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 FOUR: Good-Bye Wales … Hello Yorkshire!

OUR FOURTH WEEK HAS been filled with more one- and two-night stays than  three-night stays at hostels and BnBs. I know I’m not thrilled with the one-nighters—nor the two-nighters even—but I must be slowing down a wee bit because even the three-night stays are wearing me down and not allowing time to explore. Or maybe it’s just that those are too few. In either case, we’re finally slowing down a little and enjoying the areas. This week will be the last of the shorter stays (well, mostly). From now on it’ll be three- and four-plus nighters that hopefully will allow for more exploration  <insert happy dance>

Holyhead Beach at SunsetI think Llanberis has been the poshest of our hostels so far and Brecon Becon has been the roughest—but not in a bad way. BB is simply more remote—and appears to be a favourite for backpackers (as was Llanberis’ hostel). Whilst at Brecon, we’d planned on doing laundry, but their washing machine was on the fritz. Snowdonia's Cloud-Shrouded MountainsBecause of the remoteness (and the fact that the way “out” was up a rather steep drive), there really were no short walkabouts that could happen for the “Gimp Sisters” so we chilled. No wifi till we checked in at Llanberis—just the beauty surrounding us that we couldn’t View from Brecon Beaconexplore. Oh. By the way. These were the first two hostels I’ve been to in a while that had catered meals—a wee bit pricey (£9 for dinner and £6 for breakfast), but decent and filling!

Seems we’re having more than our share of hiccups but we are managing to make things work despite the problems.

Our one-nighter at Brecon (without wifi—or phone service) wasDowntown Hay-on-Wye followed by a three-nighter in Hay-on-Wye. Apparently I hadn’t noticed how close the two locations were—only about 25-30 minutes up the road <insert eye roll> Oopsie. Oh, well. The Swan at Hay (hotel)We needed a break from the “rustic” stuff … and a chance to recuperate. And get our laundry done—by now, I was needing to wear things two-three days in a row! Ugh. Our first night at The Swan at the Hay we were told there were no self-service launderettes in town. I thought that odd. The hotel, of course, The Joys of Laundrywould gladly do laundry for us—charging by the piece (standard for hotels). Each of us had a bag full of laundry. That was definitely not an option, so we started laundering our clothes in the bathroom. Sandy Laundrette and A Bit Moretried to wash all of hers and I chose a selection of items to get me through for a couple more days till we could find a launderette. Trying to find things to hang all the clothes on was hilarious. I had three braided elastic lines, but finding something to attach them to was proving problematic. Getting to the sink and toilet required some gymnastics. And all I could think of was “what is the staff going to think when they come to freshen the room?” That made me laugh so hard.

We arrived in Hay on the last day of the Hay Festival—a literary festival. Hay is known for its many bookstores—it is a delight to pop into all of the shops and rummage through all of the books. I looked at the festival schedule, hoping to find something interesting to attend, but no … there were some authors reading pieces from their books, but the speakers seemed to be more aligned with politics and socio-economic stuff. Not my cup of tea. So, wandering the streets and taking photos (away from the festival) was what we did on our first day. By the way—Sandy’s foot is much now—thank God! And Hay is where we met up with Jo and Ian. We had a delightful time with them—they showed us around town, showed us where the laundrette was (YAY!) and we had a lovely meal at one of the few open pubs—many of the shops were recovering from the long weekend event and closed up on Monday! We walked some more, but I put a damper on things with an upset stomach, so we returned to The Swan for tea and some wonderfully diverse conversations. All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our day—and on into the night—with Jo and Ian. They have a delightfully informative and fun video blog, “Something Vloggy” that is terrific—all about castles and waterfalls in Wales. We were finally ready to turn the lights out at 11pm! Waaay past my bedtime. But so worth it! Nearly twelve hours of visiting and wandering together. Truly delightful!

Riverside Walk to the WarrenOur third day in town, we split up—I was desperate to get laundry done and Sandy needed to walk. So laundry was my first order of business and during the wash and dry cycles, I did a little walkabout, getting errands done at the chemist and Spar. After sorting out all that, I was free to walkabout around the town.  It is beautiful with many interesting features. There’s a lovely path (actually two—one just above the other) that takes you along the River Wye. Very picturesque.

Wednesday was departure day for us. We said good-bye to Hay and mosied up to West Yorkshire to stay with another of my FB friends, Anne. Anne Our Hostess with the Mostess Anne and Sandy in the KitchenWe were not expected until six, so we occupied our day with little stops here and there—and a healthy walkabout around Brighouse. A lovely, leisurely day of travel. Anne fed and pampered us royally. She’s taken us around Haworth (pronounced how-with), pointed out “Crinkly-Bottom” (Cromwell Bottom) as we drove by, we did a walk through Halifax Piece Hall (as in “piece work” of fabric)—the last remaining cloth hall in England … and then we went to B&M for fresh supplies of Jelly Babies <insert monster grin>—sniggle—then took everything we bought home and finally went back out to a lovely dinner at Toby Carvery (delightful—Sandy enjoyed the Yorkshire pudding … as did I). We returned home for a nice spot of tea (and parkin). With all we’ve been fed, I would expect my weight to be up … (well, maybe it is), but had my first proper weigh in and I’m 171.9!) Friday—today—we must say good-bye to this lovely lady and move on up towards Inverness. Friday will be a one-nighter at Buckden in the Yorkshire Dells, Saturday-Tuesday am will be Glasgow, Scotland and Tuesday-Friday is Edinburgh … and finally, Inverness on Friday. We’ll try to get up there as early as we can so we can do some roaming.

So, my friends … I leave you once again to peruse the photos—I may add more later (once in Glasgow … perhaps). Have a blessed Friday and weekend and I’ll have things to post next Friday! Toodles!