England & Wales Travel Skills

Hello. Yeah! Thank you! Thank you for joining us. So I’m Rick Steves and I’ve spent four
months a year, every year for the last 30 years, running around
Europe, making mistakes, taking careful notes, in hopes that you
can learn from my mistakes rather than your own, and travel
smoother and smarter. And right now I want to
take you to Britain, okay. We’re gonna go to England and
we’re gonna go to Wales, and I just want to share with you the
the best tips I can imagine to get the most out of that beautiful,
and exciting corner of Europe. So thank you for joining us in person,
and if you’re watching online, thank you for being with
us via the internet. You know when you’re going,
thinking, dreaming, about Europe, the first place to go
really is Britain, that’s just your starting point for European
exploration, and I just love flying into London and then heading
out into the countryside and enjoying a good, solid
dose of Britain. When you think of England, you got all
this sheep, and beautiful pastoral fields, and hiking, and rolling hills, and of
course you also got big urban thrills, and it’s nice to get a good balance of
that when you’re talking about Britain. When we do a tour through Britain, this is what we think is the best couple
of weeks in Britain. And this is essentially what I’m going to walk you
through now, in this next hour. But if you look at England and Wales, and
Scotland’s up here, we’re not going to talk about Scotland right in this talk, but
almost all of us are going to be flying into London. And I would highly recommend
flying into London but not getting over jet lag in London. From London, go
directly to Bath, which is a much more charming, easy place to be when you’re
dealing with jet lag. And given the fact that the British drive on the other side
of the road, and the roundabouts, and all the stuff, you’re much more likely to not
get run over on your first day if you’re in a cute little town, okay, so
save London for the end of your trip. From Heathrow Airport, scoot
right out to Bath, get over your jet lag there, and then what we’re
going to do in this Powerpoint is we’re going to do Bath, do Glastonbury,
and Wells, the Cotswold Villages, Stow-on-the-Wold, we’re going to head
north through the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution — Ironbridge Gorge,
and then we’re gonna head up into northern Wales. I’ve traveled
all over Wales and if you got a limited time, for me
it’s really clear for us, northern Wales is the most interesting
part of that corner of Britain. And from there we drive north, stopping
at Liverpool and Blackpool on the way to the pristine Lakes District, the Cumbrian
Lake District way in the north of England. Wordsworth country, Beatrix Potter
country, and so on, and then from the north we cut across England along
the Hadrian’s Wall, the wall the Romans built 2,000 years ago or so when they
came, and they spread that far north, and the big city in the north is Durham
with its famous cathedral, then we head down to York, and then
return to London where we started, and then you’ll finish — you’re
well over jet lag now and the finale of your trip would
be in London. Do think about some strategies to
save money, because Britain is such an expensive place to travel. For instance,
you might want to rent a car but you don’t want to have a car in the big
cities where you don’t need a car. Anyway I would propose picking up the
car in Bath, doing all the stuff I talked about, and dropping the car in York.
Doing York and London after you turn in the car, and Bath before you pick up
the car, you follow me? That’s about half your time, really, and
then you use the car where you want to use it, but you won’t be wasting it in
the big cities. We’re going to start in London, and we’re
going to start in London in this slideshow. I wanna just remind you London is
one of the great cities in Europe. If there’s four cities in Europe you could
spend a week in — just flying over there, ideally in the winter, cheap airfares,
get one nice hotel, enjoy all the culture and everything — it
would be London, Paris, Rome, or Istanbul. Those are my four big one-week,
one-city vacations, and London really is
dramatic that way. If we think about London,
we’ve got so many sites, and you got the Thames River, most of the city of our interest is
north of the Thames. South of the Thames is
called the South Bank, it used to be run down but it’s
really been fixed up in the last generation,
there’s lots to see there. If you look at the
Thames River, on the left you see Big Ben and The Halls of
Parliament, scooting up along Whitehall, that’s the main political drag, it goes
up to Trafalgar Square, where you’ve got the National Gallery, and then moving
further east from Trafalgar Square, we get into the city of London, St. Paul’s,
the beautiful church by Christopher Wren, and the Tower of London,
which was where London was — the fort
of London, the castle of London was built in the 11th century
when the Normans came in from France, that was the first sort of center of
London, and we’ve got the Tower Bridge. There’s a lot of great museums, the
British Library, the British Museum, all of the theater district,
Buckingham Palace. All of this is actually
quite close together, you wouldn’t walk it but you could if you
really wanted to. The beautiful walk would be along the
South Bank of the Thames. It’s actually called the Jubilee Promenade, and you
can walk from the London Eye, that’s the big Ferris Wheel just across
the river from Big Ben, you could walk all along
the South Bank of the Thames, past the Tate Modern Art
Gallery, past Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre,
to across the river from Tower of London,
down to Tower Bridge. And all along that way there’s all sorts of
fun things to see and do. So you can see right there there’s a lot
going on, and that’s just downtown London. When you think of this grand,
expensive city, you really need to harness public
transportation. And I think it’s just really important to realize that you’ll
want to get yourself a tube pass, and that covers you on all the buses, the
double-Decker buses, and on the subways. You don’t really say a subway, a subway
is a pedestrian underpass. It’s the Underground or the Tube when
you’re in London. We’ll start with Halls of Parliament
and Big Ben. Now the Halls of Parliament
has been the governmental center for — since the
Middle Ages — for almost a thousand years. And
there was a terrible fire in the 1830’s, and it burned it all down, and
this was right after the Age of Revolution and all the Neoclassical
stuff that you can imagine, and English people needed to rebuild their venerable
Houses of Parliament, and they didn’t do it in the prevailing style of the time,
they decided to do it in the Romantic style which was just coming up, and that
was a, rather than a stern, intellectual, Neoclassical style like you might see at
the Arc de Triomphe in Paris , it was a more emotional neo-Gothic,
neo-Medieval style. So when we look at the Halls of
Parliament and when we look at Big Ben, we’re seeing 19th century,
over-the-top, neo-Medieval style, you see. When we think
of the Halls of Parliament and Big Ben, Big Ben is not the bell tower, Big Ben is
technically the bell in the bell tower, but we just call the whole thing Big Ben.
But that really is an icon of London. One part of the palace that did not burn
down in the 1830’s was Westminster Hall. And this is precious
because, for 700 years, this was the High Court of England, and it has this
700-year-old oak hammerbeam roof that survived. And you walk through
that today when you go to see the Halls of Parliament in action. Remember, one of the important things to do
when you’re in London is to see the House of Commons or the House of
Lords, it’s free. If they’re sitting and and in action you can line up with all the
local people that want to go to — like us sitting in on something going on in
congress — and you can do that. Your guidebook will explain how, but it’s
a very important thing to do, it’s a free thing to do, and it’s often possible to
do in the evening when other things are closed, because they often meet
into the evening. So you’ll have that opportunity, and
when you go to see the House of Lords or the House of Commons,
you will see Westminster Hall, also. Across the street is Westminster Abbey,
and for 1,000 years this has been where the great kings and queens
of England have been married, and buried, and crowned, and you
name it, and just recently, of course, it was in the news with
Prince William and Kate. When you go to Westminster Abbey, it’s expensive to get in, but it comes
with an audio tour, and you’ll get to see all the tombs of all the great royalty,
and all the poets, and all the military heroes, and all the composers, and
everybody. It’s just a beautiful opportunity to remember the
great culture of Britain. Now across the river from the
Halls of Parliament, you go right across Westminster Bridge,
you’ve got this big Ferris wheel. And this is called the London Eye, and you
can go to the top of that and it gives you a grand view of London and
you just go one slow loop. Wedding parties rent out an entire
bubble for their party, and it takes quite a while to go around, and
they can just have their whole festival in that bubble.
As a tourist, you can sit there and enjoy a commanding
view all over town, even looking down on the Halls of Parliament and
down on Big Ben. So it’s really fun to go in the
London Eye, if you’d like to. I mentioned from Westminster, the Halls
of Parliament, and Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey, you’ve got Whitehall. Whitehall was the name of the palace
that burned down, and it stretched for blocks and blocks. Today almost all of it’s gone, but the
street remains, Whitehall Street. And that leads from the governmental headquarters
up to Trafalgar Square, where you have the National Gallery. And when you
get to Trafalgar Square, you’ll find the National Gallery, the greatest
collection of paintings in Britain. It sort of rivals the Louvre. You’ll
see the National Portrait Gallery, and I would remind you, portrait galleries,
national portrait galleries, are not as sexy as a lot of sights, but it’s a great
opportunity to walk through halls of great paintings of the great characters
of that particular country. You can do it in Edinburgh, you can do it
in Dublin, you can do it in London, and I highly recommend it. Both of those galleries are free, as are
many of the great museums in London. Remember, London’s a very expensive city,
but the most important sites are often free or just ask for a donation.
