2018 UK and Ireland Adventure: Home At Last

Dublin's Ha'penny BridgeAS ONE OF MY READERS has remarked, “this has been quite the adventure”. Yes, it has been very different from my previous trips. Not what I had envisioned, but I can easily say it was fun, adventuresome, a learning experience, I saw things I’d not seen before and I was able to share my experiences with a friend—at least two voiced desires (from previous adventures) finally met!

I’m going to apologise now for this final, super-long blog (I could break it into two or three to make it more manageable, but nope—sorry). I’m trying to get all the left-out bits pulled together to create this one last travel-Image of cloudy, blustery skies on the way to Dublinblog entry. Also, you’ll see photos scattered throughout this blog. Make sure to click on them to see the full size—and more importantly—more information about the photo. They will not necessarily be in the order seen on the trip.

Being home. Aaah. What can I say? Standard response is “it feels so good to be in my own bed”—definitely. But almost I want to travel posterimmediately, I’m wishing that I could go back. Travel more. Wander and ponder more. See more things—crazy, I know, since I have been away for nearly three months. I am glad to be home; back to my sweet little kitteh, who did not shun me one bit this time—he was purring and rooting the moment I stepped foot in the house (and yowling loudly till I could get the door opened to step inside)! What a lovely greeting (he’s usually pouting and ignoring me for a good half-hour—I like this new response).

I’ve already had a few of the usual questions pop up: Sunrise from our hostel room in DublinWhat did you like most and least? Which was your favourite place? What would you Hanging Flower Potsdo differently? I’ll answer those and more, plus add a few observations since arriving stateside.

What I liked most has always been a hard one—there are always so many amazing things—so I choose to give four Image of River Liffey from a Bridgeanswers: one per “country” (yes, yes. I know—I only visited two countries, but since Wales and Scotland each have their own governmental structure and a distinct and very strong sense of ownership to go with it, I will break my answers down to the four regions we visited.)

Ireland: For this trip, I’m still National Leprechaun Museumenthralled with Dublin’s energy. I’m usually not a fan of the busyness of cities (and Dublin had its fair share of busy, noisy stuff. Though I was unable to keep my usual pace, there were Cannonball into harbourtimes, just walking through the the various areas of the city (especially Temple Bar and Trinity College areas) gave my spirits a lift. As a close second, I loved the Donegal area. We did not really get down into Donegal, but instead, were up in the countryside overlooking it. Secluded, tranquil, beautiful vistas everywhere. I was still seriously nursing my ankle injury (in addition to a wound acquired fighting with the step to the shower area <giggle> at the B&B we were at), so the tranquility was nice. Next time around, I do want to spend more time on the west coast—around Connemara and the wild countryside along the southwest coast.

Wales: ooh, what isn’t lovely image of tomatoes, cucumbersabout Wales?? Sandy would say, “getting stepped on by a horse …” Yes, that bit was far from lovely, and this created two gimpy gals trying to have fun. Sigh. Back Rooster Weather Vaneto the question at hand—Snowdonia National Park will always have a place in my heart, but it now must share space with Brecon Beacon National Park—both are shining gems in Wales. Definitely worth the Crystal Ball Shot of Garden and Treestime to explore the hills, mountains, lakes, rivers and valleys. I’ve only seen a wee bit of Shaggy Sheep Seeking Shadeboth Snowdonia and Brecon Beacon. One of these days I’d like to explore each more. As for towns … Llanberis and Betws Y Coed. Llanberis because … well, it’s just a cool little town and I love to say the name (it’s not Lan-beris, Beautiful Window at Tintern Abbeyit’s … um, Ll is a lispy L sound—tongue at the front, allowing air out the sides. Kinda—here’s a link for the pronunciation <grin>).

England and N. Ireland: I know I keep talking about the countryside in all of these Image of two shadowsareas, but well … yeah. Can’t be helped. For this trip, hands down the Yorkshire View of Tintern AbbeyDales—the amazing beauty and tranquility I find in this heartland of the Yorkshire countryside gives me such peace. If it’s a town you’re looking for me to recommend, the only one that comes to mind is Hay-on-Wye. It’s really the only one where we did much exploring. If you’re a bibliophile, I think there are more book stores per block in this town than any other I’ve seen … and there’s an annual book festival. Walkways alongside the river were quite amazing also!

