First, a disclaimer notice that you find on the Europe
trip discussions on this website since I often get email on this subject. You may notice that all
of our trips to Europe seem to include a trip somewhere in the U.K.
every year, and other times we add Ireland or France. There's a good
reason for this. We have been traveling to the U.K. for years, mostly due to the ease of getting a non-stop flight from
Denver, Colorado to
London, England, either at Heathrow or Gatwick (depending on where the airline
really have the travel down pretty well and usually know what to expect so
currently we travel to London first, then on to other areas.
Some folks ask me why we keep going to the U.K. year after year and why we
don't try somewhere else. The reason is that the U.K. has a long rich
history that cannot be fully appreciated by going there once or twice for a
week at a time. Our families are from England, Ireland, Wales, and
Scotland, so for us, it is a way to reconnect with our heritage. I
imagine that when it becomes somewhat boring we will probably stop going to
the U.K., but I don't really see that occurring in this lifetime since
there is so much to see and learn about these great countries.
I've listed some of the trips over the years
that we have made to the U.K. on this
website as well
as a few trips to Ireland and France since 1999, with the descriptions of what we saw and how we
felt on each trip dating to the year of our vacation.
You can read our impressions of the vacations as they
have changed over the years by using the navigation bar at the top of
this page, or you can go here
where we list our trips since 1999. I expect that if you read
about our various trips, you too can pick up some ideas for your vacation to these wonderful countries.
So welcome to our England and
France trip for 2006. We decided to return to north England after not
having been there as a family since 2002 (although I was in York in
November of 2003 with cousin Mikey). We also decided to follow up our
2004 France tour in the south-central
area around Amboise since there were many more chateaux to visit. Since the trip to
was a follow-up trip to an area we really like, I don't provide quite as much
description of the trip. Chris ended up getting sick in York and
had to go to the emergency room at the York hospital via an ambulance so
it made our journey to York very limited. We did get to see the
Lincoln area which is a place we wanted to visit but had never fit in to
The description of our trip to France covers more
info regarding the various chateaux we visited but mostly through the
pictures. This time I included a ton of pictures from the thousand
I took while in France. I supplied more information around the
Lincoln trip, but the trip to the Loire Valley area in France was rather
extensive and would take quite awhile to describe so you won't find as
much in the descriptions, but will find many pictures. The trip descriptions
below reference these wonderful places and I hope that you find them
informative and enjoyable.
Information - Check out this site to find info on various Castles in
England - 2006
England Pictures - 2006
France - 2006
France Pictures 2006 - Loire Valley
We began our trip by
flying on Tuesday, June 6th, from Denver, Colorado to London Heathrow on
a British Airways 777 non-stop flight and arrived in London on June 7th. As usual, we spent the
first day recuperating from jet Lag by walking around the area followed
by a trip to The Swan pub for some nice English beer at 9PM and then to
bed around 10:30PM. We got up the next day (this time it was a
Wednesday as opposed to a Saturday in past years) and picked up our car at the local Hertz rental place for our
drive towards York with our first stop in Lincoln. We didn't run
in to any real delays driving up the M1 before we veered off towards
Lincoln, an old Roman town. We missed our exit and while trying to recuperate from
the mistake, ended up driving to Nottingham on the way to Lincoln.
This slowed things down a bit that resulted in an hour delay, but it was
This year we decided to stay at a B&B in Lincoln known as the
Bailhouse and Mews.
It is centrally located in Lincoln (the old part of the city is somewhat
small) and was easy enough to find once in
the city. It's located about 5 minutes from the Lincoln Cathedral
and within a couple of minutes of the Lincoln Castle (literally right
around the corner) so it seemed like a
nice place to stay. The accommodations were quite good and the full
English breakfast was fine.
We paid 240 GBP per night for the four of us
which seemed reasonable given that we used two rooms. They didn't
have air conditioning but when we were in Lincoln, the temperatures at night
were nice and cool, so not having an air conditioner wasn't that big a
deal. We did get a couple of fans and used them for the first few
hours at night to flush out whatever heat had built up since we were
located at the top floor facing the street. Normally, I don't like
a room overlooking a street because it can be quite noisy, but the noise
really wasn't an issue for us. A tip for those of you that haven't
read my trip advice page is to use a white
noise sound generator to mask unwanted sounds. We take one with us
every year (actually we take two sound generators since we are used to
them). Parking was around back in a secure
gated area with an electronic lock so this worked out well too.