Along that Whitehall, you see a lot of military history. And during the darkest
depths of WWII, during the Blitz, when London thought it was going
to be invaded by Germany, the government of Winston Churchill was literally
underground. And you have that Cabinet War Rooms that are just, were a
time capsule, and just recently opened up, and they were just like, they were
mothballed when they shut it off after the war was over, and it gives you
an amazing look at what it was like to run the war from London, and run the
government from London, when they were doing it all underground.
Connected with the underground Cabinet War Rooms is a marvelous
Winston Churchill museum. If you’re interested in Churchill, if
you’re interested in the Blitz, you gotta see that on your trip. London has so many amazing
museums and, of course, the British Museum is sort of the
warehouse of all of Western civilization’s treasures. You want to be
sure to spend the better part of a day at the British Museum. And you’ve got the
Great Court, and then you can see the whole story, all the ancient stuff,
the Rosetta stone from Egypt, they got a wonderful — the best collection
of Egyptian art outside of Egypt, as far as I know, you’ve got Mesopotamian,
and Babylonian, and Assyrian, and all that kind of stuff, and of course
you’ve got incredible Greek treasures, specifically the Parthenon Frieze, and
all the great statues that were decorating the Parthenon, that the Greeks
are not very happy about it, but the British have managed to get them
up into London. By the way, I have been taking groups
to Britain for a long time, and I just love our tour program for Britain, and
for Ireland, and for Scotland. And over the years I’ve written all these guided
tours, they’re in the guidebooks, I’ve been giving them to the groups. What I decided
to do was make them for my audio, my app, and it’s free, and anybody who’s savvy
enough to download an app can grab this thing, it’s called Rick Steves Audio
Europe, absolutely free, and you got tours of everything you need, all the major
stuff in London. There’s four or five different tours and they work great, they’ll save you a lot of money,
and a lot of time, and you just stick me in your ear, and I’ll walk you
through all these sites. So if you’d like to consider that, just
download Rick Steves Audio Europe. It’s also got the most important
interviews from eight years of weekly hours on public radio. I’ve deconstructed all these
programs, and then I’ve organized the interviews in country-specific playlists. So if you’re just going to Britain, you
can pull out all the Britain interviews, and then you put it on your app,
you put it on your mobile device, and you can listen to it
offline whenever you like. On the flight over, when you’re
stuck in traffic, when your partner’s sleeping and
you’re still awake, you got all that information that will
help you better understand your sightseeing. But in the context of London,
and, if you’re in the neighborhood, Edinburgh also, we’ve got these great
walking tours, they work beautiful. I finished filming one day ahead of time
just about a year ago, and I did all… a bunch of these tours over like a 10-hour
day, and I was impressed how easy it is to follow them, and how they make
sightseeing through London a lot of fun. One of the stops is the British Library.
And the British Library is a huge library, but there’s one room that
matters, and it’s called the Treasures Room, and that’s where you find
the most important documents from Western Civilization. The Gutenberg Bible, the
Magna Carta, Handel’s Messiah, handwritten Beatles lyrics, I mean you got everything
you can imagine right there. Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens,
William Shakespeare, it’s just thrilling.
The earliest manuscripts of the Bible illum… precious
illuminated manuscripts, the very earliest maps, all there
in this one room. Don’t miss the British Library.
The Tate Gallery is something that is just beloved in England for art lovers, and
it’s been split into two. There’s the Tate Britain with a lot of
great 19th-century British masterpieces, specifically the art of Turner, and Blake,
and the pre-Raphaelites, and then the modern has been put into this former
industrial sort of a building, and today it is the Tate Modern Gallery, and
it’s filled with surrealism and then right up to avant-garde contemporary art.
It’s a great museum, one of the greatest collections of contemporary art in
Europe, and you can see that immediately across the river from St. Paul’s Church. So remember, in the millennium, they
had a lot of new buildings and new construction, they built this
Millennium Bridge. It’s the pedestrian bridge
over the Thames River, you can walk from the Tate Modern
immediately across the river, straight to St. Paul’s. Now when you think about St. Paul’s,
St. Paul’s was built in around 16… well, 1666, London had a horrific fire and
basically the whole downtown was burnt, and a young architect named Christopher
Wren just happened to be looking for work, and he came into the
city father’s office and he said, “I know this is crummy,
the fire’s almost not cooled down yet, but I’ve got some great ideas for
rebuilding the city.” And it kind of worked in his career
beautifully. He designed 50 different churches scattered all over the town,
London rose from the ashes, and the centerpiece, of course, is St. Paul’s.
St. Paul’s, 360 degree — 365 feet tall, it’s an amazing church to check out,
and when you go to London, you’ve got to go into St. Paul’s.
I’ve got an audio tour of that included as one of my audio guides
on Rick Steves Audio Europe. And you can climb all the way to
the very top of that dome, and then you can survey the
whole city from there. If you look at the skyline in the
distance you can see the London Eye, the Ferris wheel, and that
gives you a sense of how far it is from Big Ben to Trafalgar, and then
over to St. Paul’s. So that’s, that’s kind of the dimension
of the city. In the other direction, well then you get into the City of
London, I just said the city, but I was a little improper choice of words, because
in London, the one square mile business district, the Wall Street of the British
Empire, is called the city. And when you hear people refer to the city, they’re talking about that place that is
thriving with people with their tightly wrapped umbrellas and their suits during
the day, and at night everybody goes home, and it’s just much
more empty. That’s the thriving business center, and it is important to check out
the City. And on the far side of the City of London, you’ll find the Tower of London. Remember that key date, 1066, that’s when
William the Conqueror came across from Normandy and invaded England and
basically took over it, it was the Norman invasion. And they brought with them that
prevailing architectural style which was Romanesque in the 11th century.
Romanesque churches you’ve seen all over Europe, well when they
come into England and they build a church
done by the Normans in Romanesque style, they don’t call it Romanesque they call
it Norman. So when you think of something being Norman in England, it’s Romanesque, brought over by the
Normans, right. Well the Norman — the Normans
established their capital, their castle right there in what is the Tower of
London. Very well fortified, and it’s got a history of being well fortified, and
that and includes the very vigilant Beefeaters, the guards, and these guys do
more touring now that actual guarding, and the Tower of London is an amazing
sight to see. It’s very crowded, very touristy, a little expensive to get in, but
it is well worth checking out. And included in your steep admission cost is
a free guided tour by a Beefeater. They are so boisterous, and so entertaining,
you gotta follow them around. But I would remind you when you get there in the
morning, if you take the beefeater tour, everybody’s going to the crown jewels
and you have a long, long line. It’s like, you know, a ride at Disneyland,
it seems like the line’s just medium and then you get inside and it’s three times
as long, hidden inside. It’s the same thing for
the crown jewels. I would recommend arriving early and making a beeline for
the crown jewels. You’ll save an hour in line and you’ll have the crown jewels
literally all to yourself. And then go back and catch the beefeater tour, it will
save you a lot of time. The crown jewels, by the way, put all
other crown jewels to shame. They are just mind-blowing. My guidebook to
Britain and my guidebook to London describes all of this stuff very
carefully, so I want to stress I’m just ripping through this slideshow
right now, but if you want the complete narration, all the blow-by-blow, all the
details, all the strategies to enjoy it smartly and on a budget, get the Rick Steves London guidebook, or
the Rick Steves Britain guidebook, or whatever area you’re going to. A lot of
people really enjoy the pageantry in London, and for good reason. That’s sort of
London’s middle name is pageantry, and most days, through the season, May through
September, you’ve got at 11:30, the Changing of the Guard at
Buckingham Palace. Now you got to confirm at your hotel or on the web
if it’s gonna really happen today, and then you gotta look at your
guidebook to find out exactly where to stand. The pageantry is a thrill,
everybody gets to see it, it’s free, but if you want to actually see
the Changing of the Guard, it’s hard to actually see much at all
except for other people’s cameras and the big gate, unless you know where to
stand. So be on the ball that way, but the Changing of the Guard
really is a lot of fun. Covent Garden is a touristy, kinda tacky shopping zone right now, but it’s in a
thriving old part of town, and it’s worth checking out. And I want to remind you,
Covent Garden has its own antique market, but all over London you’ve got
antique markets, and they’re often times on different mornings once a week, and
you need to get a local periodical entertainment magazine to let you know
where the different antique markets are happening. But I love
that scene. Once in your visit London, get up early in the morning and head out and
see and do an antique market. There’s a lot of shopping to be had in
London if you like to shop. It’s not my forte, but people go to London
just to shop, and understandably so. And Oxford Circle is sort of an
epicenter of the shopping there. One place you do want to check out is
