So I'm going to the UK(!!!)...

skatefan

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Plane tickets purchased yesterday, it's gotten real!

I ended up getting advanced tickets to London over Easter weekend + a flexible Britrail pass for 3 days within April 14-May 13 that I can use for day trips to Edinburgh and Cambridge. I checked and Oxford's over 3 hours by train, not impossible but more than I'd want for a day trip (unless I can find a seriously cheap place to stay overnight which I'm not expecting). :( Bath is even farther so likely a no-go, hopefully I'll have more chances in the future.

Besides York both Manchester and Sheffield are very close by bus, so let me know if there are good sights to see there! :)
Could I just point out that no way is Edinburgh a day trip from Leeds - you will need more time than that :) Haworth is worth a day trip particularly if you are interested in anything Bronte related (my sister in law works in the Parsonage).
ETA @Louis Thankfully I have never heard the word 'diarise' :scream:
 

Lara

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I don't doubt I'll wish I had more time, but I'll at least have a full afternoon to tour the Royal Mile and castle if I take an early train? I can arrive as early as 10:24 (more likely 11:03) if I go on a Saturday.

If I should really reconsider let me know.
 

Vagabond

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I don't doubt I'll wish I had more time, but I'll at least have a full afternoon to tour the Royal Mile and castle if I take an early train? I can arrive as early as 10:24 (more likely 11:03) if I go on a Saturday.

If I should really reconsider let me know.
That's certainly feasible, though you'll be missing out on the New Town! Can't you make an overnight trip?

If you do go, make sure to stop off at The Fudge House, at 197, Cannongate. 😋
 

skatefan

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I don't doubt I'll wish I had more time, but I'll at least have a full afternoon to tour the Royal Mile and castle if I take an early train? I can arrive as early as 10:24 (more likely 11:03) if I go on a Saturday.

If I should really reconsider let me know.
I guess if you take a late train back you could do a whistle stop tour http://edinburgh.org/discover/itineraries/one-day/
If you had a weekend you could travel back via Berwick-upon-Tweed which is lovely with Holy Island+Lindisfarne nature reserve and down in Seahouses you can watch the seals :)
 

Lara

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Arrived safely to the most stereotypical possible rainy British weather which unfortunately continued today. :lol: I knew to expect it but would’ve been nice to hold off till I was all settled!

Before I left my Dad found some YouTube videos on British homes and they were pretty bang on. Two faucets in the bathroom sink, on/off switches for the power sockets (is it genuinely bad to just leave them on?), light cords, combination washer/dryer in the kitchen. I have cable TV but didn’t find Eurosport. :wuzrobbed

They weren’t kidding about Leeds being a shopping mecca, I only wish the walk to the city center was shorter (still doable though). Very chain-heavy but the architecture was neat, you definitely feel like you’re in Europe!

I got my UK SIM card from O2 - £15 for 5GB data, I’m going to feel so ripped off when I return to Canada and have to pay $75 minimum.

Off to the hospital to meet my supervisor soon, she seems nice so fingers crossed.
 

antmanb

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They weren’t kidding about Leeds being a shopping mecca, I only wish the walk to the city center was shorter (still doable though). Very chain-heavy but the architecture was neat, you definitely feel like you’re in Europe!
I was in Leeds two weekends ago and went to a really nice place for brunch and coffee with friends before leaving. Its called Friends of Ham very near the train station.

I thought it was a bit on the expensive side, but loved it.
 

hanca

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Arrived safely to the most stereotypical possible rainy British weather which unfortunately continued today. :lol: I knew to expect it but would’ve been nice to hold off till I was all settled.
I told you it would be raining. But Louis posted here that he almost never needed an umbrella...
 
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Louis

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@Lara, I got two offers that made me think of you. The first is Eurosport Player (for Worlds). You can get your first month for 99p (and then cancel) with the code UK99.

The second was from Virgin Trains, quoted below, via Nectar.

Virgin Trains West Coast are having an amazing spring sale and are giving away an extra 500 bonus points when you book your tickets between 15 – 19 March 2018 and travel between 3 April – 1 June 2018.

With tickets from as low as £5, book yourself a trip to some of the greatest destinations around the UK. Why not travel between:

• London and Birmingham (£5 each way)
• London and Manchester (£11 each way)
• London and Glasgow (£18 each way)...

Or travel in style in First Class from just £17 (between London and Birmingham).
 

