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Just back from month in England, Scotland and North Wales

Just back from month in England, Scotland and North Wales

Jun 30th, 2001, 04:42 PM
  #1  
Tony
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Just back from month in England, Scotland and North Wales

Just got back from almost one month in England, Scotland and North Wales. Weather was absolutely perfect everywhere we went. Imagine, we were in London for 8 days without a drop of rain and the temperature got into the 80s. Our itinerary included Winchester, Salisbury, Bath, Cotswolds, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, Northern Wales, Chester, the Lake Country, Scotland including a trip through the Highlands, Edinburgh, York and finally London. Have a lot of opinions and ideas if anyone is interested.
 
Jun 30th, 2001, 05:01 PM
  #2  
Linda
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I'm interested. Can't ever get too much info about the UK! Please!
 
Jun 30th, 2001, 07:35 PM
  #3  
Tony
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Linda,
Having been so many places, its hard to figure out where to start or what to comment on. I guess I'll start at the beginning. We first went to Salisbury, a lovely town. The cathedral there is very unique. The remains of the original cathedral bombed in WWII have been retained next to a very modern new cathedral. Walking through the ruins has quite an effect. After Salisbury, we went to Stonehenge on a beautiful sunny day. Quite a photo opportunity. Then it was on to Bath. We stayed at the Bath Spa Hotel, which was lovely. The city is quite beautiful and pedestrian friendly. We saw all the usual tourist sites including the Roman Baths. We really enjoyed our visit there and would return again on a future trip. From there we drove through part of the Cotswolds to Oxford where we spent a day. The next day we went on to Blenheim palace and then back into the Cotswolds seeing upper and lower slaughter, Stow-on-Wold, etc. ending up in Stratford-upon-Avon. I don't know whether it was all the hype we had heard before we went, but the Cotswolds ended up being kind of disappointing. While they are certainly pretty, and the towns are quaint (although fairly touristy), we just weren't that impressed. Certainly not as impressed as we were when we visited Northern Wales and the Lake Country later. Anyway, we spent a day touring Stratford and saw Twelfth Night at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. It was an excellent production. After Stratford, we went on to Northern Wales. I have a lot to say about that, but will do that in a later post.
 
Jun 30th, 2001, 08:00 PM
  #4  
Marie
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Salisbury Cathedral wasn't bombed out during the war -- the cathedral is the original. Coventry, however, was bombed and the ruins left and a new and modern cathedral erected adjacent to it.
The uniqueness of Salisbury is that it contains one of the three original copies of the Magna Carta.
 
Jun 30th, 2001, 08:20 PM
  #5  
Tony
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Marie
Sorry, you're right. Getting my cathedrals mixed up. Its what happens when you spend a month wondering around the UK. I'll try to be more careful with the details.
 
Jun 30th, 2001, 08:55 PM
  #6  
Art
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Hi Tony, nice report. We'll be going to England, Scotland etc next year so am interested in all of your info.
Regards,
Art
 
Jul 1st, 2001, 11:51 AM
  #7  
Tony
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Continuing my report, while we were in Stratford, we saw Anne Hathaway's cottage and Shakespeare's birthplace. I should add two things to my report. Before we left the states, we purchased two one month Great British Heritage Passes (you don't have to buy them for the kids as their admission was either free or substantially discounted at most places). Were we ever thankful that we did. We ended up saving quite a bit of money on the cost of individual admissions. For us, it was absolutely worth it to purchase the passes. The other thing we did was purchase a couple of books of discounted tickets for Guide Friday buses (Again, you don't buy them for the kids as their ticket cost is minimal). When we started our tour of each town or city, we would first take the Guide Friday bus tour to orient ourselves. Most tours lasted about an hour. You can also hop on and off all day long. Coninuing, while we were in Stratford, we drove out to Warwick Castle. It was kind of fun, especially for the kids because they had falconry shows, and men dressed up in suits of armor putting on various demonstrations. The use of Madame Tussaud wax figures to show people in their original settings does make the castle's rooms come alive. Since Coventry was not that far, we drove over to see the cathedral. As indicated above, it was quite powerful seeing the bombed out cathedral next to the new one. After Stratford, we drove on to Northern Wales. Northern Wales is absolutely beautiful. It should be on everyone's must see list. We stopped in Llangollen and Bala and then went on to Portmerion, which is a really unusual place to find in Wales. It is a recreation of an Italian Village and is famous for its china and the fact that the old T.V. classic, The Prisoner, was filmed there. After Portmerion, we went to Betws-y-Coed, where we stayed in an outstanding B&B just outside of the town. The B&B's name is Tan-y-Foel and is a remarkable conversion of a farmhouse to a B&B. All of the rooms are beautifully decorated in an eclectic fasion with lively colors. It is also remarkable because of the fact that one of the owners is a Master Chef. The meals she produced were simply outstanding. While the cost was, as the British say, a bit dear, we loved the place and would gladly go back again. Using our B&B as a headquarters, we set out to explore Northern Wales. The first place I have to comment on are the Bodant Gardens. They are spectacular. Set in a very natural setting, we had a great time taking the various paths that took us all over the property. The gardens have a sixty yard long arch that is covered by yellow flowers that just happened to be in full bloom. If you are ever there in June, you have to see it. However, I think the gardens and their setting would be worthwhile to see at most any time of the year. I should note that we stopped at Hidecote Gardens in England, which had been highly recommended to us, and were very disappointed. Maybe we weren't there at the right time of year, but they were nothing like Bodant Gardens. After the gardens, we went on our castle tour. We stopped in Llandudno, which is an interesting old seaside town, Conwy with its castle and then it was on to Beaumaris and Caernarfon for the castles located in those cities. The last thing we did while in Wales was to take the Snowdon railway to the top of Mt. Snowdon. We had great weather and got a great view of Wales as a result. After Wales, our next stop was Chester. We were disappointed in Chester. The area within the city's walls has been IMHO spoiled by a large fairly new shopping center. Many of the old buildings are still there but it just wasn't that interesting a city. I doubt we would ever go back again. As I will describe later, we thought York was a far superior city to visit. Leaving Chester, we then went on to tour the Lake Country which I will describe in my next post.
 
