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Trip Report - Bath, Wells, Tintagel, Penzance, Exeter and London

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Oct 21st, 2015, 02:32 PM
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Trip Report - Bath, Wells, Tintagel, Penzance, Exeter and London

Hi Everyone,

I just got back from a short trip to England, one of my favorite places, and a country I seem to return to often.

British Airways had a sale in August, $699 RT, nonstop from Houston, and I couldn’t resist. A friend decided to go in on the adventure as well.

October 10- on time departure out of Houston.

October 11- Arrival at Heathrow. Immigration was a nightmare, lasting about 1.5 hours. No fun when you haven’t slept in ages! I cannot sleep on planes. I have a small fortune invested in various travel pillows, but nothing works (and this includes Ambien as well).

Onward we marched to the Avis car rental in Terminal 5. Wouldn’t you know, they didn’t have the type of car we had reserved (automatic, midsize). After a huge hassle and waiting an hour for them to bring a car from another location, we got a midsize auto Peugeot (the only automatic they had on the airport site was a tiny hatchback and a big van). This was not a good start to the trip with the long delays at the airport! We did have glorious weather though, a welcome thing
.
Our first destination was Bath, supposedly a manageable two hour drive for our first day. Well, we got lost a few times just trying to head west on the motorway. As a Texan used to easy on and off freeways if you make a mistake, it was a sad scenario for these two women. We lost a chunk of time getting back on track. Fatigue was probably a factor.

As we neared Bath, we realized we had GPS in the car! Wish we would have known that right at the get go, but oh well. Alas, the GPS did not know the street of our b&b and we spent a lot of time circling around the narrow streets of Bath before we finally found our place, the Apple Tree Guesthouse.

This place is very clean and was quiet at night, just what we needed. I had a small double and my friend had a larger double. Price for the small double was £ 80.

Since we had lost so much time going astray on the roads, we made haste to drop our stuff and walk into town. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then hit the Abbey and Roman Baths. I loved the Abbey very much and took a lot of pictures of the beautiful stained glass windows and architecture. The Roman Baths were cool, but I felt very overpriced at £14. After those two “must sees”, we spent the rest of the time just roaming around. Bath is a nice town and merits more time than we allotted.
We were both very tired after the long day of travel and called it an early night.

October 12- Up early for a brisk walk around town and breakfast before hitting the road. Next stop, Wells to see the cathedral and Bishop’s palace.

Wells Cathedral is amazing!! I don’t think it gets the attention and visits it deserves. It’s become one of my all-time favorite churches. There’s plenty to see and it’s truly beautiful. My Christmas card this year will be featuring a photo I took of a glorious window.

After reluctantly leaving the cathedral, we moved on to the Bishop’s palace next door. The property is very lovely. The grounds are the highlight. The interior of the palace is not particularly interesting.
We had a quick walk about the town and then had to move on. The town of Wells is really nice and I wish we had more time to visit.

Next stop, Tintagel Castle in Cornwall. This is a spectacular place on the coast. All the exercise one gets from the countless steps is exhilarating when combined with the gorgeous scenery. We really enjoyed the stunning setting.

Once done (basically ushered out because it was closing time at 5 pm), we hit the road for our b&b to Penzance. Our GPS (we named her Glenda) took us down some really narrow lanes out of the Tintagel area. One maverick driver ran us off the road at one point. Luckily, there was not a wall at the particular place! Some of the drivers on these narrow roads are road hogs and not very nice. Others, luckily, are more sharing of the road.

We arrived in Penzance to the Chy An Mor B&B an hour later than we planned. Louise, the hostess, was very welcoming and helped us with our suitcases to our rooms. I had a very small single room and my friend had a small double. I must say, after this trip, I am ending my practice of trying to save a few dollars by getting a single room. I’m just too sensitive a sleeper to try to be comfortable in a twin bed. I need space to flip and flop until I fall asleep!

We dumped our bags and then went out to forage for dinner. We tried one place, a Weatherspoons, but we were ignored and finally gave up to find another place. We went to Chapel Street and settled on the Turks Head Pub. Service is not a strong suit in Penzance restaurants, we noticed, but we did get drinks within a reasonable time and finally got some food. I had the best chips (fries) of my life at this place. Had I known they would be that good, I’d have just ordered a double order to serve as my dinner!