The staff was fine and there was a lot of room to hang out and read or
just chat. We will stay there again if we return to Lincoln.
Visiting Lincoln Castle
The Lincoln Castle is in very nice shape and is in the heart of
downtown Lincoln. I think the best aspect of visiting the castle
was the tour guide we signed up to follow. He was quite
knowledgeable and was great at keeping the interest of the ten people
that were in the tour with us. We all remarked how really good he was at
doing his job, and considering the tour lasted a full hour, he was just
as energetic at the end of the tour as he was at the beginning. He
had a real passion for the tour and the rich history associated with the
castle. We walked around the grounds of the castle, along the
walls that overlook the city for a fantastic view, and the inside of the
castle to show us the various rooms.
The Lincoln Castle is not really in ruins
as the many medieval castles we have visited on past trips.
William the Conqueror began building the castle in 1068 and the castle
remained as a court and prison for the next 900 years. A major
attraction of the castle is one of the 790 year old original Magna Carta
documents. This original document was sealed by King John after
his meeting with the barons at Runnymede in 1215 and can be found in the
Victorian Prison Building located in the castle. I don't have
pictures of the document since photography is not allowed, but I did
find the exhibition quite interesting. This is the second original
Magna Carta I've seen with the other one being in Winchester Cathedral.
The Winchester Cathedral exhibition claims their version is the best of
the four remaining originals but from what I could tell, it basically
looked the same to me (I'm no expert of course).
The castle also has a court room where
the judge sat up high and looked down on the prisoners. As part of
the tour, the tour guide let us put on hoods similar to what the
prisoners wore and sit in spaces where the condemned were seated.
The "system" used for this seating area was rather interesting.
Basically, there are a lot of swinging doors along a row that allow
hooded prisoners to file in and after they enter their small space, a
door is swung shut behind them, followed by the next prisoner and so on
until a whole row of prisoners have entered the court room. They
can't see nor speak to each other in this configuration yet the judge
and lawyers can look down on all of the prisoners from their high perch
above the small "rooms" where each prisoner is located. Click
HERE to see a
picture of the prisoner area from a view where the judge was seated.
Lincoln Cathedral is a beautiful cathedral with a rich history that
has taken centuries to build. The original design was in the shape
of a cross with the entrance being on the West and the altar on the
East. The entrance on the west front features some of the original
Romanesque cathedral dating back to 1072. The Lincoln Cathedral
was consecrated in 1092 by Bishop Remigius. Much of the rest of
the cathedral was rebuilt in the 1200s (13th century) inspired by St.
Hugh (the Bishop from 1186 to 1200). The church survived a fire in
1141 although it did require rebuilding. The church also survived
(of all things) an earthquake in 1185 that caused the rebuilding of the
church in the gothic style. Somewhere around 1237 the central
tower that could be seen for miles, fell due to the builders not quite
having all the details in place for building a gothic style church.
Around 1255 Henry III was petitioned in order to tear down some of
the city wall that was in place to enlarge the cathedral. The central
tower was heightened around 1311 making it the tallest building in
Europe, and the two smaller towers were also heightened around 1400.
Unfortunately, a wind storm in 1549 caused the central tower's spire to
The cathedral as you see it today is a
fine example of the gothic style. The cathedral includes a fine
library containing among other objects, the Lincoln Chapter Bible (circa
1100) and a school book from 1410 that shows the first recorded rhyme
about Robin Hood (of Sherwood Forest fame). The cathedral has a
rich history that in more modern times includes a setting for the Da
Vinci Code movie. Filming the movie included parts of the nave,
the cloisters, and the chapter house to film the scenes, which in the
book, took place in Westminster Abbey. If you've been to
Westminster Abbey, you can imagine why filming would not be allowed to
occur there due to the sheer volume of people traffic in the Abbey.
When we visited the Lincoln cathedral they still had a canvas that was painted to mimic a
backdrop for an area in the Westminster Abbey. It was nice of the
cathedral to let the filming take place in this wonderful building if
for nothing else to draw tourists to witness a truly great and historic
Be sure to catch an Evensong that occurs
every day at 5:30PM since the acoustics, like other cathedrals, is
absolutely wonderful to hear in person. Every time I attend an
Evensong at a cathedral, I find myself in awe of the monumental effort
it must have taken to create such a wonderful specimen of craftsmanship.
