Welcome to our family trips page. This page has references to the various trips we have recently embarked upon including some of the more memorable ones that go back a few years.
Read the intro story for each year listed below and then click on the link for a trip of interest to view a more detailed description associated with each trip where you will also find a link to trip pictures.
England & France & Germany - June 2008 I bet you're noticing a theme here regarding the time of year we take trips to Europe. Turns out that June is the best time (in my opinion) for a couple of reasons. Number one is the weather. There are still many places in Europe that don't have air conditioning, so much later than June gets pretty hot. In the spring you'll find it to be somewhat rainy, and in the winter, it's downright cold.... and rainy. The other reason is that Europeans take off on a "holiday" (also known as a "vacation" to Americans) beginning in late June and through early September. This means the B&Bs won't have any rooms available if you didn't book well in advance, and the historical sites will be crowded with tourists. So just in case you are wondering about why take off in June, now you know. This year we decided to land in London (as usual since we fly a non-stop British Airways flight from Denver to London) and to only stay one night before taking the Chunnel to Paris where we would travel on to other areas in France, visit Germany, and then return to England to visit some areas we haven't seen before. So check out our trip to view what we saw as well as the usual "stuff" that seems to occur during our travels in Europe.
England & France - June 2006 We decided to tour an area of England we hadn't visited before, and to check in with York which we hadn't been to as a family in a few years. We decided to try Lincoln since it's somewhat out of the way, and continue on towards York, while stopping in Leeds to see the Royal Armoury museum. York didn't quite pan out as we thought since Chris got sick on the trip, but we learned a few lessons around planning a trip the next time. We also decided to return to the Loire Valley area in France to finish seeing many of the chateaux we missed in 2004. We also revisited a few chateaux we saw before, but mostly it was about new places we wanted to see. Once again, we took the chunnel to Paris from Waterloo station in London and we think we really like this mode of travel rather than airlines. We also took the TGV high speed train from Paris to the Loire Valley, and decided to stay at a B&B (more like a hotel) just across the bridge from the Amboise city center. Head to the link for this trip to find out even more.
England & Wales - June 2005 After having been to the U.K. on several visits, we decided to do it yet again, except the focus would be on Southwest England and South Wales. Once again, lots of driving on the other side of the road. We used Bath as our home base for seeing the various cathedrals, abbeys, and a few more sights in the City of Bath. We decided to stay at the B&B we visited in 2003 and although it was exactly as we remembered it, there were new owners this time around. They did an equally impressive job and it turned out to be a nice stay. We left Bath and drove towards the Wye Valley area of Wales where we stayed at the Wye Valley Hotel (highly recommended) near Tintern. Got to see lots of ruinous castles in South Wales and enjoyed the stay. Wish we would have stayed a little longer in the area, but then we headed off to Ironbridge Gorge. Probably should have stayed only one night in the area rather than three nights, but we learned a lesson. Left Ironbridge and headed for Cotswolds for a couple more nights and saw some local sights that included Blenheim Palace and Shakespeare's home in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Finally, we headed back to London to spend a couple more nights before returning home to Colorado. This was a very good visit, especially the cathedrals, abbeys, and South Wales castles. We could have skipped spending as much time as we did in Ironbridge Gorge since it could be seen in a day, but that's what we did and next time we'll spend a little more time in South Wales and perhaps Lands End in Southwest England.
Wales & France - June 2004 Until they get rid of the British Airways non-stop to London, I imagine we will always be flying in to London first and then heading off to somewhere else in the U.K., Ireland, or France (or so it seems). We decided to go to northern Wales again, staying in Betws-y-Coed as our home base to see a few more castles we had not seen on the previous trip. We also added the woolen mills to our trip to see how wool was woven in the 1800s. After about a week in northern Wales we left for Paris via the Chunnel, arrived in Paris for two days, picked up the rental car, and headed south for the Loire Valley for almost a week followed by Normandy for four days. We saw some beautiful chateaus while in the Loire Valley before heading off to Normandy where we saw the Bayeaux Tapestry, the American cemetery at Normandy, a bell factory, and the church in Bayeaux. The chateaus were quite impressive along the Loire and Cher rivers, and are probably some of the best chateaus in France. I find that comparing the chateaus (some people call them castles) in the Loire Valley with castles in the U.K. is really not a fair comparison. Most of the castles in the U.K. were fortifications where battles were often fought over the years, but the chateaus in France were really more of an elegant home setting than for defense purposes. So it's kind of an unfair comparison since one appears to be in a more ruinous state (the U.K.) while the other looks like someone could still move in and live there if they wanted (and had tons of money for upkeep). The chunnel ride was different and I think I actually prefer this mode of transportation over flying. Although flying from London to Paris is quick, the pre-flight stuff coupled with the post-flight baggage stuff probably takes at least as long as the chunnel ride. There is a lot less hassle with the chunnel and you get to see the countryside via the railroad while zipping along at a fast pace. I ended up driving almost 900 miles in England and Wales, and about 1300 miles in France. Both countries have good roads so the driving was pleasant. The only thing I would recommend is do NOT return your car to downtown Paris. Driving in Paris is an absolute nightmare. Be sure and check out the many pictures we took while in Wales and France.
