As was the agreement, I would go to Antarctica, which was on Carol’s bucket list, but then he had to go to the British Isles, where I had never been.

     It was our first trip with a bus tour, and we were somewhat apprehensive about whether we would like it.  In general, the people were friendly enough, there was no one obnoxious, just a couple divas (that we steered clear of), and one highly over-dressed and over-accessorized lady with a wimpy husband, who steered clear of us:  we did NOT meet her stuffy upper-class standards. 

    After just a few days, we had a rhythm worked out, of leaving out our next day’s clothes and toiletries, so we could have our large suitcases in the hallway at the designated time, to get to breakfast at the designated time, to be on board the bus at the designated time.  Yep, it was much too time-regimented for us. “Luggage out, breakfast, on the bus; Luggage out, breakfast, on the bus;” etc.

    We got to see a LOT of places, some the typical touristy places, some off the beaten track, and most of the time had enough time to do what we wanted to do in each of the stops.  The countrysides in all of Great Britain are beautiful, and our guide Paul Barton was a walking encyclopedia with a wild sense of humor.  “The peasants are revolting.....I know, because I’ve seen them.”  And he had this most annoying habit of HUMMING when he was not talking!  You could hear it even in the back of the bus without the mic being on.  Poor ole Mike Francis, the driver, earned his sainthood for putting up with that up close and personal every day.  CDL drivers are monitored 24/7 for their speed and also must rest 45 minutes per every 4 1/2 hours. So our stops were not just comfort/shopping/eating/touring stops for us passengers.  And it only took one time of driving away from the two Aussie ladies in the parking lot for being more than five minutes late boarding the bus to convince the entire bus to not be late for the rest of the trip.  Mike can’t speed to make up for lost time due to lollygagging on the tourists’ part.  And we also want to arrive before the other busloads do.

    We much prefer our own style of honkering down for a few days in a hotel within walking distance of the train station, doing several day trips from that hub of “the wheel,” scheduling down time on a regular basis, and then catching a leisurely train to the next town where we would stay a few days for tours.

    Our trip started and ended in London; we added a couple days on the end, not knowing that the Hilton London Metropole would be the absolute WORST hotel room of all fourteen.  ALL the other hotels had been better than average, probably 4* at the least.  In the Metropole, the door didn’t even open all the way into the room, people and suitcases had to slide in sideways.  Suitcases could not stay at the end of the beds, or else WE couldn’t get by.  It was 40.5 meters by 2.7 meters, for a mind-boggling 15 sq. mtrs.; and it was a DELUXE!  The electric was so old that recharging the camera and iPad was never complete; Wifi would have been $15/day!#@!  And then they locked the refrigerator after we’d been using it for a couple days, and we had stuff in it!  Our whole group was totally disgusted with the choice of that hotel, and many complained to the hotel staff and the Globus staff at the hotel.   After getting home, we sent a detailed email to Globus Corporation and surprisingly received a refund of the three nights in that hotel.

    During our first two days in London, we first learned how to buy the tube passes from the machines, then used them to wander around and eventually find where to buy London Eye tickets and the London Pass, which we would use during our two days at the end of the trip.  We did the sightseeing bus tour of the highlights, went inside St. Paul’s Cathedral, witnessed the Changing of the Guards (much more detailed than what I was expecting), and took a 1/2 day trip to Windsor Castle.

British Isles, 
Aug. 25 - Sept. 16, 2014

    Leaving London, we visited the exterior of the uninhabited Hampton Palace, focusing on the Great Vine, a unique botanical entity.  The huge trees in the gardens form the letters W and M.

    Same day, we also took a short walk through the uneventful town of Oxford.  Interestingly, it had 420 monasteries, from which came the nursery rhyme lyrics of “4 and 20 blackbirds.”  Our next stop was at Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, with the focus being on touring Anne Hathaway’s cottage.

    Then we headed off to Warwick Castle (where we had the place to ourselves for an hour before opening to the public), York (where Paul kindly called our friends Eric & Lesley to meet up with us), Hadrian’s Wall, Abbotsford (home of author Sir Walter Scott), and finally arriving in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Each individual chimney stack corresponds to a separate room.  No more smoke from them anymore, because they are fueled by gas.

Above, our first “meal” out was an ice-breaking exposure to the cost of touring the United Kingdom.  Add a Coke and another plate of 3 pieces of finger food to what you see above, and say good-bye to @$38!!

    We really started to welcome the days that dinner was included.  People had warned us about British food being tasteless, but we had nothing but awesome meals regardless of where they came from: already included, or finding our own sources.

    And we also majorly lucked out with the weather; shirt sleeves or a light jacket, umbrellas only used for part of one day, and sunny blue skies for the vast majority of the trip.

    Our guide Paul was just full of information and stories, and also liked laughing at his own jokes.  He calls speed bumps “sleeping police” and laughs at the sign for a crosswalk; says it looks like an elderly couple pick-pocketing.  He shared that when the Queen is not talking, he thinks she looks like she’s in a holding pattern of a bulldog chewing an ant or frog.  There were also 420 monasteries in the UK until destroyed by Henry VIII, thus giving “4 and 20 blackbirds in a pie.”  Queen Mary I killed Ridley Latymere Crammer for being a heretic, thus comes the drink “Bloody Mary,” as well as the lyrics for “Three Blind Mice” with “she cut off their tails with a carving knife.”  Hey, who are we to challenge what he says? We learned that an on/off ramp is called a slip road, and Brits don’t “have a clue,” they have a “hunch.”  This dates all the way back to the days of hunchbacks, who could see the future (or so people believed).  One could ask him permission to touch his hunch to see one’s future, to see if something was going to happen, thus “having a hunch.”  You didn’t get into a car “accident,” you had a “bump.”  COP most likely came from Constable On Patrol; there was a Robert on the first patrol, who went by Bobbie, so police are also referred to as “Bobbies.”  The idiom “to lose face” stems from pasty make-up on one’s face melting off by the fireplace in the morning.  Be careful not to ask Paul if he slept well last night, he’ll answer, “yep, slept like a log, woke up in a fireplace.” And that’s because he went to a “hooley” (party) last night, getting in very late, but not “caring a sausage.”   Also uses the phrase “that means sausages (nothing) to me.”

Does this look “deluxe” to anybody?

Esperanza had sent us a welcome tray at our first hotel Hilton Double Tree.

Tim & Jeanne, George & Shirley, Bill & Kitty, Clinton & Norma, Bill & Jan, James & Beth, Ray & Elaine, Bob & Joan, Richard & Susan, Al & Sue, Chris, Mily (Sofia missing), Don & Susan, guess who, Mavis & Pam, Lorraine & Carol, sitting Bobby, Mary, & Nancy, Debbie & Angela, Margaret & Mary, Susan & Larry, Michael & Dianne