A Travellerspoint blog

May 2011

A Trek Thru the British Isles

My First Visit to England, Ireland, Scotland, The Channel Islands and Paris, France

A few months after my Sailing Through History tour of the Eastern Mediterranean (see earlier Blog Post for details), I felt it was time for another trip to Europe. My personal preference for doing long vacations (12 days or more) overseas is to travel by cruise ship if there is a suitable itinerary. The benefits are being able to visit lots of ports and only having to unpack once and having just about everything, accommodations, food, entertainment, included in one price. Taking a cruise of Australia and New Zealand and the Eastern Mediterranean had worked out fabulously before, so I was very excited about seeing the British Isles in the same fashion. Princess Cruises had a ship, the Crown Princess sailing a 12 day itinerary of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scotland, the Channel Islands and France that looked wonderful so I booked it right away.

Why the British Isles you may ask? Well for one reason, it is a part of Europe that I had not seen before and second, living in the steamy hot and humid southern United States, I was looking forward to spending some time some place cool and green in the middle of July. So once again I called my Mom and asked her if she was ready for another all girls cruise adventure and she said yes! My husband was left to hold down the fort at home this time, so the second week in July 2010 we flew off to London, England, United Kingdom to begin our trek through the British Isles.

The flights from Montgomery, Alabama to Atlanta, Georgia and Atlanta to London were especially comfortable. Being the determined traveler that I am and doing diligent research on air fares scored us 2 Business Class tickets on Delta for an unbelievably cheap price. My Mom had broken her leg and had surgery some months before and I was worried about her comfort on such a long trip, so getting some good seats on the plane was a major goal of mine in planning the trip. I was also very diligent in picking just the right hotel for our pre-cruise stay in London. Princess had several pre cruise hotel packages to choose from and I wanted something close to Buckingham Palace. The Crown Plaza St. James fit the criteria perfectly!

Crown Plaza St James, London, England UK
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Crown Plaza St James Guest Room
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The Crown Plaza has a luxury spa and courtyard garden, offers 4-star guest rooms and 3 restaurants. Buckingham Palace is just a few blocks away and Victoria is a 10-minute walk. The spacious guest rooms at Crowne Plaza St James have flat-screen TVs and luxurious beds with air-conditioning, a minibar and a modern bathroom that come with bathrobes and slippers.

Arriving at the Crown Plaza early in the morning after a long flight to London were pleasantly surprised to find that our room was ready for check in, so we headed up stairs to relax before heading out to see the city. I loved our room. It was large, bright and spacious with high ceilings and the windows looked out into the courtyard where there was outdoor seating for one of the restaurants and bars. The weather was cool and pleasant and promised to warm up later in the day. Lunch was had from room service, and then, feeling excited and antsy about being in London for the first time, I set off on foot alone headed to Buckingham Palace. Mom decided to stay in and rest as the time difference took some getting used to. The cheerful doorman pointed me in the right direction and before I knew it I was standing in front of the Palace, thrilled to death to see what I had only seen before on TV. It was just 1:00 in the afternoon so I took my time and lots of photos and video, trying to take it all in. My trek was just beginning and I could not wait to see more.

Buckingham Palace
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Palace Ornate Gates
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Palace Guards
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The famous Balcony; No William or Catherine this time!
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A tourist passing by took my photo for me!
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Coming up next, touring London before heading to Southampton, England to board the Crown Princess!

To be continued......

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services
Follow Me on Facebook and Twitter!

Posted by Gerriv 09:41 Comments (0)

Hawaii Revisited-Kauai Day 2 & Home

More resorts, great food and Hawaiian Rum before heading home.

Day 2 of my stay on the island of Kauai started early with a ride to the Kauai Marriott Resort on Kalapaki Beach for breakfast as a tour of the property.
The Marriott is only 5 minutes away from Wailua Falls and close to 18 holes of Jack Nicklaus golf. The resort has 345guest rooms and suites and 5 open air restaurants. It also has the benefit of being close to the airport. By the time we arrived at the resort I was ready for a cup of coffee and some breakfast to start the day. We were shown along the outdoor walkways of the resort and I could not help but notice the high ceilings, beautiful gardens and ponds around the property.

