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 Eleven: Dublin To the Very End …

[As this is the last official blog for our little adventure, it was to be extremely photo-heavy, but my computer froze on Thursday, so not as many as planned—I’ll add them later or in another blog once I get the computer up and running again (do make sure you click on images for descriptions) … and the blog is rather verbose]

OUR FRIDAY IN DUBLIN WAS wonderful—even though a wee bit damp! Thursday I walked oodles and Sandy had a good time on her Cliffs of Mohr and Galway adventure … both of us slept very well—actually slept in on Friday, because it was raining when we awoke. Rain—that is a good thing. We planned on wandering around a bit, but with the rain, we changed plans (yeah—that “best laid plans” bit … teehee) and worked on sorting through receipts (we’d put that chore off for a little too long). There were lots of receipts. Sandy got a bit fidgety as I sorted mine and decided to go out to Mountjoy Square to attempt to fly her kite <giggle>—yes, a real kite (wish I’d been there to take photos!). She asked staff at the front desk for help and they willingly “abandoned” their post and went to the park her to put it together for her (very sweet of them!). She did manage to get it airborne, but only for short bits. But, she did have fun and that’s the point. When she returned, we made lunch and preparing for our special night out (<giggle> … no, we didn’t finish working on our receipts). Our evening was set in stone. We were not going to let that plan slip away, so we grabbed a taxi to attend the event across the River Liffey near Temple Bar. It’s so nice to not have a car—honest. A car has been wonderful to get into places inaccessible by train and buses—and for those spontaneous moments—”Oooh! Stop. I wanna check that out” moments. But now that we are in a fixed place … a large city, it’s easy to depend on foot power, buses and taxis. Not having to find parking, paying the parking fees, etc—that’s really nice.

An Evening of Food, Folklore and Fairies, held at the An Evening of Food, Folklore and FariesBrazen Head Pub near Temple Bar, was a delightful experience. ‘Twas not the normal storytelling of fairies and such, but more of a historical telling of the Irish people, their food and how the fairies shaped their lives—plus a few fun fairy stories and some Celtic music thrown in Two men playing Celtic Music A Full House at the Brazen Head Pubfor good measure. Don’t let the “historical” bit put you off—it was well told, very informative, definitely entertaining and I’d highly recommend it. The weather was perfect (rain had stopped by midday) so, though we hired a cab for both directions, we only “cabbed it” to Dusky Shot of the River Liffeythe event—’twas far too beautiful to miss out on our first walk “home” at night. After all the delicious food and drink, we walked in the twilight back to the hostel to help burn off those extra calories. Timing could not have been better—as we came up to the last long block, it started to get a wee bit misty. We were slightly damp when we reached the hostel. It was a delightful evening!

Saturday was our planned downtime day. Well, sorta: time Trinity College Bronze Sculpturewalking around Temple Bar and Trinity College (Book of Kell & their massively gorgeous library archived with smelly ol’ tomes <insert a similarly Image of a green space at Trinity College Trinity College, Dublin Irelandmassive grin>) was factored into the day. Our late night … and breakers-of-the-11pm-Quiet-Curfew kept us up till nearly 2am, so we were a bit groggy come morning-time. After breakfast, we has a bit of a snooze <insert grin and a wink> Nothing wrong with a late start … but we weren’t able to tick off all the to-do items from our list. The day is a bit of a blur, honestly …

We did finally see Temple Bar and Trinity College together … on Wednesday, I think.

Earlier in the week, we actually found a Protestant church to attend on Sunday … but a new group of all-night (literally!) chatterers (though relatively quiet), kept us up again most of the night. Another groggy morning. Very groggy. There’s even a sign posted on the door to the patio stating the open hours of the patio: 7am-11pm <sigh> Instead of church, we took a long time getting our engines running, then wandered down to the River Liffey to Dublin Discovered Boat Rides Samuel Beckett Bridge: aka The Harp Bridge Boat along side the tour boat Image of rugby arena just beyond Liffey River reserve seats on the Dublin Discovered Boat Ride. Another way to see the city—one I don’t think I’ve explored before … and we enjoyed it very much. Pictures from river level were interesting. Unfortunately, the ride was in a closed cabin, so there’s window splashes and glares in my photos. The heat was a wee bit stifling, but because there was no rain, they were able to keep the large hatch open for ventilation—thankfully. After the boat ride, we wandered back down into the area we’d seen from the boat (to capture a Artwork of squirrel on pub wallphoto of a very famous red squirrel), then The Dublin Custom Housewhile Sandy visited a museum at the Dublin Custom House, I worked my way partway down the street and onto a bridge to take a few more photos of the area.

We started to walk back, but the heat was too oppressive—caught a cab back to the hostel. Like I said—foot power and local transportation is a good thing <grin>. Taxi rides, depending on how far we’ve ventured, have averaged about 7 Euros. marginally “expensive”, but well worth it when all you can think of is lying down to cool down.

