We're headed to Paris/London next Spring. Fly to Paris (5 nights), then Eurostar to London, 7 nights in London and 2 additional nights spent somewhere in the countryside (we've settled on Somerset and/or Wales, and we can subtract a London night and add it to our countryside visit if we want; there is that flexibility), then fly home from LHR. Plane tickets purchased, no changes. My questions are, does anyone have suggestions as to whether we should do London first or the countryside first (or does it matter?) From London, where is the best place to secure a car hire for our countryside excursion (LHR)? My first time visiting the UK.
First off, pluto77, there are no wrong answers here.
On my trip to England last year, I did something similar which I'll share here. My choices may not work for you, so take it for what it's worth.
I flew in and out of LHR, but needed to be in Brighton for 3 days at the beginning of my trip. From Heathrow, I took an express coach to Brighton and settled in my hotel (not Marriott ). From there I took the train to London and stayed in the city for about 4 days (Marriott Maida Vale). I wanted to explore the west and southwest so from Paddington, I took the train to Heathrow and picked up my car. I expected more trouble adjusting to the road and manual transmission, but it was a piece of cake. I spent 2 nights in Bristol (Marriott City Centre, psst, still a cat 4 property if you get any of those pesky promo certs ). Bristol was a great point for exploring Bath, Wells, the Cheddar Gorge, Glastonbury, and Avebury.
I also wanted to visit Cornwall, so went there from Bristol and stayed at a lovely B&B/pub. Then back to LHR by way of Stonehenge with an overnight at Renaissance LHR (though I'd suggest the LHR Marriott).
The advantage of doing London before driving to Bristol (and beyond) is that you'll be there anyway after the Eurostar. Heading straight out of the city would involve heading to LHR twice (assuming that's where you do the car hire). This way you get your car and drop it off (at the same place) when you're ready to go home. If you have an early flight out of LHR, turn in your car the night before and take the local bus to the airport in the morning. Saves a lot of hassle.
I would suggest "borrowing" a night from London to spend a little more time outside the city. There is plenty to do in London, but don't sell the countryside short.
Again either way will work depending on how you set things up. I'm eager to read the suggestions of other Insiders.
You are a "Better man than me" on driving in The UK! Especially with a stick-shift! I only did that in my "Younger & dumber years"! No more!
To me, a lot depends on where pluto77 is staying in London. If she is taking the Eurostar (Please see my old post on The Eurostar", she may want to consider St. Pancras. The connections around London from there are second to none!
St. Pancras is a beautiful place, and staying right there has some real advantages!
I am sure we will have many suggestions for pluto77! One place, outside of London, she may enjoy is Cardiff, Wales. A wonderful Marriott awaits her, just a short walk from the train station in Cardiff!
Thanks, Jerry. We are planning to stay at the County Hall, thanks to - your fine recommendation! I appreciate being reminded that we will be arriving at St. Pancras. I can sort out the tube from there. Do you know if there is a taxi queue at St. Pancras, or what we might expect costwise for a taxi?
Yes, there is a "Taxi cue" at St. Pancras, and you may consider booking a taxi prior to getting there, via The Concierge or The Eurostar VIP lounge. The lines can be long for Taxi's, and you can take the tube to either Westminster or Waterloo. Would not do it if you have too much luggage! The taxi fare should be around $30 US! Likewise, if you check with The Concierge, ask about a price, and you should be able to add it to your room.
pluto77, I will be at County Hall next month, and hope to get many more answers for you. Likewise, I will alert the staff of your future trip, and will find out exactly what will be the best plan for you and keep it on a "Tight budget"!
Please make sure you review my previous post on The Eurostar, as well as Harrods! BTW, you don't want to go to Harrods on a week-end! I will have other "Fun" shopping places for you to enjoy, even if you "Window Shop"!
I know you may already know this, but let me reiterate what a wonderful location you have chosen:
From Hotel, you can walk to:
The London Dungeon
Thames River Cruise
Likewise, you can catch the "Big Red Bus" right in front of the hotel to get to:
Tower of London
Don't forget, you will have the benefit of Trains/Tube travel from Waterloo or Westminster! Driving to get in/out of London will take at least one hour by car. That can really take a "Chunk" out of your day!
If you have a Platinum or Black Amex, that will get you into the Eurostar VIP lounge! That's probably enough to confuse you for now!
