UNITED KINGDOM, 1984
Day 1, Friday, May 18 Houston to London
Mad dash home at 10:30 to get from there to the airport. Depart from Hobby Airport for a PeoplExpress flight, connections at Newark for London Gatwick Airport with arrival next day. Comments: A bit of a rush "working half day" then to the airport, but fortunately had no problems. I can definitely recommend PeoplExpress. Picnic supper on the plane - several passengers sharing/exchanging items from their "supper".
|1||PeoplExpress||Houston - Newark||1:10 PM||-|
|2||PeoplExpress||Newark - Gatwidk||-||7:25 AM|
Day 2, Saturday, May 19 Arrive London
Arrive London Gatwick 7:25 a.m. After Customs, transfer to Tavistock Hotel, Tavistock Square. There's a very nice high-speed train from Gatwick to Victoria Station, then via underground to (2 blocks from) the hotel. (Next time, take a taxi due to the luggage.) This hotel is the hotel for all nights in London. (I'll use the same one another year.) Rest of the day: from 11 until 4, British Museum and British Library. They have a fantastic exhibit of early illuminated manuscripts, and a special selection of first editions; also two copies of the Magna Carta. The Egyptian exhibit was undergoing extensive revisions - most of the displays covered or removed. Later, walk almost to the Thames River and back. Evening: Shakespeare at the "Barbican" Complex. To bed about 12 - after a very long "day". Comments: the Gatwick Express (rail) service is nice, and from what I have heard since, I'm glad I came in through Gatwick; not Heathrow. Wish I had more time at the British Museum.
Day 3, Sunday, May 20 London - Cambridge
Frames Tour to Cambridge and Woburn Abbey. All day tour. Overslept - up at 7:30 and a rush to dress, have breakfast (more later), and "run" to the tour station by 8:15. The "Jet Lag" strikes again. It's cold and rainy. A short bus tour in Cambridge - in the rain - and little chance to see any of the Colleges since they are closed to the public during Exams. Did get into Emmanuel College for about 15 - 20 minutes. (Some of the Colleges are apparently taking turns to "satisfy" the tourists.) Lunch and some walking in the rain (lunch from a news-stand) then to Woburn Abbey (home of the Dukes of Bedford). At least it is clearing some so we could see some of the countryside. The buildings and furnishings are beautiful -- its a "Palace", not a "castle". In the evening, a "London Walk": "Bloomsbury Pub Walk". Some of the Pubs are very interesting, the "Brews" are lukewarm, but the GHOSTS make some people shiver. One of the pubs, 'The Museum Pub' has an excellent buffet - I eat there several more times during the London days. Comments: As it turns out, the weather this morning / noon was about the worst of the trip. Imagine eating "lunch" - apple, cookies and coke, while huddled under a raincoat on a cold, windy sidewalk. A real disappointment not to see more of Cambridge.
Day 4, Monday, May 21 London - Norwich
Begin Frames Tour: British Heritage. Tour leaves at 8:30. Late morning stop at Colchester, a Roman city and old fort built on Roman foundations. After that, a "backroads" tour of East Anglia with all the old thatched roof cottages (the roofs weigh about 10 TONS, cost 12 - 14 thousand Pounds, but last about 45 - 60 years). Late lunch at Lavenham, and an afternoon stop at the Flatford Mills, then on to the evening stop, a bit late. Evening at Norwich. Hotel: Hotel Norwich; ratings: room 1 (tops); meals 1. Comments: Best lodging of the trip. Another year I want a repeat of the countryside, if possible. It's great. This morning was no problem getting up - I'm apparently over the jet lag.
Day 5, Tuesday, May 22 Norwich - York
Tour continues. Some people very late getting ready (not me), so we catch a lot of traffic getting out of Norwich. No chance to get to the Church, but we did drive by. Weather half-way decent, so we do see some nice countryside -- Kings Lynn, Long Sutton and the Fens, etc. The morning delay was so much that we are late for our tour of Lincoln Cathedral - 20 min. instead of an hour (*!&*%$#!). Afternoon through Selby to drive past their Cathedral. We do get to York early enough for me to sneak in a walk around the Walls before dinner. Evening at York: Hotel: Ladbrooks "Abbey Park". Ratings: room 7th; meals 5th. Comments: !!!! those sleepy-heads-and it wasn't the only time during the tour. York is great. Needed more time in Lincoln, though. I'll be back here another year.
