Side Trip Ideas

Clockwise from top left: Colmar, France; London; Glasgow; Bacharach, Germany; Loch Ness, Scotland.

One of the things we enjoy most about doing a long stay in a particular place is that it gives us the time to to make shorter side trips to other nearby places we want to see without all the hassle of repacking our big bags, etc. We stayed in Florence for a month in 2018, and did an overnight getaway to the Cinque Terre and a day trip to Sienna. During our three month stay in Blockley in 2018 we did three-day getaways to Bath, London, and Edinburgh.

We learned a lot from those trips about how to plan and use time efficiently as well as how to save. We rode trains on all those earlier trips, but this next go round we will be using buses for some of our side trips. While not quite at fast as a train they cost much less and are big, comfortable, and come with WiFi and other amenities. We also booked Airbnb rentals for our stays before; this time we’ll be looking more closely at B&Bs and hotels and employing other strategies to save on dining out.

We’ve come up with some ideas for side trips and getaways we’d like to do during our stays in Strasbourg, Oxford, and Edinburgh. Our finances will be the ultimate decision maker on whether they happen or not, but all can be adjusted according to our situations at the time

  • Strasbourg: Because we’ll be located so close to the German border and the Rhine River, at the top of our list is a two or three day trip of day cruises on the Rhine to see the castles. We’ll definitely be making a day trip to Baden-Baden and visiting the Black Forest, but we’re also planning rent a car for a couple of days and driving the Alsatian wine route or at least part of it, and visiting Colmar, located to the south of Strasbourg.
  • Oxford: While the city of Oxford itself will most likely keep us plenty occupied during our time there, we want to go back to London for four or five days, and also spend a couple of nights back in the Cotswolds if possible, either in or near Blockley. The Oxford-Heathrow bus is an affordable way of getting to London, but the train isn’t all that much extra. We’d probably rent a private room in someone’s home versus springing for a hotel or private Airbnb lodging. We did this when we traveled through New Zealand and enjoyed the experience and the people we met along the way, and saved quite a bit as well.
  • Edinburgh: We hope we can pull off a “big” 4-day side trip to Inverness and Skye while we’re in Edinburgh, taking the train both ways as the trips are said to be among the most scenic in Scotland. We’d spend two days in Inverness then to Kyle of Lochalsh and pick up a rental car to cross over to and explore the island of Skye for a couple of days. We also plan to spend a couple of days exploring in Glasgow, and if we have the energy and funds, head up to Aberdeen as well.

One of our favorite things to do whenever we first visit any city is start with a walking tour, a free one if possible, so we’re already researching those. Besides teaching us about the city and its history, the tours help ground us, and guides always have great tips about other places to visit as well as good, affordable places to eat.

For now, we’re at a “we’ll see what happens” for each of these places we’re staying, and decided once we’re there if these side trips are financially feasible. We’re not contemplating any side trips while we’re in Japan. It’s too far out for now time-wise, and in our opinion will be too cold for sightseeing when we’re there. We’ll enjoy being with family and happy exploring the neighborhood where we live.

14 thoughts on “Side Trip Ideas

  1. I’m not sure of the timing, since you’re leaving in May, but I *may* be in England and Scotland late September – early October next year. And on my recent trip to Greece, we stayed in three different hotels with free breakfasts. Real, delicious breakfasts, not the US version. It’s definitely a money saver, and a great way to try basic local cuisine.

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    1. If you are anywhere near Edinburgh I would love to get together! We’ll be there October and November.

      I ALWAYS look for free breakfast options when I book – it makes a huge difference. Some of the ones we had in England were pretty minimal, but we got the “full English” a couple of times which was spectacular (and fattening).

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  2. Sounds fun. The trip we had to cancel in 2020 was walking the Alsatian wine route. Still have money invested so maybe this spring. Saw a show about the scenic train ride in Scotland. It looked absolutely wonderful.

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    1. We’re thinking we’ll maybe rent a car for a couple of days and drive the Alsatian wine route, with an overnight stay in Colmar. We rented a car when we were in Strasbourg before and it was pretty easy and affordable.

      The Scotland trip was another where we thought about possibly renting a car, but we love riding trains, so will just get the car to tour Skye for a day or so. Fingers crossed we can pull these trips off!

