Subject: Two weeks in Britain
Hi Ziners,

We spent 2 weeks in Britain - not our first trip to England by any means. Our itinerary was partially dictated by family and friends. Here are the highlights!

Manchester area: We spent a few days in the Manchester area and we enjoyed touring the new Urbis museum. Its focus - Manchester and other cities in the past, present and future. Very interesting. This millennium project museum is housed in a purpose-built building interesting in its own right too!

We also drove to the Derbyshire Dales, Peak District National Park, for an all-day dales walk. This glorious area is under an hour away from home for my sister- and brother- in-law and they chose a great area for the walk. This link describes one part of our walk - Lathkill and Youlgreave, with its incredible bird life (dippers, water birds, etc.) and flowers (Jacob's Ladder, early purple orchids and more.

Hadrian's Wall: We spent 2 nights at Haltwhistle to see the wall, built by the Romans around 120 AD. The wall runs from coast to coast through towns and countryside - about 73 miles. Near Haltwhistle are several worthwhile ruins and museums.

Hotel: Centre of Britain Hotel Very nice room, good breakfast. In the town centre. Good hotel dining room. About 40 pounds per person in a double room.

Apart from walking the wall in the rain! we enjoyed Housesteads and Vindolanda. Housesteads is more complete, is right on the wall and is operated by English Heritage. Free entry for second adult with the coupon in the brochure from the TI in Haltwhistle. National Trust operates the parking lot and a shop.

Vindolanda is

Edinburgh: We spent 3 nights in Edinburgh, at the AmarAgua Guest House, in the Dalkieth / Newington area about 1.5 miles from Princess Street. Good bus access. Very friendly helpful hosts. I really enjoyed their porridge.

Although a popular destination, I had never been there and found it an attractive humane city. We also enjoyed a visit to the Botanic Gardens. Be sure to buy a day bus pass. We enjoyed the National Galleries of Scotland on The Mound.

We enjoyed meals near the B&B: Fenwicks, 15 Salisbury Place (mentioned in one of Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus mysteries); Sambuca, 103 Causewayside (cheaper and informal). Central: Always Sunday Food Company, 180 High Street (good informal bistro with self-service - they serve, you carry); Henderson's Salad table, 94 Hanover Street (well-known vegetarian restaurant with self-service; Red Coat cafe in Edinburgh Castle (great view from the inner room).

Lake District: Stayed in a hilltop B&B while visiting friends who are starting to renovate an old farm house. B&B: Near Howe Hotel and Cottages, Nr. Howe, Mungrisdale, Penrith. Highlights: Beatrix Potter's house and garden.

Oxford: We stayed outside Oxford near a park and ride (leave your car, take the bus into the city) and near Woodstock at the Holt Hotel, near Steeple Aston, Oxford Road. Good business hotel in the countryside but the price was right - 56 pounds total - found through The combo of business and country is odd, but it seems to be near some large companies and the airport and has a business office and conference facilities. Ate dinner in their restaurant which was quite good.

We visited Blenheim Palace - over the top decor, impressive facade. We spent a full day in Oxford and enjoyed a guided walking tour through the Tourist Information office. Well worth it because of the knowledgeable guide. We also visited the Ashmolean Museum, a very old-fashioned museum (actually the first public one!) with a mishmash of stuff.

We had a picnic lunch in a park with food from the Covered Market. Later, a drink in Tolkien's favourite pub, the Eagle and Child. Dinner at The Nosebag, St. Michael's Street, just off Cornmarket Street. Again, a studenty place that has been around for years. Good value. Order at the counter.

London: Just one day for London. We had prepaid the JurysDoyle Inn at Heathrow so the price was amazingly cheap (39 pounds total but without breakfast). They let us check in at 10:30 in the morning and then we dropped our rental car (National, through Auto Europe). We bought a day travel card (off peak) for the tube at Heathrow (half price (6 pounds) since it was after the rush hour - a good deal!)

Since we have visited London on other occasions, this time we visited the Science Museum and Kew Gardens. Loved the Water-lily room at Kew.

Best of all, was our evening walk with LondonWalks - Knightsbridge pub walk. Our guide, Richard III was entertaining and full of interesting anecdotes about the area - famous people, spies, murderers and house prices! We have taken a walk with their sister company in Paris and it was great too. A bargain at 5 pounds 50 per person. Just check the schedule and meet at the correct tube stop. A great way to spend your evening if you aren't planning on the theatre. Actually, Richard III is theatre himself!

Before the walk we had a sandwich from a grocery store followed by a cappuccino across from the Underground station. Afterwards, we went to a restaurant recommended by our guide (also in my trusty Time Out guide to budget eating in London) - 153 Knightsbridge. Reasonable price, tasty. You don't have to order whole meals. Shared tables. That late at night (10 pm) we shared with a pair of young lovers - but the table was big enough that we didn't intrude!

Home by an early morning flight.

Just thought I would add that June is a great time to visit the UK. The days are so long! The sun rose about 4:30 am and set after 9:30 pm. Great for tourists (and for getting lost in unfamiliar places!)

Frances Toronto, Canada