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AUSTRALIA
Featuring the Melbourne Cup

13 Days, 12 Nights (including two en route)
OCTOBER 28 to NOVEMBER 9, 2014

6 nights in Melbourne, 2 nights in the Hunter Valley, 2 nights in Sydney
3 days of racing at Flemington and Randwick
Farm and wine visits in Victoria and the Hunter Valley
Special sightseeing in Melbourne and Sydney

 

Day 1
Tue  Oct 28
Depart the U.S. if not joining the trip from Australia or elsewhere.

Please note that your overnight flight from the U.S. to Australia crosses the International Date Line, and you will "lose" a calendar day on the way down. Arrival in Australia will be two calendar days after departure. This "lost" day is made up on your return.

 
 
Day 2
Thur  Oct 30
Arrive in Melbourne. You'll be met at the airport and transferred to the Langham Hotel, our accommodation in the center of the city. The remainder of your arrival day is free for adjustment and your own activities.

We always recommend staying active on your arrival day, and there are a number of things to do in the immediate area of the hotel. One we'd particularly suggest: a trip up to the observation floor of the nearby Eureka Tower, Melbourne's tallest building, for a birds-eye view that will help orient you to your surroundings.

THE LANGHAM: Luxurious comfort, elegant ambience, and a perfect location make the Langham the obvious choice for our Melbourne headquarters. Located on the Southbank Promenade, with fine views of the city center just across the river, the Langham is out of the hustle but only a few walking minutes away from everything. In addition to your room with a view, you might also want to spend some time in the fitness center, out on the rooftop deck, or in the beautiful swimming pool. For a serving of heightened well-being, the Chuan Spa is also located within the property.

See melbourne.langhamhotels.com.au for more information on the hotel. A full breakfast is included each morning of our stay.

There is much to see in Melbourne and the immediate surrounding areas of the state of Victoria, and we won't have time to cover it all once the trip proper has started. An early arrival won't be wasted, and it would be a good idea to do advance thinking and planning about what you'd like to do.

Some suggestions: an excursion to the Yarra Valley east of the city, which could include some wine-tasting and a stop at the Healdsville Wildlife Sanctuary for closeup viewing of its unparalled collection of Australian animals; a boat cruise through the city and beyond on the Yarra River; or a day-or-two trip along the Great Ocean Road, considered one of the finest seashore drives in the world. Very worthwhile and highly recommended is an organized and specialized walking tour of the atmospheric city center and its little side streets and alleyways. One of these walks, focused on shopping and art, is an excellent way to get "inside" Melbourne. They must be booked in advance.

By this evening everybody will be in town. At about 6PM we'll all meet up for cocktails at the hotel to get to know one another and to go over the details of our upcoming time together. We'll also organize a no-host group dinner at a popular Melbourne restaurant for those that are in the mood for it.

 
 
Day 3
Fri  Oct 31
Our trip kicks off this morning with a "Melbourne 101" coach exploration, taking in all the major sights. Even if you've been here a day or two already there will be a lot to see. Besides the obvious buildings and monuments, we'll cruise some of the neighborhoods and attractions on the periphery of the city center that you might want to come back to later on your own. We'll see the city's great parks and also get down to the shorefront of Port Phillip bay at St. Kilda.

Mid-day we'll be back at the hotel and ready for a special event that will truly help get us in the mood for the upcoming Spring Racing Carnival, the week-long festival of racing that includes the Melbourne Cup. We've been fortunate to have been invited to attend the luncheon of The Carbine Club, held every year on the Friday before the Carnival begins. Named after the legendary racehorse Carbine, winner of the Cup in 1890 under 145 pounds, The Club is one of Australia's most prestigious racing organizations.

Attended by upwards of a thousand members and invited guests, this Friday lunch is lively in the Australian way, lasts well into the afternoon, and usually segues on to the bar downstairs for some follow-through. On past trips we've spread our group out among many tables, to take full advantage of this opportunity to meet and mingle with Australian racing people. You'll make some friends.

There is a modest "pre-Derby" evening of racing at the Moonee Valley course tonight, for those that are more than ready to partake of some action. We've not made any arrangements to attend, but we can certainly organize transport for those that want to.

