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!

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

MY MIND IS A WEE BIT NUMB from all my zooming around from county to county, district to district and from country to country. From the west coast of the US to the beautiful east coast of Ireland, and then over to it’s rugged and

(right) Beauty of Wales awaits you...everywhere you look.

(right) Beauty of Wales awaits you…everywhere you look.

unforgettable west coast and back again…crossing the Irish Sea into Wales,

Ferry Crossing

(left) Land Ahoy! Ferry ride…

up to Manchester and back down to Wales (Snowdonia) for the tour.

Snowdonia turnstyle

Creek running in Wales

Then, crossing the Midlands to the south and eastern parts of Great Britain, a slingshot up and over London down to the southern portions of Wales and back up to Holyhead for another trip across the Irish Sea to Dublin and back home again.

Westminster and Big Ben

Westminster and Big Ben makes a lovely skyline.

Six weeks of exploring, valuable lessons learned, making new friends, of unexpected discoveries and excitement, visiting with old friends, traipsing around and poking into nooks and crannies of the big cities, small towns and countryside.

Architecural Designs

Millennium Centre in Cardiff

It’s been an eventful trip–perhaps a bit more eventful and maybe requiring a bit more energy than I planned, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat…with a few modifications.

Things I’d do different:
1) If I rent a car again, I’ll keep the same one for the whole trip, picking it up and dropping off at the same location to reduce the every increasing cost due to

One of six cars

The last of six car rentals…not a scratch on it 🙂

“drop off” fees (unless I plan on visiting Europe, too…though, it might an interesting challenge driving on the “wrong side of the car” in a right-hand drive car…), even if I have a week of touring with a group (I’ll just park it for the duration of the tour at the cottage).

Going Nowhere Fast...for quite some time. On the M4, in the heat of the day (25.5C--warm for the UK)...trying to get to Crawley...will I ever make it???

Going Nowhere Fast…for quite some time. On the M4, in the heat of the day (25.5C–warm for the UK)…trying to get to Crawley…will I ever make it???

2) Get an in-car satnav (remember ‘local’ vs ‘visitor’ directions my Gabby was providing?)
3) Whether I drive or take trains/buses, know how far it is (and add an hour) from point A to point B before making any kind of reservations.

Dr Who Experience-Closed

Did I mention it was Tuesday?

4) Make sure there’s adequate time to experience any area I visit and know the days exhibits will be closed
5) Pack even lighter than I have done in the past! Long pants will last for 2-3 wearings…add a simple casual dress to the wardrobe (I so enjoyed the one dress I bought–I ended up wearing it three times and wished I had another one to alternate with it).
Even though I packed for all weather conditions, I could easily have purchased socks at my destination if necessary. They take up loads of space. So do shoes…

How Many Shoes?

So…how many shoes does one really need?

I think I wore my close-toed shoes once? A waste of space. I wore my rain slicker once and never wore the rain pants that came with it. No weight, but bulky…and though I did wear my medium weight jacket a fair amount while in Wales, I could have layered instead. Again, not much weight, but definitely bulky (the plan was, it makes a great “blanket” for the chill of the airplane…but I ended up using my very lightweight sweater and that was more than adequate). The umbrella was nice to have, too, but I could have purchased on if it was needed, and left it behind to cut down on weight. Think about being willing to shed some things before you head home to make room for some of your gifts. I have a hard time with this…letting go is hard for me (wink)…but I did.

So many thing to take into consideration when traveling:

1) Will you have room for all of your gifts for your return flight? The bag only weighed 41 pounds when I left on my trip. I was 11 pounds over the 50# limit (cost me $68 in overage fees–worth it!), so either be prepared for an added expense or consider shipping items separately. Shipping costs can be steep, but the post office will allow you to bring the items you want to ship in for them to weigh and then you decide if it’s worth it. Also consider the fact that you are only allowed $800 worth of items carried with you as duty free. So, if you have an expensive small item, it may pay to ship it separately to keep under that $800 maximum (the airport does not count items shipped separately as part of your purchases during your trip, those will be tallied separately when you ship).
2) Keep a good record of goods purchased (keep it on you for your last leg home)–and figure out what the value is in dollars the night before your departure, as you will be asked to give an accounting on the declaration slip handed to you on the plane, when you most likely won’t have access to conversion tables. I forgot about the per item bit (only tallied the totals into dollars), so I just put down the euro and pound prices and indicated the total in dollars. It seemed to be okay. 3) And, this one is a biggie for me: even though I have traveled with and without others (daughter, friends, new acquaintances) and am comfortable either way, I find that I do prefer sharing my experiences, so the solo travel is not as rich an experience for me. Though I always find people to converse with when traveling alone, it’s just not the same. So, consider this when making your travel plans. Are you a people person or do you love the freedom of ‘solo’ travel…?