Harrods, the grandest department store in Europe. And it does big and it does
elegant at the same time, which is quite an accomplishment, I think. It is worth,
even if you’re not a shopper, checking out Harrods, it is a lot of fun. There’s a lot of sort of tacky, gimmicky
commercial ventures in London that actually get more people going
to them than the National Gallery or the British Museum. There’s the London Torture Dungeon and
you know, there’s the Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, and all this kind of thing. They’re fun but be careful you don’t get
suckered into a lot of stuff that’s very expensive, and very highly promoted. You’re
consumers, everybody wants your money, all the little fliers in the hotel lobby, those are business ventures
that pay a lot of money to get the fliers in the hotel lobby, and if you just
limit that for your sightseeing choices, you’re really missing a lot of stuff
that might be free and much more highly cultured. Not to say you shouldn’t go to
Madame Tussaud’s, but it is very expensive and very crowded, but how can you put a
price on hanging out with the Beatles, huh? This is a old — a wax tourist that
is very tired and I felt a lot like her while I was there. And at night when
you’re traveling, just in the evening in downtown London, you just want to
be out and about. It is just a festival of youthful, creative, edgy culture. And
again, study, know what’s going on. You got all sorts of theater in the
West End, you can walk, almost all the theaters
are within a few blocks of each other, and there’s always something
exciting going on. I want to remind you the
theater is quite expensive, but there’s a famous half-price ticket
booth on Leicester Square. You can go in there and find any place
that’s got tickets on the posted list and they really are legit, and
they are half price. I do want to remind you, everybody knows
this little tip, everybody goes, they go to Leicester Square and go to the
half-price ticket booth. This is the legitimate one here. It’s a
freestanding kiosk in the square. All around the tube station, when you
step out, you’ll find other box offices that say, “The Leicester Square
Box Office, Half Price, Official, The Real One,” you know, and all
over England when something says, “The Real,” or, “The Official,”
they’re generally not. I mean there’s, there’s just this
competition, and these guys are much more aggressive and not as legit as that
kiosk that is really the venerable half-price ticket booth that you’ll want to
be sure to check out. If you’re into Shakespeare at all, when you go to
England, you got a chance to see the Royal Shakespeare Company. And it is
really the way to experience Shakespeare, and the ultimate way to see it is in the
Globe Theatre. The beautiful Globe Theatre, right on the banks of the Thames,
was built just in the last generation in the same style that it would have been
when Shakespeare was there. It’s in the open, it’s in the round and
nothing is amplified. You can tour it, it’s a great museum, it’s a wonderful tour,
given by local actors and actresses, and you can go to a play. And the cool thing
about the play it, it’s done, as I said, in the traditional way as
Shakespeare would have done it, and there’s a — Shakespeare wrote for the
wealthy people who got seats, and for the poor people who just sat around in the
in the in the mud in front of the stage, and laughed at all the dirty jokes. And
Shakespeare would have, you know, two sort of levels of humor worked into his plays,
and these were called the Groundlings that were right down here, you guys are
Groundlings, okay. And I like going to the Shakespeare at the Globe because I just
pay the cheap tickets, it’s like half- -it’s like just ten dollars or
something, for a Groundling ticket, and then you can literally put your elbows
on the stage, and enjoy the play right there, and it’s just a fun way to
do it in a real Shakespearean way. All over London, you’ve got incredible
concerts, and culture, and plays, and events going on, and you should — this is
Royal Albert Hall, here, where you can go to concerts quite easily, there’s generally standing room tickets
and standby tickets that you can afford. And you just need to get the local
periodical entertainment guide at the airport. When I arrive, I pick up the
“What’s On” or the “Time Out” magazine, and I just have that as my little
sidekick to my guidebook. My guidebook tells me all the guidebookey stuff, but
no matter how good the guidebook might be, it doesn’t know what’s happening this
week. That’s why you need to get the Time Out
or the What’s On. So get that periodic entertainment guide, have some fun
reading that, that’ll get your right up to date. I can tell you for sure, Sunday
morning the action’s at Hyde Park, Speaker’s Corner. And this is just
grassroots democracy in action. Here they got the freedom of speech, and all sorts
of generally, you know, crackpot kind of guys are standing up ranting and raving
about whatever is going on, and they’ve always got a heckler in their midst. He’s, you know, ranting away about
whatever he’s interested in, and this guy here knows — the guy in the foreground
knows all of his lines by heart, and every time this guy says something, this
guy will say some insulting kind of joke to kind of make him sound silly. So you got — here’s another guy who’s
doing his thing as he does every Sunday, and then the guy behind him with his
chin down is just waiting for his turn to chirp in and and
annoy the speaker. So there’s this wonderful
back and forth going on, and as a tourist you just go from one
little gathering of people to the next, it’s a lot of fun. It’s about midday on
Sunday at Speaker’s Corner. That’s in Hyde Park. London is famous for
its parks, and every time I’ve got some spare time in London I just like to walk through
the parks, it’s just a delightful thing. There’s
parks all over the place, they’ve got beautiful monuments,
beautiful ponds, beautiful little kiosks, beautiful scenes and vignettes of local
people having a good time. Don’t miss the parks while you’re in
London. It can be very very hot and muggy in the summer, I’ve been there when
it’s been a 100 degrees, and of course it can be
very cold, bitter cold. If you’re going in the off-season dress
warm. My British guides always tell me, “there’s no bad weather just
inappropriate clothing.” And I like to take walking tours when I’m in London,
and these guides, it can be 20 degrees with a stiff breeze,
and they’re out there talking for two hours, and their people are just freezing,
but these guys are dressed dressed for the weather. You need warm shoes. I
bring — I bring almost like, you know, hiking
boots with high high top in the winter when I’m going there.
It’s almost like going skiing because you want to be out a lot when
you’re in London, you’re going to be out for hours on end, and it can be bitter
cold. So if you’re going to London in the winter, dress appropriate.
you can ice skate in Somerset House, it’s just a
lot of fun in the winter. Anytime you go to London, a good way to
get an overview of the city is to take the round’ London sightseeing tour. Now
these are very competitive buses where you pay one price and then you can hop
on and hop off for 24 hours. And they have a route, and every
half an hour a new bus is coming along, and
you can hop off at every different sight, stay for awhile,
and get back on the bus, and carry on. Also they come with live guides, and if
I like the guide I just stay on for the whole tour because they’re
fascinating tours. And it just drives
through the whole place, on a sunny day they go topless, and you
can stand up on the top there with your camera getting all sorts of great shots,
listening to your entertaining guide, who’s just a motor mouth for the whole loop,
and you can then use it again as a hop-on hop-off service. Also important
when you’re in London, is to remember the blue badge guides. All over the city
you’ve got hard-working, expert guides, highly trained, very proud
of their blue badges, and these are the guides
that can teach you what’s going on in their town. And
there’s companies like London Walks that take you out on these beautiful walks in
every different slice of London. You’ve got London of the fire, London of Jack the Ripper, London of the
Beatles, London of the, you know, I don’t know, the- -of the Plague,
you’ve got London of Churchill, and you just
walk — and London of Christopher Wren, London of pub
architecture. I’ve been on a lot of these different
walks and some of them are very obscure, and all of them are interesting. So
they’re cheap, they’re done by very theatrical energetic experts, a lot of
them are our actors and actresses, and London Walks is a great company to look
at. Use the Underground. It’s a big city, it’s snarled in traffic, it takes forever
to get anywhere, unless you go underground. When I’m in a good mood, as
far as a traveler goes, I buy the one week pass to get the oyster
card. You can buy it for one day, or you can buy it for one week, or buy a certain
amount of money and then use it every time, but I like to get the one week long
pass if I’m there. I actually buy it at the airport upon arrival, and for less
than the cost of a taxi from the airport to my hotel, I have complete public transportation
for the whole week. All the subways, all the buses, do you see
what I mean? Doesn’t that feel good? You got to hotel almost as fast just by
using the metro, and you’ve covered — and that has saved enough money
to pay for all your transportation in that otherwise very expensive city. Use
the Tube, get down there, figure it out. Everything is either North, South, East, or
West, many of the people in the Tube speak English and can help you out. Ask for help, use your map, any map will
have a Tube map in it, and you can use that and then you have London
really by the tail. Remember your Tube pass also comes with
the buses. And all of these beautiful, red double-Decker buses are yours too. They’re not as easy to learn but once
you get the hang of the buses, they really complement the Tube system very
well. And I like sitting in the bus, ’cause I’m just in the top deck
enjoying the scene. Many days after a long day of sightseeing, I see, “oh, there’s bus number 10 and it
goes back to my hotel,” or I could hop in the metro — or the subway, and go back to
