Before I share our adventure, I just want to apologize for my lack of posting for the past month or so. Much of that time was spent preparing for this journey and then embarking upon it. I also want to let my Vikings Saga followers know that I will eventually catch up with my show thoughts and reviews but it will probably be after this first half of the extended season has ended! I am behind in my viewing but have kept up with what is going on so far… my one thought right now is, who is going to be left at the end of this half? Most of the adult older generation seem to be falling quickly- not that some of those falls all are such a bad thing! Also for Vikings fans, much of my tour included Viking related history in the various cities along with more ancient Roman history. One example of the Scandinavian history and influence was found on ceilings in Edinburgh! A number of tours pointed out the ceilings that showed the earliest Scandinavian motifs and designs.
For Outlander fans and followers, I did just catch the season 2 premier and am looking forward to the rest of the season. I loved the way they’ve presented Frank’s side of the situation… but then again, I am a Frank fan anyway so I was thrilled with this scenario. I will be attempting to add more Outlander related posts throughout this upcoming season! Some of my tour did include Scotland and Scottish history pertaining to the time period of the Jacobites and the rebellions but I will also be sharing some additional insights provided by various tour guides. One of the most insightful guides was at the Tolbooth museum in Aberdeen who shared some of the Jacobite history and how it affected others who were not Jacobites but suffered just as much through the various rebellions. We also visited the Gordon Highlanders Regiment museum which gave us insight into years after the rebellion and how those regiments held onto their highland heritage. I will go into more of that insight and history in a separate post about Aberdeen.
In other miscellaneous news updates, I just want to share some recent comments about one of my favorite book series. I read this a while ago but didn’t have a chance to post it until now… author Elizabeth Chadwick shared a bit of interesting and hopeful news about her William Marshal series! She has mentioned that the rights to it have been purchased for possible eventual filming! “my Marshal novels have had the rights bought by a film company recently – hooray!!. I have historical consultancy rights on board and they are looking at making a two hour pilot. There is still a long way to go and it still might not happen, but the spark is there.” She posted this on her Goodreads page recently and I was thrilled to hear of this possibility.
One last important update and forewarning… In order to accommodate all of the pictures involved with this vacation, I have had to begin culling older pictures from my media library! I am trying to cull only the unattached photos but I know from previous experience that sometimes those photos are attached to a post. If you are browsing through older archived posts and notice missing pictures, I do apologize for that but there is little I can do about it at the moment. I am running close to my media limits and after the expenses of this vacation, I can’t quite afford to upgrade yet to a higher limit!
Amazing Race adventure!
Now, on to the main focus of this post, our Amazing Race adventure that began in Aberdeen, Scotland and ended in Dublin, Ireland. I have say that while this was truly an epic and awesome tour, it really did feel like Amazing Race with all of it’s challenges, roadblocks and detours. After spending so much time pre-planning this trip, we ended up scrapping the well laid plans and truly winging it. From the very beginning hurdle/challenge in Aberdeen, I felt like Phil Keoghan was going to show up in front of us and tell us “I’m sorry but you’ve been eliminated” before we even started the race.
Now that we have survived and won our personal race, I can look back on all of it and admit that some of the challenges and difficulties were caused by our own miscalculations and mistakes. The first massive setback was our ordeal with the third party rental agency that we had booked our car rental from. The car rental plan turned out be a disaster that ended with us losing the money we had pre-paid on the car rental as well as now having to completely alter our original plan of driving… In retrospect, that did turn out to be a huge hidden favor or blessing because realistically the driving idea was not so great as we originally thought. At the time, however, this roadblock did create some initial moments of panic for us- as in, “Now what the hell do we do?” Luckily, we are resilient and adaptable, and the panic quickly subsided. Our panic eased but our continued and still lingering irritation with said car rental agency has not disappeared. They cost us a lot of cash and time that could have been used to much better purpose than having to continue to wait on them! To make a long story short, we arrived in Aberdeen on Monday morning and our ordeal with car company dragged out till Wednesday. On Monday, they assured us that all of the problems could be taken care of and we could pick up a car on Wednesday with no extra charges… When we returned there on Wednesday, a different agent told us there was an enormous additional charge, that she did not know anything about any previous promises or assurances made to us and that she could not honor any such promise. The most frustrating part of that experience was that we had wasted much time on waiting around for the rental car company. If we had not been assured a resolution to the situation, we would have planned our time in Aberdeen differently! There were some excellent day tours available through the local tourism office that we could have taken advantage of had we not had to bother with waiting on that damnable car rental agency. One good thing to come from that horrific beginning was that we did get spend more time exploring the city of Aberdeen and it’s history!
