As I’ve just finished my latest trip I thought I would share the logistics of the this trip.
This post is about the how, what, why & where of my trip to England.
Flights – Etihad
I flew Etihad from Brisbane to London via Abu Dhabi. This was second time I had flown with this airline.
The flight from Brisbane to Abu Dhabi return is around 14 hours each way and it was in Economy Class on Etihad’s new 787-9 Dreamliner, which I found really comfortable – well as comfortable as a 14 hour flight can be!
The flight from Abu Dhabi to London was about 6 & half hours and was on the A380 – I like the A380 planes because they are just so darn quiet but what I don’t like is being so far away from the window. I like to lean against the wall of the plane but there is a large gap between the seat and the wall, which is annoying.
The Manchester to Abu Dhabi flight was on a 777 – which is a bit smaller than the Dreamliner but ok for the 6 hour flight.
Luckily on three of the flights, they weren’t too full so we were all able to spread out a bit and I didn’t have anyone sitting next to me & the person on the aisle seat. The only flight actually that was pretty full and I had people in both seats next to me was the Manchester to Abu Dhabi leg but it was bearable since it was a shorter flight.
I always prebook my seats because I always like to sit next to the window on the left hand side of the plane – not sure why but I just do haha.
I decided to go with Etihad again for two reasons: 1) the flight was cheaper – about $1300AUD return.. which believe me is really cheap for that flight. And 2) my previous experience with Etihad was really good. We had a delay in Abu Dhabi of about 15 hours and the service was amazing. However on this trip, particularly the Abu Dhabi to London leg, it appeared that the team just couldn’t be bothered. Maybe they were heading home and were at the end of their shift. Whatever it was, I thought their attitude could have been better.
Beware – rant about to happen…
On this trip, flying back to Brisbane I had a massive beef with the staff at Abu Dhabi airport. Now let me preface this by saying I am very good at airport security – I always have my liquids (under 100ml) and Surface out before I get to security. I had just gotten off the flight from Manchester and had to go through security and then proceeded to the next gate – about a 20 minute walk away. On the way I picked up some supplies for the plane – water, gum and Pringles. Get to the gate and sit down.
Then they tell you that you have to pass through “pre-boarding passport check”.. ok, fair enough – saves time when boarding right? Well no because they checked the passports again at boarding. But the thing that got me the most is that I had gone through security, then after the pre-boarding passport check, they check your bags again and demand that you through out any liquid over 100ml – even if there is less than 100ml in the bottle. Of course if you have duty-free, then you’re ok.. yeah that makes sense because I’VE BOUGHT THE WATER AT THE SAME AIRPORT THAT THE DUTY FREE WAS BOUGHT AT!!.
Ok so I might be a little angry about this. What really annoys me that is in all the times I have travelled – both domestically within Australia and internationally, once I have gone through security THEN brought a bottle of water, I have never had any issues with taking it onboard. I don’t know if it was a power trip from the guards or what, but I was not the only one not happy with the situation. I even did this on my Abu Dhabi to London leg, where I was fine taking the water with me into the boarding area.
I was pretty disappointed with the service on Etihad this time, especially after the amazing service I got when travelling with them in 2014.
Because I travelled to so many places, I used a bit of different accommodation. I’ll break it down by place:
Abu Dhabi – Premier Inn International Airport
I chose the Premier Inn at the Abu Dhabi airport because I didn’t want to have to travel to far from the airport for the short amount of time I was in the city. The hotel also offered free shuttles to the city and the Grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The only issue was that because I was arriving at 6.30am and leaving again the next morning at 2.30am, I had to actually pay for two nights accommodation despite not actually staying overnight in the room since I was checking out about 11.30pm. The room itself was comfortable enough, however I am not sure why the beds at Premier Inn have to be so high. I seriously have to do a running jump to get on the bed.
