Visiting the UK and Ireland has been on our bucket list for some time. Regrettably this trip did not include Ireland, nor much of Scotland and Wales. When originally scheduled, our trip via CIE Tours was much more inclusive, and for a total of 28 days. And then, COVID struck, and it was postponed a couple of times, and then entirely cancelled, leaving us with few options since our sizable deposits were at risk, and since CIE Tours converted our plane tickets to cover the remaining costs, without our knowing! Fortunately, we chose the 10-day trip rather than two back to back lengthy tours.
Our tour manager, Harry Gray, was really good, as was the driver, Dennis. Other guides along the way were good as well. Dennis kept the bus clean and comfortable. The hotel accommodations were good, but not great. The food provided as part of the tour was good. We visited a large number of important places and saw enough castles to do us the rest of our lives. In fact, the tour kept us so busy that there was hardly time to rest at night before sleeping. We only stayed in two hotels for more than one night, meaning our luggage would have to be outside the room at 7 AM every day but two, in order for us to leave at 8 AM — a little too frantic for us. There were a few acceptable snafus, like the out-of-date Toot Bus tickets. But the tardiness of the pick-up driver from the airport to the hotel, and the total failure of our pick-up from the hotel to the airport to catch our plane home were unacceptable, causing unwanted and unnecessary stress. Neither of us have a desire to do a bus trip again, and we wouldn’t use CIE Tours again, either. We’ll stick to river and ocean cruises for international travel, and auto and RV trips for domestic travel.
There were many positive things about the UK. The people were genuine, friendly, and helpful. It is a “proper” society, and certainly not flamboyant like some places in the US. Dress was informal and casual, and there were no provocative pants, shorts, tops, etc. The food was good, and I liked the baked beans for breakfast every morning, though Kay did not. The “fried” eggs were from free range chickens, the sausages were less fat than we’re used to, and there is little to no artificial sweeteners available. We both liked the cream tea (tea with scones, jam, and butter cream); in fact we drank hot tea several times a day, but didn’t drink any diet sodas. The fish and chips were good, but we tired of them. We ate sufficiently that snacking was not necessary. We both liked the Guinness draft beer by the pint, and the gin and tonics were good as well. Surprisingly, Beefeaters gin was not available most places, while Bombay Sapphire seemed to be the preferred gin. We saw few obese people, perhaps because people in the UK seemed to walk everywhere. Prices were reasonable, though it did take some getting used to the pound sterling currency. Cash WAS NOT accepted in quite a few places. Credit cards were scanned by the user; we liked that.
On the negative side was the pollen; nearly everyone in our group coughed, sneezed, and gagged the whole time due to pollen; we did not expect that.
Our flights to and from the UK were on time. Before we flew home, the US required us to have a negative COVID test the day before traveling. That proved to be fairly easy as the English pharmacy accommodated us efficiently. On the flight over, the seat space was tight, especially for a big man like me. In fact, seat space seems to get smaller each time we fly, with little room to move. The flight home was definitely better than the flight over, perhaps to the quality and timeliness of their feeding us, and the fact that we were flight east to west. And, it seemed that the seats had a bit more room. The last few times we’ve flown internationally we ask ourselves afterward how much longer we can continue. We definitely think it’s time to upgrade seats for long flights should we take any more.
And lastly, thank you Dan for picking us up at the Little Rock airport at 9:30 PM. We are very grateful.