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Detailed Photo Review of Paris and London Trip in June 2019


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4 hours ago, pcrum said:

I'm so glad you got to see the band marching down Windsor High Street.  It really is amazing to see!!  We spent two nights in Windsor after our TA cruise in April/May, but sadly the one full day we had in Windsor turned out to be a day in which the guards were not marching.  I used to live in Datchet, a village about 5 minutes drive from Windsor.  We did all of our shopping in Windsor and I have many fond memories of being out and about running errands after doing the school run and seeing the guards march on the high street.  It never got boring to see, and even the locals would stop for a moment to appreciate it!  The entire town of Windsor is so quaint!  I'm so glad you got to experience it!  

 

I have not attempted to upload a photo to Cruise Critic since they did their latest change, so I hope you don't mind if I attempt to upload a photo from Windsor.

 

Loving your review and can't wait for more...IMG_7601.thumb.jpeg.7d8027e2ab9e8c36b262bcd3442f911b.jpeg

 

I wished we had more time to explore the shops in town because it was so quaint and charming, but we knew what we were signing up for and that we would have very limited time at each of our stops.  I really love how my one photo came out of the side street we walked past first thing when we arrived with all the little shops and cafes, so I've been considering printing and framing it as a souvenir of the trip.  We'll see!

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2 hours ago, Cotswold Eagle said:

 

Not Queen Elizabeth I, just Queen Elizabeth (and after King George VI's death, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother). She was not the monarch, her husband was, so she doesn't get a regnal number, simply taking the title of 'Queen' as wife of a reigning monarch. Elizabeth I reigned in the 16th Century and is interred in Westminster Abbey.

 

Typically, this doesn't work the other way round, so the current Queen's husband, is Prince Philip is not King Philip!
 

 

Thanks for the clarification!  I don't think I'll ever get all those Royal family specifics straight, but I'm trying! haha

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14 hours ago, deladane said:

I snapped this photo while we were walking and it turned out to be one of my favorite photos of the entire trip!  At the far end of the street, you can see the gate where we would eventually exit Windsor Castle at the end of our time there.

 

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Another fantastic photo! I'm not surprised it is one of your favourites. You obviously have a great eye for taking photos and you did well to not have anyone walking in the street.

 

I am thoroughly enjoying your report as I have been to many of the places you are describing so well. I have been to Windsor a number of times, including in the middle of winter when the fog was so thick I could barely even see the castle. Windsor is always great to visit. 

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8 hours ago, PurpleTraveller said:

 

Another fantastic photo! I'm not surprised it is one of your favourites. You obviously have a great eye for taking photos and you did well to not have anyone walking in the street.

 

I am thoroughly enjoying your report as I have been to many of the places you are describing so well. I have been to Windsor a number of times, including in the middle of winter when the fog was so thick I could barely even see the castle. Windsor is always great to visit. 

 

Thank you!  That photo was taken at 8:50am when we were just the 2nd tour bus to arrive and none of the stores had opened for the day.  It was one of the rare moments on our trip when it was easy to make sure no one else was in the photo because the streets of Windsor were deserted at that hour!  The only people around were staff reporting to work at Windsor Castle and tourists being directed straight to the entrance line without a chance to veer off course hehe

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Once we got going, Andy explained that we would need about 2 hours to get to Bath.  He spent some of that time walking through the bus and speaking to each couple in case we had any questions.  I took this opportunity to ask something that I had been wondering all week but felt kind of silly about asking.  I asked Andy about what will happen to the British National Anthem after the Queen is no longer the Queen.  The song is “G-d Save the Queen” so what will they do when Prince Charles or Prince William takes the throne?  He said they will change the lyrics to “G-d Save the King”!  Simple enough, but she has been the Queen my whole life so I wasn’t sure how it would be handled when there is a King!  Now I know 😜

 

We spent the rest of the 2 hours just relaxing on the bus.  The bus had strong air conditioning, which was much appreciated on this hot summer day, and there were USB charging ports at each seat so we could keep our phones charged.  There wasn’t much to look at during our journey… just a lot of grass and trees!

 

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As we got closer to Bath, we spotted some animals grazing in the pasture.  I’m not sure if they were sheep or goats.

 

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I loved how the bushes and trees made the countryside look like a patchwork quilt!

 

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Exactly 2 hours after leaving Windsor, we pulled up to a traffic circle in a quaint town, and Russell parked the bus.  Andy told us all to get off the bus because Russell could not stay here, but that he would return to this spot at 3pm to pick us up.  That gave us just an hour and a half to explore Bath, but first we had to follow Andy to the main attraction: The Roman Baths.  Some people on our tour did not pay for admission here, so they could spend the full 90 minutes exploring the town of Bath.  The rest of us followed Andy down the street to a plaza in front of the Bath Abbey, and we were told to wait here until we could enter the baths.

