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TravelValue: England


I lived in England for three years (1995-1998) while serving in the U.S. Air Force at RAF Alconbury in Cambridgeshire. I grew to love Great Britain, its history, and the people during my time here, traveling extensively all over England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Now I am back for the first time in 20 years and will share the knowledge I have acquired as a frugal, seasoned traveler - 42 countries and counting - here in England ... Follow Me To TravelValue!

London


Jack the Ripper Tour
77 Whitechapel High Street
London E1 7PE, United Kingdom
Aldgate Underground Station - Exit 3
Phone number +44 7803 067544
Prices: ££££

The infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper, got his name from a letter sent to the police, supposedly, by the killer himself.

"Dear Boss" Letter *
"The canonical five", as the Ripper's victims have come to be known, were Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly, prostitutes on London's East End and slaughtered, even dissected,  on the streets between August 31st and November 9th 1888.
Annie Chapman Morgue Photo *
The Jack the Ripper tour starts just a few blocks away from the first murder scene at exit 3 of the Aldgate East Station (77 Whitechapel High St, London E1 7QX - just west of Brick Lane and next to the Whitechapel Gallery). Note that there are at least three exits, hence "exit 3", so make sure you are at the right one at the appointed time or they will leave without you. We took the 7:30PM tour and the fee was £10 ($13.25) each. You need to book online at the website above.
CLICK HERE TO READ AN ASSOCIATED ARTICLE BY A FRIEND WHO ACCOMPANIED US ON THE TOUR

Our tour guide was very knowledgeable about the Jack the Ripper case, although impersonal, taking us on a 2-hour whirlwind tour (walking from site to site at a very brisk pace - if you are older, disabled, or have small children, this tour will be difficult for you) through the East End.


Street, Reportedly, Where "Diagon Alley" in "Harry Potter" Was Filmed *

The areas is much more modern and upscale now than it was at the turn of the century with a 50/50 mix of quaint Victorian buildings and recent eyesores.


We visited a few of the crime scenes, but many were torn down long ago or "too far away" to visit during our two hour marathon. Honestly, you could read the history on Wikipedia and map out a walking tour of the area yourself on Google Maps. I did it for you in about 15 minutes (CLICK HERE FOR WALKING ROUTE) using information from Wikipedia on "Jack the Ripper" and "Whitechapel Murders" and the route, which is much longer than the one we took, takes less than an hour on foot.
Walking Tour Route - Google Maps

10 Bells Pub - Where Two of the Victims Drank Prior To Their Murders

Christ Church, Spitalfields

Dormitory Where One Of The Victims Slept

Crime Scene Photo - Murder Scene *

Crime Scene - Present Day

Crime Scene - Early 1900s *

13 Millers Court - Site of Mary Kelly's Murder *
The tour would have been much more interesting and worthwhile had they used some theatrics, period costume(s), and playacting with a character or two, Jack the Ripper knife-in-hand and a bloody victim or two, along the way to provide some excitement. Our guide did have a handheld device from which some of the images you see (*) were projected onto walls and ceilings along the route, making it a little more realistic and gruesome.
Coroner's Sketch - Mary Kelly *

Coroner's Sketch - Mary Kelly *

Catherine Eddowes Morgue Photo *

Message Written on Wall by Killer aka "Goulston Street graffito" *

Mary Kelly Crime Scene Photo *
For £10, it was interesting and I got a good workout in, so I cannot complain too much. If you take the tour, either this one, one of the others available or a self-guided tour (recommended), I suggest you do it during the day if you want better photos or at night if you prefer more realism and a dramatic feel.
Suspect #1 - The American Doctor *

1888 Eyewitness Drawing - Suspect #2 *

Modern Composite Drawing of "Jack the Ripper" From Eyewitness Accounts (Several Murders)

CombatCritic Gives The Jack The Ripper Tour 5 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Five Bombs Equates To:


Translation for Civilians: "Continue Mission"

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Title: London, England: Jack The Ripper Tour - Worth It Or Not?

Key Words: Jack the Ripper Tour, jacktherippertour, Jack, the, ripper, tour, London, England, UK, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, ghost, East End, Whitechapel, review, Yelp, Google, Facebook

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Written and Contributed by Dr. Giovanna Potenza
Probably the winter season is the most suitable to make plans to visit, for lovers of the genre, one of the many unusual tours of the English capital, the so-called "Jack the Ripper Tour", which winds through places that were the scene of the heinous crimes of the the most famous serial killer of all time.

Perhaps because the misty atmosphere of the English capital on a harsh winter night made the route more disturbing, or perhaps simply because the tour is similar to taking a trip to Victorian London, the fascinating night effect was assured.

The tours that retrace the dark alleys where Jack the Ripper lured and murdered his victims depart in the late afternoon from the Aldgate East tube station, next to the Whitechapel Art Gallery, in the Whitechapel district of London's infamous East End.

The murders - at least five of which, officially, were attributed to him, because many others are of controversial attribution - took place in the Autumn of 1888 and in the East End. At the time, England was a very powerful country, firmly at the top of the financial, industrial, cultural and scientific fields, and leading a vast colonial empire.