That is simply brilliant (why didn't I think of that? See, you're brilliant and I'm simple. ) Of course, we will do London first, where we don't need the car and where we will be arriving anyway. I guess I was over thinking it regarding luggage, like we could store some of it at the London hotel or something and travel lighter in the countryside, but it really doesn't matter, does it, since we'll have a car. Never mind, I don't know what I was thinking (as is sometimes the case with me. )
Exactly! The only issue you'll face with luggage is getting from St. Pancras to County Hall (not likely too big a problem) and then getting it to LHR to pick up your car. You can even take the tube all the way to LHR (though it takes longer than either the Heathrow Connect or Heathrow Express). I'm sure you'll work out the details without trouble.
When you return to LHR, check into your hotel first then take the car back (assuming you opt for a hotel near the airport the night before you leave). I got the shuttle driver to drop me back at my hotel (since it was on the way to the terminal).
Now you'll just have to decide how many days in London and how many days in the country. Looks like some good advice is coming in on that subject.
I am pretty sure the staff at County Hall will let you keep your "Extra luggage" there while you "Hit the Country!
If you need to get in touch with them at The Concierge, let me know, they probably can help you with some of your plans on visiting outside of London!
I agree that the best bet is to go to London first. But I would seriously suggest you do a more even split than 7/2 nights. Personally I would do 5/4, so as to allow plenty of travelling time. Somerset is quite a long drive from London, especially if you don't know the roads etc. Don't worry about a "stick shift" car, or manual as we call them here in the UK. All the hire car places also do an automatic. Usually a bit more expensive but worth it. I am afraid I can't advise on the best place to hire a car. When you live in a country, well, you don't need to know except for an emergency!
I would also see London first. You arrive on the Eurostar therefore easy to get to your hotel.
I would then look at the various combinations with the hire cars and the prices. My preference would be after seeing London go the airport pick up the car then drive to the countryside and drop off the car at the airport.
You would need to see the potential additional charges that may be incurred through an airport pick up. But then also potential additional charges that could occur if you pick up and drop off at different locations. The other plus point in picking up the car at the airport compared to a more central location is that you would be immediately on the motorway.
For your circumstances I think extra time in the countryside would be better. It is likely that you will go through London again at some stage in the future, therefore you do not have to try to see everything on your list on this trip.
Also it will feel like you have driven a long way for such a short time if you only have 2 nights.
Tommo781 and sg1974, as you are the local experts, thank you very much for your input. I appreciate it. I like the idea of hiring the car at the airport so as not to have to navigate an unfamiliar big city on top of the adjustment to left side driving. I am also wondering if it would cost more to pick up at the airport, but at the end of the day, I think we would probably just do it regardless of cost since it's convenient and really a no-brainer. I am fine with the combination of a "manny tranny" and left side driving, so long as we keep it to all motorway and country road/small town driving (no big cities).
Regarding the number of nights, in our case, we took out a Marriott travel package over a year (and prior to the addition of the ninth hotel category) for this year (so cat. 5-8 hotel for 7 nights). We weren't able to execute our travel this year, and the hotel has since bumped up to the cat. 9. I called Marriott and had them throw an additional 30,000 points to the package so we could do the cat. 9 property. I am wondering if Marriott would let me convert the 7 night package to a 5 night package and then refund the difference back to my MR account. Where the extra 2 days (on top of the 7) came in was when I booked the flight, in order to get the very low cost business award travel, I had to book the flight on the days that the low awards were available, which happened to give us the two extra nights, so I thought perhaps we could just use the two extra days to see some things outside of London. Your points are well taken regarding 1) driving a long way for such a short time, and 2) that it is likely that we will go through London again at some stage in the future. One thing though regarding London is that (while yes, I would hope to make future visits to the UK and no doubt flying in and/or out of LHR) London is insanely expensive (considering the exchange rate). Because of that, I don't know how many London stays I could expect to afford in the future, hence the thought of doing it up right with the 7 nights, which would provide us with a maximized amount of time to see and enjoy it's most worthy attractions.
Another idea is that we could shorten Paris. I try to go there every other year. Since I didn't get to go this year (haven't been since 2012), I guess I thought it would be nice to piggyback Paris onto the UK trip, being so relatively close and all, what with the Eurostar. I like bejacob's idea of borrowing a night from London too. That would give us three nights away. Not so much of a sprint then. Think on this, I shall, but not too long. I need to get the points reservations sorted before there is no availability.