Monday was spent in a day-long Paddy Wagon tour of Monasterboice Plaque Image of round tower and gravestone at MonasterboiceMonasterboice Cemetery, Belfast City Centre and the Titanic Museum. When talking with Sandy, I’ve made it no secret that I really didn’t see a reason to visit Belfast and was still a bit wary of the tension that might still exist. I’m glad I did the tour, but would never have done the trip on my own. The Titanic Museum was well worth the time, as was the tour-within-a-tour—Black Taxi Tour of areas that the Paddy Wagon would not be allowed. It was extremely educational, filling in huge gaps in my knowledge of what transpired in the late 1900s. As an outsider, though told things are so much better by our old-timer tour guides (who lived through the worst of it), I see that the tension and separationist attitudes still exist. Scary in a way … I did feel safe, but would never have ventured this far without a local. Absolutely not. I will put the pictures here with only one comment: what I saw and heard (with the tour guides’ information given) is the appearance of a city united, yet still quite divided.
Belfast and Black Taxi Tour Photos: Image of building with copper dome at Belfast City CentreDowntown Belfast and Traffic Welcome to Belfast-Peace BallImage of Belfast street scene, with old Presbyterian church and a tower structure A Neighbourhood in Belfast Murals on buildings paying tribute to their fallen in Belfast neighbourhood. Memorial of neighbourhood streets lost in the conflicts of Belfast Black Taxi Tour—Belfast Neighbourhoods Peace Walls Between Neighbourhoods Black Taxi Tour: Peace Wall Image Peace Wall Image, Belfast 2018 Peace Wall Image, Belfast 2018 Image of neighbourhood with an Irish flag flying. Image of Peace Wall Art
Titanic Museum Photos: Titanic Museum: Time Clock Titanic Museum: The Launch Titanic Museum: Path of the Titanic Image of quote from "The Convergence of the Twain" by Thomas Hardy Image of The Titanic Museum: The Building Image of The Titanic Museum: The Building The Titanic Museum: The EntranceImage of Yours Truly: Windblown, Hot and Tired

Tuesday—oh, my … so close to departure day, and still so much to cram in before then! … And laundry <ugh> Guess I shouldn’t complain—I brought way too much clothes, so not having to do it as frequently <giggle> and, Sandy has offered to do it the last two times (God bless her!!). She did the laundry and I worked on uploading photos for the blog.

Wednesday evening was spent attending a Riverdance performance at the Gaiety Theatre. It was great, even though I had two tall people sitting in front of me, blocking about half the stage. I concentrated on listening to the story, music and the sounds of the Celtic dancing … and enjoyed what bits I could see from stage right. I think I will re-visit the theatre and performance the next time I visit Dublin and go for a seat closer to the balcony edge, to avoid long-torsoed bodies blocking my view … it’s well worth a second viewing. Aaah, yes. And, up to this point in our trip, there has been no issue with using a credit card for taxi rides—until after our Riverdance experience. We kept walking down the queue of taxis, asking if they took credit cards Nope, nope, nope … this went on for about ten taxis. At that point, I said we’d walk—pulled up the route to take …1.9 miles  Ugh. So, we asked one more driver—thank God he said yes. Moral of the story, make sure you have cash!! We did have to listen to a rather heavy dose of extremely “salty” language as he joked with us the whole way back—yikes!

Thursday was to be my usual time-to-tidy-up-blog-and-download-photos Day. Oh, yeah—and Packing Day. Yup. Thursday ended up being spent attempting to edit on my iPhone (so sorry if there are missed bits of bad grammar, spelling, punctuation,  etc—so hard to work from the little phone); packing and repacking followed. Did I mention that we each purchased a small carry-on sized, four wheel suitcase last week? Teehee … we got tired of mailing stuff off. If checked, it will probably cost an extra $60, but it’s worth it—and now, I’ve a four-wheel case that actually works the way it should! I did manage to squeeze in a bit of walking, but I’ll add those photos when I load the others.

Our plane leaves at noon today, and we must be at the airport three-hours prior for our international flight. I’d crossed my fingers and prayed I’d get the upgrade for business class so I could lay flat for a portion of our trip. Did that happen? Nope … so I am assuming I’ll be in the cattle car with everyone else. Sigh.  Oh, well. It was worth a shot.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I will either revisit this to add the photos that are hiding on my computer, or I will have one final blog with a hodge-podge of photos and thoughts on our travels to the UK and Ireland.

So, until I can get things sorted out, I’ll bid you adieu and wish you well on this Friday, weekend and upcoming week—see you next week, when I’ll be home once again.

Toodles and God bless!

 

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!

VACATION BLOG: WEEK TWO Dublin, Galway and County Donegal

TECHNOLOGY IS MY FRIEND … NOT (insert eyes rolling to the back of the head …)—at least where GPS and pay-as-you-go phones are concerned!

Oh, dear. I was not successful in getting Gabby to do her thing—at all— and decided I’d simply buy a new one. And I could not get the old iPhone to work (for Sandy) with a local SIM card … I’ve clocked in so many hours trying to get things to work together—I’m so blessed that Sandy hasn’t killed me yet. We’ve been connected at the hips for entirely too long <giggle> As for the phones … yeah. Things haven’t gone as planned and we now have two Eir (Irish) phones that we’ll change SIM cards when we arrive in the UK (tomorrow). We can talk and text as needed—we’re not chained to each other as we’ve been the last week. Talk about liberating—for both of us!

Gabby-2 is working fairly well, though she doesn’t know the English names of Irish towns and I’m unfamiliar with the Irish names, so we’re having a wee bit of a problem there—but she’s gotten us to where we need to be so far. But occasionally she sends us in circles (no, not the roundabouts—literally sends us around the block (and once into a dead end street. At least I was able to figure that one out quickly.) Knowing where I’m going makes me a happier person.

