Janice and Larry's UK Itinerary Followed by Our Tour withThe Intrepids in France and Belgium

England Scotland Heritage Tour
Sep 10 - 21 (Janice and Larry)








The Following 3 Sections are with with the Intrepids of Humber Valley United Church lead by Cathy Wilkes and organized by Gabriela Enriquez of Exotic Destinations.

1. Paris,  Sep. 21-22

2. France, Belgium Battlefield Tour Sep. 23-27

3. AMA River Cruise:
Paris to Normandy Beaches Sep 27 - Oct 04 


Click Here to Jump to France, Belgium and the Seine River Cruise



Sunday, 9 September 2018 -- Leaving home

With a just-before-midnight flight, we had the whole day to be ready. It started with the 9 am arrival of Shari & Terry to help put the cover on the pool. Bill and Rosemarie had stayed over the night before, so the 6 of us wrestled the cover into place and I took off to church, since I was the sound operator. Larry actually made it too, moments before the service started. Our fall kick-off theme was "The 100 acre wood" and we enjoyed a Winnie-the-Pooh-themed bbq after service, with games, jokes and lots of food. Larry managed an afternoon snooze, but I had too much to do. The limo was right on time and our check in and security were smooth, so we were at the gate well before boarding. The tables in the boarding area are a nice touch, but so comfortable there was a danger of sleeping through the boarding call. But we stayed alert enough to board the totally full plane, and we were off!

Monday, 10 September -- London

After a bumpy, but otherwise uneventful flight, we touched down at Heathrow an hour early. However, there were no available gates, so we waited 20 or 30 minutes before we could de-plane. Heathrow is big; it was a very long walk to Immigration and then there was a very long line-up. But it moved quickly and the process was smooth. A very nice chauffeur was waiting and whisked us into London to the Hotel Ibis Earl's Court.
After checking in, we were directed across the lobby to meet Violet, the Trafalgar hotel rep. She set us up with a tour of Buckingham Palace for tomorrow afternoon and gave us information about the start of the tour on Wednesday. There will be 48 of us -- that's a big group. Many had already arrived at the hotel, but we haven't met any of them yet. Our room is basic, but comfortable and clean. The surprise was that they don't provide shampoo. We also realized we'd left our plug adapter at home, so after a quick nap we headed out to the North End Road a few blocks from the hotel. This neighbourhood reminded both of us of Notting Hill (the movie) and Catastrophe (the TV series).
We walked about 6 blocks, and passed several charity shops, street vendors, restaurants of every ethnicity. Lots of traffic, both pedestrians and vehicles. We bought our shampoo and adapter, then had supper (fish and chips) at a local pub. We noticed that the signs all suggested that this area is known as Fulham, though we don't see that on the map. We're too tired and it's too late to try and hit Central London, and Larry's knee is really bothering him, so we'll rest up and do what we can tomorrow. We'll have a day and a half here after the tour too. Lots of things circled on our London map to try and see.

I drifted off to sleep very early. Luckily, Larry was awake when the bathroom flooded, and he called maintenance. They determined that major plumbing intervention was needed, and tried to block the flood. That wasn't successful, and 20 minutes later, when the water threatened the bedroom carpet, the hotel agreed to move us to a different room. They had given us an accessible room, for no reason we could discern, and so were concerned that they didn't have another to offer.  We reassured them, and were quickly re-established in a regular room that suited us far better anyway. So it was disruptive, but ultimately OK.

Tuesday, 11 September -- London

We slept well in our new room, and were up early. Enjoyed the generous buffet breakfast and planned out our day, before heading to the nearest underground station. A very nice attendant helped us decide to buy Oyster cards for travel on public transit and also figure out how to get to our first stop -- the London Museum. It was a long underground ride, with one change of line, but we got there without problem. It's a nice museum, but not as interesting as I remembered from 1990.
 From there we walked to St. Paul's Cathedral, where we only spent about 45 minutes, but it is so not to be missed There was even a very brief worship time -- a lovely few minutes of peace and contemplation in a beautiful space. We navigated back to and on the underground to Victoria Station, then walked to the Royal Mews. Luckily, we still had 20 minutes to grab lunch across the street before our tour.

