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Ideas for an epic fortnight in England/Northern Ireland

Ideas for an epic fortnight in England/Northern Ireland

Old May 23, 2022, 1:08 pm
  #31  
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Originally Posted by DaveS
O2 does not charge extra for roaming in Europe so that is worth looking at if you want to use it in Europe.
None of them used to until Brexit. Not sure about now.
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Old May 23, 2022, 2:00 pm
  #32  
 
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Originally Posted by highlanderfil
None of them used to until Brexit. Not sure about now.
Still do. Pay as you go terms here:
https://www.o2.co.uk/help/pay-as-you...ing-in-europe#
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Old May 23, 2022, 4:14 pm
  #33  
 
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Originally Posted by highlanderfil
None of them used to until Brexit. Not sure about now.
The point is that of the major UK networks, O2 is the only one to currently preserve the pre-brexit free European roaming. The other major UK networks; Vodafone, Three, EE have all gone back on their stated intention to maintain free European roaming post brexit and are now extracting fees from the Great British public when roaming in Europe.
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Old May 23, 2022, 9:55 pm
  #34  
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Originally Posted by plunet
The point is that of the major UK networks, O2 is the only one to currently preserve the pre-brexit free European roaming. The other major UK networks; Vodafone, Three, EE have all gone back on their stated intention to maintain free European roaming post brexit and are now extracting fees from the Great British public when roaming in Europe.
Thank you, that is really good to know. Since we aren't going outside of the UK this time, it makes sense for me to keep the one Vodafone card, but I'll have to get a pair of O2 cards anyways for when we go to the EU in August. Shame that Turkey isn't included, guess I'll have to get a separate SIM for that.
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Old May 24, 2022, 2:10 am
  #35  
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Originally Posted by highlanderfil
Thank you, that is really good to know. Since we aren't going outside of the UK this time, it makes sense for me to keep the one Vodafone card, but I'll have to get a pair of O2 cards anyways for when we go to the EU in August. Shame that Turkey isn't included, guess I'll have to get a separate SIM for that.
MSE is well known in the UK and this gives a good list of providers that allow free roaming. I am with 3 but won't be once current contract ends (I am grandfathered in at the moment for free Go Roam) as they reneged on their word about charges post Brexit.

Cheap mobile and data roaming Use your phone abroad for less, including roam free trick

Some of their stuff is a bit "I can't be bothered" but I often refer to his site for the concise summaries.
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Old May 24, 2022, 9:00 am
  #36  
 
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Originally Posted by highlanderfil
Bumping this thread for some ideas on things to do in London. So far the plan is as follows (obviously contingent on weather behaving):

June 29: Get in and chill. Probably go for a walk in Hyde Park, but given neither one of us sleeps on planes, even in spite of us traveling Premium Plus, I don't really think this is going to be a big day.
June 30: Zookeeper for a day in Kent. Turns out there are multiple furry creatures we'd like to interact with apart from the binturong, so we figured in for a penny, in for a pound. Perfect day to do it, as well, as we'll still be riding the jet lag and should be able to wake up sufficiently early to make it to Kent at 9:30.
July 1: The day is open; my wife is going to the theatre at 19:30 (The Seagull), so I'm going to need to find something to do for about 2.5-3 hours. Normally I would just hop on the tube and explore the first new-to-me London neighborhood I could point to on a map (or hop on a Thames boat, or go plane watching at LCY), but the trouble is that, given I won't have much sunlight left by the time the play starts, it may not be the best of ideas. So, could use some tips here. Preferably outdoors.
July 2: Another play, this time together (The Southbury Child), in the evening. Day is open.
July 3: No plans as yet.