Model of the TitanicScotland: as much as I’d like to say Edinburgh’s diverse character and all the amazing sights to be seen, I must say—this time—that Isle of Skye captured my heart and I yearn to return to take in its beauty. The towns are small and fun to roam around in—its easy to poke around each one in an hour or so … it’s the traveling from one to the next that takes the time (but, time well spent). We pretty much stuck to the coastal route—except for one time (when we finally saw some highland cows—squeeee!), but the single track roads are not everyone’s cup of tea. I have no problem with them (didn’t get to experience them Stage for Riverdance in Dublinon Skye, but did take lessons learned from Marc’s and our guide’s driving and put it to good use on the second half of our trip). The only down-side to Skye is that “the powers that be” cannot keep up with the needs of the huge influx of tourists—most of the Concessions the Old-Fashioned Way at the Gaiety Theatretourist sites (ie: Fairy Pool, Man of Storr, etc) do not have toilets or any kind of concessions, which leaves one to use the great outdoors if you “can’t hold it” … which is not the Riverdance dancers at the Gaiety Theatrebest for the environment (or privacy). Not a deal-breaker for me.

Having rented a car, we registered a “few” miles—not counting the Isle of Skye segment—as I was not the driver for that portion. Skye was a nice respite, but by the end of the week, I was eager to get back behind the wheel <grin> and continue exploring. Below, you’ll find the google maps of the highlights of our trip, including the mileage. Wow.

Map: Leg One Ireland May-July 2018
Map: Leg Two 2018 Trip Wales, Yorkshire, Scotland
Map: Leg Three-Inverness to Isle of Skye and Back June 2018
Leg Four-Inverness, UK to Holyhead, UK 2018
Leg Five-Holyhead to Dublin with day trips 2018

Embellished Cover, Dublin Ireland Earth-Rod Manhole Cover, Dublin IrelandNow for what I don’t really like to discuss because others may find they have had or will have a completely different experience. So, take this with a grain of salt (but be forewarned) if this is where you want to travel. The least favourite place we visited—hands-down—was Bath, England. I was disappointed in the hospitality industry, the hostel we were in (could not change our reservations—no cancellations allowed—otherwise we would have left after Fancy Wrought Iron Railingthe first night), and I was unimpressed with the sameness of the architecture. Admittedly, my ankle definitely held me back, so many of the things to see were out of my reach and the heat was stifling during our stay. Had we stayed in Bristol (now that is a town to put on your places-to-see itinerary—very cool place) and made a day trip to Bath, that might have been Trinity College Old Librarybetter. Mostly, it was the attitudes and trustworthiness of the hospitality industry that left a bad taste in my mouth (from the Bath Tourism office to the supposedly knowledgeable staff at points of interest—Jane Austen Tea House, Hop-on Hop-off bus’ recorded tour, and we even had issues at our hostel). I’ve never had such a bad experience on such a large scale before.

Jameson Whisky Barrel Table in Temple Bar, Dublin Brass Flower Sculpture in Temple Bar, DublinAfter returning home, I was reminded of how polite the drivers are in Ireland and the UK—compared to the egotistical, self-centered drivers (I know—they’re not all like that) I’ve encountered in my short time back home. It’s truly amazing how much faster one can get through a bottle neck (lose a lane and need to merge together) across the Pond as compared to the “you’re not getting in front of me” attitude of many California drivers when confronted with the same situation. One can only take a deep breath and shake the head … otherwise go bonkers.

I have learned quite a few things along the way.

Friends always ask me how much to plan on spending for a trip abroad. I can never give them a figure—not even a guesstimate—so, I need to keep better financial records. I mean, I have the receipts … but I never do anything with them—baaad me! Especially when sharing expenses with a friend <insert eyeroll>. Also, I need to keep record of the places I visit—my little booklets I created ended up not being used (by either of us) past the first week or so … I didn’t take the time to take notes, so places are (as usual) blurring together. I am surprised that I’m remembering things better, but there really was a lot to remember, so there are gaps—big gaps. Photos will help, but the photos need notes, too. “What’s this one from …?” is my most frequently asked question to myself. And usually, there’s no answer. Sigh.

