England – Getting There

Portland to London to Bath

We have never been overseas before. Our only trips outside the country have been to Vancouver, BC, and that is basically just like home, but bigger. So we saved up my vacation time this year and planned a trip in the fall, after the crazy summer vacation season was over, to England.

We planned to follow the two week trip outlined in Rick Steve’s Best of England book, but modified a bit for our interests and how much time we had to spend. We didn’t have quite two weeks so we shortened it up a bit. We aimed to include some local theater as we went. We spent lots of time pouring over maps and reading travel journals, and ended up deciding to fly to London and go directly to Bath, as Rick recommends, then on to Stratford on Avon to see Shakespeare’s hometown, and Warwick Castle (can’t go to England and NOT see a castle), then on to York, to see some of the countryside from my beloved James Herriot books, then back to London to finally experience the big city. Dave organized trains to get us from one place to another.

We arrived at the Portland Airport all ready for our adventure. Dave insisted we take the required airport carpet shot.


And our chariot awaits!

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We had a LONG flight ahead of us  – 9 hours, 4500 miles, or thereabouts. I was a bit nervous about it, because I have never been in a tube hurtling over the ocean in the middle of the night before.

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This made it all more bearable. Particularly since once we crossed over into Canada we couldn’t see anything out the window because of the clouds.

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The next morning we landed in London, got through customs pretty quickly, and were off on our adventure! As soon as we could get out of the airport. To do that we would use our train tickets, and get our train discount pass, which we couldn’t get sent to us in the US, but websites had indicated all we had to do was pick it up once we arrived. But we soon found out you couldn’t pick it up in Heathrow, and in fact the people there didn’t think we could get one at all. ‘Oh no,’ they said, ‘you have to mail away for that, you can’t just go get one!’ But someone suggested we take the train out of the airport and get off at our first stop and talk to the train office there, and hopefully if anyone asked us for our pass before that they would be merciful. So we did just that. And sure enough at the first stop there was a train office, and we asked the guy if we could get a pass and he handed us a long piece of paper to fill out. Dave said ‘can we get it today?’ and the guy was like ‘sure, I’ll make it right up for you’! Whew! First Problem, solved!

Soon we were back on the train, and a short ride later we were in Reading on a layover, waiting for our train to Bath. Reading was not on our itinerary, but we had a bit of time to walk around, and so it was the first place in England we really saw. We didn’t even really get a glimpse of London as we zipped away on the train. We were amazed by the cool old buildings mixed in with new ones in Reading.

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We stopped for some hot cocoa to pass the time at a Starbucks while Dave tried to get our phone working with the UK Simm card. That would soon become Problem Number 2. It turned out our unlocked Samsung was a US -only model, and apparently could not talk to the UK network. We found this out after spending much of our Reading layover hanging out in a ‘3’ store while they tried to help us get it working. Their final conclusion was that that phone was not going to work for us, and since our other phones were still locked to AT&T, we would have to buy another phone that would work, or go without.

We grabbed some lunch in the train station (a real pastie!) and headed on to Bath. We had a bit of trouble because we had reserved seats, but people were sitting in them. We weren’t even sure we were in the right cars. Loading on the train happened fast! We found places to sit, but it was kind of awkward. Luckily it was a short trip. Soon we were in beautiful Bath.

We had to walk about a mile to our AirBnB, hauling our duffle bags over our shoulders. It was feeling like a bit of a marathon at that point. There was so much to see! But we bee-lined it to our new home for the next few days. Bath is full of Georgian townhomes, many of them in long lines all right together. Ours was in one of these (I took this photo a couple days later, it was pretty gloomy the day we arrived) Count up 6 chimneys, and it was the green door. We were up on the very very top floor.

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It was very cute inside, all modern, and it had a lovely view of the hills.

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Dave found this on the nightstand, which was cool because he had just finished doing a play of Baskerville.


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So, here we were, in a new town, halfway (well, a third of the way maybe) around the planet, in a different time zone, wide awake while our friends at home were still in bed. Crazy! I think we had an early dinner somewhere, then went to bed and crashed, because although it was barely evening here, our bodies thought it was something like 4AM. There would be plenty of time to explore tomorrow!


The whole trip:

England – Getting There

England – Bath

England – Stratford on Avon and Warwick Castle

England – York

England – York Part 2

England – London

England – London Part 2

England – London Part 3

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