London, April

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Feb 18th, 2008, 06:34 AM
  #1
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London, April

I've tried to get as much information about my trip as possible before asking for advice. I'm going to London with my friend in April, arriving Thurs at noon, leaving a week later on Sat at noon. That gives us eight full days and the partial first day.

In order of importance: Dr. Who exhibits (London and Blackpool maybe Cardiff), Stonehenge, Avebury, Bath, Chalice Well, castles & standing stones in general, and some of the usual London things. I'd also like to spend some time in a smaller town.

We're not going to drive because both of us find the idea of driving in another country way too stressful for a vacation. I looked at the BritRail pass but I think it would be cheaper to plan the legs in advance and buy the tickets separately. We haven't gotten any hotels yet, but we're aiming for relatively cheap with private shower.

Here is the too-many things version of my suggested itinerary:

Thurs: Arrive, adjust and walk in London
Fri: London Dr Who exhibit, other London museums/tourist sites
Sat: Borough Market, nearby things, then train to Blackpool after an early dinner.
Su: Dr. Who Museum in Blackpool, whatever else is interesting nearby, then train to Shrewsbury after early dinner
Mo: Things in Shrewsbury
Tu: Train to Cardiff in the morning, see Dr. Who in Cardiff, etc
We: Cardiff in daytime, train to Salisbury after dinner
Th: Stonehenge from Salisbury, Bath, Avebury
Fr: Chalice Well, then back to London
Sa: Fly out.


It definitely feels like too many places. Shrewsbury made it in because it's in between Blackpool and Cardiff, and looks cute. We've talked about nixing Cardiff or nixing Shrewsbury. Blackpool and Salisbury are top priority, which is a shame because Blackpool is the real out of the way point of this trip. What if we did this?

Th: Arrive, London
Fri: London
Sa: London + Blackpool
Su: Blackpool + Cardiff
Mo: Cardiff
Tu: Cardiff + Salisbury
We: Stonehenge, Avebury, Bath
Th: Chalice Well + London
Fr: London
Sa: Home

It seems that there's nothing else in Blackpool we wanted to see besides the Dr. Who Museum. Should we stay in Salisbury to go to Chalice Well or is there a better overnight spot? Sorry for the long post, thanks for reading!
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Feb 18th, 2008, 08:40 AM
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Your plan makes my head spin - but it is sort of doable. However just one glitch - By the Chalice Well, I assume you mean in Glastonbury. Glastonbury is not near Salisbury. It is near Wells which is not convenient to any of the other places your are going.

I would pick TWO Dr Who sites - and drop one from your plans - Blackpool makes the most sense to eliminate - but which one is up to you.
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Feb 18th, 2008, 08:42 AM
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I presume your chalice well is the one in Glastonbury? I think you are going to have a hard time doing your stone circles and Glastonbury with public transportation.

Certainly, Salisbury is the wrong starting point for a visit to Glastonbury. Any journey between Salisbury and Glastonbury, that is under 3 hours, will involve train to Bristol and bus to Glastonbury.

If car rental is absolutely out, I would suggest staying in Bath for two nights. One day, take the Mad Max all day tour to Stonehenge & Avebury, the other day, the local buses to Glastonbury.
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Feb 18th, 2008, 09:23 AM
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I'd junk Shrewsbury (which is on only some train routes from Blackpool to Cardiff anyway), and look hard at cheapo flights to Cardiff from Liverpool or Manchester.

Then add more time in the Glastonbury-Salisbury area. Apart from what's in the serious guide books, you'd then have enough time to dig into the er, alternative history the region's so replete with. Leylines from Stonehenge to Salisbury. Christ coming to Priddy with Joseph of Arimathea. Burning bushes at Glastonbury - not to mention the special promotion on witches' paraphernalia the pagan shops run out of season.

