Europe Forums

Post New Topic

Recent Activity

View all Europe activity »
  1. 1 Hiking - Suggest a location
  2. 2 Festival du Citron (Lemon Festival), Menton
  3. 3 land vs river cruise
  4. 4 Iceland tours from Keflavik
  5. 5 Scotland ideas
  6. 6 Trip Report September in Venice, Croatia, and Slovenia
  7. 7 Itinerary for 4 days in Madrid
  8. 8 The World's Greatest Churches
  9. 9 Devon and Dorset: Where to Base?
  10. 10 Tips for first trip to UK
  11. 11 Black Friday in Britain? Why?
  12. 12 Trip Report Sampling Some of Sicily and Bits of Italy Beyond
  13. 13 Where to buy Saffron?
  14. 14 Malaga Christmas lights
  15. 15 Help with suggestions for Portugal 2 week trip
  16. 16 Portugal
  17. 17 Trip Report Paris November 2017
  18. 18 Anyone ever used a resort for a day in Santorini??
  19. 19 What To Do in Athens on a Sunday
  20. 20 London flat feedback wanted - yes, I'm going slightly crazy!
  21. 21 paris to london- day trip
  22. 22 Planning a Poland itinerary
  23. 23 "chunnel" to change it's offical name.
  24. 24 U.K. Website & 1-Way Flight Booking Questions
  25. 25 10 days in Cologne Munich Switzerland
View next 25 » Back to the top

Trip Report Songdoc’s English Trip Report

Jump to last reply

Left Dublin March 1st. I’d heard nothing but horror stories about Ryanair—especially about how they would be sticklers and not permit one ounce or one inch over the weight and size limits—including for carry-on luggage. So … we weighed, measured and re-weighed and re-measured … and we were fine. They never weighed or measured our carry-ons! But many passengers did have to check their carry-on bags—and purses had to included in the weight allowance. The flight was fine—and on time. No problems and no complaints with Ryanair from me.

FYI, I’d been to London several times and decided to forego that this time. I’ve been writing to a pen pal in Gloucester for almost fifteen years and we’d never met. So, DP and I decided to stay in Bisley, Stroud—in the Cotswolds—as it seemed centrally located to Gloucester, as well as several other areas we planned to visit.

As I’d been forewarned, the rush hour traffic in Bristol was bad—and the driving was stressful—but we still arrived in Bisley, Stroud in a little more than an hour. Once I got onto the M5 I did around 80 mph to keep with the flow—and cars were zooming past me. Driving the final half mile or so to the cottage will rank among the most harrowing experiences of my life. OMG, I have never seen such narrow streets—and there were stone walls on both sides, closing in on me, and threatening to scrape my rental car. It was barely wide enough for a horse—but of course … these were 2-way streets. So when a car approached, someone had to back up on the stone-walled, toothpick thin road. I suspect I lost at least three years of my life. Oh, and did I mention the cars parked halfway up on the curbs—further blocking the streets? My nerves were really shot by the time we arrived—and I’m completely used to driving on the left.

Bisley looked like nothing I’ve ever imagined. I felt as if I’d stepped back centuries. The buildings—with their golden Cotswolds stone and their meticulous gardens were exquisite. The cottage we rented (thanks to a recommendation by Julia on this forum)—Cooper’s Cottage—was exactly what we hoped for: very old, quaint, charming, open fire, oozing with character—and a lovely setting. It cost 295 GBP for six nights—and the owners were very nice and quite helpful. Bisley is not exactly a bustling tourist destination and we were able to walk through the town and up and down back lanes; explore the beautiful church and the well; and snap lots of photos—in under an hour.

We woke to a cloudy gray day. Our first day trip would be Bath. We’d heard that it was wonderful—but that was an understatement. I’d expected that the Roman Baths would be interesting—but it seemed that every inch of the city was exquisite. The architecture is simply gorgeous, as are the views from the river—and we walked and walked, snapping countless photos. Touring the Roman Baths—and every moment in Bath far exceeded expectations—and by midday the sun was shining.

Hot tip: we parked at the Park & Ride in Lansdowne and for 2.50 pounds each we parked—and rode the double-decker bus into the heart of the city. The views from the top of the bus were outstanding—and we avoided driving in the city—and the additional parking fees.

I thought our day in Bath would be hard to beat … but the following day was another highlight among highlights. It was another bright blue sky, cold day. We met my pen pal for lunch in Cheltenham at the Queen’s Hotel. The dining room with its crystal chandeliers was quite elegant and the food was beautifully presented and delicious. Chatting in person (for the first time) with DPP (dear pen pal) was everything I could have hoped—and much more. After lunch he guided us on a long walk through Cheltenham. It has some lovely buildings and statues—and a mind boggling amount of shopping.

We next headed to Gloucester to visit the cathedral. OMG. Suffice it to say that when I finally forced myself to set down the camera I found myself choking back tears from the sense of gratitude that I was seeing one of the most magnificent sights on earth. We were there just in time to listen to the organ being played and then, the choir rehearsing. The sound was truly heavenly. Thoroughly enjoyed walking through the town which had lots of interesting shops and architecture, and stopped for wonderful Cornish pasties at the Cornish Bakehouse.

Good news … the roads to Cheltenham and Gloucester weren’t nearly as harrowing and I was able to actually enjoy the scenery—instead of simply praying to not kill or maim anyone (including myself).

It was another brilliant, sunny morning when we set off for Oxford. First stop: Bibury. Absolutely beautiful. We strolled along the riverwalk, snapping lots of pix and explored a lovely old church. There are only a few shops in Bibury but it was quite pretty and we enjoyed it. Then on to Burford.