the hotel, and I think I don’t feel like walking, there’s more walking in the
subway, I think I got all the time in the world,
I’d like to see the nice view, it’s free for me either way, I’ll climb
up onto the top deck of the double-Decker bus and just sit in the
front row and relax, and go through the traffic, and work my way back to the
hotel, you follow me there? You got those
options and it’s just nice to know. Locals are very good at the bus, and we
should figure that out also. Taxis in London can be a good value, they
never rip you off, they’re very carefully regulated, and they are experts. I’ve been in taxis in the United States
that don’t even know how to go to the airport in that town, it’s just amazing. Sometimes I have to
tell the taxi where they’re supposed to go. In London, every taxi can’t be a
cabbie without knowing every little tiny lane, so you’ll have no problem getting
where you want to go, and they just love to talk, and they give
you a very candid, and opinionated take on
whatever is happening. I actually have a list of things I want
to talk about whenever I get into a taxi, and I use it as a tour I just — and
they love it. So if you got, and you can fit five people into a taxi, so if you’re a group of 4 and time’s worth
anything to you, hop in a taxi. They’re big, they’re
comfortable, they’re classic, they’re fun. Remember there’s a congestion zone in
London, and if you are a driver and you drive into the center, you’re given a pretty steep fee. I don’t
know how much it is, but I think it’s like 15 dollars or something like
that, just to drive into the town. It’s designed to keep the traffic
congestion away. Anybody that does go into town is billed that, and that
money then subsidizes public transportation, conceivably so they can charge less for
the buses, and furthers more departures for the buses, and so there’s
less traffic slowing down the buses. It makes a lot of sense, that’s the whole notion of the
congestion fee. Now when you think about the new London, it is outside of town to
the east. This is the Docklands. You can get out there by — it’s the Manhattan of
London, really — you can cruise down the Thames River, by the way a very
entertaining thing to do, From Westminster you can catch the boat,
you can go upstream to Kew Gardens, you can go downstream to the Tower of London,
and you can go further downstream to Greenwich, and that would pass the
Docklands. Or you can take the public transportation and the commuter train to
the Docklands. Now the Docklands, 150 years ago, was the
biggest port on the planet. Serving the capital of the empire upon
which the sun never set. 50 years ago, container ships were too big, they pulled
farther away, the Docklands were abandoned, they were rundown,
dangerous, just desolate. And then in the last generation
they’ve been recognized as great real estate, let’s invest in it, and today
you’ve got the new Manhattan of London, emerging out to the east of the city. It really is important to check that out
on your way to Greenwich. In the other direction you’ve got Kew gardens. Kew
gardens is a wonderful place if you’re into botany, and you can have virtual
jungle in London. Also outside of town, you’ve got Hampton Court and Windsor
Palace, two very important royal residences. Out by Heathrow you’ve got
Windsor Palace, and right next to that, Legoland. If you’ve got kids, if you
got kids and they’re Lego maniacs and you’re not going to Denmark,
you can go to Legoland right outside of London, and it
really is quite impressive. The airports in London, mostly Heathrow
and Gatwick are the ones you might be using, are both excellent, they both got
great connections by train into the center of town. And I just love Heathrow
Airport, I’ve got no problem with Heathrow at all. it’s one of the busiest
airports in the planet, and I invariably fly through Heathrow. I want to remind you, England is very
good on security. And you’ll find a lot of security at the airports, you’ll find a lot of security at the
train stations, and you’ll find a lot of security at the train station for the
Chunnel, the bullet train over to Paris. Remember
now, more businessmen take the train to Paris than all airplane — airlines
combined. It’s the way to go from Paris to
London, it costs about 100 dollars, there’s 10 departures a day, it takes just a couple of hours. 17
minutes under the English Channel Tunnel, from Big Bend of the Eiffel Tower, just
like that. It’s an amazing experience. If you got
five days in London and you’re wondering, “what’s the most interesting next thing
to do?” Paris. Seriously, round trip to Paris. You
have ten hours in Paris and be back in time for dinner, you know, or
for a bed anyway. And you — it’s just amazing how accessible Paris is now to
London with the Chunnel. Great train stations from London, there’s like seven,
or eight, or nine of them that will go to different regions around England, and by
train you can zip up to York, and you can zip over to Bath. Those are probably
the two most common ways to go. Okay now, that was London, we’re gonna
now go around the British Isles. We’re gonna start in Bath in the
south, and we’re going to loop around from Bath, looking
at Glastonbury and Wells, up into the
Cotswolds heading north, Ironbridge Gorge is the birthplace of
industrial revolution, then we’re going to go to the northern part of Wales, passed Liverpool, Blackpool, to Keswick in
the north part of the Cumbrian Lakes District, along Hadrian’s Wall, down to
York, Cambridge and Oxford are two university towns, we’ll take a look at
them, and then you would finish off back in London. If you’re considering going around
London, this is what we consider is the best itinerary. Every one of these
numbers is how many nights we would spend in that place, and this would be,
two, four, six, eight, ten, thirteen, that’s a two week trip right there. If
you want the best two weeks in Britain I would propose you check the two-week
tour that we do with our groups, and then you can do it on your own, or you can
take our tour. But this really works well, and it’s a nice measured look for
variety and everything, a look at the British Isles. Now there is —
we used to do a tour of South England, and South England is just
charming, and lots to see and do. We don’t do that tour anymore, it just
didn’t sell very well, but I think it’s a beautiful part of England, and it’s a
tour you might want to consider/ Remember when you’re
looking at the far south of England you find
these chalky cliffs. You’ve heard of the White Cliffs of
Dover, well really it’s the “White Cliffs of all across South England,” from Dover
all the way to Land’s End, the whole south of England is built on chalk like this.
And it’s got a very thin topsoil, consequently all across South England,
throughout this day, ever since ancient times, people have known if you just chip
away the topsoil, you got bright white under that. And you can cut up a peace
sign, you can cut up a fertility sign, you can
cut up a Union Jack, you can cut up a Maltese Cross, you can cut up whatever
you want, just cut out the topsoil and then you got this mammoth thing that can
be seen from miles away on the hillside. That’s because she
got that chalky undersoil, and you can see that
in the south of England, and this is called
South Downs. It’s near Brighton, it’s a beautiful area
to hike, and it’s a very popular place for people who want to commit suicide to
jump off. So be careful. It’s
dramatic scenery, and it’s just a very — and it’s just drenched in history. You’ve got these old clapper bridges, and
you’ve got stone circles, and mysterious old bits from England’s
mysterious past. The most famous stone circle, of course, is Stonehenge. I want to remind you, there must be
dozens of stone circles all around Britain and I’ve been to many different
stone circles. I became a travel writer at a desolate
stone circle in the southwest of England in Dartmoor. It was
called Gidleigh, and I just hiked across the
middle of nowhere from the youth hostel, and I found this
private Stonehenge. If you can imagine stumbling onto this,
more run down and smaller stones, but the same sort of grandeur in a lot of ways, all alone, just you and a few ragamuffin
goats, and sheep, and wild ponies. And I just thought, “nobody’s here.” Everybody’s with the big tour groups, and
the blow horns, and the porta-potties, and the barbed wire at their knees, clamoring to see Stonehenge,
when you got your own private Stonehenge
just down the street. Now remember that in
England you can explore around and find that,
but whatever the case is, you got these
circles that go back as old as the oldest pyramids,
5,000 years ago, put there by druids or by people
back then, nobody knows how. And they made celestial calendars so
they would know, just according to when the sun sets here and rises there, this is when you plant this, is when you
harvest, this is when your party, and that’s what was the celestial calendar.
Avebury is just as accessible as Stonehenge, and in a lot of ways it’s more
interesting, because it’s more desolate. You can run among the stones, it’s a
stone circle within a stone circle, and a little town has grown up in its midst.
So either Stonehenge or Avebury would be good to see. Wells is a city, a city, any town with a
cathedral can call itself a city. So this is the smallest city in
Britain because it’s the smallest city with a cathedral. A great cathedral and
wonderful Gothic architecture. It had this unique fix, the walls were
starting to collapse in, so they did this scissors arch, and they kind of made it
look like they planned it but that’s just a desperate move to try to stop
stop the church from falling down. All over England it’s a struggle to keep
these things paid for. It’s just expensive, you know, they ask people to pay but
most people don’t pay a voluntary donation to enough to really help out,
and they have cafeterias there, and they have bookshops, and so on. Generally when you go into these great
historic sites that are just struggling to stay open, if you’re going to buy souvenirs, if
you’re going to buy lunch, if you’re gonna buy coffee or tea, I like to buy it there. Same price
anywhere here, you’re helping out the church, or you’re helping
out the abbey, or you’re helping out whatever, you’re
trying to keep in business. Remember Henry VIII is famous
for breaking away from the church so he could divorce his wife, when was that?