Also, google maps puts Chepstow only 113 miles, 1 hr. 54 mins. from LHR. I am curious. Here, we think nothing of driving 2.5 hrs to the coast and back for a couple of nights, though true, when we go to the coast, we stay put in one place, whereas in the English countryside, we would be doing a lot of driving between Chepstow, Bristol, Bath, Wells and Glastonbury. It would definitely be a mission, not a rest.
Thank you again!
pluto77 you are quite right about the distance to Chepstow, but there are a lot of BUTS in there. I too have driven in the US and believe me, it is a lot less hassle! However long or short the journey is in the UK, we don't have miles and miles of clear motorway. Our motorways tend to get congested, and the normal time for a journey can soon become a lot longer and a lot more stressful. Also, there are a lot more intersections as you call them, and a lot more non motorway stretches to contend with.
I will tell you a little story. Many years ago we rented a lovely holiday cottage in Somerset for 2 weeks. It was part of a farm complex and the owners also did B&B in the farmhouse. We used to go out for days to Bath, Salisbury etc and had a relaxing holiday. A couple in the B&B for 4 nights had never been to that part of the country before, and every morning straight after breakfast they would be off, and did not return until very late in the evening. They were full of where they had been (even down to Land's End - look it up) and travelled hundreds of miles every day. As the farmer's wife said to us,"They went everywhere, covered hundreds and hundreds of miles, and saw nothing!" So true. All they saw was the view from the car windows.
The moral/suggestion is that if at all possible do try to take more time outside London. And don't try to take too much in. Concentrate on a couple of areas in detail. There are some beautiful towns and villages in the areas you are talking about that deserve exploring, not just driving through.
pluto77 - Don't know if you saw my earlier post regarding traveling - especially by car - in the UK; if not, here are some of my observations/suggestions:
Driving in the UK does take some getting use to, but after awhile the fast motorways - when not congested - are great to get from one spot to another before you head out onto an A or B country road, and the roundabouts do seem to keep things moving more efficiently than signal lights in the U.S. I've even been known to take a video while driving - even a stick shift - in the UK, since my wife isn't too adept at either driving there or working a video camera.
Getting used to the motorways shouldn't be a problem. The smaller roads (especially the narrow streets in town) get challenging. I almost took of my passenger side mirror in one town with all the cars parked on both sides of the road. Don't forget that on a manual car, you'll be shifting with your left hand (though at least the clutch is in the same place ). I was surprised at how easy it was to adapt (I expected a bit more difficulty and was pleased not to have it).
The comments about the time it takes to get anywhere are true. Assume that it will take twice as long to get where you're going and if you arrive early, you'll have extra time to explore. It's no fun to drive 2 hours only to realize you have 15 minutes before you need to be back on the road to get to the next place (that sounds too much like my county collecting travels ). Pick the sights you want to see and then eliminate the places that aren't critical so you can fit in the important ones and have time to enjoy them. Once you know that, you can determine how long to stay in any one place.
Noticed your inquiry, so here's a couple of references I posted earlier that might be helpful as well; however, my excursions are primarily all via automobile. You can't cover as much territory in a car as in train travel, but you also miss much more, in my opinion, if you only take the train (I'm 71 and still drive there, as in other countries.)
I don't know diddly squat about the UK countryside, but when in the London tube;
Make sure you,
Ok, back to your regularly scheduled program of good travel ideas .
I'll weigh in as a trip planner, rather than a knowledgeable geographic adviser (combining your apparent goals, Insider input, and admittedly with some of my own bias thrown in - which you can see/discount);
1) Whereas you have already extended your travel package and already had them toss in a 30k addition, combined with the fact that the airline miles are matched with the Cat. level redemption - I (and you know how assertive I can be in pursuing rewards benefits) would not plan too optimistically about crediting back two nights worth of points (of course a phone call or two takes out the ambiguity). But as you'll see in #3 below, I believe it's irrelevant anyway - keep the full nights (they'll be more expensive next trip if there even is one, and you've handled the big cost/flight).
2) From reading the posts, it seems to me that you are seeking new travel and cultural experiences.
