ely, either of which would be good for your son to meet you and bring you to Brandon. If your flight arrives LHR in the morning it would be easy to go into London the same day for a train from Kings Cross.

Another option would be a National Express coach (bus) that leaves directly from Heathrow and gets you somewhere closer to Brandon, eg Newmarket. The coach trip takes longer, but saves you having to go into central London. The coach trip takes about 3hrs, with several daily departures. If your son can’t meet you there the taxi fare to Brandon isn’t expensive. That would be my preferred way to get from Heathrow to the Lakenheath area.
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Old Feb 11th, 2024, 01:45 AM
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Mrs Bilbo was one of the Lakenheath British Engineers on site for a time and she loved Laveham. You will probably have seen Lavenham on TV a fair few times as they often get people to take down their TV arials and put sand on the street to hide the modern world when making films there.
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Old Feb 11th, 2024, 04:25 AM
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When I wrote “Other interesting places within an hour’s drive of Brandon…” I left out Norwich and Sandringham.

And when I wrote “all American buses…” of course I meant bases, but you already knew that.
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Old Feb 11th, 2024, 07:05 AM
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I was glad Heimdall saw your thread because I knew there'd be so much expert local advice. I am not as familiar with the National Express coach destinations in East Anglia/Suffolk - knowing they do go from LHR to nearby towns - that would be my first choice. Get on the coach in the LHR central bus station, relax not having to schlepp luggage through London and on'off trains, and get off a few (or at least manageable) miles from Brandon would be easiest for everyone (and probably wouldn't annoy the D-i-L as much )
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Old Feb 11th, 2024, 07:47 AM
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The National Express bus from Heathrow makes short stops at Stansted Airport and Cambridge before reaching Newmarket, but still takes only about 3hrs unless there are delays on the M25 motorway. It stops on the Newmarket high street next to the taxi ranks.

You could also book a National Express bus from Heathrow to Thetford, the Norfolk town next to Brandon. That’s about a half hour to an hour longer than to Newmarket. It takes about 20 minutes to drive from RAFL to Newmarket if your son is on duty that day.
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Old Feb 11th, 2024, 07:51 AM
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If you can manage even three or four more days for the trip, it would be great to see a bit more on your own (coming so far and flight costs) and you could break the trip up more.
We have been at both ends of the spectrum, young family stationed in Germany with parents coming to visit and now, we are much older parents who go to visit kids overseas.
DHís parents came to Europe for a month. It was DH who fussed with his Mom. Luckily, I adored her. Anyway, they arrived, visited us a couple of days, then went to Paris for a few days on their own. Back to our place for three days, then they went to the Netherlands for a few days. Back to us, then we all went by car to Southern Germany and Austria (to see Momís childhood home) for about 10 days. Breaking it up like that worked very well. Some days, even during our time together, my in-laws went off to tour something while I took the kids swimming, so take breathers.
When we visit our daughter, we always split time between nearby hotels and staying with her, sometimes going to another place for a day or two. We have also flown into another city or country, stayed a couple of days, then on by train to her place.
Paris is easy from London, great for the whole family. So is Amsterdam. Personally, if you have time, it may be less convenient, but Bath is lovely. I guess just ask them what they think best. It is easy for them to go places, but not for you, so hope they keep that in mind.
Since your Son is not close to the airport, consider staying near the airport your last night. It might be a bit lonely, but will likely be less stressful for everyone. Another option would be for everyone to spend your last two days in London. They could see you off and return home. Anyway, some of that will depend on your Sonís work responsibilities. DH seemed to have Duty right in the middle of relativeís visits. 😂
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Old Feb 11th, 2024, 12:57 PM
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Since I posted, it is now possible that at least one other adult son may join me- and we will extend by a few days to make sure we are able to add a side trip- most likely Paris.
Ireland and or Scotland are still on the table as well. Itís so hard to commit!!

To answer a few questions:

in England they have done a few weekends in London, Cambridge, Bath, York, Cotswolds, Spain, Italy, Estonia, and others I canít remember.

My son just got off working nights so will still be on days in September and has weekends off and plenty of days to take leave since they arenít planning to come back to the states this year.

Weíve decided to plan to fly round trip from San Luis Obispo to Heathrow and fly or train to other destinations while weíre there.

im thinking Ill plan a London weekend ( and theyíll join if they are able) and also a Paris weekend (same.) He typically has weekends off and could make both work during the time weíre there and will also have time to do day trips in England during the time we are with them in Suffolk. ( Those would be leave days and he wonít know for sure until closer to the actual date.)
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Old Feb 11th, 2024, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by KayF
I'm wondering if splitting your trip roughly into thirds might be a good idea. So a third of the time staying with them, a third on your own and a third where you're all away together, so it's neutral ground.

For the offer of a weekend away for them, I'd make the offer early (now?) give them both time to think about it, look at accommodation, do they want something relaxed and easy or a busy sightseeing time in a big city. There are some lovely old English pubs in villages where they could stay and have meals too. Maybe offer to mind your granddaughter while they go if you wanted.
This is such a good idea ~ giving everyone a break midway will do much to smooth any family issues and your little grand will be accustomed to you by then, if they choose to get away by themselves. Well done, KayF!

Edited to add: I see your recent post - weekends away will work well to break up the visit; you’ll have a wonderful time!

Last edited by nyse; Feb 11th, 2024 at 01:10 PM.
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Old Feb 11th, 2024, 02:33 PM
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If your Son has weekends off, perhaps trips you do on your own could be mid-week, giving DIL time to herself and saving the weekends to see your Son. Sounds great that your other Son might be going too!
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Old Apr 6th, 2024, 07:33 PM
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Thanks to each of you who responded to my initial question! I have purchased my tickets and fly on September 18 and fly back October 1- staying the first four nights in a London on my own. Booked a room at the Clermont Victoria- which I can change if needed. I may start another thread for my London jaunt but am first off to read Janisjís trip reports!
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Old Apr 6th, 2024, 08:09 PM
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"first off to read Janisj’s trip reports!" . . . There's a ton of them for sure get a big glass of wine and settle in LOL

That Clermont is right AT Victoria Station so very convenient for all sorts of transport (bus/tube/train/coach/taxi) plus its walking distance to Buckingham Palace, Royal Mews, the Queen's King's Gallery St James's Park, Hyde Park.

(I have no idea if the Clermont Charing Cross' room rates are close to the Victoria location for your dates, I suspect it will be pricier. But if they are comparable, I might check it out. It is VERY central -- close to Trafalgar Square, National/National Portrait galleries, Covent Garden, the river/Southbank, etc.)

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