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"Travel help needed! (England/Paris)" Topic


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©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Forager Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2017 8:45 p.m. PST

Sorry for the mostly non-wargames related posting, but I need your help! My wife wants to go to Europe for our anniversary/spring break trip this year in mid-March. Our eight year-old son would be going with us. Because of the school schedule, we only have a maximum of 9 days, including travel. Budget is a factor, as well. We need to try to keep expenses down where possible.

For the most part, I am a total newb at international travel. Never been to Europe before. Only to Costa Rica (where my wife is from). I think we can agree on England for the most part, although I know she wants to make at least an overnight side trip to Paris, but beyond that I am pretty much at a loss on where to begin.

She has been looking at hotel/airfare deals but I feel like we'd be chained to the hotel and I don't think that's what I want. I'd like to hit a few different areas (don't really know where though) and spend 1 or 2 days there sightseeing before moving on to a new locale.

So any advice for a first-timer in England would be greatly appreciated. I need help with everything from getting around the country, to accommodations, to recommended sites. For the latter, here are some of our interests. For my wife, she is a shopper (with an eye toward value) but she likes old structures too. She'd like seeing a castle, but probably wouldn't be too particular about which one. (I'd prefer something 11th-13th century, I guess, if there are options that fit that and are in decent condition, but not super picky beyond that. She said regular touristy spots are OK, also. As for Paris, info on getting there and 1 or two recommended sites for what will probably be a pretty brief stay would be appreciated as well. For our son, his is really into Titanic stuff now. So something related to that would be great for him. And for me, I'd like to hit one or two of the big military related museums. Naval sites, especially WWI and Napoleonic era ones would be of interest to me. Maybe an ECW battlefield, also. Any of those that are well marked and/or with a small museum? Thanks for your help!

Craig

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2017 9:36 p.m. PST

Many people will help. Obvious tourist things.
Rail pass is essential. Talk to British Rail. You can buy things in the US not for sale in the UK.
Much of the UK is a day trip from London. Consider renting a flat for a week to homebase and cook instead of eating out. (London Tourist Flats in Wimbledon always worked for us.) Cheaper than a new place every day.
Buy pound-denominated travelers checks and get some cash in pounds if you can. Buy something as soon as you land to get cash for lavatories and such. Disperse money among family members. Don't leave valuables in checked luggage.
Double-check medicines.
Have emergency contact information.
Travel as light as you possibly can, but always allow for rain.
Paris will kill two days minimum. There are very few reports of polite English-speaking French, and they're almost all from single females. If you must go, hire a guide. Titanic is Northern Ireland, and will again kill two days minimum.
My advise is to focus on Britain and leave Ireland and the Continent for subsequent trips. Alternatively, land one place and take off from the other. But if you try for too much, you won't enjoy it, and you're asking for trouble if the schedule is too tight. Trains are sometimes late and flights cancelled in the best-run countries. Keep some slack in the program.

The UK is full of old stuff.Windsor Castle, Hever, Hampton Court Dover and Portsmouth (Napoleonic Naval) are easy day trips from London. National Army Museum and Imperial War Museum are in London. Fusiliers Regimental Museum is in the Tower of London, which will do for another castle. There is also the rebuilt Globe.
The tourist people can hook you up with London Walking Tours--cheap and the guides generally very well-informed.

More later and other will have more.

Alcibiades Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2017 9:37 p.m. PST

Hi Craig

I have travelled from Western Canada to the UK and Western Europe quite a few times over the years so perhaps I can be of help.

I assume that your maximum of 9 days includes travel time. You don't say where you are travelling from but I think it fair to conclude that you will lose 2 of those days in transit (check in, security, flight time, passport control, baggage claim and airport to hotel time).