Grounds of Marriott Kauai
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Marriott Kauai
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A nice breakfast buffet was set up on a quiet terrace for us with lots of delicious looking dishes. One dish in particular caught my attention. It appeared to be a small plate with a patty of ground beef sitting on a layer of white rice, topped with a fried egg and covered in brown gravy. Having never seen anything like it before, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to try it. It was wonderful! I asked our host, the sales manager what the dish was called and she said it was called a "Loco Moco" , a type of Hawaiian soul food. Well, I was definitely hooked on it and I made sure before I left Hawaii that I got the recipe. I have made it several times at home since then.

A delicious and filling Hawaiian Moco Loco
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After finishing breakfast we toured the resort and I got some great photos of this beautiful property. The Marriott resort has a magnificent pool and beach area and the guest rooms are large, comfortable and colorful. I could easily picture myself enjoying a great vacation there, with anything you could want being very close by.

Marriot pool view from a guest room balcony
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Marriott guest room
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Marriott Pool and Beach
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After leaving the Marriott, we toured a smaller ocean front resort called the Kauai Beach Resort. This resort was very nice with an intimate family feel. I thought it would be a great resort for a young couple or a small group or family.

Kauai Beach Resort grounds
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Buffet Restaurant at the Kauai Beach Resort
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Around 11:00am we were transferred to the Kauai Plantation Railway were we would enjoy a fun ride around the plantation before having lunch at Gaylord's Restaurant. Following lunch we would do some rum tasting at the Koloa Rum Company before heading back to the Sheraton to have some time on our own before a Farwell dinner at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa. It sounded like an enjoyable afternoon and evening, and it was with only one hiccup along the way.

The Kauai Plantation Railway, runs through the grounds of the Kilohana estate and adjoining 70-acre tropical plantation. The attraction recreates the days when steam powered narrow gauge trains moved harvested sugar cane from field to mill, and raw sugar from mill to the wharf for shipment. The 2.5-mile rail line passes stands of original island crops, sugar cane and taro, the staple starch of ancient Hawaiians, through groves of mango, banana, papaya, coffee and pineapple. Train riders are given an informative narration during the trip of Kauai’s unique agricultural history in Hawaii. There is also a gift shop and Farmers Market located at the Depot.

Kauai Plantation Railway Train
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A funny thing happened on our train trip. After an enjoyable 15 minute ride on the train, the steam engine suddenly stopped running and could not be restarted. It was finally determined that we would need to walk back to the depot because the old steam train would take a while to be repaired. While we certainly needed the exercise, we were all very happy to find out that the Depot was only a short trek through a pineapple field from the train. We laughed all the way back to the Depot and were more than ready for lunch when we arrived!

Leaving the train to walk back to the Depot
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Gaylord’s Restaurant
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The Gaylord Restaurant is located on the grounds of historic Kilohana Plantation. Named after Gaylord Parke Wilcox the restaurant was established in 1986 when the Wilcox home was restored to a historic site accessible to the public for the first time. The homes old kitchen and garage areas were adapted to a working commercial kitchen without destroying the historic feel and value of the location. I loved the look and feel of Gaylord’s right away. We were seated in a private dining area where we enjoyed a fabulous lunch with whatever we wanted to drink. Many of us chose to sample the local wines which turned out to be a wonderful choice. We spent the next hour eating, drinking and laughing over our misadventure on the train.

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Finishing lunch we wandered over to the Koloa Rum Company were we sampled the local rum made at the Company. We had a great time tasking various types of rum and I purchased a couple of bottles to take home as a gift to my husband who I knew would appreciate it. Arriving back at the Sheraton after the rum tasting, I was more than ready for a nap, but I did all of my packing for home first because I knew we would have a very late evening at the Grand Hyatt Kauai.

Everyone chose to dress up for our farewell dinner at the Hyatt. After seeing this sprawling luxurious property, our attire was very appropriate. The Hyatt is an oceanfront oasis and seeing it at sunset before dinner was a real treat. I could not take enough photos as everywhere you looked you saw a perfect scene.

Grand Hyatt Lobby
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Grand Hyatt Dining
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Grand Hyatt Guest Room
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Grand Hyatt Grounds
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Grand Hyatt Beach
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Dinner was an elegant and leisurely affair at one of the onsite restaurants. We ate wonderful food, drank great wine and talked among ourselves with the sound of a nearby waterfall in the background. Returning to the Sheraton late in the evening, I had no problem falling asleep in my comfy bed. It had been an awesome day.

The next morning we headed to the airport for our various flights home. I had experienced a fantastic stay on Maui and Kauai and I could not wait to return one day to see what I had missed on two of America's Islands of Paradise!

The End!

