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 SEVEN: Farewell Skye …

Coffee/Food Stop

Don’t forget to click on images to see full photos

IS IT REALLY SEVEN WEEKS?? I could have stayed so much longer on Skye. It was amazing. A teaser for all my senses. The scenery, the cottage industries … even the history. I would like to come back—alone next time. This has been a bustling week, with non-stop chatter. Sandy and I are back to traveling by ourselves and I am enjoying the relative quiet. It’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my time with the CIVers—we had a blast—but I’m apparently not used to that much conversation happening all day. I’m learning. Inverness SkylineLearning to say no to going out with the group—missing out on sightseeing—for health’s sake. Apparently, that’s a hard lesson for me to grasp—or at least one I’m not readily willing to accept. This whole trip has been a learning experience—just like all my previous trips. I’m learning I like “alone” better. I’m not the social butterfly some people think.

My allergies have taken a toll on my state of health. I’m on edge with loud noises—I find myself seeking solitude constantly. Music, huge amounts of chatter in the dining areas … things like that are jarring to my senses—especially my fluid-filled ears. The further away from Inverness I get, the better I feel—yay (and the offending trigger: lemongrass cleaner, I think. Even the hostel in Ft. Augustus used it to mop the floors—midge deterrent).

Young Busker Playing BagpipesSkye, Inverness, Fort Augustus (Loch Ness), across Scotland to Aberdeen … then on Friday, onto Edinburgh for a second look. We “slowed down” in Aberdeen and for Edinburgh—three whole nights in each location <insert grin> so we could explore Hanging Planter on Building in Invernessmore. Honestly, my first full day in Aberdeen was a day to recuperate—even if we did wander around (a 3-mile meander) and saw Victoria Garden, plus two chemists and two grocers as we searched for things on our “to buy” list. Trying to stay healthy is a Ft. Augustus Hostel Roomchallenge when one is traveling out of country. You’re on the go all the time. Remembering to mention “handicap” (at least for me, it’s hard to admit it) so I don’t have to climb up to the upper bunk & can have a room with the least number of Water spilling over a lock at Ft. Augustussteps. Down-time is hard to come by, too. And medicines can be different—some that are available over the counter at home are scrips here, while others are over the counter here are scrips at home. Trying to find the right

Storekeeper in Ft. Augustus with Shaped Images from Books

I took this one for the framed artwork behind her—images created out of full books. May do this with my series.

strength is fun too. I had to giggle. One chemist helped me to figure out what I should buy, but in reality, I should not have been able to purchase it. Naproxen (Aleve) 250mg—stronger than the over the counter version (220mg) at home

Local Wildlife Sightings 2017 ...

… they forgot midges (oh, my!!)

—is usually a scrip here, but it can be purchased over the counter for menstrual cramps—you must be between 15-50 to make the purchase <serious case of giggles here> Really?? Well, I did purchase a package of them (a whole nine pills!)—it seems absurd to me, but the chemist "Mall" at Invernesssaid to mention female problems (if asked) and it shouldn’t be an issue. Other things just aren’t there at all—in any form. So, my advise is to check and Loch Ness Mapdouble check what meds you bring. Make sure you have what you need. You can go to Boots.com (for the UK—check to see what company dominates in the country you’ll be visiting) and check with them to see if they have something comparable.

All-In-One: Petrol, Groceries, Gifts, Post Office and Pharmacy

A little bit of everything here!

It will save you a lot of grief later on down the line. I apparently did not do the double check for several things. I cannot find anything stronger than 30C in homeopathic River Scene in Ft. Augustusmeds (requires a script), and I’m having a devil of a time finding CoQ10 and Omega-3 in any strength … At least I was smart enough to have my prescriptions refilled and “topped off” with a 30-day vacation script before I left. I’ll need to get my refills done fairly close to when I arrive home, but I am good to go.

