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yk's Trip Report - London, Bath, Salisbury, Stonehenge in 6 days


May 30th, 2008, 12:31 PM
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yk's Trip Report - London, Bath, Salisbury, Stonehenge in 6 days

Hi all-

I returned from my 6-day trip to the UK just a few days ago. It was fun, though quite exhausting (which I knew it would be). I wanted to thank many of you who answered my questions, made suggestions, and those of you who have written trip reports to these places. I want to express special thanks to janis, who is so ever helpful and knowledgable; and also to julia_t whom I met up for lunch in Bath. She drove for an hour in horrid weather to Bath for this mini-GTG!

Background information
Briefly about me. I'm in my mid-30s and travel to Europe solo a lot. DH is too dedicated to his work so he usually cannot take so much time off. This is my 15th trip to London, and my last trip there was just 8 months ago. This is my 2nd time to Bath (last trip 15 years ago) and first time to Stonehenge/Salisbury.

This trip was a last-minute decision, as I could not resist the temptation of an AA NetSaaver fare of $600 all-in from Boston to London. I booked the flight just one week before departure.

I wanted to spend a few days in London but also venture outside of the city. I had a hard time picking a destination (there are so many options!) but finally decided on Bath & Salisbury.

I borrowed several guidebooks from the library, read trip reports, looked up train schedules + opening times for attractions, checked out concerts/festivals etc.

The only guides I brought with me were:
Lonely Planet London 2008 (which I actually like)
Streetwise London map
Map of Bath (which I had from 15 years ago)
Printed google map of Salisbury

Things I booked prior to departure
6 nights of lodging
2 train tickets (much cheaper to buy in advance)
Royal Opera at Covent Garden
Chelsea Flower Show
Symphony concert in Salisbury (part of the Salisbury Arts Festival)

Money Matters & Tipping
I used my CC to book all the things listed above in advance. However, after I arrived, I never once used my CC. I used my Bank of America ATM card to get cash from Barclays. I never had any trouble finding a Barclays ATM machine. In fact, there is one at Heathrow - just across from the entrance to the Tube Station of Heathrow Term 1,2,3.

As far as restaurant tipping is concerned, most places do not add on any tips to the final bill. Only 1 or 2 restaurants I went to automatically added 10-12.5%. In those that didn't add a tip, I tipped 9-10%.

Transportation in London & Beyond
Since I was traveling alone and not visiting any 2-for-1 offer sites, I didn't bother with any paper travelcard. I had a Oyster PAYG from last trip still with some money left on it. It really is a godsend because when I was at the Heathrow tube stop (~9:30am) the station was completely packed. The lines for tickets were incredible. With the Oyster, I saved a tremendous amount of time not having to wait in line. The station was so crowded that I had to fight my way thru the crowds in order to get to the turnstile.

I tend to take the bus in London whenever I can if I'm not in a hurry. A lot of times, taking the tube involves changing lines, which can lead to lots of walking. OTOH, I can almost always find a bus line that gets me to my destination without changing. Plus I enjoy seeing the streets of London. The bus stops in London have improved drastically in recent years. Most of them have route maps & schedules which makes it very easy to figure out which bus to take to a certain destination. Lastly, the one-day bus fare caps at £3 vs £4.80 for the tube.

It has been quite a long time since I had taken the train outside of London. It was quite confusing given the vast # of train operators. The pricing of tickets was insane. The same day cheap return ticket usually costs the same as a one-way. For one-way tickets, it's much cheaper to purchase in advance. E.g., my one-way ticket from London to Bath was £9.50 in advance, but £47 if bought the day of. By buying the 2 one-way tickets in advance, I saved over £40.
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May 30th, 2008, 12:42 PM
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What an awesome start to your trip report! $600 rt from Boston. That's a great fare. It's no wonder you couldn't resist. Looking forward to more!
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May 30th, 2008, 01:14 PM
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yk, I'm glad you're posting your report! You've made a great start and I admire the focused planning you did on a last minute basis.
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May 30th, 2008, 01:14 PM
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Day 0
Getting to London in record time

AA operates twice daily service BOS-LHR, one day flight and one overnight flight. I always prefer the day flight as it is more comfortable for the body. The departure time was 9am, which didn't sound too bad when I booked it, but I was not happy when my alarm went off at 4:15am that morning.