Day 6, Wednesday, May 23 York
Tour continues. Included tour of York; the walls, the Shambles, and York Minster. Had just a little time to dash to Clifford's Tower, but no time for the Museum, or 'The Jorik Viking Exhibit'. Have to come back here another year for that. Afternoon tour to Castle Howard, scene for the filming of "Brideshead Revisited". Evening, call Stratford to reserve tickets for a Shakespeare Evening. Evening at York. Comments: another year I'm definitely coming back here - probably by rail (up in the AM, back late). I definitely want more time in the Museum, and a chance at the Jorik Center. Later note: What a shame about the fire at the Minster. I'm glad I saw it before. At least the damage wasn't TOO badly damaged.
Day 7, Thursday, May 24 York - Edinburgh
Tour continues. Includes Durham and a rush to the Post Office to send a Postal Order to pay for the ticket at Stratford (got lost trying to find the Post Office - met some nice people who helped me find the way). Also Hadrian's Wall (almost all of the wall long since dismantled for local building materials), Jedburgh (for a stop at the Scottish Woolen Mills outlets for the ladies to overfill the suitcases with woolens), and then a last lap in the rain to Edinburgh. Evening entertainment at the George Hotel: "A Scottish Evening". Very nice entertainment and a great dinner, including "Haggis". Evening at Edinburgh. Hotel: Mount Royale, Princes Street. Rating: Room 6th, meals, 7th. Comments: a bit of a disappointment in Hadrian's Wall. Wonder if the tour company gets a commission on the sales at the woolens outlet. If so, why do we have to pay for the tour??? The Scottish Evening was nice. Knowing the ingredients of "Haggis", I'm surprised that I liked it ... not bad at all.
Day 8, Friday, May 25 Edinburgh
Tour continues. Tour of the City and Edinburgh Castle - in the rain. It's the worst weather on the tour (2nd worst to that at Cambridge). Afternoon at leisure - meaning buying a woolen cap and muffler, then back to the hotel to watch the weather. If the weather were better, it would be a great view from the hotel window. Evening at Edinburgh. Comments: I'm glad that so many people had warned me about the weather over here. Otherwise I would really be unhappy. As it is, just disappointed. The view from the hotel (window overlooking Princes Street and the Castle) is great - or would be if the weather were clear enough for me to see the street from the 5th floor. Food here at this hotel is miserable -- and it's supposed to be a "fine" hotel.
Day 9, Saturday, May 26 Edinburgh - Grasmere
Tour continues. Tour of Scottish Highlands along the border. Includes Ayr, Dumfries, Carlisle. Due to the continuing poor weather, it's a very dull day. Arriving fairly early into the Lake District for a back-roads approach to our evening stop. If the weather were better, I could see how this area could be extremely pretty -- one of the favorite vacation areas. Time for a short walk around "town" before dinner. Evening: Grasmere. Hotel: Prince of Wales. Ratings: Room 5th (nice hotel, poor room); meals 2nd (our favorite waiter for the entire trip). Comments: Looking through tour guides and souvenir booklets later, I really do regret not being able to see much of the scenery (in sunlight) here.
Day 10, Sunday, May 27 Lake Country
Tour continues. Tour of the Lake Country (Literary District), Dove Cottage, etc. Afternoon, an "1890's" steamer trip on Derwentwater. Some people were almost "seasick" due to the rough "seas". Evening at Grasmere. Comments: see above. I'm not kidding about the "almost seasick". Some people wouldn't even take the ride. The steamer was just a steam powered launch, not a "big" vessel.
Day 11, Monday, May 28 Grasmere - Chester
Tour continues. Includes a dash to Chester for lunch and a walking tour of the City and the Rows. Then into Wales. Drive along the northern coast past Colwyn Bay, Conwy Castle, etc. to Caernarfon. Arrive late, but talk the guard into a chance for a 10 minute look into Caernarfon Castle - which is closing for the day. Evening at Caernarfon. Hotel: Royal Hotel; Ratings: room 4th, Meals, 6th. Comments: Chester was nice and I wish we had had more time, but York is still my favorite. The Walls are nicer at York (not as complete, but...) and the Shambles almost match the Rows. I'm glad I had even a short chance in the Castle.