On the upside, I’ve managed to achieve a goal—I’ve gone over 1,200 steps several times in our walk-abouts in the first week. This is excellent and hopefully it will continue to be the norm throughout our entire trip. With a lack of internet, I haven’t had a good handle on steps on a whole (but will after I send this blog out).

We had a grand time in Dublin (a few hiccups due to technology and some short days for the same reason) using the Hop On-Hop Off tour bus to get us around the town and to spots we wanted to check out. Photos will be added later (when we have a decent wifi connection). We were on to Galway where we wandered the streets, down by the docks and up the touristy quarter—and, yes, we helped the economy <wink> nicely. I’ve already a few gifts filling my luggage. Three days of poking around (and finally had the technology issues fairly well sorted out—yay), taking pictures and noshing on lovely food … yes, we liked Galway. Still no pub grub—I really must remedy that.

When we arrived at the hostel in County Donegal (pronounce Donny-gaul)—at the Blue Stack Centre Hostel (this is one that Gabby-2 refused to give directions to, so I did a bit of a work-around to get us in the general area), lugged our baggage into the hostel … to find that they accidentally double booked a large group of teens atop our reservations, so there was no room for us. The hostel folk were so kind—they managed to find an accommodation in Frosses (not too far away) at an AirBnB for two nights. It was lovely—much better than what we would have had. Except … no wifi. So, we came back to the hostel for Friday night (the 25th) only to discover that I’m connected to the wifi, but so far … no internet connection. So I’m not really sure when this blog entry will actually happen. Hopefully we can get it sorted out very soon and you’ll get it at some point on Friday. Otherwise, I’ll just have to try again when we go to our accommodation in Bushmills, N. Ireland on Saturday (26th).

We finally had a lovely pub dinner in Donegal—absolutely lovely. I had a venison stew (drool …) and Sandy had the Irish cheeseburger (local beef and cheese). Sandy had a white wine recommended by the bartender (owner) and I had the Donegal Stout (“dark-rich-smooth”—yes indeed!!!) We left very comfortably full. And had to rush over to the chemist to buy some stuff before they closed at 6—all the stores closed at 6pm, or no later than 6:15—on a Friday! I’m so used to later hours.

Perhaps I’ll add some photos if the connection improves, but I’m thinking this is it till I can get ahold of my notes (all on the iPhone—insert eye-roll—which is usually not a problem). SIGH. Well, I do have a good connection—I hope. I’ll try to add to them a little later this today (it’s already 4:20pm on Saturday here).

Next week we’ll be back in Dublin to see a few things we missed on the first go around, then hop on the Stena Lines Ferry to Wales where we will be meeting up with two new friends: Jo and Ian (you can meet them too if you go to their Something Vloggy Patreon site (I’m working on setting up one for my business). I think I’ll enjoy meeting these two. Then, up to West Yorkshire to meet another new friend: Anne Lister. Another one I’m thinking I’ll feel right at home with.

So, until next Friday … or sometime around then … slainté (good health) and blessings. Now to go get caught up on my Facebook page—FB is so nice … on my iPhone, it says I have “9+” notifications. Probably close to one hundred <insert dazed stare> Laughing nervously …

Hawthorne Blooms??

Tight Fit in Bunk Bed ...

Blue Stack Centre Hostel bunks are a wee bit low …

English Daisies in Donegal So Many Choices ... street signsOh … I give up for now. Half loaded sideways. I’ll need to do some — there’s that technology monster rearing his head again!

… And We’re Off and Running!

SO … THE JOURNEY HAS begun for Sandy and me. And did it ever start out with a bang—our plane had a tyre with low pressure and it needed to be attended to. They tried to get the pressure up to snuff, but that wasn’t working (that took us about 45 minutes beyond our departure time) … and when that didn’t work, they realised they’d need to replace the tyre. Things got a bit timey-wimey whilst they went off to find a tyre … then install and test it, plus (of course) paperwork to complete, but finally (after about 2.5 hours) we were back on “schedule”. Our 11:50am arrival time on the 17th was pushed to 1:30-ish. In the end, it was closer to 2pm, leaving quite a few passengers anxious about connecting flights. (Which, by the way, I feel Aer Lingus handled brilliantly.) All Sandy and I had to worry about was making sure we had wheels to get-about with whilst in Ireland. We let those connecting-flights get off before us, then started to get off the plane when three wheel chairs came down the ramp for those of us requiring them. My attendant went well beyond what others had done in the past. I usually get “dumped” at the baggage claim, then I’m on my own. This young lady took us all the way to the Car Rental lot and I didn’t get off the wheel chair till we were literally in front of the car. (Well done!!) I’m happy to use Hertz—it may not be the cheapest, but they’ve been very good to me in the past, and they didn’t fail us with this bit of a wrench in the plans.