October 13- leisurely start to the day, enjoying our English breakfast and then setting out for St. Michael’s Mount. The weather was glorious again. We were so blessed on this trip.
St. Michael’s Mount, sort of a sister to Mont St. Michel in France, is a wonderful structure off the coast. During low tide, you get there by walking the causeway. When the tide comes in, you take a boat. The tide was out the morning we went, so we enjoyed the walk. Lots of people were out, many with dogs. What I like most about the English is that they love dogs. I met the nicest Cocker Spaniel at St. Michael’s Mount. She was the most adorable pup ever! (Special note if my golden retriever is reading this: Harry you are still the best and truly the most adorable) Her human parents were really nice people and we had a pleasant chat, with me expressing my admiration for their wonderful canine friend and them telling me all about their charming pup.

It’s a bit of a hike to the castle at the top of the hill. More great exercise! The views are spectacular from the top. The castle and the chapel are lovely. We really enjoyed this visit.
After we trekked down, we walked into the town to get a little snack for lunch. A sausage roll for me and pasty for my friend. We munched in the parking lot (£4, by the way) and then were on the road again, now to Lizard Point.

Lizard Point is very beautiful. It made me think of Northern Ireland (well, I guess so did Tintagel). The lighthouse was undergoing some work, so we could not visit.

We thought we’d try to visit Pendennis Castle, near Falmouth and arrived at 4:20, knowing the castle closes at 5 pm. Sadly, last admission was at 4 and they would not even let us have a peek at the exterior of the castle. The way the land is at this spot, you can’t see the castle from the parking lot or anywhere outside the wall. Phooey!

We drove back to Penzance for supper at Gino’s, just a block or so away from the b&b. Again, not good service (ultra slow), but it was on the waterfront and we were happy to relax.

To be continued.
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Oct 21st, 2015, 03:15 PM
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Wells was one of my favorite places in England….with the cathedral the highlight. Have been there twice and would love to go back again.

Looking forward to more of our report!
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Oct 21st, 2015, 03:16 PM
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That is YOUR report (tho wish it was ?our? report -
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Oct 21st, 2015, 03:17 PM
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"our"….. really bad day at the keyboard…..
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Oct 22nd, 2015, 01:38 PM
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Great report so far - you really covered some ground! I also loved Bath Abbey and Wells Cathedral - just gorgeous. Did you walk over to the Vicar's Close in Wells? I took many, many photos on that lovely little street.

I'm headed to Cornwall in May with my mom - looking forward to the rest of your report!
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Oct 22nd, 2015, 01:40 PM
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Hi,
We took a peek at the Vicar's Close. Very nice. We enjoyed hearing music coming from one of the school buildings in the area. Kids were darting here and there and everywhere. I guess the campus is spread out.
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Oct 22nd, 2015, 01:41 PM
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October 14 - Last morning for an inclusive English breakfast . We checked out of the b&b by 9 and hit the road to London.

We broke up the journey with a visit to Exeter. We found convenient parking in the Quay/Cathedral parking garage, £ 1.20 for two hours.

I stopped in a pretty Catholic church I encountered along the way to the cathedral and picked up a couple of prayer cards to bring home for family.

Exeter cathedral was easy to find. It is impressive, but after Wells, it really paled in comparison for me. They were setting up for a special event, so one could not wander about as freely or with the quiet one would expect. The cathedral does have a very nice gift shop, and I picked up a really pretty enamel cross for my mother.

My friend and I had split up, so I wandered around the town for about an hour, when we met up again to grab a quick lunch at Marks and Spencer’s little café. It was getting late, so we headed out.

Prior to departing on this trip, I had polled Fodors as to the best route to take to London. Alas, my GPS did not select the best way and I realized it too late and decided to just go with it. Big mistake! Our trip was slowed down immensely by tractors and other slow equipment throughout the journey. Then of course we ran into the construction zone that RM67 had warned me about on the M3. That, combined with arriving during rush hour, was a real drag.

We finally made it back to Heathrow to drop the car around 6:30 pm. We trudged through the terminal to get to the tube and made our way into the city, getting off at Victoria station and walking the half mile to the Best Western Corona on Belgrave.

I had stayed at this hotel 5 years ago and had liked it well enough. This time, it left a lot to be desired. For one, the road noise was really a problem this go round. It was quite difficult to sleep with the roaring traffic. You would think Belgrave was a freeway rather than a residential street! I think I had the least amount of sleep ever in my life at a hotel. Secondly, there was a mystery stain on my sheets. Can’t believe the maid put them on my bed as such. I’ll talk about the third negative later.

What is good about this hotel is its location. It’s conveniently located between Victoria and Pimlico tube station. Sainsbury, Tesco, and restaurants are all nearby. One can also easily walk to Parliament from this location.

We picked up dinner at Sainsbury (they prepare fresh pizzas for take away) and called it a night.

