photographing, cooking, laughing through life

113 Days

That’s how many days are left until my mom and I go on the trip of a lifetime. That’s when we leave for a 16 day tour of the British Isles. That’s the day when I visit places I’ve always dreamed of visiting. That’s still FOREVER away!

One of my Leap List items is to visit at least 5 new countries, and I will get four of them accomplished on this trip: England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. I’ve been reading, researching, planning since we booked the trip and I can hardly contain my excitement.

Our tour includes:

 DAY 1 – Overnight flight to Great Britain.

DAY 2 – ENGLAND . . Arrival at London Airport – Oxford – Coventry.
Upon arrival, clear passport control and collect your luggage. During the motor coach transfer to your hotel in Coventry, make a brief stop in Oxford where Henry II established the first university of Britain in 1167. After hotel check-in, join your fellow travelers for a “Welcome to Great Britain/Get acquainted” dinner.

DAY 3 – ENGLAND . . Stow-on-the-Wold – Stratford-Upon-Avon – Coventry.
Views of the unspoiled countryside known as the Cotswolds clearly confirm you have arrived in England. Gentle hillsides, peaceful meadows and charming villages with old stone buildings characterize this region. The first stop today is Stow-on-the- Wold, offering antique shops and a chance to get a souvenir photo with your hands in the village’s authentic stocks. Then it’s on to Stratford-Upon-Avon, where half-timbered houses and thatched-roof cottages create a truly English setting. Tour the town, which includes a picture stop in front of Anne Hathaway’s cottage and a visit to the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Enjoy some free time in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

DAY 4 – ENGLAND . . York – Darlington.
Depart for a picturesque drive north via the Nottingham area. Around lunch time, arrive in the historic city of York. Spend the afternoon exploring the sights that most interest you. There are many choices available, from the York Castle Museum with its extensive collection of arms and armor, to the Jorvik Viking Center where a reconstructed Viking City from the year 948 is housed. Be sure to visit York Minster Cathedral, the largest Gothic church in England. In the late afternoon, transfer through North Yorkshire to Darlington for hotel check-in and dinner.

DAY 5 – ENGLAND . . Hadrian’s Wall & SCOTLAND . . Jedburgh – Edinburgh.
A morning drive takes you to Hadrian’s Wall, a fascinating Roman monument nearly 2,000 years old. During this stop, visit one section of the 70-plus mile structure. Continue over the border into Scotland and stop in Jedburgh where you will be treated to English tea with cakes and finger sandwiches. Following tea, use your free time in Jedburgh to visit the Mary Queen of Scots house, Jedburgh Abbey, or do some shopping at the Woollen Mill. A late afternoon check-in at your Edinburgh hotel provides time to freshen up and relax.

DAY 6 – SCOTLAND . . Edinburgh.
Start the day with a guided tour of Edinburgh. After the tour, a good place to spend your free time is along the Royal Mile, the Old Town of Edinburgh. As you walk past the classic old houses, you might wish to stop at one of the unique attractions such as the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh Castle, Writer’s Museum, Gladstone’s Land (the oldest surviving house in Edinburgh), Museum of Childhood, or the high-tech Our Dynamic Earth museum. Edinburgh offers many options for tonight’s independent dinner.

DAY 7 – SCOTLAND . . Gretna Green & ENGLAND . . Grasmere – Lake Windermere – Cheshire County.
Travel southward to the border town of Gretna Green for a visit to the Old Blacksmith’s Shop. Gretna Green was widely known for secret weddings performed by the town blacksmith for 19th-century English couples who would cross the border to be married under the liberal terms of the Scottish laws. Following your visit to Gretna Green, travel back into England and on to Grasmere. Enjoy an independent lunch in this lakeside village, followed by a ferry ride on Lake Windermere. Your hotel and dinner await you in Cheshire County.

DAY 8 – WALES . . Snowdonia National Park – Caernarfon – Ferry from Holyhead & IRELAND . . Dublin.
This day is devoted to the sweeping landscape of Northern Wales. After a morning stop in Betws-y-Coed, continue through the thick pine forest into Snowdonia National Park, a mountainous region with rough but beautiful terrain. At Caernarfon, view one of the castles built by Prince Edward I. A quick lunch will allow time to climb the castle’s tower (£7.00 admission fee). After the motor coach crosses the Menai Bridge onto the Isle of Anglesey, it is a must to stop and take a picture of the town with the longest name, which we abbreviate here as Llanfair P.G. Have a leisurely dinner while you ferry from Wales to the Republic of Ireland or dine at a pub upon your arrival in Dublin.