London, the beating heart of that empire, was the most populous and multicultural city in Europe, but it was also a deeply contradictory capital known for the coexistence of elegant residences with refined architecture and interspersed with elegant parks, mingling along side overpopulated slums. In such slums, of which the East End was most notable during that period, infant mortality was very high, sanitary conditions inadequate, and alcoholism and prostitution endemic as a result of the general state of degradation.

However, it is not possible to shed light on the scenario of the terrible events having occurred during those months without knowing the conditions of extreme poverty in which this part of London's population lived.

Growing urbanization during the Industrial Age had in fact encouraged immigration to the capital a mass of English, Irish and foreign immigrants who often lived on the limits of legality and the margins of subsistence.

The great availability of labor had contributed, in the late nineteenth century, to provoke the lowering of wages with a subsequent need for children to contribute to the family coffers, having been common to see them employed as chimney sweeps, beggars, garbage collectors or shoe shine boys. The population of the most disadvantaged areas, such as in the East End, lived, if lucky enough, in tiny flats, while the poorest were crowded into overcrowded apartment buildings or living on the filthy and dangerous streets.

Very often, in order to shelter themselves from the harsh London climate, many resorted to the hiring of beds for the night in rooms that could hold up to 40 people, where promiscuity reigned supreme and they lived in unhygienic conditions with little or no security. The beds took the form of coffins, literally wooden boxes on the floor resembling bare, wooden coffins and placed next to each other, which, at the time of the crimes of the brutal serial killer, cost four pence a night.

Since alcoholism was a plague endemic to the majority of the East End's population, regardless of gender, a pint or glass of bathtub gin in a pub cost exactly four pence. Individuals would often have to decide whether to drink another glass of gin and stay on the streets all night or invest the miserable amount in a place to sleep for the night in the safe shelter of a coffin. For women there was also a third, even more dangerous option - drinking all of their money away, then prostituting themselves for four pence in order to pay for shelter.

Unfortunately, almost all of Jack the Ripper's victims belonged to the latter category, that of women with an easy glass and without a shelter for the night.

Ten Bells Pub, an ancient establishment of the mid-Eighteenth Century still stands in front of the Old Spitalfied Market, not surprisingly one of the stops on the tour. It was here that at least two of Jack the Ripper's victims, Annie Chapman and Mary Kelly, stopped for a few drinks before being murdered.

Other stages of the macabre itinerary were Buck's Row, where the first victim, Mary Ann Nichols, was found on August 31, 1888; 29 Hanbory Street, where on September 8, 1888 the body of the second victim was discovered, Anne Chapman; and, finally, the area next to Commercial Street which houses the historic Old Spitalfields Market, a sad scene of the last and most heinous, gruesome murder, that of Mary Jane Kelly.

The physiognomy of London's East End has undergone profound changes in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, especially in the period between the 1990s and 2012. Leading up to London's Olympic Games in 2012, places like Brick Lane began to develop as centers of culture, thanks to the proximity of the London Metropolitan University, which brought many students to live in the area for both comfort and proximity to the City of London.

Today the East End is a trendy neighborhood, populated with shops and bars among the most famous in all of London, a colorful meeting place for intellectuals, artists and tourists that is light years away from the degradation experienced during the Victorian era.

Yet, discovering the dark side of London in the footsteps of one of the best known serial killers in history can also be a way to better understand the English capital, whose past perhaps owes some of its appeal to its contradictions. The tour is then perhaps an alternative way to explore the East End, a destination for immigrants today as it was in the Nineteenth Century, alive and vibrant with its ethnic restaurants as well as its cultural diversity.


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Title: Observations - Jack The Ripper In Victorian London And Today

Key Words: Jack the Ripper, Jack, ripper, serial, killer, London, East End, East, end, Whitechapel, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, article, Giovanna Orefice, Giovanna, Orefice, Potenza, Facebook


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Le Mercury
140A Upper Street
London N1 1QY, United Kingdom
Victoria Highbury & Islington Line
Phone number +44 20 7354 4088
Website: lemercury.co.uk
Prices: ££££

Mercury may be the Roman God of poetry, but Le Mercury is poetry in motion and London's God of value. Off the beaten path, yet worth the hike, take the Victoria Line to Highbury and Islington, turn right out of the station and walk 10 minutes to TravelValue heaven ... HOOAH!


Arriving 30 minutes before our reservation, thanks to an extremely efficient Tube journey, we were greeted warmly and seated at a table in the dark, romantic room surrounded by tables with white linen tablecloths each with a large candle on top. We started with bottles of Ochagavia (Chile - £16.95), an oaky, scrumptious cabernet sauvignon, and Hildon sparkling water (750 ml - £2.50).