Next bit to throw us off was my little GPS (Gabby—but she wasn’t …) decided she was not going to talk to us. Rather cheeky little thing. (I checked her out prior to departure and she was working just fine). She simply told us to get to M-1 so she could direct us. She never redirected us when I didn’t get into the desired road. Thankfully I was vaguely familiar with the area and, though we never got into what she felt was the right street, we apparently paralleled her route in the downtown area and made it safely—well … there was one block of driving the wrong way on a very quiet one-way street, but I got that sorted out right away and we made it in one piece. (Poor Sandy—she’s a very patient soul.)
I love Dublin—and the area we are in. Mountjoy St., where the hostel is located, has a lovely ancient church with a beautiful spired steeple just a block or two down from the hostel (photos will happen in the next blog, since we were exhausted from a very long flight and time change). The hostel itself has a small church attached, which has been turned into the dining all. We have a Spar (kind of like a 7-11 in the States, but no petrol station attached) just across a very quiet street—same street we drove down to get into the car park at the hostel.
We settled into our room then walked over to get dinner makings—almost bought stuff requiring cooking, but decided we were too tired for that. I was more tired than hungry, so we simply purchased a pre-made sandwich, some grapes and blueberries and shared all of it. We discovers like and dislikes in food—apparently we both love blueberries enough to challenge Violet (from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) at being the biggest and bluest berry that the Umpa Lumpa’s would be rolling off to their presses … <insert mischievous grin> and I love yogurt, but she does not—same with mushrooms.
With dishes cleaned up, we got the wifi code, grabbed some crafting tools and settled into the dining hall to get Sandy an e-membership at the HI hostels (didn’t work—for a number of reasons, including forgetting the credit card … we’ll try again later) and for a quick lesson in putting signatures together (blocks of pages that are sewn together to make the pages of a book) for our travel journals. That didn’t last long, as my mind was muddled (as was Sandy’s) from fatigue and I couldn’t answer or show her how to do it properly <insert eye roll—and serious amount of yawning> … so we packed up our supplies and went back to our room at 9pm to retire for the night.
Today is Friday—a new day and the real beginning of two and a half month journey. Today is a “chill day” so we can recover from our jet lag (I slept in to 9am!), we will do a walk-about around Dublin and use the Hop On-Hop Off Tour Bus to venture into areas we can’t get to by foot. We’ve three nights (one’s already under our belts) to explore before moving on to Galway and beyond. We are going to have a wonderful time—whether Gaby helps us or not! Have a blessed Friday and weekend and join us again next Friday for another chapter in our journey.
Cheers and Slainté!

Two-in-one

Oh, got busy yesterday and forgot to post my musings, so here are two days (an early bit from the crack of dawn this morning & yesterday’s) — you may want to read from bottom up to say with the timeline, but it is your choice:

2June12
Alright. That fine. I’ll just have to put the blame directly where it belongs!  It’s now 3am and I’m completely awake.  Dublin, it’s all your fault.

Hmmm.  Not unlike a tiny crack in a dam wall,  it started out with a wee little thought–I was half asleep then, not even aware that it had crept into the room. But as my mind started to nurse that little thing, weaving it, pulling it back and beginning again…never fully advancing beyond its beginnings — that’s when my mind began to fully engage, trying to direct it here and there so that it might make sense. I could hear a lilt in the voice that didn’t sound true, so my mind sat up and looked around to see who it might be.

I’m thinking it’s the Writers of Dublin, all having a nice little chat in my head, trying to tell me to get off my keester and get this story of mine done–and to fully engage in my writer/storyteller side.

Now, I know what I just wrote probably doesn’t make much sense to you, but I’ll post it anyway, since it rings true — in my mind, at least (now you’re sure this one’s gone a wee bit off–LOL!)

In about seven hours, we will off, in our adventure into and beyond Galway. I’m looking forward too it, but a few more hours if sleep would be very nice, thank you!  So I’m off to make an attempt. Night–or should I say, ‘mornin’ to ya.  ^o~

1June12
It’s just 9am. I’ve checked out of the hostel (they will hold my luggage for €1,25 so I don’t have to lug it around with me–yay).   The weather is a lot like at home: cool and overcast, with the feel of rain hanging in the air.  Indoors is too warm for me. I am thoroughly enjoying the chilly fresh air. I do have my sweater with me, but doubt I’ll use it. The long sleeved shirt that I use as a “jacket” is more than enough…and when inside, that comes off.

Today is my last “free” day before my tour begins.  I will be making full use of my hop on-hop off privileges today, as I need to be nice to my knee–the walk into the City Center area was not fun.   Yesterday’s tour “guide was Damien–there are apparently thee of them!!  I don’t remember which one, though,

Breakfast at LaPizza was good: scrambled eggs, tomato & cucumber, toast, coffee and OJ. Perfect way to start the day.

It is also the beginning of a challenging new project — 365: A Photo Journal. I will endeavor to take one photo a day, for the next year, to document a “day in the life” of your truly.  This is a project being done worldwide. Some will post on a dedicated site.  Others, like me, will keep it more local. I have established a login for the site, but just not sure I want to go global.

As I’ve mentioned before, taking a photo should not be an issue–choosing which one and finding the right title–and remembering to post, will be the challenge.

Well, polishing off the last bit of coffee, then off to begin my adventure today.

Things I’m missing because I am tied to a tour:  Dublin Grand Prix, Dublin Writers Festival…There can be a lot said for spontaneity. all of my previous trips have been “unscheduled”, allowing for whatever comes up. So it is with a sad heart that I found out about these two events!  But after a brief “mourning”, I am over it!

Political signage is something new for me this time around.  A very important referendum was scheduled for 31May, regarding the issue of the EU’s euro.  And the billboards and posters are everywhere, urging voters one way or the other.  I haven’t listened to the news to find out how it turned out, but I’m sure the decision was historic.  Must find a newspaper!

Cheers!

Landed…and off and running!

