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France - Day Two

Day two:

Today was a day free for our group to explore the sights in Paris.  A large group of us (27 to be exact!) opted to join the optional morning excursion to the Palace of Versailles. 

The palace was built in the 17th century for King Louis XIV.  The court of Versailles was the center of political power in France for a little over a century when the French Revolution began.  The palace was almost destroyed during the revolution, as a result of which it's importance and utility decreased.  

Our guide Antoine led us through the rooms of Versailles, the most famous of which is the Hall of Mirrors which has 17 massive mirrored arches opposite 17 windows.  There are 357 mirrors in all and the ceiling of the hall has intricate paintings with gilded statues around the borders. We stopped to take a group photo in the marvelous Hall of Mirrors. 

After touring Versailles, our bus driver, Yves, was kind enough to drop us off in front of the Paris Opera House, or Palias Garnier, one of the m…
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Day One:

Day one has been a long but successful day!  Our plane landed at Charles de Gaulle at 7am.  Upon arrival, we were met by our tour manager Deb Mallinson. After a slight delay at the airport, we wasted no time and headed straight to Montmartre, one of the most famous districts of Paris which stands on a hill overlooking the right bank. 

We began our exploration of Montmartre with a short ride on the funicular up the hill to the base of Sacre Coeur Basilica.  It was a very busy Saturday in Montmartre because this weekend is Fete des Vendanges de Montmartre, a fabulous wine festival! The group spent a few hours exploring Sacre Coeur, sampling wine and delicacies and shopping in the Village of Montmartre.  A beret or two (or twelve) may have been purchased!

After leaving Montmartre, we boarded the bus to head to continue to our hotel, Les Jardins du Marais.  A beautiful little boutique hotel with a garden courtyard. The evening was topped off with the celebration of Mass with our fa…

Scotland 2018: Day 10

Day 10
Early morning on the bus, 3:30am!  The hotel provided us with boxed breakfast.  Our tour guide extraordinaire Conor and amazing coach driver Eddie packed all those over stuffed bags into the coach and we headed to Glasgow Airport for our flights to Dublin and home to Boston.  With a final farewell, we leave you with the lyrics to Roberts Burns poem, Auld Lang Syne Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’lltak' a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Scotland 2018: Day 9

Day 9
Today’s journey took us through the Argryll Forest and a stop at the Inveraray Jail.  The rainfall over the past few days made this journey a bit longer as some roads were closed due to landslides.  Our first clue to the vast amount of rain was the water pouring off a set of stairs next to the hotel  But our extrordinaary coach driver Eddie wound his way around the mountansides to Inverary.  Some may say, it’s a dreich day! – Said in reference to the weather, when it’s cold, damp and miserable.
Inveraray Jail is a living museum and visitor attraction where real people portray life in a 19th century prison.  We were encouraged to sit in the restored 1820s courtroom with lifelike models and listen to excerpts from trials of the past before moving on to the prisons below and meeting with Warden Matron and the prison guides, all dressed in period costumes.
Afterward we boarded a boat for a cruise on Loch Lomond, the jewel in Scotland’s first National Park.It was so beautiful.
After our f…

Scotland 2018: Day 8

Day 8The Highlands are magnificent. It rained most of the afternoon, but we got lucky with good weather in the morning. The first stop of the day was the Blair Athol Distillery. We were asked to turn off our phones for safety reasons - seems the fumes can interact with the electronics risking explosions.   At the end of the tour we had a wee dram of the Blair Athol 12 year which was really good. 

Next up on our tour was Wallace Monument. It was built for Sir William Wallace (of “Braveheart” fame) who was hung, drawn and quartered by the English in 1305. There was a breathtaking view from the 67 m high Victorian monument. Each level of The Monument is accessed by a spiral staircase, with 246 steps to the top of the tower. That is a long way up!  And a long way down! 

The final castle visit of the day was Stirling Castle. Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s most magnificent, built on a rocky outcrop and commanding a view for many miles around. It was built as an almost impregnable forti…

Scotland 2018: Day 7

DAY 7 LOCH NESS ~ AVIEMORE ~ CULLODEN: Sad to say goodbye to Edinburgh but onward to more adventure.Maybe one of us will spot the Loch Ness Monster?!
Another dry day was in front of us.The travelers were greeted first thing by our guide Conor in his traditional Scottish kilt, brogues and jacket.He regaled us with the story behind the kilts and explained there are three types of kilt plaid; traditional, hunting and ancient.It takes 8 yards of fabric to make one kilt for a man.The colors of the plaid are determined by “clan” or family.
During our long bus ride up through Inverness, the capitol of the Anglo Saxon people of Scotland. As we climbed into the highlands we saw many glens or valleys with many a “Bonnie” (beautiful) view!Along the way we learned about the Munroe List of mountain peaks.There are 200 peaks in Scotland.Those over 3,000 feet are Munroe, over 2,500 feet are Corbit and 2,000 feet are Marilyn.Scaling these peaks is quite competitive. Conor again entertained us with is grea…

Scotland 2018: Day 6

Today we traveled to St. Andrews, out along the North Sea.  Across one of the three “century bridges” all crossing the river side by side.  One was built in the 19th century, the next the 20th century and the newest on in the 21st century.   With the sun finally out today the changing colors of the leaves on the trees were in their beautiful fall glory.

Our first stop was at West Sands, the beach where the famous running scene was from Chariots of Fire was filmed.  With the theme song from the movie playing on the bus we approached the spectacular beach area.  Alongside the famous Old Course St Andrews Golf Club.  

Next stop was to visit the ruins of St. Andrew’s Castle, a castle caught in the Protestant Reformation struggle for hearts and minds. St. Andrew’s Castle was a bishop’s palace, a fortress and a state prison during its 450-year history. Then on to St. Andrew’s Cathedral. We explored the remains of Scotland’s largest and most magnificent me…