Twilight1

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When I was in England last April, it rained on 2 days of 9 (1 day on London, 1 day in York). When I was at Chatsworth, the sun was shining and I got a bit of a sunburn.

I did bring an unbrella but actually never used it.
 

Lara

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Thanks @Louis! I'm hoping to get the ethernet port working Monday so my Apple TV can work. There's a Eurosport app so I'll be set for Worlds (basically in my time zone, yay!) I'll definitely check out the train sale, hopefully Virgin East has it too.

And I made sure to bring enough warm clothes so I'm good! My flat has good heating (both radiators and shower) which was a huge relief. It's been strange today, it keeps clearing up (at least partly) and then it'll start snowing again briefly. But it's definitely nowhere near as cold as home even with the wind.

Got groceries and supplies today at Morrison's so I'm a lot more set now. :cheer2:
 

mella

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Before I left my Dad found some YouTube videos on British homes and they were pretty bang on. Two faucets in the bathroom sink, on/off switches for the power sockets (is it genuinely bad to just leave them on?)
Late to this thread... I now have switches on my sockets but for years did not and left things plugged in and on standby. Never had any issues - although I do have a friend who's obsessive about unplugging stuff.

Hope you're having a great time and settling in.
 

Miezekatze

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220 volts AC is a strange creature, so there probably is more risk of :yikes: if something is plugged into the socket while the switch is on.
Well we have 220 volts in Germany (and everywhere else in Europe) and I've never even heard of power sockets with on/off switches, so I doubt that has anyhting to do with the volt...but then we have other sockets in Germany...maybe with the British sockets it's needed for whatever reason.
 

Lara

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So a bit belated but I needed to write about my London trip before I started forgetting. I ended up playing tourist way more than expected but it was all fantastic.

I arrived the Thursday night before Easter weekend. It was an easy train ride and I was lucky to get a window seat, though I expect the scenery will be more noteworthy when I go to Edinburgh. Since I arrived at King’s Cross of course I had to see if there was a Harry Potter reference and found a whole store lol. But I didn’t hang around since Louis was expecting me. So I headed out and finally saw the Underground logo in person, at which point I was pretty much internally freaking out. :lol:

It was great seeing Louis again, and Sweets (I’m sure I met him at least once previously) is extremely nice. I pretty much settled in for the evening so things pick up the next day.

I knew the weather was going to be less than ideal (it pretty much ranged from ok at best to miserable at worse during my stay) so since it was still dry I went straight to Kensington Gardens Friday morning. I walked from the Italian Gardens, passing the Diana playground to Kensington Palace. Either it was too early or closed for Good Friday, so I continued on to Kensington High Street and walked till I reached Holland Park. I’m glad I went in and persisted in heading to the Kyoto Garden because I fell in love with it. So so peaceful.

I took the tube back, had lunch and by then the rain hit hard so I figured a museum was best. I did have to wait outside a bit anyway, but I got into the British Museum and was able to see the Rosetta stone and mummies – very impressive! I also enjoyed the ancient Chinese ceramics, and it was neat to look at scrolls from the 1100’s and actually recognize some kanji from my Japanese studies. Which inspired me to check out a Japanese bookstore near Picadilly afterward, not nearly as big as Kinokuniya in NYC but more than I can get in Montreal! (I picked up a grammar reference book I’d wanted.)

Of course that meant walking around Picadilly, and OMG. I’ve been away from NYC for too long so was not used to the crowds. It really was London’s classier Times Square equivalent with all the theatres (the huge billboard was pretty cool to see too). But it felt insane! I got dinner at Wahaca (my first Mexican since moving back to Canada) and headed back. Unfortunately I managed to lose my visitor Oyster card on the tube ride home, which would have been less annoying if I hadn’t just topped it. And you have to scan the card to exit. :eek: Luckily a worker let me through and that ended up being the worse of the visit.

Random London things:

  1. Large placards (either on the sides of buildings or stone walls) with street names instead of small ones like in Leeds or North American street sign posts. Love that it’s not just Kensington but “the Royal Borough of”. :)
  2. All the red from the buses and telephone booths really does brighten the city and give it character!
  3. Loved the doors with the knob in the center instead of to the right, very distinct.
  4. Surely due to being in a heavily touristed area but I appreciated the “look left” and “look right” painted on the street lol. I’ll probably be so confused by the time I return home.
  5. You can tell the Tube is old but it’s definitely interesting and cool to take, I’ll miss hearing “Mind the Gap”.
  6. More a UK thing but for some reason I love all the mossy green tinged stones.

