One of my many distractions lately is travel planning. After spending several months living in the wilds of Lower Alabama, I’m getting to take a bit of a vacation. Right now, face a 60-minute round-trip commute to get to the nearest bookstore (a marginally acceptable Barnes and Noble). If I’m going to make a longer trip to restock the larder, I might as well go the full Monty and hit the Waterstone’s on Piccadilly Circus.
So I’m off to Europe for a few weeks at the beginning of April. I’ve got the rough outline sketched in, and I’m hoping that some of you can help me fill in some of the details before I go. Here’s what I’m looking at so far:
On the morning of 5 April, I arrive in London. I have a hotel booked in Central London for the following week. I also have a BritRail England pass, which gives me unlimited rail travel through England for that week. On the morning of 12 April, I depart for Frankfurt. I’ll be staying with friends there for two nights, and heading on to Paris on the 14th. On the 15th, my wife and children will be arriving in Paris. We’re planning to head to Normandy for a couple of days, then meet up with my parents back in Paris, head down to see some of my wife’s family in Auvergne, and then get back to Paris on the 20th or 21st. On the 24th, I’m taking the train back to London, and I’ll be flying home early on the 25th.
Right now, I’ve only got some tentative plans for the week that I’ll be basing out of London. I’d like to make sure I get my money’s worth out of the rail pass, and I’m very much open to advice on ways to do that.
The last time I was in the UK, I got out to Oxford, Cambridge, Stonehenge, and Down House. Here’s what I’m thinking about for this trip, in order of priority:
Nottingham. This one’s actually a bit of a priority for me. I’m a long-time Warhammer and 40K geek, and I’d like to get to Warhammer World, if only for a few hours. I’m probably going to do this on the 7th, and only for part of the day.
York. I’d like to see at least York Minster, the walls, and the Railway Museum. (Yes, I’m also a transport geek. In fact, I have lots of hobbies, and all of them are geeky in one way or another. At the moment, this is a very good thing, because it helps me compensate for the fact that I seem to have somehow wound up making a living in sports and aquatics.) I’m not sure if I’m going to go to Jorvik or not – if anyone’s been there, and has a review, please let me know. I’m strongly considering DIG, or at least the Hungate tour. (Again, opinions from those who’ve done any of those are very welcome.) At the moment, I’ve tentatively decided to head to York on the 6th.
Dover. Dover Castle, in particular, has a lot of appeal, and I’d like to take an hour or two to walk along some of the paths that head toward the White Cliffs.
Canterbury. I’ve wanted to see the place since I read Canterbury Tales in high school, but somehow didn’t get around to it last trip. I might stop there the same day I go to Dover.
Those are the places I’ve got the strongest feelings about, at least for the moment. I’m considering a number of others – Bath, Salisbury, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Colchester – but haven’t settled on any of them, or even tried to sort out which I want to get to most yet. I also wouldn’t mind getting back to Oxford or Down House, but I don’t know that I want to sacrifice going someplace new to get back to either of those.
London. This will be my third time in London. Last time, Matt Brown (who was then working at Nature Network, and is now at the Londonist) took us on a couple of fantastic walking tours that covered a good bit of the scientific heritage of the city. But, London being London, there are still a lot of places I haven’t seen yet, and quite a few that I have, but want to see again. Suggestions here would be good – I’ve been to most of the major sights already at least once, but I’m open to any sort of suggestions here. About the only thing on my “I’m definitely not skipping out on again” list is Kew Gardens. Everything else is open.
Germany. I really haven’t done much planning on this one. One of my local hosts was going to ask for advice on another blog. I’ll link that when it goes up.
France. My family is doing most of the planning for this part of the trip. Since they’re being nice enough to let me go off and explore on my own for 10 days, I’m not going to argue with them much. Still, suggestions, particularly for Paris, would be appreciated.