What an interesting place. So many state coaches, carriages and cars, so much information about horses and the people who care for them. Then on to a tour of the public areas of Buckingham Palace. It's not open to the public most of the time, so it was exciting to see and hear about these lovely rooms, with so much history. There were 2 special exhibits, curated by Prince Charles -- his favourites from the Royal Collection and selections from artists of the art schools he's founded and for which he's patron. Both fascinating displays. Somehow we got separated as we made our way through the various rooms, and by the time I reached the end, Larry had been waiting for 30 minutes.
We were both beginning to wonder where the heck the other was. Leaving the Palace, we caught a bus back to Victoria Station and the Underground to Westminster Pier, where we boarded a tour boat to Greenwich. Very interesting to see London from the river and hear much of the history. I was curious to see the Docklands and Canary Wharf areas, since they figure in so many books I've read.

 And I noticed the Poplar Rowing Club -- in fact they were out rowing -- and wondered if that was the area where Call the Midwife is set. We're getting pretty good at Underground navigation, so got to our hotel with no problem, had dinner in the hotel pub and now are getting organized to set out in the morning on the bus tour.

Wednesday, 12 September, London - Gloucester

We had key problems -- for the second time, we were locked out -- just as we were preparing to clear out our room and check out to catch the bus. Took awhile to fix, but it turned out that it didn't matter, because just after we'd shut down our email, Trafalgar emailed to say the bus was delayed. Seems the driver had a family emergency and they had to bring in a replacement from Birmingham. So finally Adam arrived with Martin behind the wheel. It was a quick run to Windsor, but we were disappointed to find that a Castle tour was not included.
 Adam said that we didn't have time to do the tour and there were long line-ups. Some people paid the entry fee and did a run-through. They said it was wonderful. Meanwhile, we wandered the town. We had kept losing sight of Adam as we walked from the car park  into town, so we made him buy an umbrella to be more visible and asked him to slow down. He promised to try, but still far out-distanced us on the way back to the coach. Then we sat and waited for 30 minutes for a missing couple. So I guess we could have toured the castle after all. We did see familiar places from watching Megan and Harry's wedding. There is wifi on the bus, but it has a complicated 16-character password and it took all day before we managed to get on. The ride to Bath was long and very quiet, and then -- WOW! This is a lovely city. Everything built of Bath stone looks rather dull as you come into town, but in the city centre it is lovely. We walked through the main area and stopped in
a Welsh restaurant for pasties. There were buskers and musicians in the square and many pushy, rowdy, disrespectful kids speaking German or Dutch. We pushed our way through them to the entrance to the baths and paid our entrance fees.

They have a 2000+ year history and much of the Roman construction is intact.  Although it isn't appealing today, it's evident how great it was then to plunge into the water from the hot springs.

Our last stop was the beautiful Bath Abbey. We walked in and it took my breath away. This, for me, is one of the "thin places". It is undergoing major renovations to correct a collapsing floor (could the many graves beneath be a factor?), so it's not possible to see the altar area, but the many stained glass windows are glorious and the ceilings awesome (I mean really actually awesome, not "awesome" in current parlance). Leaving Bath we were caught in heavy traffic, but at least the sun finally came out. We got to Hatton Court in the Cotswolds. Martin had to back the bus down a long, narrow lane and around a couple of sharp turns to park. He managed, to our delight. We have a nice, garret room (luckily someone else had to carry the luggage up the 3 long, steep, narrow flights) that is very comfortable. The buildings are just like pictures of Cotswold buildings suggest they should be. Dinner was delicious, and now we're ready to turn in. It'll be an early morning departure tomorrow.

Thursday 13 September -- Gloucester - Chester - Wales - Liverpool

It was a lovely morning with blue sky showing soft pinks and oranges at the edges. Another full breakfast to see us on our way. A long drive to Chester, seeing lots of fields of sheep and cattle along the way. Chester is another pretty and interesting city with a large area of "Rows", that are 2- level shops dating back to earlier times when half-timbered buildings were the norm. Fortunately they were never redeveloped along modern lines.
We wandered the town, tried unsuccessfully to visit the Cathedral that was an Abbey until Henry VIII dissolved them. We bought a take-away lunch in the market and boarded our bus for an excursion to Wales. Our local guide, Peggy, was terrific, providing interesting facts at every turn. We passed slate outcrops on hillsides, saw a

ruined Abbey and fortress and spent an hour enjoying the town of Llangollen (pronounced something like Klengothlen) on the River Dee. Back in Chester we retrieved the passengers who hadn't gone to Wales and drove to Liverpool, home of the Beatles. We said good-bye to Martin, our stand-in driver. Smooth check-in at the Ibis, nice room. Very tired. Will likely go find some supper soon then turn in since tomorrow will be another very early morning.

I loved our encounter with the Dee River in Llangollen. 

