United Kingdom – 2023

The Tour

Chester to London and Home

June 18 to June 22, 2023

Click on the photo for each day to view that day's photos

Day 34 - June 18, 2023

The first photo today is of the mascot of our hotel in last night and the second is of one of our bus mates. Richard is a good sport, always has a smile for everyone. He was picked to be a “King” at one of the dinners we were at in a castle and now he is known as King Richard, and he plays the part well. He is 6’6” so it is not often he is in a chair where his feet don’t reach the floor!

Chester to Cardiff, Wales today with a stop at Ludlow, England on the way. Ludlow is another town with history oozing out of every nook, cranny, and crack. There is a castle (of course there is) that was started in 1066 and completed in 1085. I didn’t go into the castle, but I did climb the bell tower of a 900-year-old church. A very, very narrow, hot and steep, circular stone staircase going up the equivalent of 15 floors. On the way there is a shot of the bells near the top of the tower. I mention that because after reaching the top and getting some amazing views of the town, the castle and the countryside, I started back down. As I was passing the bells on the very narrow, steep, circular stone staircase, the bells started ringing. Loud! Scared the something out of me and Bud E.!

The streets are incredibly narrow but no issues for our superb bus driver, Dougie. After another walk about the town, including a few shots of Bud E., we were off to Cardiff, the capital of Wales.

Dinner tonight included a show with a harpist and three ladies, Welsh singers. Terrific voices even though I could hardly understand what they were singing. Except when they did a wonderful job of Mary Hopkins’ “Those Were the Days”.

Ludlow, England

Day 35- June 19, 2023

When someone goes above and beyond, it is only right that you recognize that effort. There was a big mistake made somewhere along the line. When I booked the bus tour, Stonehenge was part of the itinerary, on the last day, June 21. Stonehenge is another place I have always thought I would love to see but never believed I would, so it was an important piece of the tour. However, June 21st is the summer solstice and apparently the Druids (yes, there still are Druids) take over Stonehenge. It is their sacred place and no one is allowed there on the solstice. The tour company, Insight, had us booked. They had the tickets. But a few days ago, they were informed that the tickets were null and void and we could not go to Stonehenge. To me, coming to England and not seeing Stonehenge would be like going to Egypt and not seeing the pyramids.

Here is where our tour director, Mark, and our driver Doogie, stepped up…big time. Today was the day we were scheduled to see the Roman baths at the city of (go figure) Bath. Mark called the office and got permission to offer the 34 of us an option to either go to the baths, or Stonehenge. 7 of us chose Stonehenge so Doogie dropped Mark and 27 of us at the baths, then took the other 7 of us to Stonehenge. Yes, I missed the baths, but I got Stonehenge. Remarkable. That you so much Mark and Doogie! (Too many photos of Stonehenge but….) More info on 5,000 year old Stonehenge can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonehenge. Quite interesting.

As a bonus, I have been traveling at the back of the bus the entire trip (my choice), but on the hour-long drive to and from Stonehenge, I was at the very front. So, I shot a few longer exposures showing the movement and speed (had to hold a camera still for a long exposure on a moving, swaying bus!) and then some of the English countryside. I also manage a few of Bath.

Then back to Bath, picked up the rest of the crew and on to Plymouth. On the way we stopped at Wells, which has a stunning cathedral. We didn’t go in but had a look at the outside. Tonight, we traveled to a pub outside of Plymouth for dinner. The building was built in 1733 and cannot be altered as it is “listed” as historical. A few shots of both the inside and the outside.

Cardiff to Plymouth

Day 36 - June 20, 2023

Almost the end ☹. Today was our second last day and it was a big one. As a result, too many photos.

We start the day with a tour around Dartmoor National Park in southwest England. Absolutely beautiful! There are a breed of ponies (horse) here that are only found here. There is evidence of human habitation going back 10,000 years and civilization 5,000 years. Our “local expert” told us legends and stories of the area she grew up in. There is a prison that is centuries old, that is still in operation. There is a pair of old bridges, one of them dating back to the 1100s. And simply breathtaking, panoramic views.

Then over a bridge built in 1961 while right beside that is a railway bridge built 100 years earlier to Saltash in Cornwall. After a brief stop there, back to Plymouth for a lunch (Bud E. apparently likes English fish and chips). This is where the Mayflower set sail with the Pilgrims in 1620 headed to the new world (now Plymouth Massachusetts). The stairs here are not the original as the ocean has changed but the ones in the photos are very old and are faithful reproductions of the ones the Pilgrims used to board the Mayflower. Then a boat cruise around Plymouth sound.

Finally, a drive back to a pub that started as a flour mill in 1307 for a wonderful dinner. Our last as a group on the tour. Tomorrow a stop at Salisbury and the Salisbury Cathedral before heading back to London. The next day is on the plane for home.

Dartmoor National Park

Day 37 - June 21, 2023

Well, that’s a wrap for the tour. I may get a few shots traveling tomorrow, but today was the last day of the tour. Today it was Plymouth to London via Salisbury where we stopped and toured the Salisbury Cathedral. Built in 1620 (completed only 38 year later) is magnificent. Apparently, the foundation is only about 18 inches, yet it has stood for almost 800 years. And there are hundreds of statues in the exterior walls, all of them different. In fact there are literally thousands of statues in cathedrals all over Europe, all different.

Anyway, I digress. After a quick walk about the ancient city of Salisbury it was on to London. Here, after checking into the hotel, Bud E. and I went for about a 15 km walk around London. He sat with a couple old guys on a bench, mingled with the crowd at Piccadilly Circus, visited the Canadian Embassy, posed in front of the London Eye and in a bicycle cab, and then beside a red telephone booth in front of Big Ben. He had a great time!

As for me, London might be my favourite city to walk around. Gorgeous architecture, history everywhere, hustle and bustle with much less noise than New York and cleaner too. I love New York but London is a great place.

Tomorrow it’s on the plane home.

Different perspective on the London Eye

Day 38 - June 22, 2023

All good things must end, and this trip is no different. Today was the looooong flight home. So, just a few shots from the plane window, one of an American Avocet that I saw on the drive home and Bud E., happy to be back home.