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Thursday, 21 July 2016

One Teacher's UK Adventures!

I got home yesterday after a 2 week holiday in the United Kingdom!  

My last big trip was a Contiki coach tour 5 years ago in Eastern Europe. Contiki is a travel company for 18-35 year olds that makes the planning and prep really simple.  You travel with a group of people in a nice, comfortable coach bus and you have a tour manager for the whole trip who is knowledgeable about the region you're travelling to, gives you some history about every place you visit, and helps navigate and orient you around every city. For me, this was much easier than having to book hotels, research driving routes, rent cars, and figure out where the sights are that I wanted to see.  With Contiki, I just had to show up to the coach at a given time and they take care of the rest of the trip.  They bring you to the popular sights and take you to pubs and local haunts to let you get a feel for the local culture.
The Beatles played at this club over 300 times

Because I was travelling alone, I also liked the security of travelling with Contiki because it's a group tour.  It was also a great way to meet new people from around the world.  I ended up meeting amazing people and I've stayed in touch with many of them for the past 5 years.  

Our group at the Scottish border

Last fall, when my Teacher's Pay Teacher's store started to take off and make real money, I decided to book a trip with my earnings and immediately thought of Contiki again.  I decided to book the England and Scotland tour.  It ended in Glasgow, which gave me the perfect reason to visit Ceri, a friend I met from my last Contiki trip who lives just outside the city. 
Ceri and I on the Waverley paddle steamer.

The tour started in London, then took us to Liverpool, York, the Lake District, Carlisle, Gretna Green, Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Inverness, Isle of Skye, Oban, Stirling, and Glasgow.  We saw the Castlerigg Stone Circle, Hadrian's Wall, Loch Ness, Ben Nevis, Edinburgh Castle, Eilean Donan Castle, and the Shambles.

View of Liverpool from the Wheel of Liverpool
Love Lock Bridge in Liverpool
Wheel of Liverpool at the Albert Dock

I found Penny Lane

The Shambles in York - the world's oldest street

Me dressed as a Viking in the Jorvik Viking museum

Statue of Constantine - the only Roman Emperor to be declared emperor outside of Rome (it happened here in York)

Clifford's Tower - park of the old York Castle

Lake Windermere - England's largest lake

The view from the coach

I learned archery in Keswick
Castlerigg Stone Circle - Keswick, England. This stone circle is said to pre-date Stonehenge by about 500 years.
Me at the Castlerigg Stone Circle

Ruins of Housetead Fort at Hadrian's Wall

Me and the wall that marked the northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire

I wanted to walk along Hadrian's Wall, but this fence implied that I shouldn't

More ruins

I had to buy a tartan scarf in Scotland!

Edinburgh Castle

J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book in this cafe

Rubbing the nose of Greyfriar's Bobby brings good luck!

Ruins of St. Andrew's Cathedral

It was such a gorgeous day!

One of the buildings of St. Andrew's University

The beach where Chariots of Fire was filmed

Loch Ness! This photo was taken in the 5 minute break between heavy, heavy rainfalls.

This stream is said to be blessed by fairies and anyone who washes their face in the water will be granted the gift of beauty
Troll meeting place - the trolls were turned to stone when the sun came out
Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle
The group on Tartan Day (everyone wore something with tartan)
We visited a Highland Cow (otherwise known as a "hairy coo")

Statue of Duke of Wellington outside the Gallery of Modern Art. He has a traffic cone on his head. After it was removed and replaced over and over again, the citizens of Glasgow signed a petition to keep it there permanently.

People's Palace

It was a really rainy day!

Glasgow Cathedral

After the 10-day England and Scotland tour, I met up with Ceri and stayed with her for 4 days.  With her, I went to Falkirk to see the Kelpies, took a cruise on the Waverley paddle steamer to Largs, and toured Burns Cottage - Robbie Burns' birthplace.


The Keplies are over 100 feet tall and are the world's tallest equine sculptures
The last sea-going paddle steamer in the world

beautiful church in Largs

Largs waterfront

World-famous Nardini's Ice Cream Parlour

The birthplace of Robert Burns

Burns statue in the gardens

Burns monument and gardens

View from the gardens of Brig O' Doon

I would highly recommend Contiki as a way to travel to anyone (between the ages of 18-35).  There are some early mornings and late nights, but having an experienced tour manager and driver take care of all the planning takes all the stress out of the travel process for me.  I have 5 more years before I'm outside the age limits, and I plan to do one or two more trips with Contiki.  I've met people on Contiki from all over Canada and the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago, Scotland, South Africa, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain. Perhaps we'll meet up on one in the future...

What have you been up to in your summer break?