3) With your comment about the odds being pretty decent about you not returning to London, then I would vote against dropping a London night. I spent eleven nights there and could have still been busy with 3 or 4 more (in spite of my Insider inspired planning, similar to your preparation, I still didn't make it to Churchill War Rooms and a variety of other spots which would have been quite enjoyable). I can't tell you the number of times I've seen The Shard, Gherkin/St. Mary Axe, London Tower, Tower Bridge, St. Paul's, Trafalgar Sq., The Globe and all types of theatres, streets, and of course Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace etc etc on movies or television shows, bringing a warm reminder each time I see them. London to me, be it finance, history, culture is big time and like your attitude toward Paris, I want to/will go back.
4) But I also clearly hear the experts input - see more of the country and don't rush and you want to see the countryside. This returns to my #2 point, you want to experience places (and its people).
So I go with;
a) do London first as many nights as you can (and County Hall is a perfect first time visitor 'base camp')
b) pick up/drop off the car at the airport after London
c) don't (per Insider input) think driving England countryside is as scene changing or time efficient as driving Big Sur and spend the proper amount of time in fewer villages rather than attempting to whisk through several.
d) So I would deduct a Paris evening (and no, not because I'm not a Paris fan, but because you have experienced and know it so well - as I would trade a Chicago night for an extra day in a Canadian town for example) and invest it in an evening in an English town.
Ok, that oughtta rattle your brain some more. Toss that into the salad mixer and whatever you come up with, have a terrific trip.
As has been mentioned before there is no right or wrong answer.
it is entirely up to you what you choose based on what you would like to see.
But if I were organising the trip for someone who had not been to the UK before, I would:
Spend as much time in London and see all the sites.
Just to give you an idea of the sites to see:
then if i had time in the schedule I would do day trips to places like: Oxford, Cambridge, Canterbury, Windsor to name a few. They are all easily accessible by train or bus from London. They would then give a taste of places outside of London.
This would then enable you to see London on this trip. Then on a future trip you could hire a car and see the countryside. I'm sure that you would want to come back after this visit, just ask erc if he would like to revisit.
It would also be a cheaper trip visiting the countryside as opposed to London.
This is just my thoughts. When I plan trips I always see the main A grade cities first and see as much as I can in case we do not revisit. Then if time allows I organise day trips to other cities.
Many thanks for your thoughtful and helpful responses.
Tommo781, thank you for explaining about the congestion and motorways. Thinking it through, that makes perfect sense, and is in keeping with my past experience (long ago) living on an island nation (where we also drove on the left), where there is not as much wide open, empty, highway "real estate" with which to "get moving." Btw and curious, what term do you and your fellow Brits use for referencing an "intersection?"
erc, I like your approach.
1) I really don't want to mess around any more with (what is turning out to be, for me) the "infamous" travel package either (make plans, God laughs ).
2) The Paris hotel is on points also, stay 4 nights, get 5th night free. I also secured it while the hotel was only a cat. 5 (it's a 6 now), so really don't want to devalue that great bargain either. (About Paris, I try not to see the same things twice (unless it's one of those, you know, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens sort of things). I'm finally getting down to some nitty gritty off the beaten path stuff, which I love.)
3) It is interesting what can sometimes drive travel decisions... Right now I am Marriott rich, airline poor (as I refer to it), and need to burn the Marriott points while they're still worth something. (Though am not burning any this year, and gosh, would that I could! Oh wait, there's still Boston... we hope.) So where I go has a lot to do with those points. I am probably more interested in the (western) English countryside than London (at least I think I am), and would rather do that first, but alas no Marriotts out in all that beauty and medieval and ancient landscape, so will have to save most of it for when the points are dried up and cash is king at the little inns and B&B's (when I am retired and can take my leisure.) And so it happens, there are Marriotts in Chepstow and Bristol (that are still cat. 5 !), thus you see what is driving me. We may just then pick one place for the two nights and only just enjoy what is immediately proximal, skipping the other as well as Wells and Glastonbury (two places I had set my sights on), Bath, etc. for a future visit, so as to avoid Tommo781's go everywhere, see nothing scenario. And then too, my cousin lives in Cambridge, so there's that potential. So then sg1974's smart money suggestion about doing a couple of day trips by train may be a good idea as well (ditching the Chepstow/Bristol Marriotts - will have to find another way to burn those cat. 5 certs somehow), perhaps adding a couple of extra London nights on points. The money saved on the expense of the car hire can instead be invested towards a memorable dining experience and/or perhaps the "theatah" a la erc's, or shopping at Harrod's a la ladycoin.