Janice out at night in Liverpool at the "Docks"

Photos of the Day

Friday, 14 September -- Liverpool -- Lake District -- Glasgow

Last night after I posted, we went across the street from our hotel to Albert Dock, for supper and to look around this happenin'  place.

It's all been re-developed from abandoned docks and it's great.
Leaving the city this morning, we passed huge, elaborate buildings from the heyday of Liverpool, when it was the major port in the UK. We also saw the slum areas (largely rehabilitated) that were so common through the early half of the 20th century. Now, the city has  a thriving arts scene and high-tech industry. We had enjoyed good weather until we left Liverpool, but an hour or so up the road it began to pour. The landscape looks greener so perhaps this area hasn't experienced the drought that has caused crop failures farther south.
At Haverthwaite we boarded a historic steam train for the short run to Lakeside on the shore of Lake Windermere (one of 14 lakes in the Lake District) where we boarded a tour boat.

The 35-minute cruise showed off beautiful holiday properties and hotels, to say nothing of amazing scenery. The rain and chill were unfortunate, but we can't expect the perfect weather to last -- it's England after all.

We returned to the bus at Bowness and proceeded to Grassmere for lunch. It's another quaint town, with dry-stone buildings (!).

William Wordsworth is buried in the churchyard, having lived here for many years. Leaving town we drove narrow and twisty roads between heather-covered hills with tumbling waterfalls and lots of sheep. Too bad the heather is no longer in bloom; a few weeks ago it would have been brilliant. Gretna Green was fun -- all the elopement stories going back a few hundred years.

We touched the anvil for luck and saw 2 bridal couples arrive. We had a brief tour of Glasgow before checking into the hotel. Lacking the energy to do much more, we ate at the hotel and turned in.

Saturday, 15 September -- The Highlands

We started into the Highlands with a first stop at Loch Lomond. We were very fortunate to have sunny weather so we could comfortably ride on the top deck of the boat. Lovely views, including a big hotel where many famous people including Queen Victoria and Princess Margaret have stayed.

A small island with a stronghold of Clan McFarlane. Twisty roads up to Glencoe, where we stopped for a group photo -- no easy way to capture 50 people. At Fort William we had a lunch stop and time to wander. The temperature dropped sharply and clouds rolled in, but at least it didn't rain.

We stopped briefly at the memorial to the commandos who landed on the beaches during World War II while sampling a nice smokey, peaty local whiskey, then at Neptune's Ladder on the Caledonia Canal.

This is a series of 8 locks linking Loch Linney to Loch Lochey. Further along the road we came to a long line of stopped cars behind an accident. Rather than back out and take a 3-hour detour, we sat tight. Two hours later we were on our way again. It was a short trip to the Laggan Hotel, where we dropped our bags before leaving to visit a sheep farm. We've visited a few sheep farms in our travels, but this was the best.

The shepherd is employed by the laird and oversees 3000 sheep and about 15 sheepdogs. He manages the dogs by voice commands and whistles. He demonstrated the sheepdogs herding the sheep, then sheared a sheep with the help of volunteers,

including Larry. We fed some lambs with large bottles, then met a couple of baby pups. Very interesting. Back at the hotel we admired our large room for a moment before going to the dining room for a very nice 3-course dinner. Larry had haggis for his first course. What a great day this has been in spite of rain and the road delay. The Highlands are beautiful and the people friendly and interesting.

 A hungry one. Havoc when the shepherd passed out bottles of milk.

Sunday, 16 September -- Highlands to Edinburgh

After the usual full English breakfast (with oatmeal this time) we boarded the bus to find that the fairies had left each of us a box of delicious Paterson shortbread.  Soon we were winding through narrow roads toward Blair Castle, home of the Duke of Athol.

It's an amazing 30 rooms of the family's life and belongings going back to the time of the Crusaders.

We came out in time to see and hear a piper.

 On to Pitlochry for lunch and wandering -- I'd like to buy a tartan scarf, but need to research which clan.  I know I have Campbell  in my background as well as  the Pattersons.  I understand that at larger tartan shops they will come up with the "correct" tartan for everyone, including Asians and Africans. Everybody, apparently, has a Scottish heritage. We drove through Dundee and crossed the Tay Bridge in sight of the North Sea. Oil rigs were moored near the mouth -- many are being decommissioned.
Then through several villages to St. Andrews. We wandered the beach area before walking uphill to see the 18th hole of the old course and checking out a shop or two. After another scenic drive, we checked into the Airth Castle Hotel and had a brief rest before leaving for Preston Field for

the Taste of Scotland Scottish Show and dinner. It was a great show -- traditional and modern Scottish music and dance and food. A big haggis ceremony, complete with a recitation of Robbie Burns' poetic tribute. The dancers included The Wee Highlanders -- young, talented children.

