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London/Oxford Questions--from experienced travelers to the UK!

London/Oxford Questions--from experienced travelers to the UK!

Jul 20th, 2010, 07:57 AM
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London/Oxford Questions--from experienced travelers to the UK!

My husband and I are traveling to the UK next month, flying direct to Edinburgh, then training to Oxford and on to London, and flying out of Heathrow. Though we have both spent a considerable amount of time in the UK, including London, we have not been back for several years and I still manage to find the transportation card issue confusing.

For our most recent trips, we have both purchased an oyster card, pay as you go. This time, we are taking a train into London from Oxford, and getting to Heathrow via an affordable car service. We will be using the buses and tube then in zone 1, maybe 2. We are also going out to Hampton Court, via train, and using the 2-4-1 voucher. I think then that the oyster pay as you go is still the best option--but wanted to confirm with experts!

Also, I've had some trouble getting information on the Courtauld gallery in London and was wondering if anyone had been? We are trying to find interesting galleries and museums we have not yet seen. We are also considering the Dennis Severs house as we are staying in that area (at the Hoxton Hotel).

In addition, neither of us have visted Oxford and were interested in a good 1/2 day tour guide. Does anyone have experience, good or bad with guides in Oxford? Our hotel can likely help us, but I didnt know if I needed to book something in advance.

Thank you in advance for any help, comments, suggestions, etc...!
Philafornia is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 08:00 AM
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the fastest way to Oxford by rail from Edinburgh i would hazzard is via London - could be hours quicker than not going via London - not sure but i would not assume you would be better off railing to Oxford direct from Edinburgh - check schedules at www.nationalrail.co.uk and see - i could be wrong.

Instead of a tour guide why not just hop on the hop on and hop off Tour Buses that will pick you up at Oxford's rail station and circulate constantly around town and all major sights - giving commentary en route and you with one ticket can get on and off anywhere.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 08:04 AM
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City Sightseeing Oxford :: Timetables/Fares
Official Tour of Oxford. City Sightseeing Oxford incorporating Guide Friday ... Gloucester Green Bus Station, 0935, every, 1605, 1705, 1505 ...

Sightseeing Bus - City Sightseeing Oxford - Visit Oxford
Hop On - Hop Off! 20 stops including, Christ Church College, Sheldonian Theatre, Queen.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 08:30 AM
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I know you can easily get from York to Oxford via train and Edinburgh to York is easy peasy. Check national rail for timetables and prices. It's about two hours from Edinburgh to York and about three from York to Oxford.

The hop on hop off bus is okay, but a good guide would be much more informative. If you have time do the bus first to get a general idea of Oxford, then go with a guide for a more detailed tour. I've never been a fan of hop on but it does give you a good view of some of Oxford's buildings.

I know that Blackwell (bookstore) offers tours, but I don't remember if they are all literary focused or not. The tourist office is likely your best bet. www.visitoxford.org
historytraveler is online now  
Jul 20th, 2010, 08:34 AM
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historytraveler is right - checking schedules it is about 5.5 hours via various routes not going into London - some have you going Edinburgh to Wolverhampton and changing - some in Newcastle - but you need not go thru London as i feared for the quickest route.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 08:36 AM
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I've been twice to the Courtauld Gallery, once in its previous location in a leafy Bloomsbury square. (Memorable. You went up to the fourth floor in a freight-style elevator staffed by 2(!). And the gallery had cushy grey velvet benches for contemplating the art, great for footsore visitors.)

The current location is in Somerset House, on the Strand near Waterloo Bridge. Here's a link: www.courtauld.ac.uk/gallery/index.shtml. There are often other art offerigs also.

This is an interesting location also. Somerset House has lots of history. (In English mysteries of the 30's it was always the place to look up wills and birth certificates.) We had lunch out on a terrace overlooking the Thames.

Have you been to Sit John Soane's Museum? It's an interesting oddity.

And do you know the London walks? www.walks.com. They can take you to unusual destinations. I particularly enjoyed seeing little Venice, part of the canal that goes around Regent Park to Camden, and occupied by live-in narrow boats.

Re: Oxford, we did a 2-hour tour led by a Blue Badge guide that we signed up for at the tourist office. It included a visit to one of the more obscure colleges. This might supplement the bus nicely. Oh, and we spent hours in the Ashmolean Museum.
Mimar is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 08:36 AM
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The fastest journey from Edinburgh to Oxford involves a change at Wolverhampton and takes 5 hours 22 minutes.

Travelling via London, you would take 4 hours 40 minutes from Edinburgh to Kings Cross, and 1 hour from Paddington to Oxford. You also have to get from Kings Cross to Paddington, and allow time to find the right platform, etc.

So the journey not via London is faster.

Back to the matt emulsion!
chartley is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 08:39 AM
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Thank you for all the replies. Going through Newcastle works out best given our dates/schedule. I will look into the Blackwell tours and then check with the tourist office. I'm also not a hugh fan of the hop on hop off buses, though they are good for general overviews. I think we would like something literary focused or at least more in-depth then we would likely get from the bus.