4) It may sound like I'm just not keen on London, but not so. I am quite excited about it, really. I think it's a good idea to use all of the travel package nights there and see/enjoy as much as possible (like I plan on doing in Boston for 7 nights next month - no out of the city excursions). I'm sure I would want to return to London again someday, but as we've discussed, it's just a very spendy place to hang one's hat.
bejacob, can totally relate (and great advice).
This discussion has been tremendously helpful and again I am very grateful to be able to "talk" this out, and receive some great advice based on your collective experiences. Now that I have the London when and for how long sorted, I can get the hotel booked. HUGE THANKS, MES AMIS!
I realize you want to utilize Marriott points where possible, and you seem to be aware of these in the UK, especially in SW UK. If you are interested in staying in B&B's, which also provide a unique "flavor"of the English countryside themselves, you might use this resource, called the "Little Green Book" - you can pick these up at any B&B where you might stay if listed in this resource:
Tommo781 - Since you asked, the Brits refer to an "intersection" as a "round-about", and as you can see in my 'UK Travel Tips', they might be single, double or triple lane, and could be one, two or three in succession. You really have to know the next town toward where you're traveling to know which RAB to exit. They are signposted ahead of time, so just count off 1,2,3 4, etc., when you enter. Once you get used to them they're quite easy,and you don't have to wait for signal lights to change.
Regarding the Cambridge area, I usually stay in Marriott in Huntingdon, some 45 minutes west of Cambridge, just off the A!4 to Cambridge - http://huntingdonmarriott.co.uk
fschumpert It wasn't me who asked about what an intersection is called in the UK. It was pluto77. I know what they are called, cos I live in the UK! Actually though, intersections are not called roundabouts. They are called junctions. In general (with a few exceptions), all roundabouts are at junctions but not all junctions have roundabouts. There are a number of different sorts of junctions in the UK. A roundabout is just one of them. For instance, there are no roundabouts on our Motorways. You get on or off a motorway at a junction. On a map you will see numbers at regular intervals along a motorway. Those are junction numbers for getting on or off the Mway. In the village where I live there is only one roundabout. But there are hundreds of junctions. For instance, at the end of our road we have to turn left or right onto the main road through the village. That is called a T junction. These might help someone who isn't familiar with the UK road layouts. (Or they may confuse the issue even more I guess ). They may look like the same link, but one is junctions and the other is roundabouts.
pluto77 - Tommo781 I stand corrected about RAB & "junctions". We N.A. folks, who are used to "interstates", "signal lights", "cross roads", "toll roads", and the like, don't hear much about "junctions" in the UK, but mostly RAB's. Interestingly, some towns - even the one in which I live - are beginning to modify some of the auto travel ways to include RAB's.
Hey fschumpert. No offense intended, so I hope none was taken! My post was very much meant to be tongue in cheek.
Tommo781 - You know the old saying about the contrast between "Yanks" and "Brits" - two peoples separated by a common language,or something like that.
When we arrive in the UK, we have to re-think what words mean: For instance, the "boot" is not something you wear, but a part of the automobile (we call it "trunk"); a "biscuit" is what we call a "cookie"; a "tumbler" is most often referred to in US as a "glass"; we don't have "WC's", but "bathrooms"; we use "elevators" to move up/down in a building where you employ "lifts"; our "baked potatoes" are never referred to as "jacket potatoes"; hotel room costs are "rates",not "tariffs"; the "bacon" we eat at breakfast is quite different from what you call "ham"; and we still measure our body weight in "pounds", instead of "stones" (or kg), just to name a few; but at least we agree on posting road distances in "miles" - what happened to "kilometers" in the UK?
By the way, where do you live in England?
fschumpert We live in Norfolk, close to Norwich, in the East of England. We are very close to the east coast, and lovely areas such as North Norfolk which is spectacular. We are not too far from Cambridge, and London is about 2.5 hours away by train. So we are very lucky.
