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Author Topic: 2007 Wales Trip  (Read 3225 times)
Ed Lecuyer
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« on: September 16, 2010, 02:19:08 AM »

MODERATORS NOTE:
2007 Wales Trip has been converted from the pre-July 2008 WW&F Discussion Forum.
Some formatting may have been removed or modified from the original postings that appear quoted in this topic.
Information contained within this post may be superseded by more recent postings and conversations.

James Patten wrote:
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Patten Travel Agency (that would be me) is planning a trip to Wales for spring of 2007.  The goal is visit the Tallyllyn, Ffestiniog, and Welsh Highlands lines.  While there's lots more worthy places to visit, this trip is only going to be a week long.  I want to spend a day at each place.

I know Allan Fisher and his wife Ellen are planning a trip there which includes Isle of Man.  Glenn Christiansen and his wife are planning to visit Wales as well.  If we're really good, we can coordinate and descend on them all at the same time.  They won't have any idea what hit them.

My original intent was to leave on Saturday May 19 and return Sunday May 27, leaving Memorial Day for rest and recovery before going back to work.  However something is happening in the area on Sunday May 20 that I'd like to catch, so I'm now struggling with new dates.

The plan is to fly to London (during the day if possible, overnight if given no other choice) and take the train from London to Porthmadog.  I plan to base myself out of Porthmadog for 4 nights.  Tallyllyn is reachable by the train, and the Welsh Highland is reachable by intercity bus.  The Ffestiniog is, of course, going to be a hop, skip, and a jump from whereever I stay.  Then take the train back to London, maybe spend an extra day in London to see the sights ("look kids, there's Parliament...Big Ben...") then fly home.  The goal is to use all public transport, so that I don't have to worry about left-handed driving.

So, all you Welshly-wise people out there - where is a nice, but inexpensive place to stay in Porthmadog?

Approximately how much should I budget for eating each day?

I know that Gordon and John M. have expressed interest.  Is there any other interest?  PTA does all the planning.

Ira Schreiber replied:
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Sounds like a great idea.
As a Certified Travel Agent, (yes, I am) I can arrange all travel at the lowest possible prices.
I am with YTB travel and we use Travelocity but get a larger discount, which I will pass on, completely to anyone going.
It would save you alot of hassel, James, as well as money.
Ira

fjknight replied:
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I know that Gordon and John M. have expressed interest.  Is there any other interest?  PTA does all the planning.

James,

Yvette and I would be interested. I will be retired before next May so scheduling for us shouldn't be much of an issue.

Frank Knight

Ray Ollier replied:
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James

I live about just up the road from Porthmadog, would be happy to advise on where to stay, etc.

Ray Ollier

gordon cook replied:
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It's well known that you have to be able to pronounce all the Welsh names correctly to enter. There is a security guard at the border who gives a quiz.
Sorry, just joking. (Just what is the Afon Dwyryd anyway?)
It does help however, to be able to pronounce the name when booking your ticket at the train station. I almost ended up somewhere else instead of Porthmadog, which would have been most interesting.
Aberystwyth stills makes me lythp, but the Vale of Rheidol Railway was spectacular, up the side of a steep valley. See
http://www.steamsafari.com/wales/index.htm
for a nice description of several of the Welsh narrow gauge trains if you haven't seen it before.
I never did get to Tallylyn (wait, count the l's) Talyllyn.
The natives do speak the King's English well, although I thought that Welsh is very interesting whenever I heard it. Mrs. Jones, where I stayed, tried to teach me a little, but it didn't stick in my language-challenged brain.
Anyway, count me in, I have very fond memories of my one visit there and look forward to going back.
Gordon C.

Ira Schreiber replied:
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My web site can be directly addressed.
You are certaintly able to make your own arrangements, if you wish. The disadvantage is the loss of group discounts.
Let's see how many we get and I can work up some sample fares.
The earlier booked, generally the cheaper the fare.
The web site is:
http://www.ytbtravel.com/mailroom

Ira Schreiber

James Patten replied:
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I need to figure what my costs will actually be before I can say with 100% certainty whether or not I am going.

If group discounts help lower the price of transport, then I am all for it!

I intend to travel on UK rail with a rail pass.

I strongly desire a non-stop trip over the Atlantic.  I am flying out of Boston and have no intention of flying to Newark or Philly or Chicago or some other US destination before hopping the pond.  It seems to me that flights from Boston to England all terminate at Heathrow.

Hey, if we get enough people together maybe we can charter our own flight!

