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Southern England in August

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My wife and I have scheduled our first trip to the UK, and first Cruise, from England to NYC, this August 25th. I assume the Princess will be a good bit nicer that the WW2 Destroyer and Sub I spent some time on around 1959.
We have never been to England, but would like to see some of the area from London to Southampton and beyond, if its worth seeing. We have driven on the wrong side of the road in the Bahamas, and Australia, so driving isn't a problem, if its a good idea. The number of days we stay in England is limited by costs. We are retired but would like to see older stuff , gardens,etc., and older places to stay. New brass and glass hotels are the same the world over and have no appeal to us.
I would appreciate suggestions on how long to stay and what to do.
Thanks, Curt

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