The service impeccable, all starters are just £4.45 ($6.15) and all main courses £10.95 ($15.15 - except the steak which was £12.95 - $18), a bargain for the quality and flavor. My wife ordered the Chèvre Chaud Grilled Goats' Cheese starter with a salad garnish and basil pesto sauce and I had the Moules Marinière (mussels) in a white wine and cream sauce with "shallots, garlic, lemon and parsley". The goat cheese tart was tastefully presented as well as being light, yet savory, and flavorful. My mussels were plentiful for the price, but there was little sauce and what was there was a tad bland with nary a hint of the shallots, garlic or parsley as noted in the description. Still, they were flavorful and a good value.


For our main courses, my better half had the Asperges et Cheddar Tart, small cheddar tarts topped with asparagus spears in a balsamic reduction and a sliced avocado garnish in between the two. She did not care for the dish, as I thought might be the case, because of the balsamic vinegar which she is not a great fan of to begin with. I gave her half of my Entrecôte ă l’échalotte (grilled rib eye steak), served in a lovely shallot and red wine sauce, along with some of my chips (fries for you Yanks - £1.95) in return her second tart. I thought that the tart was quite delicious, but I am quite fond of balsamic and the avocado garnish was a nice, complimentary addition.


I was stuffed, so no dessert for me, but my "sweet"-loving wife  (she is "sweet" and "loving too) had to have her favorite, Crème Brûlée (£3.45), which was a bit on the small side, but scrummy nonetheless. 

At £63.42 ($87.90), including a 10% service charge, we ate like kings and queens, appropriately enough. A comparable meal would have easily set us back $110-$125 in the States. The sole "Bomb" deduction is due to the not-so-flavorful sauce the mussels came in and the damp slice of bread that came in our first basket, which they apologized for and quickly replaced.

CombatCritic Gives Le Mercury 9 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!
Nine Bombs Equates To:

Translation for Civilians: "U.S. Marine Response To A Verbal Greeting Or As An Expression Of Enthusiasm"

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Title: London, England: "Poetry" In Motion, Le "Mercury" Is London's "God" Of Value 

Key Words: London, England, Le Mercury, le, mercury, London, Islington, Highbury, England, French, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, , review, Yelp, Zomato, TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook


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Bizzarro
18-22 Craven Road
London W2 3PX
United Kingdom
Paddington Station
Phone number +44 20 7723 6029
Website: bizzarro.co.uk
Prices: ££££

Everything is à la carte here, like in Italy, but the food is not ... like in Italy. Meat dishes come with nothing and bread is €1/person. A 10% service charge (£4.19 - $5.80) was also automatically included, so our server seemed extremely arrogant and nonchalant, a bit of an ass. Why should he care if the service charge (tip) is mandatory? He did not get a pence more.
A half liter of house red wine is £9.40 ($13) on their website menu, but it was £10.20 ($14.15) when the bill arrived. The half liter carafe was far from full and it was not good. I had the Pasta e Fagioli (£4.50) and it was too soupy, had the wrong beans, and bland. Two teaspoons of grated parmesan did not even help. My wife the Olives (£2.90), a decent portion, but a tad spicy-hot because of the sliced jalapeños in the olive oil. Strange.


She had the Fettuccine Prosciutto e Funghi (£8.90 - $12.32 for a "main" - £1 more than the small) and I the Vitello Saltimbocca alla Romana (veal topped with prosciutto and sage in a wine sauce - £10.90 - $15.09). Her portion of fettuccine was not very big, so I would hate to see the small version (£7.90), and it was bland with little flavor. My veal was actually beef (you can tell by the color - greyish, not white - and the way it cuts) and had a strange flavor. I am not sure if it was the wine they used, the sage, or both, but it tasted a little of a chemical of some kind.


It was a disappointing experience after having read the great reviews, but then some throw 5-Stars around like candy. I guess I am a bit more demanding than most, having lived and traveled extensively in Italy for many years, but this meal was not even close to the 4-Stars (7-8 Bombs) they average on yelp. It was one of the worst £46 ($64) meals I have eaten. Bizzarro!

CombatCritic Gives Bizzarro 3 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Three Bombs Equates To:
Translation for Civilians: "Situation Normal, All Fucked Up"

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Title: London, England: Bizzarro Does Not Even Start To Describe This Place

Key Words: Bizzarro, Italian, Italy, pizza, London, England, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, Paddington, Tube, review, Yelp, Zomato, TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook

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Premier Inn London Gatwick Airport A23 Hotel 
Longbridge Way
Horley RH6 0NX
United Kingdom
Phone number +44 871 527 8406
Website: premierinn.com/en/gatwicka23
Prices: ££££

This will not take long because we were not there long and I was not impressed, even for the price. They did not even bother putting the cushions on the bed, they sat atop the wardrobe when we arrived.
Like the Premier Inn in Nuneaton, my only other Premier Inn stay, I found the stay inadequate. Arriving after 11PM for a 05:20 departure the next morning, I got about 2 hours sleep thanks to the noisy neighbor upstairs that I could hear walking around all night long (I am a light sleeper) and a cold. What a miserable night.