I had a couple of hours sleep before heading to the Mosque and doing the hop on hop off bus around Abu Dhabi before getting a cab back to the hotel (FYI cabs in Abu Dhabi are freaking cheap!!). I then had another couple of hours sleep before getting the shuttle back to the Mosque for night photos (totally worth it by the way.. you can check out my photos here). I again got a cab back to the hotel and had another couple of hours sleep before checking out and heading to the airport for my flight to London.
London – Premier Inn County Hall
I chose this location for just that – the location. Premier Inn County Hall is situated literally (yes the right use of the word!) to the London Eye and about a 5 or so minute walk to Waterloo Station. I had requested a room overlooking the river but they couldn’t help with that and gave me ‘a really good room’. I didn’t think it was that great and I overlooked the back of some buildings. I ate a bit at the restaurant, which I found a bit expensive but it was handy.
The room was quite large but very basic. There was a desk & chair down one end of the room, where the heater was. And the bed & TV down the other end of the room. So you had to sit on the bed to watch TV. The bathroom had a shower over the bath (something I’ve found the English hotels have a lot. Only one of the places I stayed in England had a stand alone shower). It was fine but the hotel is quite large so it was about a 4 minute walk from the lifts around a couple of corridors to get to the room. And I also found it quite noisy when people were in the corridor.
Overall though, it was an ok place to stay.
The Cotswold – The Cottage
Located in the small town of Todenham in the north of the Cotswolds, I had found The Cottage on booking.com even though it was a bit more expensive than I wanted to pay but it was pretty perfect in the end. I got to the accommodation to find that the owner had not only left me instructions as she was in London for a few days, but also left me a homemade cake! The Cottage is a two bedroom, self-contained unit on the same property as the owners own heritage house. It has been decorated in homely feel and certainly did feel like I was at home.
Located not far from the town Moreton-in-Marsh, where local amenities included a co-op supermarket, laundromat and a market on Tuesday’s. It was also about a 30 minute drive from Stratford-upon-Avon. A great base for exploring the Cotswolds area.
The only downside that I could find was that there was no washing machine. Luckily there was a laundromat in Moreton that I used. Even more luckily I found a car park right outside despite it being Market Day!
I really enjoyed my time at The Cottage, and when the owner, Diana returned, we had a good old natter. I would definitely go back to The Cottage.
Peak District – Shrigley Hall
I stayed at Shrigley Hall for only one night on my way from the Cotswolds to Yorkshire as it was close to one of the places I was due to visit, Lyme Park. After driving around some tiny one lane England roads for what seemed like hours, I finally came upon Shrigley Hall, which is a Victorian country house set on 262 acres right on the edge of the Peak District, about 19 miles (30.5km) from Manchester.
Now, I have to admit, I didn’t have the best of days on the day I stayed here and I properly didn’t really appreciate just how beautiful the property was. All I can really remember is the number of bloody stairs this place had. There were steps from the car park to the reception (I’m not talking about a few.. I’m talking about a total of around 30 – which were very awkward when trying to maneuver a suitcase etc), then there were steps getting into the property.
I was only on the first floor but because I had my suitcase, I took the world’s slowest lift and then there was an obstacle course of steps & doors to get through until I finally got to my room. I didn’t fully enjoy my stay because I knew I would have to go through it all again the next day when I checked out.
Shrigley Hall was still very lovely place but it was in an out-of-the-way kind of place.
Harrogate – Friend’s Place
My friend’s sister heard I was coming to England and kindly offered me a bed for two nights in the city of Harrogate. To save a bit of money, I kindly took up the offer. It turned out to be a great couple of nights too as I didn’t realise that I had been craving human contact as much as I apparently was. Harrogate was also a great base for my one day in West Yorkshire visiting Patelely Bridge & Fountains Abbey. I stayed in a cute cottage in the middle of Harrogate and was very kindly welcomed by my friend’s sister & her son.