Jul 1st, 2001, 12:27 PM
  #8  
Phil
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Would really like to hear all about Wales. Thanks
 
Jul 1st, 2001, 12:32 PM
  #9  
Richard
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This is a perfect example of why Americans should not try to squeeze soooooooo much into a trip to the UK (or anywhere else for that matter). To simply say "getting my cathedrals mixed up" as an explanation for confusing Salisbury with Coventry is unbelievable. Also - the Cotswolds are "quaint" an ugly-American word if I ever heard one. This poor family probably thinks the Cotswolds are a movie set placed there for their amusement.

I am glad you enjoyed your trip - but next time try to actually stop and smell the roses instead of rushing to see the next "quaint" place.
 
Jul 1st, 2001, 01:38 PM
  #10  
Tony
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Richard
Gee, do I feel chastised.
 
Jul 1st, 2001, 05:11 PM
  #11  
janis
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I'm glad you enjoyed yourselves, but when I read your posts I had the same sort of reaction as Richard (Hopefully not as mean though). To me, confusing Salisbury (a magnificent medieval masterpiece) with Coventry (a magnificent modern memorial to the destruction of war) 100 miles away is like confusing the Louvre with the Pompidou or the grand canyon w/ Mount Shasta. It makes no sense unless you were rushing through so fast you didn't know where you were. Hopefully farther along in your trip you slowed down a bit to catch your breath.

About Hidcote vs Bodnant. They are completely different types of gardens. One not better than the other. Hidcote was a revolutionary garden created by an expatirot American and bequeathed to the nation. The design of Hidcote influenced 60 years of gardens in the UK - it and Sissinghurst are a main reason English gardens are as beautiful as they are.
 
Jul 2nd, 2001, 06:36 AM
  #12  
xxx
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We did a shorter version of your trip and I share many of your opinions.
North Wales was, by far, the highlight of the trip. We visited the places you mentioned and in addition, the castles at Harlech and Cricceth. I can't pick my favorite castle--each one was unique in its own right. Our only disappointment was that weather did not permit going up Snowdon. I wish we had allowed for more time in Wales and less time other places.
I, too, was disappointed in the Cotswolds. Once we had strolled the town streets and church yards, there was little left except shopping. While I may be an exception, I don't travel to other countries for the shopping experience.
I loved Warwick Castle and had not expected to. The addition of the wax figures really seemed to bring it to life. We arrived before opening and went through the exhibitions "backward." That way we only encountered crowds in a few areas. Kennilworth castle is not far from Warwick. This ruin of a castle was a great contrast to Warwick.
Stratford-Upon-Avon seemed to be a regular, work-a-day city with the Shakespeare-related buildings surrounded by yet more stores. Chester held the same disappointment for me. If you looked up, you could enjoy the half-timbered buildings. But there was much lost on the ground level when the modern store fronts were full of the same names and merchandise found in the US.
We also toured Blenheim Palace and Windsor Castle. Both were fabulous. We found many historical sites along the roads we drove. While not on our "agenda," many of these turned out to be our favorite places and stops.
What I found most surprising was that I loved London. I am not usually a fan of huge cities, but I would return there anytime. I think perhaps, the places that disappointed me were those that I expected to be small villages and turned out to be larger towns. I am sure that I fell in love with North Wales because it was what I had pictured in my mind. I fully realize that my disappointments resulted from my own preconceived notions (this despite months of planning, reading and researching our trip). I am surprised at the responses to Tony's posting that "correct" him for his opinions on things. I thought that one of the values of this board was for everyone to share their opinions. Other posters must find this information valuable when planning their own trips or this site would not be so popular. Because one did not find a particular site to be what they expected, does not mean that the trip was rushed, poorly-planned, or that the traveler thought the place to be a movie set for their enjoyment. While I understand fully the value of not putting too much into a trip agenda, the fact is that most of us do not have unlimited time off and money for vacations. Therefore, we must pick and choose what we believe we will most enjoy. To be honest, I wish I had read more posts like Tony's especially regarding the Cotswolds and other "popular" places. We chose the Cotswolds at the expense of not being able to see other areas. We planned an amount of days in the Cotswolds specifically to have a chance to stop and smell the roses. Instead we found an area geared to stop and shop. I don't expect everyone to agree with me, after all, the area is extremely popular for a reason and I expect I am the minority. Yet, is this not a forum for all to discuss travel opinions?
 