I also assume that you will land at Heathrow, London which is the perfect place to start your adventure. Getting to central London is a breath with a number of possibilities depending on budget. The cheapest method is the Tube. You can get on right at your terminal and it will get you into central London in about 40 minutes. Buses are also available but I wouldn't recommend them as they are just too slow. However, they do give you the opportunity to see a great deal of city. Taxis are great, faster than the bus, but also a tad pricey, about 50 GBP iirc. There is also a high speed train which, iirc stops at Paddington station in north/central London but again the price is a fair bit higher.

You don't mention your nightly budget but there are literally thousands of options for accommodation at varying prices. I would try and find accommodation that offers a traditional English breakfast with the room. For the uninitiated, there are few things tastier and more filling than a traditional English breakfast. One thing you will notice is that generally hotel rooms are smaller and a little more Spartan than N. American rooms. However, you won't be in your room much anyway so it's not a big deal. I would recommend spending at least 4 days in London. There is the British Museum, The Imperial War Museum, the British Army Museum, HMS Belfast on the Thames plus about 500 more covering virtually any topic of interest.

Given your limited time and desire to go to Paris I would suggest you limit your visit to the City of York in the north of England. It is easily accessible by rail and coach and is a truly beautiful city. Yorkminster is an amazing Cathedral. The Shambles (Diagon Alley in the Potter movies) is a ton of fun to shop around. Some of my favourite pubs are in York including the Black Swan, where General Wolfe of Plains of Abraham fame was born and which, coincidentally is just across the road from the cemetery in which the highwayman Dick Turpin is born. York was at one time the capital of the Roman empire, has a major Viking city before developing into a significant medieval city. Jorvik Viking museum. the city walls, Clifford's (???) Tower. Marston Moor is just a stone's throw away. Best ghost tour I have ever been on. I love York and always try to spend a night or two there. The Roman Baths Pub has a Roman bath in the cellar and if you ask the landlord nicely, he will let you visit. He also serves an awfully good pint.

For lunches, you can't beat a pub. The prices are fairly reasonable and the quality of the food and selection has improved greatly since my first visits in the early 70s. There is no shortage of excellent restaurants for dinner. Of course for the gastronomically challenged there are the usual fast food outlets.

If you visit the British Museum, and you really should, I strongly recommend you stop off at the Museum Pub across the road. Some of the best beer in central London and very nice lunches. Also, there is a very good fish and chip shop just across the street.

I've spent the equivalent of 7 years in the UK and still haven't even scratched the surface of that wonderful collection of countries.

Hope that helps a bit.

Kent

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2017 9:45 p.m. PST

Hmm. Second the recommendation on the British Museum and York. Don't miss Coppergate at York. There is also the Natural History Museum, which no eight year old should miss. The gargoyles alone are worth the trip.

Ah. Most of these places sell tourist booklets modestly priced and good for years of remembering when you get home.

Personal logo sillypoint Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2017 10:46 p.m. PST

9 days….😡😩

Save….go later.

Spend more time.

AussieAndy Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2017 1:09 a.m. PST

Unless you are only ever going to get to Europe once, go to London or Paris, not both. Much more satisfying to have a decent look at a few things, than go rushing round everywhere. You lose a heap of time in transit. Motorways and airports aren't more interesting just because they are in Europe.

London is the easier option (although I prefer Paris). To the suggestions above, I would add Westminster Abbey, St Paul's, Tower of London and the Science Museum. The latter should be heaven for an eight year old (and it's free). If you get a flat for a week, you can save a lot of money on meals and you are going to be less cramped.

I agree with the York suggestion. Other options include Bath, Oxford and Cambridge, but, given your time restrictions, I would only do one and spend the rest of the time in London.

By the way, on my numerous trips to France, I've never encountered any rudeness. On the contrary, I've found plenty of kindness and tolerance for my mangling of their language. On the other hand, I've encountered plenty of rudeness in England and every clown thinks his convict jokes are hilarious.

gunnerphil29 Jan 2017 2:30 a.m. PST

With Eurostar, trip from London to Paris is relatively simple. To be honest if booked in advance is about the same price as a trip to York. And not much different in time.