Appreciate any suggestions. No more football until August, which would have been another good alternative.
You mentioned that you were a football fan, so keep an eye out in case any London teams have home pre-season friendlies that evening. It's early in the pre-season, so may be a bit of a long-shot for any of the larger clubs but an evening kick-off would align with the theatre timings - here's a website to keep an eye on as more get announced in the next few weeks: https://footballkitnews.co.uk/summer...ball-fixtures/
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Last edited by mookie10; May 24, 2022 at 9:00 am Reason: spelling
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Old May 24, 2022, 9:56 am
  #37  
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Originally Posted by mookie10
You mentioned that you were a football fan, so keep an eye out in case any London teams have home pre-season friendlies that evening. It's early in the pre-season, so may be a bit of a long-shot for any of the larger clubs but an evening kick-off would align with the theatre timings - here's a website to keep an eye on as more get announced in the next few weeks: https://footballkitnews.co.uk/summer...ball-fixtures/
Yessss! Thank you, I've never had much luck finding this kind of website before. Would be great to catch a preseason match and check out the new talent.
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Old May 26, 2022, 3:07 pm
  #38  
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Hah, they've preventively walked us from the HIE Belfast to the full-fat Holiday Inn. We get to keep the old rate and get free parking and breakfast just like we would have at the HIE. No complaints!
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Old Jun 20, 2022, 6:08 pm
  #39  
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With the trip coming up in just over a week, I think we've finally ironed out a few last-minute details (such as where to spend the period of time between the 5th and the 8th - updated the OP, as well). I also managed to book tickets to the Formula 1 qualifying session on Saturday, July 2. Too bad Silverstone doesn't have the sprint race this year.
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Old Jun 20, 2022, 10:33 pm
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Wimbledon is ongoing during your visit. My wife and I once went and stood in line for general admission, eventually getting in. It was fun to walk the grounds and I always thought it would be better early in the tournament when there were many more matches going on. If you had a day with good weather and not much else happening you could consider a visit, though I am unsure about ticket access these days. My guess would be it will probably be pretty packed with people though.
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Old Jun 20, 2022, 11:39 pm
  #41  
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Originally Posted by xooz
Wimbledon is ongoing during your visit. My wife and I once went and stood in line for general admission, eventually getting in. It was fun to walk the grounds and I always thought it would be better early in the tournament when there were many more matches going on. If you had a day with good weather and not much else happening you could consider a visit, though I am unsure about ticket access these days. My guess would be it will probably be pretty packed with people though.
That certainly explains the dearth of hotel options and the complete lack of last-minute deals. Eh... Fifteen years ago I would have been the first in line - in fact, I probably would have known about it way ahead of time and made a point of organizing the trip around it - but I've not kept up with professional tennis since Pete Sampras hung up his racquet. It's tempting as a cultural phenomenon, but I've already dropped over $250 on a qualifying - not even a race! Silverstone prices are mad - ticket for F1 and don't really want to get stuck in crowds, anyways. Ironically, I had completely messed up my dates - I had originally thought I had all of the 2nd free - so I'll have to rush back to make the play in London that evening. Should be OK - quali ends at around 5 p.m., so I'll have two and a half hours to return the car to north London, hop on the tube back to the hotel, change (hopefully) and make it down to the Bridge Theatre. Should just about make it. But am still not sure what to do the evening of the 1st. Maybe I'll just go for a run around Hyde Park or something.
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Old Jul 3, 2022, 5:25 pm
  #42  
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So, as we are rounding off the London portion of our trip, a few thoughts I'm hoping some might find useful:
  • Heathrow passport control is a DISASTER. It took us around 90 minutes to get through the process - and there weren't that many flights landing at 7 a.m. on a Wednesday. At least our bags were ready for us immediately. And Delta's Premium Economy is 100% worth the premium (pardon the pun) over main cabin.
