I was recently lucky enough to take Trafalgar Tours wonderful weeklong holiday in the UK--England and Scotland specifically. The 60-year-old company--currently owned by the highly creative Tollman Family who also run the 16 wonderful, character-laden Red Carnation hotels around the world--give the traveler many options with their tour packages. You can take as many sideline excursions as you want, you can ask for a busy or leisurely travel package--and on top of that, Trafalgar's rep will find packages that match even the cheapest budget. Trafalgar does not include airfare in their packages, but one can get hotel, tours and at least one meal a day in Europe for as little as $1,350 a person/week! Trafalgar predominantly uses four star hotels, but costs are cut for budget travelers but using hotels a little more out of the way but not more than 10 minutes from a town's top attractions.
|Kings Arm Pub, York|
I had never taken a European tour before so I was especially excited; I always booked my own rooms and just roamed about the streets I was visiting freely visiting sites I might have read about in a Rick Steves' or Fodor's travel guide. I was happy to have the discipline of a Trafalgar Tour that had everyone set for a seven am walkup call and ready to have a free breakfast in each hotel and then have two or great excursions planned. My trip started by touching down at Heathrow on British Airways which serves two meals on flights from JFK.
In London, I stayed at the Cumberland Hotel on Great Cumberland Place in the Marble Arch neighborhood. Rooms are small but modern with many conveniences including blow dryers and a killer breakfast buffet that rivals that of any other local hotel. I was pleased to learn that this was Jimi Hendrix's last official London address and there is an interesting art tribute to him in the lobby directly behind the Trafalgar desk where reps are there to answer any question their visitors might have about anything from when the coach is leaving to converters for American electronics!
|Jimi Hendrix Tribute, Cumberland Hotel Lobby|
The next day was spent on a guided tour of the Spitalfields neighborhood in East London. Trafalgar gave us the choice of checking out King's Cross or East London, so I took the trendier option and I was not disappointed. I saw numerous antique stores and trendy clothing boutiques (including one owned by American actress Mischka Barton) but I fell in love with the marketplaces filled with exotic foods. All the "eats" were spicy and colorful and more than a dozen countries were represented. I only wish that the New York street fairs had food this authentic!
|Street Market, Spitalfields|
The third day of my Trafalgar Tour had me bidding adieu to London after one of the Cumberland's hearty breakfasts and getting in the First Class cabin of a Virgin Train to Liverpool. To say the service in Virgin Trains’ first class cabin is attentive is an understatement. We were served Curry Coriander Soup and various sandwiches and snacks. The attendants were knowledgeable about Liverpool so we got some recommendations on where to eat and hang out…but I mainly was interested in doing a Beatles Tour. We went on one shortly after checking into the Marriott Liverpool at 1 Queen Square near the largest shopping mall in town.
|Strawberry Fields, Liverpool|
|John Lennon's boyhood home|
|The Cavern Club, Liverpool|
|Clifford's Castle, York|
Coming soon: Part 2, Scotland!