I didn't have the heart to make DH drive me to the airport (~1 hr r/t plus toll), so I had him drop me off at the Riverside station (Green line T stop) which is only a 10-min drive from our house. I was at the stop at 5:30am and the T departed at 5:40am. I had to make 2 changes to get to the airport, but everything went smoothly and I arrived at the 50 minutes later, which was WAY early for my 9am flight.

With my Platinum elite status, I was able to hang out at the AA Admirals Club until it was boarding time. While I was at the club, I asked the agent if there were other aisle seats open on the flight. Surprisingly there were (even though the seat map says otherwise) and I got moved up 20+ rows to the 2nd row of Economy, and an aisle seat of a 2-seater instead of a 5-seater.

The flight time was just under 6 hours, and I was glad I didn't splurge for the upgrade as I wouldn't have felt it was worth the money. First meal was breakfast with a choice of French Toast or Cheese Omelette. I had the french toast a few months ago which was inedible, so I chose the omelette which was much better. It also came with a snack pack which I saved. The 2nd meal was a cold cut sandwich. This was also better than my last flight.

The 777 offers individual monitors with about 15 movies to choose from, plus TV shows. It is not 100% AVOD - but better than the old-style loop. Each movie starts every 20 minutes or so, so one never has to wait too long to watch a movie. The movie selection however was rather poor. But with nothing else better to do, I watched 3 movies.

We arrived at Heathrow ahead of time and surprisingly did not have to wait for a gate to open up. We landed 15 minutes early at 8:15pm. After a short taxi, the aircraft door opened at 8:20pm. Given this was just before the US & UK holiday weekend, the First and Business classes were empty. Since I was moved up to the 2nd row of Economy, I deplaned very quickly.

The immigration hall was empty, and with no checked luggage, it was hard to believe I was out in the arrivals hall by 8:35pm, just 20 minutes after we landed!!! This has to be a record.

I was staying at a Heathrow airport hotel for that night because hotel rates in town were very high. I initially tried for a 4* on Priceline, but it was rejected. My 3* Priceline bid won me the dumpy Thistle Heathrow ($101 all-in). The only plus was the Thistle is serviced by the free local bus so I saved £8 r/t without having to take the Hoppa.

The free local bus leaves from the Central Bus station. Finding the hotel itself was actually quite a challenge, which I will detail in my hotel review at the end of the trip report.

After checking in, I ate the snack pack from the flight for dinner, and went to bed. Unfortunately, with jet-lag, I wasn't able to sleep well that night.
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May 30th, 2008, 01:31 PM
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Day 1 - London
British Library, Geffrye Museum, Chelsea Flower Show

I got up around 8am and checked out just after 9am. The trek to London took longer than I thought. In retrospect, I wasn't sure if it was worth the savings by staying at Heathrow that night. I didn't arrive at the Holiday Inn Regents Park (where I will stay for 3 nights) until 2 hours later. I got the Holiday Inn via Hotwire for $97/night.

After checking in and dropping off my suitcase, I took the bus to British Library where the current (free) exhibition is a 17-th century Indian manuscripts of the story of Ramayana. [Thanks to flanneruk who alerted me of this exhibition.] It is quite interesting, though not my usual cup of tea (I'm more into European art). The place wasn't crowded so it was nice. After the exhibition, I quickly went to the "British Library Treasures" gallery. I had visited there just last September, but I wanted to see the Magna Carta again as well as Beowulf. The British Library owns 2 of the 4 known existing copies of the Magna Carta, but the better quality one is currently off display.

After an hour at the British Library, I popped next door to the newly-reopened St Pancras Station to check it out. It is now a hybrid of old and new. Old is the brick building & facade; new is the glass and steel ceiling.

Lunch was at North Sea Restaurant for fish and chips, which I have read about a lot here. It is located just a few blocks from the British Library. I had the haddock, which was so fresh and juicy. The portion was rather large; I finished the fish but ate only half the chips. Lunch was £13.

