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yk May 14th, 2008 08:11 AM

Last-Minute Trip to London & Environs - lots of questions
Hi Everyone-

I'm being tempted by AA's NetSaaver fare to London next week ($600 all-in from Boston), so I put a ticket on hold right now.

Tentatively, arrive evening May 22 (Thurs) and depart evening May 28 (Wed).

I have been to London many times and have seen majority of the main attractions and some more.

I realize I'll be there during the Bank Holiday, and Chelsea Flower Show.

May 22 (Thurs)
Arrive LHR in evening

May 23 (Fri)
Windsor Castle in AM
Chelsea Flower Show (only available entry is 5:30pm)

May 24 (Sat)
Day trip somewhere

May 25/26 (Sun & Mon)

May 27 (Tues)
Salisbury & Stonehenge

May 28 (Wed)
London in AM, 6pm flight out of LHR

<b>1</b> I assume the Chelsea Flower Show is a must see? It closes at 8pm, so the 5:30pm entry will give me 2.5 hours.

<b>2</b> Initially I was planning to go to Kew Gardens + Windsor, but I don't see the point of visiting Kew this time if I'm going to Chelsea Flower Show. Right?

<b>3</b> Saturday daytrip. I cannot decide where I should go. I have been to Cambridge, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath, Leeds Castle. But these were all done over a decade ago. I am considering Canterbury, or a revisit to Bath, or a revisit to Cambridge. Any thoughts? Is there enough to do in Canterbury for a whole day?

<b>4</b> London sightseeing. Definitely going to Spencer House on Sunday. Others on the list are:
Handel House
Geffrye Museum
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Dennis Severs House - is it worthwhile to go during the day? I know the Monday evening tour is what everyone raves about, but it's not available during my visit because of the Bank Holiday

Can anyone comment on Handel House and Geffrye Museum?

<b>5</b> London Walks tour. Has anyone taken the The Old Jewish Quarter &amp; The Inns of Court tours?

<b>6</b> I have never spent much time in the &quot;City&quot; part of London. Perhaps I can do that on Wednesday before my flight. Any pointers?

<b>7</b> Daytrip to Salisbury and Stonehenge. Never been to either one. London Walks offer this as a Explorer Day trip. Should I go with it or will it be fairly easy to do-it-yourself?

yk May 14th, 2008 08:17 AM

One more question:

Right now I'm thinking of staying in London for all 6 nights. It's just gonna be me only. I haven't even looked at hotels yet, but do apartments rent out when it's from Thurs-Weds? I don't want to spend more than $150/night.

WillTravel May 14th, 2008 08:18 AM

I'd have to look up the name, but there's an art gallery in the City with a Roman ampitheatre beneath it. It's been excavated and surrounded in glass, so you can see it while you are in the art gallery.

There are some great Wren churches also.

WillTravel May 14th, 2008 08:19 AM

My guess, at this very late date, is that if you found an apartment that was vacant and inexpensive, the owner would likely work with you on the days of the week.

TuckH May 14th, 2008 08:19 AM

&gt;&gt; 3 Saturday daytrip. &lt;&lt;

Have you been to Chartwell? Ightham Mote? Knole? Hever Castle? Darwin's home?

All are within a close radius of one another.

yk May 14th, 2008 10:30 AM

WillTravel - IIRC, you've had good luck with a 3* Bloomsbury hotel bid on PL? I wonder if it'll be difficult to get a win on PL given this is a 6-night stay. I can get the Hilton Metropole (listed 4*) thru Hotwire for $150/n all-in.

TuckH - Never been to any of the places you mentioned. Most of them have steep admission fees... I'd like to keep this trip on the budget side. Thanks for the suggestions and I'll keep them in mind for next time.

carolinetaylor May 14th, 2008 10:53 AM

Don't forget its museum and galleries month in May 2008 so there are lots of special exhibitions and free entry to places that normally charge.

If you go to, there is more information there

janisj May 14th, 2008 11:03 AM

The Geffrye is one of my favorite museums in London. Not &quot;sexy&quot; at all but really interesting.

All the paces TuckH mentions are wonderful - but difficult to do by public transport. You'd need to rent a car for the day to see more thann one of them.

In your situation - I'd probably stay Thurs/Fri/Sat nights in London and bid a priceline hotel. Being a weekend hotel occupancy will be down and you may get a great deal. Then I'd go stay in Bath or maybe Salisbury Sun/Mon/Tues nights. From Bath you can: see Bath, vist Salisbury/Stonehenge, maybe a day trip into the Cotswolds. Since your flight out is not until 6 PM, you could travel from Bath to Windsor in the AM and have all day to explore the castle/Eton/town before going to LHR around 3:00-3:30.

PatrickLondon May 14th, 2008 11:08 AM

Kew <i>and&lt;/&gt; Windsor in a day would be a bit much in my view. But Kew and Chelsea are not in the same business - Kew is a botanical garden and plant collection, Chelsea is a show for traders and designers to tempt the general public.

Of your London list, I'd put the V&amp;A at the top, simply because there's so much to see. You could easily spend most of a day there.

The Handel House is a bit ho-hum in my view: the life explained in panels, with portraits of the people he would have dealt with, and objects and furniture of the period. I didn't get a great sense of the man himself:

The Geffrye Museum is a collection of domestic interiors through the centuries, with changing special exhibitions. Again, interesting, but not high up the list.</i>

WillTravel May 14th, 2008 12:51 PM

YK, yes, I got the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury as a 3*, and I got what I thought was as good as a 4* room, for London, particularly considering some reviews of some 4* hotels.