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meeting & Events Unlimited Travel Services
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Posted by Gerriv 09:01 Comments (2)

Hawaii Revisited-Kauai

A visit to Kauai brought time to relax and enjoy "the Garden Isle".

I arrived on the island of Kauai about mid afternoon after a short flight from Maui that morning. A representative from the Kauai Convention and Visitors Bureau met our much smaller group of meeting and travel planners at the small airport. After loading up our baggage we were transported to the St Regis Princeville Resort where we would have lunch and do a site inspection of the resort. Our driver for this trip was a very jolly local who entertained us on the drive with stories of the history of the island and pointing out sights along the way.

Kaua'i is the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain and often called the Garden Isle because of its lush green landscape and endless beauty. Kauai is draped in green valleys, sharp mountain peaks and jagged cliffs. Centuries of growth have formed tropical rainforests, forking rivers and cascading waterfalls. Some parts of Kauai are only accessible by sea or air, revealing stunning views. The Capital City of Kauai is Lihue and the island has a population of approximately 62,640 people.

In 1778, British explorer Captain James Cook landed in Kauai’s Waimea Bay for the first time. Cook’s discovery of what he called the “Sandwich Isles,” named after the Earl of Sandwich, introduced Hawaii to the world. During this era of western discovery, King Kamehameha I attempted to unify the Hawaiian Islands under his rule. Kauai and the small neighboring island of Niihau (part of Kauai county) were the only islands to resist his efforts. Eventually, Kauai’s King Kaumualii decided to peacefully unite with Kamehameha and join the rest of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Arriving at the St Regis we were greeted by the resort manager who offered to give us a short tour of the resort before lunch. The St Regis is a refined and elegant property overlooking legendary Hanalei Bay in the premiere 9,000 acre resort community of Princeville at Hanalei. The resort has 252 elegantly appointed rooms and suites and well as a luxury Spa.

View of the St Regis from the beach
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St Regis guest room
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Lunch for our group was enjoyed outside at a restaurant by the pool. The views of the pool and beach were stunning and the weather was warm and wonderful. We were invited to sample anything we wanted from the restaurant menu and we all took advantage, selecting different sandwiches and dishes and passing them around the table for everyone to enjoy. After and early morning flight to Kauai and traveling 32 miles from the airport to Princeville, this relaxing lunch was just what the doctor ordered.

St Regis pool area
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My fellow Planners and I enjoy lunch by the St Regis pool
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Following lunch our group was transferred to our accommodations for the next 2 days, the Sheraton Kauai Resort. Walking into the lobby of the Sheraton I immediately notice the open air layout of the resort located right on the South Shore of Kauai, right on Poipu beach. You could hear the sounds of the ocean waves and feel the tropical breezes while standing in the lobby of the resort.

Sheraton Lobby
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Looking over our schedule for the rest of the day, we had a tour of the resort and a Welcome Reception beginning in less than two hours, so I hurried to my room to relax before the evenings events. Entering my room, I was surprised and pleased at what I found.

My elegant room at the Sheraton Kauai
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View from my balcony at the Sheraton Kauai
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Preparations being made for our Welcome Reception
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The tour of the Sheraton gave us quite a workout. Spread out over 20 acres of ocean front property, the Sheraton has 394 rooms and suites in small low rise buildings situated around the resort grounds and pools. The resort also features a beach activities center, 3 tennis courts, and ocean-view dining. On selected evenings, a torch lighting ceremony with Hawaiian entertainment is offered for guests to enjoy. I have to say the resort and the setting was really beautiful.

Sheraton Kauai pool area
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Sheraton Kauai beach
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Lagoon at the Sheraton
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Walking around the resort for almost an hour left our group tired hungry and thirsty. With great anticipation we approached the reception area and we were finally able to relax and enjoy the food drinks and scenery. We were not disappointed. The food was wonderful, the tropical drinks were tasty and the view of the ocean was gorgeous. We ate, drank and talked until the sun went down; then we all retired to our rooms for the rest of the night.

My fellow planners and I enjoy great food, some delicious Mai Tais and each other!
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My first day on Kauai was a whirlwind, but totally educational and enjoyable. There was still a lot to see the next day and I was more than ready to see and experience as much as I could before my Hawaii Revisited tour came to an end.

Coming up, another day on beautiful Kauai before heading home. To be continued......

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services
Follow me on Facebook and Twitter!
www.facebook.com/thetravelconcierge

Posted by Gerriv 11:58 Comments (0)

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