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Photo: Dublin
"Dublin"

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Past Tours

Vietnam and Cambodia 2011
Kenya and Tanzania 2010
Egypt and Jordan 2010
UK and Northern France 2010
Turkey and Greece 2010
Italy and Sicily 2010
Egypt 09
Canada 09
Egypt 08
Italy 08
Vietnam 08
Egypt 07














UK & Northern France 2010

In September a group of 13 Girls On Tour travelled through England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales before heading across the channel to France. This was the first trip with the UK supplier and unfortunately there were a few things that didn’t go to plan with some hotels not up to scratch and some days just way too long on the road but overall it was a wonderful trip. We started in Coventry visiting Warwick Castle, Stratford Upon Avon and other sites before heading north to York and Chester’s Roman Fort on our way to Edinburgh. We stopped at Carter Bar on the border and took photos in both England and Scotland.

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The weather was beautiful in Edinburgh and we visited Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh Castle and ended at the Royal Mile. At the Castle we stayed for the One O’clock gun and although I forewarned the girls about how loud it was they were still startled which was a good laugh. The gun was used in the past for ships sailing on the Firth of Forth to check and reset their timepieces. Some of us went to Queensferry and then to Leith for a visit onboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. This was a real treat and tea and scones in the Garden Room was a treat. The yacht was not as ornate as I had expected it to be, it actually was quite the opposite. It was quite modestly furnished and not elaborate at all. Even the Queen’s bedroom was quite small and quite basic. The dining room also was quite basic however the tables were beautifully laid out with silver and crystal that I’m sure would be worth a pretty penny. From Edinburgh we headed to the Scottish Highlands towards the ruins of Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness. I know you won’t believe it but we really did see Nessie!!

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We stayed in the beautiful Dunkeld Hilton after a long driving day which included the Commando Memorial, Stirling Castle and a visit to see Nessie. It was here at Dunkeld that we learned some Ceilidh (traditional Scottish) dancing including the “Gay Gordons”. It was a really fun night and the hotel was a beautiful old mansion. Stirling Castle was significant for one of the ladies as her rellies way back had been beheaded just outside the castle walls and are buried in one of the cemeteries there. Outside the castle gate stand monuments to 2 famous Scotsman, William Wallace and Robert The Bruce. The next morning we drove back to the House of Bruar and also visited Blair Castle which is home to Lord Athol who has the only private army that is allowed to bear arms.

Travelling on through the beautiful Lakes District of Cumbria, the home of some of the best know British poets and artists, we arrived at Appleby Manor with beautiful gardens and views across the Lakes District. The next day we set out towards the village of Kirkby Stephen to find a farm called Rake Head Farm which is the family farm of the Dixon family who are the relatives of Trish who was on tour. It was only about 20kms from our hotel so it would have been remiss of us not to make the effort to stop by. It was a lovely experience and we all got to have a look around a typical English farm that has been handed down through the generations. From here we travelled to Windermere and enjoyed a leisurely cruise on the lake from Ambleside to Bowness on the largest lake in England. We visited Grassmere where the famous poet Wordsworth is buried and Tim our guide read a couple of his poems at the graveside which was very nice. We also visited Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread Shop and got our fill of freshly baked gingerbread. In the quirky city of Chester we walked along the ancient city walls exploring the black and white buildings that are its trademark before marveling at the 13th Century “Rows”. These are two-tier shops that run along the main streets that have been beautifully kept and restored for locals and visitors alike to enjoy. From Chester we travelled through North Wales to Hollyhead for our ferry to Dublin in Ireland to begin our Irish adventure. As the luck of the Irish would have it, it was bucketing down with rain when we met our driver/guide Robbie Kelly. In Dublin we had a local guide, Gerry for a tour of the city and let me tell you that Gerry (and his Mum) have some strong ideas about the history of Ireland and of the people who are in charge at the moment. He was very informative and very entertaining. From Robbie and Gerry we learned much about the history of Ireland and in particular one of the saddest periods in Irish History, the Potato Famine. The famine was a result of failed crops over a period of 3 years starting in 1845. In 1846 after the second crop failed the US sent aid to the people of Ireland and in the third year when disease set in the landlords of the day paid for many of their people to emigrate. 1 million starved and 1 million emigrated on “coffin ships” to Canada and US.