North Yorkshire Moors – Hackness Grange Hotel
In all my travels I have never really had any issues with accommodation. Everything has worked out pretty well and because I tend to do a lot of research before I travel, I haven’t really stayed in any dodgy places – Hackness Grange Hotel in the tiny town of Hackness, located about 6 miles (just under 10 km) from the seaside town of Scarborough, was no exception. However… I got to the hotel only to find that they did not have my reservation that I had booked last year with booking.com. In fact, they didn’t have any reservations because they had not taken any bookings for Jan/Feb to get prepared for some large wedding parties they were happening.
What could have happened is that they could have told me to bugger off and find somewhere else but what actually happened instead is that they honoured me reservation and put me in Room 6 for two nights. Hackness Grange is an old Georgian Manor so basically I was the Lady of the Manor for two nights. The General Manager asked if I was ok staying in the place on my own – there was a caretaker located on the grounds but I was in the house alone. I, of course said I would be fine – the prospect of finding other accommodation was rather daunting when you don’t have internet access and are in the middle of the Yorkshire Moors (Hounds of the Baskervilles comes to mind). And they left me to it. I would definitely go back to Hackness Grange and was definitely recommend it to anyone going to that area of England.
York – Park Inn Radisson York City Centre
When looking for accommodation in York I wasn’t really sure what I wanted – until I found the Park Inn Radisson. I then discovered that I could book a room with a river view. I got to this hotel, found my room and knew I had made the right decision. The view from the room over the River Ouse, with York Minster in the distance, was just gorgeous – also a huge room with a funky multi colour light framing the bed – the Park Inn’s motto is to colour your world and they certainly do that! Despite being across the river from the main city centre, it is just a short walk to all the action (even I can manage it with my dodgy knees!)
They also had a stand alone shower – for which I was totally grateful for. We did have a bit of excitement one night as the fire alarm went off about 10.30pm the second night I was there. It was very interesting to see what I would do in that kind of situation.
I had actually fallen asleep watching tv (something that I only do when I’m super tired. And was woken by the loud alarm. The first thing I thought of was grabbing my passport – the 2nd was to put pants on. Both of which I did. I also managed to put shoes & socks on, though the tiring of my shoelaces left a bit to be desired. I also grabbed my wallet, phone, hotel room key and coat – all in about 3 minutes. Got half way down a level when a hotel staff member said everything was ok – someone had decided it was a great idea to smoke in their room!
Overall the Park Inn Radisson was a really nice hotel to stay at and I would probably stay there again.
Manchester – Radisson Blu Manchester Airport
Because I had to be at the airport early for my 8.30am flight back to Brisbane, I decided to book a room at a hotel near Manchester Airport and I chose Radisson Blu because it was easy to get to from the Manchester Airport train station where my train from York would take me, and it was also attached to Manchester Airport via a Skywalk.
The hotel is well signed posted and despite being there a couple hours early I was able to check in. The guy on the counter asked if I was ok with a twin room as it was the only clean one at that stage, otherwise I could wait about 30 minutes for the next one. Honestly, as there is only me I don’t really care – a bed is a bed. So I got to check in early, which was great. Dumped my bags and headed into Manchester.
The thing I remember the most about the Radisson Blu is their squishy pillows, really comforting duvet and the biggest TV of all my hotel stays.
Rental Car – Hertz
I chose to go with Hertz as I have used them before when driving around the UK. After the last time using a manual car from Scotland to London, I decided to go easy on myself and got an auto. When I picked up the car, I was then told it was a diesel. I’d never driven diesel before and always thought of them being a rather heavy kind of car. However I could not have been more wrong. I was given a Kia cee’d, which was a zippy wee car that was both easy to use and very economical. I had the car for around 8 days and travelled about 710 miles (just under 1200km). paid roughly £85 for petrol in that time (approximately $140 AUD) – which is pretty damn good really! I really enjoyed the Kia cee’d, despite it freaking me out each time I stopped at lights etc and it would automatically turn itself off – I think it is a gas saving thing which apparently can be turned off, so the rental car guy told me when I returned the car 😀
Train – Transpennie Express
I had to get from York to Manchester, where my flight home was departing from, so I got the Transpennie Express train from York Station to Manchester Airport Station. The journey takes about an hour & half and you pass through Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester Piccadilly (central Manchester) to name a couple of places.