31may12

After a very long, cramped flight, I arrived in Dublin this morning at 8am.  Dublin was experiencing a wee bit of precipitation.  Nothing major, but everything was wet, wet, wet.  I met up with Jan & Jim (two attendees of the tour I’ll be taking), grabbed a quick bite at the airport’s Meeting Place and took the shuttle to their hotel. They dropped their luggage (too early to check in) and then we took a taxi to my hostel, where I dropped my stuff.  The taxi was only 16 Euro — Jim chipped in a tenner and I ended up giving a monster tip by throwing another tenner in.  (those extravagant Americans!)

Pre-trip, we talked about going to the National Leprechaun Museum on that first day — and once there, decided to walk from the hostel to the museum–about a half hour walk…in the rain.  They had coats to protect themselves.  I forgot to grab my umbrella and didn’t want to get my sweater wet, but there wasn’t enough to be bothersome.  I did get damp, but after about a half hour out of the rain, I was dry and ready to get wet again.

The tour was fun, the storytelling entertaining — but, sitting and standing in the darkened rooms made my jet lag loom larger than life. As we walked back to O’Connell Street to catch a taxi (for my friends), it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks.  And all the sitting in the plane was beginning to effect my bad knee–pain with each step. I was so tempted to hop in the car with them & ask to be dropped at my hostel. But, I persevered and after they left in the taxi, I continued up about one block and bought a 2-day pass for the Dublin City Hop On-Hop Off Bus Tour. This is an excellent deal & a great way to get an overview of the city…and a sneaky way of getting around without exhausting yourself (or on a day like today, keeping dryer!)…and allowing my knee to recover slightly.

And where did I choose to sit? On the upper level, at the back edge of the covered area, so I did get wet (just my back and head–when we are stopped LOL), but I didn’t mind.

Out tour guide is hilarious–hope to get him tomorrow too! Or maybe I’m just slap-happy. But it’s keeping me entertained — and awake.  Nope, it’s him — other people are laughing and commenting on his commentary.

I waited for one of the last stops — the Jameson Distillery. I am not directly related to them, but I AM a Jameson, so anytime I’m in Dublin, it is on my list of things to do. But, no — I did not imbibe!  In March, I did try to sign up for their Ceilidh/dinner during the tie frame I’d be in town, but it was already booked!  So, I simply went there for their melt-in-the-mouth, awesome chocolate bars.  It costs a fortune to have them shipped, so I figure — I’m here…buy some!  Once that errand was done, I got back on the bus & took it to the first stop on O’Connell Street (Dublin’s “Main Street”.  From there, I walked…very slowly, back to the hostel, wishing a taxi would materialize so I could justify flagging it down and catching a ride.  All uphill, about ten blocks…

Right now, even after an hour cat-nap, my jet lag is starting making my eyes very hot and tired — and my focus is just a wee bit blurry.  If I continue, I’m not responsible for the gibberish that will result!

So, my friends, I will close for now.  Tomorrow is a new day — and hopefully my body will be well rested and I can comfortably get back into Downtown Dublin and check out some areas I haven’t ventured into in previous visits.  Tomorrow, I will remember my good camera — only thing on me was my iPhone and only got a few shots…and I left the cable in my room, so not able to upload any right now.  I’m wondering if I forgot to put a card reader in my collection of electronics, too!  Posting photos may have to wait till I get home!  We’ll see.

Slainté

Dublin

24 April, Easter Sunday 8:35am

Happy Easter to all!

I got up a little too early today…service starts at 9am. Think I’m anxious to step inside?? You betcha, but not out of fear — it’s been four weeks since I’ve been able to sit down in a formal setting in a church — it will feel good!

The town is so quiet — except for the occasional bus (fewer today) — and it appears that street traffic down into the center of O’Connell Street is being diverted (from 5am-4pm) — construction of some sort, or some Easter celebration? I’ll find out later when I try to find a pick-up point for the hop on/of tour bus (usually I’d get on mid-O’Connell St…obviously, not today).

1:25pm.

Well, if I could read, then I’d have realized the 9am service was mid-way down O’Connell Street at the Spire…didn’t click for some reason (tired & info doesn’t filter through as well at that point)… But, it took two glances at the billboard, at 8:50am, before I realized I had a wee bit of a walk!! And the traffic blockade was for an Easter/City celebration of sorts — officials, military band & show of military forces. I had to get through the blockades to the center (literally) — thankfully, long before the activities began. Made it just as the service began.

Did one “spin” of the hop on/off tour bus — pressing my luck to get back to the Abbey Presbyterian Church for the 11am communion service, having to literally wade through people traffic to get there, practically running the whole way (uphill, mind you, with my short legs!) — dodging slower foot traffic and made it — completely out of breath…but knew I’d be able to sit & recover while enjoying the service — just as the minister finished up his opening prayer.

I’ve had my exercise for the day, thank you!

But, after the service, I then walked the whole length of O’Connell Street (once again) to get back to the tour bus — but at a much leisurely pace this time, stopping for post cards & a huge 2 liter bottle (what was I thinking??) of water. And waited for the tour bus (a live tour this time–last one was ‘canned’ audio of tour–this was much better!) to get under way. Definitely better — Oemin? (pronounced long a-men) was the tour guide and when we reached the statue of Molly Malone, he sang in a lovely voice, the whole song! A few facts I learned–Garda (their police) means guardian of peace, the Irish have an interesting way of pronouncing ‘film’ (we use it as once syllable, they turn it into two: fi-lem).

I only got off at the Jameson’s Old Distillery (my pilgrimage to there is simply because it’s Jameson — and they have lovely Butler’s chocolates with Jameson whiskey ^,^ ) where I bought bars for each of my brothers, daughter & myself and a tiny bottle of Irish whiskey to bring home. I was going to stop in the Temple Bar area, but after all my running, decided not to.

