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 aboard a 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

With over 2,000 years of history, it’s scenic natural beauty and famous sites, and the cities and museums, it would take you a lifetime to fully explore England. 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 OF 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 select dates in the winter and spring, visitors are welcomed to tour the 19 State Rooms open to the public, including the Throne Room which 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 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 seized 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 be lit at night. More recently, a memorial fountain dedicated to Princess Diana was added.

BEST TIME TO VISIT        

Since the park is completely outdoors, it’s best to visit when the weather is warmer.  The park also hosts lots of educational 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 through London and into the North Sea. It is part of the longest river in England, has 45 locks, and is home to over 25 species of fish. There are a wide variety of cruises available that explore the River Thames. Evening cruises to see the city at sunset, dinner cruises to dine with a fine background, and hop-on/hop-off cruises so you can take advantage of the cruise any time of day.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

London is beautiful at 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, and the 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 in the town.

5. MARVEL AT STONEHENGE

STONEHENGE

This prehistoric monument in Wiltshire is regarded as 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 checkpoint 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 spread 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 of the ancient world. The water at the Baths still flows 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 during 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 a 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 time 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 calmest 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, but 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 lunchtime is usually when most crowded thin out of the Palace. The best time to visit the Sunken Garden is from April to October when the flowers are blooming. Diana’s Fashion Story is a popular exhibit, so if there is a 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 from 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. 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 an indoor Jacobean-style playhouse and is temperature-controlled.
  • Children and families are very welcomed 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 at 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 the 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 to the average high of 52F and the average low of 42F. Although still dry time, it does rain more often than compared to Summertime. 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 are 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 with unpredictable rain.

Ireland Travel Guide

IRELAND TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Fall in love with the Irish people, their culture, and their land.
  • Enjoy delicious local cuisine.
  • Marvel at the Cliffs of Moher.
  • Sing and dance with buskers on Grafton Street.
  • Receive “The Gift of Gab” from the Blarney Stone.
  • Drive the famous Ring of Kerry.
  • Explore Trinity College and view The Book of Kells.
  • See St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
  • Drink a truly 100% authentic Guinness beer at the Guinness brewery in Dublin.
  • Take in the sprawling landscapes while your motorcoach driver takes you from one destination to another.

IRELAND VACATION TIPS

  • Ireland uses the Euro so exchange your currency appropriately.
  • Pack layers as the weather can change in a moment’s notice.
  • Depending on where and when you go, it’ll be a good idea to bring rain gear.
  • Drinking is a large part of the Irish culture so don’t mind the party atmosphere when you’re out.
  • The people are super nice so do not hesitate to ask someone a question if needed.
  • If traveling on an escorted tour with one of our partners, you won’t have to worry about tickets to attractions or sightseeing. If you’re planning to travel on your own, it’s recommended to buy tickets early as Ireland is hugely popular!

TOP THINGS TO DO IN IRELAND

Even though it is a relatively small country, Ireland’s reputation goes far beyond its size. Travelers could spend their whole time wandering around 18th-century Georgian houses with brightly-painted doors, strolling through tranquil parks, viewing natural wonders like the Cliffs of Moher, and taking in all the new buildings and old castles around the country. Exceptional, breathtaking, and alluring, visitors feel the magic that comes with a visit to the enchanting rocky shores of Ireland as soon as they arrive.

1. STAND IN AWE AT THE CLIFFS OF MOHER

CLIFFS OF MOHER

No trip to Ireland is complete without stopping to see the enchantment of the Cliffs of Moher. This UNESCO Global Geopark is home of glacially-smoothed limestone hills with a stark contrast of the dramatic sea cliffs that tower over the majestic Atlantic coast. Soaring to 702 feet tall on the westernmost edge of the island, the stone reaches a staggering height. What’s even more staggering is the beautiful views at the top. One of the most unique and precious aspects of the cliffs is the local wildlife that calls them home. Walking along the magical landscape, you’ll soon realize why these cliffs are so famous.

BEST TIME TO VISIT        

This outdoor sight is usually busy when the weather is the best, during the summer months. Peak travel times are between 11am and 4pm. Be sure to check the weather because it’s not unusual for a dense fog to roll in and block the view.  Since the cliffs face west, if you’re looking for the best time to take a picture, the afternoon and evening offer the best lighting.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • Mind the barriers, it is very windy and slippery at the top of cliffs and they are there for your safety.
  • Bird watchers from all over the world come to see the sad-eye puffins and to hopefully catch a glimpse of peregrine falcons.

