Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Trip Report - our 4 week home exchange in Edinburgh & 5 weeks in England

Trip Report - our 4 week home exchange in Edinburgh & 5 weeks in England

Jun 17th, 2012, 07:34 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 415
We had a very smooth drive down to London; the GPS in my phone suggested 2h14 door to door and that was pretty much what it took.

We had arranged to check in early to the flat in Kensington as there was no tenant before us and they didn’t need to clean but when we arrived there was no-one there. Apparently the owner forgot to tell the meet & greet person and he then had to hop on his bike and ride across from Greenwich which took about an hour.

In the meantime we found a park nearby for the car and had to wait on his arrival. We got in just before 2:00 pm - the original entry time – and dropped off our luggage and then set off to fuel up the car before returning it to Hertz near Marble Arch.

It was a beautiful day and we wanted to do something for our first day in London so set off to walk from the Hertz office across Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens to Kensington Palace –former home of Queen Victoria, as well as Princess Diana - and recently opened to the public.

Quite a long walk (2.1m) on a warm day but we enjoyed the gardens which were packed with people enjoying the sunshine. I like the way they leave large areas of parkland unmown in summer to allow native grasses & wild flowers to flower and seed.

Kensington Palace was a nice building and some of the displays were interesting, particularly those about Queen Victoria, but some were less effective.

We returned to the flat late afternoon ready to have a shower and freshen up before dinner and found that there were no towels in the flat. After phoning the owner we were directed to a cupboard in the entrance hall downstairs so that was OK. Then we started the shower to find that there was almost no water – very low pressure! Shades of the Great Glasgow Boiler Fiasco of 2007 - when we were without a functionung boiler for more then 2 months. So we called the caretaker and a plumber came around at 10:00 pm; he left around 11:30 after failing to find the problem. Good service to get action so quickly but talking to tradespeople at almost midnight was not really what we were hoping for in our London.
Well our trip has finally drawn to a close and we are now home after 5 warm and sunny days in London stay.

We managed to cope with a trickling shower for a couple of days and the plumber came on Sunday morning to try and find the problem. We had gone for a coffee when they started and had agreed that if they could not fix it within the day then they would leave it until after we left. We didn’t want to be continually working around trades people coming & going.

We had just finished our coffee when we had a text to say that they had found the problem – and fixed it! The owner offered a generous refund of a part of our rental in compensation for the hassle so in the end this has worked out quite well – we would still prefer not to have the problem in the first place of course.

We have stayed here twice before and really like this flat - and would return. It is in a quiet street, lined with classic London buildings, but it is only a few minutes walk from the busy Kensington High Street in one direction and Bayswater Road in the other. It has a small patio area at the rear just outside our flat and it is very pleasant after a day touring to sit out there.

On Friday we started with a visit to the Royal Mews.
The Mews is next to Buckingham Palace and is built around a large courtyard. It holds the royal cars & carriages, as well as the carriage horses and the people needed to train and care for them. We quite enjoyed the visit, which included seeing the Australian coach which apparently we very generous Australian taxpayers gave to the Queen for our bicentennial in 1988. The highlight of the visit was the Gold State Coach used for the most special events such as coronations.

There was an exhibition of Leonardo de Vinci anatomical drawings at the nearby Queen’s Gallery and we decided to see that as well while we were in the area. Da Vinci spent a number of years dissecting corpses and doing very detailed anatomical drawings that were far ahead of the general understanding at the time of how the body works. He did not quite finish the project and did not publish the work before he died, and they remained pretty much unknown for about 200 years before entering the Royal Collection around 1700. No detailed study of them was conducted until around 1900 when their importance was realised. I think this is the first time they have been publicly displayed. They were beautifully drawn and I was a bit surprised at how interesting I found them.

After leaving the Queen’s Gallery we walked to Trafalgar Square and across to the church of St Martin in the Fields to see what concerts were on during our stay and bought tickets for the following night.

We then stopped at Piccadilly Circus for a coffee and a break before walking up to Oxford Street to catch the Central line back to Kensington – quite a long walk on another warm day.

The next morning we walked to the Victoria & Albert museum and enjoyed an hour or so looking around there. It is an incredible collection and I enjoyed the ceramics gallery which I had not seen before. The hall with giant plaster casts of famous archaeological ruins are amazing. They were taken in the 19th century and are now of real value as the originals have been subject to erosion, pollution etc and the casts provide an exact picture of what they were like nearly 200 years ago.