 
 
Day 4
Sat  Nov 1
This is one of the biggest racing days of the year in Australia the opening day of the Spring Carnival, headlined by the Victoria Derby for 3-year-olds. The Derby is Victoria's oldest race, dating back to 1855, and every race on the card today is a Group-rated event: there are four Group 1s, two Group 2s, and three Group 3s. Besides the Derby, one of the other Group 1s is the important Mackinnon Stakes, which will have its 146th running in 2014. This ten-furlong weight-for-ager is often used as a prep for the Melbourne Cup coming up just three days later. Australians are not afraid to run their horses.

They race for big money in Australia, and total prize money today will be almost 5 million U.S. dollars. For racing people, this is a more important day than Melbourne Cup Day itself.

Things start early first post is 11:20AM. And because upwards of 100,000 fans will be packing Flemington Racecourse, we'll plan to get there early ourselves so that we can learn our way around before the place gets filled up. It's a very large plant, and the paddock is quite a ways from the best seating area where we'll be. It is possible to view the horses in the paddock, make a bet, and still get back to the seats to see a race but it really helps to know the shortcuts.

Flemington is a left-turning track about 1 3/8 miles around. It's pear-shaped, reminiscent of the old Jamaica course in New York, with a tight first turn and a sweeping stretch turn. All the racing is on grass. The skyline of downtown Melbourne looms in the distance, one of the most distinctive backdrops of any racecourse in the world.

We'll have reserved seating in the best viewing area of the stands. Optional, and expensive, reserved lunch seating is available for those who want it, but it must be booked well in advance. We expect also to be able to obtain entrance to the Members Enclosure; this again is not inexpensive, is not openly available to the public, and we must arrange it well in advance if desired.

As to transport, after considering all the options, we'll be doing it the way the locals of all stripes do it by train. Due to traffic and the extra walking from the parking lots, taking a coach to the course adds quite a chunk of time each way to the journey. The train trip is about twenty minutes, the atmosphere on-board is acceptably civilized, and each of us will have the flexibility of returning to town whenever we want. The station, by the way, is five minutes' walk across the river from our hotel.

 
 
Day 5
Sun Nov 2
It's Breeders' Cup Saturday back home, and if the scheduling remains as it was in 2013, the BC will start somewhere around 6AM with the Classic going off at about 11:30AM. It was telecast in Australia last season and we expect it to be again in 2014. We'll come up with a good spot to watch (hopefully at our hotel) and we'll do our best to make an event out of it.

This afternoon we've got in mind to get out of the city and see some of rural Victoria. There is wine country in all directions from Melbourne, with a range of topographic, soil, and climate conditions producing a wide selection of wines and offering a variety of scenic experiences. Depending on when we estimate we'll be done with the Breeders' Cup and therefore how much time we have to work with, we'll choose a compass course to take and a program to enjoy. In any case a simple lunch and wine tasting at a couple of the more than 600 Victorian growers will be included. We'll be back in the city by early evening.

 
 
Day 6
Mon Nov 3
This is an OPEN DAY to use as you please. You might choose to sleep in, relax, maybe spend some time at the pool, or get a spa treatment. Downtown Melbourne is just across the river, and one of the specialized walking tours we recommended for the early arrivers would be a good option today if you haven't already done it. A long walk up the riverbank promenade past the rowing-club boathouses to the superb Royal Botanic Gardens would be rewarding, too.

Another possibility is joining in on the traditional pre-Melbourne Cup lunch held annually at a prominent Italian restaurant in downtown Melbourne. We've kindly been invited to again take part, and on our previous Australia trip most of the group attended and it was a great experience. The party gets underway midday and usually winds up taking up a good part of the afternoon. There's music, much hilarity, good food, and the chance to make more new Australian friends. Participation is on a no-host basis, and we do recommend it.

 
 
Day 7
Tue Nov 4

Melbourne Cup Day. It's a public holiday locally, and everybody wakes up with a plan for where they'll be to watch the "Race That Stops a Nation".

We'll begin our day by pinning on a yellow rose, traditional flower of the Melbourne Cup, and stopping in at the Champagne Reception kindly put on by the Langham for guests headed to the races. First post is even earlier toady -- 10:20AM -- but since the overall card is not quite as deep as Saturday's and we already know our way around, we won't need to head out to the course quite as early as we did before. One more glass of Champagne always sets the glow a bit better.