North Sea Fish Restaurant
7-8 Leigh St
(020 7387 5892)

After lunch, I ventured to the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch. It is a bit of a trek to get out there (2 buses) but it was worth the effort. The museum shows English domestic interior settings (think period rooms) from 1600s to the present. Admission is free. There were very few visitors which was a plus. In the back of the museum is a herb garden plus a stretch of period gardens starting from the Tudor times. The gardens are beautiful and lots of flowers are blooming.

Many people raved about the cafe/restaurant at the Geffrye museum. It has nice setting overlooking the gardens, but I was still too full from lunch so I didn't eat there.

By now, I was feeling exhausted, so I returned to the hotel for a short nap.

I emerged just before 5pm and headed to Sloane Sq by tube for the Chelsea Flower Show. I was very excited that my trip coincided with the show, and there were still late afternoon tickets (5:30p entry) available.

When I got there, there was a sign saying all tickets for the day were sold out, and there was a queue for people waiting for return tickets. The flower show was like nothing I had seen, even though I had visited the Philadelphia flower show a few times. First of all, it is outdoors. Second, it is huge in comparison. The place was packed when I arrived, in fact it was difficult to get a glimpse of the displays. As the day went on, the crowd slowly thinned out. The designs were simply amazing. I am not a gardener myself but I still enjoyed it very much.

I felt I had enough time (2+hrs) to see everything there, but I didn't bother spending anytime at the many vendor booths selling all sorts of gardening stuff.

For dinner, I decided to go back to Tom's Kitchen where I had gone on my previous trip. Tom's kitchen is a less formal restaurant owned by chef Tom Aikens, who has a Michelin-starred restaurant by the same name. It is about a 10-min walk from the Flower Show. I did not have a reservation, so I had to wait about 20 minutes. It has a nice/comfy lounge area upstairs.

I was seated at the bar (which I requested) so I could see all the cooks and chef at work. I ordered gazpacho w/tapenade, and a appetizer portion of beet risotto w/goat cheese. I also had a side order of sauteed mixed mushrooms. Everything was excellent. I finished my meal with an amazing mango + passion fruit mousse with ice cream. What a great meal. Another thing I like about Tom's Kitchen is that everyone who works there is extremely nice. The hostess is genuinely nice with a big smile, while the rest of the crew (waitstaff, bus boys, manager) are all so pleasant. Dinner was £31.

Tom's Kitchen
27 Cale Street
Tel 0207 349 0202
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May 30th, 2008, 01:34 PM
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Background information:

Did you travel by yourself on your last trip 8 months ago?

Do you work outside the home?

I am interested to hear more about the day time flight and how this worked out with jet lag. Sorry to hear you didn't sleep well the first night.


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May 30th, 2008, 01:47 PM
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Yay! Can't wait to hear more!
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May 30th, 2008, 01:52 PM
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Hi Sandy-

<< Did you travel by yourself on your last trip 8 months ago? >>

Yes. I had a great time. I also went to Spain by myself back in Feb this year. You can read my London TR here:

<< Do you work outside the home? >>

I'm currently "in between jobs" so to speak, hence I can jump on last-minute fares without worrying about vacation days.

<< I am interested to hear more about the day time flight and how this worked out with jet lag. >>

This is my 3rd time taking a day flight to London. The downside is getting up real early on the day of departure. I prefer it because I always have a hard time sleeping on overnight flights, and I feel horrible the next day like I was in a fog.

Part of the problem I had this trip was I fell asleep just after 11pm, then my cellphone rang which woke me up. I went back to sleep, then woken up again just after 12 midnight by some weird alarm from the TV! I think if I hadn't had those 2 interruptions right after I had fallen asleep, I would have done much better.

But despite that, I still felt a lot better the next day than I would have felt if I had taken an overnight flight.
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May 30th, 2008, 02:18 PM
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Day 2
Windsor Castle

My last visit to Windsor Castle was almost 30 years ago when I was a kid.

