CHARLOTTE, July 18, 2012 — Americans weary of the dog days of politics will soon get some relief when the world takes time off for the global competitions of the London Olympics.
Visitors to London may have difficulty getting accommodations, even if they don’t plan to attend the games, but take heart, there are some great places nearby to establish a base. Here are just a few.
Bath – In 43 AD, the Romans built a spa called Aquae Sulis, “the waters of Sulis,” at the site we know as Bath today. Nearly 2,000 years later, in 1987, it became a World Heritage Site because of its history, culture, museums and theaters which have made it a major site for tourism.
Though the Roman baths long ago ceased to be functional, the ruins are a popular attraction. At the Pump Room in Bath Abbey adjacent to the baths, you can still “take the waters’ at the spa. The Pump Room is not only historic, but also one of the city’s most popular restaurants.
Bath is one those locations that immediately captures your imagination. Since the 18th century, it has been a center of fashionable and genteel English lifestyles with its superb architectural landmarks like The Circus, Pulteney Bridge and its two crescents; Lansdown and Royal.
Pulteney Bridge is one of only four bridges in the world with shops on both sides of its span. Completed in 1773 across the River Avon, modern merchants now offer flowers, antique maps and juice.
On a hillside above the city center, the facades of the Royal Crescent, with their grand Georgian architecture, arch magnificently just as they did when they were built over 200 years ago. The Crescent now features a hotel and museum, and the stunning exteriors have been a location for numerous films and television programs.
Bath also boasts of five theaters for the performing arts, attracting internationally famous theatrical companies and music directors. The largest concert site in the city is located in Bath Abbey.
Bath is about 120 miles west of London and is accessible by bus, car or train. The drive is approximately 2-hours which is mostly on the M4 motorway. Keep in mind the high cost of fuel, driving on the left hand side of the road and the fact that much of the city is closed to automobile traffic.
Buses are frequent and relatively inexpensive but they take longer than traveling by car.
The fastest, most convenient way to travel to Bath is by frequent train service from Paddington Station in London. Travel time is about an hour and a half, and Bath is very much a walking city.
Consider Bath as abase for your travels through Great Britain.
York – You can walk the perimeter of this city along the ancient walls that surround it. The once prosperous wool merchant’s center has a rich history which is readily visible today. So much so that it was named the European Tourism City of the Year by European Cities Marketing in 2007.
York Minster, with its spectacular collection of stained glass windows, is a highlight. The Great East Window created by glazier John Thornton is nearly the size of a tennis court. Also popular is the Five Sisters Window which dominates the north transept featuring five lancets that are more than 50-feet high.
As a major railway hub in the 19th century, York is home to the National Railway Museum located outside the city walls.
Situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss, York became a major port and trade route for the Vikings in the mid-9th century. Viking rule lasted less than a century, but their influence has been depicted at the Jorvik Viking Center since 1984.
Another popular attraction is The Shambles which was once an open-air meat market where butchers slaughtered meat and displayed their wares from overhangs in the half-timbered buildings along the street. The butchers are no longer there, but the meat-hooks remain and there are plenty of souvenir shops and pubs.
York’s medieval streets are alluring by day, and a great place for several guided ghost walks in the evening. Tours last about an hour and a half. Among the favorite stories is that of the famed anarchist Guy Fawkes who plotted to blow up Parliament. Fawkes was born and educated in York.
Not to be missed, is an afternoon stop at Betty’s Tea Room where mint tea and scones are highly recommended.
Buses take more than five hours to travel to York. Cars can make the 210 mile journey in about four hours along the M1, M18, A1 and A64 motorways.
Trains are the fastest way to go back and forth between London and York. Regular rail service departs from Kings Cross Station and takes between an hour and a half to two hours depending upon the train.
These are only a couple of venues for travelers seeking to avoid London’s Olympics turmoil. In Part II, we will offer three more suggestions. (www.raileurope.com)
Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC, and founder of The Magellan Travel Club which creates and escorts customized tours to Switzerland, France and Italy for groups of 12 or more. Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others. As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 69 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries.
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