Traveling with a group

Everyone has their tour favorites – you tour with your family, you tour alone or you tour with a group of strangers that become friends.

While I was working, I made a trip up to Oregon every year to visit my Mom. This was and is a great trip but when I retired, I decided it was time to venture outside my comfort zone.  As my past writings have explained, I have been to Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.  These trips are listed under Celtic Quilt Tours LLC who work with Journey’s Connect. Both are awesome companies.

All stops and hotels are agreed upon before we leave our homes. Now some other tours have the option of driving yourself around the countryside and others provide either a bus or you go by cruise ship.  I prefer the bus method and here is why. The driver and tour guide know the area and are happy to give you their knowledge of the area.

In Ireland, our tour guide and driver was the same person. Tony is licensed, has gone to school to be a tour guide as well as a driver. His running commentary was brilliant as well as educational.DSCN0575.JPG

In Scotland, our driver was Tony but our tour guide was Richard. How wonderful it was to be educated by a man wearing a kilt. It just added a tad more to the history, the scenery and the tour.DSCN1280.JPG Photo taken outside Holyrood Castle in Edinburgh by me.

In Wales, we had Judy as our tour guide with Tony driving (he is the master of GPS). Judy was so friendly and knowledgeable about Wales and we had a blast with her. But on the other hand, we were one tour that was always on time and ready to go.  She took us to museums, castles, stately homes and beautiful gardens.  We introduced her to the world of quilting. So it really became a win-win situation.DSCN2307.JPG This was taken at Cardiff Castle.IMG_20180803_073753.jpgIMG_20180803_095033.jpg

Here are some things I found out – always carry some coin as the toilets in the UK are pay toilets. Not all but most and if you crowd through with one person paying, you may get stop by a person who sits in a frosted glass area that will come out and ask for more money (yes it happened to us in Kensington Gardens). Also found out that just because someone tells you not to walk back to the hotel, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t safe.

After a terrific dinner and entertainment show at the Cardiff Castle, I decided that I needed to walk back to the hotel. Two other ladies joined me. We had a lovely walk back to our hotel and I got to do the Time Warp Dance outside a bar kitty corner from the hotel where we were staying. I know she was being cautious but it was fun walking amongst the college/party crown on a Friday night.  And apparently Brain’s is a large beer distributor in the area – thought it was zombie beer.

Cardiff was fun and great but I really appreciated the area of Aberystwyth. I grew up in a beach town and this was like going back home.  Whereas our sand is a finer grit, the beach at Aberystwyth was more like pebbles and into sizes of large, flat stones. The other visitors were so friendly and the staff was fabulous at our hotel, the Gwesty’r Marine. We were right on the Promenade so if you wanted an early walk or an after dinner stroll, the area was right there.DSCN2434 The weather was warm, the sun stayed out late and the water was calm.

Plus we had Constitution Hill near us so we could climb up the hill or ride the funicular. The view was fabulous and there is a rest stop/restaurant at the top.  Where I assumed that Wales would be cold and rainy, it was quite the opposite. It seems the UK was also going through a bit of the climate change. DSCN2448.JPG Plus if you want to see more of Aberystwyth, , check out Hinterland on Netflix. The first season, episode one show a lot of Devil’s Bridge.  There are two tours – one is one pound and the other is two pounds. IMG_20180805_102011.jpg Depends on how much time you have and how fit you are.

All I can say is this was a terrific trip. We traveled over 2200 miles, we didn’t lose anyone, we saw great castles, factories, sceneries, quilt shows, museums and just had a great time.   Save that money up and travel – either in the USA or overseas.  It is so worth it.  And it’s back to Ireland in 2019……

 

 

 

Latest trip to Wales/Birmingham

I am still recovering from three weeks touring around the United Kingdom/Wales area.  The tour I joined, for the third year in a row, was with Celtic Quilt Tours LLC. This was started by two ambitious women who know how to travel.

Our tour hosts, Debbi and Kim, recommend that we all meet in Manchester a day or two prior to the tour. I also recommend this as you have a chance to get acclimated to the time change. For me living in Southern California, it is an eight-hour time adjustment.  I left my area and landed in Newark with a small layover. My last leg of the flight took me to Manchester, Terminal 2. Now there is a lot of construction going on and three of my tour-mates were landing in Terminal 3. It was a hike to meet up with them and to top it off, their flight was an  hour late. But, all is good. We grabbed a cab and headed into our hotel. We were told that our cab driver was “Driver of the Year” and it was a ride!

After a quick-lunch and small unpacking, I headed out to just get some fresh air and take a peek at the surrounding area.  Piccadilly Square was alive with kids playing in the fountains, people just enjoying the sunshine and the usual hustle and bustle of a major city.DSCN2074.JPG

Manchester is building numerous high rises throughout the city. However, there are some stunning older buildings throughout. Manchester currently have displays of over 130 large plexiglass bees that have been decorated along with over
dscn2093.jpg130 smaller ones inside various stores.dscn2094.jpg These are the two that we found near the Piccadilly train station.

After a 12 hour sleep, another tour-mate and I took off for Liverpool.  I was so excited as we walked down to the station, got on board (very clean train) and zipped on down to the beginning of the Beatles.  This has been a dream of mine for decades.

We decided to do the hop on-hop off bus which was 8 pounds each. When we came to the Beatle Museum, we hopped off. Now Liverpool is quite active, friendly with terrific helpful people. I believe we spent over 2 hours wandering through the Beatle Museum.  I was in Beatle heaven – reliving so many memories of my youth.

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A quick-lunch at Good Eats which was near the Mersey. Wonderful staff as my tour-mate has food allergies. What she had ordered was pre-baked in butter which she could not have. The manager came over so she could change her order. In my book, that is great service.

Then we hiked up to the Cavern – Cavern club 2 -again a major bucket list item crossed off.  I now know what Elvis fans feel like when they go to Graceland.  It was totally free to enter and there is only a fee later in the evening.  They had two performers on and it was Fab, Gear, Groovy and every other slang from the 60’s.  DSCN2185.JPG This looks like it would be a fun place to live.

We caught the late afternoon train back to Manchester and met up with the rest of the tour.  We know to meet in the bar around 5 p.m. just to see who has arrived, meet new friends and also catch up with past friends from past tours.

You know a tour is good when 80% of the people on the tour are returnees.   At that time, we are given a “Bags Out by ” time and when to meet our fabulous tour driver. Tony and our tour guide, Judy, were in charge of wrangling over 40 pieces of large luggage. We are responsible for our carry-ons and personal bags.  So after two days in Manchester, we were off down the road to Cardiff.

Leaving the bustling city was bittersweet – some of us didn’t get a chance to visit parts of the city due to other plans or arriving late on the day prior to leaving Manchester. But the bus ride over to Cardiff was filled with wonderful information from our tour guide.

I highly recommend a tour like this. It is all planned out with rest stops,  coffee refills, snacks and leg stretches.  There are a lot of other photos but will add them later.