Notes on England visit

On our visit to England, April 30-May 9, ’05, it was full spring with lovely weather. The exchange rate was the only chilling factor of the trip!

The Grange Blooms Hotel in Bloomsbury is in an excellent, convenient location behind the British Museum. Very comfortable, it’s part of a group of renovated townhouses, the Grange Bloomsbury group, most of which provide full breakfast. The staff here is well trained and very helpful. £115 (near $220).

The Claverley on Beaufort Gardens in Knightsbridge, close to Harrods and museums, is also recommended. Another renovated townhouse, it’s in a quiet and attractive location. £145 included a wonderful breakfast.

In York, the Dean Court, in the ancient part of the city (e.g., the Shambles), is in the best location available, next to York Minster. We had stayed there before and loved its warmth and style. Once a gem of old-world taste and intimacy, it is now managed by Best Western and is the victim of a poorly conceived effort at modernizing the once-elegant lobby, removing all of the partitions and furnishing it in pseudo-Scandinavian modern — totally out of keeping with its location and reputation. £150 ($287).

Its dining room, once awarded two rosettes, was a disaster, with cold entrées and tired vegetables. Perhaps this is still a “work in progress”?

All three of these are moderate-price hotels in ideal locations with excellent staffs and all amenities. We would make the same choices again. All had lifts plus rooms with two twin beds — not as common a setup as one would think. The full breakfasts were included and uniformly excellent.

We found that wheelchairs were available — at no charge — at all public access buildings, e.g., at Westminster Abbey and, in York, at the National Railway Museum, York Minster and the Kirk (castle) Museum.

We want to highly recommend our driver in York, Glynn Hopkins (cell phone 011-44-079-60 63 1033), who took us through breathtaking countryside to Haworth, home of the Brontës, and on to Fountains Abbey. He was a most enjoyable companion and an excellent driver (not a guide). He charged us £250 (about $500 in early May) for seven hours.

In all of our encounters in England, everyone, without exception, was friendly and helpful. They stepped up to assist us even without our asking — we must have looked like we needed help! They taught us how to use the bus system, what stop was ours and where a good pub was located. They certainly made us feel welcome and saved us from making mistakes. This made a very big impression on us and our experience of the country as a whole.

Greenwich, CT