England - November 2003 Mikey Trip I guess I didn't see enough in June of 2003 while in England, so I flew back to go with cousin Mikey for a quick whirlwind tour. Mikey hadn't been to England before, so I thought I'd hit some of the places that the family and I visited since they were fun and there was a lot to see.
England & Ireland - June 2003 We love going to the U.K. so this time we went back to England and included Ireland on our trip. After a night of rest in London we picked up the Hertz rental car in Bloomsbury and were off to our first stop - York, England. Stayed with our friends at the Feversham Lodge for a couple of days, then headed for the Cotswolds for a few days followed by a short stay in Bath. After about a week we flew to Ireland to re-visit southern Ireland and include a couple more cities and new B&Bs for the trip.
England & Scotland - June 2002 We love going to the U.K. so this time we went back to England and included Scotland on our trip. After a night of rest in London we picked up the Hertz rental car in Bloomsbury and were off to our first stop - York, England. Stayed with our friends at the Feversham Lodge for a couple of days, then headed for Haltwhistle, England for a view of the Roman ruins along Hadrian's Wall. The weather was nice and cool and the little town of Haltwhistle was a very nice and relaxing place to visit, especially one of the local pubs within walking distance where a group of ladies were playing darts. From Haltwhistle we headed for Oban, Scotland and stayed along the bay area. Spent a couple of nights there and found time to visit the Isle of Mull as well as other local sites. It was raining most of the time we were there and it was quite cool (downright cold at times with humidity), but it wasn't that bad. The many lochs (lakes) in Scotland are quite interesting as well as the strange terrain that looks like something from the Ice Age. It was actually snowing on the ferry trip back from the Isle of Mull which seemed strange for being in June. From Oban we drove to Rob Roy's grave. Not too many people can say they've traveled that far just to see a grave but the drive is so nice throughout Scotland that we really enjoyed ourselves and got to visit many historic places as well. We headed towards our stop for a few nights in Edinburgh and stopped in Sterling along the way. Visited Edinburgh for a couple of days as well as The Old Course (St. Andrews Golf Course) and some local sites across the Firth of Forth bridge. Then we headed back for a night in Durham, saw the Durham cathedral and back down to York for another night and visit to York again. Actually climbed the York Minster (man that's a lot of steps to the top) where we got a wonderful view of the city. It really only rained in Oban while we were in Scotland and other than that, the weather was quite nice (not hot at all as in previous years). Went back to London and then took a day trip to Stonehenge and Avebury. Avebury was interesting given that the day before was the Summer Solstace and there were plenty of "strange" people left over from the day before. You can actually touch the rocks in Avebury (unlike Stonehenge) and the stone circle is quite a bit larger than Stonehenge.
This was a great visit and I plan to have some pictures of our trip with more details on this visit soon (in the process of creating another web site). Check back later for the changes and info I'll be adding soon.
Wales & Paris - June 2001 This time we chose to see yet a little more of the U.K. by going to northern Wales and checking out Paris again. Wales is an absolutely beautiful place and has been one of my favorite visits to the U.K. rivaling York, England. Spent a lot of time driving around the countryside visiting a bunch of famous castles, Snowdonia, and some slate mines. Also went to Chester, England for a day trip and found it to be similar to York - very enjoyable place to visit. The weather in Wales was nice and cool just like I like it and we had excellent hosts at our B&B. Not too many folks make it to Northern Wales (probably the drive and the time to get there), but I think they are really missing out on an absolutely beautiful area. I wish we would have stayed about three days longer and would have seen yet a few more castles (wasn't six of them enough?). We missed just enough to make us want to return to this beautiful part of Wales. We also stayed in London again for a couple of days and the weather was quite warm. Our stay in the hotel in London (the Bonnington) was miserable since it was very hot and none of the air conditioning worked as advertised. I will watch out for this in the future.
We spent one week in Wales and then followed up with a week in Paris, France. Our last visit to Paris was in 1999 and we had enough things left to see to bring us back yet again. We stayed at an excellent small hotel near D'Orsay hosted by very friendly people and best of all - a nice cool air conditioner for the nights when it was hot. The weather was unusually warm (that's what they always say) but the air conditioning made it quite nice for sleeping. We got to visit a few more sites this time, and most of all got to see my friend Ed's mother - Erika. The last time I had seen her was in December of 1989 and I swear she didn't age one single day. I still say she can outlast me and I'm probably 25 years younger. Very nice visit this time although I came very close to getting nailed by pick-pockets on the Metro (they had my wallet part way out of my pocket when I caught on to them). I guess everyone has to make money some way or another and it didn't really detract from the visit all that much. You really can't see all of Paris even if you stayed for two weeks straight, so we'll be back yet again and next time we plan to venture out from Paris to see more of France.
