A Travellerspoint blog

July 2011

A Tour of California Wine Country Part III-Sonoma

I complete my California Wine Country Experience with a Visit to Sonoma County and more of Napa Valley

The final 2 days of my California Wine County Experience were busy and long. The morning after the outstanding dinner on the Napa Valley Wine Train I was up early to grab some coffee and a plate of the Embassy Suites delicious pancakes with a side of bacon before boarding the tour bus for the ride to Sonoma County. Our first stop for the day was in Petaluma, California for a visit to the Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Company. The Cowgirl Creamery, opened in 1997 was started by Sue Conley and Peggy Smith in Pt. Reyes Station on the coast of California, about an hour north of San Francisco. They put in a small plant for making hand-crafted cheese, bought organic milk from their neighbor and began to make delicious, artisan cheese. Today, Cowgirl Creamery makes just a small collection of cheeses, four, soft aged and three fresh, totaling about 3,000 pounds per week. Our host from the Creamery greeted us with some freshly made cottage cheese and strawberries that tasted wonderful (and I don't like cottage cheese) and gave us a short talk on cheese making before taking us on a tour of the plant. We tasted several different cheeses in different stages of aging before boarding the bus to continue to our next destination, the Adobe Road Winery.

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Adobe Road Winery is owned by renowned sports car racer and entrepreneur Kevin Buckler and his wife, Debra. Located in the middle of a Porsche race car shop, Adobe Road Winery produces award winning Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Grenache, Meritage, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Zinfandel and Dessert Wines exclusively from Sonoma and Napa County sources. Walking into the winery, you immediately notice all of the race car memorabilia and there are actual Porsche cars on the floor just outside the tasting room. Not being much of a race car buff, I was more interested in the wines which were very good. For an out of the ordinary wine tasting experience, I definitely recommend the Adobe Road Winery, if not for the wine, definitely for the winemaker, a Josh Groban look alike if there ever was one. Here is a link to tell you how to find it:

Adobe Road Winery...

Adobe Road tasting room
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Adobe Road winemaker, Michael Scorsone
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Leaving the Adobe Road Winery we moved on to two area resorts, the Sheraton in Petaluma and the Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa in Santa Rosa. While the Sheraton was a nice property where we had a nice sit down lunch, I really enjoyed our visit to the Flamingo. Straight out of a 1950's movie set, the Flamingo is a historic landmark. A privately owned family resort for over 30 years, the hotel opened in 1957 and became a society hot spot and was the place to see and be seen. Movie stars like Jayne Mansfield were often found sunning themselves by the pool in those days. Walking on to the property I was impressed at how well maintained everything was as well as the warm and friendly family atmosphere. Our hosts from the resort ushered us out to a covered patio where we had delicious cocktails and wine waiting for us. It was another sunny and warm day, with bright blue skies and we were all ready to sit down and cool off for a little while taking in the scenery. We enjoyed our cocktails for a bit and then took a tour around the resort. We had a really nice visit.

Flamingo Resort entrance
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Flamingo Resort pool
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Comfortable bed at the Flamingo Resort
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Our final stop of the day was the Hilton Sonoma, a beautiful property in a quiet picturesque location in Sonoma County. Our host took us on a short tour of the resort before guiding us to their onsite restaurant where we they had some great wine and delicious food waiting for us. The view from the restaurant was wonderful and it was the perfect location to end the day. On the way back to Napa Valley we drove through the town of Sonoma where they were holding a festival in the town square. There were people camped out with picnic baskets and bands playing music in the shaded square. It looked like fun, but we did not have time to stop so I put it on my list of things to do on my next visit.

Sonoma Hilton
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Hilton hotel room
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Hilton pool
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My final day in California Wine Country started early again with breakfast and a tour of the Napa Westin and Napa River Terrace Inn hotels near downtown Napa. The Westin was a large resort in a great location within walking distance of many tourist spots including fine restaurants and tasting rooms. The River Terrace Inn was right next door. Both properties backed up to a public walkway along the Napa River and were great places to stay for a visit to Napa Valley.

Westin Resort lobby
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Our group enjoys the Westin patio
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Westin hotel room
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Path along the Napa River toward the River Terrace Inn
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River Terrace Inn hotel room
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River Terrace Inn Lobby
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Our next stop of the day was the St Helena Olive Oil Company. Everyone just loved this store because of all the samples of olive oil, pasta sauces, mustards, vinegars and flavored salts available to taste. In just over 30 minutes we all found something to buy to take home. I found some expensive white truffle salt and some smoke flavored salt to take home. I decided that if I wanted anything else it would be easy to order it online once I made it home.