Once we are in London, is Oyster payg or a travelcard of some sort preferable? We will arrive in London on a Wednesday and depart late afternoon on Sunday.
Philafornia is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 08:42 AM
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Well, you've been to London more often than I have, but I've gone there more recently and to the places you mentioned.

I do think the Oyster you described is best.

We adored the Courtauld. It is charming, compact, but with some impressive pieces in a lovely setting. It's really a nice little bite to chew for an hour or two, especially if you spend a few moments relaxing in the Somerset House courtyard.

I agree with PalenQ that Oxford doesn't really require a guide, but it might be kind of fun to do that. For a more DIY approach, there are audio walking guides available online that you can download to your iPod/iPhone or MP3 player. This would give you more freedom & flexibility to shut off the guide at any point when you want to pop into the covered market for awhile, float a canoe down the Cherwell, or just spend extra time photographing the gargoyles.
sap is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 08:47 AM
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The official route Ediunburgh-Oxford train route gives you a painless change at Wolverhampton or Stafford, and it's usually quicker than shlepping across north London between terminal stations.

The quickest (and usually cheapest) way from Edinburgh to Oxford is to fly to Heathrow then bus, or to Birmingham or Southampton, then train. Buses from Heathrow are every 20-30 mins: trains from Bham and Soton airports every hour. Flying to Luton is probably cheaper still, but it's a pain of a bus journey.

Oxford's probably the most unsuitable city in Europe for HOHO buses. Buses aren't allowed into most of the areas where there are interesting buildings, so a huge proportion of the buses' route goes round ugly engineering buildings. The official city walking tours are far, far better, and concentrate on the historic core, rather than the city's late Victorian suburbs.

Ignore PalQ's URLs, which don't refer to the walking tours. You want the tours at http://www.visitoxford.org/thedms.as...n=306&p1=tours

Bespoke guides are fine if you've got a specific interest - but for a general walk round, the Visit Oxford ones are fine. This isn't a city where the guides recite a script they've learned by rote.
flanneruk is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 09:06 AM
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For a half day why not just get the tourist office (in train station) walking map and do you own putz - hit the main sights yourself - like Christ Church and its meadow and save about $50 - Oxford is compact you do not need any guided tour to enjoy it IME.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 09:06 AM
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There is a wonderful painting by Roger Frye in the Courtauld that appears to be based on a self-portrait by Cezanne in the Philips Collection in Washington, DC. I can't wait to get back and see (if only postcard to protrait comparison) how close they really are. It is a lovely collection, and they have good special exhibitions.

Mimar's recommendation of Sir John's Soane's Museum (nearby) is spot on, though I like it best later in the year when they light the candles. Also in the area are the Inns of Court. I once had the experience of looking in at a solicitors window in one of the Inns in the area (Lincoln's?) and watching the staff tie up documents in red tape! A cliche come to life!

A different part of London, but do you know the Wallace Collection? It has a spectacular collection and an excellent restaurant.
Ackislander is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 09:27 AM
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Oxford University England - Guide to a Walk Around Oxford ...
Oxford University England - Guide to a Half-Day Walk Around Oxford University - An Oxford University Walk in Pictures - Tour Oxford University on Foot.

Here is an on your own walking tour of Oxford.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 01:13 PM
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The TI office runs several specific tours like Inspector Morse or CSLewis/Tolkien among others as well as general ones. Check out their website for walking tours of Oxford. For the more popular limited ones it's best to reserve a spot. Others are just walkups. We had the most marvelous Insp. Morse tour which wasn't just about that character but included lots of Oxford, too. They all take about 2 hours and leave from the TI office (on High Street?) Oxford is worth more than a half day if you can carve out any more time, though.
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 01:24 PM
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Yes indeed IME a half day is not nearly enough - why not come for a day and a half and leisurely take the guided walks and perhaps one of the ones at night, if Oxford like most towns have special 'ghost walks' etc at night or events like plays or just wondering the thronged pedestrian shopping centre - going into famous bookstores like Blackwalls (right name?), wandering into various colleges and their courtyards and classical buildings, walking a bit along the canal towpath to a country pub, etc.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 21st, 2010, 10:44 AM
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Thanks so much for all the replies and suggestions. Just to clear up any confusion, we are actually in Oxford for 2 days, I was just looking for a guided 1/2 day so we could spend the rest exploring on our own. The links provided are great, thanks again!
Philafornia is offline  
Jul 21st, 2010, 10:53 AM
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Good! Even some relatively minor sights in Oxford, such as the Ashmolean (sp?) Museum - minor compared to the famous colleges, etc. would be major draws in other places - and this museum i found delightful with a surprise at every turn in its really eclectic collection.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 21st, 2010, 12:54 PM
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The walking tours going from the Tourist Information office on Broad Street are generally very good. They run from outside the TI office several times a day and are very reasonably priced.


flanner has given you a link above to the actual list of tours and timetables.

I took one recently, thinking I needed to know a bit more about a city barely 40 miles from where I live yet rarely visit. The guide was most enthusiastic if somewhat verbose and I found him a little tedious because of this. However it was a good experience and overall I enjoyed it.
julia_t is offline  
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