1540 or something like that. Well really what he was doing, was he was
struggling against the power of the church in a lot of ways. And he didn’t
like the power of the monasteries, Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries all
across England, he just said, “you own too much land, you
got too much money, you got too much power, you
are out of business.” And he tore em’ all down,
and he just owned the land. And today, all
over England, you can find these ruined abbeys that used to be
grand like this, that today are like that, and they’re parks, a
reminder that Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries back in
the 16th century. Glastonbury is one of
those places. My favorite town in a lot of ways in
England is Bath. Bath is a wonderful place to get over jet lag, it is just a beautiful place. It’s
famous for its neoclassical architecture. Remember, when the Normans brought in the
Romanesque and they called it Norman, well in Europe around the year 1800,
neoclassicism was it, right. All this neoclassical, this Roman looking
stuff was being built, and in England they called it, not neoclassical, but
Georgian, named after King George. George was the King on the throne when the
American Revolution was going on, you know, and it was just that period, and they
call it Georgian architecture. You’ll find these first, grand sort of
condominiums, that are all uniform, and elegant, and well-designed, and that is
Georgian architecture. All over England, all over Britain, you’ll find Georgian
manor houses. There’s one right here, and you can go in
and it’s all dolled up like it was 200 years ago, and there are these docents
that are just volunteers, and they’re in every room, and they will talk your ears
off. If you want a friend in anywhere in Britain, go to these sites and let the
volunteer docents tell you about the with the room you’re in, and how — all the
goofy stuff people did back then to to live up to the
expectations of the age. Bath has been a resort
spa for 2,000 years. Way back when London was called
Londinium and Britain was Britannia, Romans went out to Aquae Sulis to take a
bath, and they soaked in this mineral spa. Finally I guess they just decided to
call it Bath, haha. So finally, they, I guess that is
better, I was getting a little weak, finally they just decided to
call it Bath. But the Roman town of Aquae Sulis became Bath, and it was a
place people went through the centuries to soak in the mineral springs. You can
see it right here, ancient springs, medieval springs, and
Ancient Roman ruins. You can go down underneath, there’s a wonderful Roman
site for Aquae Sulis, and you can see this amazing statue here of the Roman
god Minerva, really reminding us that this was quite an impressive Roman
civilization back 2,000 years ago. In fact they say in this part of England, if you if you scratch Gloucester, you
will find ancient Rome. Anywhere you dig down you’ll Roman mosaics, and that
sort of thing, there’s so much Roman stuff going on. In Bath you’ve got the
pomp room where you’ve got the string quartet playing, and all these elegant
people serving you cream teas, and this sort of thing, as they did back in
the good old days. In Bath you’ve got a wonderful strolling kind of ambiance,
you’ve got free guided tours given every day, right in front of the tourist office,
and you’ve got the hop-on hop-off bus tours, like you’ll find all over Britain.
Any place there’s any good sightseeing you’ll find
these hop-on hop-off buses and they are,
as I mentioned, quite convenient. When you run around Bath
there are so many little cute souvenirs of ages passed, of the Georgian times
basically, when the sidewalks were made really wide so the women who have hoops
in their dresses to show off their expensive fabric, you know, would walk
down. And where people had to have higher first floors so women with tall
hairdress — hairdos could actually stand up straight in them. And just so
much wacky stuff going on in that high
society time. You can learn all about it here in Bath because Bath was the
epitome of that wacky high society. And this is where they had sedan chairs, so
people didn’t have to walk, people carried them around in chairs. They say the
word “cheerio” came from the time when it was time to go, you’d
go, “chair, ho, chair, ho” to call your chair, and people would
just say, “cheerio,” all right. And they’ve got these snuffers, if you
look at this, outside of the old doors, that’s where they put out their
torch as they would carry people around town in their sedan chairs. So you
wouldn’t know that, you wouldn’t know about that the different
fashions of the age and so on, unless you
took one of those tours. Follow up the tour with a visit to the
fashion museum. It’s one of the most — I’m not even that
into fashion, but for two centuries, every decade, there’s a mannequin and a
good explanation about how fashion has evolved in England from those days right
up to Twiggy, and then on into our day, okay. So
it’s a fascinating look at British fashion history. I mentioned there are free guided tours
given by the volunteers, the retired schoolteachers, and so on, that join this
club. All over England you got wonderful local people that just love to make a
short story long, and they will take you out and talk, and talk, and talk, and when
the tour is done they probably want to sit down have tea with you, it’s just a
charming way to get to know some people. One of my favorite evening activities
and all of Britain is in Bath, I would put it on your list. Take the Bizarre Bath Walk. This is
street theater, and these guys are just hilarious, and I — every time I go to Bath
I take the tour, it’s always different, it’s always a hoot. North of Bath, we get
to the Cotswolds, and the Cotswolds are the epitome of quaint. As
a travel writer, it’s a temptation to overuse
the word quaint, I save my use of the word quaint for the
Cotswolds. This is “Quaintsville.” Cute little towns, cute names, cute lanes,
cute hikes, cute thatched cottages. You want to make your headquarters either
Stow-on-the-Wold or Chipping Campden. I like to stay in Stow-on-the-Wold. This is the main square
in Stow-in-the-Wold, and remember the architecture is so charming and beautiful
because they were filthy rich because
of the sheep’s wool. And they got so rich because of
the great industry there, and suddenly cotton came along, and something else
happened, and the whole industry collapsed. And ironically, it was that downturn that
mothball that whole region, and then a century or whatever later they
discovered it perfectly preserved, because it was so poor they couldn’t
rebuild it, do you follow me? In many cases around Europe, something is
really rich, and elegant, and gorgeous, some catastrophe happens, they just ignore it, it’s mothballed,
rediscovered, miraculously preserved. And that’s what the Cotswolds are. So today
they are rich again, because everybody loves how they used to be rich and they
can go over there and live in these charming houses. Look at
these beautiful houses, they are almost edible,
they’re so cute. I love walking in the Cotswolds. Take
time to hike, that’s what the Brits love, there’s so many walking clubs. They got
this rite of passage in England where everybody is got — you got
— you cannot stop people from walking across your land,
and they got — you can put fences up ’cause you got to
keep your animals in, but everybody can walk across the land, it’s
a national right. In fact once a year, the Rambling Club,
all the hikers they have what’s called a “mass trespass,” and they go out and they
all hike and they assert their right to walk across everybody’s land.
And as a hiker you’ll have good maps,
buy good maps locally and take some of these hikes, and assert
your rights to be able to walk across every land. Beautiful
little villages you’ll find. This place is
called Stanway House in the middle of Stanway, and this is an
example of an impoverished Lord. You’ve got all these aristocrats in England
that are land rich, that are very well-bred, but have no money. They’re very poor, they’ve got money, but
they’ve got their burden with a lot of expenses of keeping the place up to date,
and they actually have to open their houses up in order to pay the rent. And
you pay to see their house, and you get to meet them actually, and wander around
and see how they live. And this is in — this is Stanway
House, this is Lord Neidpath. Somebody died and he became a different
level, now he’s the Earl of Wemyss, or something like that, but I always knew
him as Lord Neidpath. But he’s a wonderful man, he’s a charming man, he’s a
brilliant man, he’s really committed to the culture and the history of England, and
he needs you to come to his palace and- — pay — very powerful castle and — or
his nice mansion, and pay a little money and tour it. So you can find that
as you travel around Britain. Another thing that’s a lot of fun when
you’re in Britain is to go to the gardens. I’m not that enthusiastic about gardens,
but every time I pay money to see a great garden in Britain or Ireland, it’s
a highlight for me. Hidcote Gardens in Cotswolds, Bodnant
Gardens, I think in northern Wales, Powerscourt Gardens outside of Dublin,
these gardens are just gorgeous, and make a point to see some formal gardens while
you are in Britain. If you like Shakespeare, you’re going to
go to Stratford. It’s a tourist trap but it’s, you know, it’s a lot of fun to see. I
would say you can see it pretty quickly. You can see the house where Shakespeare
was born, it’s just trampled with tourists and
just as dead as he is, but it is something you gotta, you gotta kind of
check out. And every house that’s associated with
Shakespeare, Anne Hathaway’s place, his grandmother’s place, his kid’s place, his
kindergarten teacher’s place, I don’t know, that you can pay to see it, you buy this combo ticket
and you can see all of them, and they do a
good job of trying to keep the Shakespeare story alive. Definitely when you’re in stratford
consider going to the Royal Shakespeare Company in the beautiful new theater
there, and that would be one way to really appreciate the Bard. Nearby, in
this part of England, you’ve got the best, elegant, royal manor
house, castle, kind of, in the countryside.