Oh, my. Why do I keep doing this to myself ^,^ I waited for the bus to pick me up to bring me as close as possible, but it seemed to take forever, so, thinking it wasn’t that far, I started to walk…oh my. Well, it was a whole lot further, and nearing 4:30 — wanted to get into the kitchen before it became a zoo…obviously, I didn’t make it by then. It was much closer to 5 when I drug myself into the hostel, collapsed in my room for about an hour or two & finally managed enough strength to go make dinner…chicken, zucchini, tomato & mushroom sauté with a side of yogurt and oj to drink. After cleaning, drying & putting away the dishes, I went back into my room and realized that there was only one person left — and she was from Australia & a delightfully quiet person ^,^ My two giggle boxes were gone, as was the one above me that spent the night grinding her teeth. Silence tonight. YAY!

25 April, 3pm

I was so tired last night, I felt foolish going to bed at 8:30pm, but did anyway. Slept most of the night through (woke once when the sun came up, but rolled back over) all the way to about 7:30 or so.

This has been an uneventful, quiet day. My Australian room mate left this morning & absolutely no body has come in. That can still change, though. I’ve done the “last chance” laundry, folded and tucked away in my bags, had the left-over chicken sauté for lunch and getting this last post done before I pack it up. I need to go down into the kitchen either late tonight or early tomorrow & mark everything of mine in the kitchen (refrigerated/non-refrigerated items) as “free” so they won’t go to waste. I will use a couple of the eggs for breakfast, but the rest stays — hard to make purchases at the mini-marts because everything is prepackaged, so for one person, I end up getting enough to last me forever! Such a waste.

Tomorrow I start my 2nd to last leg:  Dublin -> Limerick -> Shannon by train & bus. Then an overnight stay in a hotel & my final leg is on Wednesday 27th, from Shannon Airport to NY to SFO. I have had such a lovely time, and if I have not said in the past, traveling alone can be great fun! I’ve met so many people, from all backgrounds, from many countries. Hosteling is great for this kind of travel. In hotels and B&B’s, you are more isolated. In the hostels, the vast variety of nationalities are really “in your face” — no getting away from it (I’d never dream of trying!)

But, that said, I know I would have enjoyed it even more if I had a traveling companion — be it a friend or my daughter. I am a people person and love to share. To not have someone I can share the experience with has been hard — so, I hope you don’t mind all my ramblings, as I have been able to share my experiences (at least in part!) with you!

So, tomorrow — we’ll see what that holds…hopefully NOTHING like my daughter’s 24-hr travel experience…straightforward would be nice ^.^

Slainté!

Stranraer -> Belfast -> Dublin…and more

20 April

9:35 and we are off, heading to Belfast.  This is a much smaller ferry than Jameson and I were on in ’08.  The StenaPlus (you pay extra for this) is much smaller, not as grand a view as on the big ship.  Shucks. Oh, well.  I might go downstairs and see if that one is any better (thought the upper deck would provide a better view, but wenches are in the way.  Perhaps I’ll go out on deck first.  Jacket will be needed — I see people out there and one lady’s hair is blowing pretty good.  We’ll see — I have three hours to check things out.

Didn’t sleep that well last night — mattress was a wee bit lumpy (an inner spring mattress), but mostly because I didn’t want to oversleep & miss my taxi, so I kept waking up — lol.  Coveting horizontal surfaces (none anywhere to be seen, except the floor & I don’t think that would be acceptable)…

Just saw what I guess is the Brit’s version of Regis & Kathy (or whoever his current “co-anchor” is…) — morning talk show that hosts celebrities, etc.  They had some interesting people on this morning:  young man named Milos that plays an amazing guitar — I’ll be looking for his music when I get home; the star of a new movie, Beastly (updated & probably PG or R rated version of Beauty & the Beast).  I’ll have to do a little research, but I think I may go see this one.  The actor, after finishing the move, had a whole new view of people with deformities (after playing the part — and going out during break, still in his makeup); and a star that is hosting two shows — one a documentary of newly found family members (adoptive children looking for birth parents or family members, families that have been separated for decades, etc) — neat.  They are able to do a more exhaustive search where the individuals have failed.  The other is a game show…ho-hum.

12:55pm
So, I have about 45 minutes before my train boards…not enough time to look around the city and almost too much time to just sit.  But, Belfast is extremely smoggy — reminds me of LA (not a good thing), plus the exhaust in the taxi needs work!  At first I thought it was the “fresh air” I was smelling — but once I got out, wasn’t so bad…no wonder he kept opening his window wider!  LOL!  Not a very chatty fellow, either.

Guess I could take this time to get a bite to eat, but it looks very “fast food”-ish…not terribly appealing.  Ah!  I keep forgetting I have a few bits in my “kitchen” bag ^,^ : nice fresh orange or two, bread & some jam that I nicked from my last accommodation (I paid for it, so guess I didn’t really nick it, did I?)  So, I’ll enjoy some fruit & a wee bit of bread w/jam.

Ah…refreshed!  And now, on my two and a quarter hour train ride.  A cutie across from me (love it when I’ve got a youngster across from me — so far they have been very well behaved.  This little lassie is about three or four.  She and her mum are going to Limerick Junction — off at Dublin station, switching to another station, then on in their travels.

