Review: A Week In… Portugal With Tauck

Portugal with Tauck
By: Maya Keith, CTA & Senior Travel Consultant

Portugal has always been on my bucket list for a very long time for its unique mix of old-world traditions – rich history, some of the best Portuguese cuisines and port wines from Duoro valley, historic monasteries, Douro River, palaces and castles. I could not have picked any other company to travel with than Tauck Tours. Tauck is one of the most luxurious company out there that is all inclusive, stays at 5 star boutique hotels, luxurious stops on trips, out of this world cuisines, excellent service, no extra cost on any optional excursions and my favorite slow paced tour that caters mainly to seniors. I can tell you that I am nowhere close to being a senior but it was nice to be treated like a VIP on a Tauck tour. Portugal with Tauck really delivered above and beyond my expectations.

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Review: Greek Island Hopper With Trafalgar

By: Vivian Vo, Travel Consultant

Why Greece? And I replied, “Why not!” The history, beaches, and activities just to list a few. Why go on a tour and specifically a tour with Trafalgar? Simply, the ease of not having to plan anything, guided by an expert with over 10 years of experience, and the accommodation are first class. So let’s get straight to what I have experienced while Greek Island Hopper with Trafalgar tour.

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Review: Delights Of London And Paris With Trafalgar

London and Paris with Trafalgar

By: Ana Pitiranggon, Employee Development Team Specialist

Visiting Europe especially during the Holidays has always been on my bucket list.  After checking what they had to offer; Delights of London and Paris with Trafalgar was the best option for my husband and me.  Since the tour was at leisure, we only need to unpack twice.  This fabulous tour consisted of 4 nights in London and 4 nights in Paris.

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Review: 7 Night Western Caribbean With Carnival

By: Jim Leary, Sales Development Specialist

Winter time is a great time to flee the cold and enjoy the wonderful weather of the Caribbean. Cruise prices are typically low between Thanksgiving and Christmas so I decided to escape to the Western Caribbean with Carnival onboard the Carnival Vista. Houston’s proximity to the Port of Galveston makes it easy to drive to the ship in less than an hour.

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England Travel Guide- Working

ENGLAND TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Go royal spotting at Buckingham Palace
  • Listen to Big Ben ring at the House of Parliament
  • Take to the skies in the London Eye
  • See the city in classic double decker bus
  • Enjoy a cruise down the River Thames
  • Wonder at Stonehenge
  • Find your creative inspiration at the Lake District
  • Enjoy High Tea
  • Take a bath at the Roman baths
  • See the iconic Westminster Abbey

ENGLAND VACATION TIPS

  • The UK uses British Pounds as their currency – don’t make the mistake of exchanging for Euros
  • England can be expensive, but if you’re on an escorted tour with one of our partners, all you have to worry about is spending money and some meals. Hotels, some sightseeing, and transportation have been taken care of!
  • The smaller cities like Oxford, Lancaster, Cornwall, Chester, or Bath are just as interesting as London
  • Some of the best museums in the world are in England and all public museums are free
  • A lot of cathedrals in England are also free
  • If you’re doing activities not included in your tour, book your tickets early

TOP THINGS TO DO IN ENGLAND

It could take you a lifetime to fully explore England, with its 2,000 years of history, scenic natural beauty and famous sites, cities and museums. England’s influence on the world is seen in their exceptional cultural offerings, from Shakespeare, to Dickens, to Newton and Darwin, England has it all. Iconic London, Castles in Kent, the beautiful Lake District, the relaxing Bath and the charming Cotswolds, every corner of England is picture perfect.

1. SEE CHANGING THE GUARDS AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE

CHANGING THE GUARDS

Headquarters and London residence of the monarchy, Buckingham Palace has been a focal point for the British people. The Palace serves as a backdrop for the regular Changing the Guard Ceremony which is a colorful spectacle of British pageantry. 

BEST TIME TO VISIT        

For 10 weeks each summer and a select dates in the winter and spring, visitors are welcomes to tour the 19 State Rooms open to the public, including the Throne Room is used by The Queen for court ceremonies and official entertaining. Changing the Guard is weather permitting and takes place at 11am daily during the summer and Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday during the rest of the year.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • To see Changing the Guard, arrive at Buckingham Palace early to save your spot.
  • St. James’s Palace and the Wellington Barracks are also one of the best places to watch Changing the Guard.
  • Please note, there is a new Changing the Guard schedule updated every month and it is advised to re-check the timing closer to your trip.