Florida December 2000 This was a short stay in Florida this time with most of our time spent with the kids swimming at the Residence Inn's heated swimming pool in the morning, a sprinkling of other stuff during the day, and Cathie and Danny in the evenings, . The usual driving around and eating out was fun and seems to be what we do the most. This time we got to see more of Chris and Wilfredo at South Beach in Miami and had fun eating at a local restaurant (big servings). We also got to spend some time with the rest of Steve's family up in Stuart and the kids got to see how "Locks" work when a boat moves from one part of a waterway to another higher waterway. The beach was fun to see and the ocean was just beautiful as usual. Steve's Mom, Cathie and Danny, and Chris and Wilfredo must be competing to see who can decorate the best Christmas tree as they all looked picture-perfect. Check out some of the pictures from this trip.
England & Ireland - June 2000 The 1999 trip to London was so much fun that we decided to try England again. Since we were so close to England, we thought we'd also visit Ireland. Our trip to England consisted mostly of our stay in York and it was a very rewarding experience. York is a medieval town that is still intact much the same as it was during medieval times. The city is about 200 miles north of London and can be reached by either taking the train from London to York, or by driving on the M1. We chose driving since it was cheaper and we thought we would need a car once we arrived. As it turned out, we didn't really drive the car at all once we got to our B&B, but without a car, we wouldn't have experienced hair-raising speeds such as we encountered on the M1 when leaving London. York was really fun and I highly recommend that you spend at least 5 days there so that you can take in all the sites and nearby attractions. You will definitely want to check out my York "ghost" picture that I captured in "The Hole In The Wall" pub. Spooooky.
Ireland turned out to be quite different than what we expected. We expected something similar to England and found it to be almost the opposite. Ireland is a beautiful country with very nice people and we found that it was the people and the scenery that made the visit pleasant. Driving in Ireland is not at all what you might expect as the roads are extremely narrow and driving feels dangerous. There are only a few places where infrastructure roads of an Interstate type even exist. It also lacks the historical castles, museums, and wealth you will find in and about England, but we discovered that this isn't what Ireland is about. It's really about the people and the scenery. Our B&B experience in Ireland was great, and you will want to be sure and visit the Waterford Crystal factory, Blarney Castle, and Dingle.
After using United Airlines for our airline travel, we still recommend using British Airways. Be sure and check out my European Trip Advice page for ideas on making your trip abroad a little more manageable as well as some tips on what to expect.
London & Paris - June 1999 This was another one of those trips to get away from it all (including the U.S.A. this time). I have never done as much walking as I did on this trip. Those Europeans are in great shape. Not too many people drive in the big cities (unless they're crazy). We broke our trip up into three pieces. First, we went to London non-stop from Denver, Colorado for seven days (landing at Gatwick), then we went to Paris for four days (leaving from Heathrow), then we went back to London for the final three days (landing at Heathrow from Paris but leaving to the U.S. from Gatwick).
Both places had their share of walking involved, but Paris entailed the most walking. Real big difference in the two cities, besides the language, of course. If you asked me which city to recommend it would depend on what you're after. If you want good, top-notch museums, then Paris is the place to go. Especially if you're interested in art. If you want castles - at least the kind you see in the movies, then I would say to go to London and visit the countryside around London. I would say that London was probably easier for us than Paris since the language is the same although things we say in "English" have different meanings to the English people which is always yields great conversations with locals.
People in both places were pretty friendly with London's folks being friendlier. One thing about it, both places were a heck of a lot safer than the United States. You wouldn't show up in New York City or any other large city and go just about anywhere you wanted. These two European cities were far and away safer than being here in the U.S.A. We were in London during the Cricket finals and also during Wimbledon matches so things were a bit crowded on the subway. Learned quite a bit about London that I didn't know. For example, did you know that they don't use kilometers and kilograms there? Speed is in miles per hour and distance is in miles with yards as a sub-measure. Weight is measured in "stones" although rather than using gallons of gas they used liters. I think they use liters so that you don't realize just how expensive the gasoline can be. Pints of beer are in Imperial pints (20 ounces) which is a little larger than an American pint. Of course they do drive on the opposite side of the street which can be disconcerting if you're new to driving there.
We rented a car the last three days and drove up to the Cotswolds (very pretty area near Oxford) to stay in a rather quaint hotel named the "Royalist Hotel." Really enjoyed the stay at the hotel and it's located in Stoh-On-The-Wold. You should give it a try when you go there. It's supposed to be the oldest inn in England dating back to the 900s. If you have ever seen "Fawlty Towers" on PBS, the Royalist's owners kind of reminded me of Basil and Sybil.
We highly recommend British Airways for the airline and got lots of deals by using them as our airline. The American carriers could learn something about service if they'd bother to take a trip on British Airways. I'd take British Airways any day over the American carriers - best service hands down.
Check out my page on European trip advice to align expectations that you may have about traveling to Europe as well as ways to make travel life a little simpler when traveling abroad.