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St Helena Olive Oil Company inside
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For lunch we visited the Silverado Resort & Spa in Napa Valley. Set upon 1,200 beautiful acres, in the heart of Napa Valley, Silverado combines state-of-the-art business facilities with endless recreational choices. You can play a round of golf on one of two award-winning, PGA championship courses, or enjoy a soothing fireside massage in the full service spa. There are 10 swimming pools and 13 tennis courts along with many hiking and biking trails. Silverado is close to more than 200 wineries so you're never too far away from a spectacular Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. Lunch was provided for our group out on the lawn under umbrellas that provided some shade form the summer sun. We were also treated to free 10 minute back and neck massages before taking a short tour of the resort. I was feeling really good by the time we left the Silverado for downtown Napa!

Silverado Resort
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Lunch on the lawn
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Silverado Resort golf course
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In downtown Napa we visited the Napa Valley Visitor's Center and the Oxbow Market, a indoor shopping and restaurant complex. Leaving downtown, our tour bus returned us to the Embassy Suites for some down time to relax and pack for our departures home the next day. That evening, I enjoyed some great wine and a delicious dinner with 3 of my new Travel Agent friends at Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa Valley. It was a lovely relaxed evening with wonderful Italian food that included an order of fantastic fried olives as appetizers. It was a wonderful conclusion to our fantastic California Wine Country Tour. Flying home to Alabama the next day I reflected on my experiences of the last 4 days and I decided that it had been an almost perfect trip. I was already planning my next visit to California Wine Country and I planned to bring lots of people back with me!

Next, I return to my A Trek Thru the British Isles travel diary.

The End!

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 07:38 Comments (2)

A Tour of California Wine Country Part II-Napa Valley

Wine tastings and Dinner on the Napa Valley Wine Train

The second day of my California Wine Country experience began with a morning of seminars presented by Penney Rudicil our tour leader for NACTA, the National Association of Career Travel Agents and other travel industry experts, detailing facts and information about Napa and Sonoma Counties. We received lots of information on the area, what we would see and do, with maps and brochures to take home for our clients. I was feeling great after a great breakfast at the Embassy Suites breakfast buffet and I felt even better when the hotel manager greeted us at the start of the seminar with glasses of mimosa cocktails (champagne and orange juice)! The manager told us that this drink was a great way to start the morning because it is in very bad taste to drink red wine before lunch. I could not agree with him more!

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After the seminar sessions were concluded we were divided into 2 groups and told to meet in front of the hotel and board our tour buses for our tour of Napa Valley. I headed out front early, anxious to get a good seat. I was completely taken by surprise when I boarded the bus because it was not at all what I was expecting! Instead of the regular 2 seats on each side of a center aisle, this is what I found:

Our tour bus is a Party Bus!
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I just had to have my picture taken before the crowd arrived!
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The Napa Valley Wine Country Tours company would be our host transportation for the week and they were definitely planning to chauffer us around in style. Both tour buses had a sound system, video system and free wi fi on board! This company would definitely be getting my business in the future!

We soon headed out for our first destination of the afternoon, the Rutherford Hill Winery, where we would have wine tastings and a picnic lunch. Founded in 1972, Rutherford Hill Winery is a pioneer in the development of California Merlot. Merlot remains the flagship wine of the company with 75 percent of Rutherford Hill's production dedicated to this varietal, one of the leading Merlots of Napa Valley. Stepping off the tour bus at the winery, I could not help but notice how beautiful the grounds were. Fantastic views of the valley and beautiful flowers were as much of an attraction as the wine.

Pretty flowers on the Winery walls
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View of the Napa Valley floor from the Rutherford Hill Winery
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Our host from the Rutherford Hill Winery met us as we exited the tour bus and led us down to our tables among some olive trees for our picnic lunch.
The food was wonderful. Each of us had a choice of fresh sandwiches made of tri tip beef, chicken or vegetarian style, with pasta salad, mixed fruit salad and a cookie. It was lovely to sit outside and enjoy our food while we talked to each other about what we had experienced so far.

The picnic tables for our NACTA group lunch
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Other visitors to the winery enjoying their lunch under the trees
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After lunch we were given a tour of the winery and we enjoyed several tastings of some excellent white and red wines including a Port which was a little sweet for me. However, I did learn something new. The Port was served with chocolate covered blueberries which tasted wonderful together! I never would have guessed the two would combine so well. After the tour we had time to visit the gift shop before boarding the bus for our next stop, the Louis Martini winery.