Another lesson: As the “planner” and “guide” I felt like I was responsible for everything. Sandy and I had a talk about this and she tried to make it clear that I was not responsible … but I kept feeling that way—my issue, not hers. So, if and when I do have a friend with Sphere Within A Sphere, Trinity College Dublinme, I need to plan “me” time in the schedule … actually, for both of us, which would alleviate the pressure I was feeling. I did it a little, but not near enough. I also need to find out the expectations of my friend before traveling—I was not fully aware of the fact that Sandy liked to use a “base camp” and go out from there to see things for at least a week, whereas I like to “touch base” with an area and move on after a couple days … with an occasional “hunker-down and explore for a bit”—but definitely on a more organic/spontaneous level. Yup … I need to work on this. And I need to make sure my travel companions know I prefer spontaneity to planning things out in advance. In a way, I felt trapped having the trip so “well-planned” (sniggle—Sandy probably would not call it “well planned”, but that’s okay too).

Most importantly, I loved having a friend with me so I could share my experiences, but in future I will limit the time to one or two weeks (or some percentage of my trip)—not the whole The Quay's Bar, Dublin Irelandtrip. Not because we ended up hating each other. Nope—far from it. We learned a lot about each other. And that’s kinda cool. It’s just that ten weeks was way too much “together-time” <grin>. Sandy agrees. When (not if, but when) we travel again, it will be for a much shorter time. I will either go earlier to explore and meet her on a designated day or stay afterwards to travel on my own.

In closing, I can now say that, whilst abroad, I’ve traveled alone, with friends and with family; I’ve traveled by car, train, boat (well … kinda—I will do it for real next time!), bus and plane. I’ve done tours (very small and way too large), done day tours and planned things on my own. I’ve stayed in B&Bs hostels, hotels and friends’ homes. I’ve travel to various Aged Manhole Cover, Dublin Irelandcountries on the Continent and extensively (yet not) in Ireland and the UK. Each and every time, I find myself wanting to go back and see more. I wonder how long I’ll be able to keep this up, because there will always be so much more to see <insert grin>.

So finally, I say cheers, my friends. I bid you adieu for another week.  Have a blessed Friday, week-end and beyond. I will go back to my routine of keeping you updated about my goofy Painterly and Writerly sides—there are a few events coming up and much to do to get my books republished … toodles!

Week Ten—We’re Winding Down: Anglesey to Dublin

View from window in a quaint little town somewhere in Snowdonia, Wales

Please remember to click on each photo—I’ve made comments on many of them.

“BEST LAID PLANS THAT’S how the saying goes, right? This week was no different <giggle and eye roll>. On Friday, Navi took us on a wild goose chase because, even though destinations are saved, Navi doesn’t really save specific routes taken. And I didn’t stop to try to save the location … but I did remember—miracles—the name of a nearby hotel. When I put our previous destination in, a different route came up … with lots of alternate routes thrown in—leading us to a completely different place. I tried to outsmart her (I should know better—insert eye roll) by altering the final destination … but later we discovered that was even worse. Our sweet little Navi took us on a very long, very bland trail of one track roads that were populated with newer homes—far, far away from the majestic mountains and the quaint village I sought in Snowdonia. Sigh—not what we were looking for. Not knowing the town name was the problem. Not finding the landmark I remembered (The Swallow Falls Hotel) in Navi’s “accommodations” failed. We did make one stop for lunch (wish we’d taken time to wander around as it was the only lovely bit of our trip—sniff). Finally, after a long, dismal day of driving (after returning to our room), I reached out to friends on FB, trying to discover what town it was the CIVers had traveled to a number of years ago—eureka! Betws Y Coed! (see pronunciation here) So I finally had a destination to put into Navi—but it would have to be another day! Sigh.

All of the driving on Friday wiped us out, so Saturday was a recovery day—we hung around the hotel and the Old Derelict HomeCommunity Safety Information posterImage of foliage and a white castle Image of walled in white castle "Castle" Manor Turretharbour, meandering and taking photos. The plan was to find a church to attend on Sunday, then make our journey to Betws Y Coed and have fun wandering the streets and paths. Again, that “best laid plans” thing reared it’s ugly head. Though we Holyhead As Viewed from Soldier Point Breakwaterwere given church names by staff at the hotel, we could not find information about service times—nor locations … so again,we altered our plans and decided our drive into Snowdonia would be our priority on Sunday. It Spectacular Snowdonia Park in Wales Mountainous Terrain of Snowdonia Image of sheep grazing Creek (River?) in Betws Y Coed Bridge at Western Edge of Betws Y Coed The Town of Betws Y Coed St Mary's Church with clock tower Commemorative Bridge in Betws Y Coedwas lovely! A tiny bit of rain (yay!) cleared the air, oodles of deliciously billowy clouds parading up in the sky … just lovely! Lots of photos were taken, both in the valleys surrounded by mountains and lakes … and in the quaint little town I sought! We even managed a yummy lunch at bistro (near the western edge of town) … and an ice cream near the centre of town.