Jul 2nd, 2001, 07:10 AM
  #13  
Dave
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Tony,

Don't feel too chastised by the somewhat mean comments. I can't imagine why some people on this board have to try and exert their "superior" opinions, when in fact, they simply come off as being rude.

Your month-long trip covered a lot of ground--perhaps too much for some people's tastes. But I suspect that you wanted to see as much of the UK as possible during your trip...its not like most of us can just pop back over for another trip at any time.

There is also nothing wrong with your observations of the Cotswolds towns...how can calling them "quaint" be an ugly American term? The ARE quaint, and local tourism officials promote that fact.

A reminder to Richard (the person who made the ugly American comment): in the UK, B&B operators, pub owners, and others are pleading for tourists to return to the countryside. Tony and his family did just that and I suspect their patronage was appreciated in some of the areas that have been hit hard by the foot-and-mouth restrictions.

Finally, mixing up two cathedrals, after a month of touring, is not "unbelievable" it is very believable.





 
Jul 2nd, 2001, 08:08 AM
  #14  
Frances
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My family (includes 13 yr old twin boys and 15 girl) are planning 3 weeks in August. Can you tell me about problems caused by foot and mouth disease. also , did you eat the beef? mad cow disease?
 
Jul 2nd, 2001, 08:41 AM
  #15  
Ess
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Tony, come back! I want to hear about the rest of your trip. What did you eat? How was the beer? What about Scotland?
 
Jul 2nd, 2001, 09:35 AM
  #16  
Buyer
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Tony, keep going lovely report.. and just a gentle FYI to Richard... last week I had the wonderful pleasure of listening to one of your fellow countrymen absolutely verbally shred my home town, our air, our traffic, our people for 45 minutes... Tony is obviously being complimentary about his trip, he undoubtedly spent some cash in the UK and enjoyed himself, it is very nice of him to share his experiences to encourage other people to travel to the UK and spend more money there. Unfortunately unlike our counterparts in the UK, American's get far fewer vacation days... try two weeks per year, if that. We need to squeeze much more into the time we have. Maybe you just don't understand that, and I am very sorry for your mean comments to someone who obviously enjoyed your country and was complimentary of it.
 
Jul 2nd, 2001, 09:47 AM
  #17  
chuck
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Tony,

As Ess said, do come back and share the rest of your trip with us!

Ignore Richard and Janis, who have obviously never made any mistakes, are expert at wringing large assumptions from the smallest tidbits of information, and seem to delight in chastisement.

There are a lot of us for whom your comments are brightening yet another Monday.
 
Jul 3rd, 2001, 02:25 PM
  #18  
Ben
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Tony
Ignore the rude, self-appointed experts. Would love to hear about the rest of your trip. Planning a similar trip for September.
 
Jul 3rd, 2001, 02:39 PM
  #19  
Oaktown Traveler
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NOW THAT WAS JUST PLAIN OLD RUDE!!!!!!!!

Yes, I mean to scream loudly!

I have seen some pretty disgusting behavior on the Fodors.com threads, USA specifically but that behavior is usually reserved for non-travel topics such as weddings and behavior of children, going to the movies etc.

Tony was trying his best to share his trip that I was certainly interested in reading about!

Do I care if every detail is perfect? NO!

I wish some of you EXPERTS and POSTING POLICE would do some work on the USA threads. That is where your TALENTS could be used.

Tony PLEASE write some more. Postings like yours remind many of us what these boards are "all about."

When I post my trip Richard, Janis and others like them are invited NOT to read or correct MY trip report.

How ARROGANT can you get???????????

Did you help Tony pay for his trip?

Did you afford Tony the time off to take his trip? Don't answer...I want to PLEASE hear more TRAVEL information, experiences and impressions from TONY.

Oaktown Traveler
 
Jul 3rd, 2001, 03:37 PM
  #20  
Thyra
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Bravo!! O.T!!!
Fortunately in my experience, most people abroad have been kind appreciative, fun and helpful to visitors to their countries... as I try to be to visitors to mine.
I, as I am sure a great many people would, would dearly love to be able to afford to take half a year off and travel. To really absorb a place and cement the impressions in my mind...well buddy, tell that to my boss who very nearly fired me for requesting two weeks, (back to back mind... not spread out over the course of 12 months)
Luckily for the tourism industry of Europe and the UK, none of people I have met in my travels have shared Richard's attitude...
 

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