Our first wine tasting was outside on the lawn. A great Sauvignon Blanc!
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Tasting wine in the Rutherford Hill Winery "cave" where wine are stored
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The Louis M. Martini Winery was the scene of another lovely wine tasting experience. For more than 75 years, the Martini family winemakers have crafted World-class Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the exceptional vineyards of Sonoma and Napa counties. Michael Martini, Third-generation winemaker carries on the tradition at the historic winery in Napa Valley with his "range of unforgettable Cabernet Sauvignon wines".
The grounds of this winery were shaded and set up for relaxation. We left the tour bus and were directed to an outside courtyard where a bar was set up with a tasting of a cabernet sauvignon wine. I took a glass and found a seat where I could relax and enjoy my wine. It was very good. A travel agent friend took my picture so I could remember this experience.

Me enjoying my wine and the lovely setting at the Louis M. Martini Winery
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Others in my group enjoying their wine too!
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Our host from the winery offered us a tour of the winery so some of us followed her inside. We were educated on the making of the Martini wines and then given a short but informative instruction on wine tasting. The short tour ended down in the wine cellar with the tasting of a special red wine that I found out later cost over $100.00 dollars a bottle! Oh, that's why it tasted better than the rest I had tried that day! A visit to the gift shop finished our tour and I bought another visor because I had once again forgotten to bring one on a trip and the summer sun in this region was pretty strong. Feeling pretty terrific by this time, I headed back to our party bus for the trip to our last stop of the day, the Napa Valley Wine Train for dinner.

Our host gives the group a short course on the proper tasting of wine
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One sign says it all!
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As one can imagine after a delightful afternoon of "tasting" wine, we were all in a very good mood. It was fortunate that our last stop of the day was dinner aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train. The Napa Valley Wine Train experience consists of a leisurely journey through the beautiful wine country of Napa Valley in " meticulously restored" vintage rail cars. The Wine Train is essentially a bar and restaurant on wheels that rolls through the beautiful Napa Valley floor while you are served delicious food and drink. I can happily report that this experience is everything it is supposed to be. The food was fabulous (I had seared salmon with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables after salad with goat cheese and walnuts) and we had a course of white and red wine supplied by our host winery, Elizabeth Spencer Wines. All this after first being served wine and appetizers in the lounge car before dinner! It was an awesome evening. The slowly passing scenery was the perfect complement to the delicious meal and the service from our waiters was excellent. I can say that this was a wonderful way to end our day in Napa Valley. We had a wonderful time!

New friends Melodye, Jody, Anne and Me on the Napa Valley Wine Train (after a few glasses of wine)
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Our dinner being served on the Napa Valley Wine Train
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A romantic table for two on the Wine Train
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Leaving the wine train around 9:30pm after a fantastic dinner, dessert and wine, we were all more than ready to fall into our beds. It had been a delightful day and the best part was, there was more to look forward to the next day!

Coming up, we take a tour of Sonoma County where we visit a unique winery and learn how to make cheese!

To be continued......

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings& Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 08:47 Comments (6)

A Tour of California Wine Country

A Wine Lovers Enjoyable 4 Day Excursion to Napa Valley and Sonoma County California

For lovers of good food and great wine there are Mecca’s all over the world where one can indulge in their favorites and find new ones to enjoy. Italy, France, Spain, New Zealand and Australia, I have enjoyed great wine and food from all of these places, although they are far away from my home in the USA. How wonderful it is to know that great wine and food can also be found in a part of the United States called the Wine Country of Napa and Sonoma Counties in Northern California, just a few hours away by plane.

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Approximately 1 hour from San Francisco, Napa Valley, California is a wine lover’s paradise. This beautiful area is covered with lush green hills, layered with rows of grapevines and stunning views. There are lovely world-class hotels, Inns, restaurants and shops. Napa Valley is about 30 miles long, and devotes about 45,000 acres to growing grapes. Some 450 wineries call the Napa Valley home, and most of them are open to the public. About 4.5 million people visit the area each year, and Napa Valley was named “The World’s Best Food and Wine Destination” in the Trip Advisor 2010 Travelers’ Choice Awards just to name one of the many destination awards it has received. Sonoma County is more rustic and diverse, with dairy farms dotting the hillsides as well as grapevines. Both areas are known around the world for great wine, food and beautiful scenery.

