Leiden/Amsterdam and Oxford/London Trip

Aug 18th, 2012, 09:02 PM
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Leiden/Amsterdam and Oxford/London Trip

My fiance and I will be visiting Leiden from September 1st until the 8th and Oxford from the 8th until the 14th. He'll be at conferences during the day for most of our trip so I was looking to find some cheap and/or free things to do during that time to keep myself occupied. Any suggestions?

We're also thinking about day trips into Amsterdam and London, time permitting. I've been to London before (but it'll be my fiance's first time) so I know most of the must-sees. Any suggestions about sights off the beaten path? My fiance isn't always interested in the touristy sights and I'd also like to see more of the city. And If I have only one day to spend in Amsterdam, what should I see? Again, the cheaper (or free) the better.

And last, this is more of a general question about Leiden: since this is my first trip to a country where English isn't the native language, will have any difficulties getting around the city or communicating with locals since I do not speak or read Dutch?
brismel is offline  
Aug 18th, 2012, 11:44 PM
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Have no fears on the language front, the Dutch speak English extremely well on the whole.

Amsterdam is just a short hop on the train from Leiden. After I had gone to the botanic garden and museum, I would be spending most of my time there. I don't think London is doable as a daytrip, and anyway there are other lovely Dutch towns closeby like Den Hague, Delft and Utrecht.
tarquin is offline  
Aug 18th, 2012, 11:46 PM
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Oh, you meant London from Oxford - sorry!
tarquin is offline  
Aug 19th, 2012, 04:19 AM
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For Oxford: London is an easy day trip by either train or very inexpensive express buses. There are several different walking tours starting from the Oxford Tourist Information Centre. There are some wonderful museums - especially the Ashmolean and the Pitt Rivers. You can visit some of the colleges - there will be different hours and accessibility but you'll be there long enough to see several. The botanical Gardens are a must IMO. You can take a bus to Woodstock and visit Blenheim Palace. Blackwells - a huge bookstore. And of course, just wandering through the city . . .

(St Mary's Church is normally on any 'must' list -- but I think it is undergoing major work - maybe flanner will see your thread and have up to date info)
janisj is online now  
Aug 19th, 2012, 05:19 AM
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Except in some very small villages in the back of beyond almost everyone in Holland speaks some (or often excellent English). It makes sense since it;s the closest language to English.

Can't help with free things since it's one of the places I haven;t been.

As for London - there is enough to keep you busy there for weeks - and we don;t know what you have seen.

What I would do - if you haven;t seen them are:

Churchilll War rooms
Boat trip to Hampton Court Palace (or perhaps Greenwich)
National Portrait Gallery (fascinating - and just behind the National Gallery)
Museum of the City of London
nytraveler is offline  
Aug 19th, 2012, 07:07 AM
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In Leiden, you have the Pilgrim history, church and museum as they lived there for ten years before embarking on the Mayflower.
Leiden is a beautiful university town. It is an easy train ride into Amsterdam.Book a reservation to see the Anne Frank House, and and Van Gogh museum and Rijsmuseum. Walk around the Jordaan district, the canal rings area. Take a canal boat ride. Try Indonesian food.
You will not have any trouble being understood when speaking English.
Both Oxford and Leiden are wonderful places to visit. Lucky you!
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Aug 19th, 2012, 08:01 AM
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Leiden: Botanical garden, Antiquities museum (RMO).
It's got a windmill you can visit inside (Molen De Valk)
it's a university town, so that's what city life is like on the whole: good coffeehouses and in part a nice central part of town.
A surprise to me was the Humboldt House Museum.
The Hague is 10 minutes away by train, the beach is about 20 minutes by bus (Wassenaar, Katwijk)
Wassenaar is nice in any case for walking: you can visit De Horsten, the residence of the Crown Prince and also a good example of a Dutch patrician estate.
If you go to The Hague, DO VISIT panorama Mesdag. It's breathtaking.
menachem is offline  
Aug 19th, 2012, 08:23 AM
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Amsterdam is about 4 hours all told each way from London by rail - add another two hours from Oggsford to get to the Eurostar station - Eurostars require a minimum 20 minute pre-boarding time each way - so really 6-7 hours each way to me is not a practical day trip from Oggsford to Amsterdam - research cheap flights from Heathrow to Amsterdam and they may be cheaper than taking the train which may cost $100 or more each way!
PalenQ is offline  
Aug 19th, 2012, 09:07 AM
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Oxford self-evidently is close to the perfect place for anyone with limited cash but time on their hands. Proper museums are all free (with time to spare, you can easily use up two days in the Ashmolean alone).