I slept much better and woke up to a sunny day outside. A quick bus ride from the hotel (Great Portland St station) to Paddington took just about 10 minutes. I bought a cheap day return ticket to Windsor (£8.20). While I was there, I also used the self-service machine to pick up my 2 train tickets which I had purchased in advance (to Bath and to Salisbury).

There are 2 ways to get to Windsor from London. One is from Paddington to Windsor & Eton Central. This route is faster but involves a change of train at Slough. Another route is from Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside. It takes longer but no change required. The 2 stations in Windsor are close-by, though the Central station is slightly closer to the Castle.

However, it's worth noting that the 2 routes are operated by 2 separate rail companies, so buying a r/t ticket on one route does not allow you to take a different route on the way back.

I took the 8:51am train which arrived at 9:26am. Despite today being the Saturday of a holiday weekend, Windsor was still relatively quiet at that hour. The castle doesn't open until 9:45am but I was waiting at the gate by 9:35am. This turned out to be a good decision because by the time it was 9:45, at least 100 tourists arrived at the gate. Since I was near the front, I only had to wait a few minutes in line to get my ticket. Those who were at the back of the crowd were in line for quite some time. The ticket includes a free audioguide.

Initially I had planned to visit the Doll House/State Apts first, but it turns out there is going to be Changing of the Guards at 11am, and I wouldn't have enough time to finish Doll House/State Apts by then. Instead, I walked around the grounds listening to the audioguide, and visited the St George's Chapel. This took about 1 hour.

By 10:45am I emerged from the Chapel and found myself a decent spot along the railings to watch the Changing of the Guards. It was rather boring IMO, and would have been worse if I hadn't gotten a front row spot. I was more amused by the airplanes flying on top of our heads every 60 seconds than the guards.

After watching for 30 minutes, I sensed it was coming to the end, so I took off to the direction of the Doll House/State Apts while the majority of the crowds were still watching. This turned out to be an excellent idea because the line to the Doll House/State Apts was short and I had to wait just a few minutes.

After the Doll House, the route takes you into a special Drawings gallery. One-half shows a number of rare drawings owned by the Queen, including a couple by Leonardo da Vinci (the Queen owns several hundreds of his drawings - largest collection in the world), and a few by Holbein. The other half has a special exhibit celebrating the 60th b-day of Prince Charles with photos and memorabilia.

After that gallery, the route enters the State Apts. I think the audioguide does a good job - not too little but not too much. After the visit, I must admit I was disappointed because I did not see the painting by Pieter Breugel the Elder (which is one of the reasons I wanted to visit Windsor Castle). I knew I didn't miss it but I wanted to be sure, so I went around to the entrance to the State Apts again.

By now, the line for Doll House/State Apts is a 45-min wait, but fortunately, there's another line for just the State Apts (no wait). Once back inside, I asked one of the guards about the Bruegel and he just said it's not on view currently.

[Now rechecking the website, the Bruegel is part of a traveling exhibit. It was at the Queens Gallery in Edinburgh last year and will be at the Queens Gallery at Buckingham Palace later this fall. I guess I'll have to plan another trip to London!]

I spent around 3.5-4 hours at Windsor Castle. It was enjoyable, but I prefer Hampton Court Palace. When I left, there was a long line at the ticketing office to get in.

I was starving by then. I decided to eat at Wagamama. I had a noodle soup which wasn't memorable. Bill was £11.

AFter lunch, I did some shopping (bought a light silk scarf which I knew I would need for the next few days based on weather forecast), and then walked across the Thames over to Eton. It was a beautiful day (the nicest day on my trip) and it would have been nice to walk along the Thames. But since I didn't have that much time to spare, I turned around to catch the 3:30p train back to London.

I returned to the hotel for a much needed nap, then left around 6pm to Covent Garden for Verdi's Simon Boccanegra at the Royal Opera.

[When I was looking online to buy the opera ticket, I originally planned on buying the cheapest unobstructed view ticket which is £30. Out of curiosity, I checked the orchestra stalls price and surprisingly there is a special "email offer" for £55 seats which normally retail for £165. I was able to select the £55 option, but got concerned so I actually phoned the Royal Opera to make sure it wasn't a hoax. The agent told me this is an offer for people who haven't been back to the opera in order to "lure" them back. I couldn't believe my luck.]