Of course there is more to do besides sipping glass after glass of the area's signature cabernets or chardonnays on Napa Valley and Sonoma wine tours. You can experience soaking at Napa Valley spas, indulging in delicious Napa dining and olive oil tasting, or the more adventurous can take to the skies in a hot-air balloon. There are endless opportunities for shopping and best of all you can find endless ways to treat yourself on any budget.

Balloon rides over Napa Valley
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Domaine Carneros Winery in Napa Valley
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I arrived in San Francisco, California a few days ago on a sunny and cool July afternoon. The 60 degree temperature was a welcome relief from the oppressive 97 degree heat and humidity of Alabama. I had visited Napa Valley before, but only for day trips from San Francisco. This trip would be very different. I would actually get to spend 4 days in the area and be treated to a guided tour with other travel consultants provided by the Napa and Sonoma Convention and Visitors Bureaus. The schedule was a busy one, but I would finally get the real wine country experience that I had missed on my previous trips.

I met two fellow Travel Agents in Baggage Claim at the airport in San Francisco where we had arranged to meet a private car for transportation to the Embassy Suites in Napa Valley. I had only communicated with Anne and Melodye by e-mail before we met in baggage claim, but we soon became fast friends and talked nonstop on the drive to Napa. Our driver, a native of Napa Valley, agreed to give us a mini tour of the area before dropping us off at our hotel. We drove through the outskirts of the city of Napa and stopped at the Carneros Inn , a unique type of accommodation made up of 86 individual cottages and suites, set among gardens and vineyards. We stayed just a few minutes to take in the scenery and get some brochures before heading off to Yountville, a small town just up the road.

Carneros Inn entrance
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Carneros Inn lobby
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Carneros Inn Cottages
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Carneros Inn bedroom
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The small town of Yountville quickly became my favorite place in the Napa Valley. With a population of just under 3000 people, Yountville is the home of the French Laundry, a famous gourmet restaurant owned by chef Thomas Keller, Bouchon restaurant and the Bouchon Bakery and Richard Reddington's Redd and Étoile at Domaine Chandon owned by French champagne house Moët & Chandon, a stellar winery that I had the pleasure of visiting some years earlier. Yountville is a beautiful little town where everything is in walking distance of your hotel. We stopped at the Villagio Inn and Spa to take a look around. What a lovely, charming hotel!

Villagio Inn entrance
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Villagio Inn lobby
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Villagio Inn hotel room
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Leaving Yountville, we headed back to Napa and our hotel the Embassy Suites Napa Valley to get checked in before a scheduled reception at 5:30pm. The Embassy Suites turned out to be another gem of accommodation in the Napa Valley. Beautiful grounds and public areas, small but comfortable 2 room suites and the included breakfast buffet and Managers Reception every night made it an excellent home base for my wine country experience.

Embassy Suites entrance
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Embassy Suites Lobby
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Embassy Suites lobby
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Embassy Suites courtyard and pool area
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Gerri (me) Anne & Melodye arrive at the Embassy Suites in Napa Valley California
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With just a few minutes to spare I arrived at the reception for our group. Finding a table on the patio I sat down with a glass of chardonnay, some fine cheese and meats and some grilled vegetables. It was a nice mini meal after eating airplane food earlier in the day. Over the next hour I met more fellow travel agents, a group of 50 in all and relaxed to the sound of the courtyard fountain in the background. Finally calling it a night after a long day that began at 6:00am, I retired to my comfortable bed so I could be ready to continue my California wine country experience the next day.

Next up, a visit to some wineries for tastings and a picnic lunch, a tour of the gorgeous Napa Valley and dinner on the Wine Train.

To be continued.....

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services
Follow me on Facebook (The Travel Concierge) and Twitter!

Posted by Gerriv 08:05 Comments (10)

A Trek Thru the British Isles III - Southampton & Guernsey

Remembering the Titanic and A visit to the Channel Islands

The trip from London to Southampton began on a bright sunny morning with fantastic warm weather. Our Princess Cruises driver was friendly and very skilled at maneuvering a large bus through the narrow streets of London before we reached the expressway. After about an hour or so we approached the Southampton, UK cruise pier where the Crown Princess was docked.

