9/5 Update: Decided to add one day to the stay (4 days in town, 1 day out of town).
I will have a Eurail pass before I leave, I'll get the one that is good for about 2 months and allows me unlimited access. The rail pass also allows me discounts on buses, ferries, and other stuff along my way, but I plan to do the vast majority of my intercity travel by rail.
I went to England with my family after I graduated high school in 1984. We went to Paris in 1988 after I graduated college, before I started my job (and ironically, I'll visit after I leave my job with that same company). But that's the extent of my journeys in Europe. I've always wanted to do an open-jaw trip (fly into city A, travel on my own to city B, and fly home from there) so that's where this trip came from. And a co-worker suggested that "if you have the chance to do something that you've wanted to do since you were a kid, do it" so I've got a few of those sprinkled in this trip too.
So, England. I have (reluctantly) decided not to hit the rest of the British Isles on this trip (like Ireland or Scotland) due to too much other stuff. I plan on someday coming back and spending time in Glasgow and Dublin, as well as London again, along with maybe a stopover in Iceland. But that's another trip.
In 1984 we saw London and did a guided tour north of there, which took us through Oxford, Chipping Campden, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath, and Tintern Abbey Chepstow (Wales). The main thing that I did not see back then was Stonehenge, so that's on my list this time. When I was in high school I started to really get into Arthurian legend, so I'd like to visit Tintagel Castle (Wikipedia, English Heritage) in Cornwall, in the far southwest. That's a 4-hour drive from London, though, which makes it part of an all-day trip (with Stonehenge on the way). There's probably a bus/train connection out there.
I like old stuff - Roman ruins, medieval castles, etc. - but I do love modern cities, too, especially when the new cities have old buildings. In the US, anything older than 100 years or so is practically ancient, so that's why I'm looking forward to Europe.
Here's what Frommer's suggests for a 3-day itinerary of London (not necessarily what I'd do though):
- Day 1: Westminster Abbey, Parliament & Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, Covent Garden, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London
- Day 2: British Museum, St. Paul's Cathedral, Tate Museum, the London Eye
- Day 3: Windsor Castle, Hyde Park, Grosvenor Square, Oxford Street, Bond Street, Burlington Arcade, Picadilly Circus
I know there's a lot more that I can do in just 3 days but I'd like to limit it to that, at least for planning purposes. Maybe add one more day for stuff outside London proper, like Stonehenge or maybe even Bath again.
London to Paris via the Eurostar high-speed train through the Chunnel takes 2 hrs 15 min. Not included on the Eurail Pass, but they do give a discount for pass holders. The 8:02am train sounds reasonable, arriving at 11:17am.