As was the case at the Nuneaton location, Wi-Fi was slow and nearly useless. This room was much bigger, but there were two single beds we did not need and one print adorned the walls, otherwise, they were bare. The TV remote did not work and there was mold in the grout on the bathroom walls. I have heard rumours (rumors for the Yanks) that they will refund your rate if you do not get a good night's sleep, but I saw nothing advertized and really do not care at this point. After two horrible experiences at Premier Inns, we will not be staying with them again.

They try to sell you breakfast at £9 ($12.50) a pop or a two course dinner and breakfast for £24.99 ($35) ... REALLY? There is also a £3 per person charge to drive you less than 1,000 feet to the North Terminal (via a 15-minute drive to the Marriott and South Terminal), so you obviously get nothin' for nothin' at Premier Inns. The room price was right at just £50 ($70) for an airport hotel, but they dime you to death for everything and the negatives far outweighed the positives, hence my rating ...
CombatCritic Gives Premier Inn Gatwick A23 Hotel 4 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Four Bombs Equates To:
Translation for Civilians: "Bend Over, Here It Comes Again"

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Title: London Gatwick Airport, England: Premier Inn = Weak

Key Words: London, Gatwick, airport, England, Premier Inn, premier, inn, United Kingdom, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, hotel, accommodation, review, Yelp, Google, Facebook


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Kent


Marie’s Tea Room
23 High Street
Gravesend DA11 0BA
United Kingdom
Phone number +44 1474 335149
Website: mariestearoom.co.uk
Prices: ££££

A quaint little tea room with a great selection of teas, coffee, savories and sweets, and reasonable prices just next to the Victorian market and down the hill toward the River Thames from Gravesend's main shopping street.


Old, mismatched furniture and similarly unique cups, saucers, plates and teapots match the cute Victorian corner building that house them. The prices are right with a Cream Tea (scone, clotted cream, jam and tea of your choice) just £4.20 ($5.95) and a large caffe latte just £2.50 ($3.50). 
The Daily Special the day we were in was Truffle Risotto (£5.95/$8.40), quite a bargain by British standards, but with dinner just a couple hours away, I did not sample it and, therefore, cannot comment on the taste or quality. The tea and coffee, however, were plentiful and tasty and the scones (plain, cheese, or fruit) large, fresh and scrumptious.
The staff are very friendly, efficient, inviting and professional. A sign of quality and proper sanitation, the toilet (bathroom - one unisex) is spic and span and properly stocked with TP, hand soap, hot water, and plenty of paper hand towels. I was told they just finished renovating the kitchen, having installed 100% stainless steel counters and equipment.
A delightful little place, appropriately enough there was a large group of sweet, older ladies having High Tea (finger sandwiches, cakes, pastries, scones, clotted cream, jams, and tea) when we were there. If in Gravesend and in need of a drink, snack, or meal, Marie's is a good bet and a GREAT TravelValue!

CombatCritic Gives Marie's Tea Room A well Deserved 10 Bombs Out Of 10 And A Spot On My "WALL OF FAME" ... More Bombs Are Better!

Ten Bombs Equates To:


Translation for Civilians: 

HOOAH!: "Phonetic spelling of the acronym HUA, which stands for 'Heard Understood Acknowledged.' Originally used by the British in the late 1800's in Afghanistan. More recently adopted by the United States Army to indicate an affirmative or a pleased response." - Urban Dictionary

"The Department of Military Science and Leadership, University of Tennessee claim HOOAH 'refers to or means anything except no' ... Regardless of its meaning ... the term is an expression of high morale, confidence, motivation and spirit." - WarChronicle.com

"The U.S. Air Force stole 'HOOAH' from the Army because we were part of the Army until 1947 and rather than waste a bunch of time coming up with something new and unique like "ROO-YAH" or "HAL-A-LOO-YAH", we said 'screw it, let's go with HOOAH' ... thanks Army ... HOOAH!" - CombatCritic
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Title: Gravesend, England: A Proper, Quaint English Tea Room In Not So Charming Gravesend

Key Words: Marie's Tea Room, Gravesend, England, English, Tea Room, tea, scone, cream tea, cream, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato, Google, Facebook


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The Three Daws Public House
Gastropubs
6 Town Pier
Gravesend DA11 0BJ, United Kingdom
Phone number: +44 (147) 456-6869
Website: threedaws.co.uk
Prices: ££££

The online menu looked eclectic and inspiring, and the reviews good, so I thought this 500+ year old pub had real potential. I was wrong and disappointed.


Having lived in England for three years (RAF Alconbury - 1995-1998), I have had some great pub food. So after almost 20 years away, I was looking forward to a nice, room temperature hand-pulled pint of ale and a good meal. The ale was brilliant and the service friendly and efficient, but the food, unfortunately, left something to be desired.
My wife had the Squash Risotto (£8.75), if you could call it that, supposedly made with arborio rice, leek, cream, squash, and pecorino cheese. The rice did not look like arborio, the squash, leek and cream were nearly nonexistent, and whomever prepared it obviously had no knowledge of how to make a proper risotto. The rice was extremely dry and tasteless, not patiently hand-stirred and creamy, piled on the plate with a smattering of salad without any dressing on the side.
I saw the server delivering the Wild Stroganoff (£9.75) as we were walking in and it looked great, so I ordered it with the chips ("fries" for the Yanks). The alleged "steak" strips seemed more like stewing beef and the "mixed wild mushrooms" were indistinguishable from the stringy beef. There were paprika and cream in the sauce, but the brandy was imperceptible and the sauce had little flavor. My wife's best friend had the same thing, with rice instead of chips, having concurred with my evaluation. 