My seat was perfect - right smack in the center of the orchestra stalls. The couple next to me was holding their tickets which clearly printed £165! The opera of course was wonderful, and for someone like me who is used to sitting in the nosebleed sections, it was incredible to see the set & stage up close and see the expressions of the singers without opera glasses. "So, this is how the opera should be seen and heard," I thought to myself.

During the intermission, I had a chocolate ice cream. Eating the Royal Opera ice cream during intermission is a tradition of mine. In fact, the ice cream they sell is a special brand made specifically for the opera house and has won many awards.

The opera ended at 10pm. I went to Chinatown for dinner. I ate at HK Diner, which I had been to several times before. It serves basic Cantonese diner fare. I had a shredded duck congee and a plate of stir-fry Chinese broccoli. Bill was £10.50.

HK Diner
22 Wardour St
London, W1D 6QQ
+44 20 74349455
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May 30th, 2008, 02:25 PM
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Welcome back. Thanks for the kind words

That's great that you got to have lunch w/ julia_t. I'll be looking forward to the rest of your report and to see if you managed to squeeze everything in. Isn't the Chelsea Flower Show amazing?!
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May 30th, 2008, 02:26 PM
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My flight originates in St. Louis and the last two times I have connected thru JFK with my final destination of Stansted airport.

I have thought off and on about getting a day time flight out of Chicago which would mean get up very early or fly up the day before.

It is always good to hear how others work their flights out.

Best wishes with the "inbetween jobs" - one of our sons is in the same boat.

Looking forward to more.

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May 30th, 2008, 02:26 PM
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oops - your next installment appeared while I was posting. I'd better get cracking to catch up . . . . . .
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May 30th, 2008, 02:40 PM
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Welcome back. Is the Bruegel in the Royal Collection "Massacre of the Innocents"? Apparently there's at least one other version -- the one in Kunsthistorisches Museum.

I wonder if one is a copy, or did Breugel paint two versions?

Did you read about the guy who bet on a Frans Hals that turned out really to be a Frans Hals? The painting increased about ten-fold, I think, and will be auctioned off very soon. There's another version in Brussels.
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May 30th, 2008, 02:56 PM
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111op - Yes, the Bruegel is the Massacre of the Innocents. This is the exhibition that's coming up:

janis- there were a couple of places I wasn't able to squeeze in (Wellcome Collection, Borough Market), but I guess there's always the next trip to London!
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May 30th, 2008, 03:09 PM
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Day 3 - London
Spencer House, Spitalfields Market, Dennis Severs House

Today was supposed to be a sleep-in day, as Spencer House doesn't open until 10:30am.

However, some last-minute communications had me meeting up with my aunt and cousin for breakfast at 9am! My cousin is studying in London but my aunt happened to be visiting her from Hong Kong, and the only time we are all free was Sunday morning breakfast.

I set my alarm clock for 7:45am. But at 7:30am, some strange loud noise woke me up from sleep. What the heck is that?!?!

The noise continued and I was hitting the alarm clock, TV remote, telephone, cell phone in the dark while I was still half-awake. It wasn't another minute later I realized it was the fire alarm!

Once I was fully awake, I put on a sweater and some shoes and headed out. I followed the crowd down the fire exit stairs, and got a rude awakening when the exit door led us outside of the building into pouring rain! [I thought the stairs would take us to the lobby where we could wait inside.] Fortunately, there was a sheltered area across the street, so we all huddled there.

While waiting, a fellow traveler complained that this is the second fire alarm in the last 3 days! He said the other one happened at the same time ~7:30am.

About 15 minutes later, we were let back into the hotel, though no hotel staff explained what caused the alarm to go off. By the time I got back to my room, it was time to get up anyway, so I headed to the shower.

Well, there is NO HOT WATER! I let it run for 10 minutes and it stayed cold. I called the front desk and they said they're working on it. Well, I couldn't wait any longer, so I took a cold shower. You can imagine how miserable I was after standing in the cold for 15 minutes followed by a cold shower.