Well Blenheim palace is nearby, that’s the best elegant manor house, I don’t have a
photograph of it, but Blenheim Palace is incredible. And then Warwick Castle, of
all the castles you might want to see, Warwick. It’s very commercial, it’s run by
the same people that, I think, run Madame Tussaud’s and all these other highfalutin
places. So you’ve got your peacocks, you’ve got
your torture dungeon, you got your Madame Tussaud’s garden party, and you’ve got
all the falconry, and, and, and, the jousting, and everything you want. It’s an amazing castle, and it
serves the masses, it serves all the school groups, and if you’re going to see
one over-the-top castle in England, you might want to consider Warwick Castle. Farther north we come to
Ironbridge Gorge I, for some reason, am just enamored with
Ironbridge Gorge. This is the birthplace of the Industrial
Revolution. This is the first place they really used iron in an efficient,
economic, and industrial way, and that just opened things up for the Industrial
Age. This Iron Bridge here was built in the same year as the American Revolution,
1776, and you can imagine what a new exciting tool that was. And today you can
see that old industrial town, and you can see different sights associated with the
birth of the Industrial Revolution, right there in Ironbridge. And it’s like an
open-air folk museum to see those very early mechanical installations. Farther north we get to
York, and York really is the minister of — the way I understand, it Henry VIII
didn’t destroy the the ministry in York ’cause he needed an ecclesiastical
center for northern England, for his administration. York was the
transportation hub for trains in northern England, in a lot of ways York
is the capital of Northern England. York has this incredible minster. The minister,
or the church, is newly refurbished, and when you step inside you find the widest
Gothic nave in Britain, you find all sorts of glorious tracery, medieval
stained glass, lots of history there, and it’s right in
the middle of the town. From the cathedral you can walk into the town, and there are
so many interesting sights to see in York. You’ve got the York — the Jorvik Viking
exhibit, and there’s another museum that’s just the county museum that
covers a lot of Viking art. Remember, their — York was a Viking town 1,000
years ago, 1,200 years ago, and called Jorvik. You’ve also got the best train museum
I’ve seen anywhere in Europe if you’re interested in trains, locomotives,
and so on. It’s a cultural look, a social look at
the Industrial Revolution, as well as something that, you know, people who like
big engines would go to, there’s lots there to see. And there is the York
Castle Museum. 100 years ago, a visionary dentist
decided, “they’re tearing down all these shops, they’re tearing all down our whole
of our heritage,” and he wanted to save it all so he established this museum. And it’s —
there’s a lot of these kinds of museums around Britain, but the cool thing about
the York Castle Museum is all these little shops that he saved are still stocked
with the same things that were on the shelves 100 years ago. So you can wander through the York
Castle Museum, I like to do behind a couple of senior citizens that are
local, and they can actually remember the candies, and remember the way it was to go
to the barber, or whatever, and you can wander around and just get that little
trip back in time. All over England they’re scrambling, they’re very clever to
get your money and tourism, and you’ll find a lot of towns that have ghost
haunted walks, and so on. You know they’re kinda goofy, and they’re
entertaining, but I would say if you’re going to do a ghost walk, the place to do
it is either York or Edinburgh, okay, and York is really great. There’s all sorts of different kinds of
ghost walks, I did several of them on my last visit, and
I’ve sort of assessed them and analyzed
them in my guidebook, but when you’re in York, that’s the
place for your haunted walk. Now, that coast just beyond York, the east coast
of the middle of England, is — has long been sort of a destination for people
that want to a boardwalk in a Coney Island kind of place. And you’ve got a
famous a resort, a port called Whitby, and that’s quite nice, and also the the
boyhood home of Captain Cook, called Staithes. But there’s a lot of charming
little places to check out in that part of England as you go further north, and
you finally get to Durham. Durham is famous, it’s just a little university
town, but its most famous for this incredible cathedral, the Durham
Cathedral. This is Norman, meaning it’s before
Gothic, it is English Romanesque. Built- -that would make it built in the 12th
century, about. And the Norman cathedral is — the Durham Cathedral is just amazing.
Outside of Durham, you have the Beamish Open-Air Folk Museum.
If you like those open-air folk museums,
they’re sort of culture and history, on a lazy Susan for a busy
traveler. Here we have life from the turn of the
last century, circa 1900, all there for you to check out. And
there’s people who are role playing, and there’s
period vehicles, and so on, and it’s just a lot of fun, I
really think Beamish is quite nice. There are two great university towns in
England, Oxford and Cambridge. Don’t do both, do one of the other. They’re both
great, but if you’ve got less than a month in England you shouldn’t do both,
that’s redundant. Do one or the other, and save that time for something entirely
different, like hiking in Wales, or, you know, going up into the Cumbrian Lakes
District, or something like this. And Cambridge is better than Oxford,
okay. Now maybe academically you could debate it, but from
a tourist point of view I think Cambridge is just a lot more
charming and enjoyable. They’ve got the river where you’ve
got these punts, and you can go like the students and pull your way around. It’s
really very humiliating to try to do this elegantly, but you gotta give it a
whirl. You’ve got all — in Oxford and Cambridge
you’ve got this thing called the, “mix of town and gown,” you don’t have a campus like we’ve got
here with 30,000 students, you might have 30,000 students, but it’s
scattered in colleges all throughout the town so there’s this beautiful mix, and the whole city is caught up in this,
I just love it. And there are wonderful guided tours that will take you, they
meet at the tourist office, and they are- -that’s how you get into these different
colleges, because otherwise they’re kind of private. And it really is an amazing
story, all these illustrious alumni, and you can go into King’s College Chapel,
for instance, and beautiful perpendicular Gothic, and Ruben’s paintings, and the
biggest collection of medieval stained glass in Britain, and there’s lots and
lots to see there, in Cambridge. Which, actually, is good to do as a side trip
from London. I think it’s just about an hour north by train. It’s not a very good place for sleeping,
I’ve never found good accommodations in Cambridge. You might consider doing it as
a very easy day trip out from London, remembering that in England they have
this thing about cheap day returns, if you’re gonna buy a round trip ticket costs
just a little more than a one way ticket. Moving up the coast, on the west, you come
to Liverpool. Famous because — we know because of the Beatles, I think — it’s also
famous because it was an immigration point. Much of the Irish that came — that fled
the potato famine went to Liverpool to get to America. I was just at Ellis Island and looked at
my grandfather’s name, or my great-grandfather’s name, and found out
he came from Norway, to Liverpool, and then across to America. Liverpool is a huge
port for all of the immigration, and there’s
a museum about that. Liverpool has been run down, but like so
many Industrial Age cities that have been run down, like Glasgow, like Hamburg,
like Antwerp, like Porto in Portugal, like Bilbao, you have a huge resurgence
right now, and they are just really getting with it. There’s a energy,
there’s a lot of investment, there’s a lot of creative energy, and spirit, and
here at Albert Dock in the center, you’ve got the nucleus of the new
Liverpool, it really is one of the great cities in Britain to see. If you’re a
Beatles fan, there’s not a lot left. Well, there’s
actually quite a lot left, you can go — the Cavern’s been replaced, where the Beatles first started, but you
can go and see Paul’s house, and John’s house, and and I just — if you’re into the
Beatles you can take these tours that show you, you know,
Strawberry Fields, Penny L- — all these different things you
hear from the, you know, the the fireman, and the roundabout, and
you know, all the lyrics that you would hear, and then these guys are just
so passionate about it, they will bring it all to life for you when you tour
Strawberry Fields, and so on. Now from Liverpool, you go a little
bit north, and you get to Blackpool. Blackpool is a disgusting place,
and it’s about the most visited place in England. Everybody goes there, but nobody will
admit to it. It’s the lowbrow Coney Island for people that cannot afford to
fly to Spain, all right. It started out in the
Industrial Age when that — when there were no airplanes, and everybody needed a
break from the mines, and then we’d get in the trains, they’d go to Blackpool, they
were afraid to go to sea but they had these piers that went
out into the water, and they’d go out there
and get some fresh air. They can eat their fish and chips, they can
enjoy some white knuckle rides, they could take the trip up the little
stubby Eiffel Tower they’ve got there. Blackpool is — it’s a fascinating look at
low brow working-class England. And I go there and I
don’t know whether to hate it or to love it,
it’s just so funky. And I just — it’s something
to consider. I mean there’s — it’s just
fascinating to look at British people sitting on the beach, pretending it’s sunny.
