Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Our Final Days

Casa Grande, Arizona



The Royal Yacht was on our agenda for our final day in Edinburgh.  This was my favorite place we visited while in Scotland.

The Royal Yacht Britannia sailed over 1,000,000 miles around the world.  Probably the most famous use of the the yacht was for the honeymoon of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.




I realize I've forgotten a lot of the details but this was where the guards slept.  







Her Majesty, the Queen had many gifts given to the Royal Family.













There was a lot of lavish entertaining on the yacht.







While the rooms were very functional, I was surprised that they were so modest.  The Queen actually has a single twin bed.








You would see a nice cozy room.






Right next to a very nice modest room, you'd see a grand ballroom style. Modesty to elegance.







This is the Queen's office where she worked while she was at sea.






We had headsets for this tour.  Some of the group had  enough time to have tea in the Royal Deck Tea Room.  I'm sorry to say, we were still looking at rooms and didn't have enough time.


The laundry was amazing and I wish I could remember the facts and figures about how much they did.  It was said that some of the personnel changed uniforms up to 9 times a day.



The Royal Family went to shore in this craft.







I have more photos of the Royal Yacht, but I promised myself I'd finish this blog.

Our second tour included a visit to Palace of Holyrood House.


"It's carefully designed addition over the centuries have made it one of the most admired buildings in the British Isles.




The palace was completed in 1501 and was the site of the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley in 1565, and of much subsequent intrigue.  Less than a year later, the jealous Darnley had Mary's private secretary murdered here in her presence."  


We arrived back to our hotel in time to pack our luggage before our farewell dinner.  This was the best farewell dinner in all the 10 trips we've taken with this company.



Of course we couldn't leave Scotland with hearing a piper play the bagpipes.







This wasn't just any piper.  John told us he was a member of the Royal Guard and also the police department.




He answered all kinds of questions about the plaid, the hats, and badges.  No one asked what was under the kilt.

Virginia assisted John, the Piper, for bringing in the Haggis ceremony.  If there was one thing we learned on this trip it was to like Haggis.  




This trip wouldn't have been nearly as good, without our excellent program director, Anita Mclaughlin.

The evening lasted much later than the usual farewell dinners.  I think there was a lot of wine consumed.  Some of the group had to leave the hotel as early as 3 am for their flights home.  We were lucky that we didn't leave until 7:30.  Hurricane Florence was expected to have 80 mph winds just as everyone's flights were leaving.  

We were about an hour late leaving Edinburgh as the planes were having trouble with the winds landing in Heathrow.  Our flight was quite rough taking off and landing but other than that no problems.  We had to change terminals in Heathrow but everything went smoothly.  In all of our travels, it was the first time we've ever had to go through customs in Phoenix.  The Global Entry card is worth every penny.

We are now less than a month before our next journey.  I hope it's as great as this trip was.

Turtle Safely......



Saturday, October 6, 2018

Edinburgh Higlights

Casa Grande, AZ

A panoramic tour of Scotland's capital is how we began our adventure in Edinburgh.  We traveled along the Royal Mile and I must say the government building was a huge disappointment with its modern architecture.  


My only disappointment of the entire trip was Edinburgh Castle.  It wasn't the castle it was all the pushy shovey tourists.  There were two cruise ships in town and of course they were limited on time so naturally the Edinburgh Castle was the main attraction in town.   




I guess I'm just not normal, no way would I enjoy touring a place that you wait in line for 30 minutes to get inside a building.  These tourists didn't seem to mind, I guess their sightseeing trip is that way and they are used to it.  







I want to spend a couple of hours touring the castle and have time to visit some of the other sights during the day.







It doesn't look crowded in this photo but trust me there are lots of people here.




After seeing the Crown Jewels in London at the Tower Museum these jewels were a huge disappointment. Photos were not allowed. We waited in line for 30 minutes before we entered the building.  I almost had a panic attack with everyone so close.



The workment were taking the bleachers down from the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  Molly and Bob Pinner were lucky enough to attend.  Sure wish we could have seen it.





