Exploring Outside of London

It’s no secret that we are Starwood people.  So it’s no surprise that we are staying at a Starwood property in London with our points.  You gotta love that “5th night free.”  So we had six days and five nights to plan out in London and the surrounding areas.  We already decided what we wanted to do in London, but we needed to nail down our day trips/excursions outside of London.

A high priority for my kids was seeing the Warner Bros Studio Tour for Harry Potter.  It is an hour outside of London and a popular day trip.  Our family had talked about this excursion for almost a year.  In my travel planning, I had bought every other ticket imaginable, and for some reason, I failed to buy that one.  It hit me one day as I was driving home.  I had a “palm to forehead” moment!   I was in major panic mode as I rushed upstairs to my office.  With one month advance, I went online to book the tickets.  Nothing!  Nothing available for the ENTIRE duration of our London visit!  I scrambled to look for other resellers.  The only tickets available were through a tour company (clearly more expensive and restrictive) and were for the day AFTER we were supposed to leave London for the countryside.  So what did I do?  Yup!  I rearranged our whole trip so that we would be able to go see Harry Potter.  What a pain!  When I relayed this story to my youngest daughter, she interrupted me half way through and said, “mom, please tell me that in the end we are still going to see Harry Potter!”  Fingers crossed that this is a great excursion, because it ended up being a lot of money and finagling on my part.  However, I am grateful that I even had an option…I never would have lived down that mistake.  Such is life when you travel with kids/teens.

There are a multitude of other short day trips that you can take by train from London.  We considered several to fill an additional open day in our itinerary.  I really wanted to go to Oxford and Blenheim, but the train ride is over an hour just to Oxford, and then you need to take a bus to Blenheim.  It’s much better suited for a car trip.  We will have to save it for next time. We also considered Canterbury.  It is also well over an hour by train, and while it is rich in history, we weren’t sure our daughters (12 and 13) would appreciate it as much as we would (they won’t be reading Canterbury tales anytime soon).  We settled on Windsor because it is incredibly convenient at only 30 minutes by train and very family friendly.  We plan to canoe down the Thames while we are there (with a guide of course) to make things a bit more interesting (praying for good weather).  We will also visit Windsor Castle and we can compare it to the digs we see at Buckingham Palace.

Beyond our time in the London area, we also wanted to spend a day or so exploring the countryside.  We felt the best way to do so would be by car.  I chose to go to the town of Bath because of its history.  It also has a lovely location near the Cotswolds, an area of quaint and quintessential English villages.  My husband is a bit wary of driving on the other side of the road.  And he refuses to drive in big European cities.  So I rented us a car leaving from the airport…this way we will already be outside of London.  Also, I researched to ensure that our hotel in Bath has a parking lot (no parking on cobblestone streets).

We only plan to spend one night in Bath, but that will be enough to see the Roman Baths, the Bath Abbey and eat at Sotto Sotto, an Italian restaurant with amazing reviews (sticking with the Roman tradition).   On our way back to London from Bath, we will stop at Stonehenge and Salisbury.  Stonehenge has obvious fame.  Salisbury is home to the highest steeple in the UK and an original copy of Magna Carta (thanks to our friends for this fun tip).

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