 

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The Roman Baths date back to around 40AD when the Romans invaded Britain and discovered the natural hot springs in this region.  They channeled the hot mineral water through lead pipes to create a series of baths, heated steam rooms, and plunge pools.  They spent the next 300 years developing this complex with a large bathhouse, a religious temple, a several public pools.  When the Romans left in 410AD, the baths were abandoned until they were rediscovered in the late 1800s and could be restored to the tourist site we know today.

 

It was very busy at this time, with 6 sections of corrals for 6 tour buses.  One by one, the sections were allowed to enter the baths, so I guess they were trying to regulate traffic to avoid overcrowding.  We finally got to enter at 2pm, so I wasn’t thrilled that we wasted one third of our precious time here with just waiting in line.  When we entered, an agent explained that we must not touch the water in the baths in any way because there is a bacteria in the water which can be very harmful.  That sounded kind of gross, so no worries, I’ll keep a safe distance away from the water!  The audioguides are included with the cost of your admission, so we took them and started walking through the complex.  Andy had said you can speed through in 20 minutes, or you can linger for up to an hour (but then you would miss the bus!), so we tried to keep a good pace to leave us some time to explore the town of Bath when we exited.

 

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We listened to about half of the audioguide numbers because we just didn’t have the time or patience to listen to everything.  There is a ton of history here, but it was very crowded so we didn’t feel the need to linger very long.

 

This was the outer wall of the Temple Courtyard and a stone buttress to support the corner of the building over the Sacred Spring.

 

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This display shows a sampling of the over 12,000 Roman coins found at the bottom of the Sacred Spring.

 

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This is the spring overflow which carries surplus water from the hot spring to the original Roman drain, and on to the River Avon back near the traffic circle where we got off the bus.

 

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We continued exploring the museum for a few more minutes until we found our way outside to the Great Bath in the main courtyard.  There is algae in the water which makes it look green and murky, so it wasn’t an issue to comply with the rule to not touch the water because it was anything but inviting!

 

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This was one of the smaller pools inside the complex, and they had a video projected on the far wall to depict people bathing in the pools.

 

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This circular bath was filled with coins settled along the bottom

 

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A little blurry, but you get the idea…

 

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We took one last peek overlooking another pool before walking up the stairs to exit the baths.

 

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On the way out, we stopped to use the very clean restrooms, then bypassed the souvenir shop to exit back out onto one of the back alleys in the town of Bath.

 

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It was now 2:30pm, so we spent 30 minutes exploring the Roman Baths.  Sure, it would have been nice to spend more time here and to really scour each exhibit and listen to all of the audio guide recordings, but we knew that was not possible.  In order to hit these 3 major attractions in one day, we knew that we were signing up for short glimpses at each place and we were okay with that.  I definitely wanted some time to explore the town of Bath, however brief that would be. 

 

We walked passed a series of narrow streets and pedestrian alleys, lined with shops and cafes.

 

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Turning around the corner, we had a beautiful view of the medieval gothic Bath Abbey.

 

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At this point, DH was hungry and wanted to find somewhere to buy a snack.  We had about 20 minutes to go until we needed to be on the bus so we split up and he walked around the town looking for food while I walked out towards the Parade Gardens overlooking the River Avon to get some photos.

 

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This is the Pulteney Weir, a dam built in the 1600’s to prevent flooding in the town of Bath, which was later updated in the 1970’s to create this V-shaped design.  In the background, you can see the Pulteney Bridge which was built in the late 1700’s to cross the River Avon and eliminate the need for a ferry.

 

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I was so charmed by this little town, with something beautiful to see in every direction.

 

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The spire peeking out in the background is from St John the Evangelist’s Church, a Victorian Roman Catholic church that was badly damaged in WWII.

 

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8 hours ago, JaniceB said:

I finally got caught up with your review.  You covered a lot of ground miles.  I wish I was young again so I could keep up your pace.  Can't wait to hear the rest.

 

We averaged over 10 miles, over 20,000 steps, and over 20 flights of stairs every day of our trip without even trying to walk that much!  It's amazing how fast the miles add up!!

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As I returned to the traffic circle, I could see several tour buses lined up so I knew I’d better hurry up. 

 

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When I got back to the intersection where Russell dropped us off, I saw DH working his way through a fresh Belgian waffle topped with nutella.  He bought it from The Real Italian Ice Cream Company, and he was nice enough to save me a bite.  Wow, it was delicious!  We got back on the bus along with the last few people on our tour, and the bus pulled away at exactly 3pm.