Her boyfriend had the Harvel Farm (£9.25), which is apparently "exclusive harvel farm beef and horseradish sausages", coming with mashed potatoes and brown gravy and otherwise known as "Bangers and Mash". Being the only Brit at the table (beside the two Italians and one Yank), he seemed pleased with his choice, stating that it was "pretty good".
The place is charming, very old (reportedly 1501), wooden and white on the outside with wonky floors and several small rooms off of the main bar inside, sitting on the southern shore of the River Thames. We were there at night, so we did not get to enjoy the view, but I am sure it can be quite nice in the daylight.

CombatCritic Gives The Three Daws 4 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Four Bombs Equates To:
Translation for Civilians: "Bend Over, Here It Comes Again"

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Title: Gravesend, England: The Three Daws Get Four Bombs

Key Words: Gravesend, England, The Three Daws, public house, three, daws, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, United Kingdom, Yelp, Zomato, TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook


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Golden Lion
147-149 High Street
Rochester ME1 1EL
United Kingdom
Phone number +44 1634 880521
Website: jdwetherspoon.com/pubs/rochester
Prices: ££££

Another JD Wetherspoon, while very short on charm and ambiance, it has, like the others, reasonable prices and consistency not found in every pub.
They overcharged me by a few quid for my wife's shandy (which was refunded), but the British Beef and Doom Bar Ale Pie (£6.39) was pretty good and a decent value. I just hope the Brits sorted out that Mad Cow thing if you know what I mean. 
The beers are relatively cheap (£1.99 and up) with a nice variety of hand-pulled, room temperature ales. Not charming and with a 2 Bomb deduction for overcharging me, JD's is still a good TravelValue ... HOOAH!
CombatCritic Gives The Golden Lion 7 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!


Seven Bombs Equates To:

Translation for Civilians: "Shits & Grins"

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Title: Rochester, England: GRRRRRRRRRROWL ... Golden Lion Big On Value, But Not On Ambiance


Key Words: Rochester, England, Golden Lion, golden, lion, United Kingdom, pub, food, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato, TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook


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Chester


The Pied Bull
57 Northgate Street
Chester CH1 2HQ
United Kingdom
Phone number +44 1244 325829
Website: piedbull.co.uk
Prices: ££££

Just 483 years old, The Pied Bull has been a Chester landmark for centuries and expectations were high for this historic inn in the center of one of England's most beautiful cities.

I could have sworn that parking was available and included when I made the reservation on Booking.com, but reading the fine print on the morning of arrival, the reservation stated: "we no longer have on-site parking", indicating to me that they did include parking recently, but do not any more. I called and was told that we would have to park a few blocks away in the shopping centre garage at the rate of £10 per day, bringing the total price for two nights to £144 ($204/$102 per night).



The place has tons of potential with a prime location in the center (centre) of town, nearly 500 years of history, their own on-site brewery  and beer garden, a restaurant and decent accommodations. A few of the male front desk staff (Tom and Richard) were friendly and helpful, but unfortunately the woman who apparently "manages" the inn, and I use that term loosely, is neither a people person nor presented a professional image and would likely be better off working in the back office. A man and a woman sat in the restaurant on both of the days we stayed there who were obviously involved in management (owners, managers, or management support staff) who were chatting, drinking coffee, crunching numbers on their computers and accessing staff and the POS system, but they seemed to care less about the guests who were complaining about the noise on the street the night before or the problems with breakfast I will elaborate on later. They heard, obviously, everything that was said, but seemed, like the apparent manager, to care less. No wonder this place is a mess.


Room prices are not exactly cheap and food and bar prices are also too high with burgers and pies running in the £12 ($17) range, so we decided to eat elsewhere on both of the nights we stayed at The Pied Bull. The inn is sandwiched between a French restaurant with reasonable prices and good food and a modern gastro pub that was offering 50% all food during January and February. You lose Pied Bull. If prices were cheaper and/or if inn guests were to receive a 20% discount on food, maybe someone would actually eat there, something I failed to observe (someone actually eating lunch or dinner) during our two-day stay.




When I saw the "penthouse suite" we were given, I have to say I was impressed. It was a very nicely appointed two-bedroom suite with large rooms and massive bathroom overlooking one of the main streets of Chester. We were quite pleased and it seemed like a good value until 3:00 AM when the local college hooligans started leaving the bars drunk and extremely loud, singing, screaming, crying and puking on their way past the hotel back to their dorms.