Burford was an unexpected highlight; exquisite architecture, wonderful antiques stores, and lots of colorful, interesting shops. It felt like a quintessential Cotswolds town. By the time we’d finished lunch we’d spent several hours and decided to switch plans. Oxford would wait until tomorrow. We’d spend the rest of this day leisurely exploring Burford and other Cotswolds towns.

Stow-on-the Wold had the requisite church and quaint buildings—but somehow felt too contrived and touristy. On to the Slaughters. Got some great photos at the old mill with sheep grazing close by. Took a nice walk along the river and realized that all the villages were beginning to blur. Decided we did not need to keep driving from village to village—that while they surely each have unique features, they were largely the same.

Dinner was back in Bisley—where we met up with local Fodorite Julia who had been so helpful in our planning. We had a delicious meals and tasty conversation at The Bear—est. 1639. What a nice treat!

We woke the next day to clouds, mist, and drizzle that transformed the cottage’s beautiful gardens into an impressionist masterpiece. Seventy minutes later, when we arrived at the Pear Tree Park & Ride for Oxford, the sun was shining once again. Oxford was absolutely stunning. The architecture of those exquisite buildings was almost too much to absorb.

We’d hoped to take a walking tour—but the next one wouldn’t start for 90 minutes—so armed with a map, we set out on our own. It was initially overwhelming—too much to see … but we realized that we couldn’t go wrong; everywhere we turned was “WOW”—and the city is quite compact.

I was surprised at the crowds, as everywhere else we’d been had been quiet. Apparently all the Asian and American tourists were in Oxford. It was even busier because graduations were taking place—and there was a boat race. It was an added bonus to see the graduates and professors wearing their robes. Felt like I’d stepped into a PBS TV show. (Actually have been filmed there.)

We wandered the streets taking photo after photo. The entire city is a “Kodak moment.” We soon learned that each of the colleges charges a separate admission fee—and there wouldn’t be nearly enough time to see them all—nor would that be necessary. We toured Magdalen (pronounced Maudlin) College with its fantastic "grotesques" (similar to gargoyles) and Christ Church College and Cathedral.

The line to enter Christ Church was more than thirty minutes—and once inside, the line to visit the Great Hall that served as Harry Potter’s Hogwart’s dining hall was ridiculous. We snaked through, barely able to see much more than tourists—while a guard barked orders to “Keep on moving!” Still, glad I saw it. We “pottered” around a bit and then toured the Cathedral. It was fantastic—but not quite the same “wow” factor as Gloucester Cathedral. We’d seen so many incredible sights that were getting quite spoiled.

We’d grown quite fond of our little cottage and Bisley. I was even adjusting to driving there … but it was sadly time to say goodbye to England.

I might ruffle some feathers with this comment—but we were slightly underwhelmed by the Cotswolds. Did we enjoy the area? Absolutely—and the towns were lovely. But I was expecting to be more impressed with the scenery. Most of what we saw was pleasant gently rolling farmland—but nothing significantly different from the views I’d see driving in Central Pennsylvania or Tennessee. I was expecting “wow”—but instead, I got “nice.” Maybe I would have felt deifferently in another season--but I don't think so. For me, a day or two would have been sufficient.

Our next stop was North Wales—before we ended our trip in Liverpool. But to keep all my England reports together, I’ll include Liverpool here and do Wales as a separate report.

Liverpool was a big surprise. I’d read on this forum that it had beautiful architecture—but I admit that I still expected a run-down, working class, unattractive, industrial town whose only real attraction was the Beatles-related sights. WRONG! Instead, I found a culture-filled city center with photo-worthy buildings at every turn. If I’d had more time I’d have liked to go inside the museums and theaters. They were spectacular from the outside.

Our hotel, the Marriott City Center, was a great location for the theaters, museums, and shopping—and about a twenty minute walk to the Docks. It was a steal at $61/night on Priceline—but the parking was an additional 12 GBP per night—and the Internet an additional 15 GBP per 24 hours.

I wanted to do the Magical Mystery Tour Bus—but it didn’t work with my teaching schedule—so I hired a “Fab Cab” taxi for my own private Beatles tour. (DP wasn’t interested and stayed behind.) The tour cost 45 pounds for three hours (for 1 – 3 people) and the guide was personable and a veritable encyclopedia of Beatles info. He’d gone to the same high school as John and Paul, worshipped at the same church, and still got his hair cut at the barber shop on Penny Lane. We visited Eleanor Rigby’s grave, Strawberry Field, the place where John & Paul first met, each of their childhood homes, and anywhere any of them had ever sneezed. It was heaven for a Beatles fan.

DP and I enjoyed the live John Lennon tribute music at the Cavern—where the Beatles played 292 shows back when the consensus was that they’d never make it. I bought lots of souvenirs—mugs, guitar picks, and a T-shirt. Really enjoyed strolling through the city and soaking up the sights of that architecture. The Crown Pub across from the Marriott was beautiful and we had a tasty, inexpensive dinner there. Love those meat pies! Sure did wish we’d had another day or two in Liverpool.

The drive from Liverpool to the Manchester airport was easy—around 45 minutes—once I got out of the maze of the city center. The trip home unfortunately took a detour through hell. I’ll spare you the details, but due to storms and spring break, we arrived home in Nashville 34 hours after we left Liverpool!

Here’s the photo link for the pix of England to copy and paste in your browser:

19 Replies |Back to top

Sign in to comment.