2. LEARN ABOUT HISTORY AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY

WESTMINSTER ABBEY

One of the United Kingdom’s most notable religious buildings, this large mainly Gothic abbey church was the traditional burial site for English and, later, British monarchs and royal weddings. Founded in 960AD, with the current building over 700 years old, the Abbey is steeped in British history. Over 3,000 famous people are buried in the Abbey, including Stephen Hawking, Nelson Mandela and Jane Austen.

BEST TIME TO VISIT        

Westminster Abbey welcomes over a million visitors each year and is open 7 days a week. Please keep in mind since it is a working church, some areas might be closed off to the public. Be sure to check for a full list of general opening times. The Abbey has gardens that have been cultivated for 900 years and are the perfect place to visit Tuesday to Thursday.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • Westminster Abby has a gift shop and café to grab a snack, meal or traditional afternoon tea.
  • Photography is not permitted inside Westminster Abbey. If you would like to take photos, you can in the Cloisters, Chapter House and College Garden.
  • Appropriate clothing is appreciated, including removing of hats while inside. During the winter, it can be chilly inside the Abbey so dress warmly. 

3. TAKE A STROLL IN HYDE PARK

HYDE PARK

Located in Central London, Hyde Park is the largest of the four Royal Parks surrounding Buckingham Palace. Hyde Park got its start in 1536, when King Henry VIII sized the manor and turned it into a vast hunting park. Through the years, a few updates changed the look for the park. Charles I created a circular track called the ring where members of the royal court could drive their carriages. After William and Mary became king and queen, they added a processional route that was lit by 300 oil lamps. This was the first road in England to me lit at night. More recently, a memorial fountain dedicated wit Princess Diana was added.

BEST TIME TO VISIT        

Since the park is completely outdoors, it’s best to visit when the weather is present.  The park also hosts lots education and well-being events so be sure to check the calendar for interesting gatherings. Hyde Park is family friendly and even has playgrounds for little ones to play and explore.    

4. SAIL DOWN THE RIVER THAMES

RIVER THAMES

The River Thames runs from Cotswold though London and into the North Sea. It is part of the longest river in England and has 45 locks and is home to over 25 species of fish. There are a wide variety of cruises available. Evening cruises to see the city at sunset, dinner cruises to dine with a fine background and hop-on/hop-off cruise so you can take advantage of the cruise any time of day.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

London is beautiful any time of the day, but the city really sparkles when the sun is setting. Watching to sunset behind the buildings and seeing the lights of the London Eye, many towns and churches twinkle over the city is stunning and romantic. Grab dinner at a local restaurant at the end of your cruise to end a fun night on the town.

5. MARVEL AT STONEHENGE

STONEHENGE

This prehistoric monument in Wiltshire is regarded a British cultural icon. The ring of stones is about 13 feet high and is believed to have been constructed in 3000 BC to 2000 BC. There have been many theories on why Neolithic and Bronze Age people put so much effort into building it, but no one knows for sure.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The busiest season for visitors is in the summer months of July to September. In the spring and autumn, it will still be sunny and warmer than the winter months. Since this is such a popular destination, visitors should arrive before 9:30am if you are trying to avoid crowds. Many people prefer going right before closing time in order to catch the sun dropping behind the stones.

6. SPEND TIME IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM

BRITISH MUSEUM

Dating back to 1753, the British Museum has artifacts spanning over 2 million years. They have a unique collection of world famous objects, namely, the Rosetta stone, Egyptian mummies and Parthenon sculptures. Along with their permanent exhibits, they also have special exhibitions and displays that are only available for viewing for a short time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The British Museums is open from 10am to 5:30pm. If you can’t get there right when it opens, go later in the afternoon, closer to closing time.  Don’t save the Museum for a rainy day, it is usually more crowded when the weather is bad. If a temporary exhibit is close to ending, the Museum will be more crowded.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • The British Museum is free for everyone. You will need to go through a security check point and large luggage is not permitted.
  • Check out the big sights before wandering around. The Museum is huge and you could spend all day there. Go see what interests you first, then explore. Most people head to the Rosetta Stone right when they go through the doors.
  • You don’t have to spend your whole day at the Museum, you can pop in and out and speared your visit over the series of a few late afternoons or early mornings.