 

Andy told us it would take one hour to get to our final stop at Stonehenge.  He handed out special maps and explained how we could use the laser pointer on the tip of our Vox Boxes to scan each number on the map and listen to the history of Stonehenge.  I have never seen anything like this before, but it was really easy to use.  Andy recommended that we spend our time on the bus listening to all of the audio files so that we could focus our time at Stonehenge actually seeing the stones and taking photos instead of trying to listen to the audio guide in our limited time out there.

 

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We pulled into the parking lot at exactly 4pm.  It’s amazing how all of our stops today were such precise distances away (exactly 1 hour from London to Windsor, 2 hours from Windsor to Bath, and now exactly 1 hour from Bath to Stonehenge!)  Andy said our bus would be departing at 5:20pm to return to London, and he pointed us down a path towards the visitor center where we could board a shuttle to drive us out to the stones.  There is a trail if you choose to walk out to the stones, but that would take 30 minutes so we did not have enough time to do that (nor did we really want to walk when there was the option of taking a 5-minute bus ride haha).  There were already several people from other tour buses waiting in line to take the shuttle, so we couldn’t fit on the first one to arrive.  Luckily, another shuttle pulled up a minute later.  Along the way, you have views out over the vast countryside, with nothing but grass and trees as far as the eye can see.

 

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When you exit the shuttle, it is very obvious where to go next.  There is a long path through the grass leading up to and around the stones.  By now, it was late in the afternoon, and there were hundreds of other tourists here with us, but since the path encircling the stones is so large, it never really felt crowded.

 

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You can see lots of people crowded on the right side of this photo.  You are not permitted to walk directly up to the stones, and you must stay on the marked path which forms a circle around the entire perimeter.  The spot where all those people are standing is the closest point to the stones.  We opted to walk clockwise around the stones so we would end our loop at that spot as a grand finale.

 

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This was such a huge bucket list moment for us.  We both found it so fascinating to learn the history of Stonehenge and how it was possibly used as a burial ground.  Archeologists believe this monument dates back to 3000BC.  It just seems so incredible to imagine that these stones have stood in this position for 5000 years!  We took our time walking around the perimeter and pondering how on earth those people carried these enormous stones without using a wheel. 

 

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This arrow lines up to the path of the sun on December 21 as it sets precisely between the opening between the stones on the Winter Solstice.  There is a similar view directly across the stones where the sun lines up on June 21 for the Summer Solstice.  We were here just 10 days after the Summer Solstice, but that was actually a good thing because Stonehenge is closed to tours on that day!

 

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We spent about half an hour walking around the stones and taking it all in.  Unlike Windsor Castle and Bath, I thought that was the perfect amount of time to spend at Stonehenge and I was ready to head back at that point.  It was now 4:45pm, so we walked back to the shuttle bus pick up location and were met by a huge line of people!  Oh my!  All of those people who had been crowded around the stones were now all leaving at the exact same time as us.  Bus after bus arrived and we were still no where near the front of the line.  I think we waited for 4 or 5 buses until we could finally board, so that took much more time than we anticipated.  We knew it would be a long bus ride back to London so we wanted a few minutes to use the restrooms, but by the time we got back to the visitor center, it was already 5:10pm.  Of course, you must walk through the souvenir shop upon exiting the shuttle, and there were no signs pointing us towards the restrooms.  We walked as quickly as possible around the shop to the exit, found an employee and asked where we could find the restrooms as precious minutes ticked away. 

 

Mission accomplished, we then had to find our way back out to the coach bus parking lot, and all the way to the back of the lot where our bus was parked.  We got back to the bus at 5:25pm, just as Andy was getting ready to close the doors!  Whew!  It was such a relief that he waited for us, and I have a feeling we weren’t the only ones having trouble getting back to the bus on time!  Unfortunately, we waited until 5:30pm and were still missing two people.  Andy arranged to send those people back on one of the other Evan Evans buses who were due to depart a little later.  I can only imagine how stressful it would be for that couple when they arrived back at our bus’s parking spot and the bus was gone, with Andy and Russell no where in sight!  Hopefully the guide from the other bus had a way to identify this couple, and hopefully they didn’t leave any of their belongings on our bus. 

 

As we left Stonehenge, Andy said we would have a 2-hour drive back to London.  After such a long day of touring, it was nice to have this extended rest break, seated comfortably on an air conditioned bus.  As we were sitting near the front of the bus, we overheard Andy take a phone call shortly into the trip from the other tour guide who said he found the couple that missed our bus and they were all set to return on his bus instead. 