    I got to dance the Gay Gordons with one of the performers. Was pretty dizzy by the end of it. The two Aussies in our group may have over-celebrated, by the evidence of the ride back -- they were quite loud and lively. It was hilarious for awhile, but we were all glad to get off the bus by the end.

Monday, 17 September -- Edinburgh

It was a pretty early departure, to get us to a meeting point in Edinburgh to pick up our local guide, Seana. We drove through the city seeing monuments, famous buildings such a the new Scottish Parliament and homes of famous Scots like Alexander Graham Bell, R.L Stevenson, etc. and getting a sense of the city's colourful history.

Stopped at Holyrood for a photo op. We arrived at "the Hub" just below the castle and climbed the last part of the Royal Mile, then spent a couple hours looking around the castle

and admiring the Crown Jewels. We were meeting Kaye and Willie at 1:30, so left before then.

We all worried about finding each other in the massive crowd, but it turned out to be easy. They helped me find a Campbell tartan scarf (I chose the dress tartan), so I can honour my great-grandmother Maria Campbell. Then we made our way to St. Giles Cathedral where we looked around (amazing stained glass, unusual lay-out) and had lunch (tasty baked potatoes). We had time to enjoy the view of the Castle from the gardens below Princes St. before returning to the Hub for a drink and catching our bus back to the hotel. It was a wonderful visit, though too short, and I felt as if we'd seen each other last week instead of 7 months ago.

On the way back to Airth we stopped at the Helix to admire the Kelties -- huge statues of horses along the canal linking two firths. We didn't go to the group dinner, opting for a quiet evening and dinner in the hotel dining room, as did several others from the bus.

Tuesday, 18 September -- Edinburgh - Bradford

We set out in the rain, glad we weren't walking around Edinburgh in it. We've been weather-blessed on this trip, so far. The landscape is green sweeping fields with some grazing. Travelling south it became much hillier and rougher with stone walls & homes.
We had a quick photo stop in Jeddburgh, near the border, where there is a large, well-preserved ruined abbey. As we got nearer Hadrian's Wall, Adam told us we were likely seeing bits of it all around, since locals have been helping themselves to the stones for their houses and dry-stone walls for nearly 1500 years since the Romans left. And of course we were driving on a road that was built on an old Roman Road.

The largest remaining bit of Hadrian's Wall isn't so very large, but we found it behind a hedge next to a walking path.

Our service centre lunch stop offered McDonald's, so we went for it. It's becoming very windy, but much warmer than it's been, with clouds scudding across the sky in huge banks. It's the remnants of one of the Atlantic hurricanes from last week.
York was our big destination for the day. Adam led us in a circle around the main parts of the city, then left us to explore on our own. Larry and I headed straight into
the cathedral and spent most of our time there.

The stained glass, dating back to at least the 14th century, is amazing, and the various restorations of the cathedral and the windows fascinating. To say nothing of the Roman and Norman remains that can be seen in the crypts -- not human remains, that is, but foundations and walls and so on. Within a short time the organ and its 5000+ pipes will be disassembled for restoration and go silent for about 2  years. We were fortunate to hear the organist warming up for Evensong. Later we sat outside for the carillon concert before returning to the bus to go to Bradford for dinner and the last night of the tour.

Wednesday, 19 September -- Bradford, Stratford-On-Avon, London

We left Jurys Inn in Bradford to board the bus for the last day's journey. Bradford is another of the industrial cities that thrived for many years, then fell on hard times for decades. Now there is a cultural revival and renewal of the city going on. The old drab buildings are very soot-stained.
Out on the highway, traffic was very congested and slow. We watched the movie The King's Speech while inching along. At a rest stop the fairies apparently came through again, leaving each of us a Yorkie (milk chocolate) bar. Thank you fairies.
Our last stop of the tour was Stratford-Upon-Avon, a lovely town and of course everything Shakespeare! We walked through town and along the river to Shakespeare's grave in Holy Trinity Church.

It's a very nice medieval church on its own and particularly interesting because of its connection to the Shakespeares. On the way back we walked through quiet residential streets to the main pedestrian area. I popped into a Christmas store and then we visited

the Shakespeare museum and birthplace. The winds are so intense that some areas are closed for fear of falling branches. It was a nice way to end this part of our vacation.

We checked into the Ibis in London and had dinner in the pub there and a relaxing evening.