Did I mention that the island we stayed on (where Holyhead is located) is called Anglesey? And Holy Island? It’s Welsh name is Ynys Môn. ‘Tis the seat of the ancient Welsh empire. I’m finding the history via the Welsh tales I’m reading—purchased in Betws Y Coed. Loving the book. Love the folklore, too. It’s actually starting to bring my imagination alive <insert monster grin> … well, that and the deliciously beautiful countryside.

Monday was a travel day—after turning in the rental at the terminal. I’d been trying since Friday to reach Hertz via the phone. It left me very frustrated, not knowing if I’d have someone to turn the car into. When we picked up the car, we were told to call to let them know the date we’d be returning it (making an appointment, so there would be someone there to take it). It did resolve itself, but I did let them know I was unhappy with the way they handled things.

On Our Way—Stena Lines (Stena Plus Lounge) Good bye, Wales …! The ferry ride was uneventful, even with the bit of rain we had at the Holyhead side of the trip (oh—and half-way across). Dublin had a bit of rain a couple days prior to our arrival, but it looks Image of lighthouse at point of Dublin Harbourlike at least this week will stay dry, even though there are some lovely clouds floating by. There was a bit of a delay at the Dublin Terminal as immigration was doing spot checks on the cars <insert rolling eyes> … we didn’t get off the boat till around 6pm … and finding a taxi was a challenge for quite a few folks—including us. Image of plates and "grafitti" on wall

We spent the remainder of Monday settling into our new digs at The Gardiner House Hostel, located at 76 Gardiner Street in Dublin. This is a hostel I would heartily recommend. It seems to be closer to downtown Dublin than the Dublin International Hostel (DIH) on Mountjoy Street. Also seems to be better managed—the place is cleaner due to the fact that cleaning is scheduled at least four times a day—or more, which is amazing. And a big sell for me (over DIH) is the lift. Tiny, but functional. It is a God-send for me an’ my feeble legs (stairs are a really big nemesis for me).

Tuesday and Wednesday, we wandered around Dublin on foot—separately on Tuesday, and together on Wednesday. Together, we went to the Leprechaun Museum (it’s not just for children)—we both enjoyed the storytelling and I purchased a book, Dublin Folktales. I seem to be collecting folktale books <insert grin>. We finally made it to the Jameson Distillery, which was a let-down (for the first time ever). Two years ago, they did a massive (and apparently very expensive) overhaul of their facilities, jettisoning their lovely Barrowman’s dinner (celtic dancing, music, whiskey tasting and yummy food) and their lovely dining area upstairs … and cut their gift shop in half, with far fewer non-alcohol related items for sale. Despite the name (my maiden name), the appeal for me has been tarnished with the overhaul. I’ve no desire to make that a point of interest on return trips. But, if you enjoy whiskey and like to see the process, the tour is informative. Thursday had Sandy on a tour of Galway and Cliffs of Mohr whilst yours truly finalised this blog—downloading photos, etc.

Starting today, the upcoming seven days (day seven and eight will probably be spent packing, repacking and jettisoning items to keep under the 50# restrictions … and perhaps <insert grin> mailing a few items to help with the weight) will be filled with last-minute plans—seeing things we’ve missed, attending a fun event here and there. Plus time to play with our cameras. Please make sure you click on all of the photos I’ve included—I’m starting to be more consistent with making notes about most of the photos—notes I’m not mentioning within the blog itself.

I hope you are enjoying these blogs—I know they are a wee bit word heavy with these travels, but I’m hoping the verbosity is adequately off-set by the photos. Thank you for following me in my adventure in Ireland, Wales, England proper and Scotland … and back again. One more—maybe two blogs till I return to the “normal” craziness of this author-storyteller-photographer-artist. There are challenges ahead of me as a writer (and new publisher) and I must get artwork together for quite a few upcoming things. I’m trying to leave those worries and challenges back home … to be dealt with once I return home.

Until then, I wish you adieu for another week. May your Friday, weekend and upcoming week be blessed in amazing ways. Cheers!