The lines were also hard to see where they ended.  We had no lines whatsoever to see England's jewels.






The Edinburgh Castle had a royal cemetery for their royal dogs.  Nothing was said about cats.




We decided to walk back to the hotel on the Royal Mile rather than take our tour bus. Look at what Bill found.









I have to say in all of our travels we've never seen a Masonic store before.







By the time we returned to the hotel it was almost time to leave for the Prestonfield House.  The house was built in 1688 and Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Johnson were guests.  







We had so much fun at this Scottish entertainment show.  I think I enjoyed it more than the Cabaret in Paris.  


Our waiter asked us whether we wanted red or white wine.  They brought a bottle for everyone at our table. Our meal was delicious and of course included haggis. 



The program began with the Addressing of the Haggis.








The singing and dancing was wonderful and we especially liked the young children performing. 





I have to say I didn't care much for bagpipe music but somehow my tastes have changed since we've been in Scotland.  

Turtle Safely........

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Greeted by a Piper

Casa Grande, AZ

Our last travel day took us traveling north where we saw Bassenthwaite Lake, the only lake in the expensive Lake District and Penrith where the last battle on English soil was fought.  We also discovered the stone circles and henges.

Anita had told us that the weather near Hadrian's Wall was usually the worst in Great Britain but once again the weather gods were with us.  

Hadrian's Wall was the Roman border with the barbaric country of Picts to the north.  We saw Birdoswald Fort and then travelled back and forth between Roman Britain and Scotland.



Our bus stopped along the narrow road and backed into a clearing.  Anita wanted to celebrate our arriving in Scotland.

Well there's a reason I didn't get the group photo of everyone as we entered Scotland.  Anita had a bottle of Scotch to toast our journey.  She also had Iron Bru for a non-alcoholic drink.  She told us Iron Bru outsells Coke.





The next stop was Gretna Green, the home of the run-away marriages.  If anyone is a fan of Downton Abbey, you'd love this place.  There was a wedding just finishing up when we arrived.  




I was told that, Wellsburg, WV served as the Gretna Green for the Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland areas  at one time in it's history and had taxis that would pick up couples who wanted a quick wedding and take them to individuals who were licensed to perform marriages for a fee.


What a fun and happy place this was.  Bagpipes were playing everywhere.  

After our stop in Gretna Green we travelled to Moffat.  It was Sunday and we had a traditional Sunday lunch in a hotel.  There was roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, and veggies.  We were both stuffed but somehow managed to "lick the plate clean" when our bread and butter pudding and custard was served for dessert.

I do believe a few people took a nap on the bus after that meal.  Edinburgh was our next stop and the Hilton Edinburgh Carlton was our last hotel of the tour.  It is located in  central  Edinburgh on the Royal Mile.  

After we arrived, Anita led a walking tour of the area.  Needless to say everyone went on the tour.  Anita led us for a walk along South Bridge, Chambers Street, George VI Bridge and onto the Royal Mile.  We decided to return to the hotel and just veg the rest of the evening as there was a lot on the schedule for the following day.  We must have been tired as there was a Wetherspoon's pub nearby. It served as our "come down" location.

Turtle Safely.......


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

One Day in the Lake District

Casa Grande, AZ

Anita, our program director, had told us about the Lake District while we had other discussions about the United Kingdom during our tour.  She lives in the Lake District.



Our journey went through Yorkshire Dales and we stopped for a break in the town of Skipton where we had time to visit the market.  








Our next discovery experience was a stop at a local farm.  Roger, our host, was there to greet the bus.  We had to wear surgical style booties before we could step off the bus.


Roger demonstrated how his dog herded the sheep.  We'd seen a sheep dog work sheep in New Zealand before, but this dog knew what she was suppose to do when she saw the bus pull in.  Roger didn't really have to do much, his different whistles told the dog what he expected her to do.



Roger also showed us where and how they milked the cows.  Once again nothing like what is required of the Shamrock Dairy near Casa Grande.






Another experience was a traditional ploughman's lunch in the hay barn.  I can't remember everything in the boxed lunch but there was a salad and a meat pie.