Next post will be day 2! I’ll get photos on Facebook soon if you’re Friends.
 
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Lara

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So Saturday morning I took the tube to Westminister. You practically don’t have to walk at all, just step out and Westminister Palace is right in front of you! Pretty awesome to see. I walked down the block and took photos, but didn’t go in. Instead I opted to cross the street to Westminister Abbey...and joined a very very long queue. Protip, buy tickets from their website in advance so you can get in quicker. It was 90 minutes and I was dying for my winter boots by the end, but it was completely worth the wait. Looking up, I felt like I’d have to fly to reach the ceiling, it’s incredible to think of the actual construction (Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet is a favorite book btw). Beautiful, historical and a real who’s who of British culture and science - Darwin, Dickens, Handel and Newton were some of those buried there in addition to all the royals (notably minus Henry VIII). Loved all the Poets Corner memorials and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was touching, it’s very prominent and the only grave protected from being walked on.

Before taking the tube back, I walked down to see the Elizabeth Tower/Big Ben which was sadly under scaffolds for repair work. :wuzrobbed At least I could see the clock! Shame but something to go back to in the future when the construction’s done. I also saw the London Eye for the first time. Apparently (per my tour guide the next day) it was meant to be moved to another city like Manchester but it generated too much $ to give up. I didn’t end up riding it during my stay given the weather, but I can see why they kept it – it really is a cool addition to London.

After a late lunch, I headed to Charring Cross station for Trafalgar Square. Like NYC’s Union Square it’s a great place just to hang out and people watch! Loved having Canada House next door too lol, I popped into their small gallery for a few minutes and signed the guest book.

I’d planned to keep walking, unfortunately the rain temporarily hit and I took refuge in the tube from Picadilly (I have never taken so long just to pass through the gates, that’s how many people there were). Then I headed to Covent Garden. Assuming I go back to London at least once before leaving, this is probably where I’ll want to go again. I remember loving Boylston street in Boston when I visited, and Covent Garden certainly equaled that - the architecture of the store buildings was lovely and just really nice for lack of a better word. One thing I’ve realized since coming to the UK is that while straight grids are easier to follow, curved streets give so so much more character. Love it. I also got to see the Royal Opera House, which I’d love to see a ballet performance in – fingers crossed. By the time I'd gotten back, ate and talked to my family it was already late evening, so that pretty much covered it.

On to day 3!
 

Lara

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Easter Sunday morning was dry so I went to Kensington Gardens again, this time taking a route passing the Peter Pan statue and the Princess Diana memorial fountain (I was just a bit too early so it hadn’t opened unfortunately). I saw some ducks and swans which was nice, I definitely think that even I would become a regular jogger if I had a park like this to go!

From there I walked to Knightsbridge, passing the huge Harrods and Harvey Nichols as well as other designer stores like Dior, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana. I hope someday I can be in London in December, the displays must be wonderful to see. There was a pretty big construction site at one point which made me feel back in Montreal. :lol::p

Per my photos I transitioned from the Borough of Chelsea into the city of Westminister. As I kept walking I passed a lot of very stately buildings (my photos say I was in Chesham Place) and a number of embassies or institutes around Belgrave Square. (There were others surrounding Hyde Park earlier as well iirc.) Not something I can see that often since I’ve never lived in a capital city!

Finally I reached my intended destination, Buckingham Palace in time for the 11am Changing of the Guards. The crowds were big as expected, but I managed to squeeze into the front of one of the side areas (being short can pay off sometimes). I’m honestly not sure exactly how much of the ceremony I actually saw from my position, but the guards did march by to music which was definitely cool.

After it was over and I’d taken photos of the Palace, I saw that there were hop on/off tour buses outside so I figured I’d get a ticket as my parents had recommended. It ended up heading to Westminister Palace, which worked out well since the ticket unexpectedly included a river Thames boat tour. So I got off and headed down to the boats at Westminister Pier on the South Bank. Fortunately the weather was just decent enough and it was a fun ride with good views. We went under Waterloo Bridge, Millenium Bridge, Westminister Bridge, London Bridge and then arrived at Tower Bridge which I was especially excited to finally see in person. The boat gave the option of continuing to Greenwich or getting off, which I did.

