Quite a few years ago I started to dream about going on a trip to the UK. It’s something that has been on my “bucket list”. I was born in England. My Dad was stationed in England with the RCAF. While I don’t remember it at all, I have heard lot’s of stories about my parents time there all my life. My Dad was a photographer and has lot’s of old black and white pictures taken over there which I have always liked looking at. So I have always thought about going there. As I got closer to retirement, I vowed that a trip to the UK would be a retirement gift to myself. After all I had worked hard for 37 years! Why not! My children are both self sufficient now. My parents, while aging are still doing fantastic, living in their own home. Our youngest daughter lives a 5 minute drive from them, so if they need anything while we are gone, she is here. If something drastic happens, my brother is a 1 hour and 15 minute flight away. So it seemed like the appropriate time to get this thing on the roll. We also want to go on this trip sooner rather than later as it will be something that will require some energy! It’s not a trip we want to put off because as the saying goes, you never know what the future may hold. We leave Aug 10th!
Recent terrorist activity in Europe has certainly been a concern but it really hasn’t changed my mind at all about going. After all, we can’t let the terrorists win, can we? And we can’t stay home locked up in our homes for fear of something happening. We have to just live our lives. We do have to be aware of course and be alert and consious of what is going on around us. But the terrorists aren’t going to stop me! I think there is another saying that says something like, you can be hit by a bus crossing the street.
We plan to make Wales and Scotland a focus on this trip. My Mom’s family originated in Wales and my husband’s family in Scotland. Then I decided I would really like to take in the Baltic and Scandinavian countries while we are over there. Our budget just won’t handle that as that is a really pricey part of the world to visit. Then I discovered that there are Baltic cruises! That is a cost effective way to at least see some of this area and get a taste of it at least. Now we have a plan. Of course I am dreaming big and thought wow, the part of Wales we will be visiting is right where the ferry goes over to Ireland. Perhaps we should go there too! So let the planning and research begin!
I can’t tell you how much fun I have had planning this! I have spent countless hours on the laptop researching and plotting out an itinerary. After much anguish, I decided to cut Ireland from the agenda. It was just too much to squeeze in. It will have to be a separate trip. We will be gone for 5 weeks. Here is a rough outline:
- fly into London, spend 3 days there
- bus down to Southampton to the cruise ship terminal and board the ship
- cruise for 12 days, ports we will be visiting are: Copenhagen, Waarnamude Germany, St Petersburg, Talin Estonia, Stockholm and back to Southampton. We have 2 full days in St Petersburg where we have booked a 2 day tour.
- train from Southampton to Cardiff Wales
- spend 6 days in Wales. We will have a rental car and plan to go to the west coast for a few days and then drive north for a couple of days and then back to Cardiff.
- Fly from Cardiff to Edinburgh. Rent another car and tour Scotland for 13 days. Then back to Edinburgh where we will take the car back and stay in the centre of Edinburgh for 3 days.
- Then off to the airport in Edinburgh and fly home.
So once the outline was there, then I started putting together the budget and figuring out where we would stay etc. Flights are now booked, cruise is booked, hotel in London is booked. We decided it made sense to stay in the west end right in the middle of everything. We are about a mile from Buckingham Palace, right near the Victoria tube station. Transport to the ship terminal in Southampton is arranged. Some of the accommodation in Wales and Scotland is booked. We booked several blocks of 3 days in 1 spot. We didn’t want to be constantly moving. We will have a rental car so can day trip from those areas. So some 3 day stops were important. We booked places with cooking facilities and washer/dryer in 2 places. We also booked a B & B on the Isle of Skye for 3 nights. We also felt how can we go to Scotland and not stay in a castle! You can’t! So we have booked 1 night in an actual castle! So excited about that! Now I just have to fill in the rest. I think we will leave a couple of spots unbooked so we can be somewhat flexible.We plan to go to Loch Ness and Loch Lomond areas also but leaving that flexible in case we decide to change course. I will book the 3 days in Edinburgh soon though. Then I will get the rental cars booked. We will spring for the extra money and book an automatic car. Let’s not tempt fate too much here. Husband hasn’t driven a standard vehicle for at least 30 years. Driving on the left side of the road will be bad enough. We do not plan to drive in any large cities either.
So still some work to do on the itinerary. Lot’s of research into things to do and see along the journey. It is not possible to see everything but we will give it our best shot.
This is definitely a once in a lifetime trip for us. We for sure have to try and be careful of spending on other things to make this trip happen. But happen it will!
As I have said in previous posts, my husband is a celiac so therefore must eat gluten free. We have now discovered he also must be dairy free. So the food aspect will be interesting to say the least. I see a lot of grocery store food happening. However in doing my research, I discovered that there is a high percentage of celiac people in the UK, so it appears that they are on top of the gluten free scene over there. So it may be better than we thought. But the budget will require us to do some grocery store meals which is OK. Most of the hotels and B & B’s over there offer a full breakfast with your stay, so that will start us off well each day. With breakfast covered almost every day and some of the times having cooking facilities we feel we can do OK on food costs. We are taking a small cooler bag along so we can purchase things for a simple lunch or snack.
So what to see and do? We won’t have a lot of time in London so will try and see the hotspots. Tower of London for sure. I would like to see Churchill’s War Room and Museum. I think that will be interesting. A castle and a museum and that will likely be all we will have time for. The first day we arrive in London will almost be a write off as we don’t arrive until 2 ish. By the time we make our way to the city and check in to the hotel, we will be exhausted after flying all night. So probably a short walk to get acclimatized and dinner and early night. So really only 2 days to look around. I have been researching the cruise ports we will be going to and it appears that some of the cities are easily visited on our own without having a tour. We plan to spend our excursion budget in St Petersburg. We plan to visit some castles in Wales and Scotland, perhaps a distillery because you can’t go to Scotland and not do that can you? We will likely just go to 1 of them as husband can’t drink whiskey due to the gluten free thing. They say that the distilling process takes the gluten out but some celiac’s still cannot tolerate it. He seems to be extremely sensitive to gluten so it’s not something he will indulge in. But hey, I can! Scotland has a lot of places to rock hound and husband will want to do some of that. Bit of hiking up the coast in Wales for sure as the scenery is supposed to be awesome. We are both really looking forward to the Isle of Skye. There will be no shortage of things to do and see.
The bones of this once in a lifetime trip are there now. I just have a few more things to book and of course more research. That part has been so much fun!
I will put up a future post about how we plan do all this with carry on luggage only! Now that will be interesting!
If anyone has any insight or advice about our itinerary or hints about how to do 5 weeks including a cruise with carry on luggage only, please do contact me. Would love to hear about your experiences. It will be interesting to see how the trip really unfolds. Will all my planning and research pay off or will it all go out the window and we do totally different things? Will report in later on that!