I’m home…and still decompressing from my trip. I do have more to share, but will save it for another blog, since this is a bit long-winded and I’m already a day late getting this posted–sorry!

I hope you’ve been enjoying the craziness of this latest experience, living vicariously in my travels…until next week, slainté

 

Driving Abroad 101

YES, WELL…I DO LIKE DRIVING, EVEN IF IT IS on the “wrong” side of the road. some people feel it’s such a grind, taking away from the experience of their visit abroad. Whether on the right or wrong side, I really enjoy it. For me, it adds to the adventure. As I’ve mentioned before, if you’re an ‘automatic’ vs ‘manual’ driver, I’ve found that it’s easier with the automatic–no groping on the right side of the car for the shift nob. But if you are at ease driving either, then, by all means, go for a manual transmission. I do. It’s cheaper and by the end of the day, you’ll have the “groping” to a minimum.

As for staying on the correct side of the road? As one of the Hertz agents mentioned, keep the driver at the center line. That keeps you on the correct side of the road, whether you are driving a right- or left-side car. And my piece of advice for the UK and Ireland is the mantra I mentioned in a previous blog for turns: “left near, right far”. It works wonderfully.

Speed limits can be a bit confusing–many times you will not find them posted (especially the higher speeds). This is where a SatNav/GPS comes in handy. It will indicate the posted speed. Then all you have to do is watch your speedometer.

The SavNats built into the car–I liken them to having a local sitting in your car–are nice. One of the cars I acquired had the built-in SatNav so, combined with my little Gabby (yeah, I named my GPS…so what?) made things much easier. I used the SatNav for verbal directions–remember I mentioned it was like having a local give you directions? Well, there were several instances where Gabby wanted me to go one way and the SatNav, another. Each time, I saw that it cut time off my travel. I really don’t know if it would have been an easier route if I’d followed Gabby, but it certainly was a gloriously beautiful route when I followed SatNav–the route a local would show a tourist, to show off the lovely things about the area. The other reason I used them in tandem was the flat screen of the SatNav faced straight into the center of the car, making it hard to see without taking my eyes off the road–don’t like that, even when I’m driving in the States. So, Gabby was used for the map-reading. I’ve been able to mount her in the low part of the window so not to obscure the road, but so I can see her without my eyes leaving the road. I can see the map out of the corner of the eye, or a short movement of the eye to look at it straight on (and still be seeing the traffic ahead of you). The Sat/Nav actually required the head and eyes to turn to get a look at it, taking the road out of your sight…didn’t like that.

I know, all of this is quite boring…but if you are planning to travel and rent/hire a car, it’s all good information to know. Now, if you’ve managed to get this far, here comes the excitement (and I’m sorry…I’ll warn you right now–this is going to be a long post).

With all I’ve said above, watching the speed ‘limit’ is important, but you need to drive to your abilities, not drive the maximum speed. Just because it’s posted at 30, 40 or even 60mph…believe me, you really need to drive at a comfortable speed. I’ve autocrossed and have been on a race track, know how to take corners, etc…all under controlled conditions (even on the roads that I’m familiar with back home). Some of the back roads in the UK and Ireland are posted pretty fast, but only a fool would attempt to drive those speeds. Heed the corners recommended speeds (since many are blind corners, some with curves that get sharper as you go into them)–and if that’s too fast for you, slow down. If you have people piling up behind you, find a turn out, driveway or parking lot to pull into and let them pass (the rules are the same abroad as at home–you are supposed to yield to more than about three or four cars, but if you are going under the posted limit, be nice–let them by). Otherwise, ignore the few impatient drivers you might come across. Road safety is more important.