At 3:00 AM on Thursday, January 25th, 2018, Chester University students started leaving the bars drunk and extremely loud, singing, screaming, crying and puking on their way past our hotel, the Pied Bull, back to their dorms. This was a Wednesday night by the way and the ruckus went on for almost two hours, keeping me awake the rest of the night/morning. It is no wonder students behave like this, considering their student housing online advert:
"Snuggled just outside of Chester’s Roman wall, Fontessa House is a fab choice if you want Chester University accommodation. You’ll find each campus just a short walk away. And you’ll never get stuck for things to do here. When student life gets to you ... Get friendly at The Bouverie or The George & Dragon, both less than a minute walk away. Or head over to Telford’s Warehouse, an independent bar, to check out the local talent."
Apparently, drinking and sex are two top priorities when selecting student housing in Chester, not studying, graduating, or respecting their Chester neighbors and visiting tourists.
The Pied Bull - 4AM Noise Video #1


The Pied Bull - 4AM Noise Video #2
We asked to change rooms the next morning, something we were hoping to avoid because this was one of only two hotels where we would be spending more than one night on this road trip. We were given a much smaller room and bathroom down the adjacent side street and away from the main thoroughfare. The hotel staff apologized (once), saying that they would report the incident to the university police, but I got the feeling this was just lip service because we were told by other guests (the noise was the topic of conversation among numerous guests at breakfast that morning - while the execs sat there) that the same exact problem had also occurred the night before.

We were not offered any compensation whatsoever for our sleeplessness or trouble, having wasted more than an hour of our day repacking, lugging the suitcases down two winding flights of stairs, and unpacking once moved to our new, less than ideal room, all after barely getting any sleep.





Breakfast was also a huge disappointment with guests queueing for the single toaster (six slice, but only one person able to use it at a time) and coffee, sugar, cups and plates quickly disappearing and not being replenished. The "full English breakfast" on the first morning consisted of a single egg, one tiny triangular, processed, deep-fried "hash brown", some English bacon (ham), two small sausages, and one lonely sauteed mushroom (we took a pass on the baked beans and tomato as well as the black pudding - aka "blood sausage"). One employee taking and delivering orders and replenishing the breakfast buffet (coffee, yogurt, bread, butter, and jam) was obviously not enough.
Chester's downtown businesses and residents need to do something about this problem and the university needs to squash it ASAP. Chester is such a lovely, historic city, but our trip there was ruined by the disrespectful antics of students who were obviously not raised properly by their parents and not held accountable for their disgraceful behavior by Chester University administration. I have a feeling that this is not a new problem and the The Pied Bull will suffer (in this review and elsewhere) as a result of their own inaction as well as that of Chester Police, the town council, and Chester University security and administrators.

Had the noise not been a problem and if we could have stayed on our original, very nice suite (or had been compensated for our troubles), I would have probably awarded an additional 3-4 Bombs. However, that NOT being the case ...

CombatCritic Gives The Pied Bull 4 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Four Bombs Equates To:
Translation for Civilians: "Bend Over, Here It Comes Again"

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Title: Chester, England: Too Bad The "Pied" Piper Cannot Lead These Noisy Students Out Of Chester

Key Words: Chester, England, The Pied Bull, Pied Bull, pied, bull, piper, inn, noisy, students, Chester University, university, CombatCritic, travel, value, hotel, review, Yelp, Google, Facebook


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Windsor

The Royal Adelaide Hotel
46 Kings Road
Windsor SL4 2AG
United Kingdom
Phone number: +44 175-386-3916
Website: royaladelaide.com
Prices: ££££

Built in the 1830s for its namesake, Queen Adelaide, this Georgian hotel is elegant, quite charming, and just a short walk away from and with great views of historic Windsor Castle. Honestly, for £75 ($105) I was not expecting such a nice hotel and with breakfast included no less! 


We parked in back in their private lot, but was told that parking would be an additional £10 when we checked-in. Once again, Booking.com did not clearly point out the extra fee for parking, so the front desk clerk apologized and upgraded us to a larger room with a view of Windsor Castle ... HOOAH!







The room was smallish, but nicely appointed with a comfy queen size bed and fast internet, something we had recently missed at some of the English hotels and inns we stayed at on this road trip. Then there was the view of Windsor Castle ... WOW!
Breakfast, which was included, was the best in recent memory with a choice of eggs Benedict, an omelette, or full English breakfast. I went with the eggs Benedict and my wife the omelette, both cooked to perfection. Juices, toast, coffee, tea and other selections (cereal, yogurt, etc) were also available.

When checking-out, the clerk told us that she would comp the parking because of Booking.com's oversight, saving us another $14.50. Now that's outstanding customer service and a great TravelValue ... OOH-RAH!
Fit For A Queen ... CombatCritic Gives The Royal Adelaide Hotel 9 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Nine Bombs Equates To:

Translation for Civilians: "U.S. Marine Response To A Verbal Greeting Or As An Expression Of Enthusiasm"

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Title: Windsor, England: In The Shadow Of Windsor Castle Is A Georgian Charmer Fit For A Queen

Key Words: Windsor, England, Windsor Castle, Georgian, Adelaide, castle, The Royal Adelaide Hotel, royal, hotel, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Google, Facebook


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Cambridgeshire

Charlotte House Hotel
78 London Road
Peterborough PE2 9BP
United Kingdom
Phone number +44 1733 315870
Website: charlottehousehotel.com
Prices: ££££

Kudos to the owner/manager for her flexibility! Usually an expert and thorough logistician (after all, it was my military career field for 20 years), I somehow screwed the pooch on this reservation, booking this hotel for the day AFTER our scheduled arrival. I contacted the property that morning with my tail between my legs and, low and behold, they changed our reservation to that night without a cancellation (aka dumb ass) charge. 

