My 16 year old daughter, husband and I just returned from a spectacular 8 day trip to England. When we first started thinking about the trip, we were torn about how much we wanted to do and what we wanted to see in the UK, having never been before. After initial talks with our agent, we decided to base ourselves in London, see as much as we could of the sights there, and perhaps add a few day trips to nearby sites. Staying at one hotel (and a perfect one at that) enabled us to do and see an incredible amount, then come back to a lovely, relaxing place every night without having to pack and repack. Our agent booked us at The Milestone in one of their two bedroom apartments and we could not have been happier-- the staff was gracious and attentive without any sort of pretentiousness, the rooms (and bathrooms!) were large by London standards, and the location across from Kensington Gardens couldn't have been more convenient for us-- we were a walk, a reasonable taxi ride or a tube ride away from anything we wanted to see. An added bonus was the great restaurant at the hotel, which was never crowded and served some truly excellent food. After a few long day trips, it was great to just roll downstairs and enjoy a cocktail in their bar, then stroll across the hallway to the restaurant. Our agent and I had talked at some length about the kinds of places we liked to stay and what we didn't like, and the combination of her knowledge of London's accommodations and her attentiveness to my comments found us a perfect match.
Our agent planned some busy days for us in London, which covered a range of tourist highlights and Harry Potter highlights for my obsessed daughter. Her itinerary, based on our conversations, was a perfect blend of fun and history. We walked (a lot), took taxis, rode the tube (at first with a guide, which was very helpful) and generally felt like while we did a lot we weren't overwhelmed or cranky and exhausted by the end of the day (with the exception of an Easter weekend foray into Harrods, which was our own fault...). Absolutely the most invaluable service our agent provided for us came out of her relationships with the guides. We had two while we were there and I can say unequivocally that out of the 600+ registered guides, they have to be the best. Their knowledge, enthusiasm, sense of humor and mad driving skills added an element to our trip that we could have never achieved on our own. Our guide's Harry Potter tour and Hampton Court tour were highlights, as were our days with our guide around London then out to Oxford and Stratford upon Avon. Their ability to be flexible within our itinerary, based on crowds and weather, allowed us to do and see (and learn) so much more than we would ever have been able to on our own. Not having to drive (or figure out where and how to park) was also priceless.
Our trip was perfectly planned for us. For a first trip to London and the UK, we saw and did a lot and much of it we would happily repeat. The only thing I can think of that was not as great as we expected (but we really needed to do just because...) was the London Eye-- part of the problem was we had tickets on the one afternoon where we had a steady rain, so the view was really compromised. We had also climbed to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral on our first day in London, which was a gorgeous, sunny day, and the views from up there were absolutely spectacular.
The travel agency's tean made our first foray to the UK memorable in every way and I wouldn't hesitate to contact them for any and all of our future trips across the pond.
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