Frothers Did It And Ran Away29 Jan 2017 3:06 a.m. PST

I second the idea of renting a place for a week and using that as a base. I've used these guys before – lots of options in terms of place and budget https://www.airbnb.co.uk

Museum wise the British Museum, Imperial War Museum and British Army Museum are all in London, the RAF musuem is in Hendon (north London), if you're a naval guy then Southampton is the place (HMS Victory, etc). Bear in mind London is huge, just getting from A to B is exhausting. So I would also second the recommendations above of trying somewhere else – Bristol and Bath are close to Wales (castles galore) and have good shopping for the Mrs, and also to Salisbury/Glastonbury/Stonehenge for some ancient/mystical stuff. Also, as mentioned, York for Vikings and perhaps Hadrian's Wall – England's northern cities escaped the attentions of the Luftwaffe more than the south, so more ye olde feel often remains.

Eurostar to Paris for a day trip is perfectly feasible but 9 days isn't long really considering 1 day at each end will be eaten up with travel/jetlag/packing/unpacking, etc. I would recommend doing either Britain or France rather than both.

uglyfatbloke29 Jan 2017 4:53 a.m. PST

Spend four days in England (maybe all of it in London – there's buckets to see and do) then go to Scotland (Edinburgh) for two days – a whole day in Edinburgh castle and a day visiting the Museum of Childhood, National Museum, Huntly House etc and if you can manage it a trip out to Dirleton castle – about 40 minutes each way on the bus. Avoid the Bannockburn centre; it's just awful and rather pricey.
Save Paris for another trip.

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2017 5:13 a.m. PST

Good advice so far. I live in London and would recommend that you use it as your base. Almost all transport systems in Britain use London as the main national hub, so it is easier to get anywhere else in the country from here!

There is also so much to see here, but a lot of stuff is big and popular so a visit eats time. Tower of London is magnificent and iconic. You get a castle, beefeaters, Crown Jewels, beheaded queens, ravens etc, all at the same place. Downsides are the prices and queues though!

Across the river is HMS Belfast. Well worth a visit if you like WW2 era ships. Also close to here is the recreated Shakespeare's Globe if you fancy a bit of history and culture.

The 'big three' museums are the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Science Museum. The British Museum is just vast. You could lose a couple of days in there. Full of stuff from every historical period from all over the world. The Natural History and Science Museums are next door to each other and can be done together in a day, if you are quick! All three of these are free to enter, but the food is pricey.

The Museum of London is also well worth a look. Located in the City, it tells the story of London from pre-history up to today. They have some really great archaeological finds.

For shopping in London I would avoid the traditional West End tourist areas of Oxford Street and Regent Street. They are full of chain stores that sell the same stuff as they do everywhere else but at an inflated price! Your best bet is to visit one of the shopping malls. Bluewater in Kent is claimed to be the biggest in Britain and is about half an hour by train from central London.

If you are travelling within London get an Oyster card each. This is a pre-pay type thing that allows you to travel on the Tube, buses, and trains in London. No faffing about with cash, you just touch the card on the pad at the barrier or wherever and on you go. When travelling by Tube work out how to get where you are going first. Being Londoners, everyone is always double busy and people dithering in front of ticket barriers are not appreciated!

Outside of London, day trips to places like Dover (castle is amazing), Portsmouth (ships and shopping), Oxford and Cambidge (old college buildings), and so on is easy by train. If you have time, York is amazing but you really need a couple of days.

parrskool29 Jan 2017 5:22 a.m. PST

Royal Armouries in Leeds, Defo!
Edinburgh & it's castle
York, the Northern capital
For scenery and hills, The lake district of Cumbria.

JimDuncanUK29 Jan 2017 6:23 a.m. PST

Check out any direct air flights to either Edinburgh or Glasgow International Airports. They will probably be a bit cheaper and also an hour or two shorter than flying to a London airport.

Plenty of shops and castles in Scotland and don't forget our gift to the world, whisky.

Leave Paris for anoither day.

