Thursday, October 26, 2017

Final Thoughts on Our Tour

Some of my random thoughts after traveling around Great Britain:

Weather:  we were prepared for and expected very cool weather and lots of rain. In the end it was rarely too cold. I did wear my jacket over my sweater fairly often, usually when we were in a windy area. We had a fair bit of rain off and on, but it was always light and spotty. The worst day for rain was in Calais, but even that wasn’t unbearable. (And ducking into a cafe for more tea was often welcome.)

Hotels:  Every hotel supplied a kettle and makings for tea in the room. I am a frequent tea drinker, so I especially liked this. I usually made a cup in the afternoon when we returned from our outings, and made it before breakfast for both of us much of the time. (Since Dan makes the chai when we are home, it is only fair that I do it with the tea bags 😉)  Our showers ranged from so tiny that you could barely get inside to large bathtubs (infrequent). We had an en suite bathroom in every place, one of my criteria in booking. I used for a number of places and for others. The Pen Y Gwryd hotel only makes bookings by phone so I called them over Skype. It was easy to make changes on the fly, which we did a couple of times. Several hotels were a bit run-down, but at the prices we paid, they were fine. (Most were under $100 per night.) Our last place in Southampton was found through Air BnB. We wanted to be close to the port, and it definitely was.

Driving:  Dan is experienced and comfortable driving on the left. He did a great job, from one-lane country roads to the big motorways. Our longest driving day was 5 hours, which I believe we did twice. This island is not that huge — we are used to driving up to 10 hours a day in the US. We enjoyed seeing so much gorgeous countryside. We took our Garmin along with a UK chip. It was helpful but not perfect — it got us to the towns, but usually couldn’t find a specific address. I used Google Maps on my phone to narrow down our destination. I also purchased a large atlas online before we left that was extremely useful. In fact, we almost couldn’t have done without it. I was able to follow along and see where we were going next.

Views:  this is a beautiful country, especially the hilly areas (they say mountains, but really they are hills…). Fluffy sheep on the hillsides added to the viewing pleasure. We avoided most cities, preferring the smaller towns and rural areas. We’ve been to London before, so didn’t go there at all except on arrival. I loved the surprises — seeing Stonehenge from the highway on the first day, spotting Arundel Castle on the last day. (The map was helpful in determining what we were seeing; the Garmin wouldn’t have told us much.)

Food:  we have eaten very well. Most places included breakfast, which varied from continental to full English. For the few hotels that didn’t include breakfast we were able to find nearby restaurants that served us well. We enjoyed the availability of porridge in Scotland; it didn’t appear on the menus further south. We had Indian food three or four times, Turkish once, fish and chips several times, meat pies a couple of times, and enjoyed it all! We almost never had more for lunch than a shared scone and tea, or a couple of times soup. A big breakfast and an early dinner sufficed.

Packing:  we packed two large suitcases. One had packing cubes with the clothing we wore along the way. The second held things that we will want more on the cruise portion of the trip, including a few dressier clothes, extra yarn for my knitting projects, swimming suits, etc. We never took the second one out of the car, although a few times I got into it for something. We also each have a backpack with our computer things and other necessaries. When we only had one night in a place, we were able to just take in our backpacks and not deal with the suitcase at all. It worked really well, although I am a bit tired of the five shirts I have worn!

Planning:  I spent a lot of time over an entire year planning this trip. There was much more I would have liked to have seen and done — we missed Shakespeare’s Stratford, the Cotswolds, Skye, the Isle of Wight, and much more. But I think we did a pretty good job of covering the highlights. We made some changes along the way due to weather and unforeseen circumstances. But it all worked out! It was terrific to meet up with several friends along the way — we greatly appreciated the overnights they offered us. Thanks to Pete & Dot, Mike & Betty & Catherine, and Thea. And to Mark & Dorothy, whom we missed due to a death in the family. We are taking a cruise ship to Miami, a so-called repositioning cruise (ship moving from summer in the Baltic to winter in the Caribbean). We’ll be on board for two weeks with stops in Boston, NYC, Bermuda and the Bahamas.

I hope to see you back here at the end of December when we head back to Thailand via Hawaii.

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