I hadn’t specifically planned on it but I wasn’t going to pass up the Tower of London when it was literally right there! So I got a ticket and joined a Beefeater giving a tour. A bit ironic to be hearing about executions (some particularly horrific) on Easter, but it was certainly interesting and I loved the old buildings. The line for the Crown Jewels wasn’t too terrible, so I went to see it after. Beautiful!

Then I went to get a closer view of the Bridge and finally caught the tour bus again. It passed some main areas like Trafalgar Square/Picadilly, not too new at this point but the live commentary was fun. We circled some of Hyde Park and I got off at Victoria Station for the tube back. At this point it was so late I skipped lunch and had an early dinner at an Indian restaurant nearby (not spectacular but pleasant, I liked the butter chicken and it didn’t hurt my stomach which was the important thing!)

It was getting to be dusk when I finished, and while there was still light I took a walk around the neighborhood which I really enjoyed. I especially liked the handful of Mews I stumbled on, and there actually was a stable at one point (which I saw a moment after I thought it smelled like horses lol). Then I got to a block with some restaurants, including a pub called The Victoria which looked especially inviting from the outside. The downstairs was nice, but I loved their “Library” room upstairs. Dark green trim, wood paneling, portraits on the walls, a beautiful fireplace, built in shelves with hardcover books. And quiet despite the other tables being filled. It was everything I could wish from an English pub and I’m so glad I happened to come across it.

That was it for day 3 - I think I’ve written enough for now, if you made it all the way through I’m impressed! I’ll try for day 4 tomorrow.
 

Simone411

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@Lara, I just checked because I thought that perhaps you could visit where some of my ancestors on my dad's side came from which is Berkshire, England. His name was John Cox, and came to the USA in the 1500's. I did a google search and it's around 195 miles from Leeds to Berkshire.

I know that Windsor Castle and Maidenhead is located in Berkshire. I've never been anywhere in Great Britain, but I'm sure others that live in Great Britain would know much more about Berkshire than I do. :)

ETA. I believe Berkshire is actually part of the United Kingdom and not Great Britain. Sorry, I'm a little mixed up about this. :)
 
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Vagabond

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ETA. I believe Berkshire is actually part of the United Kingdom and not Great Britain. Sorry, I'm a little mixed up about this. :)
Great Britain is the island, and the United Kingdom (formally, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irealand) is the sovereign country, comprised of England, Wales, and Scotland (all of which are in Great Britain) and Northern Ireland.
 

Lara

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Back, sorry I couldn’t finish before the weekend but least I had a good reason (currently recovering from a great day trip to Cambridge yesterday!) So here's day 4...

Monday morning (April 2) the heavy rain was back so I knew it wasn’t a day to walk around. I’m not a serious football/soccer fan but when I had watched some years ago I’d been partial to Arsenal’s playing style, and the movie Fever Pitch didn’t hurt lol. So since Emirates stadium was just a few stops further on the Picadilly line I made a quick pit stop. I picked up a keychain at the gift shop and went over the Ken Friar bridge with banners for players including Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp. The museum might have been nice but 10 pounds was a no (I wouldn’t like it if the Montreal Canadiens charged that!) But the stadium was still cool to see, and I remember seeing a father and son playing on some stair landings (large enough for the ball not to roll down) which made me smile.

By 10:30 or so I was back on the tube and opted for the National Galleries. I went to the Portrait Gallery first, from the Tudors up to the Victorian era and also including major writers/scientists like Dickens and Darwin. I really should have read up more on British history before coming to the UK (especially the Battle of the Roses given I'm in Yorkshire), but at least I had enough recollection not to be totally lost during my tours. Something to do in the meantime anyway!

Then I moved to the main gallery. Some of my favorites were the two Vermeers (A Young Woman Seated/Standing at a Virginal), Van Gogh’s sunflowers, Seurat’s Bathers at Asnieres and Monet’s The Scene at Port-Villez (unfortunately his water-lily painting was being prepared for a forthcoming exhibition). :wuzrobbed But van Eyck’s Arnofini portrait was the highlight. I had to pay since it was currently in a special exhibition, but it was definitely worth it for that painting alone. The color and details (even besides the mirror) were incredible to see in person.

