Web log beg: travel

Since my previous "web log beg" worked so well, here's another. Because this is my first trip to Europe, and could well be my last for a long time, I'd like to do a bit of travel in September to have a look around (I get kicked out of the college on 3 September to make way for the regular students, so I either become an itinerant or fly straight home). It will just be for a couple of weeks or maybe a bit longer, since I'll be running out of both time and money by then. So where to go?

I've just confirmed that the Hamburg conference is actually on; that starts on 5 September (6, really) and finishes on 7. So I may as well make my way straight there. After that I'll have about 10 days, give or take -- I'm due to fly back (from Heathrow) on 17 September but I can change that. What can I fit in in that time? What should I see and do? Some parameters: I'll have a medium-sized suitcase with me, probably partially-stuffed with books, so backpacking is out. I won't be driving, and it's years since I've ridden a bike so I don't see myself doing that. So I'm already limiting myself to places which are good for walking, public transport or (if all else fails) touristy coach trips. I'm not too old for hostels (I think!), but would probably prefer hotels if I can afford it -- which I probably can't, but anyway I can worry about that later.

As for what I'd like to see: well, British history-type stuff obviously. Military history, planes, all that good stuff -- yes of course. But I can get a lot of that in and around London. I love museums and the like; picturesque country landscapes are nice but we have some of that here, so that's less of a priority. And since I'm from a young country, where the built environment dates to no earlier than the 19th century (with one exception), I have a hunger to see really old things. Early modern, medieval would be great; even earlier would be better. I'm a sucker for anything Roman, so Rome is an obvious choice. I don't have any Italian but they've been fleecing tourists for over two thousand years, so I'm sure I'd manage. I'd like to visit the Western Front battlefields in Flanders, particularly Pozières, but I figure I can probably do that earlier in the summer as a day or overnight trip. I also want to visit Cornwall: my patrilineal ancestors came from there, there's Tintagel and other fun pseudo-Arthurian connections, it's got that almost-Celtic-fringe thing happening, and it looks pretty in the pics. What about Scotland? I hear Edinburgh is nice. South is Hadrian's Wall, north the Highlands -- all good. Is there anywhere else I should be thinking about? How long does take to "do" these places, particularly in the absence of a car? 10 days is presumably only enough for two (plus Hamburg) once travel is factored in.

As you can see, I'm pretty clueless about the whole thing, so any and all clues would be most helpful! I don't have to decide everything right now, but there is a time factor: as part of my ticket to the UK, I get a free BA "internal" flight, which could be to Rome or Edinburgh (is it even sensible to fly from London to Edinburgh? it's such an itty bitty distance, or seems that way to an Australian), but apparently not to Hamburg (I'll have to double-check that though). Which is fantastic, but I basically have to decide where by Friday! Arghh, pressure.

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14 thoughts on “Web log beg: travel

  1. It is sensible to fly within Europe - I recently priced rail travel and it is ridiculously expensive for long trips. Ryanair go everywhere from Stansted, admittedly not the nicest airport. They also fly to marginal airports - their flight to 'Barcelona' for example, goes to Girona which is an hour and half out of Barcelona by rail (about €4) but much cheaper to stay and eat and has a great medieval centre which I thought was just as nice as the Barri Gothic in Barcelona. Likewise, their 'Milan' flight goes to Bergamo, which is a nice destination in it's own right.

    Consider parking the extra weight of books someplace in London while you are moving round - find someone who will hold them for you for 10 days in return for reading rights! (I live in Ireland, so I'm no use)

    As far as language goes, any place listed in a tourist guide will have someone who speaks English - most people in Northern European countries have very good English, and Southern Europe is getting better. It is hard to find a bar in Europe where they will not understand 'Fosters' , especially if you wave a fiver at them and point at the tap. FYI, most of the content of the Rough Guides is actually on their website, and while I love the guides, they are a bit heavy to lug, so I just copy and print the bits I need.

    Now, in the spirit of begging, I don't suppose you know anyone who can get me a photo of the statue of Charles Gavan Duffy in front of Parliament Buildings in Victoria?

    Mike Cosgrave

  2. York is good for Roman and medieval stuff, and only a couple of hours from London by train. Durham is also good for medieval and is on the way to Scotland. Lincoln's worth seeing too, although it's not as well known as York or Durham.

    Duxford is the best place for planes. You should be able to get a train to Cambridge then a bus.

    The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight visitor centre at Coningsby isn't too far from Cranwell, but going anywhere in Lincolnshire without a car can be difficult! There was also another air museum a bit further along at East Kirkby but I'm not sure if it's still there, and their Lancaster didn't fly so it's obviously not as good.

  3. I'm ashamed to say I've never actually stopped in either York or Durham but as they are both around half-way to Edinburgh on the train from London (King's Cross) that could all work out rather nicely. Edinburgh is well worth a visit. It is beautiful, drips history, is friendly and very cosmopolitan for a small city of only c. half a million. (Glasgow is none of those things, IMHO - avoid it, unless en route to somewhere else. Lots of Aussies in Edinburgh too.) And on the dates you mention you would either just catch the tail-end of the Edinburgh Festival or miss it entirely - which is good, ie, cheaper and not so busy (it is horrendous at the height of the Festival).

    Nothing wrong with flying London to Edinburgh (or Glasgow) unless carbon footprint is an issue - only takes an hour and can be dirt cheap with someone like Easyjet or Ryanair. But I take the trains regularly and I like the journey - 4.5 hours approx, lovely scenery, and the prices can be very cheap if you book online and _well in advance_. Have a look here: http://www.gner.co.uk/GNER They'll do you times and prices for York, Durham, etc, too.