We then continued our walk toward the Thames, passing through Chelsea which was very busy with the flower show. We had thought of going but it turns out that, even though there are 157,000 tickets, they are all sold well in advance. We walked along the embankment for a while and then caught a bus back to Kensington. In the evening we returned to St Martins and very much enjoyed the concert of Vivaldi, Mozart and others

Once we heard that the water problem was fixed on Sunday morning we were able head out in quite a relaxed frame of mind. We visited the British Museum and spent time in two free exhibitions – Picasso’s Vollard suite of etchings, and contemporary Chinese ink drawings. While I did enjoy seeing the Picassos, there were 100 drawings, and I would have been happy to see just a few. The Chinese drawings were very good in particular those by Liu Dan. We spent a little while more in the museum looking at some of the antiquities but we were getting tired so we headed back to the flat. As most museums in the UK are free there’s never any pressure to stay to “get your moneys worth”.

On Monday morning we took the tube into town and visited the Courtauld Museum which has a number of paintings that we both like. It’s quite expensive – being a private collection – but is free on Monday mornings so obviously that’s when we go. We then walked to Her Majesty’s Theatre to pick up tickets for the Phantom of the Opera, briefly visiting the National Gallery as we passed, then returned to the flat for lunch.

We had arranged to meet with a couple from Kent who are interested in a home exchange next year so our next stop was Victoria Station where we found them easily an spent an enjoyable hour or so chatting and exploring whether an exchange would work for us. It looked promising and they seemed very nice people – with a home exchange you don’t need to be friends but it helps build confidence if you are comfortable with the people involved.

After our chat we had a pleasant walk back to Trafalgar Square, calling in to see the Catholic Westminster cathedral, and then past Whitehall and St James Park arriving in good time for dinner at Pizza Express before seeing the Phantom. We are not great ‘show-goers’ so we didn’t really know what to expect. I enjoyed aspects of the show, the staging and sets but I have to say I wasn’t too excited by the performance which didn’t seem to have much variation, and apart from the main theme, not much in the way of memorable songs. We were happy to have had the experience though.

Tuesday was our last full day so did not plan any major activity during the day – morning coffee in Kensington, packing & tidying up, in the morning and we took the tube to Oxford street and split up for some ‘shopping’. Neither of us really buys stuff overseas but we did enjoy our respective browsing. I actually bought a couple of pottery books.

We were going out again in the evening so stopped on at Kensington Place, a restaurant quite close to our flat for a late lunch. This was an inspired choice as the food was delicious. If we get the chance to return to London another day we will be going back!

We had seen a very positive review in the paper of a new stage production of Chariots of Fire at the Hampstead Theatre in Swiss Cottage and had bought tickets for our last night in London. After not being too excited with The Phantom we were a bit unsure as we took the tube out – how do you make a stage play out of people competing in the Olympics? The stage was at ground level in the centre of the theatre and it had rotating sections; also there was a gallery around the theatre behind (and through) the audience seating and these were used brilliantly. We were on the second level and looked down on the action. I this was the best stage production I have ever seen – all the emotional power of the film but with the added dimension of a personal performance. A great finish to our holiday.

We had booked Just Airports once again for our trip to the airport and they arrived right on time and we had a very smooth trip out to Heathrow. They charge GBP30 which is good value compared to a cab, and door to door beats Heathrow express. No problems with check in etc although we missed our take off slot and left almost an hour late, catching up a little time on the way to Kuala Lumpur. Again, a little late leaving KL but we actually arrived at Melbourne a few minutes early and were through customs & immigration in about 20 minutes. We were very happy with Malaysia Airlines and would use them again.

All in all we have had a great time even though we had to battle the weather for most of the trip. Also 9 weeks is really too long to be away from family so we wouldn’t plan a trip of this length again. This trip was only this long because we had the chance to do the Edinburgh exchange and tacked that on to a trip that we were already planning for the UK. All in all the exchange was a success and we would certainly consider another.

There endeth the report . . . as always I'll be happy to repond to any queries - and thanks to those hwo have read my report so far and made positive comments.
GregY2 is offline  
Jun 18th, 2012, 06:36 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 415
Just to finish off, here is a link to some photos from our trip;

GregY2 is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 04:15 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,325
hi again, greg, thanks for posting such an interesting informative report.

it comes at a very opportune time for us as we wanted somewhere to go this weekend, and having read your report, we've ended up booking somewhere in Wells, which i think i last visited about 35 years ago when i was a student in Bristol.

Armed with out National trust cards, we have Tyntesfield, Barrington court, Montacute plus possibly the SS Great Britain on our "to do" list. anything you think i might be missing? we've done north somerset/exmoor before, but never glastonbury. i got the impression you were not over-impressed with Glastonbury - would you bother?
annhig is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 05:31 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 4,108
thanks for a great report and for the photos. I always like night scenes but my favorites were lookiing down a glen with the daffodils in the foreground and the sheep looking down. The view of the firth with white caps and snow made me shiver. Just looking at the photo makes one feel the cold.