October 15 – Wallace Collection! I enjoy visiting the Wallace Collection when I’m in London. It’s a beautiful mansion filled with lovely art and some furniture. It’s also free! My friend and I explored the museum and I bought a beautiful ring in the nice gift shop. I normally don’t indulge, but it was only £35 and I had it in my head I couldn’t live without it.

After the museum, we split up and I headed to St. James’ Catholic Church a block behind. I had discovered the church on a previous journey, but hadn’t really been able to explore it fully because of choir practices. The church is lovely and I enjoyed the quiet visit.

Next was a quick lunch at M&S and then I zipped over to Harrods to pick up some coffee for my sister- in- law. Last time I had been in Harrods, I had enjoyed a cupcake and thought to get one again. Oh no! The price these days is £ 3.95 for a tiny cupcake. That’s over $6! I ended up finding a cupcake at Patisserie Valerie for £2, which I could handle.

I had hoped to visit the Ukrainian Catholic Church off a side street from Oxford Street, but it was locked up.

I went back to the hotel to drop off my Harrods and Wallace purchases and then walked down to the Parliament area. I really admire the architecture and enjoy watching the wonder on the faces of tourists new to London.

Crossing the Westminster bridge, I encountered some newlyweds posing for photos in their wedding finery. It was fun to watch for a few minutes, with Big Ben in the background of their photos.

I continued on my way, crossing to the other side and walking towards Lambeth Palace, just enjoying the day. While the countryside and coast had brilliant blue skies, London was overcast the whole time, but it was fine.

My friend and I met up for dinner that night, at an Italian place down the street from our hotel. It might have been called Sole Mio or something like that. My pizza was pretty good, but my friend said her salad and meal were terrible. Oh well! Pizza was around £ 9.
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Oct 22nd, 2015, 01:49 PM
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I was also going to comment on how much ground you covered, aggiegirl - I'm surprised that you didn't drop straight off to sleep, whatever size bed you were in. Sorry about the driving you encountered - dealing with the narrow lanes and judging where the best places to cross are is a real skill which sadly not everyone has learnt. Just recently I and some other drivers were left shaking our heads at the rudeness of another driver who seemed to think that everyone had to stop for HIM.

Also, sorry about the slow service you got - it's not something that I've come across recently, so perhaps I just don't notice any more!

anyway, it's good to see what others think of us, warts and all - and I'm enjoying reading your TR very much. keep it coming.
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Oct 22nd, 2015, 03:17 PM
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October 16 – Train trip to Arundel! I had seen somewhere online in advance of the trip that Arundel makes a good day trip from London and features a charming town and impressive castle. These things proved to be quite true!

We took the 9 am train out of Victoria station (£31.30 return) and got there by 10:30. It’s about a ten minute walk from Arundel station to the castle. It was a blustery day and we missed signage pointing to the castle entrance and trooped up to the top of the hill where we saw a sign pointing back down for the entrance. While at the top of the hill, we visited Arundel Cathedral. This is a beautiful church. While in a gothic style, it’s not that old. I took plenty of pictures and then visited the church shop. The nicest people were staffing the shop and I had quite a pleasant chat with them. In addition to the amazing architecture, scenery, etc, the thing that also brings me back to England is that the people are very nice and kind (discounting the previously mentioned maverick driver). I could have probably chatted with these two people all morning, but my friend was waiting for me.

We popped into St. Nicholas Priory, which is small and pleasant.

We made our way back down to the main castle entrance. We paid £18 for the gold plus ticket that included the bedrooms. The castle rooms didn’t open until noon, so we first explored the beautiful gardens and the chapel. The castle chapel is actually the same building as St. Nicholas, but it is Catholic and separated by a glass wall from the Anglican side. Kind of funny they couldn’t just share one bigger space, without the divider or have two separate structures. I wonder if services ever went on simultaneously in the past.

The grounds and gardens are really beautiful. I was impressed with all the flowers in the garden, many varieties I could not identify. Some were like pieces of art. One pic I took features a flower that looks like porcelain in the photo!

We got to the castle interior and first got a quick snack in the little restaurant.

Onward to the castle rooms! The interior is really lovely. There are guides in each room that you can speak to and ask questions. I spoke to a few of them and they were very informative and friendly.

When I had first discovered Arundel Castle and was reading the history, I realized that I have a family connection to it. My great grandfather X 16 (or something like that) was Thomas Howard, 2nd duke of Norfolk and his portrait hangs in the castle. I don’t believe he ever spent time in the castle, but one of his sons moved into it and the castle has been passed down ever since. So, technically, I am a distant cousin to the current duke, but alas, I was neither recognized nor invited for tea. Ha. No doubt there are a ton of Howard cousins running around the earth because Thomas had 9 children with his first wife (who I descend from) and a whole bunch more with wife number two (sister or cousin to wife #1).