We arrived late after visiting friends I had not seen in 20 years just 20 miles south in Huntingdon and left early the next morning, so we did not have time to enjoy the hotel. Parking is in the rear, so take the street immediately north of the hotel (Park Street), then left again on Woodbine Street behind the hotel. If arriving after dark, you might see the slightly obscured "Charlotte House Car Park" sign on the fence adjacent to the property if you look hard enough (see photos below).
Rear of Hotel

A two-story Victorian building on the outskirts of town and less than a mile from the impressive Peterborough Cathedral (burial place of Catherine of Aragon and former resting place of Mary Queen of Scots), the feel is eclectic and somewhat modern, but warm, inviting and slightly charming The room was a tad odd with three steps down into the room from the entry, but it was large with an en suite bathroom, TV with cable, kettle with coffee/tea/milk/sugar, a comfy full size bed, and decent Wi-Fi. We slept well.







At £49.50 ($70.40), we kept the price under my preferred $75 limit and it included a delicious full English breakfast ... now that is a definitie TravelValue ... HOOAH! 
CombatCritic Gives Charlotte House Hotel 9 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Nine Bombs Equates To:

Translation for Civilians: "U.S. Marine Response To A Verbal Greeting Or As An Expression Of Enthusiasm"

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Title: "Flexibility" Is The Key To Air Power And A Charlotte House Core Value

Key Words: Charlotte House Hotel, Charlotte, House, hotel, Peterborough, UK, England, Cambridgeshire, accommodation, room, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook


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Prima Restaurant
143 High Street
Huntingdon PE29 3TF
United Kingdom
Phone number: +44 1480 455553
Prices: ££££

With fairly reasonable prices by British standards, our dinner at Prima with some old mates I had not seen in 20 years was smashing, jolly good fun!
Parking can be a challenge in the center of Huntingdon, but some local knowledge (and permission) got us a spot in close proximity. Attractive inside and out, the restaurant is modern and tastefully decorated with stone and wood accents.
We were the only four customers on a weeknight, so the service was fast and efficient. We started with a Basket of Bread with EVO and Balsamic Vinegar (£2.95), Marinated Olives (£2.95), and a bottle of Pinot Grigio (£15.95). The bread was fresh and tasty, the olives delicious and the wine ... white, not my favorite, but dinner was our treat and our dear friends prefer vino bianco, so there you have it.
My wife had the Linguine Carbonara (£8.95) and I the Mussels in Marinara and Cream Sauce (Special - £9.95). Our friends had Penne (£10.95) and Mussels (£9.95) with the two boys sharing a side of French Fries (£2.95). My wife is Italian and the carbonara was of the non-Italian variety (made with cream, not eggs - damn salmonella!), so she was not thrilled although she said it was "not bad" (picky Italians). The mussels were very good, but I would have thought a "main" (we had the option of "appetizer" or "main") would have had more mussels than we ended up getting (about a half pound).

Everybody had the Amaretto Ice Cream (£6.95) except me, so I had a taste of my wife's. It was good. Overall, the dinner was extremely enjoyable and did not break the bank. The food was good, probably the best Italian we had in our month in England, but having lived in Italy and being married to an Italian, our standards are pretty high. I would definitely recommend Prima if in the Huntingdon area.
CombatCritic Gives Prima A Very Respectable 7 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Seven Bombs Equates To:

Translation for Civilians: "Shits & Grins"

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MENU





Title: Huntingdon, England: Good Food, Good Meat, For Cryin' Out Loud Go There And Eat!

Key Words: Prima, Italian, Italy, pasta, Huntingdon, downtown, Cambridgeshire, England, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato, TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook


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Stratford-Upon-Avon

The New Inn
Clifford Chambers
Stratford Upon Avon CV37 8HR
United Kingdom
Phone number: +44 178-929-3402
Prices: ££££

For the price, the place is a bit of a dump and their "Free Wi-Fi" may as well have been nonexistent, slow as a snail if you were able to connect at all, which we were not.

Breakfast, a mediocre buffet, is only served from 8:30 to 9:30 AM and checkout is at 10 AM, so pre-planning is essential, especially if you have an early morning departure (you must notify them by 9PM the night before). As you will see below, their policies seem to favor themselves rather than the paying customer.




 When I asked the bartender why there was no internet in our room and unable to connect in the common areas, she threw up her hands and told me "what do you want me to do about it?". Explaining to her that "free Wi-Fi" was advertised when we booked the room and that I needed it for work, she looked at the local standing next to me and said "what would people do without internet these days?". When I commented on her rude and unhelpful response, she said she would do something about it, but never followed through. We were unable to connect that night and the next morning before leaving.





