Having just returned from a 10-night vacation in England, my very first, the memories are still fresh in my mind. I hope you enjoy traveling with me through my I-Phone photos.
This vacation was built around both a business meeting with a colleague and the wedding of my friend Pam’s daughter. What a joy it was to witness the love of those two special people, and meet those who love them back! I have to share a few of those moments as well, since we stayed at an amazing country hotel outside of Stratford Upon Avon where the wedding took place nearby in a nearly 1,000 year old church.
So sit back and enjoy a snapshot of England. I will provide little tips along the way; some of them gathered because I made some mistakes in planning. Well, not mistakes really…we had some backtracking occur when we made the decision to rely on public transportation instead of renting a car. Lots of transfers: planes, trains and automobiles!
Our first stop…Isle of Wight. South by bus from Heathrow, but ugh, after a long flight it was a bit rough! Ferry across from Portsmouth (not far from Southampton) over to Ryde. The Ryde Castle Hotel was our home for one night. It was really cold, but check out the water slide they put up down a main street!
From Ryde we took a taxi to the port of Yarmouth (charming!), then rail to Brockenhurst, switch to rail to Poole. Taxi to the quaint B&B called the Fleetwater Guest House. Overnight didn’t allow for a lot of exploring, but the port was quite pretty, even with the gray skies. We did a pub crawl and stopped in the oldest in town, a haunted place called The King Charles. Two other stops and we slept very well that night!
From Lymington we had to retrace back to Southampton in order to switch trains to go north to Bath. It would have been lots closer to drive it, but I needed practice on using the train system in Britain (and my friend says I scare her when driving here!) We walked from the station in Bath to the Bath Hilton. It was very comfy during our 3 nights stay, and quite convenient to everything. What a charming city! Architecturally, everything must be built from the Bath stone, so all buildings are a pretty golden tan color. The Hop-on-hop-off bus was great, the Roman Baths fascinating, and I saw the Fashion Museum. The Abbey was quite busy with graduations (there are two universities in town), but we saw it one evening….stunning.
Our rail link to Stratford upon Avon was through Birmingham, and you must change not only trains, but stations! Looks like they are building a “Grand Central” station, but, at least for now, it’s a bit of a hike with luggage. The first time we did it (had to again later to get to London) we goofed and walked way around a city block of stores. The signage is not the best, so be sure to ask a local about how to do it.
The purpose of the visit to Stratford Upon Avon was to attend my travel companion’s daughter’s wedding to an English chap. What an amazing experience it was. The church was nearly 1,000 years old, and some of his ancestors are buried there. The Ettington Park Hotel was nothing short of fabulous. It sits in the beautiful countryside (the foothills of the Cotswolds) about 15 minutes from town. It has wonderfully spacious grounds, an indoor swimming pool and steam room, a lovely little pub, and they serve incredible full English breakfasts (included). I know you are going to love these images.
From Stratford Upon Avon, we arranged a rail journey to London. As we did not get our tickets before the trip, we thought it might be good to quiz the ticket agent as we arrived for the weekend. Good thing! We saved significantly, learned about some line closures on Sunday, the day we would travel, and scored a great price on a high-speed first class trip from Birmingham. We went North to go East, but it was a memorable experience. I understand it’s typically better to purchase tickets in England a day or two in advance for best pricing. FYI.
London is pretty amazing, BIG, and truly full of life. Travel with the Oyster card. You can buy one at the rail station, load it with money, and off you go. At the end of your trip you can recover the 5 pound deposit (48 hours after purchase, at least). I had 9 pounds left on mine, so I figure I will just give it to my next client who travels to England. That will work!
Planes, trains and automobiles. My first visit followed a crazy, unique itinerary, to be sure. But I wouldn’t trade it for any other! It was an honor to accompany my friend to her daughter’s wedding (her spouse and my good friend had passed about two years earlier). The memories will always be special. And now I feel more confident in navigating this amazing country. I will share my London experiences in another blog soon, ok? Let me know when you are planning a visit, as I would be happy to assist in your planning.