I was meeting my relatives at Baker Street station, which is a 10-min walk from the hotel. However, it was still pouring rain when I left the hotel, so I took a bus instead.

We picked a random cafe nearby for breakfast, since we didn't want to venture far in the heavy rain.

After breakfast, my cousin had to return to her schoolwork, but my aunt went sightseeing with me. I told her I wanted to visit the Spencer House, which is only open once a week on Sundays only.

We arrived at 11:10am. Spencer House can be visited by guided tours only, and the next one was at 11:30am. We were shown to a waiting room and watched a 15-min introductory film. At 11:30am our tour began. There were a total of 4 visitors on this tour.

The house was originally built by the Spencer Family (of Diana's family) in the 1700s in the Palladian style. In the early 1900s it was rented to various people and clubs, and used as offices. In the 1980s it was rented to Lord Rothchild, who decided to restore 8 of the rooms back to its former glory. His restoration cost was £16 million. The rest of the house is still used as offices. Many of the paintings & furniture originally owned by the Spencer family were dispersed to various museums, but the museums have re-loaned those pieces back to the House. Other furniture were copied by craftsmen.

The House sustains itself not by the Sunday visitor admissions, but rather by rentals for functions. The rate starts at £10,000 and can go up as high as one wishes.

It was a great visit as they have done an excellent job with the restoration. Our guide/docent was very knowledgable. She knows every painting and every piece of furniture by heart. The tour lasted for 1 hour.

My aunt and I then had a simple lunch at Pret a Manger nearby (on Piccadilly) and then we parted ways.

My next stop was Spitalfields Market. It is located just a block from Liverpool station. For some reason, I thought it is an old market selling food & produce. In reality, it is a restored old market with new interiors, and no produce is sold. It has many restaurants and a few shops, plus many stalls selling cheap clothing (almost like a flea market).

I didn't spend much time there as I wasn't interested in buying clothes, so I went to visit Dennis Severs House which is just a block north of Spitalfields Market.

Dennis Severs House was an interesting, though a bit disappointing, visit. I visited on a Sunday afternoon and the visitors can just "drop by" without making advance reservations.

It is a house where time stood still since the 18th century. It is supposed to be an experience, which one feels like he/she is stepping back in time into someone's house 150 years ago. The house is lighted by real candles, real food is displayed on plates, tea in tea cups etc. However, I was never able to get "into the mood" so to speak. Part of it was because the place was crowded! There were at least 3-4 other visitors in every room I visited. Plus the front door constantly opened and closed for visitors and I could hear the guide talking to the visitors. I suppose the Monday evening candlelight tour is better?

Even though Brick Lane is nearby, I didn't have the time or interest to visit. Instead, I had a quick rest at Patisserie Valerie (strawberry tart and a cappucino), then went to Charing Cross station to take a train to Sevenoaks to visit a friend of mine (and her family) for the rest of the afternoon/evening.
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May 30th, 2008, 07:05 PM
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yk -

I'm enjoying reading your trip report, and reminiscing about some of our stops on our short trip to London several years ago.

Since we didn't have time to travel outside of the city, I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your trip report, visiting places I've always dreamed about (particularly Stonehenge & Salisbury).

Robyn >-
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May 30th, 2008, 07:23 PM
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I'm also enjoying your trip report, yk.

I saved your Spain report for future reference.

You seem to be enjoying this trip more than that one...

I also went to the Geffrye Museum a few years back - very interesting and not touristed...

That's great that you are able to pick up and go like that
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May 30th, 2008, 07:58 PM
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Thanks to all of you who have commented. It's always nice to know that someone is reading the trip report.

Mara- What can I say? London is my favorite city so I am biased in a way. Apart from the many trips I've taken to London, I also lived there for almost 1 year when I did my junior year abroad. So for me, visiting London is a bit like "going home" for me, rather than going there as a tourist.
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May 30th, 2008, 08:30 PM
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My Tips on London

- Take the bus! It's easier than you think, cheaper than the tube, and far more entertaining to ride!

- For a short visit to London and not needing 2-for-1 discounts, Oyster PAYG is the answer.