 

We hit a lot of traffic as we were getting closer to London, so Andy offered to make an extra stop in South Kensington near the Gloucester Road tube station.  We would be driving passed there on our way to the Victoria Coach Station so it was not out of the way, and it would allow people staying on the west side of the city to get back to their hotels that much sooner.  At first, we ignored his offer, but the more I thought about it, I realized we should take advantage of the opportunity.  We didn’t have anything pre-planned to do tonight, so if we hopped off the bus at the first stop, we would be just a few blocks from Hyde Park and Kensington Palace.  I had considered going there on Tuesday morning before our flight home, but the more I thought about it, I realized it made more sense to check those places off the to-do list tonight while we were already so close by, and then we could do something else tomorrow.

 

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Russell stopped the bus on a street corner across from the Gloucester Road tube station at 7:30pm.  We had officially spent 6 hours on that bus today, but amazingly, it did not feel as overwhelming as it sounds.  We really enjoyed our day with Evan Evans Tours.  Yes, we felt rushed in Windsor and in Bath.  Yes, we wished we could spend more time at each of the attractions.  Yes, we spent the same amount of time on that bus as we did off the bus exploring each destination.  But we knew what we were signing up for when we booked this tour, and we knew that if we wanted to see Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge in one day, then it would make for a very long day with only a limited glimpse at each of those places.  With that in mind, we checked off a few more places on our bucket list and we learned a lot about the history of this region.

 

With the help of Google Maps, we walked up towards Hyde Park.  This was a really pretty section of London and I wished we had more time to explore, but it was late, we were hungry, and we wanted to get to Kensington Palace before dark which meant dinner had to wait.  Hyde Park is huge, but we only had time to cut through a small section on the western edge. 

 

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As we approached Kensington Palace, we could see lots of signs hanging on the exterior fence.  As it turned out, we were here on July 1, which was Princess Diana’s birthday, so there was a tribute set up for her on the fence.

 

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By now, it was nearly 8pm and the palace had already closed for the day.  We weren’t planning to go inside anyway, but it would have been nice to walk around the grounds.  Unfortunately, the gates were locked and this was as close as we could get.

 

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We were starving, so we didn’t stay long and left the park in search of somewhere to eat dinner.  I had seen photos of a pub nearby here on one of my social media feeds and wanted to eat dinner there.  As the crow flies, it seemed like it was very close by, but the way the roads go, we had to walk out of our way out to a main road, then double back in towards the pub.  We didn’t know the best way to exit the park, so we just started walking west away from Kensington Palace.  That brought us out to a beautiful tree-lined street called Kensington Palace Gardens.  This street is home to about 20 embassies for countries like Italy, France, Nepal, Lebanon, and Russia.  It felt like walking around Epcot Center in Disneyworld!  Country after country lined up next to each other, and it was fun to try to guess what country was coming up next!  That was an unexpected but fun way to pass the time as we walked towards dinner.

 

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After nearly a mile of walking, we approached The Churchill Arms pub and I was immediately obsessed.  This building looked like something out of a fairy tale, with bright flowers covering the outer walls, and flags flying in the breeze on the roof.  There were tons of people standing outside, enjoying a pint while chatting with their friends.

 

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We went inside, expecting to see what happened at most of the other pubs we visited this week… tons of people drinking outside, but no one eating dinner inside.  It was now 8:30pm on a Monday night, so you would think that was an off-peak time.  Nope!  It was sooooo crowded inside this pub and we didn’t see a single open table.  We walked through the whole pub to the back where there was a waiter with a clipboard for the waiting list and he said it would be a 30 minute wait to be seated.  It seemed like most people eating here were locals, so I found it kind of weird that it was so crowded this late on a work night… don’t these people have to go to work tomorrow morning??  By now, I was beyond starving and there was no way I could wait 30 minutes to be seated, plus even longer to get my food, so unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be and we had to leave.  Reviews online say this place serves good thai food, but I’ll have to come back another time if I want to try it.

 

As we were walking towards Churchill Arms, I noticed another pub called Old Swan further up the street, so we doubled back to check it out.  It was kind of hard to change mentalities because I was looking forward to thai food for dinner and now we’d be eating British food… again… but I was way too hungry to start wandering around to find somewhere different.  Old Swan was about one-third full, so there were enough locals eating here that we figured it must serve tasty food, but not so crowded that we’d have to wait for a table. 