Saying farewell to Belfast — it’s started to clear already!  I can see the haze in the distance.  Sorry, I’m sure there’s beautiful stuff to see, but I just couldn’t handle the smoggy city.  Balmoral is beautiful!  Just passed an old graveyard–I like them for some reason.

Oh, dear.  Lovely young lady just sat across from me…Why is it women feel they must take a bath in perfume.  My eyes are now quite itchy.   I may have to move if she doesn’t get off soon.  Arg.

21 April
6:50pm

Hot and sweaty — you just don’t equate those two word with Ireland, unless you’ve been working hard outside in the summer…and the weather has been a lot like summer!

The weather here has been phenomenal!  I arrived in Dublin yesterday late afternoon, booked a train to as close to Shannon as I could get (Limerick), then took a taxi to the hostel, made my bed & grabbed a locker.  Then I tried to get on line to check emails, FB, and to check the bus schedule to Shannon from Limerick (since it looks like the way I’ll end up going…that or a taxi) — succeeded for about five minutes — the system kept cutting out (too many trying to get on at once), so I gave up.  I concentrated my efforts figuring out where my day trips would take me.  One of the girls at the reception desk gave me a ton of fliers to look through…back to my room. After weighing the cost, timing (up, out & down to the pick up point–furthest point away, before buses started–by 6:30 for one!!!), I decided on one, went down to book & was told tI just needed o just show up…but after more discussing pros and cons of multi-day tours (not my favorite idea at the time), I decided to go for one that provided two tours AND an overnight accommodation at a hostel for 75 euro.  Their normal rate is 50/tour, so I thought I had a pretty good deal — what closed the deal was the fact that they would come pick me up at the hostel at 6:30–I could do that!  I will need to get a taxi back to the hostel on Friday night, because it doesn’t get back till at least 9pm.  But I’m happy with the arrangements.  We ended calling the tour company quite a few times to ask various questions…(I’d walk away, think of a question & come back…I don’t know how many times I visited the reception staff, but I’m sure they were sighing as they saw me coming as the day ended…LOL!  They were probably glad that I would be gone two whole days!)

So, today I was picked up, taken to Galway by the Dublin Tour Co, along with about 36 other people (picked up at various spots in the city).  Two tours were running: Connemara & Cliffs of Moher.  I had decided to do Cliffs of Moher, but they needed to shift people & I volunteered to do the Connemara tour instead.  It was very nice — I took notes on things that interested me & shot a zillion pictures…until my battery died.  I then resorted to the iPhone camera until it was down below 20%…by then, we were pretty much finished with the official part of the tour & coming into Galway.

I find it interesting that the tours I’ve been on, when I sit up front, the tour guide seems to talk to me rather than the whole tour group — lol.  Kinda weird, but flattering?  But the guide today was great — full of historical facts, some blarney and lots of laughs. (Did you know the blue/pink marks on the sheep were to indicate boy/girl? ^,~ )

The hostel I’m staying at in Galway did not have any adapters, so I had to go out and buy an adapter (only a week left — LOL!) for my camera’s battery charger…the front desk did not have any adapters for US plugs…only 3.80–not bad.  This is really a quite nice hostel (called Snoozles — how cute) — newer than mine in Dublin, and it has an elevator!  YAY (though, didn’t bring my rolly…but my knees certainly appreciate it–always took it up, and the stairs down!) and there is a bathroom W/shower (interesting–just a shower curtain, drain in floor…) en suite.  Happy camper…which brings me back to hot and sweaty!  Our bus’ air conditioning (you wouldn’t think you’d need it this time of year, right??) was out of whack.  So, the driver’s thermometer gauge read 32.9 degrees Celsius!  That’s 91 degrees F, folks!  The only windows were the drivers window and one ceiling vent in the back.  Once he opened it up, the temp dropped slowly to 27…(80).  Everyone was pouring out at each stop, whether they wanted to take photos or not, just to cool down.  But, it wasn’t too bad up front…I had the breeze from his window keeping me reasonably cooled (still very warm, but tolerable)…hence, hot and sweaty — and wanting to take a shower.  I will, just before going to bed (lol…will have to deal with crazy hair in the morning).

Just have to decide if I want to go out to eat tonight, or just munch on a protein bar or an orange or something…funny thing about just sitting all day.  I am tired from doing nothing much — oh, yeah…and getting up at 5:30 to be ready for my pick up…(forgot about that).  And I’m not really all that hungry, either.  Had a salmon & spinach quiche w/carrots — yummy — for my “lunch” at 2pm, so still very full.

Saturday, 23 April, 5:30pm — my where did the time go??

I was way too tired and had no time to do any posting yesterday.

Yesterday was a blast — leisurely rise, dress & breakfast (included with my room)…went for a walk to kill time, then checked out at 9:30 am, wandered over and sat for nearly an hour, kibitzing with the staff…half of them seem to know me by name — was I that much trouble??  I did, tongue-in-cheek, ask why everyone knew my name & the answer was because I was one of a few that were “overnighters” & they had to keep track of us…lol.  I certainly seemed to get good treatment on my first tour.