Doug MSC Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Jan 2017 6:41 a.m. PST

I am planning to go to England this summer for 9 days also. I am renting a car and going to Stratford Upon Avon for two days, I'll be touring Blenheim Palace and Warwick Castle while I'm there. Then I'm driving to Canterbury and staying there for two days and touring that area including Dover Castle. Then I'm driving to London and turning my car in and spending five days there. So much to see there. I thought about doing Paris also for a few days however a few things made me change my mind. One was that it would be cramming too much into 9 days and I would loose a lot of time traveling an the other was that I have read and heard from friends over there that the Pickpockets and scams are worse than when I was there years ago. I didn't want to be looking over my shoulder every minute instead of enjoying my time. If you would like my itinerary, including the hotels where I am staying, just e-mail me. When traveling on vacation, and this comes from years of experience, I don't stay in more then three places. You can wear yourself out if you pile on too much in one trip. msc1d@aol.com

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2017 8:55 a.m. PST

Sounds like a good plan Doug.

From what I've heard, pickpockets are a problem in the West End targeting tourists. Can't say that me or my family have ever been troubled by them. But maybe we don't look like tourists!

uglyfatbloke29 Jan 2017 9:23 a.m. PST

Jim makes a good point about flights to Scotland;maybe a day or two in Edinburgh, flight to London for three days followed by Leeds and York then back up to Edinburgh for another day before getting on the plane home?

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2017 11:01 a.m. PST

Memories coming back. One thing we did on the first UK trip was that everyone named one priority. Other stuff was by the usual family and consensus, but we all got our top pick.
Someone mentioned Hadrian's Wall? Loved Hadrian's Wall, but (a) pay for a guide, and (b) don't try to do anything else that day. A museum and a rebuilt milecastle as I recall, but the best bits of the Wall aren't near anything. Might be better on a later trip.
I love the tubes, but I'm like that. You'll see more of London from a bus.

JimDuncanUK29 Jan 2017 11:57 a.m. PST

Looks like no airlines fly direct from Indianapolis to Scotland, very few one-stop, most two-stop and via Heathrow.

Which American airport would be best for you?

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2017 12:42 p.m. PST

If you do go for a two centre holiday – and I think that's not a bad idea if you have 9 days – then for the Paris portion consider getting a city card – if you're there long enough the 3 or 4 day one

https://www.parispass.com

The initial outlay looks quite steep – but you'll get the metro and bus network and access to 60 major sites. They have suggested itineraries on the site – you'll probably find this ticks a lot of your must see/ must do boxes.

You'll want some days in London just to see the major sites and then you'll have a couple of days in hand to either take an excursion out of Paris or London. It really depends how much time you want to spend travelling – London to Edinburgh is a long journey by rail or flying (with time lost to check-in etc). The further you go the more time will be just sitting in a mode of transport.

Perhaps pick a few things nearer to London – or a coach excursion to e.g. Stonehenge or Oxford.

If you can – see Versailles's gardens by night with the music and light show – it's spectacular and you'll never forget it. I was a bit "I'm not sure that's really me" turned out to be one of the best things I've ever done. Also in Versailles – by day – there is bicycle hire : that's huge fun too.

jwebster Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2017 2:07 p.m. PST

I basically did this with my 13 year old daughter last summer, but I stayed with my sister which cut down dramatically on the cost. Feel free to PM me with specific questions.

I haven't read all above but there is some good advice. Train to Paris (Eurostar) is about 2/12 hours, comfortable and you see lots of countryside – I highly recommend a couple days in Paris, particularly if it keeps your wife sweet. Eifel tower is a must but I wouldn't go to the Louvre. They have good boat trips on the river.

But but but – temper your enthusiasm with what a 9 year old can handle. My kids simply are not into museums. so big, famous sights, and don't try to pack too much into one day. With my daughter I ended up trading a trip to games workshop and British Museum for shoe shopping …… If you don't plan to see every sight, the deals are not that great.

London is EXPENSIVE !!! Accept it, move on and it will make the trip less stressful. Even with current exchange rate. London eye is seriously expensive but worth it for instance.