Lincoln as a city, is somewhat out of the way when traveling in England,
but the opportunity to view a fine castle from the time of William the
Conqueror and a truly magnificent cathedral make the trip very pleasant
and one I would highly recommend.
Leeds - Royal Armouries
We left Lincoln and headed towards York but planned to stop in Leeds
along the way to see the Royal Armouries. What a treat! This
is THE place to go if you like weaponry from centuries ago to today.
You will find signs along the M1 that indicate which exit to take for
the Royal Armouries and the Armouries is located very close to the
highway making it easy to find. I would say to allow at least 4
hours at a minimum to see the various floors of displays. We also
got to see a jousting contest that was entertaining. You can buy
food there at the Armouries and there are many exhibits and "shows" to
see that are demonstrated by period actors. This is a huge place
and I could see someone easily spending an entire day just to see all
the exhibits and shows. We naively thought we would include nearby
attractions such as Thackray Medical Museum, Armley Mills Museum, and
Selby Abbey on the way to York, but the Armouries requires more time
than we thought. I think we'll stay in York as a home base for a
couple more days next time and hit these other places as part of a day
visit to Leeds since the cities are rather close.
This time we decided to stay at a different B&B than the Feversham Lodge
where he stayed in past years. We chose "23
St. Mary's" as our B&B and it's close proximity to the walls of York
and the fine hosts made it a good choice. It's very easy to find
and is near the end of a rather quiet street. You can walk within
the city walls within 5 minutes of the B&B and this makes for a good
choice as a place to stay. There's also a park about 100 feet away
which provides a scenic shortcut to the old medieval city of York.
The price of the B&B was 320 GBP for four of us staying in two rooms and
staying two nights. This is a very good price in my opinion for
the location of the B&B coupled with the very helpful hosts and the fine
English breakfast. Our room had a double poster bed which was very
nice too. The sad thing was that Chris got violently ill on our
first night's stay. The owners of the B&B did everything they
could to help us through this difficult time.
Chris Gets Sick In York
It's bad enough to be in a foreign city, but to get sick enough to
go to the hospital at 4:30 in the morning in an ambulance has got to be
the worst scenario for any traveler. Turns out that Chris got some
kind of food poisoning or a severe stomach virus that caused a rather
bad case of nausea and .... let's just say a digestive track problem.
It started around midnight and as the early hours progressed, it got
worse and worse. Finally, we decided that the best thing for Chris
to do was to go to the hospital outside the city walls in York that was
maybe 5 minutes away. Her blood pressure had dropped due to being
dehydrated and we decided it was best to call an ambulance since she was
getting worse by the minute.
I fumbled around trying to figure out the
number to call the hospital and decided to just dial 911 as we do here
in America. Stupid me learned a valuable lesson when it comes to
dialing an emergency number. ALWAYS understand the number to dial
for emergencies when you go to a foreign country. It turns out
that they don't use 911, but instead, they use 999 as their emergency
number. One thing that helped us was that our former B&B where we
had stayed in past years was right next to the York hospital. We
passed it many times when walking in to the city so I knew exactly where
to drive. This should also be a good point to remember when
traveling abroad. Find out where the hospital is located in case
an emergency situation arises! I don't know what I would have done
had I not known where the hospital was located since the ambulance left
within moments of arriving at the B&B and I was forced to drive there by
myself. As it turns out, I could have walked there as well
although the walk would have probably been about 20 minutes long.
The ambulance arrived within a few
minutes and Chris was taken away to the hospital where they treated her
for severe nausea and dehydration by using medicine and several bags of
fluids via an IV. I drove from the B&B to the hospital and found
myself sitting in a rather packed emergency room at 4:30 in the morning.
Where did all these people come from? They already had her in the
back room hooked up to an IV by then and she was resting. I hung
around for a couple of hours and drove back to the B&B where I told the
B&B owners what happened (they were beginning preparation for the
morning breakfast). The kids and I ate a quick breakfast and we
all returned to the hospital where the staff told us that she was
resting after having some blood work done. Since there was nothing
more that we could do at that time, we returned to the B&B and walked
over inside the city wall to get some tea and clotted cream and then
toured the York Minster until it was time to return for Chris at the
hospital. We arrived and were able to leave with Chris and the
real shocker came when I attempted to pay for our emergency room visit.