There are a number of Group 3s and Listed races also to be run, but today is really all about the Cup. With its two mile distance and three minutes-plus run time, a six-million dollar purse, a field limit of 24 with an equal number clamoring to get in, and a humongous betting pool with every big plunger and kindergarten teacher from Perth to Surfer's Paradise down for the action, the Melbourne Cup is one of the world's great races. It's a breathless run every step of the way -- the field jostles down the five-furlong opening straight, the riders negotiate for position around the claustrophobic first turn, energy is conserved in the long run up the back, and all is thrown in on the far turn and into the homestretch. Like the Taj Mahal, even with all the buildup and anticipation, the Melbourne Cup does not disappoint. Five minutes after it's over you'll want to do it again.

Tonight is our last night in Melbourne. We'll make a group booking at an atmospheric restaurant, and everyone is invited to join in on a no-host basis.

 
 
Day 8
Wed Nov 5
Time to pull up stakes today and say goodbye to Melbourne. After breakfast and checkout, we'll be off to the airport mid-morning for our just-over-one-hour flight up to Newcastle on the Pacific Coast of New South Wales, north of Sydney. We'll be met there and driven over to Pokolbin, our base in the Hunter Valley for the next two nights. Assuming an on-time flight arrival, we'll make a visit to a winery on the way to our lodging.

After settling into our rooms at The Carriages Boutique Hotel, we'll have time for a relaxed cocktail hour on the veranda or around the pool before heading out to dinner at a nearby restaurant.

THE CARRIAGES BOUTIQUE HOTEL: Privately situated and unpretentiously luxurious, The Carriages is where we'll be hanging our hat in the Hunter. A covered wrap-around porch surrounds the main 8-room guest house, and the 2-room Gatehouse is just a minute away on foot. It's quite possible we'll have the whole place to ourselves. There's also a swimming pool to cool off in. The property produces its own excellent wines, and you may want to pick up a bottle to help you with the sunset. Visit www.thecarriages.com.au to see more. A gourmet continental breakfast is provided each morning.

 
 
Day 9
Thur Nov 6
The Hunter Valley is the heart of Australia's Thoroughbred breeding industry. Dozens of farms are spread out over an area of about 800 square miles to the northwest of our lodging. About a third of the country's stallions are standing here, and about a quarter of the foals are produced. Following breakfast we'll head west to our first stop, the Australia headquarters of Ireland's global Coolmore Stud operation.

Coolmore/Australia occupies over 9,000 acres and during the breeding months may have as many as 20 stallions in residence, many of whom will have been shuttled down from the northern hemisphere for the season. We'll have a good look around.

We'll then head north further into the "Upper Hunter" and have a pub lunch before continuing on to the Scone area and visits to a couple of more farms. We're planning to see a large Australian-owned stallion-standing farm as well as a smaller property that's geared more to mares and foals only.

Because of the wide area we have to cover to see these representative establishments, the farm visits will take up most of the day. We'll get back to our house around the cocktail hour. As the geography makes it difficult to do both, wine will be a secondary consideration today. Those for whom it is more important might want to be on their own today for some no-host vineyard hopping. We can book a separate vehicle for this if there's sufficient demand.

We have a feeling everybody will be ready to enjoy a quiet evening "at home" tonight. We've arranged for an informal barbecue on the verandah at The Carriages. There will be time for a swim before.

 
 
Day 10
Fri Nov 7
Off to Sydney today, about a 2 - hour drive south. The plan is to get out of Pokolbin before mid-morning and arrive in Sydney around noon. We'll check in briefly at our hotel, then make the short walk down to bustling Circular Quay (pronounced "key"), the principal come-and-go-from point on Sydney Harbour.

The harbour is Sydney's signature element and quite possibly the most beautiful urban body of water in the world. Certainly your humble trip organizer has never seen better, and he's been around a bit. If you can picture a more intimately-scaled San Francisco Bay, with the far shores all looking like Tiburon and Sausalito only much closer to the city, with green-blue water in a semi-tropical setting, then you've got a hint of what it's like.

We'll spend a few hours out in this spectacular setting on our own boat this afternoon, poking into many of the little bays, and seeing the city skyline and the famous Opera House and Harbour Bridge from many angles. A nice lunch will be part of it, and even the wine is "on our shout" today.