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Half of them died on the way. The Queen Victoria was in a position to feed the people but she chose not to and exported all the excess grain and to this day she is not remembered fondly by the Irish. In 1845 the population of Ireland was 8.5 million and today it is 6.5 million, it has never recovered from this disaster. There is a very poignant sculpture by the River Liffey in Dublin that is dedicated to the victims of the famine and the looks on their faces say it all. During our travels we saw many of the remains of famine houses throughout Ireland. On a lighter note, in Dublin we also met “Sweet Molly Malone” and of course a Leprechaun!! We all loved the Irish accent and throughout the bus you could hear giggles every time either Robbie or Gerry tried to say third or Thursday. Eventually Robbie would tell us that the “Th” sound is just not in their vocabulary so as hard as the Irish try, 100 divided by three is always going to be ‘tirty tree and a …” well, I will let you work out the next word J While in Dublin we visited Trinity College which houses the Book of Kells, a collection of ancient Celtic writings and the most amazing library that I have ever seen. From Dublin we travelled to Galway via Clonmacnoise, a monastic settlement started by St Ciaran in 545AD on the River Shannon. There is a whispering door here where one person can stand on one side with their ear to the stone and the other person can stand on the other side and whisper and the sound travels up over the arch. On Sunday 19th we toured around the spectacular Connemara region where beautiful stone walls border the properties and famine cottages are spotted all around. We called into a little Irish pub for a Bailey’s coffee or a Guinness and the All Ireland Gaelic football final was the TV there. A few of the locals were there watching it and they were speaking the local dialect, Gaelic which was impossible to understand but we couldn’t get much more traditional than Gaelic football, locals and Guinness. While in the Connemara area we enjoyed a cruise on the Killary Fjord, the only Fjord in Ireland. The scenery was spectacular and it was very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

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On Monday we drove through the rugged Burren region in County Clare with its rocky limestone fields and the magnificent Cliffs of Moher and on to Killarney. From Killarney we followed the tourist trail around the “Ring of Kerry” with great views of the Atlantic Ocean, spectacular mountain views and interesting peat bogs. In this region movies such as Ryan’s Daughter and Far and Away have been filmed. We passed through a quaint little town called Killorglin which is famous for its Puck Fair, an odd ritual where a mountain goat is captured and made king for a week and is then tagged and released back into the wild again after the festivities. There are 5 pubs within 60 metres in the town.

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On Wednesday we headed to Blarney Castle and kissed the Blarney Stone. What a mission that was. You are on your back, bent over backwards with your head in an unnatural position, kissing a piece of rock. The end result is that we are now all blessed with the gift of the gab and the castle and its surrounds are worth the visit even if you choose not to kiss the stone.

Our next stop was at the recently opened Waterford Crystal visitor’s centre where we were able to see the process followed for the design and production of Waterford Crystal along with a collection of pieces that have been made over the years from vases to grandfather clocks. We watched as the craftsmen blew the crystal and then polished it, marked it and cut the design by hand. There are also machines that pump out certain types of items in larger quantities. Mostly the pieces now are one offs and are for trophies, state gifts or for big hotel chains. Waterford was where we said goodbye to Robbie and we continued on a little “furder” up the road and took the ferry back over to Wales.

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To quickly wrap up our final week in England, we spent a night in Cardiff and from there we drove down to Land’s End and Penzance in the Cornwall region and then on to the beautiful city of Bath where we explored the Roman Baths which have some parts that date back as far as 3,000BC. The exhibition is very well done with a labyrinth of corridors and tunnels that take you all through the site. It is beautifully done in my opinion and well worth a visit. On Sunday 26th we visited the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth and visited the battleship HMS Warrior and Lord Nelson’s HMS Victory both of which were interesting and beautiful vessels.

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On our way to London we stopped at Stonehenge and walked around the stone formation in very windy and cold conditions. There are moves afoot to change the roads so that the main highway doesn’t run right past the site as in peak season the roads are chockers. We arrived in Chelsea in London in the afternoon to enjoy 3 nights there. On Monday in London we did a sightseeing tour with Tim taking in such icons as Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St Pauls, The Globe Theatre, Covent Garden and a visit to the Tower of London. At the tower we visited the beautiful crown jewels which are kept under guard and are on display to the public. The Yeoman guards were there in their colourful uniforms along with the guards of the Princess of Wales. On Tuesday most of us enjoyed a wonderful night out at the Lycean Theatre where saw “The Lion King”. What a fantastic musical. The costumes and sets were just fabulous and if you ever get the chance to see it I thoroughly recommend it.

From London we went by Eurostar to Paris where we have spent the last week of the tour. Some of us did the WWI battlefields, some did the Loire Valley and others stayed in Paris. Everyone enjoyed their preferred option and overall everyone enjoyed their stay in France.

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Photo: Blarney Castle

"Blarney Castle"


Photo: Notre Dame

"Notre Dame"

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