Since England uses a national healthcare service and emergency room
visits are free, there was no way for them to accept payment or an
insurance card. Basically, they told me to just move on since they
thought Chris would be fine. There was a very friendly staff at
the hospital and I found myself leaving without having paid anything.
I wish they had national healthcare here in the U.S.
Unfortunately we didn't get to spend much
time in York this year due to the problems we encountered with Chris
having to go to the hospital, but it gives us another reason to return
another year. One thing I did learn (other than emergency numbers
and hospital location) was that our stay in the area was too short.
We spent the first day driving from Lincoln to Leeds where we saw the
Royal Armouries and then on to York but our second day was really too
short a time to fully enjoy that long of a drive (from Lincoln to York).
There's enough to see around York that a three night stay is probably
the shortest time to spend if you plan to see much outside the city of
York as we had planned. We planned to drive to see Rievaulx Abbey,
Fountains Abbey, and Skipton Castle but missed all of it. Had we
allowed for an extra day we could have seen these places.
Return To London
I ended up driving about 500 miles during the trip from London to
Lincoln, York, and back to London, so once again I felt like I got some good driving time in
on the left side of the road. I'm up to over 10,000 miles of
driving on the left side of the road after this trip.
England Lessons Learned
The main thing I learned as it relates to Lincoln is that the city is
somewhat out of the way and a lot further away from London than I
thought it would be. It also took awhile to get back towards the
M1 to continue on to York. I think we didn't do the area around
Lincoln justice and our stay was too short given that there were many
other sights of interest in the nearby area that we missed. I
would say to stay in Lincoln for at least three nights and see nearby
sights other than just the city itself.
We spent quite awhile at the Royal
Armouries Museum in Leeds, but even that wasn't enough since we got
there in the afternoon. I would make the visit an all-day affair
to see everything there is to see. I'd suggest getting there when
it opens and plan on staying until late afternoon before moving on.
Leeds isn't too far from York, so if using York as the home base, note
that another full day could be spent in the Leeds area seeing other
Chris got extremely sick and needed to go
to the hospital via an ambulance. In past visits to York we stayed
right next door to the hospital so I knew where it was and could easily
drive there, but what if I didn't know where it was located?
Imagine trying to follow an ambulance at 4AM that is in a hurry to get
to the hospital. What would you do? You need to know where
the hospital is located when staying at a home base because you may need
the information. Also, do the owners of the B&B mind you
contacting them at 4AM for an emergency situation? What do you do
if you can't contact them? You should also learn the emergency
number to dial if an ambulance is needed. I spent quite awhile
trying to figure out the emergency number since I didn't know what it
was and it wasn't "911" as we use in the states. By the way, the
emergency phone number is "999" in England.
Because we only stayed in York for two
nights and didn't arrive until after 5PM, our plans were completely
blown for the next day when Chris was in the hospital. I didn't
allow enough time in the area, especially given how far we had driven,
so another night's stay would have allowed us to see something in York.
Instead, we didn't get to see anything other than the Royal Armouries
Museum which was on the way to York. Next time, I won't drive that
far for such a short stay.
We decided to go to
somewhere different in France this time other than Paris. It was
our fourth trip since 1999 and we felt that we probably saw just about
enough of Paris to last us for a few years.
our trip to France, we took a Taxi from the Bonnington Hotel in London
(near British Museum) to the Waterloo station for about 20 Pounds.
The guy dropped our luggage and us off at the entrance to the
train station. It was similar to the last time we took the Chunnel
so the drive there was uneventful. We gave ourselves a couple of
hours to get there but as it turns out, Steff was sick and we had to
take her to a local doctor near the Bonnington Hotel which made things
tight. It also left Derek and me standing around outside the hotel
since check-out time was upon us and we were waiting for Steff and Chris
to return from the doctor's office. Once inside the Waterloo
station events moved along quickly. It appears to me that only an
hour's advance time is all that's needed when using the Chunnel since
the check-in process moves quickly.
