London, Oxford, Bath, and sundry other points
We flew into Heathrow for our second European vacation, and took the tube into London. Except for one night in Bath, we stayed in the same hotel the entire time, and took day trips to outlying locales. Here's the itinerary:
May 4, 5, 6: London
May 7: Canterbury
May 8: Warwick, Stratford-Upon-Avon
May 9: Oxford
May 10, 11: Bath
May 12, 13, 14: London
The day trips, and the trip to Bath, were all done by train, except for one horrid experience trying to drive to Canterbury.
"London, Round 1"
We dropped our bags of at the hotel and hit the ground running, lack of sleep and jet lag and all. On the first day we checked out Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, and Picadilly Circus. On the second day, we checked out the Admiralty Arch, the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral, the new Millennium Bridge, and the Globe Theatre. On the third day, we moved on to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Hyde Park, the Brompton Oratory, Kensington Palace, Harrod's, and in the evening took the Jack the Ripper walking tour (highly recommended!).
Canterbury was a little overblown...we should have guessed, as it's been a tourist attraction for pilgrims since before the Canterbury Tales was written in mideval times. When planning the trip, I had thought it a good idea to try driving on one day, and this was the day. What a bad idea! We rented the car out of London, and had a devil of a time getting out of town, because the A2 kept disappearing on us! Should have taken the train...
When we got to Canterbury, the Cathedral was nice, but the town smelt of tourist trap.
Warwick Castle was interesting. They had a museum of mideval torture devices, some folks performing Middle Ages re-enactments, and there were great views from the top of the castle of the English countryside.
Stratford, Shakespeare's birthplace, was a bit of a tourist trap as well. There was a museum for Shakespeare, and we also toured his birthplace home, and that's about it. We went in search of the supposed birthplace of John Harvard, founder of Harvard University in Cambridge MA USA, but were unable to find it. We were glad we had planned only to spend a little time here, following Warwick Castle.
"Oxford...or is it Hogwarts? Or Middle-earth?"
We visited Oxford for a day, and took a walking tour from the tourist office, a great investment as we were taken inside several of the colleges. We apparently had just missed the filming of part of the Chamber of Secrets by a matter of a couple of weeks. We also ate at the Eagle and Child, a pub frequented by JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis from their days at Oxford.
"The ancient Roman town of Bath"
We stayed for a night in a great bed and breakfast in Bath (Dorian House). Bath still has hot water springs--we drank the mineral water--and Roman ruins of their baths. Bath also has beautiful Georgian architecture...the Royal Crescent can't be missed.
"London, Round 2"
To close out our visit, we checked out the Tower of London and the Crown Jewels, the Tower Bridge, the Sherlock Holmes Museum and a museum for Charles Dickens. We also got an opportunity to ride in a double-decker, which was rather interesting.
And then, reluctantly, we headed home.