- It is possible to enjoy London without massive crowds: visit the off-the-beaten-path sites, or visit popular sites early in the day.

- Make sure you know which Heathrow terminal you are departing from. Unlike most other airports where the terminals are right next to one another, at LHR, T4 & T5 are miles away from T 1/2/3. If you are taking the tube or a bus (eg National Express coach) to LHR, you don't want to get off at the wrong terminal.

Day 4 - Bath

I was having such a great time with my friends in Sevenoaks the night before that I barely caught the last train back to London at 10:50pm. I didn't get back to the hotel until midnight. With a 7am train to catch, my alarm clock went off at 5am this morning.

The main reason I booked such an early train is because there were no cheap advance tickets left for the 8am train and it would have cost me twice as much. Plus I wanted to maximize my time in Bath.

I checked out of the hotel at 6:15am, and as soon as I got to the bus stop a bus to Paddington came by. I got to the station with plenty of time to spare.

The train left on time and I fell asleep on this 90-min journey. Very few people were on this train and even fewer got off at Bath.

The weather was absolutely disgusting. It was cold at around 50F, very windy with gale-force winds, and raining. I was so glad I had bought the silk scarf the other day.

As there was no luggage storage service at the train station, I had to walk about 200 yards to the Bath BackPackers Hostel (13 Pierrepoin Street) where they charge a £2.50 luggage storage fee. The "storage area" is really just a corner of the lobby area and is not that secure. The staff's counter is located just across, so technically the staff can keep an eye on it.

I walked around for a bit, including along River Avon and Pulteney Bridge. The whole town was like a ghost town. At 9am, I arrived at the entrance to the Roman Baths.

There are 2-for-1 entry offers for Bath and Bristol with a valid train ticket, and I had downloaded one for the Roman Baths in advance. Now the key is to find another single traveler and pursuade him/her to go in with me.

Soon, I spotted a single guy - probably in his 40s/50s. I approached him and he agreed. When we got to the ticket counter, the agent sort of insisted that we show him TWO rail tickets. The guy didn't have one, so I kind of fudged some excuse; the ticket agent eventually gave in.

The admission was normally £10.50 per person, and the guy handed over a £20 bill. The agent asked if we had 50p and I did. After we got our ticket (just one receipt for the 2 of us), I realized I didn't have anything smaller than a £20 bill. When I offered it to the guy, he declined and told me not to worry about it. I felt rather bad quot;> as I kind of "used" him and got out of paying. I did let him have the ticket receipt as a souvenir.

The entrance fee includes a free audioguide. I don't recall there's SO MUCH to see in the display when I visited 15 years ago. The audioguide was too much, too lengthy for my taste. In addition to the official audio clips, there are extra clips by Bill Bryson - his take on various displays. I enjoyed those much more because he is so hilarious at times.

I think I listened to 95% of the audio clips, and to listen to all of it would probably have taken 2.5 hours total. The Roman Baths got a lot more crowded as the morning went on, with most tour groups arriving after 10am.

They also offer free guided tours of the baths but I didn't take it. Perhaps they are more interesting than the audioguide.

At the end of the tour, one can get a glass of the Bath water - but the location of it is a bit obscure. It is actually inside the Pump Room restaurant, at a stand off to the side. Each visitor can get a glass for free by showing his/her ticket. Since I gave my ticket to that guy, I had to pay 50p for a glass. I thought it tasted normal, though I'm not used to drinking warm water.

I then visited the Bath Abbey located right next door. The western portal/main entrance has an interesting facade - with sculpted ladders on both sides and angels climbing up and down on the ladders.

The Abbey has very nice fan-vaulted ceiling; and the Vaults Heritage Museum downstairs was quite good. My visit lasted about 1 hour, and it was perfect timing for my meeting with Fodorite julia_t at 12:15pm.

She was already waiting outside the Abbey when I exited. We had lunch at Raphael, which serves a lovely 2-course prix fixe lunch for £10.95. I was really moved that she came all the way to Bath (1-hr drive) despite the horrible weather.