Anyone familiar with the story of the Titanic knows the significance of Southampton. Southampton is on the south coast of England, about 75 miles southwest of London. Southampton has always been a sea port, and the docks have long been a major employer in the city. It is a port for cruise ships and in its heyday it handled almost half the passenger traffic of the UK. Today it remains home to luxury cruise ships, as well as being the largest freight port on the Channel coast. In April of 1912, the RMS Titanic, a new mega ocean liner built by the White Star Line, sank on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City, United States after hitting an iceberg. The ship sank on April 15, 1912, resulting in the deaths of 1,517 people in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history. The story of Titanic has been written about endlessly in books and depicted in movies and I could not wait to see the place where her ill fated voyage began.

RMS Titanic docked in Southampton in 1912
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We left the transport with our luggage and boarded the Crown Princess after a very short wait (being a Platinum Princess repeat guest has its privileges). Looking around at this new ship I felt immediate comfort in the familiarity of the decor and some delight at the new features that were a part of Crown Princess. After depositing our carryon luggage in our stateroom, another spacious mini suite, Mom and I made our way up to the Lido deck to check out what was for lunch in the Horizon Court. It was still pretty early in the day so I stopped by the pool to relax in the sunshine after lunch. There were concert videos playing on the large outdoor video screen above the pool and I had a great view of the shoreline of Southampton.

Crown Princess pool deck
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Port of Southampton, UK
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View of Southampton, UK from the Crown Princess dock
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The Crown Princess filled fairly quickly over the next few hours as more passengers boarded the ship. I immediately noticed a trend. A large percentage of the passengers for this voyage were from the United States, in particular, the north eastern states of New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts with a few southerners like Mom and me thrown in. It was going to be an interesting trip. I enjoyed seeing the large family groups of grandparents, parents and children all traveling together, along with lots of people in their 20s and 30s to round out the demographics.

Sail A Way that afternoon was pleasant with the coast of England slowly fading away. Dinner that first night at sea was fun. We sat at a table for 8 with some fellow Americans from various parts of the US. The food was delicious as expected and the service from our wait staff excellent. We decided to call it a night not too long after dessert so we would be ready for our first port of call, St Peter Port on the island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands the next day.

Morning brought a gorgeous view of St Peter Port. Saint Peter Port is the capital of Guernsey as well as the main port. The population is around 16,488 and the official language is French as it is just a few miles off the coast of France. This island also has the distinction of being half British and half French. This port is for the most part a small town consisting mostly of steep narrow streets and steps on the overlooking slopes. A trading post or town has existed here since before Roman times.

St Peter Port on the island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands
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This particular port required passengers to use a tender (small boat) to reach the shore, so Mom elected to stay aboard the Crown so as not to risk falling and injuring her newly mended leg. I had booked a half day tour of the island before the cruise began, so I made my way down to the tender deck and then to the tour bus on shore. The weather this day was again clear and relatively warm. There were beautiful flowers everywhere. We rode along sightseeing for a while before stopping at a historic Manor House for a short tour and a chance to stretch our legs.

Historic Manor House, St Peter Port on the island of Guernsey
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Leaving the Manor House we returned to the town of St Peter Port. I had planned to do some shopping but found most of the stores were already closed for the day. So, after milling around for a while looking at the scenery, I boarded one of the tenders and returned to the ship to spend the rest of the afternoon on our balcony. It was a short but pleasant first day of our British Isles cruise with much more to see and do in the days to come.

Next up, we dock in Liverpool, England, the home of the Beatles and I take a ride down Penny Lane!

Too Be Continued....

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
President/Owner
MEETINGS AND EVENTS UNLIMITED TRAVEL SERVICES
Follow me on Facebook (The Travel Concierge) and Twitter

Posted by Gerriv 08:33 Comments (0)

A Trek Thru the British Isles Part II-Touring London, UK

A View of London's Famous Places and Historical Landmarks brings Education and Enlightenment

My first day in London, UK continued on from my visit to Buckingham Palace across the street to St. James Park. St. James's Park is a 58 acre park in Westminster, central London and is the oldest of the Royal Parks of London. The park is bounded by Buckingham Palace to the west and The Mall and St. James's Palace to the North. St. James's Park Lake is part of the park and has two islands, West Island, and Duck Island. A bridge across the lake gives you a view of Buckingham Palace framed by trees and fountains and a view of the London Eye in the other direction. It was approaching mid afternoon as I walked down toward the lake. I had not had lunch so I stopped at a food stand next to the lake and purchased a hot dog, then continued on to sit and enjoy my food on a park bench next to the water, content to watch the ducks swimming nearby. It was a peaceful and tranquil setting.