Complements all the Whovian stuff perfectly.
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Feb 18th, 2008, 03:07 PM
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Thanks! I think Shrewsbury would make the most sense eliminating. Can we go to Glastonbury from Cardiff easily at all? Then we could spend ~2 days in Cardiff and 1-2 in Salisbury. Sadly Blackpool is THE Dr Who museum and has all the old stuff. The Cardiff/London exhibits are all new season props. Better to eliminate Cardiff but Cardiff happens to be close to everything else we want to see. So I think we'll end up seeing all 3.

I looked up Blackpool/Cardiff trains. For that Sunday, there is an Advance Fare for 16 pounds that leaves at 4:28 pm and arrives at 11:22 pm with two changes. No direct flights from Liverpool to Cardiff, and the next closest, Manchester, shows $500+ with one changeover. No where near an option.

The Salisbury point for Stonehenge is because we plan on buying the direct tickets from National Heritage for the 6:30/8 am standing in the stones time. On that, I have a few more questions:

1. How much of a pain is it to do the National Heritage tour signup from the US? Seems like I need to make an international call, pick a time, and fax over paperwork. Not too bad?

2. Advance Fare is what I should be choosing on National Rail's site, yes? When does that Fare disappear (besides it filling)? 3 weeks in advance?

Thanks.
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Feb 18th, 2008, 05:30 PM
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The easiest way to get to Glastonbury is bus from Bristol; it is an easy train journey from Cardiff to Bristol Temple Meads. If you go to www.traveline.org.uk, click on southwest, you should be able to find the bus schedules.

Never heard of National Heritage -- unfortunate name, sounds like a name a neo-nazi group would use.

You're right about buying advance train tickets to save money. When they disappear is anybody's guess. I just bought a number of tickets for travel in mid-April. I looked one day, there was a £36 ticket available on the train I wanted. The next day the cheapest was £48. And that was 8 weeks out.
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Feb 18th, 2008, 06:49 PM
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Oop I mean English Heritage, the folks who run Stonehenge.

Well, I guess I should get those train tickets soon.
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Feb 18th, 2008, 07:52 PM
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"standing in the stones" What you are talking about is "inside access".

You really don't have to phone them - though that is no big deal. w/ a 10-10 access number it would only cost pennies. You can submit the application form by fax or e-mail. However, since you have left it pretty late to get a booking in April, you might want to call just to be sure your dates are available.

It isn't a "tour" BTW - it is entrance to the stones before or after normal opening hours.
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Feb 19th, 2008, 05:07 AM
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Yeah, I think my friend will call this AM to book. Looking at the 2nd itinerary I posted, the switch we've made is that we'll go from Cardiff on Tues morning to Glastonbury via Bristol then from Glastonbury to Salisbury. We'll likely buy the first train in advance, and get an open ticket for the second train.
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Feb 19th, 2008, 05:36 AM
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Just in case you don't know - there is no rail service to Glastonbury. The nearest train station is probably 10 or more miles away. So w/ bus timings and such it will take you quite a while to get to Glastonbury, and from Glastonbury to Salisbury.
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Feb 19th, 2008, 12:49 PM
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You may also have difficulties getting to Stonehenge for the early opening - the bus won't be running from Salisbury until well after 9 a.m., and it's 9 or 10 miles. Your only option would be a taxi (not cheap).

You can see the timetable at www.wdbus.co.uk - the Stonehenge route is in the northern part.
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Feb 19th, 2008, 01:03 PM
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Oh - missed the time you want to book your Inside access. I agree w/ nonconformist that you can't get there by public transport.

