A chance to see the Tower of London, Loch Ness, Stonehenge and other great locations on a tour of England, Scotland and Wales sounded really amazing. And, all in all, it was two weeks of really great experiences that I wouldn't trade for anything. If I had to do it again, however, there are some things I would probably choose not to repeat.
I was fourteen years old at the time of the trip, and my little sister was twelve. As such, my parents chose to get two rooms at each hotel we stayed at: one for them, and one for me and my sister. Of course, we thought this was really cool.
We were mature enough to handle ourselves, and besides, my parents were in a room only one or two doors down, so it's not like we could go wild and throw a lightswitch rave party, even if we felt like it. Unfortunately, neither my sister nor I really anticipated that having to wake up at 5:30 a.m. every morning to get dressed, eat breakfast, clear out the hotel room and get our luggage to the tour bus by 7 a.m. would cause such major sleep deprivation, on top of the jet lag, of course. It really wasn't having to wake up so early that was the problem, though. At most of the hotels in the UK you can get about three channels on 'the telly': BBC 1, BBC 2, and Cartoon Network.
So we would stay up until 10:30 p.m. and watch cartoons, talk about whatever it is sisters talk about, then finally crash close to 11 p.m. Doing the math, that left us with a grand total of six and a half hours of sleep every night.
Maybe that's enough for some people, but I'm definitely a ten-hour a night kind of girl.
One rather amusing highlight of the trip was getting to see the local fire brigade in action when we stayed at the Tickled Trout lodge in Preston, Lancashire. At 6:30 in the morning my eardrums were ruptured by quite possibly the most horrible sounding fire alarm on the planet.
It turns out our tour guide had accidentally left the water running in his sink, which then overflowed and tripped the fire alarm system. The big emergency turned out to be nothing more than a wet carpet. The tour itself was very nice.
The bus was pretty posh as far as buses go. Unfortunately, after the first day or two, I slept through most of the beautiful scenery we drove past to make up for the sleep I didn't get while rotting my brain watching cartoons. The weather was nice when we went also, except for subjectively being cold.
I was walking around Edinburgh in jeans, a sweater, and a jacket and shivering uncontrollably, and couldn't help but look jealously at the girls wearing shorts and tank tops who seemed completely comfortable. I think the biggest culture shock for me was the food. Eating breakfast at the hotels was always an adventure. I could only identify about half the things offered. For instance, take black pudding, which seems to be a breakfast staple in the UK. First of all, using the word 'pudding' in the name is a cruel trick. It's not sweet, it's not spoonable, and is certainly not something I would want to eat for dessert. I'm not hesitant to try new foods, however, so I quite happily ate some for breakfast for a few days in a row -- “ that is, until my dad cheerfully informed me one morning that it mostly consisted of cooked blood and fat. After that gruesome discovery, as well as trying haggis and beef wellington with not such great results, I decided that going vegetarian for the rest of the trip was the best choice for me. Not to say I didn't enjoy any of the food on the trip. Quite possibly the best dessert I've ever had was to be found in a restaurant in Scotland. Do you know what treacle sponge cake with squidgy custard is? Neither do I, but it was amazing. All these things and many other little things are what made the trip so noteworthy. It was full of laughter and silliness, as well as appreciation of the beautiful locations and landmarks we visited. Strange food and all, I wouldn't trade the memories for anything.