I guess I was feeling a bit too confident (with over three weeks under my belt) after leaving my friends in Colchester, just outside of London. I still drove well under the speed limit since there were roads I was distinctly unfamiliar with, but on one particular corner, I apparently took it wrong–too wide–(one of those that kept turning onto itself) and found myself on the wrong side of the road. Before me was a car coming around the corner from the other direction in his lane.We both made corrections to avoid each other, but it wasn’t enough. I ended up sideswiping his car from behind the driver’s wheel…with the front/driver’s side of my car, then bounced off slightly and the damaged front end pulled the car into the side of the road on the wrong side.

After the accident

This really IS the WRONG side of the road to park a car…but it’s where I came to rest after the accident

It, in a way, was fortuitous. Where each car stopped, as traffic began the entry into the curve, they could see a disabled car from each direction, so it made directing traffic for us ‘civilians’ much easier. But I get ahead of myself. (also forgive me–some of you have already seen these photos…)

Upon impact, my airbags deployed. Yikes. I’ve only had it happen once before (in a rear-ender accident that ended the life of my Miata). The airbag burned my left forearm and I somehow managed to get a small cut on my right little finger (probably from plastic flying off the steering column when the airbags broke through), but otherwise, I was fine. Shaken, but fine…by the grace of God (my poor guardian angels sure work overtime, sometimes). After a few moments to gather my wits, and with some difficulty, I managed to get out of the car–the door was tweaked slightly, only allowing it to open about 1/2 way–and I immediately went to the driver (found out later his name was Paul) of the other car to see if he was okay.

Ouch!

My poor baby. I loved this car. The damage went all the way back to the back end of the front panel, making it hard to open the door.

Aside from being shaken (both of us visibly shaking from the incident), hitting the under-bits of the dash with his knee/shin, and the seat belt locking, causing some discomfort to his shoulder, he was fine too. Thank God.

Remember me mentioned how I’ve never run into anyone that didn’t make a positive impression on me on my trips, no matter what the circumstances? This incident continues to show that courtesy and goodwill in people is alive and well. I feel so blessed. Paul, whose car I hit, could have railed at me for inattentive or bad driving–or worse, and I would have accepted it. Instead, he was gracious, concerned and friendly. We helped each other and both of us were in good spirits. I think we set the mood for all that was to come.

We immediately went to each corner and started directing traffic to slow (or stop, as needed) as they came into the corner to allow safe passage through the area. Traffic where my car was needed to go into opposing traffic to go around the car…then around his car. Almost everyone paused to check and make sure we were okay. The first person that actually stopped was a motorcyclist. He was delightful–unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name. He lent his mobile (cell) for Paul to call his wife, then to call police to the scene. Then, being the stereotypical British citizen, he asked if either of us needed tea–he happened to have some on his bike. We both declined the offer, and laughed, helping to lighten the situation. Delightful. And so funny. I still chuckle when I think back to it.

Community Officer Carol

Officer Carol arrived on the scene first, taking over the traffic control issues.

Next on the scene was a Community Officer (not sure if that’s her official title), Carol.  We kept calling her the “police” and she kept correcting us, saying she wasn’t a policewoman–but in our eyes, she was. She asked if either vehicle was movable and if so, to move it to a safer location (mine was not–and in the worst of places to be but Paul’s was in good enough shape, so he moved it down the road to a safe spot and returned). She took over the traffic directing job (with only one of her, it made it far more more difficult), but she felt it was her job to keep us–and traffic–safe until the official police (officers Dan and Claire) arrived. After taking statements (a very informal affair compared to the red tape in the US) and deciding neither of us required a breathalyzer test, Paul was anxious to light a cigarette–he said it might mess up the breathalyzer, so he abstained until he was given the okay. (Hmm. You learn something new every day, don’t you?)

Once traffic was being directed by the police and Officer Carol had departed, leaving the situation is very capable hands, I called my friend and let her know about the accident. She was gracious enough to let me stay another night (later that night, her dad and I had a good laugh–upon my departure, he’s said to come back soon…I’m sure he didn’t mean quite this soon).

Then, the l-o-n-g wait began for Hertz to send a tow truck to pick up my car. In the still heat of the day on a blind corner…

The accident happened around 9:30-9:45am. I have no clue when Officer Carol or the others arrived. At some point (after they had all the info they needed), they allowed Paul to call his wife back to pick him up. He walked off to his car to wait for his wife.