I think I have another connection to the castle, but I have not pulled out my grandmother’s files to explore the connection pre-Thomas Howard.

As part of the castle ticket, you get to climb to the top of one of the keeps! It was so much fun climbing all the stairs, including some really tight spirals. It was a really good experience visiting the castle and I feel the price was fair for all you get to see.

It was getting late and we wanted to catch the 2:46 train back to London in order to attend evensong at Westminster Abbey at 5. I really wish I had a couple extra hours in town because it’s really a charming town. We did a short walk to the shop area, picking up a snack for the ride back to London. We met a nice woman outside a shop with an adorable old English sheepdog named Oscar and had a short chat with her before walking back to the train station. I feel like we were the only ones who boarded the train. The closer we got to London, the more people boarded at each of the stops.

We raced to our hotel really quickly and then power walked to Westminster Abbey. I really wanted to catch this service because it was featuring not only the Abbey Choir, but also the choir from the Catholic Westminster Cathedral. We made it just in the nick of time. The service and singing were really beautiful and I’m so glad we made it.

Dinner was at a Pizza Express on Victoria Street. Yes, I had pizza four nights in a row. My friend pretty much just eats salads, so it seemed like the easiest places for her to get a salad were at Italian places. Luckily, I love pizza, so that was fine with me.
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Oct 23rd, 2015, 03:03 AM
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My great grandfather X 16 (or something like that) was Thomas Howard, 2nd duke of Norfolk and his portrait hangs in the castle. I don’t believe he ever spent time in the castle, but one of his sons moved into it and the castle has been passed down ever since. So, technically, I am a distant cousin to the current duke, but alas, I was neither recognized nor invited for tea.>>

you should have got in contact with them before you went - they might have laid down the red carpet!

Sad to say that though we lived in Kent for 20 years or so, which is not that far away from Arundel, I never made it into the Castle, and now I wish that i had. They have cricket matches there a few times in the year and DH has gone with his mates occasionally, but I've never made it to one of those, either.

Nor have I ever heard the choir in Westminster Abbey; sounds like you had a great day!
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Oct 23rd, 2015, 10:56 AM
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Sounds like a great trip! I just discovered Cornwall last spring and am still in love with the area! Wells along with Ely are my favorite cathedrals of the twenty or so that I have visited in England.

You certainly covered a lot of territory in your trip. Thanks for sharing your story! Are your pictures up on a website that we might visit?
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Oct 23rd, 2015, 12:34 PM
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Thanks, everyone, for reading. I'm going to finish my report and load some photos this weekend.
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Oct 24th, 2015, 05:01 PM
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Some pics:

https://amtravelpics.shutterfly.com/pictures/8
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Oct 24th, 2015, 05:37 PM
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Enjoyed your pictures. The one of the fountain or well outside Bath Abbey made me smile. I took my parents there back in the late '80's, and my father and I were sitting nearby waiting for the ladies. My father chuckled at the inscription -- during the depression, at dinners when they couldn't afford wine, my grandfather used to lift his glass and declare, "Water is best." Dad is gone now, but that is one spot I will always associate with him.
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Oct 25th, 2015, 03:12 AM
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yes, very nice pics - I spotted what I thought was the scenery around Tintagel and the front of Wells Cathedral, amongst other places.
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Oct 25th, 2015, 09:28 AM
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Great report. Cornwall is on my "short list" so I've copied your report to use when planning. Thanks.
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Oct 25th, 2015, 09:45 AM
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I know you rented a car, but did you notice if the places you went (especially Tintagel and St Mary's Mount) were serviced by public transportation? annhig, you could probably answer this as well. Thanks
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Oct 25th, 2015, 12:19 PM
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Well, for St. Michael's Mount, you could take a train to Penzance and then walk the coastal walk for a couple miles to the site. For Tintagel, I do not think you can get there by public transport.
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Oct 25th, 2015, 01:42 PM
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We went to St. Michael's Mount by bus from Penzance to Marazion. My daughter went to Tintagel from Penzance by a combination of train and bus. People told her it would be "too hard," but the transportation companies helped her do it. She did say it was a good thing my sister and I didn't try because the climb to the top to see the ruins was tough.
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Oct 26th, 2015, 02:46 AM
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isobel - you have your answer. it is possible but not easy and you have to make sure that you can get back!

you might start here:

http://www.firstgroup.com/ukbus/devo...rney_planning/
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