More than England…

Cruise map

by Mary Jo

In casual conversation, the words “Britain” and “England are often used interchangeably, but in fact the two things are very different.  We’re just back from a Viking cruise called “The British Isles Explorer,” which really highlighted the difference.  The British Isles are a sprawling archipelago of islands sized anywhere from uninhabited rocks to full sized nations. The largest island is Great Britain, which includes England, Scotland, and Wales.

V&A courtyard

The second largest island is Ireland, which includes the Republic of Ireland and Northern Island. The latter joins with England, Scotland, and Wales to become the United Kingdom. As the route map shows, the cruise also included two island groups with strong Nordic ancestry, Orkney and Shetland.  So the British Islands Explorer cruise includes a lot more than England!

Nonetheless, we started with 3 days in London because why cross the Atlantic to the UK and not spend time in London?  So we did.  The Mayhem Consultant chose the lovely Rembrandt Hotel, which is literally across the street from the famous Victoria & Albert museum, which holds the world’s largest collection of applied arts and designs.  It’s so vast that all one can do is nibble at it. We visited

Regency furniture

the 18th century area which included Regency style furniture.  We also admired the pool in the central garden, in which kids splash in warmer weather. (We had sunshine through the trip, but it was not particularly warm.)

On our previous visit to London, the  Mayhem Consultant had spotted big red double-decker buses that offered Tea on the Bus.  I had some doubts as I envisioned buses slamming on the brakes in heavy traffic and sending tea and cakes flying.

Tea on the Buss

But Bridget’s Bakery was much smarter than that. The very solid tables were built into the bus and there were wells to cradle the insulated tea beverage holders.  The racks that held the food were also heavy enough to be stable, and as you can see, each one held a LOT of foods, both savory and sweet.  Most guests ate about half and little carry-away boxes were supplied for leftovers.  The food items were also designed for eye appeal (or possibly eye shock. <G>)  For example, the green globe with a pink icing cap was actually a very tasty cream puff.  Savory items included sandwiches and a small quiche, among other things.

Us on the bus

So if you’re in London and in the mood to be well fed and totally touristy, try Tea on the Bus!  They have several routes with different pick up points. Since we are indeed tourists, we chose the route that started just off Trafalgar Square.  The tour took about an hour and a half and drove by a number of London’s most famous sites, like Westminster Cathedral and Buckingham Palace.

After seeing the sites and visiting some friends, we went off to Tilbury to board the Viking Venus. 

Tilbury port at sunset

Tilbury is due east of London along the Thames River and is a major deep water port on the North Sea. I took this picture of container cranes silhouetted against a dramatic sunset.

I’m running out of time so I’ll stop here, but I’ll talk more about the actual cruise on future  blogs.  For now, let’s share a cup of virtual tea!

Model royal coach in the V&A

Mary Jo


18 thoughts on “More than England…”

  1. What a wonderful vacaton! I dunno about tronking all the way through the Victoria & Albert Museum, but I’d definitely be up for Tea on a Bus!

    • Janice, it would take YEARS to get all the way through the V&A! I suggest that you do what we did, which was talk to the nice people manning the info desk in the main lobby. They will pull out a map and describe where to find different things. Or you could just wander and be surprised!

  2. Love that you take us along on your trips. I always thought riding on a double decker would be fun, but drinking tea at the same time sounded challenging. But after our description, it sounds like fun.

    • Mary T, it was indeed fun, and very well done. There was a pre-recorded narration of the sites, also well done and including some things I’d never heard before. So it’s a tea with both munchies and education–perfect!

  3. Thanks for the post and the pictures. How does one go about getting one of those green cream puffs? Do you think they do well in mail?

    And the trip does sound lovely.

    • Annette–sadly, you’ll have to go to London to get one of those green cream puffs. But it would be worth it!

  4. Sounds wonderful! We are taking our first Viking Ocean Cruise in June! I think ours in called Journey into the Midnight Sun with a week in Norway and a few British stops. Can’t wait to read your other summaries!

    • It will be Fabulous, LilMissMolly! This was our sixth cruise on Viking, and they’ve all bee great.

  5. Lovely post! I’m hoping to visit my daughter, who lives in London sometime this year. I would definitely love to see the V&A Museum. It sounds like you had a lot of fun!!

    • Teresa, it was indeed lots of fun. The V&A is so large that you might want to check it out online first to get a sense of what you’d most like to see. (And like all the great British national museums, it’s free.)

  6. Wish they had had Tea on a Bus eons ago when we were there. Sounds lovely. Did you visit- sail by where your Laird lived? I can never keep the islands around the larger island straight and am lousy at geography. There are so many places and things to see in England it is hard to remember that we have states that are larger geographically than it is.

    • Nancy–Yes, the cruise stopped in Orkney, which was the inspiration for my fictional Thorsay in ONCE A LAIRD. It was great to see it again.

      Yes, England isn’t large, but it’s history makes it INTENSE!


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