Jon Dandridge replied:
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I went to Porthmadog in 1971 as part of a 2 week trip to the UK. As I recall I went Euston to Wolverhampton, changed to a DMU that split at Shrewsbury then I had to change again at Machynlleth (I probably spelt that wrong) for the Aberystwyth train. Things may have changed since then.

At the time I had no trouble just walking around and finding a B&B the day I arrived but things may be different now. It was quite an experience, I remember being woken up the next morning by the landlady giving directions to a man on a ladder outside my window in Welsh. I also got food poisoning eating lunch at a cafe, hopefully the food is better now!

You probably want to travel as light as possible. From Heathrow you can get the Heathrow Express to Paddington which is comfortable (but pricey), but then it's the Tube to Euston which is not great if you have luggage especially at weekday rush hour.

By the way you can check on train schedules and fares using the National Rail web site:

http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/

Jon D

gordon cook replied:
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My itinerary to Wales started in Paris in the morning, through the Chunnel to London, then on to Porthmadog by 11 PM, on the last train up the coast. I remember going through Oxford and Reading. I had bought a national rail schedule, a book about 3 inches thick, and could plan my travels quite easily that way. Trains were on time, modern, clean and AC'd. The DMU up the coast was the oldest, but still comfortable. The rolling party that got on at Machynellth (SP) was fun too, 4 guys out having a good old time.
This was in 2003. I was in the UK in 2005 again, but I couldn't find the unified schedule book, and had to go to the individual service offices in Waterloo Station to get the schedules for each region.
You can also negotiate when you get to the ticket window, but with a 'queue' behind you anxious to get home I felt it was hard to optimize your travels that way. Although most Brits would never say anything. :>)
A BritRail pass has to be bought in the US, travel agents will sell them to you, and it works pretty well, but you still will need reservations on the busy trains. Ours never got looked at a couple of times, which effectively gives you a free ride for that day.
London and the major cities are very expensive, by the way. Be prepared for US$3.50 small cup of coffee at Starbucks, and $150 and up for a small, OK room in the cheap places. And I hope you don't like ice in your drinks.

Ira Schreiber replied:
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The group travel has a few obvious restrictions.
1. All must fly together from and to the trans-Atlantic departure point, i.e. Boston
2. There must be a minimum of 20 people to get the group fare.
3. Seats must be blocked 60-90 days prior to departure.
The air fares are about 25% cheaper from the NYC area than Boston, but majority rules. Coming from Denver, I have no preference.
Ira

Ira Schreiber replied:
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I just did a quick check on fares from JFK vs. Boston.
Boston    =$685
JFK         =$477

Flight via Air India, non stop to Heathrow.
No comment on the airline.
Just for comparisons

Ira

James Patten replied:
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Air fare from NYC may be cheaper, but for those of us coming from northern or central New England we still have to gget to New York.

Somebody commented that the Welsh trains may not run full schedules during the week in May, but only during the weekend.  I believe our Memorial Day (last Monday in May) is some kind of Bank Holiday?  If so does that mean no public transport is running or businesses are open or is it the other way around?

Ira Schreiber replied:
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In order to get group fares, 20 like tickets are required.
Would anyone mind if we opened up this trip to the "Two Footers" group? I would like to see this as an informal type trip, with the group air fare being the incentive.
Activities would be on your own.
Comments?
Ira

James Patten replied:
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Don't we need to determine travel dates first?  To me this still seems up in the air.

Ira Schreiber replied:
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I was using your proposed dates.
Figure out what you and the rest would like and we will go from there. Remember Thursday travel is generally cheaper than Friday or Saturday for departures from the US.
Ira

James Patten replied:
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The Talyllyn will be running 8 trains/day during the "Bank Holiday" of May 26 - 31.  The 27th and 28th is a Tom Rolt Vintage Rally.  I don't know what that is but it sounds suitably exciting.

So this means, I think, that the trip would be leaving the US on the 23rd or 24th, and returning 1 week later.  I'd like to avoid taking too much vacation time (I have to save up for the narrow gauge convention in Portland) so leaving and returning on a Thursday gives me a Friday + weekend to recover.

Ira Schreiber replied:
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O.K., I will plug in some new dates and see what comes up. Any others interested, jump in, as we still need 20 for the group fare.
Ira Schreiber

Wayne Laepple replied:
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Tom Rolt was the Harry Percival of the Talyllyn Railway.