View of the London Eye from St James Park
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View of Buckingham Palace from my park bench
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Finishing my lunch, I walked along the path around the lake for a bit, enjoying the lush greenery and beautiful flowers before deciding to head back to the hotel. The crowd in front of the Palace had grown quite a bit and I was glad that I had made an early visit to see it. I crossed the street and headed back down to the Crown Plaza stopping to snap a few photos on the way.

A London Phone Booth, I was surprised that they were still around in this day and age!
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A Street Sign marking my location!
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Walking into the Crown Plaza lobby after picking up some bottled water at a nearby convenience store, I went to the Concierge Desk to ask about buying tickets for a tour around London the next day. The Concierge suggested a tour that would not be too strenuous for Mom, but would still take us to see the highlights of London. It all sounded good to me so I purchased two tickets and headed up to our hotel room for the rest of evening. Finally feeling tired from the long trip from the US, I ordered some soup and a sandwich from room service for dinner and enjoyed it while looking out our hotel room window at the beautiful courtyard outside.

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Calling it a early night, Mom and I both slept very well that night and we were refreshed and ready to head out early the next morning for our all day tour of London. Our London City tour was the highlight of our stay. We traveled around the city in a comfortable tour bus, stopping at specific sites along the way. I enjoyed taking photos with my digital camera. The tour included the Royal Albert Hall and the Memorial dedicated to Prince Albert by his beloved wife Queen Victoria, Westminster Abby, Buckingham Place and the changing of the Guard, walking The Mall and seeing St James Palace, then on to St Paul’s Cathedral, London Bridge, Piccadilly Circus and The Tower of London were I stood in a very long line to see the Crown Jewels. All along the way we were treated to our tour guides descriptions of each site and the amazing history that surrounded them. As a student of History in college, I thought I already knew a lot about London, Great Britain and the English Monarchy. I was surprised to find that there was a lot I did not know and I soaked it all up like a sponge. Learning the history of this part of the world was like reading a Regency Historical Novel, but with more drama, intrigue, betrayal, war, and the never ending quest to attain and maintain power, all interlaced with elegance, majesty and centuries of tradition. It was all fascinating stuff!

Royal Albert Hall
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Prince Albert Memorial, yes that is REAL GOLD!
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Royal Band during the Changing of the Guard
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Impressive Guardsmen on horseback
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St Paul’s Cathedral
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The famous Double Decker Buses!
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The awesome London Bridge from the grounds of the Tower of London
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The Tower of London Royal Jewel House
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The Tower of London is a fascinating historical site. It is actually a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078. The castle was used for a while as a prison, although that was not its primary purpose. Early in its history, it also served as a royal residence. The Tower is a complex of several buildings with a moat, and the pathways are cobblestone and difficult to walk on in places. The Tower of London has played a prominent role in English history and has served as an armory, a treasury, the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. In the First and Second World Wars, the Tower was again used as a prison where several men were executed for espionage. After World War II, damage caused during the Blitz was repaired and the castle reopened to the public. Today the Tower of London is one of the United Kingdom’s most popular tourist attractions.

Having accomplished my task of seeing the Crown Jewels toward the end of the tour (for all of 2 minutes after standing in line for a half an hour) I made my way out of the Royal Jewel House to the souvenir shop and bought some items to commemorate my visit. Mom had seen it all before and elected to wait outside rather that make the long walk to the grounds of the Tower complex. The last part of our tour was a cruise on the River Thames which gave us some wonderful views of some other famous sites. The London Eye, a wonderful observation platform, the buildings of Parliament and Big Ben, and the London Aquarium could all be seen during this leisurely cruise down the river. It was a great way to relax and take it all in.

An impressive Crown from the Royal Jewel House on the grounds of the Tower of London
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The London Eye as seen from the River Thames
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The buildings of Parliament and Big Ben as seen from our cruise on the River Thames
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Our day touring of London was wonderful and we returned to our hotel feeling like we still had only seen a fraction of London and its surroundings. Once again I had to add another city to my list of places to return to one day because the time I had spent in London was clearly not enough. The next morning Mom and I boarded a bus with many other Princess Cruises passengers staying at our hotel for the trip to Southampton to board the Crown Princess for our 12 Day British Isles Cruise. This long awaited trip to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scotland and France was just beginning and I was eager to get started!

Next up we travel to Southampton, UK, the home port of the famous Titanic cruise ship, to begin our British Isles Cruise.

To Be Continued.....

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 07:53 Comments (0)

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