 

The bartender told us to sit wherever we wanted, and to come see her at the bar to place our food and drink orders.  I ordered a cider (of course!) and a steak and ale pie.  It was pretty good, but honestly, I was so hungry that I would have thought a pile of cement tasted good haha

 

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We finished up dinner around 9:30pm and just headed back to the hotel for the night.  In theory, we could have gone out to another pub, or explored the neighborhood a little more, or even walked up to Notting Hill which was just a few blocks away, but we were tired and still needed to pack up our bags before checking out of the hotel tomorrow morning.  If you remember back to our first day in London, I mentioned that DH had a mission to visit as many pubs as possible.  The qualification for if the pub “counted” in our tally was if we each had one drink at the pub, so the grand total for our 5 days in London came out to 11 pubs!  Not too shabby!

 

Luckily, we were very close by the Notting Hill Gate Underground Station, so we hopped on the Tube to get back to the hotel.

 

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Fitbit Daily Summary… Steps: 19,502,  Miles: 9.41,  Flights of Stairs: 13 (not bad for a day when we spent 6 hours on a bus!!)

 

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6 hours ago, deladane said:

If you remember back to our first day in London, I mentioned that DH had a mission to visit as many pubs as possible.  The qualification for if the pub “counted” in our tally was if we each had one drink at the pub, so the grand total for our 5 days in London came out to 11 pubs!  Not too shabby!

 

 

 

I was able to beat your number of pubs in one night with friends from work. We did a Circle Line pub crawl. We made it to 13 pubs that night.

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PCrum. "We spent two nights in Windsor after our TA cruise in April/May, "

Where did you stay in Windsor...spending a week in London area pre-cruise and would like to spend a few days/nights renting a cars and touring Windsor, Bath, Stonehenge and Oxford... All suggestions welcomed

 

 Dana your help and advice is so valuable...thanks...I am definitely going to check where else you have reviewed....how about a cruise to the Midnight Sun and a River Cruise in China!

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3 hours ago, geoherb said:

 

I was able to beat your number of pubs in one night with friends from work. We did a Circle Line pub crawl. We made it to 13 pubs that night.

 

Whoa!  Sounds like a fun tour, but that is a lot of pints of beer!  We popped into a few other pubs but those didn't count in our tally because we didn't both have a drink there.  

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2 hours ago, pd7277 said:

I'm still here Dana!  I even passed the link onto a co-worker that is headed to Paris next week.  She said she picked up quite a few helpful tips. 😀

 

Glad you're still checking in 🙂  Hope your co-worker has a wonderful trip to Paris!

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11 minutes ago, deec said:

PCrum. "We spent two nights in Windsor after our TA cruise in April/May, "

Where did you stay in Windsor...spending a week in London area pre-cruise and would like to spend a few days/nights renting a cars and touring Windsor, Bath, Stonehenge and Oxford... All suggestions welcomed

 

 Dana your help and advice is so valuable...thanks...I am definitely going to check where else you have reviewed....how about a cruise to the Midnight Sun and a River Cruise in China!

 

England is the furthest north I've visited on the other side of the pond, and the only places I've visited in Asia are Israel and Turkey, so unfortunately I haven't reviewed those cruises!  Click the link at the top of my signature for a list of all my prior Cruise Critic reviews... my personal favorite was the Paul Gauguin cruise in 2017, but there's also a bunch of Caribbean cruises and a Mediterranean cruise too! 🌴

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Tuesday, July 2, 2019 ~ Tower Bridge, Borough Market, and flying from London to New York

 

Reality set in when we woke up this morning and realized our time in London was coming to an end.  Luckily, our flight wasn’t until 5pm, so we had a few hours left to play tourist before heading to the airport.  We ate a quick breakfast downstairs in the hotel, then went back to the room to finish packing our luggage (which was quite a fiasco considering the tiny size our hotel room!).  I spoke to the receptionist about checking out of the hotel while DH carried everything down to the lobby so they could hold our bags. 

 

I had a few ideas of things we could do for our last few hours in London.  We could have gone to Abbey Road to take photos of the famous crosswalk from the Beatles album, or gone shopping at Harrods, or explored Camden Market.  In the end, we decided to go back down to Tower Bridge because we had yet to take a good photo with the bridge and we wanted to walk across it.  By now, we had taken the Tube to the Tower Hill station several times, so at least it was familiar and we knew where to go!

 

As we approached the Tower of London, we could see that the gates were open and we could access the walkway along the Thames River.  This was where we tried to go the other night but couldn’t get there because the gate was closed.

 

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This was as close as we got to entering the Tower of London… We peaked inside the gates as we walked along the sidewalk.  I’m sure there’s plenty more to see inside those stone walls, but that will have to wait until a future visit to London!

 

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The puffy white clouds made for a beautiful backdrop!  After a heat wave over the weekend, the temperatures were in the low 70’s this morning, so it was the perfect weather for a little walk around the city.

 

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