Day 12, Tuesday, May 29 Chester - Stratford
Tour continues. Hooray!! Beautiful weather for a change -- and the perfect time for it, since we are driving through the North Wales mountains - Snowdonia National Park. It's beautiful (a cross between the Appalachian Mountains and a green West Texas). Due to hotel reservation problems, after we get to mid-Wales, time to turn east for a drive through the Cotswalds to Stratford. Special evening for those who called for ticket reservations at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The play is "Henry V". Everyone very pleased with the performance. I'm glad we had the chance. (We got to Stratford at 6; the driver let some of us off near the Theatre so we could pick up tickets before the deadline - luckily near the hotel). They had also made arrangements for an early dinner at the hotel for those going to the play (several people staying at the hotel had tickets, not just people from the tour - must be a regular hotel service). Evening at Stratford. Hotel: Grosvenor House; ratings: room 3rd; meals, 3rd. Comments: Snowdonia has the 2nd (to East Anglia) best scenery of the trip. And I'm very happy we had a chance for the play. See what we missed for tomorrow, though.
Day 13, Wednesday, May 30 Stratford - Cardiff
Tour continues. Time for a walk around town before breakfast, then a bus tour of the town, with stops at Anne Hathaway's cottage and Shakespeare's Birthplace. Leave Stratford just after noon for a drive back through the Cotswalds to Cardiff. (The zig-zag due to the hotel shuffle.) I would just as soon have skipped this and gone to Stonehenge and Bath instead. Since we were to have gone to Cardiff, wish we had been there yesterday as planned -- missed a concert by the "Cambridge Buskers" which I would have liked to have seen/heard. Evening arrive very late (7:45) at Cardiff. Hotel: Park Hotel (the only good part of the swing to Cardiff). Rating: room 2nd, meals, 4th. Comments: Stratford was a disappointment except for the play. I'm glad I was there - can say I was there - but I wouldn't make a special trip back again unless it's for the Theatre. I'm still cussin' about missing the Cambridge Buskers concert. Other than that (missed) chance, I would just as soon skipped Cardiff and included the Stonehenge / Bath / Salisbury stops from the "other" Frames tour.
Day 14, Thursday, May 31 Cardiff - London
Tour continues / concludes. Includes another drive through the Cotswalds, with stops at Sudeley Castle (nice, and a special Falconry exhibit), and early afternoon at Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Winston Churchill. Its the best (so far) of all the palaces / castles. I'd like to go through this again. Arrive in London about 7:00, barely in time to check into the hotel (Tavistock again) then out again for the evening event. Evening: "Walk: Ghosts of the City". Some intriguing tales. Comments: next year will maybe include a return visit to Blenheim. It's great. The "Ghosts" walk was good. I recommend the "London Walks" tours. Very good value for a minimal cost.
General tour comments: We really lucked out with a great driver / courier, Pat Bennett. He believes in taking the scenic route - back roads - not staying with the motorways (expressways) and main highways (our overall mileage came out 20% more than indicated in the "Daily Lie"). He also is very nice and considerate of the passengers. I'm glad I took the 11 day tour, not the 6 day rush one. (If every one had had their way for extra time - stops - side trips, it would have been a "35 day" tour)
Day 15, Friday, June 1 London
Start of a do - it - ourself tour -- with a few extras. "London Explorer" pass for 7 days on the Tube. Today's walk includes: The Strand (Hungerford Foot Bridge for a view of the River, York Water Gate, Hungerford Arches), St Martins, Covent Gardens, St James (Picadilly Street and Jermyn Street - Fortnum and Mason, etc.). Due to some afternoon rain, did some Brass Rubbings at St James Church. Evening "walk": "Inns of Court" - in and around the (Law) Inns - and some more Pub Crawling. Comments: London really IS easy to get around on foot or via tube. I'm hooked on the Brass Rubbings - ended up doing a total of 9 on various days, mostly for subsequent gifts; kept only two. Picadilly Street etc. was interesting; I'll spend a little more time here another year.