Victoria Park-Giant Chess Boards and Whimsical FencingThough I was interested in seeing what the Fort Augustus hostel receptionist meant by “different” when describing Aberdeen, we really didn’t venture far. There were loads of castles to see (if you’re in to castles … me, not so much) and a botanical garden down in the Center of town, but nothing nearby (except two gardens, which we did visit)—with my ankle acting up, buses seem to be the only way to see much of anything. Even Sandy’s injury (horse stepping on foot early on in our trip) seemed Aberdeen Weatherto flare as we tried to decide what to do. Gorgeous weather the entire time we were Victoria Park-Giant Chess Boards and Whimsical Fencing in Aberdeen. Sigh. So much for doing much walking or even sight-seeing. Aberdeen became a place to mend our bodies … and for me to work on my blogging. Guess I’ll have to find another Picture of book: "My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece"—Good Readbook to read, too. Last night, I finished one I’ve been working on. Very cool point of view, very well done, too. I loved reading “My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece” by Annabel Pitcher.

We will pretty much saidImage of homes in Aberdeen BBC: Scotland sign in Aberdeen good-bye to Scotland after finishing up our stay in Edinburgh (first day will be Friday (29June)—a short drive, unless I make a huge mistake again). A few friends have posted on Facebook about a bog fire that will be just south of the route we will take to one of our hotels (Stokes on Trent). Not sure if they’ll have it under control by the time we get down that far. We’ll probably go through smoke—hopefully nothing more. I’ll let you know when we get closer to that point in our travels.

In the meantime, I’ll say adieu, farewell and have a blessed Friday, weekend and week ahead. May the week be peppered with serendipity <insert warm glowing smile> Cheers!

SIXTH WEEK: Good-bye Edinburgh, Hello Inverness and Isle of Skye!

EDINBURGH BID US ADIEU—WITH WIND. Lots of wind. Sandy spent Thursday on her own and had to stick with me (in the car) on Friday as we drove to Inverness. It wasn’t a long drive, but plenty of the “I’ve-seen-this-before” countryside—which doesn’t bother me (and I actually love whatever the area provides for scenery) … but puts Sandy to sleep as a passenger—also safer for her motion sickness. Friday was spent settling into the Waverley Guest House Our View at Waverley Guest House and trying to figure out how we were going to sleep. The room was higher at the far end, lowest at the door. Our beds were set parallel to the “door wall” … and the head of each bed was so low (from overuse and no mattress flipping). Sandy chose to put her backpack in the low spot (under the mattress) and I chose to put my head at the foot of the bed <grin> The only problem we had was the music that started up at ten and went on to I-don’t-know-when … and (at least for me …) the air freshener used on everything. When morning came, both of us were blurry-eyed and I had a major stuffy nose. I’ve crossed my fingers, hoping that parking in the disabled parking is not going to get my car clamped (I did ask a “Parking Police” if it was okay, but he may not have understood how long I was talking about …)—we’ll find out next Saturday, I guess …

Loch Ness ... and stairs to itOur first day (Saturday) of the tour was wet—no biggie. I’ve got a raincoat, but didn’t pull it out because the rain was too light to bother. We stopped at a Loch Ness gift shop (teehee—I bought a t-shirt with “Loch Ness—Scotland” and a celtic design on it Loch Ness—View from gift shopto use as pjs), snapped a few photos and moved on. There were a few stops for photo ops <insert grin> along the way to the ferry … but, with the weather and Another Loch with Moody Skieswind, we chose to take the bridge across to the Isle of Skye instead (I’m sure Sandy appreciated that, though she said nothing about it). Marc and Pace played their instruments for us to end the evening on a high note.