Bill Sample replied:
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According to their website, the Talyllyn Railway's Tom Rolt Rallye hosts visiting steam powered road vehicles, such as steam rollers and steam powered trucks.
As Wayne so perfectly stated, Tom Rolt spearheaded the railway's second coming as a historic operation as Harry did with the W&Q/WW&F.  The Talyllyn was the first such revival anywhere, and the preservation era began there in 1951.  Unlike our experience, when the Talyllyn revival began they at least had their railway intact although in poor shape, and much more of the original equipment roster remained.
I believe Tom Rolt would have been quite impressed with our WW&F revival!
The Talyllyn site is http://www.talyllyn.co.uk

James Patten replied:
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I've finally figured out an estimated budget, and it looks like it will be about $2000 to go to Wales (and come back).  That's assuming I can eat for $50 a day, and that the B&B I found for $60/night double occupancy has rooms available.

I forgot to mention to John and Gordon this past weekend, but the Talyllyn sent me some literature: a 2007 timetable, a membership information flyer to the Preservation Society, and "Talyllyn Experience" a flyer pointing out features of interest such as shelters, crossing lights, and a saddle tank shed.  Great stuff and now I can start planning in earnest.

Speaking of the Talyllyn, can anyone out there tell me what the "Quarryman" train is?  Every timetable has one, whether they run 2 trains or 8.

My current plan is:
- depart on overnight flight Thursday May 24, arriving somewhere in the UK on Friday May 25.
- Once we clear customs, get the train to Wales and go to Porthmadog, where we will find our accommodations.
- We'll stay in Porthmadog until Wednesday May 30, whence we will leave for our plane departure point, which will leave the following day.
- This means we'll have Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday in Porthmadog.  One day to visit Talyllyn, one to visit Welsh Highland (Caernarvon), one to visit the Ffestiniog, and one to wander Porthmadog (perhaps going to visit The Village in Portmeiron).  It would be nice if the Day of Wandering was Sunday, so that those of us so inclined can go to church, but it may need to be Saturday if we're really beat from the trip over.

So, Glenn and Allan, I hope you will be able to plan your trips around this schedule.  Anyone else on the Forum who is interested in the trip, please let me know.  It would be nice to get Ira's 20 people on one flight so that it could be cheaper, although Patten Travel Agency will only be able to handle the lodging requirements of a few people.

Glenn Christensen replied:
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Hi James,

Our travel arrangements will be a bit different, but I see no problem syncing up in Portmadoc given what you've posted so far.  We're probably going to make Portmadoc our base of operations too.  We're thinking of renting a cottage in the surrounding area and hiring a car, but nothing is set in concrete yet.

Let's stay in touch on-line and off as things develop.  But so far, so good.

Best Regards,
Glenn

John McNamara replied:
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I have some concerns about the 20 people idea. In addition to finding 20 people who could synchronize their calendars to the desired flights, and coordinating accommodations for 20 people in very small towns, there is a possible problem with the quality of the experience. I know that the WW&F would have difficulty giving a good tour or tours to so large a group other than just transferring them from bus to train and sending them on their way. A smaller group, like between four and eight, could get a much more personalized tour. While I realize that the 20 could be split into smaller groups, that substantially increases the complications and the staffing requirements of the location(s) visited.

Ira Schreiber replied:
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John, et al.,
The 20 number is for the group air rate, only.
What participants do after landing is their choice.
It would be extremely easy to split up and head separate ways.
I did the on a 1991 trip to Poland and it worked well.
Ira

Glenn Christensen replied:
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Hey Guys,

Guess what just got posted to the ffestiniog's web site!!!!

We couldn't have timed that better if we tried!

Best Regards,
Glenn

Ira Schreiber replied:
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OK, WHAT???

Glenn Christensen replied:
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Sorry Ira,

The ffestiniong is having their 175th anniversary celebration May 28th, 2007.  That's during the time period we were planning for our trip.

Best Regards,
Glenn

James Patten replied:
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WOOT!

Looks like Talyllyn will be on Sunday the 27th and Festiniog will be Monday the 28th.

Incidently, just to keep the group in the loop, I am no longer planning to fly into London.  Instead it looks like a flight into Dublin, with accompanying ferry trip across the sea to Holyhead, is cheaper by nearly $100.

Glenn Christensen replied:
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Hi James and Ira,

Thanks for the pointer on Dublin to Holyhead.  We've looked into that routing and we've found it would be cheaper to fly Atlanta to Boston and then via your routing instead of flying Atlanta to Gatwick and then taking the train from London to Birmingham or Manchester.

We're currently planning on booking a car and renting a cottage in the Portmadoc area, but naturally this is all subject to change.