Day 16, Saturday, June 2 London
Another walking day. Start down on the Embankment, cross over to the south side for the South Bank Center, then to Westminster Abbey - fantastic. Unfortunately, the Houses of Parliament were temporarily closed for some reason - (cleanup?) - so a loop around town to include Whitehall, Downing Street, Banqueting House, Horse Guards, & Admiralty Arch. Lucky again since I blundered into the first dress rehearsal for the Trooping of the Colors. Next, a walk along the Mall, to Buckingham Palace, the Mews, St James Park, and Green Park. From there, it's only a short jump over to Oxford Street and some window shopping - all the usual stores. Did get some records I wanted at HMV. Big Coal Miners demonstration down Picadilly. Late afternoon rain, so back to the Brass Rubbings. Evening: Theatre: "Cats". Absolutely fantastic. Really the "Cats' Meow!!" If it had been a movie, I would have sat through it again (and again). Comments: really missed Westminster Abbey. Maybe better luck next year. I also have to do some more shopping at HMV for more records. I'm really enjoying the ones I did get. I'm glad that I got to see the Trooping of the Colors rehearsal since I was going to just barely miss the real thing.
Day 17, Sunday, June 3 London / Thames River / Windsor
Shuffling the schedule. Frames tour to Stokes Poges, (Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard), then to Maidenhead for a Thames River Cruise with lunch included, to Windsor Castle. The Queen was in residence at the time, but we did get into the State Apartments (last day they would be open until mid July so I really lucked out). "Punk Rockers" sitting on the benches outside wrapped in cloaks - we can take their picture if we "tip" them. Next, a bus trip to Hampton Court Palace - didn't go inside, just walked through the gardens and the Maze. Did get to see the "Great Vine". Then back to London - barely in time to get to the London Symphony Orchestra concert. Comments: Windsor Castle was great, particularly St. George's Chapel. I still get a laugh out of the Punkers - the girl was just barely coherent enough to take the "tips" and punch her boy boy-friend (very out-of-it on drugs) to sit up a little. The concert was FANTASTIC!! Hampton Court - inside is now a museum, so the best part is definitely the gardens and maze. Worth it for that.
Day 18, Monday, June 4 London
Start off with a walk on the south side of the Thames - Southwark Cathedral, then after wandering around, a stop at the George Inn, the last of the Galleried Coach Inns. More wandering, then across the Tower Bridge to the Tower of London. The White Tower is closed at first - electrical problems - but opens a little later. Did get to see the Beefeaters, Ravens, and Crown Jewels. Next, a guidebook walk, "Roman London" for some of the Roman walls ruins. Later, a "London Walk", "Historic and Macabre Fleet Street: Jack the Ripper". For a change of pace after that, St. Paul's Cathedral. It's beautiful, but I got a sense of it being commercialized - probably due to all the souvenir booths inside. During the "Roman London", a stop at the oldest church in London - All Hallows by the Tower, and lucked into a free music concert. They also have a Brass Rubbing Center, so it made a super stop: doing a brass rubbing in the hallway outside the sanctuary while an organ concert (rehearsal) is being done. Later a tour of the church. Evening: Covent Garden and Sadlers & Wells sold out, but did get tickets to "The Pit" Theatre in the Barbican Complex to see Ben Jonson's "Volpone". Comments: definitely the best of the "London" days: Tower of London, the "walks", All Hallows Church and concert, and the play. Supercalafragilistic ... or whatever!!!
Day 19, Tuesday, June 5 London
Morning, walk through the "City" to the "Old Curiosity Shop", "Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese", "Ben Jonson's House", "Fleet Street" (again), then skip over to the "West End" for a tourgide book walk through the "Squares of the West End". Afternoon "Walk": "The London of Shakespeare and Pepys". Evening: Frames Tour to "Hatfield House - Elizabethean Banquet". I'm glad that for this one, I had expected a "Disney" production for the tourists, but it WAS fun - I'd do it again. Not to bed until 1 AM. Comments: The London part of the day was just quick stops at various points if interest. The evening was interesting since, as indicated, I hadn't expected more that a (nice) entertaining evening.
Day 20, Wednesday, June 6 London / Stonehenge
Frames Tour: Stonehenge (disappointing - it's much smaller than I had thought, but I had expected HUGE!), then past Salisbury Cathedral (didn't get to go in, just drive through town and past the Cathedral), then over to Bath. Due to delays early getting out of London (traffic), not as much time in Bath as I would have liked. It's interesting, but for Roman cities (the Baths are Victorian reconstructions), I prefer York and Chester. Evening: "West Side Story" at "Her Majestys' Theatre, Haymarket" (not the highlight evening of the trip, but a good play, and I like the music.) Comments: Mostly included above, but Bath is interesting. I hadn't known in advance that it was a Victorian reconstruction - thought it was more restoration. Still, very nice.