DAY 9 – IRELAND . . Dublin.
The capital city of the Republic of Ireland offers much to keep you busy and entertained. A local guide joins you this morning to provide insight into the city’s history and to point out the popular landmarks including Dublin Castle, Trinity College, and the Guinness Brewery. Also included is entrance into St.Patrick’s Cathedral. Following the city tour, the afternoon is free for individual pursuits. A popular attraction is the Book of Kells at Trinity College Library (€10.00 admission fee), an ornately decorated and meticulously written edition of the Gospels from 800 AD.

DAY 10 – IRELAND . . Dublin – Kildare – Irish Countryside – Kerry County.
The area west of Dublin has become famous as the center of the Irish horse breeding and training industry. After touring the Kildare National Stud Farm, visit the Japanese Gardens of Tully House. As you continue toward western Ireland, relax and enjoy the scenic land of meadows, glens and crystal rivers. Your independent lunch stop will be in one of the friendly country villages along the way, where bakeries will offer you tea sandwiches; or small, family-owned pubs will serve up hearty Irish dishes. Then it’s on to your Kerry County hotel, hosting you for dinner this evening and a two-night stay.

DAY 11 – IRELAND . . Killarney – Kerry County.
Kerry County provides a wonderful spot to take a relaxing break from touring. The entire day is at leisure to enjoy Killarney and the stunning surroundings. The city is best seen on foot by following the Tourist Trail signs that lead you to some of the popular landmarks in town. A fun way to get a feel for the outskirts of the city is to hire a jaunting car, a horse-drawn buggy that seats up to four with a driver who doubles as your guide (€15 to €45 depending on the distance). For the adventurous, there are tours by horseback and boat through Killarney National Park. The tour manager will also offer an optional excursion to the Ring of Kerry. Kerry County offers everything from excellent restaurants to local pubs and friendly cafes for your dinner choices.

DAY 12 – IRELAND . . Blarney Castle – Waterford.
One of the highlights of the tour will be a visit to Blarney Castle. You’ll see the thickly constructed (18 feet thick) 17th-century fortification, and have time to walk the impressive grounds. You may also choose to stretch upside-down to kiss the Blarney Stone in the hopes of gaining the gift of eloquent speech. Eat lunch at one of the charming restaurants in the village of Blarney.

DAY 13 – IRELAND . . Waterford – Ferry from Rosslare & WALES . . Pembroke – Cardiff.
An early morning departure is necessary to reach the ferry in Rosslare. As you depart the Republic of Ireland and approach Pembroke in Wales, have lunch on board the ferry. Leaving the ferry, view the varied scenery along the coastal road between Pembrokeshire National Park and the Wye Valley. By mid-afternoon arrive in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. Take a stroll through the 56-acre Bute Park, or enjoy a cup of tea.Your tour manager will offer an optional Cardiff Castle excursion. Continue to your hotel near Cardiff for check-in and dinner.

DAY 14 – ENGLAND . . Bath – Stonehenge – London.
Crossing the mouth of the River Severn, return to England for a tour of Bath, the elegant spa town where the Romans harnessed the natural hot springs 2,000 years ago. An included visit to the Roman Baths Museum reveals the advanced engineering used in the baths which was developed by the Romans. Then, it is on to mysterious Stonehenge. Dating back to about 1500 B.C., one can only speculate how the stones reached the site and how they were moved into place — some weighing 45 tons. Upon arrival in London, check in and enjoy a relaxing dinner at the hotel.

DAY 15 – ENGLAND . . London.
Today begins with a guided bus tour of London, including popular sights such as the Houses of Parliament with Big Ben, Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, the Royal Parks, and Buckingham Palace, where you may be able to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony (performed on select dates posted one month in advance, subject to special events and weather conditions). Following the city tour, the afternoon is open for you to pursue your own interests. For transportation, use the red doubledecker buses or the Tube; both are easy to use and are an experience in themselves. Shoppers will delight in the selection at Harrods and at other stores in Knightsbridge or on fashionable Regent Street. For more cultural endeavors, view the unrivaled collection of paintings at the National Gallery.

DAY 16 – Daytime flight back to the U.S.A.
Transfer to the London Heathrow airport for the return flight home.

These next 113 days are filled with school, photo sessions, extra duty, life in general, but I have a feeling that they will drag on and on as I await this amazing trip.

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