Tommo781 and Fred, I like the turn that this thread has taken. The highway code link that you posted, Tommo, is really helpful. Driving is mostly basic common sense, but what can differ greatly are the highway markings and what they represent (like Fred's double yellow line that cost him money). This is a great link for becoming familiar with some of the UK highway and road markings. Good stuff.
We don't really have junctions here (at least not out west). The place where two "interstates" or "highways" or "freeways" or "expressways" (your motorways) intersect is referred to as an "interchange." The place where you get on an "interstate"/"highway"/"freeway" (where a road intersects with a highway) is not really a junction, but a "parclo" interchange, consisting of an on ramp/off ramp (or exit) and there is usually an "overpass" (British "flyover") or an "underpass" involved.
Of course as you previously established, the place where two roads or streets cross is an "intersection" (your "junction.")
The only "junction" that I am aware of out here is Kramer Junction, where US Highway 395 intersects (at grade) with CA State Route 58 (which will eventually be upgraded to a "freeway", then the intersection known as Kramer Junction (and Kramer Junction is actually the name of the town, not the intersection, though the intersection is simply known as Kramer Junction) will become an "on/off ramp" to "highway" 395 from "freeway" 58 (a "parclo" interchange.)
So we refer to our controlled-access highways (highways designed for high-speed traffic, where traffic flow and ingress/egress is regulated) as freeways, expressways and sometimes parkways (same as motorway, autobahn, autostrada, etc). Their interchanges are typically comprised of either a 4 level stack or cloverleaf designed interchange and have no signals, intersections, property access or at grade crossings. Most U.S. interstate highways fall into this category.
Unlike U.S. interstate highways, US highways (US routes) and SR highways (state routes) can either be "freeways" or not, and can change from "freeways" to roads in varying segments along the way. When a street bisects a highway at a 2-way stop, it is referred to as a "crossing."
3-way street "intersections" are called "T stops" (or, where Street A "T-bones" into Street B... ). Also "Y stops" and/or a "fork" in the road.
Roads with a central divide ("divided road" or "divided highway") is referred to as a "dual carriageway" by the British. When the middle of the road is comprised of either dirt or a curbed concrete (sometimes landscaped) section, it is referred to as a "median" or "center divider" (what Brits refer to as a "central reservation," from what I read in the link) and each side of the "divided road" is comprised of one or more "lanes" (a "carriageway" in the UK).
For the car, in addition to the "boot," the "bonnet," and the "petrol," there is also the "windscreen" (our windshield) and the "wing" (fender). A parking lot is a "car park." Guardrails, "crash barriers." British roundabouts are in America, "traffic circles." I like to call them "roundy rounds."
Also of some importance and not related to driving, is how floors in buildings are referenced. Our first floor is a ground floor in the UK. Our second floor is a British first floor, and so on. Can be of some importance when staying in a building that has no "lift", I may not mind hauling a stroller ("carrycot" or pushchair") up one or two flights of stairs ("staircase"), but may object to three or more. In the UK, third floor means three flights of stairs, whereas in the US, it is only two flights.
pluto77 - I'm afraid we might have scared most non-UK drivers back to train travel!
Yeah, the train had me at "All aboard" .
ps - pluto, if you do venture into West End theatre, make sure you check out
it has excellent info not only on shows and the deals, but also like seatguru about viewlines of most seats - great stuff.
And knowing that you plan your trips like Eisenhower did for D-Day, I'm sure you've already viewed the Insider London collection enough to have already printed it out and lined the bird cage with it - but just in case, make sure you check everyone's suggested links from below:
I think the one bit I haven't seen mentioned yet is a good GPS system. Some of the smaller towns you might not find or see road signs so the GPS can be a huge help. The other thing I've done in my wondering around the UK is to pick a city/town with one main attraction to see. Then once I've done that, I'll "spin the magic 8 ball" with the GPS and ask it for local attractions near by. This has led me to some pretty amazing places that I'm sure Google would tell me about if I knew to ask but would never show up otherwise.
Depending on what exactly you are looking to see or do, there's some pretty great places just outside of London that are accessible by train. I know many have suggested LHR for hiring the car, which is pretty straight forward and easy to do. Alternatively you can look at the other airports like, Gatwick and Stansted. Both are pretty easily accessible by public transport/train and could save you time commuting around London, depending on where you are going. It's very easy to stop off on the drive to see some cool stuff while heading to your final destination