CIE Tours Travel Blog
And Away we go!
By: Samantha Henderson
Date: June 5, 2017
Heading off on British & Irish Delight
Hello, and welcome to my first tour with CIE, British and Irish Delight! This tour begins in London and will bring me and my fellow guests to York, Scotland, Belfast and Dublin. This extensive itinerary allows for our group of 11 guests to see multiple famous landmarks and cities. While the British and Irish Delight tour ends in Dublin, a few guests are a part of the British and Irish Grandeur tour, which extends the trip and ends back in London.
Yesterday, after we all got settled in to our beautiful hotel, Park Plaza Riverbank, directly on the Thames river (offering astonishing views of Big Ben and the London Eye), we congregated in the lobby to meet our tour director, Ken. Ken is an Irish gentleman who had us all cracking up from the moment we stepped foot in the lobby. Some people on the tour were nervous they'd be unable to understand him through his brogue, but later said that they could make out everything he was saying just fine.
London's Big Ben
Next, we had our first coach experience which proved to be a comfortable way of viewing the city. The seats were relaxing and there was plenty of leg room.
A very 'cheeky' London native provided very informative and funny commentary throughout our first city tour. This ride around London covered just about every iconic landmark in the city in under two hours. Soon after starting the tour, we all got out for just about fifteen minutes to get a quick first look at Buckingham Palace. After getting plenty of photos, we continued on our way, seeing just about every part of London. This was a really good way for us to see what the layout of the city was like and to help us map out which attractions we wanted to make sure we got to see during our free time.
We arrived back at the hotel to freshen up and rest for an hour before we met in the hotel's club lounge for our 'welcome drink' and dinner. Ken described our entire itinerary in detail for us and answered all of our questions (along with many, many hysterical remarks in between), and he introduced our bus driver, Dave, and myself. Then, dinner commenced and by the end acquaintances had become friends. Quiet conversation turned to roaring laughter and we left the lounge feeling prepared for the next day.
To end the night, I took a quick skip across the road from the hotel to the Tamesis Dock floating pub and watched the sun set on the Thames... over a glass of Sauvignon Blanc of course!
Relaxing at sun set overlooking the Thames
In the morning, we all had a scrumptious breakfast overlooking the river at the hotel and headed out at 8:30am. After less than twenty-five minutes, we arrived at Hampton Court Palace, the home of Henry VIII and many other monarchs. I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting and GORGEOUS it was. I think everyone was also a bit overwhelmed by the size of the land and the palace at first.
The palace is an intricate piece of architecture inside and out. You are able to explore the grounds at your own leisure, which allows you to see which parts of the palace interest you. I took particular interest in the magnificent gardens that cover the land surrounding the palace, as well as the Henry VIII apartments that lend an eye to how the powerful lived back in the 1500's.
If you come to the Hampton Court Palace, you must stop for lunch at the Fountain Court Cafe for the cream tea. The scone is airy and light and pairs flawlessly with the clotted cream and jam, which is included. I recommend sitting outside if the weather permits.
Hampton Court Palace gardens
After 2 hours, the 11 of us met at the entrance and made our way back to the bus as a group. At the end of the enjoyable ride back to central London, we had the option to either hop off at Westminster Abbey and spend the afternoon independently, or go back to the hotel. I, being the experience-hungry tourist I am, got off the bus and entered the Abbey for 22 pounds. I think, like a lot of women, I've always wanted to see exactly where Kate Middleton said "I do," in person. That was great but there is a lot more to Westminster Abbey that wasn't shown on BBC during the royal wedding. While the immense architecture, carvings, stain glass, and incredible amount of marble is enough to entertain the eye for hours, the inscribed tombs are really, really interesting to learn about.
Enjoying tea and scones at Hampton Court Palace
I have since enjoyed a lovely short walk back from the Abbey past monuments, beautiful buildings, a fun little park, and across the Thames, back to the cozy and perfectly made-up hotel room to rest until a big day tomorrow! We will be exploring Cambridge and making our way over to York for a walking tour. I can't wait to share my next adventure with you.
Meet ya there!