Most people don’t really care about trip reports, but it’s my journal and this was a big event in my life.
It was my first visit to the UK. I’ve been to Ireland but SAM said that didn’t count (this was her fourth visit.) Her enthusiasm and a chance to experience things she loves was one of my reasons for going. I wanted to see where some of my friends and colleagues live, and I hoped to fill in the vast craters in my appreciation of our cultural history.
For most of our trip we used Trafalgar, a tour service, instead of DIY. Both have advantages, but for a broad brush quick dip a tour works for me. They take care of destinations, transport, and lodging. IMO you see and learn more, and there is also a chance to meet some nice folks from around the world.
Of course we didn’t see everything and some days were a bit long, but we were satisfied.
We traveled 2900 miles in 18 days staying at 14 different hotels. Every day we would visit three to four towns or historical sites. Our tour director, Rob was bright and hardworking. At one point we were all singing in the bus in Scotland near the Lochs.
After Trafalgar, we camped in London at a nice central hotel and we could go at our own pace. SAM Likes to go, go, go, and we did.
Visiting a part of our world is very different than living there. We plan to do that in the future in England and Italy. We both liked the areas around Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon.
I was impressed immediately by the genuine courtesy and friendliness of the people we met and the elevators that reminded us what floor we were on and when the doors were closing. The street crossing had reminders for yanks who look the wrong way. We were told not to trust the BBC weather forecasts. It didn’t matter. Most days were cloudy, and we only experienced rain twice.
SAM loved the cream tea with scones. Brits say “scons.”
I love the stinky cheese.
Unlike the US, there’s a lot of serious history all around. Buildings were often over 500 years old, not to mention Stonehenge. In the countryside, which evokes scenes from Tolkien, Adams, Potter, Rowling, Christie, Dickens, Doyle and others, there was a timeless quality. I felt that especially in rural Wales and Scotland. We saw green hills of open land beautifully parceled by hedgerows and sheep everywhere. The Highlands of Scotland were barren and beautiful (in August,) a little like parts of Montana. We got our first look at an ‘ighland cew.
I didn’t get to go rabbit hunting in Wales with Noel but learned a few things about cheese and visited the home of Wallace and Gromit.
Homes are so much more substantial (stone) and have real character visually. I wonder how comfortable they are. Townhomes in Inverness, Edinburgh, Stratford on Avon and Bath were especially grand.
One of the highlights of our trip was to meet our friends Steve and Wendy who live near London. Mia Culpa. I missed our meeting because of my lack of organization and forgetfulness, causing them to lose a day out of their busy schedules. They are terrific folks and deserve better. The lesson is to travel with a telephone that works. Wi-Fi F/B mail doesn’t cut it.
In London the museums were mobbed. What’s that all about? Pub food was much better than I’d been prepared for, but in London many of the pubs had identical menus. Franchise?
The Scottish Government plans a referendum on the issue of independence from the United Kingdom, in September 2014. Will Scotland remain a part of the UK? I observed a strong national history, pride and somewhat less affection for England. We’ll see. About half of the folks we talked to said they’ll stay part of the UK.
My head is still shaking ’cause I still don’t understand: cricket, bank holidays, the fuss about haggis, their coins, pork pies, and clotted cream. There is a giant blue chicken in Trafalgar Square, and don’t ask where the term “frog in your throat” originated.
I’ve come to enjoy and respect: our British roots, the briefer UK election process, Marmite, why driving on the left is actually correct, British cheese and Queen Victoria. The Brits and the Irish have a true affection for our language that fertilizes their dry wit. May it always be so.
My hero George Carlin used to say, “Way out.”
We saw it all over London and that’s my cue here.
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Between us we returned with over 900 snaps (working on the slide show, so run…), some coins, my journal, T-shirts for my sons, fridge magnets and wonderful memories.
We’ll be back. There’s still a lot for us to learn.