Greenwich maritime museum. Just go. At the top of the hill is the observatory and the prime meridian.

British museum touch and go unless your kid likes history. Since I was a kid they have cut down on the number of exhibits but display them better. They only had 2 Samurai swords shown last summer, but have one of the best collections in the world :( The mummies will appeal to a 9 year old (and the 9 year old in us all).

RAF museum in Hendon is good but I don't know how easy it is to get there.

Skip Stonehenge. Unless you like an all day trip where you get to stand near a freeway and look through a fence. Of course when I was a kid I remember climbing all over the huge rocks, but things change.

Don't forget – don't plan too much and be careful about day trips. Don't go to Stratford on Avon. Oxford or Cambridge are great for a day trip, but I would take train not Coach. The York idea is a good one – I wouldn't have thought about it, but I would check how long it takes on the train first.

John

bridget midget the return29 Jan 2017 2:26 p.m. PST

London to York is approx 2 hours each way and if you plan it right with a family railcard (30) return can be had for less than £70.00 GBP (https://www.thetrainline.com/buytickets/combinedmatrix.aspx?Command=TimeTable#Journey/LONDON/YORK/20/02/17/07/15/Leave After/21/02/17/17/00/Leave After/2/1/FAM/1)
York to Edinburgh 2.5 hours and £100.00 GBP

2 days in each would leave you 5 days in London.

For a Titanic connection there is always Liverpool (https://www.google.co.uk/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=titanic+liverpool+museum)

uglyfatbloke29 Jan 2017 2:34 p.m. PST

For cheaper flights you might be best to Indianapolis-BWI-Glasgow.

Khusrau29 Jan 2017 4:07 p.m. PST

If you do make it to Paris, then Musee d la Armee and Napoleons Tomb could easily be a full day, especially if combined with the Rodin Museum across the road. I would avoid Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, do Musee Orsay and see the Tower from the comfort of the river on the Batobus.

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2017 5:07 p.m. PST

I think if you go to Paris and don't take your 8 year old up the Eiffel then you'll likely (and deservedly) get a mutiny!

Similarly in London the London Eye is a must. These are things you'll remember doing and when you watch old Bond movies you'll be able to say "hey, we went there!".

Ice cream in France is great it's also very cheap. An ice cream and a coffee and thirty minutes to get your breath back is well worth paying for if it comes with a view of the Seine.

For both…do do do do do do do do do do Book In Advance !!!!!

Unless you like standing in a queue for up to 2 hours.

Did I mention book in advance ? grin

If you want to see a castle The Tower of London is a very fine castle! Lots of history eight year olds usually enjoy hearing about traitors gate and sticking people's head up on poles after they've been beheaded. Not sure why, but it seems to work!

There's a lot to do in London for free : the British Museum is free as are the major art galleries. The BM has a wonderful Egyptian collection and the Assyrian section is also amazing. Plan it around something else nip in for half an hour or so see one gallery. You're bound to want to see Buckingham palace but at the same time you can walk part of St James Park. There's a great playground there your son will doubtless want 20 minutes whilst you and your wife get a coffee. And I'd bet you'll remember the bits like that more and more fondly than any list of things seen ticked off.

The RAF museum in Hendon is very close to a tube station it's not bad to get too. If you're son likes planes then it'll be a big hit. Lots of interactive stuff too. And it is free (like most museums in Britain).

It's easy to make an almost endless list of places to see in both Paris & London and within 2 or 3 hours of of both which is great fun to do if you have three weeks. I think with 9 days you have to be realistic about what's possible London to Edinburgh is 4.5-5.5 hours each way by train (assuming no delays or cancellations). If you have to do a there and back even with a split of days inbetween that's a 10 hour round trip. Ten hours of a nine day stay is a BIG chunk. it's also pretty boring for an 8 year old.

If you can fly into London (or Paris) and fly back from Paris (or London) that'd be good but worse case the travel between London & Paris is quick thanks to the high speed trains and the tunnel.