By late afternoon it will be time to settle in properly at the Four Seasons Hotel and make plans for a quiet or an active evening. Sydney is at the doorstep. We can again organize a group dinner booking if the demand is there.

THE FOUR SEASONS: There are more than a couple of luxury properties in this town, but location and views-from-the-rooms were the tiebreakers in settling on our Sydney hotel. The customary Four Seasons top-of-the-line accommodation and service didn't hurt either.

Just minutes away from Circular Quay and The Rocks, the high-rise Four Seasons offers breathtaking panoramas from its Full Harbour View rooms, the category we've selected and from which you'll have two sizes to choose. There's an excellent spa in-house, a fitness center, and a delightful rooftop/outdoor pool. Have a look at www.fourseasons.com/sydney to learn more about the hotel. A buffet breakfast is included each morning of our stay.

 
 
Day 11
Sat Nov 8
Today is our racing day in Sydney, and we'll be going out to Randwick Racecourse for the action. Randwick is Sydney's principal course and has undergone a major renovation in the last couple of years. It hosts many very important events throughout the calendar, including a big festival at Easter time, and is the home of the Australian Derby.

With all the big horses still down in Melbourne , today's local meeting is a minor one. We'll enjoy the course on a relatively quiet day, although as it's the last day of the Spring Carnival back at Flemington, there will be some major races to watch via simulcast. (And since the horses race so frequently down here, probably some familiar names from last week.)

After the races we'll head due east to the Pacific Coast for an hour or two of stunning sightseeing along the shoreline. The beach-and-cliff scenery here is remarkable, and we'll look in at Tamarama, Bondi, Dover Heights, and "The Gap" for a taste of it all. There will be some new and novel views back to the city center, also.

We'll end up in Watson's Bay and have a no-host dinner at the venerable harbour-front institution, Doyles on the Beach. Let's hope for a nice sunset.

This will be our last night together as a group unless everybody decides to extend in Sydney, so we hope all will be on board for this dinner. However any who'd prefer to skip it can go straight back to the hotel and be on their own. For those who do stay, after dinner a private water taxi will take us back to Circular Quay and the city, and we'll get a chance to see the harbour again, this time by night.

 
 
Day 12&13
Sun Nov 9
The organized itinerary ends this morning. If you are not staying on at the Four Seasons, following breakfast and checkout we'll provide transport to Sydney airport for your flight home or onward. Extenders at the Four Seasons will get this service on their checkout day, whenever it is. After an overnight flight home, you'll arrive back in the U.S. on the morning of the same calendar day.

Hoo-roo, and travel safely.

**********

We can't recommend highly enough that you consider staying on at least a day or two. We've not even begun to scratch the surface of this beautiful and vibrant city, one of our favorites on the planet.

Just below our hotel is the historic, re-gentrified neighborhood called The Rocks, which was the original core of Sydney. This area is full of shops and galleries and is interesting to visit on any day, but on weekends it’s closed to vehicle traffic and hosts an open-air market.

If any of the shore-fronts drew your attention during our times out on the harbour, you can use the charming and frequent ferry services to pop over and check things out firsthand. Boats to everywhere leave from Circular Quay.

Board another kind of vessel and go outside into the ocean for some whale-watching. It’s a predictable migration time and whale sighting is “guaranteed” by the boat operators.

Stroll the Royal Botanic Gardens (at the other end of Circular Quay from the Four Seasons), walk the perimeter of the harbour on any of the number of neighborhood waterfront footpaths, or visit the nearby Opera House for a tour or even a performance if the scheduling is right.

The hardy might want to consider climbing to the top of the Harbour Bridge for still another perspective of the city and the harbour, this one breathtaking in more ways than one. Veterans of this experience swear by it.

Finally, Sydney is famous for it's huge range of dining options. (This is also true of Melbourne, if you're thinking of coming a bit early as well.)

 

TRIP TIMING AND THE BREEDERS' CUP

There's no way of getting around it: Melbourne's Spring Racing Carnival has a dates conflict with the Breeders' Cup. In many past years it was possible to do both, but since the BC has now seemingly permanently settled into the first weekend in November, there's just no good way to get from one to the other.