  • Heathrow Express is super convenient, but the Elizabeth Line gets 80% of the job done at about 1/4 of the price. And, in fact, it actually beats HEX by about 5-7 minutes when it comes to picking up our rental car at Avis Heathrow T2-4 tomorrow morning. Lesson learned.
  • The Hilton Paddington is super disappointing (link for my TripAdvisor review). Location is literally the only thing it's got going for it. Had I known our experience would be such that it was, I'd either have paid cash for the Premier Inn, notwithstanding easy access from Paddington Station to the Hilton and all the construction going on around the place, or re-thought the logistics entirely. I can't help but pity the people who shelled out upwards of GBP500 per night to stay here during Wimbledon.
  • Irrespective of what happens in the next 10 days, the trip to Fenn Bell will be incredibly difficult to top. Probably the best GBP250 I've ever spent in my entire life. I'll write a separate review for it and post it later, but we are still smiling about it. We spent a good twenty minutes feeding and playing with about a dozen lemurs. We got to have two binturongs crawl on our shoulders (one nearly strangled me with her tail, but minor details). We fed foxes (did you know they LOVE peanuts?), coatis and raccoon dogs. We had meerkats crawl all over us. We got to boop raccoons' noses. The wholesomeness was just through the roof. It was a pain to get back from, though. We caught a cab from Strood station there, but on the way back neither Uber nor cabs were anywhere to be found (Uber in particular doesn't seem to be working well now on the outskirts - we had a separate experience that ended just as poorly, with no cars wanting the call) and buses run once an hour, at best. But, logistics aside, I still can't get that day out of my head.
  • Silverstone was a madhouse. The parking situation is so incredibly poorly organized, I left Wembley at around 8:40 and didn't make it to the track until well after noon, missing one of the events I really wanted to see. Vodafone did me absolutely no favors, either - showed full 4G bars, didn't work at all, except to send a couple of iMessages to my wife. It's 2022, not 2008. F's sakes, telecoms, figure it out.
  • On the subject of SIM cards - Vodafone's was nice to have upon arrival, but my wife's 3 card that we bought at Heathrow seems to have much better quality coverage overall. And it didn't require a GBP30 plan to get 5G. I don't need 100GB of data for two weeks, even though some of it came in handy for a conference call (Vodafone's 5G is anywhere between 6x and 15x the speed of Hilton's wifi). I need fast mobile internet without wasting money.
  • Masking days seem to be over, even as case counts climb exponentially in England. I was the ONLY person at Silverstone (in a crowd of about 150K) wearing a mask and people were packed super tightly in the stands, in cold weather which, even without Covid, makes one cough more. We ended up ordering some 3M N95s with valves from Amazon to wear to crowded venues (such as plays, where it seemed that everyone in the audience had coughed at least once).
  • Speaking of theater - The Southbury Child was excellent and so, too, was The Seagull, to hear my wife tell it (I spent that evening putzing around central London on another conference call). The Bridge is a great venue, but a bit challenging to get to on public transport, as it turns out. You either have to navigate the bus system or walk a ways from the Tower Bridge/London Bridge tube stations. Can get a bit challenging if it's raining (though weather-wise we could hardly complain - it's been high 60s/low 70s all week with not much precipitation).
  • One of our favorite restaurants (Steak & Company) changed their serving style (you can no longer cook your own steak on a stone), but kept up the standards. Awesome service, great food, somewhat reasonable prices (I say "somewhat" because we typically end up sharing dishes and a GBP75 order of one 10-oz fillet, one burrata, one fancy drink, a Coke and a dessert might be one person's dinner more often than not and that's not cheap). Highly recommended.
  • Hyde Park is lovely as always. Did you know parakeets live there? Fun little surprise. They will come and sit on your arms, too.
So, all in all, a rather eventful five days during which we managed to do a bunch of stuff we wanted, didn't get to do even more (my wife never even made it near her favorite Tate Modern and we didn't get to eat at some of our favorite spots, such as the Victoria Market) and further reaffirmed that if any relaxation is required, London isn't the place for it. Hopefully that's what the Lake District will be for. We'll need a bit of a breather
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Old Jul 4, 2022, 12:50 pm
  #43  
 