Shopping I don't know a lot about this, but I do know that Oxford Street is the equivalent of hell on earth. It's tempting to go, because that's where the big stores are but just remember…hell on earth!

If you like books then Foyles is like the eight wonder of the world.

This is a great first guide to paris :

picture

And this for London :

picture

They are really well illustrated, have good "area" guides to particular bits of both cities and offer some useful itineraries for different lengths of stay. Unless you are actually backpacking/hosteling then they're a better bet than the Rough Guides or Lonely Planet. IMHO of course !

Have fun.

TBeyer Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2017 5:40 p.m. PST

There is a lot of excellent advice here. We were in London for 7 days last August with our 14-year old, and that was after 7 days in Singapore. So we limited our trip to London and day trips from London Very good advice on tailoring your trip to your childs interests – our kid loved the Natural History Museum, but was not that interested in the British Museum. Also she loved people watching in Trafalgar Square but did not enjoy the National Gallery. And a day trip to Stonehenge was great just to get out of the e city for a day. We got an Oyster pass that we could top up, it was perfect for the tube – and we got a nice hotel by Bayswater tube with a ton of restaurants nearby – by nice I mean much smaller than an American hotel, but clean and convenient. Remember some of the sights require buying tickets in advance – so on our first day we hit the National Gallery and British Museum (both free) while buying tickets online for St Paul's cathedral, etc that needed tickets in advance. We skipped the London Eye because a) we came from Singapore and had been on the Singapore flyer which is slightly taller, and b) after climbing to the top of St Paul's we had such a nice view of London we decided that was enough. We also took a nighttime bus tour of London – a very touristy thing to do but if you spent all day walking thru museums sitting on a bus felt great and you get to see a lot. That was another reason for the Stonehenge trip – so much walking thru museums and galleries was exhausting and sitting on an air-conditioned bus was great.

I second the trip to Edinburgh – I liked it more than Paris (there was a garbage and taxi strike when I was in Paris so that probably influenced my opinion) – but an 8-year old might love all the castles in Edinburgh and a climb to the top of the big hill (can't remember the name, just on the edge of the city with an awesome view) I took the bus from London to Edinburgh and had time for a stop in York to see the awesome cathedral.

Have a great time, allow time for your kid to rest up!

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2017 5:47 p.m. PST

Maybe an ECW battlefield, also.

Have a look at the Battlefields Trust web site battlefieldstrust.com .

It's fair to say that at most English battlefields there aren't a lot of things to see – it's not like an ACW battlefield for example.

The only Battlefields in England with much to see are Hastings and Bosworth. Both are almost certainly in the wrong place – but this is still a topic of heated debate!

AussieAndy Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2017 12:01 a.m. PST

Our kids were pretty young when we first took them to Europe. They went where we went, British Museum, Louvre, etc. It is character building and they get a lot more out of it than you might think. The trade off is the Science Museum, the London Dungeon and a trip to Legoland or EuroDisney.

Another good option in London is the Wallace Collection. Some terrific pictures and an extraordinary collection of arms and armour. Very quiet even during the peak season and, once again, free!

JimDuncanUK30 Jan 2017 4:21 a.m. PST

@tbeyer

The hill with the great view was probably Arthur's Seat which is actually smack bang in the centre of the city.

If you had to go to the outskirts of the city for the hill then it was probably the Pentland Hills which run away back down to the Borders.

Edinburgh, like Rome, is built on 7 hills so there are great views all round.

uglyfatbloke30 Jan 2017 5:01 a.m. PST

Wallace collection is well worth a shufti, likewise Kelvingrove museum if you fly into Glasgow.

Norrins30 Jan 2017 5:07 a.m. PST

I'd recommend travelling down to Portsmouth (it's an hour on the train) for the day as it's worth visiting the dockyard (for HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the Mary Rose) and the D-Day museum, There's also the Submarine museum over at Gosport and if you need a break from museums, there's Gun Wharf for shopping and eating.