(and booking an evening opening won't help much, since the last bus is well before you have to assemble for the inside access. You'd either have to just hang around out there on Salisbury Plain - or walk about 5 miles to Amesbury.)
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Feb 19th, 2008, 04:13 PM
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I know we'd take the train to Bristol Temple Meads for Glastonbury. There were some bus directions on a website. For Stonehenge, we'll possibly walk to Amesbury (we're both young and in shape) or if it's the 8 am stones time period, wait the extra 1.5 hrs for the first bus back.
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Feb 19th, 2008, 05:34 PM
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The Stonehenge "inside access" (or whatever it's called) is well worth it; I don't think I would have enjoyed a Stonehenge visit otherwise. I took a cab from Salisbury to Stonehenge -- I don't remember the exact cost, but it was neither cheap nor absurdly expensive -- it was worth it, in any case. I dismissed the cab at Stonehenge (still dark at the time), and uncharacteristically left my return journey to fate. Worked for me this time, but not something one should typically plan on. (In this case, I was able to mooch a ride with a generous Englishman going to Amesbury, where I caught a bus back to Salisbury).

One-way cab ride with multiple people might be reasonable, especially with multiple passengers.
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Feb 19th, 2008, 05:44 PM
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We took a cab for our 7:30 am access time. When we were finished we called the taxi company with our cell phone and it came out. I'm pretty sure we could have arranged to have it pick us up when the hour was over. We found no reason to stay any longer - I think the shop and refreshments etc. weren't open by the time we were leaving. I cannot tell you the cost of the taxi, but I'd certainly pay rather than walk 5 miles. There are some pennies - and pounds - that I'm just not going to pinch.
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Feb 19th, 2008, 05:53 PM
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Thanks for pointing out the Dr. Who exhibition. I got my ticket for 11 April. Maybe I'll see you there!
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Feb 19th, 2008, 07:14 PM
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"I know we'd take the train to Bristol Temple Meads for Glastonbury" OK - But then it is over an hour by bus from Temple Meads to Glastonbury.

And then from Glastonbury you will have a pretty convoluted route to get to Salisbury.
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Feb 21st, 2008, 07:59 PM
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We've encountered a major roadblock: national rail is a pain. When it sends me to the private train websites to book the advance tickets, they won't accept my mastercard. We tried 3 different cards and still got refusals. Because of the time ticking and the general stress level of advance booking we're leaning toward a Britrail pass. We crunched the numbers and while the ideal advance ticket purchases would be $216 for the trip with the britrail at $375, it's likely worth the freedom of changing departure times on the fly.

I began booking hotels. We'll be in London the first two nights, a painfully quick Blackpool for one night, Cardiff for 3, then I need to book Salisbury for 1 night and London for 2.

We'll be going from Cardiff to Bristol Temple Meads/Glastonbury then to Bath Spa, then returning to Cardiff. Stonehenge was booked for 6:30 am a day later than ideal but that's why we're in Cardiff an extra day and London one fewer. As for Stonehenge, besides the expense of another taxi, my friend really relishes the idea of a gentle walk through the countryside (is it?) to Amesbury.
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Feb 22nd, 2008, 08:33 AM
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Well, if it were me, I'd try a little harder to make my credit card work before I would pay an extra $150 for a Britrail Pass. I bought some train tickets last week and had trouble getting my Visa card accepted. The problem was with the "new" "Verified by Visa" security feature. I believe Master Card has a similar feature. I solved the problem by calling my bank to see if they were the ones blocking the use of the card. It turned out that I was being blocked, not by the bank, by the Verified by Visa.

My experience last week was that the National Express East Coast is the best online place to buy the train tickets.

If you are looking for a cheap, clean, fairly basic, very central hotel in Cardiff, try Austin's Hotel, 11 Coldstream Terrace, Cardiff, CF11 6LJ. Easily walkable from the train station.

I hope some one responds about your thoughts about walking to Amesbury. While I imagine its walkable, there is not likely to be clear signage. I expect you will need an Ordnance Survey map, or else you are liable to find yourself lost, or worse, trudging down the sides of narrow roads with cars whizzing past you at too high a rate of speed.
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Feb 22nd, 2008, 10:00 AM
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The ONLY reason walking to Amesbury was mentioned in the first place was as a time killer between the last bus out to Stonehenge and the time of the evening "open access".

Really no way to get lost as it is a direct route . . . .
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