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Originally Posted by highlanderfil
Silverstone was a madhouse. The parking situation is so incredibly poorly organized, I left Wembley at around 8:40 and didn't make it to the track until well after noon, missing one of the events I really wanted to see. Vodafone did me absolutely no favors, either - showed full 4G bars, didn't work at all, except to send a couple of iMessages to my wife. It's 2022, not 2008. F's sakes, telecoms, figure it out.
Silverstone is a madhouse, and there are no good options other than driving or taking a coach (which I did), but either way you still end up in traffic. A friend paid for a place on site on year, but very pricey and you are paying to stay in a container hotel on site.

Enjoy the rest of the trip!
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Old Jul 4, 2022, 4:06 pm
  #44  
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Originally Posted by GregWTravels
Silverstone is a madhouse, and there are no good options other than driving or taking a coach (which I did), but either way you still end up in traffic. A friend paid for a place on site on year, but very pricey and you are paying to stay in a container hotel on site.

Enjoy the rest of the trip!
I saw some glamping tents. Cant even imagine what that would have cost. But the race was epic, I must admit.

Come to think of it, when I went to a BTCC race in 2011, I had to take a cab there from the station and was fortunate to have an American family share theirs with me on the way back, or I would have been screwed. Nice to see traditions maintained. Brands Hatch (DTM) in 2008 was no different, either.
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Old Jul 15, 2022, 10:08 am
  #45  
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We're back Stateside, so I feel like I owe an update. This one will cover everything up to our sailing to Northern Ireland.
  • Hoping for a better rental car than the class I booked (Avis status and all), I was more than a little bit disappointed to end up in a Peugeot 208. It got out of its own way well enough, though, and my wife categorically stated that this was the best right-hand-drive car she's ever ridden in (given competition was a Merc E-Class, a pair of Focuses, a pair of Golfs and a Fiesta ST, that was reasonably high praise). My shoulders, on the other hand, were killing me all trip long - there was simply no way to get into a comfortable driving position. But it was still reasonably fun to toss around narrow back roads.
  • Even though we had been to the Harry Potter Studio Tour a few times before, the new visit surprised us yet again. They've completely redone Privet Drive, plus added a scale copy of the Burrow to the courtyard, as well as the aforementioned Greenhouses. We also had afternoon tea there. Honestly, given how much similar meals cost in Central London, at 30 quid per person or so, it was almost a bargain, considering things are typically grossly overpriced at these kinds of venues.
  • The Compass Hotel (Best Western network) was great (link to my TripAdvisor review), if you don't count an oddly early (10 a.m. checkout time). If one is looking for a Cotswolds-adjacent chain hotel (points and all that) that still has some character and doesn't cost a fortune, I don't know that you can do much better. They serve a great dinner, as well (crawfish were a particular favorite of ours). The drive through the Cotswolds was nice, although brief, since we were planning on getting to the Lake District the same day and there were more than a few people around, not a single one masked, so we chose caution over amusement. We did go to the Broadway Tower, including inside it, as well. The little restaurant next to it serves up a phenomenal pea soup. Never thought that pea soup could be a noteworthy meal, but hey.
  • Our hotel in Ambleside by Windermere Lake looked thoroughly unimpressive in Google Street View, but reality was much, much better. Great room, perfectly kept grounds and the food was excellent. Service was a little bit snooty, as one could expect, but what can you do. Unfortunately, I made a mistake somewhere around my Google Maps planning and though the drive to Cairnryan for the sailing was about 1/2 of what it ended up being, so we ended up leaving the night before we were due to check out, rather wasting an evening. Oh well. The Lake District is a place I would love to return to, for about a week, as two days is a criminally short period of time, especially when the weather only complies half the time. The flyovers by RAF fighters were a bit of a startle, though. Apparently they are based nearby and our dates were when they were running exercises. But after we got used to the noise, we kept trying to seek them out to at least have a glance and finally succeeded right before leaving.
  • Stranraer (15 minutes away from our sailing and a port itself) was a bit gloomy, but our hotel was great. Would definitely recommend if a pre-sailing stopover is needed, just maybe try to not eat dinner there, otherwise "bowl of grease" of various flavorings will be your options.
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