Using our experience from the 2004 Chunnel trip to Paris, we knew to
stand up close to the entrance to the trains, have our tickets ready,
and be prepared to move quickly so that our luggage could be in the same
train car we would be riding in. If hungry, start moving towards
the meal car since when they announce the meal car is open for business,
a bunch of people will get up and start moving towards the car.
The line for food can be long. So either start moving towards the
meal car after passing through the Chunnel, or wait until after things
die down. You can also bring sandwiches and drinks on board but
note that you will also be pulling luggage as you first head towards
your train car.
Arriving In Paris
We learned our lesson last time when it came to getting off the train
and getting a taxi. Walk quickly when the train stops and head for
the taxi area. There are may people arriving along with you and
many others will be wanting to take a taxi just like you. The line
for a taxi can be quite long. We also checked in advance with the
hotel to determine the price for taking a taxi from Gare du Nord to
their location. Unscrupulous taxi drivers will approach you while
you are standing in line and offer to take you to your location for a
much higher price than you would normally pay. If you don't mind
paying a 400% premium, go ahead and take it, but I wouldn't. Point
here is to know what the taxi cost should be before you arrive in Paris
and ask the taxi driver the price to take you to your hotel. If it
sounds way off the price you were told by the hotel, tell the driver
what you expect to pay. If the driver doesn't like it, tell him
Per other visits, we chose to stay at
Bersoly's Hotel again. We like this hotel, the owner, and
especially the concierge named Said (pronounced sigh-ed). Both of
the kids can speak French now so it was a treat for them to practice
their French. We know the area quite well and walk to nearby
sights and restaurants with ease. The Louvre is about a 20 minute
walk to the other side of the Seine river, Musee D'Orsay is about a 15
minute walk from the hotel, and the restaurants are within about a 10
minute walk. I like the rooms at Bersoly's but especially the air
conditioning. It's also a very quiet place. I highly
recommend the Bersoly's Hotel.
Train To Amboise
We decided to take a high speed train down to Tours in the Loire Valley
area rather than drive and it was a very easy experience. The
Hertz car rental agency is right there at the train station and is maybe
a 5 minute walk when leaving the train. Going to Tours was easy,
coming back wasn't so easy. We had trouble with dropping off the
rental car when we returned since the staff didn't show up after lunch
(at least an hour late from lunch). I asked around and decided to
walk over to a nearby hotel where they told me I could leave the keys
with them. I didn't know this information when I picked up the car
so next time I will ask when I pick up the car.
The other thing we didn't expect was what
to do when the train showed up late. It turns out that the TGV
folks don't like running late so when they do arrive late, they expect
the passengers to quickly get on the train and leave immediately.
I misread the number on the train car and headed the wrong way. A
train conductor was walking along by the train and I asked him where the
train car was located and he told me there was no time - hurry up and
get on the car where we were standing because the train was going to
leave. We barely got on the train and it left immediately.
We paid for a first class car and the one we got was a second class car
but the accommodations were the same. The only difference was how
far we were from the end of the train that arrived at Gare du Nord.
This meant we had to walk quickly to get to the taxi area. Had we
been in the first class car as we should, we would have had a much
shorter walk to the taxi area.
Visiting Chateaus And Renaissance
We used Amboise as our home base and traveled to most of the popular Chateaux
and Renaissance Castles in the area. I have included a number of
photos from our trips to the various chateaux in the area which can be
seen here. Although I spent some
time above describing the area we saw in Lincoln, I think I will skip it
this time since we saw a lot of chateaux in the area and it would
require writing a small book to explain what we saw. Suffice it to
say we saw a lot and there is much to learn and see in the Amboise area.
I would highly recommend the trip to the Loire Valley area for viewing
the many beautiful chateaux and castles in the area. Everything is
close to the river and all the sites are easy to reach. Unlike the
U.K. and Ireland, people in France drive on the same side of the road as
Americans so driving is a lot easier. Very scenic area.
Our stay in Amboise was across the bridge
from the city center in a small hotel (Hotel
La Breche) located in a residential area. For just a little
more money, our stay included a five course French dinner.