For college visiting:
http://www.ox.ac.uk/visitors_friends...ges/index.html has times and (where relevant) costs. Unless you've got a pressing need to see a Harry Potter film set, there's no screaming reason to pay to get into any of the colleges: you get just as much from the free ones. The two possible paid-for things (if not on the conference spouse programme) is a tour inside the Bodleian and the Botanic Garden if you're into horticultural academia

St Mary's, Oxford High St, is just a bog-standard big English town church only not quite up to Tewkesbury, Warwick, Beverley, Long Melford etc. In spite of its scaffolding, it still looks good (and is generally accessible and used for services) and it's a good place to get a good view of the Dreaming Spires from. Not up to the staggeringness of St Mary's Iffley , in my view (accessible by a pleasant walk along the Thames in the London direction). But there's millions of self-guided tours round the city, available for free or £1 or so from the Tourist Information Centre in Broad St.

If you enjoy bad reviews of films, you might be amused by my witterings on Blenheim (search 'Blenheim' here, limiting yourself to stuff I've written). But if you're trying to save money, visiting the place is way beyond a joke. Fortunately, you don't really need to. Get the S3 bus to Woodstock, ask for the stop nearest the Black Prince pub just beyond the town centre, then go through the green wicket gate opposite the pub marked "public footpath". Follow the right of way, and the park's free (they've got the right to dun you for park admission if you stray off the right of way). You get a decent view of the Palace - the interior's OK for a laugh, but really isn't funny enough to fork out the duke's ransom they expect.

Worthwhile walking back to Oxford if it's a nice day (7 miles: route should be googlable). If you can't find the walking route (the obvious one along the main road is horrible), come back and I'll post the footpath route.

No idea what your definition of London must sees, but can't see the point of seeking "off the beaten path" stuff. What "off the beaten path" stuff for a start? My former house? London's Georgian and Victorian coalholes? A survey of doors to work out which had their letter boxes retrofitted to deal with the 1840 Penny Post introduction? No city on earth has been subject to as much geeky study: there's no path imaginable about London that hasn't already been beaten and had a guide produced about it for even further beating .

Unless you're really knowledgeable about London, stick to the free-to-enter museums and the major exhibitions featured in the current Time Out. Buy a copy at the airport and read on the bus to Oxford.

"My fiance doesn't like touristy sites, so what do you think he'd like in London?" sounds like a parody of the really dumb questions people ask on the internet. I'm sure you meant to write something that might evince sensible answers: we'd be delighted to offer you some when you produce a brief that's answerable.
flanneruk is offline  
Aug 19th, 2012, 01:08 PM
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Hi brismel,

In line with what is previously stated, listening and speaking English skills of the Dutch I encountered ranged almost across the board from passable to excellent it seemed wherever I went in Holland. The main thing I would recommend to anglophone visitors lacking the time or inclination to learn Dutch is to obtain a Dutch-English dictionary since signs are in Dutch only in certain places, so you might not understand for example that you can't park a car or bike in a certain spot. If you have phone access to Internet while you're there, www.mijnwoordenboek.nl has a decent online dictionary. Announcements on buses and local trains are in Dutch only, so you might not understand for example that you're the "volgende halte" (next stop). This said, most tourists I saw didn't seem to speak any Dutch and manage just fine.

Things I liked to do in places nearby Leiden for free?

The Binnenhof in Den Haag is majestic and one can sit in the central square and admire the grandeur. Vondel Park in Amsterdam was a pleasant stroll, fun for people watching and a picnic. Naturally, strolling through the often charming side streets, reading historic plaques and admiring the architecture in all the Dutch towns I visited (Amsterdam, Haarlem, Den Haag and Delft) was a most enjoyable free activity.

Have a great trip! Daniel
Daniel_Williams is online now  
Aug 19th, 2012, 01:23 PM
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"My fiance doesn't like touristy sites, so what do you think he'd like in London?"

We get variations on that question every day. What does he consider 'touristy'? National Gallery? British Museum? Westminster Abbey? Imperial War Museum? the Tower of London? Science Museum? St Paul's? National Portrait Gallery? Theatre? the Royal Parks? the Tate's? Pubs?

All of the above are MAJOR tourist attractions but none are what one could call 'touristy'.

Now, Madam Tussaud's, the London Dungeon, Jack the Ripper Walk - those sorts of things . . . those are major-ly touristy and best skipped. But you could spend months in London seeing the sites, really big time/major sites, and not hit anything very touristy/schlocky.
janisj is online now  

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