We both started with soup of the day which was cream of broccoli + cauliflower. For the main course she had a seafood risotto (IIRC) and I had a mushroom + guyere omelette. It was so wonderful to meet up with fellow travelers, swap travel stories, and put a face to the screenname.

Raphael Bar & Restaurant
Gascoyne House
Upper Borough Walls, Bath
Tel: 01225 480 042

After lunch, the rain had finally stopped. We wandered around for a bit before she dropped me off for the 2pm free walking tour.

Even though the rain stopped, the winds didn't. With wind chill, the temperature must have been in the 40s. Fortunately, I was wearing a hooded cashmere sweater and the hood came in handy. Despite the bad weather, the group was still quite big. At times it was difficult to hear the guide unless I was standing nearby.

Overall, the 2-hr walking tour was interesting and I learned a lot about history, architecture, famous dead people etc. But I forgot most of it by the next day. <@

The tour ended at 4pm, and I went to No. 1 Crescent of the Royal Crescent. It is now a museum with Georgian interiors. It only has 4 rooms plus a kitchen to see, so it didn't take much time at all (45 mins tops).

By then it was almost 5, and it was time to head for the train station as my train to Salisbury leaves at around 5:30p. I returned to the hostel and thankfully my suitcase was still there.

The train to Salisbury ended up being 8 minutes late, and it took 1 hour to get there.

My B&B in Salisbury is located near the cathedral. With a google map in hand, I was able to find it without any difficulty. It was a 20-min walk from the train station.

The B&B is called 85 Exeter Street and run by this lovely lady named Susan. I found it via Alastair Sawday's guide. I can't say enough good things about this place. In fact, her B&B is featured in this month's (May 2008 ) Food and Travel magazine - a UK magazine.

As soon as I arrived, Susan offered me tea and biscuits. Then she gave me several restaurant suggestions for dinner. She asked me what my travel plans are for the next day, and I told her I'll be visiting Stonehenge and Wilton House. Can you believe that she is a guide at Wilton House?! She immediately brought me the official guide books (one general guide, one paintings guide) to look at.

I went out at around 8pm. It's still light out so I walked around town for a bit, checking out locations of bus stops which I'll need tomorrow. This is one nice feature of visiting the UK in May/June; the days are so long and the sun doesn't set until 9pm!

Salisbury is a nice compact town with cute shops and plenty of restaurants. Also has quite a few half-timbered houses. Overall I find it a pleasant town to stay.

I had dinner at Prezzo, recommended by Susan. It is a chain serving Italian food. It has a nice cozy atmosphere, and the 3 main waitresses (all from Poland) are hard-working, friendly and speak perfect English. I ordered a field mushroom risotto and a mixed salad. This is the best risotto I've had in years. The rice was cooked just right, and the sauce was neither too heavy nor too light. I almost licked the plate. This plus ice cream for dessert and a soda came out to £18.50.

52 High Street
Salisbury, Wiltshire
01722 341333

My Tips on Bath
- Don't forget to check out the 2-for-1 offers.

- Arrive early or stay late, in order to enjoy the town without the daytrippers.

- The 2-hr walking tour is a great way to learn about Bath and see Bath.

- There are plenty of other sights which I didn't have time to see, such as the Costume Museum, Assembly Rooms etc. There is definitely enough to see for 2 full days.

- If I had the time, I would have tried to squeeze in a visit to the Thermae Bath Spa for a treatment.

- Lastly, despite the weather, I still had an enjoyable time in Bath. As my friend in Sevenoaks said to me, "Bath is still pretty when it rains."
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May 31st, 2008, 02:02 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Prezzo is a nice little chain, in addition to Italian dishes, they offer excellent free range rotisserie chicken. I go to the one in Reading from time to time and recommend the one in Kensington to people whoa re looking for reasonably priced meals in that part of town. Thanks for the heads up about the Bath location.

Re the Queen's Flemish masters collection, DH is seeing it in Brussels today and I'll be seeing it there in about a month. Friends who saw it there earlier this week said it was excellent and not crowded at all. So if anyone is interested in that type of art and happens to be passing through Brussels between now and late September, it's worth a stop.
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