Day 21, Thursday, June 7 London / Greenwich
Morning very rainy, so stay in a while and pack. It WILL (unbelievable major miracle) all go into the two bags (HOORAY!!!) (not counting a ** stuffed ** "camera bag" and a tote sack). Time for a short visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum, then another Frames tour: Greenwich. The worst of the tours - disorganized and / or poorly planned, exceptionally poor guide. Too much time at the Cutty Sark, so that I had to take a choice - Observatory or Maritime Museum. I chose the Observatory, so had only 10 minutes to race (almost literally) through part of the museum. The guide had us back (40 minutes) early for the boat ride back to London. Just as well I got there "on time" - he took us on an earlier boat - leaving several behind. I'll have to repeat this tour next year on my own. Evening walk: "1660 - Great Plague and Great Fire". I got almost as much from the Pepys' Diaries, but the "London Walks" tours ARE good. Comments: a disappointing day in that there was not enough time at any of the places (Victoria and Albert or Greenwich). Both will have to be repeats next year. I know now how to get to Greenwich - via River launch - so I can do that one myself. Would like to keel-haul that (censored) guide (?)!! Too bad it's the last day in London.
Day 22, Friday, June 8 London - US - Williamsburg
Unbelievable connections. Breakfast served at 7; via taxi to Victoria Station arriving 7:26; catch the 7:30 train to Gatwick arriving at 8. Plenty of time to check in and get the seat I wanted (one near the "kitchen" with legroom due to the removed seats). Connections via Newark to Norfolk, arriving 5:25 P.M. (this is one hour later that first - February - scheduled, so very little time to check by Colonial Williamsburg. Did luck out on car - reserved stick Chevette; got Dodge Aires, auto transmission. Evening: Williamsburg KOA. Unfortunately, it's "August in June" - exceptionally hot. Comments; PeoplExpress a definite PLUS; the local heat-wave a huge MINUS. It's been another LONG day.
|3||PeoplExpress||Gatwick - Newark||10:15 AM||-|
|4||PeoplExpress||Newark - Norfolk||-||5:25 PM|
PeoplExpress Comments: This is the way to go. True, anything extra costs extra, but compare the prices. The only drawback for me was the lack of leg-room - which I managed to solve on the return flight. Wish it were easier to book reservations, though.
Day 23, Saturday, June 9 Williamsburg
Back to my favorite vacation spot ... but oh, the heat. Did get to meet most of the old friends I wanted so see, and found some new ones also. The new 18th century play "Spirit of Contradiction" is very good - a little "quieter" than the others, and very well done. Probably the highlight of the visit. Comments: Tried to cool off by sitting in the air-conditioned car - taking short drives to the Burger King for "double" drinks - one refill free.
Day 24, Sunday, June 10 Williamsburg
In the morning to Jamestown. They have completed and launched the two new (replacement) ships. Otherwise, not too much new. They will have more going on later in the summer - it's too early now. Afternoon, back to CW for more wandering around. Evening at Bruton Parish House: 18th century madrigals, etc. Comments: since I didn't have a chance to take friends out to dinner, settled for hamburgers at BurgerKing. (Actually for more double drinks).
Day 25, Monday, June 11 Williamsburg
Into town to mail a box of guidebooks (from England; I don't want to carry them any further than I have to), etc, then to Yorktown for a long walk around. Afternoon to Newport News for a repeat of the Mariner's Museum, and a "Hampton Roads" boat cruise. Evening, back at CW for a "Lanthorn Tour" of some of the buildings. (Have to be doing something in the evenings: its too hot to go back to the KOA and to bed). After the tour, to Chownings Gambols (a fun way to end a vacation since it has to end somehow.) Comments: a new day which in some part made up for missing other things I had planned to do. In all, the stop at CW did give me the chance to unwind some from the Great Britain part of the vacation.
Day 26, Tuesday, June 12 Finally Home
Depart Norfolk via PeoplExpress 10:25 A.M., Connections via Newark to Houston, Hobby Airport.
|5||PeoplExpress||Norfolk - Newark||10:25 AM||-|
|6||PeoplExpress||Newark - Housto||-||3:20 PM|
Home at 5:30.