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Re: Visiting the UK in April]

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  • Timothy Park
    Dear Jon: I ve traveled to the UK a few times and consider myself a savvy enough traveler that I ll make a few recommendations. I am assuming an historical
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7, 2010
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      Dear Jon:

      I've traveled to the UK a few times and consider myself a savvy enough
      traveler that I'll make a few recommendations.

      I am assuming an historical bent (probably a safe assumption) so will
      lean my comments for that. Your mileage may vary of course and things
      may have changed since I was there.

      _London
      _
      British Museum: You *must*. Sutton Hoo goods, originals of Beowulf and
      Lindisfarne Gospels and more. Oh, and they have these hunks of marble
      from the Parthenon or some such place and this thing that a chicken
      walked on from Rosetta. Biggest pile of loot on the planet, must go. Must.

      I'm not sure what's up with the Royal Armory. I've visited it in both
      Leeds and the Tower of London, I don't know if it's both places because
      it was 25 years between visits. The Tower is worth a visit, even without
      the Armory.

      Westminister Abbey and Chapel are worth a look too. Edward the Confessor
      (who had it built and whose death touched off the series of events we
      refer to as 1066) is buried there with Elizabeth and Mary and many
      others of note. The architecture is lovely. The cloisters are where Wm.
      Caxton set up the first printing press in English. The Chapel next door
      is often overlooked. Not worth a lot of time but if you appreciate
      Caxton (printer of Malory's /Le Morte D'Arthur/ among other things) the
      memorial to him by the London Typographer's Guild is worth a look.

      If you can tour Parliament, do so. What struck me most was Westminster
      Hall, which is attached and was the scene of Thomas More's trial, and
      many other events historical. The hammerbeams are awesome (and if you
      make it to a place like Durham Cathedral the contrast is astonishing!).

      Windsor, Winchester and Salisbury are possible day trips from London.
      (Even Durham, but no one there will agree with that.)

      Salisbury has a good Cathedral and is where you go to get to Stonehenge
      (which is either *really cool* or just a pile of rocks, I'm in the cool
      category).

      _York_

      As you've mention Jorvik, I won't.

      The Cathedral has merit. I don't recall much else except walking the old
      city walls a bit. It was 1986 and we did York and Durham as a day trip
      and it was a good day.

      _Durham_

      I recommend. I didn't see anything but the Cathedral and the grounds of
      the University (which is where the Cathedral is). I recommend it because
      the Cathedral is *different* on many levels. My interests are 1200 and
      earlier and Durham Cathedral was established well before 1100. It's the
      resting place of the Venerable Bede and St. Cuthburt. If you've seen
      other Cathedrals like St. Paul's (London) and Westminster Abbey and York
      Minster, etc. this will be quite a contrast. The architecture is very
      different, much more "medieval" and heavy. It's from a very different
      time both in history in general and in the history of Christianity in
      Britain.

      _Leeds_

      The Royal Armory is there and it is huge and well displayed. I recommend
      a visit. Could be a day trip from London or York.

      I have not listed everything, but only the things that struck me and
      have significant historical value.

      There are lots of things to see and lots of things that are worth seeing
      that I haven't mentioned.

      _Edinburgh
      _
      My time here was cut short. I did make it to the castle and to a museum.
      The exhibits probably changed so I'll leave out the museum.

      The castle is worth a look esp. if you have any ancestry in Scotland.
      Aside from it being quite a castle and the scene of much history
      including the birthplace of James VI it used to house (and probably
      does) the Scotish Crown Jewels.

      It also has a memorial to all the Scots who have died in wars. These are
      books with the names written in them for different conflicts. If you
      have roots there you can find your ancestors listed, I found that rather
      moving.

      I also discovered that one should not be afraid of asking questions of
      the staff and guards there. They are a *wealth* of information and
      seemed to love to share it. That Celtic gift of gab I guess. Every
      question I could think of got either an answer or the most polite
      regrets. It is a different country than England, and they are proud and
      happy to share their history.

      Other thoughts:

      Keep your eyes open for the fun and quirky. Example: wandering about
      (and I couldn't tell you where this is, maybe over by St. James' Palace
      in London) is a walkway with a small plaque commemorating the delegation
      from the Republic of Texas to the Court of St. James. Little stuff like
      that are great.

      If you're like me you might have a ton of questions at the end of the
      day. While the internet changes a great many things, I would still
      suggest finding a paperback copy of a concise history of Great Britain
      to carry with as a reference. I found having one to skim of an evening
      helpful in processing what I had scene and giving it context.

      I'd also suggest that you find a copy of Magnus Magnusson's very
      readable history of Scotland. Most folks don't have much of a grasp of
      the significant events of that country and if you're going there it is
      worth having read it or having it along.

      I found the Blue Guide for London to be the very best guide for detail
      of locations, sites and such. It's geared more for "middle class"
      travelers, not backpackers. I don't know your means but what this means
      is that if you're "roughing it" ignore the restaurant and hotel
      recommendations and use it as a reference for the sites. It has very
      good and detailed descriptions of things and their history. (I have not
      had the same experience with their guides for anywhere else. And as a
      not so shameless plug I have copies of London and Great Britain from
      1995 that I'm willing to part with if you think they would be of use to
      you.)

      If I were to carry one guide for the trip it would be either Baedeckers
      or Lonely Planet. I'm rather a fan of Lonely Planet as it's more geared
      to my style of travel, but Baedeckers has a lot of good information,
      includes a map, and is just a step below Blue Guide for detail.

      Do not waste time on bad fish and chips. If they're bad, they're awful.
      Ask the locals and go where they go.

      If you're a drinker, track down a cider bar and try the hard cider, good
      stuff. Be careful, it goes down easy but more than a couple pints will
      give a nasty morning after. Peary (hard pear cider) is worth trying too.

      If you want to keep your food budget inexpensive look for Chinese and
      Indian.

      Try tea there, it's different, really. And scones and clotted cream etc.
      are hard to find the way they are there.

      Be careful at historic sites. I probably don't need to tell you this but
      many Americans have a more casual attitude about monuments and tombs and
      such than Europeans. I've seen tourists jump up on things, lean on
      things, and sit on things for pictures or just for a rest or a lark to
      the horror of the locals. "When in Rome...."

      Hope that helps. Feel free to write with questions.

      Sincerely,

      Timothy, a blacksmith
      Proprietor, Raven Turtle Forge

      J wrote:
      >
      > Hi folks,
      >
      > My wife and I will be visiting the UK in the second half of April, and
      > I'll have a chance to see a lot of museums while she's giving
      > seminars. We'll be based in London, York, and Edinburgh, and I'm
      > already planning to go to MoL and Jorvik. It doesn't look like I can
      > easily get to Walsall.
      >
      > But since I know we have a lot of experience on this list, I was
      > wondering if any of them might like to share advice or (if I'm very
      > lucky) show me around your local museum.
      >
      > Thanks much,
      > Jon
      >
      >
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