We had to clean our booty covered shoes by stepping on a disinfectant type mat by the bus step. Anita pulled off our shoe coverings as we  entered the bus.


Everyone was back on the bus and Anita said she had another surprise for us.  We rode over to the town  where Anita lives.  When the bus stopped, she told us to cross the street and enter the tea shop.  


Anita said we couldn't come to Great Britain without having a real cream tea.  Each table was set with a wonderful sconce and cream.  It took us a while before we figured out that this was Anita's daughter, Sara, that was our host.  Mother and daughter do look alike.

We arrived at our next hotel, The Swan at Grasmere, which was our favorite.  Anita told us she'd do a walking tour of the area in a half hour.  Everyone on tour joined in.  This is one area, I wish we would have had more time to explore.  

Anita showed us the burial place for William Wadsworth and the St. Oswald Church built in the 9th century.

Robert was our guest speaker before our included lamb dinner.  He gave a very interesting talk on dry stone wall fences. The fences were made of stone from clearing the pasture lands.  No wonder they last a thousand years.  

That's what one typical day on this tour was like. Hopefully, I can finish up our time in Scotland blog in the next couple of days.  

We had such a great time, that we've booked another trip in a little over a month.  The price was ridiculously cheap for a river cruise and I've been watching the sales on the Romance of the Rhine and Mosel and knew it was time to book it.   Bill thinks I just wanted some more of that French wine we had on the Paris to Normandy river cruise. I must say with the included wine and beer the waiters never let your glass get past half full. This trip will take us from Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, France, Luxembourg and ends in Switzerland.  

Turtle Safely.......





Sunday, September 30, 2018

Whitby and Castle Howard

Casa Grande, Arizona

The following morning our bus took us to Whitby.  The drive took us through the beautiful North York Moors National Park.  You'd think we'd be tired of the beautiful scenery but we weren't.  


Our first stop in town was the Whitby Abbey.  Anita had advised everyone to bring a jacket as the Abbey is up on a bluff overlooking the sea.  She was right and it was windy but sunny.




Once again Anita showed us how to avoid paying to pee.  I'm happy to say we never paid the entire tour.





We had an audio tour of the Abbey museum before going outside to view the actual site of the Abbey.  The Abbey was built in the 7th century.  The view of the North Sea and the village below were spectacular.  Hard to believe how well this was constructed back in 657 AD by the Saxons.





The Abbey sits on a bluff that has 199 steps to the village.  Lucky for us the bus left us off at the Abbey.







The village people used to carry the caskets up these 199 steps to the Abbey for burial.






There is also a footpath if you don't take the steps, but the steps are much easier.






I think everyone immediately fell in love with the quaint whaling town of Whitby.  We walked down the steps into the village and had some time before our lunch to visit the shops.  Whitby is famous for Jet Black jewelry that Queen Victoria loved and the shops were full of it.

I wish I had taken photos of our lunch restaurant.  Anita had told us this would be our best fish and chips ever.  Once again, she was right!  The place was called Trenches.  On a big chalkboard was the name of the fisherman that caught the fish and also the farmer who supplied the potatoes for the day.  It was absolutely the best fish I've ever had.  I did try the Yorkshire mushy peas, but I can live without them, but at least I tried them.


After our group lunch the bus picked us up and drove back through the National Park.  Our next stop was a tour of the Castle Howard.  How do you possibly describe the size of this castle?





I was happy that Bill took this photo of the fountain while we were still inside the castle as they turned off the water at 3 pm because of the drought.






This room had Ruben and Gainsborough paintings among many others.





Bill asked the same question he's asked in every castle--"How did they accumulate so much wealth."  He got the same reply.  "They married well."

There was a room that showed how they filmed  Brideshead Revisited.  

That's how we spent a typical day while we were in York. 
Now you know why I didn't have time to blog at all while we were in the UK.  I must confess, that England, Scotland and Wales wouldn't have been my first pick of countries to visit but since it was on sale and Bill is Welsh we went.  Now that I can sit back and reflect on it, I'm so glad we toured it.  It's one place I could go back to.  

Turtle Safely.......