Breakfast was also included and was quite nice. We enjoyed the
stay at the hotel and especially the staff. They were friendly and
the food was great. Most everything we wanted to see was within an
hour or so from the hotel and was easy to reach by car so this turned
out to be a good home base. Parking was off street but it was
never a problem finding a parking space. A bakery and a
prescription shop were also within blocks of the hotel. Rather
than walk across the bridge to the old city of Amboise, we drove across
and parked at the parking lot by the Tourist Information center where we
could walk around the small city area. The city is quite small so
you could easily walk it within an hour. The large Amboise castle
is in the city and if you time it right, you can see a fantastic light
show on the castle walls.
Top chateaux to visit as we saw on this
trip? All of them were interesting but I would say that you should
definitely see Amboise, Chenonceau, Azay-le-Rideau, Blois, and Villandry
(especially if you like gardens). Be sure and check our
2004 trip to the Loire Valley area
and note the other chateaux we visited. I would also recommend
(based on our 2004 trip) seeing Chaumont, Chambord, and Cheverny.
If you can, see them all. You won't be disappointed.
Steffanie Goes To The Hospital
Steff had already shown signs of a kidney stone back in London but
things got worse. While driving to one of the chateaux, we noticed
the location of the hospital right outside the city. As it turns
out, we needed to take her to the hospital since she was in some serious
pain. After dropping Chris and Steff off at the hospital, Derek
and I drove back to the hotel to wait for their call to pick them up.
She was there for a couple of hours and they gave her some medicine to
help alleviate the pain with an antibiotic prescription we were able to
fill at the nearby pharmacy. Steff speaks French fine, but one
area of French she didn't know was related to human organs. She
didn't know the names of the organs in French and they didn't speak
English so it took a sketch or two to get the message across. I
don't know what we would have done if Steff didn't speak French since
they could not speak English. Not even a little. Steff began
feeling better and we decided to take it easy that day (a Saturday).
We continued traveling to other sights after her bout with the kidney
stone and it didn't linger as a problem for the rest of the trip.
France Lessons Learned
Once again, there was an illness involved in this trip. We learned
our lesson in York and this time paid attention to where the hospital
was located. As it turns out, we needed it. So be prepared
when staying at your home base. Know where the hospital is located
in case an emergency arises and also note where the local pharmacy is
located to pick up drugs if need be.
The return trip on the TGV train from
Tours to Paris was more eventful than we are used to. Quickly find
your rail car but if you find yourself standing around unable to find
the train car, you better get on any car or you may not make the train
ride at all. Also, when picking up your car rental, make sure you
know where to leave the car and keys in case someone is not at the
rental agency. Don't believe them when they tell you there will be
no problems, that someone will be there. Just ask them what you
are to do if for some reason no one is at the rental agency and make
sure you know where to leave the car and where to drop off the keys.
We spent entirely too much time standing around waiting for rental
agency people that never did arrive after lunch and found that we could
not get in to the gated area where we first picked up the rental car
because we didn't know the combination. There was a speaker phone
to call someone but they didn't understand English and wouldn't let us
drop off the car. I found out where to leave the car by walking
over to a hotel and asking them if they knew anything about where rental
cars could be left and they told me the details on what to do.
Although Steff had to go to the hospital
and didn't feel well enough to go sight-seeing, we spent enough days in
the Amboise area to still see most, if not all, of the sights we planned
to see. Unlike the problems in York, we had enough time to still
enjoy our vacation.
From Tours, we took the high speed train back to Paris which took us a
little over an hour to
reach, then about 30 minutes to Bersoly's for another two day stay in
Paris. After spending two nights in Paris, we left for London via the Chunnel where we stayed a couple more days before returning home. In
conclusion, I would say that once again we really enjoyed the trip to France
and think we've seen quite a bit of the Loire Valley area.
We thought the biggest highlight of the trip was the various illnesses
that Chris and Steff encountered and despite these setbacks, the trip to
Lincoln was good and the trips to the various chateaux in the Loire
Valley area pretty much completes our visits to the Loire Valley area.
There are even more chateaux to see, but we've probably seen about
enough in the Loire Valley area for awhile. The next time we go to
France it will probably be to the eastern side near Strasbourg or down
to Provence. The setbacks put a damper on things, but we learned a
lot in the process.
If you'd like more info on what we saw
and our recommendations, send me an email and I'll try and answer your
Remember to check out my page on European trip
advice to align expectations that you may have about traveling to Europe
as well as ways to make your travel experience a little simpler.
Graphics & Text © Steve Corley
pictures you see were created by Steve Corley unless otherwise
Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited