July 19, 2015 England, Scotland, and Wales Tour

Hello! We are Don and Jolene celebrating 50 years of wedded bliss and making our first trip across the pond.
We live in Longview, Texas. We will be starting a little differently by starting early in London a few days and then taking the train to Edinburgh to meet up with the tour. We will take in a play at the Globe, visit the Shard, the British Museum, and the British Library before catching the train. This is our first Tauck tour and we look forward to meeting new friends.


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    You are going on a great trip. The only thing I can think of that you will miss is the Tattoo in Edinburg.

    Staying in London before the trip begins is a good way to start the tour. I don't know how many days you will be here, but there is a lot to see. I was on this trip in 2012. It was the last trip my wife and I took before her death in 2013. We had a great time. We were in a small group tour so it was easy to get everyone from point A to point B.

    I have been in London since 1 June and am spending two months here this summer. London offers more to see than you can do even in two months. I looked at your list and a play at the Globe will be very enjoyable. I've been to two plays (neither at the Globe) and both were very good. I saw "The Mousetrap" (63 years and still running) at the St. Martin's Theatre and "Matilda" at the Cambridge Theatre. Both were very good. There are all kinds of theatres and shows here.

    The Shard. I went to the Shard with the intent of going to the top. It is £30 (~$45) and I didn't see the value. You might though. It is a choice. An alternative for that is the London Eye (~£21). I went in 2012 and my daughter bought a ticket for me last week so I went again. I told her I didn't need to go since I had been there; done that. It is a one time deal in my mind, but everyone has their own choices to make.

    There are a ton of museums in London...most of them free. I would strongly suggest the Churchill War Museums (not free) in the Westminster area (between Trafalgar Square and Westminster Park). I don't think Tauck goes there (at least they didn't in 2012) but it is a fantastic experience. It is underground and where Churchill and the British staff planned the war effort. I went again this year and there have been volumes of additional things added to the museum since 2012. I was surprised. I am actually going again next week when some friends come to visit. If you like history and are a Winston Churchill fan I strongly suggest this venue for a visit. (If they still do it, you will visit Blenheim Palace which is Churchill's birthplace and childhood home. I loved that place too. You don't get enough time to really see it but any time you get there is fantastic.) My friends and I are going there next week. It will be my third time and I am looking forward to it.

    I don't know what hotel you are staying in, but if it is the Royal Horseguards it is just down the street from the War Museums. My favorite museum is the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The National Museum is right next door....both are free and very close to Churchill's Museum, Parliament, Westminster Abbey. Of course you'll see, with Tauck, "Big Ben." Although you won't really see "Big Ben" since that is the large bell inside of Elizabeth tower on the east side of Parliament. The other big tower at Parliament is the "Victoria Tower" and where the monarch enters Parliament if she/he has business to take care of there. Of course, right now it is called the "Queen's Entrance." On top of this tower is a flag that is the size of a tennis court.

    You will find London easy to get around with the Tube and buses and walking. I typically am walking about 12-15 miles a day. Unlike New York, London is concentrated in a rather small area. Almost anywhere in zones 1 and 2 are walkable. I know that Tauck will take you by Buckingham Palace, but if you go on your own you can walk around the entire site (probably 1.5-2 miles) or go sit in Green Park and people watch. The Queens Gallery and the Mews are nice places to visit also. They are right on the Buckingham grounds. Of course there is always the Changing of the Guard. That takes place everyday at 11:30. If you want to get a good vantage point, get there at least an hour early.

    I could go on and on, but if you have any questions just respond to this with some specifics and I'll do my best to help you out. There are always the On-Off tour buses to orient you to the city. I've been to London four times and still do those the first day or two. Again, I don't know how much time you have here before you leave for Edinburgh. There are a variety of Tube ticket options, depending on how long you are here.

    Enjoy your trip here, it is a great city to visit. I am off for a walk somewhere. Take care.
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    edited July 2015
    Hi Ndvb, you have posted a great review and I'm wondering if you could repost it with a title like ' A review of things to see in London' so that more people might catch it on the forum. Most people only arrive one day early to London, which as you obviously know will hardly break the surface of what London has to offer, but there are so many posts from people asking about things to see.
    Don, congratulations on doing great research for your trip and have a great time, I spent almost three years in Scotland at the beginning of my married life.
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    Nial- great info!

    I concur about Churchill's War Room. I didn't know about the Shard fee! If the current E,S,W is anything like ours, there will be so many things the OP just won't have time to do unless they stay for a few days at the end, too!. I believe Tauck stays at the Savoy now, which is just a tad farther down river.

    Don, if you don't already have reservations for a show/play- there are tons in London. The theatre district is just off Trafalgar Square. Most hotel concierges can often get same tickets for you or you can walk up to the the ticket kiosk in Trafalgar and get some pretty good deals on same-day tickets for many of the shows. Prior planning for sightseeing and transportation is the key to getting the most out of your London visit. If you don't, you'll be in danger of wasting valuable time. There are just so many things to do. Even something simple as taking to tube to the Notting Hill area and walking the street market on Portobello Road on a Saturday can be a really fun experience. With the unrest in the Middle East and ISIS destroying antiquities, one of the few chances you may have to see some fine examples is at the British Museum- a must see which can take a full day or more to do right! If your time is limited the museum has various must see lists which can be helpful- "Top XX things you should see if you only have YY (time)." Another thing to investigate- a number of companies sell multi-attraction ticket and transportation packages which can save you time and money. The same goes for train/tube/bus passes. You will need to study them carefully because you may not have sufficient time to take full advantage of what is included in each package.

    As we gear up for the Best of Ireland (Sept), I wish I had been able to convince my wife to spend a few days in London first. I had planned to stay at the Royal Horseguards. We stayed an extra day there after E,S,W in 2013 but didn't really have a chance to do London justice with just one extra day. We are still flying through Heathrow- the full rationale escapes me now, but I think it had to do with flight times, aircraft, lay flat seats, fares, etc. I know what people say about Heathrow, but we have a 3 hr layover before we catch an Aer Lingus hop to Shannon, so hopefully having to schlep our bags (non-codeshare), security, and the general Heathrow madness shouldn't be a problem.
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    Thanks to all for the quick replies. We arrive in London on Friday, July 17 and leave for Scotland on Sunday, July 19 via rail.
    My wife is a retired English teacher and this trip has lots of things on her bucket list. That's the reason for a visit to the Globe, the British Museum, and the British Library. I am an obsessive planner when making trips so I think I have a pretty good handle on the two days we have in London (I'll let the Tauck tour director handle the rest!) Using Google Earth and Maps, I have charted all the required tube and bus routes needed to get to the various venues we will visit. We pre-purchased tickets to the Shard, Globe and train to Edinburgh. By-the-way, the Shard is for me as I am a semi-pro photographer and want to get some sunset pictures from up there. I'm not hauling my heavy SLR on the trip and will be happy with my Fuji x100s that weighs less than a pound and fits into my pocket. (a note on SLR cameras: I read where the thieves have perfected a method of bumping up against you and quickly removing the lens from your SLR hanging on your side. Just bump, push the button, and twist the lens off the camera. WOW) We will be staying at the Ibis Blackfriars Hotel. It is nicely located 1 block from Southwark tube station and 1/4 mile from the Globe. We can catch a bus just outside the hotel for the British Museum and ride the tube to Kings Cross station where the British Library is located next door. We will also be using Kings Cross Station to catch the train to Edinburgh on Sunday morning. I've even checked out some pubs and found one close by our hotel that I want to try, Blackfriers. It is ornately decorated inside and has received good reviews. As we will have two days before the tour and two days in London during the tour, I plan to buy Oyster cards when arriving at Heathrow. I activated my Verizon phone for use in GB mainly for data use for my map apps. It's also nice to have for emergencies.

    Hoping to hear from others who have booked this tour. Meanwhile, we have to start thinking about packing. Just 9 days until we depart!

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    edited July 2015
    P.S. From all the posts I've read, it looks like the Churchill War Room will be a must see venue. We also plan to visit St. Paul's on our own time if the tour is only a "drive-by." Does anyone know?

    Also, while in Bath, we would like to have dinner at Sotto Sotto if we can get reservations. Anyone interested?

