London transport options + UK tours

By Sabine Joyce
This item appears on page 13 of the December 2015 issue.

There are great bargains on transportation in London, as I learned in July 2015.

I purchased an Oyster card in a Tube station. Available from machines or cashiers, Oyster cards can be used for any public transportation in London. I paid £10 (near $15.50), and four days later at a different station I got back the £5 that I hadn’t used. Visitors can also buy Oyster cards online at

I used the Oyster card for sightseeing on double-decker bus No. 159. This public bus goes from Marble Arch across Westminster Bridge. Double-decker bus No. 148 goes almost everywhere, but 159 is more scenic.

Then there’s bicycling. All over London there are easy-to-use bike-sharing stations where bikes can be rented with a credit card.*

Sabine Joyce and Ian McNeice, who plays Bert Large on “Doc Martin.”

Instead of that, when I saw a man with a sign saying “Bike tours,” I had him direct me to the office, where I rented a bike and helmet. I rode for four hours all through the city. It was so good to have a guide. London is very bike friendly.

I also took a tour to Stonehenge for £44 that I booked in the US on the Internet with Golden Tours (phone, in the UK, +44 [0] 207 630 2028 or, in the US, 800/509-2507, If you take a tour with Golden Tours, there’s a big discount on the next tour.

They did pick me up at my hotel, but coming back I had to figure it out on my own. Luckily, I found the bus that headed right to my hotel.

I also went to Port Isaac in Cornwall, where the TV series “Doc Martin” is filmed. Dacey’s Cornish Tours (St. Paul, MN; 651/484-4689, arranged the tour. I had seen an article written by a friend of mine, John Scheleur, in ITN the year before, “Discovering England’s Delightful Cornwall Region” (Oct.’14, pg. 44). The trip sounded so good. The owner of Dacey’s Cornish Tours, David Warner, whose classified ad appears in ITN’s Mart section, runs about eight tours a year, and all of them sell out fast.

For the 10-day tour, I paid about $1,500, which included breakfasts as well as dinner on the last day. We stopped at little lunch places; there were so many bakeries and good places to eat. We stayed in the best hotels, even castles. 

Tours were optional, and seniors got good rates. Everyplace we stopped, there were things to do on our own, especially if we were willing to walk. 

David also arranged tickets for us so we could see a performance at the Minack Theatre (Porthcurno, Penzance, Cornwall, England; phone +44 [0] 1736 810694,, situated on a cliff. It is something not to be missed.

The cliff-side Minack Theatre in Porthcurno. Photo by Sabine Joyce

Visiting Port Isaac (Portwenn in the “Doc Martin” show) was very important to me. I had checked on the Internet to see if any filming was being done. We were lucky, even though Martin Clunes (who plays Doc Martin) wasn’t coming until the next day. 

It was exciting to meet the actors. We were able to talk to them, and nobody rushed us away. I met Caroline Catz (who plays Louisa) and told her how anxious we were to see the newest set. I also spoke to Ian McNeice (Bert Large), who was very nice.

We just had to be silent while they were filming. A camera clicking or a dog barking would ruin the scene. Some scenes were taken 15 times. Tourists were welcome in some scenes, and maybe they won’t cut me out.


Harwood, MD

*London’s bike-sharing service is called Santander Cycles. A code to unlock a bicycle for 24 hours can be purchased for £3 online by visiting and becoming a member by setting up an account. 

Bicycles also can be rented on location with a chip-and-PIN card. The first half hour of an on-location rental is free, with £2 added for each additional 30 minutes. See the website for instructions and bicycle-docking locations.