It’s miserable out, and they’re still there,
with their sweaters and their hats, reading the paper on the
beach. And you got the biggest connection of what they call “white-knuckle rides,”
anywhere in Britain there, a lot of great rides, a lot of goofy
entertainment, a lot of the sort of searching and struggling people, and a
lot of drag shows. So it’s a, it’s just, if you want a dose of
Britain that’s reality, I’ll tell you that. And one great thing about Blackpool, when
you go to Blackpool that makes the pristine beauty of the Cumbrian Lake
District even better. I — for years, I was going
from Blackpool to the Winder — Blackpool to the
Windermere Lakes District, and I thought, “why do I
love this so much?” It was just a real breath of fresh air
after this all fish and chips and cotton candy kind of stuff in Blackpool. The
Lakes District. Oh, this is, you know, this is the land of Wordsworth, and
all the poets, and communing with nature, and all these gorgeous lakes up in
the north of England. When we go to the
Lakes District, I want to remind you there’s a lot of
“lakes districts.” Windermere itself is the most famous part, it’s the most touristy
and traffic-jammed, and I don’t like it. I would go farther north, making the town
of Keswick your headquarters, and doing the Cumbrian Lakes District in the north. There’s these peaks, there’s, I don’t know,
200 or some peaks, they’re called Wainwrights. And Wainwright was an
earlier guy who mapped all these peaks, and a nature enthusiasts, and a lot
of people try to climb every little peak. The highest peak in England is, I think,
3,200 feet high, I mean it’s, that’s not very impressive, but there’s a lot of
these little peaks, and they’re — they give you a very cheap “king of the mountain”
feeling, I’ll tell you that. When you go around the Lakes District, I would climb — this is one of my favorite
walks, it’s a place called Catbells. Catbells, just easy walk from Keswick. And
I just love being on top of Catbells, it’s just 1,500 feet, it’s just a couple hours
walk from your bed and breakfast in Keswick,
and it is thrilling. I do want to remind you, by the way, we’ve
got about eight shows on Britain that we’ve done. All of these shows, half hour
each, are available for free anytime on our new website. You just go to ricksteves.com, and
then you go to the TV section, and you look at Britain, and then you can see a whole
half-hour just on the Lakes District, or a whole half-hour on Wales, or a whole
half-hour on York and Bath, or two or three half-hours on London. So remember it’s all there, it’s free, and
you can get it anytime, just go to ricksteves.com and
click, and you can hike with me and my crew to
the top of Catbells. Now remember, remember, Keswick, K-E-S-W-I-C-K, is your
home base, and it’s on Derwentwater. It’s a lake called a water,
Derwentwater, and there’s this little boat that will go around the lake and it’ll
let you get off anywhere you like, and then you can hike to your heart’s
content and grab the boat at the other dock, and continue circling the lake back
to your spot. All over the Lake District you got
beautiful places to check out, gorgeous hikes, endless things you can do. This is
the main square in Keswick, and I just love staying in Keswick, there’s
something about it that’s just great. Remember this is the
neighborhood of the great poet Wordsworth. And this
is the Romantic Age, when people were not going to the fancy
salons in Paris, or the palaces in Venice, to hang out with the big cultural big
shots, they were coming up to the Lakes District, and walking through the woods
with the port Wordsworth. This is when part of the daily academic
diet of every scholar at Oxford and Cambridge was to walk through the woods
and commune with nature. And when you go to the Wind — the Windermere Lakes
District, the Cumbrian Lake District, you can understand how the British would
just get really pulled into the awesomeness of nature. There’s more youth hostels per square
mile in the Cumbrian Lake District than anywhere else, and they need every one of
them. There’s so many people up there enjoying nature, and it’s easy to do. You can go to Wordsworth’s house, he had
two different houses, one humble and one after he was more successful, and you can
see how he was inspired by nature. And remember, you’ve got your own special
stone circle up there, called Castlerigg. Castlerigg stone circle, a great place to
have that kind of wonder. Now, we’re way in the north edge of
England, and cutting across the north edge of England is the Windermere — is
is the Hadrian’s Wall. 72 miles from coast-to-coast, built in, I think, the
year 122. Remember, the, the, the Romans spread as far north
as the north edge of England. They got all
the way up there, they said, “okay, this is
good enough, let’s call it an empire, I don’t
want to mess with Scotland, we’ll just build a big wall right
here,” okay. And they built this wall all across
England, and they fortified it with a mile — every mile was a little fort, called
a mile fort, and then they could — it was wide enough so chariots could run along
the wall and reinforce the different forts, and they had their guys fortifying
that against the people, the barbarians farther to the north. It’s an amazing thing to think about
Romans being stationed way up in this godforsaken corner of the ancient world,
when they could be down in Rome. And it’s just fascinating to me, and there’s
beautiful- -it’s not godforsaken today, it must have
been godforsaken without heaters, okay, ’cause it is cold and brutal in the
bad season from a weather point of view. You can walk across Hadrian’s Wall, it’s
a beautiful popular hike. If you got a car you can car hike it, you can stop in many places along the
way, and it’s just one of the most evocative and beautiful parts of the
British Isles. Anywhere you’re traveling in Britain or
Ireland, you can stay in people’s homes. These are bed and breakfasts. And I just
love the bed and breakfast scene when I’m in Britain. You can book these in advance, you can
find em’ in your guidebook, and you can just have a stroll down the street and
find it on your own. It’s nice when you’re driving you, got
the mobility and it’s fun to look at a few, but this day and age, people normally
just get online and book it that way. Double the culture intimacy, for half the
price of a hotel, when you stay in a B&B, and you get your own temporary local
mother. I just love it when I’m staying in these places, and you know, Kathleen is
really excited that Ricky from Settle is here, okay. I really can’t say enough about B&Bs, and
if you want a good dose of country hospitality, right down to the
hot water bottle in your bed to warm up the sheets before you climb in, you go to a farmhouse B&B.
And you’ll find these all over the
countryside in Britain. I don’t list a lot of these in my
guidebooks, but if you’re really curious about B&Bs, get online or get a guidebook that’s
passionate about them, and have that information so you know
what your options are. But they’re very
charming, they’re very, comfortable, if they got the toilet and
shower down the hall, that’s just fine, these are really, almost over-the-top in
comfort, and you’ll get this kind of charming experience, and you get to know
a family. I’ve got a lot of bumps on my head from
charming half-timbered houses though, so if you’re, if you happen to be tall and
you get a room up on the top floor, be careful. If you’re traveling with a
family, remember you can stay in hostels all
over the place. It really accommodates families nicely, and if you’re driving
around you’ll want to call in advance. You can cook for the price of
groceries in the hostels, or you can call B&Bs, and remember the more
people you put into the room, generally the cheaper it gets. In bed and breakfast
that comes with breakfast, and this is a hearty breakfast designed to keep you
out in the fields all day long, working, or sightseeing, or whatever you’re doing.
It’s a, it’s a, it’s just a, well a lot of people call it a heart attack on a plate, alright. And if you don’t want all
those eggs, and all that pan fried toast, and, and all the, all the
grease, you can have a healthy option, and British B&Bs are really into
healthy options now. Whatever the case,
you’ll have a huge buffet, and a wonderful
part of your day is the breakfast that comes with the B&B.
I want to remind you in Britain they got a different adapter. All of your electronic
gear these days is 120 — 110 to 220. Don’t worry about the
old-fashioned converter, if you’ve got a
camera, or an iPad, or a laptop, or, or
whatever, it’ll plug in — it’ll work over
there just like here, the problem is, your plug won’t fit into
the wall. So you need to get an adapter.
These just cost a couple bucks, and
it’s those four big rectangular prongs, rather than our two
little rectangular prongs. On the continent the adapter is two little
circles, round prongs, in Britain. In Ireland you got the big herky adapter.
And when you plug it into the wall remember, a lot of times it won’t work
because you got to turn it on. There’s a little flip at the socket, and you flip
that flip on, and you’ll learn sooner or later that that’s how you warm up your
tea, okay. There are all sorts of youth hostels in
Britain, many of them are historic castles, and I think those are a lot of
fun if you’re a vagabond or a backpacker on a tight budget. When it comes to eating, remember Britain
is very expensive, but you’ve got a lot of sandwich shops, and delis, and little
cafes that do a good job of, you know, microwaving a Cornish pasty, or
something like this. You’re dealing with pounds and pence.
This is a very, very old sign so forget the cost here, but it’s about
a dollar sixty for a pound. That means if something costs
90 pence, it would be $1.50. If something costs one
pound fifty, it would be about two and a
quarter dollars, okay. Just add 50% and you got
the cost in dollars. This is in a tearoom, a lot of museums,
and Wordsworth’s house, or churches, or whatever, will have their
little cafe, their little tea house, and it’s a very charming area to have your
your scone, and your tea, and this kind of thing. I never drink tea in the United
States, but when I’m in England a spot of tea just feels right, you know. You need to kind of embrace the tea,
and scones, and all of that stuff. When it comes to eating, your best value is in
the pubs. Pubs are real — some pubs just want to serve beer, and you can tell by
the way they present their food, and their menus, and so on. But other pubs
are gastro pubs, they take their food very seriously, and it’s the best deal
going, alright. Wonderful ambiance, basic good quality food,
and a great price. Again, you take the price,
and these are old prices, but you’d — if it’s — let’s say it
would be — if it’s ten pounds, it’d be $16 for that plate. All over Britain you got
wonderful pubs, and this is just an example of the quality of
food, right here, you’ll get in a pub this day and age. That would have been
unthinkable in the old days, when Britain was the butt of a lot of jokes with
their food. Now they’ve got very nice food and very
nice pubs. Learn about the whole beer etiquette, you know, learn about how silly
it is for a man to order half a pint. You have a full pint, that’s what you
need to get if you want to be not getting a lot of ridicule from the
locals. Learn about a lager, learn about a stout, learn about the the local beers, be adventurous. Remember a pub is a
public house, it’s where the whole neighborhood goes
to meet people. If you sit at the table you might get some privacy, if you
sit at a stool at the bar, you’ll have all sorts of friends.