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  3. It sounds like fun! Renting hotel or private rooms makes more sense for short stays because of the free breakfast and an afternoon small meal they often provide. Numerous times, that 5:00 pm wine and cheese social was enough of a dinner for us at the end of a full day of sightseeing.

    For large cities, I like to first go on a Hop-on/Hop-off tour, which gives me a better understanding of the neighborhoods and the general layout. After that, I use the subway/metro/tube (whatever the name is ) because is fast and avoids traffic.

    I believe some train companies offer train passes, with a set number of trips and flexible dates that would save you money and time, especially if you travel medium/large distances. I got one for us when we went to Italy and it worked out fantastic. The passes were shipped to our house before we even left for the trip. You may want to check that out as well.

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    1. Our middle daughter has hinted that she may come over to England to see us when we’re in Oxford, and if she does and we end up going to London with her then we’ll book a hotel – it’s more affordable than an Airbnb. But for the two of us, renting a room in someone’s home is the better deal.

      I discovered a hop on/hop off pass for the train that runs along the Rhine -very affordable and it would make part of the journey very, very easy as we plan to ride a boat one way, then want to stop at different towns on the way back. We try to take a walking tour first thing when we arrive in any city to understand it better and get a general idea of the layout, but the hop on/hop off buses are a good idea as well. We always check if there’s a train pass available, like the Oyster card. They’re easy to buy and save a bundle.

      Anyway, we may get a train card for Scotland that would cover our trip up and back from London, and the ride up to Inverness and over to Kyle of Lochalsh.

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  4. I love the Rhein. Mainz was one of our fav towns. You can get their cheaply from Strasbourg and do river cruises. There’s quite a bit to see in Mainz – it has Roman ruins, Roman boat museum, printing started there and the museum is interesting, street art, Chagall stained glass windows. I may be one of few people (my mother is another) who finds Cologne as meh. But other towns and villages along the way? Loved them.

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    1. Good to hear all this about Mainz because we are still torn over whether to visit Mainz or head straight to Bingen to pick up the boat. Sounds like is lots to see and do in Mainz! We plan to board the boat in Bingen, sail down to Boppard, then catch the train there with stops at different towns along the way and an overnight in Bacharach. Then back to Bingen (or Mainz) before heading home to Strasbourg.

      The only reason I want to see Cologne is to see the cathedral and where that tank battle took place. Otherwise I have absolutely no interest.

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      1. I have to say the cathedral did nothing for me. Seen it twice. Both times … meh. Crowded, dirty.

        Bombed church in Mainz was only memorial to WWII that I saw that acknowledged culpability and saw defeat as liberation. Worth a visit. Very moving.

        Also had one of our best meals in Germany in Mainz. Can tell you the restaurant and the meal to order – except it has meat.

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      2. You’ve convinced us to go to Mainz! There’s plenty to see there and we can get on the train there to Bingen to catch the boat down the Rhine to Boppard!

        Please tell us the restaurant in Mainz! We will be eating meat again when we travel – there’s no way we’ll get through our stay in Strasbourg with eating charcroute, tarte flambée, and pate. We won’t go back to eating it daily like before, but it won’t be off the menu.

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      3. https://augustinerkeller-mainz.eatbu.com/?lang=en

        We sat in the Obergeschoss (gallery upstairs) overlooking the entrance. Great people watching spot. We went back a second night – loved it so much – booked on our way out and asked for the same table.

        The beef roll with red cabbage and mashed potatoes was divine. And just like my mother cooked it ( which is why I thought it divine but so did Mr S).

        Also you must have afternoon tea with the “ladies” in the cafe next to the cathedral. It’s an old fashioned German style cafe.

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      4. Thank you – the information has been noted in a safe place. We would both happily eat the beef roll!

        The afternoon tea sounds fun as well. We’d arrive in Mainz in the morning, (hopefully) store our bag at the hotel, and then get out and do a walking tour, have lunch, visit a couple of other places, and have tea in the afternoon, and walk around some more!

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      5. Looks like fun – we weren’t sure what to do in Boppard. We plan to stop in St. Goar and Oberwesel on the way back, with dinner and an overnight at the “romantic wine hotel” in Bacharach before taking the train back to Bingen to return to Strasbourg (via Kehl). We figured out if we take the tram over to Kehl to catch the train we can save a bundle versus catching a train in Strasbough. The tram doesn’t charge for the border crossing; the trains do.

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