The swarms of black flies (I meant to ask if they were midges and forgot) were drawn to the officers’ bright green vests, making directing traffic a royal pain (you try signalling traffic with your hands and wanting to wave off these nasty flies at the same time!). Poor guys. I think I managed two bites on my nose and maybe one on my shoulder. That’s all. I have no clue how many they received. They were so good about all of it: the flies, the standing for hours in the hot sun with all their official stuff (flack vest, heavy trousers, shirts and that blasted fly-trap green vest). With all of that misery, they kept lighthearted, cheerful and helpful. I felt so guilty keeping them out there…

I struck up a conversation with Officer Dan. A very amiable person, we chatted

Officer Dan

Officer Dan, on the scene, directing traffic coming towards my car.

about many things. I talked about my trip, where I was going and my book and he talked about his kids and an app he’d just published for mobile phones. I love it! It’s an app for the deaf. It translates spoken (and written) word into sign language. It’s set up for both ASL and British Sign Language. He even showed me an example. So cool. It’s called Eye-Sign. I wish I’d gotten more information, since I’m not able to find it by Googling it (insert very sad face)–hopefully Officer Dan will see this and post a comment to help me find it (I’ll pass on the

information–I have a few friends that might be able to use it).

There were some hiccups with the tow truck.

My car being towed.

Dave was my tow truck driver–great guy with a delightful sense of humour…but after my accident, a wee bit fast on the back roads…

Though I mentioned the car was not movable when I called Hertz, they had sent out a truck that was going to flat tow the car. When he called to let us know his arrival time, he asked if the car was movable. I said the front wheel would not allow movement. Scratch that truck. He called in for another to be sent out…a flat bed truck. And we had another hour or so to wait. Finally, around 1:00-or so, the truck was there and the officers could finally pack it up and go on their way. I thanked them both before hopping in the truck with driver, Dave–a very down to earth, chatty man. He drove me and my car back into Colchester and once we found the Hertz office (poor instructions on the part of Hertz delayed us slightly: the postal code given to him didn’t actually take him to the location he was to go to…how dumb is that).

By the time I got my new car and was on the road (back to my friend’s house for another night), it was past 2pm. I actually contemplated driving straight on to Cardiff, but I’m glad I decided against it. By the time I arrived at Natalie’s, I was getting a wee bit achy. I spent the rest of the day sorting out changes in my reservations: several rooms & ferry. My friend’s mum made a very simple meal of grilled cheese and ham (I wish I could remember what she called it). It was perfect.

By morning, the aches manifested into a very stiff neck, some soreness in my upper arms and for some reason, sore abdominal muscles, but I needed to move on (I certainly didn’t want to impose on them for another night, either). I think those were the longest four and a half hours I’ve driven, but by the next morning I was feeling much, much better. To be safe, when I checked in, I asked if I could set up an additional night…just in case. They cheerfully obliged. I graciously thanked them accepting my last minute changes (both the previous days changes and the current request). Though I arrived by 2pm, I was not up to trying to see the Dr. Who Experience–it will have to wait for my next trip to Cardiff. I’ll plan my trip around the visit this time. By the next morning, I was ready to make my five-hour trip to Holyhead. Thankfully, it was uneventful and easy, but I was glad to get settled into my B&B room at The Gables at the end.

Because I arrived before the prescribed 3pm check in time, I walked down to the Irish Sea and had a lovely, late lunch, chatting with a few locals as we ate. Then a nice walk and back to my room for the night so I could repack in preparation to the ferry ride the next morning. Oh. No, I did go back out to grab a yogurt for ‘dinner’ and decided to go for a walk out on the bluffs and took a few photos. Then I returned to my room…and collapse for the night.

So, now you have it up to my last day in the UK. Full of fun, adventures, changed plans and new experiences. Next week, I’m back in Ireland and nearing the end of my six-week trip. I have a plan in my head as to what I’ll be doing, but I know it will probably not happen that way. There’s so many things to do and so little time left. Dublin could be a trip all by itself, believe me!

I vacillate between be excited that I will soon be home, and wishing it could last longer. I often wonder if this will be my last trip abroad, especially after all that’s happened this time around. But I have a tendency to rebound well, so I’m thinking there will be at least one more trip. At least one more…(insert grin)…