It’s multi-generational, man, women, grandma, the kids, the dog,
everybody is there, throw some darts, tell some jokes,
go on quiz night, whatever, have some fun with the
locals in the pub. Use your vehicle to get off
the beaten path, it’s so important these days.
Many of us just go the bullet trains and the freeways. If you find a severe dip, you can stop
and take a picture of it. You’ve got the British driving on the
left side of the road, don’t say the wrong side of the road.
It’s the other side of the road. They were driving this way before we
were driving on our side of the road, it’s not the wrong side of the road. If
one side makes more sense, I suppose it does make more sense to approach traffic
with your sword hand on the inside, like they do, to defend yourself, you see. And thankfully the pedals work if you — you
have to drive — often in Europe you have to buy a — use a stick shift
if you rent a car. So if you can’t drive a stick, you better
be sure you’re getting an automatic, because that can be a rude awakening. The
pedals work like ours do, pedal and, and, clutch, but the stick here is different.
It’s on the other side, as you can see in this photograph. So it’s a little bit of adjustment, I
recommend not learning how to drive in Britain, in London with jet lag. That’s why I say go to Bath, spend a few
days there, and pick your car up in Bath, you’re much more likely to survive your
first day on the road in a small town. And be in a humble
frame of mind, if you’re ever in a near head-on collision, I would bet you’re on the wrong side of
the road. It says look, it reminds you to look right, look left, whatever, I look
every possible way it before ever stepping into traffic. Look every way, never be assured that you
know from where the traffic is coming, it includes when you’re walking or
driving. And in Britain they’ve got these wonderful roundabouts. Roundabouts used to
stress me out because I never knew what is my correct exit, how would I know, I’ve never been this —
the way they assign things is kind of, kind of confusing to me. What I learned,
after lots of stress, was, we gotta wing into the roundabout, remember, you
just, you merge in, and then make a pact with your navigator that you’re not
going to try to leave on your first circle. You’re going to do an exploratory loop,
and you’re gonna do another exploratory loop if you want to, it doesn’t
matter, nobody else is still there, so nobody knows you’re in your third loop. You can go around until
you’re good and sure. Talk about all your
options, if you’re not absolutely sure take another, and then
with all the confidence in the world, your wing off on the exit of your choice.
Because if you do it in a harried way, like, “which one is it, oh take that one,”
like we may never see it again. you don’t know for five
miles if it was the right exit, and then you
realize, “oh,” and you gotta come all the way back. So enjoy
the roundabouts, make ’em fun, get rid of the stress, that’s very important. The trains in England are expensive, among
the most expensive in Europe per mile, but they’re also very good. And they’re
easy to navigate, and there’s lots of people to help you out in the trains. I think the train system in England is
wonderful. I do want to remind you, it’s a beautiful place for taking advantage of
local walking tours. All over the British Isles you’ve got good walks, a lot of
them are free, or almost free, done by volunteers through the tourist office. The museums are charming in the way they
explain all of their rich history, and enjoy the fact that we speak the language, so every little
funky two-bit museum, you can read everything there. You’re not gonna get that on the
continent. So then you go to this little museum here, and you can look at this
skull with a big gash in it, and it says, “this is a late Saxon skull wounded by
a blow from a battle axe or heavy sword, many such injuries have been found on
Anglo-Saxons skulls, this one shows no trace of healing, and
there can be no doubt that death must have occurred almost at once.” That
was a serious blow to the head. And I just find it so interesting to go to
these museums and see this armor, and we just look at armor, but it’s full of
dings, you know, and it’s just been all beat up, and these guys were fighting for
their lives in there, 800 years ago. Remember the weather is horrible in
England. Don’t let it keep you down. You’ve got to get out and do it. If you
look out the window of your bed and breakfast and you go,”oh, it’s raining,” you’re going to be inside all day. The
weather changes five times a day. Face the weather, have your gore-Tex,
borrow an umbrella. Many times I borrow a parka from my bed
and breakfast, and get out there and do your stuff, because it’ll be off and on. It’s just, as I always remind my
travelers, in England they say, “there’s no bad weather just
inappropriate clothing,” okay, so have the right clothing and
get out there and do it. Wales is a very easy visit
from England, and it’s just a logical side trip.
The South Wales has plenty of charm, but if you just got a
few days I would focus on the north of Wales, and my favorite stop would be
Conwy. Conwy is a wonderful city in the north, and it’s got an
incredible castle, and this is part of Edward I’s
Ring of Iron. Remember England had to work very hard
to quell the indigenous Welsh, and this is in the 13th century I think, and
Edward I built 17 mighty castles all across Ireland to keep the
indigenous people down. Think of what it’s like to to keep
indigenous people down, even today it’s hard to keep indigenous people down.
England’s trying to do it in Ireland, we’re trying to do it in different
places, Russia’s trying to do it, I mean this is what empires do. And in the old days they had to make
these castles, and around the castle was a green zone, and it was a garrison
town, and it had to be in it — and you know, when we went to Baghdad we had our
green zone, and we had to keep the indigenous people down,
and we had a airport, and you had to fly in like a
spiral to get down safely. Well you had to support that garrison
town, and then what England — Edward I had to do was have fortified ports,
so he could help them by by sea. And the ships would come in, but these
garrison towns were embattled, surrounded by angry Welsh people.
And until they were able to
quell those people, it was a bunch of tiny little enclaves
of England, in what was generally wild and woolly Wales. Conwy is a great
former garrison town, beautifully preserved within its walled structure, and
you can tour that castle. Conwy is your best look, in so many ways,
at Welsh culture in the north, a great home base from where you can side trip
and see many of the other castles. Perhaps the most famous is Caernarfon,
famous because that’s where the Prince of Wales is invested, and you
can go visit Caernarfon Castle. And from Conwy you can venture into
Snowdonia National Park. This is the most beautiful, beautiful
terrain in that part of Britain, and when we go through Snowdonia
National Park, we’ll find all sorts of
beautiful hikes, little mountains to scale,
trains to take, wool and looms industry, and most
importantly, slate mines. Many of the slate
roofs in Europe were mined right here in
northern Wales, a very tough industry. This is where you have that culture
where the men were singing in the mines and all that, and to this day you can
find hardscrabble mining towns struggling to make it, and a lot of them,
the mines, help pay the bills by letting tourists go through,
and putting on a hard hat learning about mining back
then, and back there. You can ride these trains way deep,
and then your guide will take you around. You can see them splitting the shale or
the slate to make the slate roofs, it’s just a beautiful industry to tour
when you’re in Northern Wales. Remember the Industrial Age
had a lot of shipping to do, and they didn’t have
freeways back then, and the efficient way to get it
there was on canals. Of course nobody would ship industrial
goods on canals anymore in Britain, and they’ve turned these old
Industrial Age canals, like our Erie Canal, into recreational byways.
And canal vacations are very popular in Britain, and you can walk
along the canals, and it’s just a beautiful opportunity
when you’re traveling. So that’s our look at England
and our look at Wales, once again we started in London, and then
we went west over to Bath, from Bath we side-tripped around to see
Wells and Glastonbury, where the Holy Grail
they think might be, we saw Stonehenge and Avebury,
the two famous stone circles, then we went up into
the Cotswolds Villages where all the sheep’s wool
paid for this beautiful architecture, we considered staying in Chipping
Campden or Stow-in-the-Wold, we visited Stratford-upon-Avon, the home
of Shakespeare, Warwick, the very nicest
castle to see in England, we went up to Ironbridge Gorge, the
birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, from there you could side-trip
into the north of Wales, that I was just talking about, before
heading north to Liverpool, Blackpool, Keswick in the north part of the Lakes
District, cut along Hadrian’s Wall, see Durham with its famous Norman
cathedral, head south to York with so much to see and do,
before zipping back to London with a possible
stop in Cambridge. I hope that gives you some ideas on how
to enjoy Britain, and I want to thank you for taking this class, and wish you
happy travels. Thank you very much. Thank you.


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