7. TOUR THE ROMAN BATHS

ROMAN BATHS

The Roman baths, in Bath, England are one of the most well preserved religious spas in of the ancient world. The water at the Baths still flow with natural hot water. The Baths, which were used for public bathing and socializing, were used until the end of Roman rule in Britain in the 5th Century.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The Roman Baths are open every day except Christmas day and December 26. March through October, the Baths open at 9am. They are open late mid-June, July and August. The evenings are relatively quiet, especially on the late nights. The Great Bath is lit by torches, which makes for an impressive atmosphere. The summer months are the busiest, as well as the weekends.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • Every town used to have its own bath complex, it is essentially large and luxurious swimming pool.
  • Unfortunately, visitors can’t take a dip in the water.
  • If you’re peckish, the Baths have a restaurant bistro and afternoon tea.

8. EXPLORE WORLD FAMOUS ART AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY

NATIONAL GALLERY

Located in Trafalgar Square in London, this art museum was founded in 1824 and houses over 2,000 paintings dating all the back from the 13th century. Visitors can expect to see world famous artists like Rembrandt, van Gogh, Monet, Michelangelo, da Vinci and more.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The quietest times to visit is usually in the early morning. The Gallery is open late on Friday nights and is also a good option. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the quietist days, while all of August is the busiest. If the weather is nice out, it might be a good time to explore the Gallery. It is open on bank and public holidays, except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • Admission to the National Gallery is free and some exhibitions and events are ticketed.
  • You can take pictures in the Gallery for non-commercial use, but be on the lookout for signs that say No Photography.
  • Plan your visit! If you want to see the best known Impressionists and van Goghs, head to rooms 45 and 46 right when you arrive.
  • The Gallery has three entrances, circle the building if the line gets long to see if there a shorter wait time. If you want to start in chronological order, start at the Sainsbury entrance.

9. LEARN ABOUT THE ROYALS AT KENSINGTON PALACE

KENSINGTON PALACE

Located in London on the edge of Hyde Park, Kensington Palace has been the residence of the British Royal family since the 17th century. The States Rooms are open to the public where they display many paintings and other objects from the Royal Collection. On the outside, the Palace looks like a red brick mansion, but on the inside, it is filled with intricate ceiling paintings, opulent rooms, and gold leaf trims.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

After lunch time is usually when most crowded thin out of the Palace. The best time to visit the Sunken Garden is from April to October, with the flowers are blooming. Diana’s Fashion Story is a popular exhibit, so if there is long line, go upstairs to the Queen’s State Apartment first. Please note, the visitors that enjoy the Palace the most are the ones who are interested in England’s royal history.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • Kensington Palace is the birthplace of Queen Victoria. You can visit the rooms where she was born and raised. She became queen at age 18 and ruled for 63 years.
  • A children’s playground was opened in memory of Princess Diana which welcomes more than a million visitors each year.
  • Don’t miss the Sunken Garden outside, with tons of different flowers, a pond and fountains.

10. WATCH A PLAY AT SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE

SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE

This reconstructed Elizabethan playhouse is where William Shakespeare wrote his plays. Located in Southwark, outside of London, the original theater was built in 1599, but was destroyed in a fire 1613. It was rebuilt 200 meters for the original Globe. This world renowned performing arts venue and cultural attraction still puts on plays year round.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The busiest months are from March until the end of August. In the mornings and the winter months are least busy. The Globe Theater holds productions from mid-April to mid-October. The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse theatre runs from October to April. There are always other events taking place throughout the year. The Globe Theater is open-air, so please dress appropriately for the weather.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is and indoor Jacobean-style playhouse and is temperature controlled.
  • Children and families are very welcomes at the Globe. A ticket is required for everyone 3 and up.

BEST TIME TO VISIT ENGLAND

Want to know the best time to visit England? Thankfully, England is pretty temperate and is enjoyable any time of the year. With no extreme weather to worry about, you won’t have to plan around the weather too much.

Quick Facts:

  • Summer has the nicest weather but is peak season
  • Spring and Fall are beautiful times to visit but be prepared to see a bit more rain
  • Winter is low season and the crowds will definitely be thin

Summer – June to August – High Season

During the summer, the average high is 69F and the average low is 53F. It’s mostly dry and you’ll find nice weather around England but also large crowds as this is peak season for tourism. Attractions may be crowded but the atmosphere will seem almost festive.

Spring – March to May & Fall – September to November – Good Season

During Spring & Fall time, temperatures are similar with the average high of 52F and the average low of 42F. Although still a dry time, it does rain more often than compared to Summer time. There are still crowds but not as much as during the Summer. It’s also nice during this time as the leaves may still be changing colors and very beautiful to gaze upon.

Winter – December to February – Low Season

During the winter, the average high is 47F and the average low is 37F. If all you care about is it not being crowded, this is the time to come. However, during the winter, it’s typically the wettest time to come with unpredictable rain.