Ira, we're going to look into your suggestion about flying on Thursday.

Thanks for the suggestions guys!

Best Regards,
Glenn

Ira Schreiber replied:
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A recent check on air fares shows:
Aer Lingus
Boston/Dublin

$515 r/t

This is not a group fare.
Ira

James Patten replied:
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$515 Boston to Dublin is about the price quoted to me.

Incidently it looks like the airline itself quotes a price a tiny bit cheaper than farecompare.com, but the airline's quoted flight goes to Shannon before going to Dublin.  Call me paranoid but I want a direct flight so that the chance of my luggage getting lost is reduced.

John McNamara replied:
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As the old joke used to go, "Ah, the marvels of Jet Age: breakfast in New York, lunch in Los Angeles, baggage in Buenos Aires."

Glenn Christensen replied:
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Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they AREN'T out to get you!

Best Regards,
Glenn

Jon Dandridge replied:
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Quote

Incidently, just to keep the group in the loop, I am no longer planning to fly into London.  Instead it looks like a flight into Dublin, with accompanying ferry trip across the sea to Holyhead, is cheaper by nearly $100.

As a bonus you get to avoid going through Heathrow which has to be the worst airport in the world.

Jon

James Patten replied:
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John M. and I have purchased our air tickets and made our hotel reservations.  We're flying Aer Lingus, and will be staying at the Tudor Lodge in downtown Porthmadog.

Knock on wood, looks like we'll have plenty of time to make the ferry in Dublin, and plenty of time for train and bus ride to Porthmadog, arriving mid-afternoon, just in time for tea!

fjknight replied:
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James,

Yvette and I have decided to make this a longer trip because we have the time and Wales looks like an interesting place. We plan on being there 16 days arriving on Friday May 18th. The only reservations I have made is for the first 4 nights at a B&B just outside the walls of Conwy which has a great looking castle and an old walled town. We are also looking at a Great Little Trains of Wales pass that covers 9 steam railroads.

I've been using a guide book called "The Rough Guide to Wales" and have talked to a few folks that have traveled in the UK and think I'm going to rent a car. I also plan on taking Aer Lingus to Dublin but am still watching FareCompare.com to see if I can catch a better rate.

One interesting thing I've found is the I have a Vonage IP phone and all of my calls to the UK are free. The bad news is that I can't even pronounce half the names in Wales so it can be a bit embarrassing. Email doesn't have the pronunciation problems.

Frank Knight

James Patten replied:
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Conwy, Holyhead, and Bangor look like names that can't be tortured into something else too bad.  Porthmadog could have alternate soundings.  And who really knows how the double-l's, w's and d's get pronounced.

James Patten replied:
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The trip is still on, but John M. is unable to go.  This means his airline seat is up for grabs.

For the price of transferring the name on the ticket ($90), John is willing to give up the ticket to somebody else.  This ticket has a $600 value.  The flights are Thursday May 24 from Boston (dep. 7:30 PM) with arrival next morning in Dublin, Ireland.  Departure flight is Thursday May 31 from Dublin, Ireland sometime in the early afternoon (time escapes me) with arrival in Boston around 3 PM.

If you want to do the same thing I'm doing (the trip to Wales) I am estimating the cost (excluding airline ticket) at around $1000.  The price may be higher or lower depending on how posh you want your sleeping quarters and whether you're willing to share or not, and this doesn't include anything you may spend on memorabilia.

If you don't wish to accompany me to Wales, you are free to roam around Europe as you want.

If there's any interest please email me.  If you do not have a passport, you will need to get one and time is of the essence here (but there is still time as of the beginning of April).  Otherwise I suppose you can wait until the last day or so to make up your mind, but I'm really hoping for a traveling companion as I do not like traveling alone.

James Patten replied:
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FYI, John's air ticket has been taken by my father-in-law, who will be accompanying me to Wales.  Incidentally he grew up in Billerica, Mass., and knew of the narrow gauge that went through there.  My introduction into his life several years ago has since kindled this knowledge into more of an interest than it once was.

Phil Raynes replied:
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For a preview of your trip (or for those of us staying behind!), check out this YouTube link to an Easter 2007 trip behind WHR #138, the Mileniwm.  It is 9+ minutes of 2' gauge steam, with numerous distant shots showing the scenery, as well as closeups of the loco, train, and yards (including a shot of the 2-8-2!).  Makes my nose twitch at the thought of smelling the hot grease and steam!  Enjoy!  (Note: if you are on dail-up it may take a while!)

Phil

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2WVhezCKLo
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