I liked it as well or better than the Holiday Inn Kensington Forum, which is a Priceline 4*.

The drawback to 3* in Bloomsbury-Marble Arch is that you might now get Holiday Inn Camden Lock, which is a bit out there for most people.
The hotel sounds fine, just the location is a little northerly.

I would consider 3* in Mayfair-Soho - I think the Thistle Trafalgar has shown up (and maybe one other hotel, if you check the lists). Either sounded fine.

carolyn May 14th, 2008 01:07 PM

My daughter and I did a day trip to Canterbury and had a good time. We went by train, had lunch at the Weavers' House and liked it so well that we had tea there before going back to London. We did a walk through the TIC which we both enjoyed.

We have also done the Legal &amp; Illegal London walk (Inns of Court) with London Walks. If you want to go into the Old Bailey (I think) after the walk ends, you are not allowed to take a camera inside.

We saw the Dennis Severs house on a rainy afternoon, and it was perfect. Have also seen the Geffrye and enjoyed it but not as much as some other things. They have a nice tea room, too, when you have finished the tour. It overlooks a pretty garden.

Hope you have a super time. I would like to go to the Chelsea Flower Show.

yk May 14th, 2008 02:35 PM

janis' suggestion got me thinking... I also went to the library and took out several guidebooks.

How about:

May 22 (Thurs)
Arrives LHR in evening

May 23 (Fri)
Windsor Castle, Chelsea Flower Show in late afternoon

May 24/25 (Sat/Sun)

May 26 (Mon)
Train to Bath
Afternoon train to Salisbury and overnight in Salisbury

May 27 (Tues)
Stonehenge (I assume this won't take all day?)
Will I have time to visit Wilton House on the same day?
Overnight in Salisbury

May 28 (Wed)
Morning in Salisbury
Afternoon leave for LHR (I looked at National Express, and the coach times won't work for me. I then looked at National Rail, and the trip will take 2hours w/train from Salisbury to Woking, then change for a bus to Heathrow Central Bus Station. What kind of bus is that?)

yk May 14th, 2008 02:36 PM

BTW, my visit will coincide the Salisbury Festival.

janisj May 14th, 2008 02:55 PM

yk: That's a nice variation on my suggestion. I really like Salisbury. The reason I suggested staying over in Bath is there is more to see that than in Salisbury. But spending the full day in Bath and then traveling on to Salisbury in the evening would definitely work.

But I personally would not try to lump Windsor and the flower show on the same day. It will be exhausting. There are lots of other things you could do in London before going to Chelsea. Chelsea will be very <b>VERY</b> crowded and while it is definitely worth it - it is a slog.

Consider this option instead - Spend Sunday Morning in London, then in the afternoon go to Windsor and then take the train to Bath. Stay Sunday night in Bath and tour the city on Monday, heading on to Salisbury Monday evening. Mon/Tues nights in Salisbury. Stonehenge is easily done by bus or taxi from Salisbury, and you'd have time for other things - Wilton, or Avebury, or Winchester or whatever.

yk May 14th, 2008 03:47 PM

The reason why I want to spend Sunday in London is because both Spencer House (which I really would like to visit) and Dennis Severs house are only open on Sundays.

I understand Windsor Castle + Chelsea Flower Show on the same day is a lot, but I'm someone who can do nonstop sightseeing x 12 hours. Since I can't get into the Flower Show until 5:30p, I pretty much can spend most of the day at Windsor, no?

I suppose I can go to Windsor Castle on Saturday instead. Probably going to the Royal Opera Saturday night (starts at 7pm).

Any suggestions for B&amp;B or hotels in Salisbury? Guidebooks recommend Whyndam Park Lodge but I didn't email them to see if there's any availability. Also want to keep it under $150/n.

historytraveler May 14th, 2008 08:34 PM

For a B&amp;B in Salisbury I recommend Cathedral Cottage. Check them out on trip advisor.

yk May 14th, 2008 09:03 PM

PatrickLondon - Is that your blog? I read the entry. Thanks for sharing.

historytraveler - Thanks. I just emailed them for room inquiry.

stevelondon88 May 14th, 2008 11:31 PM

In the City: How about St Pauls?

RBH2008 May 15th, 2008 03:19 AM

Chelsea Flower Show gets VERY crowded but I think you are going at the right time. I've found in past years that by about 7 p.m. many people have gone home and the last hour until 8 p.m. is much less busy.

C2BK May 15th, 2008 05:04 AM

Stonehenge won't take more than an hour or so, especially if you go as a &quot;normal&quot; tourist during the day, when you have to stay behind rope barriers. It is possible to arrange pre-booked early morning viewings, where you can actually walk among the stones.

If you are staying in Salisbury, I'd recommend that you hire a car and do one of those early viewings, but then head off to Avebury, an equally impressive circle of standing stones, with far fewer tourists. I'm not saying it's big but there's half a village and a pub in the middle of it! Within walking distance / 5 minute drive of there is Silbury Hill and an excavated long barrow that you can actually go into.

If you're interested, post and I'll find some links for you later.

N.B. If you do drive, I suggest hiring the smallest car possible, the narrowness of our roads can prove somewhat disturbing to those used to North American roads!

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