There are times when one sets out to carefully plan a well-deserved escapade from their hectic work life. And then there are the other times, when a plan so simple and tailor-made materialises, that it would be a crime to miss out on the experience. The latter wound up being the case for Melchi Salins, and this week You & I learns more about the time when he set about on a rather interesting guided tour to the heart of British culture in England and Scotland.
“I usually make it a point to get away at the end of every year to get my mind off work,” said Melchi, a systems automations engineer at Australia Post, based in Melbourne. “This year the plan was to backpack through the Schengen Area in Europe,” he added. However, faced with either dealing with delayed visa applications or discounted airfares to London, the choice was quite clear.
While the trip included the beautiful areas and cities of London, Liverpool, York, Lake District, Leeds, Carlisle, Edinburgh, Inverness, Oban, and Glasgow, it was the concept of the travel agency itself that made the holiday much more fun and engaging than anticipated. Organised by the tour company Contiki, which exclusively plans trips for travellers between the ages of 18-35, Melchi was part of a group of more than 40 travellers that was shepherded around in a spacious shuttle bus. “The trip lasted around 12 days, after which I explored the sights for a couple more days in vagabond-mode,” he stated.
Shedding more light on his wintry holiday, Melchi shared, “Our trip manager did an extremely good job of planning our holiday. We visited all the places to see during the day, like castles, battlefields, winter and Christmas markets. The nights were reserved for cultural experiences, visiting the pubs and interacting with locals.”
Traversing through counties brimming with history and culture, a few of the most memorable experiences that stood out for Melchi were the bagpipe night in Glasgow and the ghost tour in York. York is known for its gory past and ghost sightings, and here the group was led on a guided tour of places where people used to be executed by being hanged, drawn and quartered. Legend has it that several of those who were wrongly executed by the ruling regime still haunt the streets. It was a chilling experience, despite the group not being lucky enough to spot any of these departed souls.
Apart from carefully selecting a set of popular sights that appeal to a younger demographic, Contiki also made sure to set the group up in comfortable accommodations, like the Holiday Inn or Ibis Hotels. On the culinary front, Melchi said, “When it came to the cuisine, I wish I wasn’t told what went into the making beforehand! I was slightly apprehensive before trying haggis and black pudding in Scotland, but I soon grew to like it.” He further shared, “If anyone ever craves Indian food, they can rest assured because there is always an Indian restaurant right around the corner.”
A trip that Melchi regarded as quite special in its entirety, one of the most extraordinary events that his travelling troupe got to witness was the Scottish blacksmith mock wedding. Explaining the customs of this celebration, he stated, “We had a mock wedding conducted in Gretna Green, a town situated on the border of England and Scotland. It’s a very old tradition where blacksmiths would marry couples that eloped from England, who didn’t belong to the same social class. This tradition began when England passed a law to increase the legal age of marriage, to curb young couples from eloping. But Scotland chose not to comply with England’s law, and in retaliation began the tradition of the anvil weddings.”
It was a holiday that the young engineer would recommend to anyone who loves travelling and meeting new people. His companions included people from Canada, U.S.A., Australia, Chile, Singapore and several other nationalities. “Travelling with companies like Contiki or TopDeck made it better,as they had trained tour guides and ties with local hotels that madethe whole trip quite economical,” he praised.
An engineer by trade with a knack for photography, Melchi was sure to get his fill of the streets of Liverpool, the castles of Edinburgh and perhaps even come close to the monstrous resident of the Loch Ness. Still, there’s yet another sight he’d love to return for. “I’d surely like to go back and spend some more time in the Scottish Highlands,” he stated, deeming it an extremely picturesque spot that would be a great place to work on his landscape photography. – as told to Roshni