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    edited July 2015
    My husband and I took the Tauck Scotland tour in early June, and we, too, started our vacation on our own in London. We didn't have the Churchill War Memorial on our list but I'm now sad that we missed this. We stayed in Kensington, rode the Tube everywhere, and had afternoon tea at the Savoy (pricey at 50 pounds per person but worth it). We also saw Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap in the West End. I recommend the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and the Victoria and Albert Museum, also the British Museum (but it is vast). For day trips, there's Stonehenge, if you haven't seen it before, Oxford and Hampton Court although some of this may be on the Tauck tour. I love the Tudor reign and find the era of Henry VIII fascinating so Hampton Court was a great day trip, and accessible by train. I visited the Globe Theatre during my previous trip there and didn't see a play, but they have a very nice tour which I recommend. We also took the train from Euston Station to Glasgow to start our Tauck Tour. We used Virgin Trains and loved it. About 4.5 hrs ride, very smooth (compared to US trains), clean and comfortable although the train was a little narrower than we are used to so finding room for big luggage was a little difficult. We really enjoyed taking the train v. flying. Free wifi as well! I hope you enjoy your London trip as well as your Scotland Tour. In Scotland, we enjoyed all the castles (Stirling, Holy Rood, Edinburgh) plus a bird of prey show in Loch Lomond and a sheep herding demonstration in the Highlands. The accommodations were, as usual with Tauck, first rate with great dinners and breakfasts. The weather in Scotland for June was quite cold (50s and 60s) but not as rainy as we expected. There's an optional trip to St Andrew's and I recommend it. Not only to see the golf course but the small town is very quaint and walkable, plus there are some ruins including a medieval church and graveyard. Enjoy your adventures!
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    Don, if you have one, or can get one, use a "touchless" credit card for your tube and bus trips. They are not common in the US, but some companies have it. It is the same cost for travel as the Oyster Card but you don't have to get a special card for transportation. My credit card doesn't have it, so I have the month Oyster Card. You are only there for a couple of days, so you'll use the daily pass for transportation.

    Our 7 and 8 year old didn't need to pay for the Tube or buses. I don't know what the age is where the kids have to pay. Since you are OCD I am sure you already have that taken care of.

    I am a photographer also, but I didn't see the value of the Shard. That is a personal choice and you've made your decision. I have my SLR with me, but honestly haven't even pulled it out of the bag. I have been using my iPhone 6S and getting great shots. One day here I'll probably pull out the Nikon 7100 and all of the glass, with tripod, and go shoot some pictures of town. I am going to set my GoPro up on my patio and plug it in so I can shoot for an extended time and use time lapse shots every 30 seconds or 1 minute to get a 24 hour view east on the Thames....it should be interesting. I'm going to shoot some night shots off the balcony from the Vauxhall Bridge into Westminster. I can see the top half of the Eye and the towers of Westminster. There is a lot of traffic on the bridge and streets I can see plus the river traffic that goes by my flat, so the long exposures should be interesting. I've just been lazy up to now.

    I am sure you'll plan to see more than the time will allow. Better to have too much to do, than too little.

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    edited July 2015
    ndvd - haven't heard about the touchless credit cards. I'll check em out. We plan to use public transport 4 days so that's why I plan to get the Oyster. May be overkill but if we have money left over on the cards, well we'll just have to come back. (next time with the SLR in my bag). ;-)
    Some of your planned shots sound interesting. I hope I can get some night shots along the river while there. I also enjoy street photography (much to the dismay to my wife) and the little fuji is perfect for that. If you are interested you can see some of my work at donauderer.com . Although not primarily a photo trip, I'm sure to burn a few GigaBytes while there.

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    For the touch less credit card information go to www.tfl.co.uk and you'll find out what you need to know. Like I said, they aren't popular in the U.S. yet. I didn't find out about them early enough to really look for it. Chase is my bank and they don't use them. Just an FYI for you to look at. The cost is the same for either the touch less card or the Oyster card. The advantage is you don't need to have two cards in your pocket and overpay the card to keep for later use or loss. Another potential option I haven't even looked at is ApplePay. You have to have an iPhone for that though. I use that a lot in the States. I don't know if TFL uses it.

    Enjoy your trip. I've had a great 5 weeks here and plan to enjoy the 3 weeks I have left.
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    There's lots of information and so much to do and too little time. I was there for 11 days a few years ago with a friend. One of the highlights of the trip for us was Westminster Abbey. Your wife can go to Poets Corner and pay her respects to William Wordsworth and friends. We also went there for the daily Evensong service, around 5 or 6; p.m. It was an awe inspiring experience, entering the abbey when it was darkened and closed to the public except for those going to the service. We sat in the Great Choir which is where the queen sits when she is there for a service. We went to St Paul's also. If I had time for only one major church, it would be Westminster Abbey. But then, I'm a Gothic kind of girl. Another highlight was the visit to the halls of Parliament and a visit to Windsor Castle. Among the very best was the visit to the interior of Buckingham Palace. It is open to the public when the queen is on holiday, usually August and most of September. Check the website for dates, and you can buy tickets online. We also went to the Churchill War museum; personally, I thought it was boring. Then there is the Tower of London with the crown jewels and all the history of Anne Boleyn and other unfortunate souls. Have a wonderful trip.
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    Phyllis and Larry here: We are going on the England-Scotland Wales trip starting from Edinburgh August 22,2015 Anyone else here going? Tips? want to rendezvous? We are going a day early so will be in Edinburgh August 21. We live in Boca Raton, Florida. feel free to email us at: phylfut@gmail.com

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