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Spring 2006 - Southern England

May 1 - 30, 2006: Four weeks in England

A few days in Bath, a week in a cottage in Wiltshire and 2.5 weeks in a cottage in the Cotswolds.

May 1, Santa Fe to Denver to London (Heathrow)

Pickup rental car the day before. Drive from Santa Fe to Denver (6 hour drive). Return rental car at airport.

Flight: British Airways, leaves at 8:15pm, arrives at Heathrow just after noon the next day. We bought World Travellers tickets (premium coach) and upgraded with miles to Club World (business class). We flew Club World on our last trip (out of Phoenix) and had a very good flight. By flying out of Denver instead of Phoenix we save one hour flight time, but we have to drive to Denver instead of fly because there are no direct flights from Albuquerque to Denver. You can fly from Santa Fe, but it is a prop plane and about $200 each. We have the whole day to get there, so driving will be fine. We rented from Avis and there were no drop off charges.

May 2 - 5, Bath

We arranged for a car service to take us from Heathrow to Bath (Clive Nichols, we used him in 2004). It is a 1.5 hour drive, so we will probably arrive at the hotel around 3pm. You can take public transportation from Heathrow to Bath - a bus to Reading and then the train.

Hotel: The Queensbury. We walked by this hotel frequently on our 2004 trip when we had a vacation rental nearby. It is two blocks from lots of cafes and restaurants and about six blocks from the city center - a good location, close in but on a quiet street. The hotel is in several Georgian row houses. They have a restaurant and room service in case we are too zonked to go out to dinner. They offer breakfast, but it is not included in the price, which gives us the option of going out to the Pump Room for morning coffee!

For our three nights in Bath we have three walks on our list, but will probably only get to two of them. 1. The Skyline Walk. 2. The beginning of the Cotswolds Way. 3. The Kennet and Avon Canal Walk to Bradford-on-Avon. We have tickets to a play in Bath on our last night. I bought them on the phone about a month before the trip (The Safari Party at The Theatre Royal).

May 5 - 12, Great Hinton, Wiltshire

We will pickup our rental car on the Friday morning and drive out to our vacation rental in Wiltshire. It is only 30 minutes from Bath so we will probably not leave Bath until the afternoon (either that or check in early at the cottage - the owner said we could if it was not booked).

Vacation Rental: One week in Hinton Lodge from Rural Retreats. This is a 2bed/1bath cottage on the grounds of the owner's house at the edge of a small village in Wiltshire, between Devizes and Bradford-on-Avon.

Car Rental: We booked with AutoEurope during their spring sale. We got a compact, automatic, which will be upgraded one class, for $910 for 25 days. We did not take the all inclusive price which was several hundred dollars more because in the UK we will be covered on our AMEX platinum card (check with your credit card before declining coverage in Europe, some cards do not cover all countries). We are picking up in town, just outside the central area, at the same location we used on our 2004 trip.

Things to Do: I am sure our week will go by fast. Friends of David from the board live in Devizes and we hope to meet them. The last time we were in this area, they were traveling. We will spend a day in Salisbury (we spent a week there last year) and try to meet John (rnrman on the board) and his wife Lyn for lunch. I want to see several of the Wiltshire White Horses, probably visit the stone circle at Avebury again, visit a stone circle south of Bath that we have not seen before (Stanton Drew), Stourhead Gardens (have never been there, but both Wendy and Kathy recommend it), as many countryside walks as we can do, including some along the Kennet and Avon Canal. Plus have a good look at the towns in this area to consider choosing this area to spend a year in starting this fall.

May 12 - 29, Windrush, Oxfordshire (Cotswolds)

Windrush is less than an hour from Great Hinton, so we will figure out some fun place to visit to stretch out the day (can't arrive until the afternoon and have to checkout in the morning). Maybe we will see that famous series of roundabouts in Swindon! See the Uffington White Horse near Swindon. Stop somewhere nice for lunch. Get our groceries at the Waitrose in Cirencester.

Vacation Rental: 2.5 weeks in Jasmine Cottage from Rural Retreats. Once again we had to have a vacation rental with a phone or internet access and only found a few with availability. Jasmine Cottage was available for the last 3 weeks of May and we took it because it has a phone, it is in the eastern Cotswolds which is an area where we have not stayed before, it looked nice (Wendy has visited the cottage), and it was available for the whole time.

Rural Retreats cottages are more expensive than most. If you are looking for a bargain, don't use them. I like their cottages because the locations are always good and the cottages are comfortable. We almost went with a cottage just outside of Burford, with another agency, but we would have had to do one week in that cottage and then find another place for a week.

Things to Do: Walk, tea, walk, tea, walk, and walk. Plus talk to a few agents and start looking at houses to rent for a year. Many places go on the market two months before they are available, so if we found something that was available in August, we would take it now. Or if it was fabulous and available now, we would take it (and maybe change our flights back and stay longer - then fly home, get our house in Santa Fe ready to rent out and fly back). Whatever we do, the cat Buddy cannot join us until October because of the "quarantine" process. He would either stay in a kennel in Santa Fe or with a friend.

Since we have not stayed in this area before, there are lots of hikes/walks that we have not done before. I was going thru my hiking books yesterday and noting all the walks in this area. We will also visit several villages/towns that we have not been to. A day in Oxford, maybe even a day trip by train to London.

May 29, West Sussex

The day before our flight home we will leave the cottage and drive to a hotel near Gatwick to spend the night. We will return the car that night and then take airport transportation from the hotel to the airport in the morning.

Hotel: Alexander House Hotel. I searched and searched for a good hotel near the airport, for a last night splurge. This hotel is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels group (and so am I, so we get a free room upgrade and airport transportation). They have large grounds so we can have an evening walk and they have two restaurants.

Flight: British Airways, leaving Gatwick at 10:35am, returning to Dallas. We had to buy separate tickets on American from Dallas to Albuquerque (because we bought tickets and upgraded with miles, they could only book the British Airways portion). This flight leaves a bit early, which is why we are staying near the airport instead of in London, but it gets to Albuquerque around 4pm. I will arrange for a rental car so we can drive ourselves back to Santa Fe.

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