If you can spare the time, catch the train (approx 30 minutes) to Southampton where there is the Sea City museum with its Titanic story section. This highlights the relationship between the Titanic and city – and you can have a go at steering the ship too!

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Jan 2017 6:59 a.m. PST

I'd add in the Victoria and Albert museum. A diverse collection that will delight your wife and daughter and probably yourself and MAY (only may mind) substitute for some of bling in a Paris trip.

Look closely at pre-booking trains, I'm not sure what deals you can get from the US that way but worth a try. Advance booked fares can be dramatically cheaper (we are going Preston to Aberdeen for £16.00 GBP each soon) than the fares noted above. Also the Paris train can be heavily booked around that time of year so don't leave booking that much longer if you decide to go that way to paris.

I'd double up on the suggestion of York as the best 2nd centre as it has a good mix of shopping, fun and history. You won't get away with dragging family around Portsmouth for the day.

Depending on your Wife and/or Daughter's interests you might consider adding a show in London (again, book in advance) or one of the theme parks near London (Lego, Harry Potter and a few others not too far out I think).

Keep them happy and You'll all enjoy the holiday !!

uglyfatbloke30 Jan 2017 7:34 a.m. PST

V&A it's great. A new branch is opening in Dundee, which is about an hour on the train from Edinburgh.
I Repeat my recommendation of Edinburgh castle; you're family will love it regimental museums, military museum, crown jewels etc etc and you can do a decent trip round it in the space of an afternoon. Also, in Edinburgh you can really see the shape of the medieval city which is unusual and there are several excellent smaller museums which can reduce 'culture fatigue' in children…trust me; I've a lot of experience of getting children to enjoy museums.
Something to be said for spending less time in London and making sure you get to Portsmouth (a miserable town, but fab museums) and York which is just lovely great history and the shops are just as good as London since it's all essentially chain stores anyway…though personally I'd day Birmingham or Manchester or Glasgow are all just as good if not better.
If you're going to a West End show I'd recommend Cats. In my previous life I worked on buckets of musicals and though it is a little cheesy it's a great spectacle…your kid(s?) will adore it.
You might want to watch out for saying 'England' when you actually mean the UK; they are not the same thing like 'California' or 'New York' or 'Florida' is n't the same as the USA.

Blutarski30 Jan 2017 4:02 p.m. PST

I have visited the UK a number of times -

The above posters have done a grand job describing the sites and attractions. I will add a few more to confuse you further: HMS Belfast (a famous and well preserved WW2 cruiser) is moored right in the Thames river in the shadow of the Tower of London. If you are a "naval person", don't miss it. If weather and time permit, a cruise downriver on the Thames to Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum will make for a grand day out … or you can opt for a trip upriver to Kew Gardens, a lovely botanical preserve.

Do NOT visit the Victoria and Albert Museum unless you are prepared to spend the rest of your vcation there. It is the size of a very large city block and four (???) stories tall, filled with a mind-boggling array of fascinating exhibits. The last time my wife and I were there, we spent half a day alone in the "Fakes and Forgeries" exhibit hall (yes, there really is such an exhibit!).

If you get to York, the following should be considered as sites to see: The York Minster (a beautiful cathedral), the Shambles (a slightly tacky but nevertheless heartwarming tourist district next-door to the Minster, and last but not least the National Railway Museum. If travelling from London to York, do consider going by rail; it requires most of a day, but you will pass through some lovely districts right along the coastline cliffs overlooking the Channel.

Stay out of the American corporate hotel and chain restaurants. Ask a local to recommend a good family pub for dinner.

Wherever you end up in Great Britain, you will not be more than 10 minutes from a really interesting historical site they are just EVERYWHERE. Have a blast!


B

JimDuncanUK30 Jan 2017 5:03 p.m. PST

@Blutarski

Some of your memories appear to be a bit blurred.

If travelling from London to York, do consider going by rail; it requires most of a day, but you will pass through some lovely districts right along the coastline cliffs overlooking the Channel.