2. KISS THE BLARNEY STONE

BLARNEY STONE

Located in the famous Blarney Castle, the Blarney Stone is situated 85 feet up on the east wall. The famous Blarney Stone is officially called the Stone of Eloquence because according to legend, kissing the Blarney stone is said to give “The Gift of Eloquence” or as some simply put it, “The Gift of Gab”. Kissing the stone isn’t as easy as it sounds- one must hold on to rails, bend backward over a drop from the castle’s tower and flip upside down while puckering up. To kiss the Blarney Stone or to not kiss, that is the question!

YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • Make sure you have a strong friend to guide you if you decide to pucker up to the rock.
  • The stone was set into a tower of the castle in 1446.
  • In addition to the stone, the 600-year-old castle also has an array of gorgeous gardens and several interesting rock formations.

3. EXPERIENCE THE NIGHTLIFE TEMPLE BAR

TEMPLE BAR

For travelers looking for Dublin’s nightlife district, this area of town will have all the “craic”. They have tourist-focused nightclubs, bars, and restaurants. During the day, there are art galleries, theaters, and museums for you to explore. This popular area is a great place to soak up local culture in a fun atmosphere.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • Don’t miss out on hearing some live performances of ‘The Fields of Athenry’ and ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ played by high quality traditional Irish musicians.
  • Ask your travel director what pub the locals like to frequent.

4. VIEW THE BOOK OF KELLS AT TRINITY COLLEGE

The Book of Kells is one of Ireland’s greatest treasures and is also a European cultural icon. It was created by Celtic monks around the year 800 but was never finished for unknown reasons. The book contains manuscripts of the four Gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) in Latin, along with other various texts and illuminations. Two of the four volumes of the Book of Kells are on public display.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • The volumes and pages of the Book of Kells shown are regularly changed.
  • Trinity library is the only place in the UK where publishers in Ireland must deposit a copy of all their publications for free.

5. WALK ACROSS HA’PENNY BRIDGE

Built in May of 1816 and spanning the width of the River Liffey over which it crosses, Ha’penny Bridge was an expensive replacement from the ferry service that operated across the river previously. The costs were recuperated through the half penny toll, which gave the bridge its popular name, Ha’penny Bridge. In 1916, the bridge was handed over to the Dublin Corporation and three years later, the tolls were abolished. For over 180 years, the bridge remained the city’s only pedestrian bridge over the Liffey the Millennium Bridge was constructed in 1999.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • Today, 30,000 people a day walk across the famous bridge.
  • The bridge is made out of cast iron in England.

6. VISIT ST PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL

ST PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL

Built in honor of Ireland’s patron saint, St Patrick’s Cathedral, it was constructed in early English gothic style in 1191 on the site of an ancient well.  Nearly 200 monuments and statues, as well as the beautiful stained glass, make the building a treasure trove of those who love history and art. This medieval gothic place of worship has been at the core of Irish history for over 800 years and is today the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • The large cathedral tower, Minot’s Tower, you see today isn’t the original tower, as it was rebuilt in the 14th century following its collapse.
  • St. Patrick’s is the tallest and largest church in Ireland.

7. TOUR THE WATERFORD CRYSTAL FACTORY

WATERFORD CRYSTAL FACTORY

In the heart of Waterford City in Southeast Ireland, you’ll find The House of Waterford Crystal, world renowned for their lead crystal stemware, time pieces and exquisite chandeliers. During your visit, from blowing to cutting, you’ll get a chance to see The House of Waterford Crystal’s most skilled craftsmen at work using a century’s old, red-hot manufacturing process. If you’re looking to indulge your passion for the world’s most famous crystal, visit the lavish retail store. From sporting trophies to seahorse statement pieces, you’ll be in absolute awe of the glimmering beauty around you.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • It houses the largest collection of Waterford Crystal found anywhere in the world and it is a sight to see itself.
  • There was no production of glass in the city of Waterford until after WWII.
  • For New Years in Times Square in New York, the ball that lowers is specially commissioned from Waterford Crystal.