Afterwards I got some needed rest and then set out again in the evening to Picadilly in an attempt to get tickets to Les Miserables. Unfortunately there were no last-minute cheap/standing seats, but the seat I did get was so good I have zero regrets about splurging. It seriously felt worth more than the ticket price! It’s almost needless to say how good the show was and all the solos were wonderful. Apparently Valjean (as well as Cosette) was an understudy, but you wouldn’t know - I didn’t feel I’d missed anything short of it actually being Colm Wilkinson. I’d always intended to see the play on Broadway someday, but seeing it in the city where it originated was even better – definitely a dream come true.

Break time but I should write up my last day later. Then hopefully catch up on the last two weekends!
 
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Lara

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@Lara, I just checked because I thought that perhaps you could visit where some of my ancestors on my dad's side came from which is Berkshire, England. His name was John Cox, and came to the USA in the 1500's. I did a google search and it's around 195 miles from Leeds to Berkshire.
Thanks Angie, I probably have too little time to make it there unfortunately but if I do have the chance I'll let you know!
 

Simone411

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No problem, @Lara and I totally understand. Day 4 sounded wonderful! The National Galleries sounded so intriguing especially about the paintings you got to see. Sorry you didn't get to see Monet's water-lily painting. I'm so happy you have the opportunity to go to all these places and that you're sharing with us! :love:
 

KCC

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@Lara, thanks for your notes on your trip! It sounds wonderful. DH and I are passing through London on our way to a cruise out of Southampton in July. We are doing some tourist stuff - Stonehenge, the New Forest, Salisbury, Windsor, etc., but unfortunately will only have one evening in London. Maybe we'll spend more time there on another trip.
 

Lara

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And here's day 5:

Tuesday (April 3) was my last day so tried to cover some spots I hadn’t seen yet. I started by taking the tube to Maida Vale, and walked to Abbey Road crossing. This is a random thing to recall, but sometime after moving back to Montreal I was playing around with Google Street views of London one evening and I’m pretty sure this was one of the spots I looked up. It still feels surreal to have been to these places in person! I was probably lucky in that it was relatively quiet. The crossing itself was pretty normal (I expect it’ll get repainted soon), but it was neat to see all the messages left on the adjacent gate wall for at least half a block, many containing Beatles song lyrics. I wonder how often it has to get repainted to allow for new ones?

I then took the tube to Oxford Circus so I could walk a bit around Oxford and Regent streets. I saw the Apple flagship store, definitely not your average location! (Neither was the one at Covent Gardens.) I ended up wandering into SoHo where there was a bar called John Snow, I assume it predates Game of Thrones lol. I loved the classic architecture on Oxford/Regent but SoHo did have more color. I got a few shirts at Uniqlo on the way back, fingers crossed they do open in Montreal as rumoured.

After lunch I had time for one last excursion, and it had to be Notting Hill. In retrospect I should have taken the tube since it was a relatively long walk which lost me time, but I probably wouldn’t have known to go to Ladbroke Grove instead of Notting Hill Gate anyway. I soon realized that there’s a reason “Hill” is in the name lol. Between that and the :swoon: Victorian houses I definitely got a San Francisco vibe. I liked that many of the houses had pretty pastel colors and then every so often you’d hit red or blue or purple ones that really stood out.

I finally approached Portobello Road and checked out two bookstores within about a block of each other, Lutyens & Rubinstein and The Notting Hill Bookshop. Both were wonderful (best indie stores I’ve been in since Kramerbooks in Washington DC) and the latter really did have a great travel section. Sadly no Hugh Grant to be seen but I did come across the blue door from the movie. :p There was a cute store called Happy Socks and I also discovered a great teashop chain called Whittard of Chelsea – I want one of their Alice in Wonderland themed mugs but can’t decide which one.

Sadly it was getting late so I didn’t quite make it to the heart of Portobello market with the antique stores. I had to head to Ladbroke Grove station to get back, finish packing and say my goodbyes and infinite appreciation to Louis and Sweets. Luckily there were no issues taking the tube to King’s Cross/St. Pancreas. I had time to browse the Harry Potter shop a bit (though there really is no shortage of places to get merchandise in the UK!) and pick up a Pret sandwich before the train arrived. A little bittersweet but I was too grateful for the trip to be very sad about leaving. No issues with the train back, it gave me the chance to catch up on my kanji lessons (albeit very painfully given my exhaustion).

So I think that pretty much covered the London trip – my first but hopefully not last. :) I hope I could convey how much I enjoyed it regardless of the weather! Thanks to everyone who’s been following so far, I definitely want to keep it up and write up my trips to Haworth and Cambridge next.
 

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