London is north of the Channel. York is even further north of London. There won't be many (read as none) trains from London to York that go anywhere near the Channel.

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2017 6:16 p.m. PST

Skip Stonehenge. Unless you like an all day trip where you get to stand near a freeway and look through a fence. Of course when I was a kid I remember climbing all over the huge rocks, but things change.

it's true they don't let you on the stones but you can get a lot closer than the fence!

For shopping in London I would avoid the traditional West End tourist areas of Oxford Street and Regent Street. They are full of chain stores that sell the same stuff as they do everywhere else but at an inflated price! Your best bet is to visit one of the shopping malls. Bluewater in Kent is claimed to be the biggest in Britain and is about half an hour by train from central London.

It's true Bluewater is really big. But- I had heard that they have malls in the USA. Are you sure you want to come all that way to just go to the mall?

YouTube link

Forager Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2017 8:56 p.m. PST

Wow. Thank you all very much for the great (and sometimes humorous) advice! Extrememly helpful. It has certainly given my wife and me an excellent starting point and lots to think about. I'll likely be back with some more specific questions once our plans begin to firm up. Thanks again!

Craig

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP31 Jan 2017 12:25 a.m. PST

Forager – no worries, ask away!

20thmaine – yes, I'd heard they have malls in the US these days but the lady wants to go shopping….

As regards Portsmouth. Kids generally love visiting the dockyard and exploring the ships. On the Victory they don't keep banging their heads like adults do! The Gunwharf shopping centre is a new development about a five minute walk from the dockyard. It has plenty of places to eat on the waterfront and seemed to be full of cool young people sitting around looking, well, cool. The rest of the city is still a bit grim but as long as you stay next to the sea you should be ok! We went last summer and my wife, who has no interest in anything military, really liked it.

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP31 Jan 2017 6:52 a.m. PST

Shopping – you're right , I know it does say that in the OP. I was just wondering (musing aloud) what a British Mall has that an American one doesn't. Marks & Spencers perhaps.

Anyway – for"touristy" shopping – I don't think anyone has mentioned Camden Lock Market (quirky stuff), or Covent Garden – expensive stuff – but it's a nice place to stroll around on the way to or from Trafalger square and there's lots of places to eat for all pockets – even some proper working mens' cafes right in the heart of London.

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP31 Jan 2017 9:48 a.m. PST

Camden Lock is a good suggestion. Could be combined with a trip to the zoo!

Blutarski31 Jan 2017 3:18 p.m. PST

JimDuncanUK wrote -
Some of your memories appear to be a bit blurred.
London is north of the Channel. York is even further north of London. There won't be many (read as none) trains from London to York that go anywhere near the Channel.

- -

JD, you just educated me on a fine point of British geography. The particular bit you cited doesn't involve a blurred memory on my part, but rather a case of ignorance. I have always assumed that the "English Channel" incorporated the entire stretch of narrow waters up to The Wash. So thanks for clearing that up.

The blurred memory on my part comes into play with my incorrect association of several rail trips from London to York with a single rail trip from London up to Edinburgh. A check of the rail map clearly shows that the line goes nowhere near the North Sea coastline until well north of York.

That said, Edinburgh is also a very lovely place to visit.

B

JimDuncanUK31 Jan 2017 3:46 p.m. PST

Glad to have cleared that up for you Blutarski.

Once you have traversed the Channel past Dover you are really into the North Sea but there will be locals on both sides who have names for their own particular stretches.

There are also 'official' names for the waters around the UK which are mainly used for shipping weather forecasts.

metman66.com/map_marine.htm

link

The English Channel only covers Plymouth, Portland, Wight and Dover.

And, if you get to France they call the waters between France and England 'La Manche' and quite right too!

And, Yes, Edinburgh is a beautiful place.

uglyfatbloke31 Jan 2017 6:18 p.m. PST

Yup. Edinburgh is an annoying city to live in, but a tremendous place to visit.

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