I tried to guess (from my travel memories) where pictures were taken before I looked at the captions.

Thanks for taking the time to share!
irishface is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 09:15 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 415
Wow, someone has made a travel decision based on my trip report - what a responsibility!

Hi annhig, I'm sure you will enjoy your weekend in Wells, it's a very pleasant town and the cathedral is stunning.

Your impression is correct, I was not keen on Glastonbury as a destination, although the view from the Tor is lovely and it worked well for us as a base. It probably depends on your attitude to New Age stuff - mumbo jumbo I would say - if you are not really interested then there's not much else.

If you plan to see the SS Great Britain, I would get there early and then visit Tyntesfield after - its quite close. Hopefully you will have a dryer day than we did and will be able to spend some time in the gardens.

Montacute House & adjacent village is lovely. Barrington Court has a nice garden but is bare inside - maybe for a weekend visit I'd not bother (although it is close by)

Bath is a lovely town and has great architecture, a bustling town centre and the roman baths - which are quite complete and very interesting - as well as the cathedral.

If you have timew I'd certainly recommend Lacock Abbey which is not far from Bath. We loved our visit there - the gardens, the house, the village, the Talbot museum, and the photographic exhibition were all good. There was also a nice little pottery in th village.

Come back next week and tell us how you got on.
GregY2 is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 09:17 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 415
Hi irishface, glad you enjoyed the photos. You forgot to say how many you guessed correctly!
GregY2 is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 11:31 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,633
annhig, a minor footnote to Greg's comments on Wells. You'll also get the opportunity to see if you can imitate Mary Bignal Rand's (local girl, you see) world record Olympic long jump - it's laid out in a long brass strip in the market place.
PatrickLondon is online now  
Jun 20th, 2012, 08:47 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,325
hi greg, patrick - thanks.

I'd not thought of Lacock nor known about the Mary Rand long jump strip. She is just about the the first olympic champion i can remember - toyko 1964 if I remember rightly!

[YES - wiki agrees with me!]

we've been to Bath a few times, hence not picking it for this trip, but it's a plan B along with more of Bristol if it [continues] to rain. which I hope it doesn't as at least part of the purpose of this trip is to try out our anniversary present to ourselves, namely a soft-top MX5. [what's the point of a soft top if you can't take the top off, I ask.]

and thanks for the hint about doing the SS Great Britain first.
annhig is offline  
Jun 21st, 2012, 12:54 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 415
Well annhig you obviously have good taste in motor cars as well.

Take another look at my photo link:

I've added some more albums - mine is the grey one (and I love it)

GregY2 is offline  
Jun 21st, 2012, 06:26 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,325
nice Greg. this is our first [and probably last] sports car and so far, we've had no opportunity at all to put the top down and get the wind in our hair, and this weekend looks like being little different!

we will be taking scarves, hats and gloves on the off-chance [though they will leave little space for anything else given the miniscule size of the boot] but I'm not putting my shirt on them getting much use.

i can see us spending a lot of time indoors.
annhig is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2012, 02:08 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,325
an update on our away-day weekend - until this evening we'd more or less avoided the rain; yesterday we went to Dunster on the way here [here being Wells] and had the top down and our jumpers on all the way. Today we went round the lovely Cathedral and the gorgeous Bishop's Palace, followed by a drive to Glastonbury to go up the Tor followed by the Abbey. None of them NT, but we'll make up for that tomorrow.

then it started to rain so we found [with some difficulty] a pub showing the SA v England rugby which whiled away a couple of damp hours. Tomorrow [if it ever stops] we are planning to go to Stourhead and Lytes Cary.

thanks again, Greg for your help. I can't believe that I'd never seen any of these places before!
annhig is offline  
Jun 24th, 2012, 08:35 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 415
Hi annhig, I guess your weeknd is over by now - hope the rain gave you a break on Sunday.

We thought about Lytes Cary but, or some reason or other, never made it there. I'd be interested in what you thought as we would certainly hope to be back in this area one day. We really enjoyed our visit to Dunster, both castle & village; we had one of the worst coffees of our entire trip in Dunster.

Even if the rain did not let up I'm sure you will have plenty of opportunities to get out in the MX5 in Cornwall over the remains of the summer - plenty of nice roads there.
GregY2 is offline  
Jun 24th, 2012, 08:56 PM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 7,301
fmpden is offline  
Jun 25th, 2012, 11:45 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,325
Greg - yes we did get to Lytes Cary, which made a nice contrast with Stourhead, both in style and size, as we were quite tired after walking our socks off [and in DH's case his toe-nail off] at Stourhead, and were only up for a gentle stroll, which is what we got.

We also went to Montacute on the way home today, and it was different again.

Tintinhull is still on the "to do" list.
annhig is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:05 AM.