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Trip Report Finally seeing the British Isles--a report with pictures

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Sitting here in FLL with our hurricane shutters closed trying to find something useful to do with my time while we wait to see if we can leave on Tuesday for our planned trip to Stockholm and Copenhagen. Sounds pretty whiney when you think of all those poor people being hit smack on by Isaac but it's my explanation for why I finally got down to completing my album from our Cruise of the British Isles taken a month ago.

First a bit of background.
I've long been urging DH to go to see more of the British Isles than just London. He's been unwilling to, primarily because he has no interest in "driving on the wrong side of the road." Things came into alignment when he found a cruise of the British Isles whereby we could see a smattering of lots of places there with minimal packing and unpacking and absolutely no need for him to drive at all. We jumped on it even though I'm not much of a cruise fanatic. This one looked good to me not just because it would afford us the opportunity to see places without driving but also because it was port intensive with generally long days in each port, maximizing sightseeing opportunities and giving us a chance to decide what we might want to return to see more of.

The cruise accomplished everything we asked of it. We even had reasonably good weather, especially for that part of the world--primarily sunshine and warm but not hot temps. It was a nice time but it pretty much taught us that we're in general more Francophiles than Anglophiles. One of our favorites stops for example was Honfleur, a seaside town in France, not England, where we were able to smugly spend a lovely day reliving the times we've been there before while others on our cruise piled into buses to drive 3 hours to and another 3 hours back from Paris with a few drive bys in the city in between.

Overall impressions:
London has grown on us over 3 trips there and this was our favorite glimpse of the city making us interested in returning for yet more visits. It was nice that we got to spend time there both before and after the cruise part of the trip. Of the other cities we saw on the cruise itself, I think we liked Edinburgh best. It has a lot to see and though it is overrun with tourists that's because it is interesting and pretty. We were amazed that we liked Liverpool a lot. It has old and new--very good new IMO--and it seems vibrant and moving. I also liked Inverness, as a small, pleasant little town, aided in great measure by a wonderful meal we had there. The other places along the way all held some interest but on a steady diet of one port after another they tended to blend together a bit, leaving us without outstanding memories of any of them. Sounds much more negative than it is/was. It's just that in a string of fantastic trips, some have to fall down the list. This (or at least parts of it) was one that did.

All that aside, we did get some pretty decent pictures to remind us of this trip and that I can share with others. Most were taken by DH with his superior eye for composition and superior camera equipment. Some of the more quirky ones are mine as are almost all of those of food. I've broken the 402 of them into segments to make it easier for viewers and so I can provide more cogent comment.

Set 1--London (where we stayed one night before taking a bus to Southampton to board our cruise ship), Guernsey, Cobh/Kinsale, Dublin, Liverpool.

As I said, London really did it for us this time. Having been there twice before, we relaxed and just enjoyed what we got to see rather than worrying about trying to see it all. We stayed in Fitzrovia, a sort of subsection of Soho (I can't understand all the area designations that the various guides use and don't seem to agree upon) at the Rathbone Hotel. This was our second stay and we really love the neighborhood. There is a lot going on and several wonderful restaurants within a 4 block radius, including a couple of Michelin starred places. The public rooms are quite nice as are the guest rooms though the place is starting to show some age, especially in its plumbing and hallways--very overlookable for its relatively reasonable price and great location.

We loved the Borrough market and especially walking along the southside of the Thames in some of the currently trendy areas. Everyone was starting to get ready for and fear the oncoming onslaught of tourists for the Olympics but in all other respects it was a delightful visit.

Guernsey and Cobh/Kinsale were both cute enough but I seriously doubt that we'd have planned stops in either had we been planning the itinerary. Using the Michelin scale of stars and other ratings, meaning 3 for worth a special journey, 2 for worth a detour and 1 for a very good restaurant, or in this case city/town/sight, I'd give these a knife and spoon meaning acceptable to eat in (or in this case see) if the occasion presents itself.

DH liked Dublin better than I, so on balance I guess it would merit 1 star In our joint opinion. Apologies to all who dearly love the place.

Liverpool was good fun with some interesting architecture so we'd detour to it on another trip but considering where it is, we're unlikely to be close enough for a detour in any foreseeable future.

Belfast was barely a knife and fork in our opinions. That is probably an unfair rating, however, because much of the city was closed due to a holiday. As it turned out it was a religious holiday which triggered some mild scuffles raising some old fears though we saw none of that.

Here's the links to our pictures of these places.

Set 2--Scotland On balance I think we enjoyed the places we stopped in Scotland more than we did those we saw in Ireland.

I'm an art nouveau fan, so the opportunity to see some of Charles Rennie Macintosh's work (the Tea Rooms and the Art School) really helped make Glasgow an enjoyable stop for me. I'd detour to see it again and to be able to take the tour of his other buildings in the area.

Inverness was highest among the small towns we visited IMO, especially due to the great meal we had at Rocpol there. We used Chowhound for recs for dining on our tour days and I recommend research there for anyone who values food. Posts there also helped me find Two Fat Ladies in Glasgow, another fine lunch pick.

Edinburgh was our favorite new place and I'd give anything to be able to see the Military Tattoo there, except the trouble of getting a room and battling the crowds while it's going on. I'd say it is worth a separate journey, so a three star, at least among the places we traveled on this trip. We loved the Witchery restaurant there where I, a haggis virgin, put another notch in my foodie belt.

Set 3--Honfleur
As I said above, I'm not a big time cruise supporter. DH likes them far more than I (especially the parts about not driving and not packing and unpacking). Among the things that totally put me off about cruises is the IMO lunacy of paying a lot of money to take a long bus ride from a port and back to drive through a city, make a couple of stops--longer for bathroom breaks than for picture taking--just to be able to say you've been there, done that. Whenever I talk with people taking cruises that offer a day in Paris, I urge them with all the arguments and pictures I can find, to forget Paris and remember Honfleur. It's a beautiful spot, IMO one of the 6 or 7 best in the world--I'm not kidding, and it makes a perfect day while everyone else is on the Paris bus rat race. Even better if you're luck enough to stop there on a Saturday when the market is on. The place is a little gem that even hordes of tourists seem unable to destroy.

Set 4--London
All of this concludes back in London. What a great city. Enjoy. Hope you find a glimpse or two of some of your favorite places among those we gathered on this trip.

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