Initial panic and frustrations aside, we opted for plan B… yes, we did have to quickly devise plan B but it actually worked out far better than the driving plan. Plan B was to check out the train system and alter our entire trip around it. We should have just planned that route from the beginning, but as we all know, hindsight is 20/20. This new much altered plan meant we had to eliminate some previously planned sites but it did allow for more time in the places we did visit. It also eliminated the stress of trying to drive, which my daughter admitted later was a good thing!
Our new plan gave us three and a half days in Aberdeen, three days in Edinburgh, two days in Cardiff, two days in London and one final day spent in Dublin.
Overall, this all worked out so much better than our original plan and most of the hotels and booking agencies were very helpful with the changes we had to make to all of our reservations. I say most because there was one agency and hotel that turned out to be even worse than the car rental… I need to voice my still very seething frustration and outright disgust with Booking.com and with the Abbey Court Hotel in London! We had no problems what so ever with Hotels.com or with any other hotel during our trip but my personal advice, based our experience, to other travelers would be to avoid booking.com and Abbey Court Hotel! Perhaps my view of Abbey Court was biased because of our experience with them in conjunction with booking.com and the fact that each party insisted on blaming each other for the problems. Perhaps my disgust and ill temper with them was due to sheer exhaustion by then and I am being overly harsh with them, expecting too much from them based on my experiences with the hotels in the other places we stayed. I did try to tell myself that. I also made serious attempt to rationalize that this was London after all, and for the price we were paying, we should not really complain too much about the room condition… that being somewhat rationalized, I was still left with the fact that the staff was rude and passed off the issue on to others rather than trying to admit any blame or even appease us in any way. I was also left with the overheard complaints of other guests about various aspects of the accommodations and service. That all being vented, the only plus for them was the fact that they were located close to Paddington Train Station as well as close walking distance to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Then again, so are a vast number of other hotels in that area- you should look into any one of those other hotels rather than Abbey Court!
Do not let the exterior facade of Abbey Court deceive you, it looks so lovely on the outside…
We’ve already discussed the attitude and general behavior of the staff, so no need to rehash that. We’ve already accepted that it’s London, should we really expect much more from an inexpensive hotel in a crowded city providing desperately needed rooms for the massive numbers of tourists. But, lets just look at exactly what you find once you’ve taken your chance on that ohh so lovely facade of Abbey Court. First of all, you get no key card- nope, you get an old fashioned key which you have to turn into the front desk each and every time you leave the building. Ummm, one other thing to go along with that key and the door to your room… You get no door knob!
You get a door latch that sticks, and once inside you kind of get the feeling you’ve been locked into your room/cell.
I understand that space is at a high premium in London, but really this room gave me a severe case of claustrophobia along with nightmares! If you feel you can deal with it, then by all means go for it- after all, you are in London and may not plan to spend much time in the room anyway…
That’s it, that’s what you get for a room as opposed to say, what we got for the same approximate price at a Travel Lodge in Dublin? Actually, I think the room in Dublin cost much less than the one in London, but that is not really unexpected.
My final observations on Abbey Court Hotel… WiFi is extremely limited free time and not very reliable- I suppose they want you to use it up quickly so you will pay for any additional required use. There is also no attached restaurant, well there is one connected to them but it is a separate entity and there is no room service available at all. They do offer some sort of breakfast downstairs in their basement but I was not up braving the cost or the quality of that experience. They do also offer some shuttle services to airports but when I checked on the price of shuttle to Gatwick, I realized it was far cheaper to just take the train from Paddington Station.
Ok, I feel better now for having done what I feel is my traveler’s civic duty in forewarning you about my personal experiences with some fails. I did not give the name of the car rental agency because I will admit that part the issue with them was a serious lack of communication or understanding on all sides. We could have made better choices about that situation so we do take some partial responsibility for that failure.
This was just a brief overview of the tour. In upcoming posts, I will share our experiences and thoughts on each individual city that we visited as well as some additional information on dealing with the trains and buses in each area.
Upcoming city posts: Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Cardiff, London, Dublin