Now, this next tour was to cover the Cliffs of Moher, Burrens & some other miscellaneous stops.  Did I tell you that the Galway Tour company allows their drivers to pick and choose their routes & minor stops, plus their spiel that they give along the way?  Right!  And each guide had a great repertoire & route.  The Cliffs were breath-taking–in more ways than one–l o n g walk, folks up to the top.  I opted to NOT go up to the tower, which was a bad choice — puffins were up there!!!  I had plenty of time, too…just no energy. >.<

Our tour guide, Desmond Murphy (I think…his Irish accent was pretty heavy) had to be about 70 — years young!  This guy had a sharp mind & quick wit.  His humor could get kinda corny, but great, nonetheless!  He took the time to stop so we could get close up shots of lambs & other things.  He introduced us to the lamb-cow…”it goes moo-ma-a-a” — when we finally saw them, I had to laugh…alpaca!  Must be quite an oddity there.  Nothing but cows and sheep for miles and miles, and yet, relatively near the Cliffs was a heard of alpaca.   LOL.

We saw the beautiful Kylemore Abbey — unfortunately $$ to go in, so I opted to just have lunch (which was also expensive, but this I needed!) and leisurely walk around a take pictures.  Took some great shots of the Abbey with the lake in front.

It was a very long tour, leaving at 10 am and getting back to the bus depot by 6:25pm–20 minutes for me to make a quick pit stop & inhale an orange & scone I had the forethought to put in my bag ^,^ before getting onto the Dublin-bound bus & a 2 1/4 hour drive back.  I contemplated walking back to the hostel — sooo many people still out and about — but I had no more energy!  I found a taxi & paid the 5 euros (including tip) to get me back to the hostel.

I had a delightful day & when I got to the room at 9:30 pm, there was only one person in bed.  So, I quietly got into pjs, tucked stuff into my locker and no sooner than I was in bed, two giggle-boxes came in, whispering very quietly, then giggling louder than they needed.  I thought they were school girls (maybe 16-18), but I saw them today & they were early to mid 20s!  Just acted like school girls…I guess.

Today, I got up, dressed & had breakfast — free except for the extra scrambled eggs (2 euro) I added to my meal — and started in on my laundry…got it folded, and repacked my bag.

I only had a few things on the agenda today: laundry, walk to the botanical gardens and find out the time for Easter services at the Abbey Presbyterian Church.  That’s all…not much, eh?

Well, as I said, laundry was done, so I headed out to find the gardens…found several other things on the way (a community garden that had an award), the Royal Canal with four locks (took some pictures) and a magnificent cemetery.  I remember that the staff person at the hostel said it was before the cemetery…so, I missed my turn.  I asked at the floral center in the cemetery for directions & she gave some good ones, so I headed out again (after wandering through the grounds).  I finally found Botanical Road (I remembered that from the directions given at the hostel, but had apparently missed it) and aimlessly wandered for a bit, but realized I really had very little energy left — I’d been walking for almost 45 minutes, uphill, at a fairly good pace and figured I’d better give up because I saw nothing up the road that resembled a garden & absolutely no signage.  So, reluctantly, I turned around and headed the long walk back at a much more leisurely pace…dragging my sore feet along…even my calves were in on the action (arg).  I stopped and stretched them a bit, which helped, but as each bus swished by, I thought about stopping and hopping on.  I decided to brave it out and make my way back to the hostel, at the very least.

At the hostel, I almost went in, but decided to persevere and keep trudging along–knowing it was only about four blocks more (and downhill, thankfully!) to Abbey Church.  I made it, checked the times, saw a memorial park for fallen heros across from it (in 2008, the gates always seemed to be closed), so I went in.  Beautiful little park with a reflection pond in the shape of a cross, with mosaic tile design at the bottom.  At the head of the park, there is a beautiful sculpture of several people, with birds flying up and away from them.  Very restful — except when unsupervised pre-teens and teens started to scare the ducks in the ponds & bee-lined for the structure & noisily climbed it…until one very loud voice told them to get off. I think everyone in the memorial park was happy to see them leave.  I took some photos & rested my weary feet for a bit, then headed back up to the hostel, but first stopped into the Centra (mini-mart, very popular) for some yogurt & vittles (meals for the days ahead).  Then, drug myself back to the hostel, found some room (just barely) in the fridge for my stuff, gobbled some of the yogurt down & headed up to my room.

I think I must have fallen asleep, but not for too long.  I’ve been surfing the web & getting my photos into iPhoto so I can pick and choose which to upload later.  iPhoto is not being terribly co-operative right now, for some reason…can’t get in to add information about my photos (not a really big deal, but it has been nice to add the info while it’s fresh in my sieve-like mind…)–I’ll deal with that later!

So, my posting is almost ready to copy and paste into my blog, but first, I’m going to do a wander around the hostel to see if there’s anything interesting happening–and maybe grab a bit more food, before I publish the blog.  ^,^

Well, no desire to eat (I know I’ll regret it later…).  Finding power plugs that I can use to charge things is a challenge at this hostel.  One power plug for 8-bed dorm…drats.  I’ve found a plug in the “wifi” station, but I certainly cannot leave my laptop plugged in and walk away…so…here I sit, charging and typing (which slows down the charging–catch-22! LOL).

So, I’ll get this copied & published, then do some surfing (Facebook & all of my emails…etc)…and wait for the computer to fully charge!

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday & I WILL get up and go to church — only a short four blocks away!  I am really looking forward to it — then I’ll ride the hop-on/off tour bus around Dublin to refresh my memory of where everything is & take more photos!  Jameson and I didn’t spend much time over in the Temple Bar area (some beautiful stuff over there) when we were here in 2008, so I’ll definitely hop off in this area.  The bus is good for 24 hours, so I will definitely get good use out of it!

So, cheers for now!