The overnight flights from California cross the International Date Line and use up two calendar days. Thus a Saturday night departure from Los Angeles, for example, would get into Australia on Monday morning. By this time the Spring Carnival is already underway. And as pointed out above, the opening Saturday (when it's still Friday in the U.S.) is a not-to-be-missed racing day -- its all-Group race card is considered by many to be the single best racing day of the year in Australia. The Melbourne Cup itself follows in its traditional slot on the first Tuesday in November.

So - we say to our potential Australia travelers the same thing we say to Saratoga and Del Mar devotees when we're encouraging them to try Deauville in August: take a break from your habits just this once and have a different and very special racing experience. We promise you won't be sorry.

The good news is we fully expect to be able to watch the Breeders' Cup on television. It was carried in Australia in 2013 and we have every reason to believe it will be in 2014, the T.V and the racing gods permitting. Saturday's main BC events will be taking place Sunday morning Australia time. We'll be able to make a party out of it.

TRAVELING TO AUSTRALIA

This is something else you can't get around: Australia is a long way away. Two things we like to mention here on that score:

First, the overnight flight from California is nowhere near as discomfiting as you'd think. Generally the flight leaves late evening and following drinks and dinner the plane quiets down in a hurry. The flight time is long enough to actually relax and get some sleep, unlike the shorter overnights to Europe where you're shaken awake for breakfast just as you've managed to finally settle in. And you're going with the sun and not against it, which always makes the time change less disruptive.

We do very much recommend that travelers starting from the eastern U.S. time zones spend one night on the west coast before continuing on to Australia the next night. It makes the adjustment significantly easier.

Second, if you're coming all this way - and might never again - you'll want to think about experiencing more of Australia than just the racing-intense part of it we're going to see on our trip. We know some people have limited amounts of time they can be away and that's why we've designed our trip to take up the absolute minimum number of days necessary. If you have more time, we urge you to expand with a day's earlier arrival in Melbourne, at least two or three extra days in Sydney at the end, and to consider one other excursion elsewhere perhaps up to the Barrier Reef in Queensland.

The best thing about Australia is the people. Nowhere else we've ever been have the residents been more friendly, cheerful, fun-loving, and welcoming. The longer you stay the more of this you'll get. Again, you won't be sorry.

CLOSING DATE

This trip will close on July 3, 2014. Payment in full and all necessary completed paperwork must be received by us no later than this date to insure that you will be able to join the trip.

COME EARLY, STAY LATE:

As mentioned above, this itinerary is designed to be full and busy. We invite you to consider coming even earlier, staying later, or combining our arrangements with other Australian or Asia-Pacific travel.

We'll provide transportation for you from Melbourne airport to The Langham Hotel on whichever day you choose to arrive, and from the Four Seasons Hotel to Sydney airport on whichever day you choose to leave. Additional nights at the Langham and the Four Seasons can be booked either before or after our scheduled stays. Both hotels have promised to accommodate extensions as best they can but the space is not blocked or guaranteed.

This is a very busy time of year in both Melbourne and Sydney. Please let us know as soon as possible if you wish to extend your trip.

ITINERARY & PRICES:

The itinerary includes:

  • Ten(10) nights lodging as indicated: six(6) in Melbourne, two(2) in the Hunter Valley, and two(2) in Sydney.
  • Breakfast each morning as indicated.
  • Three escorted days of racing at Flemington and Randwick, including transportation to and from the racecourse, course admission, and race card. Reserved seating at Flemington on November 1 and November 4.
  • Lunch on four(4) days: October 31 in Melbourne, November 2 in rural Victoria, November 6 in the Hunter Valley, and November 7 on Sydney Harbour.
  • Dinner on one(1) night: November 6 in the Hunter Valley.
  • Morning sightseeing excursion in Melbourne on October 31.
  • Half-day wine excursion out of Melbourne on November 2.
  • Full-day excursion in the Hunter Valley with farm visits on November 6.
  • Afternoon boat excursion on Sydney Harbour on November 7.
  • Post-racing sightseeing in Sydney on November 8.
  • Transfer from Melbourne airport to the Langham Hotel on October 30 or earlier arrival date.
  • Transfer from the Langham Hotel to Melbourne airport on November 5.
  • Economy class airfare from Melbourne to Newcastle on November 5.
  • Transfer from Newcastle airport to Pokolbin on November 5.
  • Transfer from Pokolbin to Sydney on November 7.
  • Transfer from Four Seasons Hotel to Sydney airport on November 9 or later departure date.
  • Welcome cocktails at the Langham Hotel in Melbourne.
  • Champagne Reception at the Langham Hotel on Melbourne Cup Day.
  • Accompaniment throughout by a knowledgeable American escort.
  • *We reserve the right to alter the air transfer on November 5 to a Melbourne-Sydney flight, with transfer to the Hunter Valley from Sydney airport, should the final airline schedules make this necessary.