    Also check out http://www.virgintrains.co.uk/gocheaper/default.aspx They do London - Glasgow in just under 4.5 hours (and all points in between). Lots of cheap single tickets online and in advance too.

    If you don't want to go so far you could check out places like Bristol or Bath. Even Dublin - lots of cheap flights. I don't know what would appeal to you further afield in Europe, but Madrid's a great city (where you can easily get by in English). Many love Barcelona too, but if you went to Madrid you could go to the Reina Sofia and look at the sketches of 'Guernica'.... :-)

  4. Post author

    Thanks for these comments!


    Australians don't drink Fosters, if we have a choice, we just export it so we can laugh at the foreigners who do :) On the other hand I much prefer scotch to any form of beer! Good tips about the Rough Guides and parking my books. And reassuring about English -- I know a little German but that's all.

    On the statue, yes, I can take one for you if you like! I might even be down that end of town tomorrow -- if not then early next week. I'll email you.


    Yes, Duxford is a must-see, though I'll also be going to the RAF Museum in Hendon (and quite possibly doing a spot of research there too). I probably won't have much chance to sight-see when I'm at Cranwell, but at least I've already seen a Lancaster ...

    I'll look into York and Durham!


    Thanks, I already knew to avoid Glasgow :) I didn't even think of the Festival, as you say there are pros and cons either way. And you may have sold me on the advantages of going by train, esp. the scenery part.

    Spain, hmm, maybe. It's never really been high on my list of must-see-one-day places, for some reason. And I do seem have Rome fixed in my mind now. But Spain does have a supporting role in my thesis, after all!

  5. Arriving in Edinburgh by train is, to use the ancient Scottish phrase(!), "fandabidozi".* You come in almost under the castle, which is quite extraordinary - hence the apocryphal anecdote of the US tourist who said 'isn't it great that they built the castle so close to the railway station?' Seriously - I've never met anyone who's been disappointed by Edinburgh. Well worth a trip, if only for a few days.

    Even if you're not a great man for scenery, if you got the London-Edinburgh train you would be covering around 2/3rd of the length of Britain and would get a real sense of the changes from south to north. You'll also _always_ find people on a train to Scotland who want/are willing to chat. That can actually be rather nice and even informative - if you're careful to avoid the drunk ones.

    Check here on the Festival http://www.eif.co.uk/ Looks like you would just miss it, which is ideal (city will empty, transport prices will drop), but also check the associated Fringe/Book/Comedy Festivals, all of which run over a slighly diferent period. (Book Festival is great - very pleasant and laid back.)

    It is possible to go from Barcelona to Rome by train. I did it once overnight and you wake up as you pass through Cannes, Nice, etc. Best train journey I've ever done - although I actually copped out and got off at Pisa to go to Florence instead. So I've yet to get to Rome, but, given your interests, that might well be your best choice for a continental European destination. Quite an expensive city, though, I believe? (You could probably even fly cheaply from Edinburgh to Rome.)

    *"Fandabidozi" - although it does simply mean 'fantastic' and is not a hidden swear-word - isn't an 'ancient Scottish phrase'. It is the catch-phrase of a bizarre 1980s Scottish 'comedy duo' called 'The Krankies' who have now gained cult status. But hearing it in an Australian accent could provoke such amusement and affection in Scotland that you'd probably be bought more Fosters than you can drink and then granted honourary Scottish national citizenship. :)

  6. Post author

    Oh, it's not that I don't care for scenery; it's more that Europe's competitive advantage over Australia lies elsewhere, so it doesn't make sense to me to spend a weekend in the Lake District or somewhere pretty like that. But if it's passing by the train window I'll certainly look!

    I don't think I can do anything fancy with the free flight I've got; it's probably Heathrow-wherever and return. Rome is surely expensive but so is London, or so I hear! Ah well, it's only money.

  7. war+hog

    Hi Brett
    On my trip last year I availed myself of a hire car, but trains would work quite well with this idea:
    Train from WW1 battlefields to Paris. Then take Easyjet from Paris to Newcastle-upon-Tyne (its at the eastern end of Hadrian's Wall). Perhaps there are coach tours of the wall (I just drove along it for the day). Definitely head down to Durham and York - gorgeous medieval buildings. York is great for B+Bs near the Minster and fortified wall. Train it down to Lincoln - the Cathedral and Castle make for an easy day of sightseeing (they're metres from one another). From Lincoln you may even be able to train into London, hop onto a train heading west and get to Bath or Cornwall on the same day. If you avoid London, England isnt anywhere near as expensive as Rome or Paris.

    Enjoy the trip! See you at the LAN sometime after your return. (war+hog)

  8. Post author

    Ta for the advice. Rome is booked now, at the end of the trip, so there's about 6 or 7 days after the Hamburg conference. I reckon York is probably a goer, along with Edinburgh. Cornwall I'm not so sure about, as it's probably hard to get around to see without a car. Durham or Lincoln could be good too ...

    That's an interesting suggestion, David! But given limited time I think I'd rather see some more UK than more Europe. Next trip maybe ...

    war+hog, when I get back I'll be an easy target without any CS practice for 2.5 months!

  9. Dan Todman

    If you want to park books in London, Brett, just let me know. Very happy to either stick them in the office at QMUL or chez Todman.

  10. George Shaner

    As an Australian friend of mine said: "Foster's; Australian for what you drink when everything else is gone."

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