Saturday, June 24, 2017
Saturday, June 24, 2017:
New day, but same old, same old: bags out at 7, breakfast, hop on bus at 8 and away to our next destination. Most were asleep by the time we left York. The kids are usually on their kids playing games or whatever. They missed the beautiful rolling hills and picturesque villages. We had a bathroom stop at a cool place called Welcome Break to buy snacks and/or drinks.
We stopped at Anne Hathaway's house for a group picture, then continued on to Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon We went through his house and then continued outside where two performers would take suggestions from their audience and then perform favorite scenes from the Bard's plays. They were both quite good!
We met back at the bus at 1:45 and were given our group pictures. They turned out really well. And then we journeyed through the Cotswolds, an AONB (Area of Natural Beauty) with rolling hills, small towns with thatched roofed homes, and hundreds of groves of trees. The kids mostly played on their phones and many others were asleep.
After a restroom stop at another Welcome Break site, we arrived at our starting point, the Radisson Grafton Blu Hotel, where we dismounted and went inside. Andy and I sprinted to the ATM to pull out enough money for our tips for tour guide Phil and driver Noel. Both were excellent. Phil will go to France next week with another company and Noel is leaving for Portugal to participate in a charity bike race.
After going to our rooms to freshen up, we came down at 6 to make some plans for the next two days. It didn't go well because everyone was hungry and wanted to eat! Neither of us was hungry, so wished them well and went to our room. We watched some tV and hit the hay.
Friday, June 23, 2017
Friday, June 23, 2017: Day 10--Scottish borders, Jedburgh Abbey and York
We put our bags out at 7 and headed downstairs for breakfast. They didn't have hot chocolate, so I asked for hot water and used my Swiss Miss that I had brought from home. We usually get the same things every morning: eggs, ham or bacon, OJ, toast or a croissant. Mary and the kids sometimes would eat cereal instead.
We woke up to a dreary day, nippy and windy, and dressed accordingly. We left at 8 and just drove through beautiful countrysides until we stopped at Jedburgh. We didn't go in, but it was a pretty picture. We basically did more shopping and picked up goodies. It was another hour and a half drive to York. Phil led us on a tour through the old section and its narrow streets, using our headsets to explain what we were seeing, and then got us into the lofty and high-ceilinged Gothic York Minster. He then left us on our own to explore the city for an hour and a half.
The church was large and ornate and very photogenic. Andy went everywhere with his camera and I'm sure he took some amazing pictures. We only looked in at a couple of shops and then walked back to our pick-up point, outside of the old city.
Phil passed out our keys and the baggage was already in the room when we opened the door to Room 034. We rested for an hour and then went down to dinner at 7. We both had the braised beef again and it was delicious, as was the lemon tart dessert (for me) and Mandarin cheesecake for Mom.
Then we went back to our room to fill out a tour rating. We tried to remember the various hotels and meals, but it was so hard! Everything seemed to run together!
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Thursday, June 22, 2017: Tour of Edinburgh.
Because we are staying here for two nights, we were able to sleep in and get off to a later start than previous days. I put on my audio book, but realized that it was so unbelievably ludicrous that I couldn't continue any more. We had breakfast at 8:15 and left for Edinburgh Castle shortly thereafter. We picked up our local guide Jackie downtown and she gave us a wonderful commentary about the city and then, after we had climbed a steep incline, the Edinburgh Castle.
We took pictures of everything and got a wonderful scenic panoramic view of the city from St. Margaret's Church. We also visited the Grand Hall and the Crown Jewels. From there, we wound our way down the Royal Mile, a collection of restaurants, bars, and gift shops, zig-zagging from one side of the street to the other.
Half way down, we stopped at the Thistle Stop and enjoyed a nice lunch. Most of us chose a Toasted Ham and cheese sandwich and drink. Refreshed, we continued our buying spree. Ashley and Lily bought some cute shoes and Andy, a cute hat. Unfortunately, as we meandered, we missed a crucial turn-off before the bottom and had to retrace our way uphill to find Prince Street and our eventual pick-up. We did stop at McDonald's for dinner and then walked up the street to find Noel and our CIE bus at 6:30. What a relief!
After a short ride back, we arrived at the Village Hotel, tired, but exhilarated by the wonderful experience. I slipped into my swimming trunks and went downstairs to the pool. My arms are so shot that I can't lift them to swim, so I just walked and exercised in the pool. Afterwards, I hopped into the hot tub and relaxed. Aaaaahhh.....
When I checked my phone, I saw that we had walked 4.9 miles and climbed 6 floors! It felt more than that, though....
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Wednesday, June 20, 2017: A long day of driving, rain!
We had to get up early because of our long drive, putting our bags out at 6:15 and eating at 6:30. The weather was overcast and dreary and a light rain came down. I put on an audiobook downloaded by John the night before the trip and listened to it for the drive. We drove to Belfast and stopped at the Titanic Memorial to check it out, buy a little lunch and use the restrooms.
Then we got on the ferry for the ride to Scotland and Edinburgh. Mary and I shared a sandwich and a Fanta on the boat. I listened to my book while she, Andy, and the kids played a word-guessing game during the two-hour ferry ride. It was very pleasant. Most slept as we drove through the green hills and when we reached the ultra-modern Village Hotel in Edinburgh, the rain had increased.
We freshened up and headed to the city center for our Scottish Evening. The food was pretty good (we even tasted Haggis) and the entertainment was rousing: bagpipes, dancers, an accordion player, a violinist, and two singers. All was very professional and well-received.