The itinerary does not include:
  • Airfare to and from the U.S.A.
  • The cost of dinner or lunch except on days indicated.
The Cost of the Trip does not include:
  • Any charges incurred at hotels other than the basic cost of the room, including but not limited to room service, mini-bar, television or video, restaurant or bar service, laundry or dry-cleaning, business services, golf or other activities, spa treatments, and activities arranged through hotel concierge. (All group members will be required to provide a credit card imprint upon check-in at each hotel to guarantee payment for any individual charges.)
  • Excess baggage charges. The per-person baggage limit on the Melbourne-Newcastle flight is two(2) checked bags not to exceed 44 lbs each, and one carry-on not to exceed 15 lbs.
  • Costs related to obtaining passports or visas.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Alcoholic beverages, except where specifically indicated.
  • Charges incurred for anything other than what is specified in the "Itinerary Includes" summary above.
  • Personal gratuities. As part of our arrangements we will tip our drivers and the hotel staff on behalf of the group. Group members should appropriately tip their incoming and outgoing transfer drivers and anyone else who provides them with personal assistance, including special assistance by hotel staff. Please note your principal tour escort does not expect and will not accept a gratuity.
The Cost of the Trip Is:
    $5,375 per person, based on double occupancy (twelve or more travelers).
    $5,575 per person, based on double occupancy (ten or eleven travelers).
    $5,725 per person, based on double occupancy (eight or nine travelers).

    $1,725 single supplement, regardless of group size.

    *Please note we have still not received final pricing for some elements of this trip, and the trip price is therefore subject to minor adjustment until we do.

    We will attempt to match single travelers wishing to double up and thereby avoid the Single Supplement, however it will always be the single traveler's decision whether or not to accept a roommate.

    All trip prices quoted here are in U.S. Dollars. Prices are subject to change up to thirty(30) days prior to trip departure to reflect fluctuations in currency exchange rates between the United States and Australia. U.S. Dollar prices quoted here are based on the following exchange rate:

    1 US $ = 1.087 Australian $ // 1 Australian $ = 0.92 US $

OPTIONS:

  • Additional Nights at the Langham Hotel in Melbourne or the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney, if available: please inquire with us.
  • Upgrade to a 'Grand Premier" Full Harbor View room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney: $75 per person, double occupancy, or for singles $135. (Included in our basic trip pricing are the "Deluxe" Full Harbor View rooms. The "Grand Premier" category offers 540 square feet of space vs the 270 square feet in the Deluxe. Both categories have the same excellent view.)
  • Members' Enclosure Admittance at Flemington Racecourse on November 1 and/or November 4 (recommended for at least November 1): please inquire with us.
  • Lunch at Flemington Racecourse on November 1 and/or November 4, if available: please inquire with us.

GENERAL INFORMATION:

*This trip is designed for eight(8) to sixteen(16) people. Although we will make every effort to operate the trip, we reserve the right to cancel the trip if it has less than eight subscribers. Should we need to do this, all payments made to Racing-Europe toward the cost of the trip will be fully and promptly refunded.

*You must have a valid passport to enter Australia. A visa is also required for U.S. citizens and can usually be obtained at the time air travel arrangements are purchased. It is the individual traveler's responsibility to obtain the proper passport and visa documentation.

*Please note the itinerary begins in Melbourne and ends in Sydney, and travelers should bear this in mind when making their air arrangements.

*Some of the non-racing activities in the itinerary may be shifted from one day to another due to scheduling issues, but all will be included.


 

Photos courtesy Langham Hotels, Mary Myla Andamon, Flemington Racecourse, Flemming Christiansen, Tourism New South Wales, Coolmore Stud, and the Four Seasons/Sydney.


 

 
View the Itinerary for our other 2014 trips:

For Early June (England), click here       For Late June (Ireland), click here

 

 

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