I got to the train station in plenty of time for my 9.23am train, got a hot chocolate and bacon butte and sat down at Platform 3 where my train was to depart from. About 5 minutes before the train arrived, there was an announcement to say that the train was now arriving on Platform 5 so I had to make my way over to there.
Got to Platform 5 & the train was already there and boarding. Checked with the guard what carriage I was meant to be in and of course it was down the other end of the platform. Thinking that the person with the wheelchair in front of me was getting on the train, I let her & her companion pass only to find they weren’t getting on that train and the doors shut in my face (sometimes being polite doesn’t always win… though as we go on, it might have actually worked out in my favour).
So the train goes without me. Leaving me on Platform 5 in York wondering what the hell I was going to do. Checked with a Virgin trains staff member who wrote on my ticket that I had stopped to help a lady in a wheelchair (kind of true) and to show the guard of the next train to Manchester Airport.
The next train was in 30 minutes on platform 11 – right across the station and the lift wasn’t working so I had to carry my suitcase up the stairs. Anyhoo, the train came and I spoke to the guard to let me on the train and went to sat down. It wasn’t until we had left that I realised I was sitting in the First Class carriage. When the guard came to check the tickets I said I hadn’t realised where I was sitting and he was like “No worries, thanks for helping that lady”.. ok I did feel a little guilty then – I had just let her go past, I wasn’t exactly helping her.
So after all that, I finally got to Manchester Airport Station around 11.40am – only half an hour late.
Navigation – HERE WeGo
When driving around a foreign country, navigation is a Godsend. However I didn’t want to incur exorbitant fees for using my data roaming to use GPS on my phone, so I put it out to a Facebook travel group I belong to and was given a couple of free offline options to use. I ended up downloaded the HERE WeGo app and it was pure brilliance.
Being able to use the app offline was great and it got me everywhere I wanted to go – obviously there were a few times where it was a bit hard due to road works and diversions but we got there in the end. The HERE WeGo app is super easy to use – you plug-in where you want to go, choose your mode of transportation and press start. I even used it a couple of times to find my way when wandering around London on foot.
I downloaded the GB maps before I left for my trip so it was all ready to go. I cannot recommend this app enough. You can get it on Android (link above) and iOS
Other points of interest
Days away: 20
Plane seats sat in: 4
Miles travelled: approximately 710 miles (1200km) – which doesn’t include the driving around city centres & villages trying to find parks, churches for family history and my way out!
English Counties travelled through: 12 – Greater London, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire
Photos taken: 6909
Fish & Chips consumed: 2
Fenitmans Rose Lemonade consumed: 4 (I really like this drink!)
Beds slept in: 8
Money spent: lots – mostly on food & petrol but I did manage to come back with a little bit so that was good.
Souvenirs bought: 5 – I had a grand plan to do my souvenir shopping at Manchester airport however that didn’t work out very well when it took over two hours to get through check out and security because it appeared that every single person in Manchester wanted to fly out at the same time as me. Got to the gate in a remote part of the airport, only to find the plane was late (we boarded nearly an hour late!) but there was nothing around for me to buy so everyone gets nothing.. well except my mum 🙂
Times I cried: 1 – after my last international trip that is definitely an improvement and it was because it was my dad’s anniversary so completely justified.
Stately homes visited: 2 – Blenheim Palace & Lyme Park, although can I count Shrigley Hall & Hackness Grange as well?
Ruins visited: 2 – Fountains Abbey & Whitby Abbey
So there you have it. Pretty sure I have covered everything.
If you have any questions about how I did what I did please let me know.