 At £65 ($92) per night, the small room was plain with mismatched furniture, a tiny TV, and a bathroom desperately in need of repairs (see photos). We stayed at much nicer places in both central London and Chester for $12 less than this shithole in the middle of nowhere.




The sole highlight was their "carvery" (£8.95/small plate - £10.95/large plate) dinner with sliced beef, turkey and gammon (ham) as well as roasted and mashed potatoes, parsnips, stuffing, Yorkshire pudding, gravy and several veggies, but when I asked about the policy for seconds on sides, the carver told me "read the sign mate, one trip only". Like the bartender, not very professional. Actually, nobody was friendly, neither staff nor customers, which had not been our experience in London, Cambridgeshire, Manchester, Chester, Nuneaton, Stratford Upon Avon, or Windsor. Maybe they simply do not like "Yanks" or outsiders in Clifford Chambers. In any event, we did not feel welcome and were extremely disappointed by our experience.




CombatCritic Gives The New Inn 2 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!
Two Bombs Equates To:

Translation for Civilians: "Tits Up" 

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Title: Stratford-Upon-Avon, England: WAY Overpriced, Unprofessional Staff, And Nonexistent "Free Wi-Fi" Left Us Feeling Underwhelmed

Key Words: The New Inn, New Inn, new, inn, Clifford Chambers, Clifford, chambers, Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon, England, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, pub, menu, review, Yelp, Google, Facebook


Nuneaton


Premier Inn Nuneaton/Coventry
aka Griff House
Coventry Road
Nuneaton CV10 7PJ
United Kingdom
Phone number +44 871 527 8858
Website: premierinn.com/nuneaton
Prices: ££££

The room was advertised online at £34.50 three days before our arrival, but when our travel plans were clear and I went to book the room the next day, the price had shot up to £43.50. As a travel critic and well known blogger with a focus on value, price gouging customers is not something I take lightly. When I asked the front desk clerk upon arrival why the price went up, I was told "That's the way we do it, prices change from day to day".



Their "free" Internet was extremely difficult to connect to and so slow that it was useless, so we gave up rather than paying the extra £5 for "Premium" service, another indication that the company's greed outweighs customer needs and satisfaction. The room was so small that my wife and I had to take turns moving around the room because the double bed took up most of the room and while sitting at the small desk trying to connect to the useless Internet, my wife had to crawl over the bed to get around me and to her side of the bed.






The staff at the adjoining Beefeater were great, but the food was mediocre and the prices quite high for what we got. My £15.99 ($22.60) sirloin must have been 8 ounces before cooking because it looked rather small and it was overcooked (I asked for medium-well and it was well-done). If a place called BEEFeater cannot cook a steak correctly, there must be something terribly wrong. The "unlimited" fries/chips were sparse and was never asked if I wanted more and the Cheddar, Pulled Ham and Mushroom Sauce (£1.99/$2.85 - bringing the total to £17.98/$25.45) was barely enough to cover the small steak. The only other thing I got on the plate was a single broiled tomato slice and one lonely sauteed mushroom. I can get quite a nice steak dinner at countless places in the States for $26, including a larger, better cut of meat and more/better fries, I would also get soup and/or salad, vegetables and bread for that price. Finally, I also found asking hotel guests to pay £8.95 ($25.30 for two) for breakfast also quite absurd. 







Whitbread (Premier Inn's parent company) obviously cares only about profit and not its customers and preserving their building's historical significance is clearly not a priority. They have ruined George Eliot's birthplace and childhood home both inside and out instead of restoring it to its former glory and taking advantage of Eliot's fame to bring her fans and English literature enthusiasts to Nuneaton and the property. How they got away with destroying such a historic property is unfathomable.
George Eliot Memorial Plaque Obscured By Wiring And Pipes

 Front (Now Side Of Beefeater) Of The Evans (George Eliot) Home In Disrepair
Evans' Farm Outbuildings Neglected And In Disrepair









Round Pond From George Eliot's Novels
CombatCritic Gives Premier Inn Nuneaton/Coventry 2 Bombs out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!
Two Bombs Equates To:

Translation for Civilians: "Tits Up" 

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Title: Nuneaton, England George Eliot Must Be Rolling In Her Grave

Key Words: Nuneaton, England, George Eliot, George, Eliot, Coventry, Griff House, Griff, house, Premier Inn, Beefeater, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, hotel, review, Yelp


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Chester





A Pictorial Tribute To
The Pubs of England and Wales

Gravesend, England


London, England








Canterbury, England









Nottingham, England

Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem - The Oldest Inn in England




Chester, England



Conwy, Wales


Stratford-Upon-Avon, England




Windsor, England





Gravesend, England

Rochester, Engalnd







Horley, England

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Title: The Pubs of England and Wales

Key Words: The Pubs of England and Wales, pubs, England, Wales, English, inn, inns, pub, bitter, pint CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, business, review, Yelp, Google, Facebook


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