8. LEARN ABOUT BEER AT THE GUINNESS STOREHOUSE

GUINNESS STOREHOUSE

More than a million travelers a year tour this famous factory to learn how to pour the perfect pint of this Irish beer. (Hint: It involves holding the glass at a 45-degree angle!) Not only is this the place to learn about the ‘black stuff’ brewing process, but the top floor Gravity Bar is arguably the best view of the city. During your tour, sniff the raw ingredients, learn about the history of Guinness advertising and, of course, sample some of their beer.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • The storehouse is 7 floors and they suggest at least an hour and a half to explore the whole facility.
  • If beer isn’t your thing, the Jameson Distillery is also located in Dublin.

9. TAKE IN THE BEAUTY GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

As a result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption, 40,000 interlocking basalt columns make up the area of Giant’s Causeway located on the north coast of Northern Ireland. Its unique rock formations have, for nearly sixty million years and has stood against many North Atlantic storms.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Early in the morning or later in the evening is the best time to avoid the crowds. Since it is an outdoor, natural area, dress for the weather. The winds can be strong so a windbreaker is necessary during the colder months. Keep in mind this is a famous sight and there will always be people there exploring the area.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides.
  • It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986.
  • Enjoy the walking trails around the area for great views.

10. LEARN ABOUT HISTORY AT THE TITANIC BELFAST

Opened in 2012, this visitor attraction is a monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage and is most well known for being where the Titanic was designed and built. Visitors will learn all about her maiden voyage in 1912 and about the events leading up to when she hit the iceberg and later sank. Explore galleries that tell the story and dive deep into the ocean where she now rests through many interactive features.

Titanic Belfast is open year-round with varying hours depending on the time of year. Please note that the center is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

YOU SHOULD KNOW     

  • Titanic Belfast is the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience.
  • They opened their doors exactly 100 years after the Titanic first sailed.
  • Titanic had 2 sister ships, RMS Olympic and RMS Britannic.

Best Time To Visit Ireland

With so much to experience in Ireland, any month is a good time to visit the Emerald Isle! Depending on your interests, you may determine there is a certain month that fits your travel needs more than another. Read about the lure of each season.

  • Between June and September, rainfall will be at the lowest and temperatures will be the most comfortable. This is usually when travelers tend to go to Ireland, so some activities and sites might be more crowded during this time.
  • When the weather is cooler, the probability of rainfall will also be higher. From November to February is usually considered the low season, so keep in mind some attractions can be closed because of the weather.
  • March and April, and September and October can bring nice weather, but there might be extreme temperatures. This shoulder season can be a good time to travel if you are flexible with the weather.

While you could visit Ireland year-round, decide which activities and sites you would like to see, and plan your visit around that. Since Ireland has so much to offer, even on days where the weather isn’t perfect, travelers can explore indoor sites like Trinity College, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Guinness Storehouse, or the Titanic Museum. No matter when you go, make sure you pack appropriate clothing and footwear.

Spring

The Irish greenery really comes to life in the spring. Picture landscapes bursting with colors and stunning sweeping vistas as far as the eye can see. There are plenty of art and literature festivals that take part during this time of year. Check out the Cuirt International Festival of Literature in April or the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in May.

Summer

Because the island is located at such a high latitude, visiting Ireland during the summer you will get to experience many extra hours of sunlight. Take advantage of all the 18 hours of daylight and spend some time at one of the many equestrian festivals held all over the country. The temperature usually doesn’t get above 70F, even in the warmest months of July and August. Keep in mind the crowds are in full swing during these months.

Fall

Autumn has the most relaxed atmosphere with less hustle and bustle. This is the perfect season to take a stroll around a park to watch the vibrant green foliage turns to rich golds, purples, and reds. There will be fewer people lining up to kiss the Blarney Stone and you’ll have your pick of the best cafes and traditional music performances.

Winter

Ireland winter temperature averages are in the upper 40Fs, so bring a good pair of shoes and a warm jacket. With the cooler weather, a lot of local pubs host campfires to keep you warm and add to the ambiance. Towards the end of winter, St Patrick’s Day is celebrated. They host a major parade with marching bands in Dublin and festivals and events are spread all over the country.