Sunday (purple—see google map link below) was spent hiking up in the hills (fairly near our cottage) called The Quiraing, wandering View from Lower Level of The Quiraingaround. It was beautiful—windy, but beautiful. Actually, both are View of Skye from The Quiraingunderstatements. We found buying groceries on a Sunday to be a challenge, but we succeeded—the Staffin Bay Store had most of what we needed.
Monday (red) was a guided tour around the area, showing us Windy, Cloudy Skies along the Coast of Skye Driving in Skye with Moody Skies (but not stopping at): Brothers Point (where the recently found dino tracks are), Man of Storr, the town of Portree (we did lots of wandering around here … lots), Kilted Rock, with Edinbane as our turn-around point. We stopped at a Session with Marcbigger grocery store on our way back to pick up the stuff we couldn’t find at the co-op store. We ended the day with a lovely session with Marc and his autoharp.
Tuesday (yellow?) was a day of climbing. Climbing up to Man The Man of Storrof Storr … (yeah, I didn’t make it anywhere near the second gate—apparently there were four gates, so no pics), a quick Kilt Rock Kilted Rock (looks like there's more than one) Waterfall Near Kilted Rocktrip through the Staffin (dino) museum, Kilted Rock, climbing up to castle ruins (oh, my gosh—windy is an understatement), walking around Portree for a shopping spree, exploring and climbing down to see dino tracks near our cottage. Off and on rain all day, wind all the time … it’s beginning to get to my sinuses <insert pout>
Boarding Boat for Three-Hour CruiseIf it’s Wednesday, it’s a three-hour boat cruise from Uig (ewe-ig) out to an island with puffins. It was on the opposite side of the island, so we had lots of time to see flora and fauna on the way. For some reason, everyone kept humming the tune from Marc Playing Autoharp on the Radiant Queen View of the Uig Bay & BoatGilligan’s Island <giggle> Image of underside of thatched roofWhilst we waited for the time to board, we wandered into the pottery store (beautiful locally made pieces). I’ll be on their website when I get home … <insert sheepish grin>Poster about found cache and homestead
The puffins were actually there in abundance—last time (Galway), the cruise was on very windy, rough waters … with not one puffin in sight <pout>. This time around, it was beautiful—with only one wee little rough spot with a touch of wind and rain.  We had a few sessions on the boat with Marc (autoharp) and one of those included Pace with his tin flute (missed that one). Sandy stayed ashore due to motion sickness—she would not have appreciated the beauty. She’d be hugging the porcelain throne the whole time. She did miss out on some lovely scenery. Hope my photography )or one of the other CIVer’s—Selena managed some lovely shots!) will suffice … Bidding the Owners of Radiant Queen AdieuOh. Did I mention that the roads we were driving on were mostly single-track (only one lane wide)? They have an amazing system of “Passing Places”—little pull-outs spaces regularly. Whoever Traffic Jam ... sheep on roadis closest either moves forward to it, or backs up to it. Everyone has been very polite about sharing the roadway (well, save one—he must have been an American … <giggle>). It’s perfect. Oh, yeah—and the sheep have the right of way <giggle> And Highland Coo!… we found Coo! They were very, very scarce on this trip <insert pout>
Thursday was a late start sheep crossing the road(thankfully) … we were on the road by 9:30, heading to the other side of the island again. Marc told us a number of times what the agenda was—but my blurry brain was more like a On The Move—Quick Grab of "Passing Place" Signsieve … <sniggle—insert eye roll> Our weather? Well, we had some liquid sunshine to start our day, clouds, sun, blustery wind—think that covers it <giggle> Image of Midge-Proof Nettingbut it did turn into an amazing day. We were on our own from 11:30-3pm at Dunvegan Castle—it belongs to the Chieftain of the MacLeod clan and includes lovely gardens … where I was attacked by midges whilst trying to get some lovely photos (most of my photos are in my good camera still I’ll upload those to either Flickr or SmugMug when I get home—and have a better Dunvegan Castle Store of Lanterns in Dunvegan Castle Blue Irises at Dunvegan Castle Marc Playing Autoharp Isle of Skye Coastal Vista Near Lighthouse Lighthouse Nearing "Sunset"internet connection). Last stop was Neist Lighthouse—involving plenty of walking … Dinner in town after touring the castle and town was the plan, but Marc couldn’t get reservations at a decent time, so we headed Sundog Near "Sunset" at Keepers Cottageback to the cottage and made a quick, but delightful (and late—9pm!) meal.
Friday. Our last day to play … but all of the wind and walking has taken a toll on me. I’m taking today to recover whilst everyone else has fun checking out dino tracks (at Three Brothers) and a fairy glen. I’ll be spending the time trying to recover, finishing up my blog entry, adding photos and maybe doing a bit of tidying up around the cottage. The CIVers will be back by 3-ish pm to help with clean up and packing up in preparation for our early departure tomorrow. (I must admit … I am enjoying the quiet—and quick access to the internet <teehee> in their absence …)
Saturday morning, at an obscenely early hour, we must begin our trip back to Inverness for everyone to catch their trains and planes. Sandy and I will spend the night at Waverley Guest House, then move on into the next leg of our adventure.
If you have a Google account (maybe even if you don’t), you can get into the map showing where we traveled—courtesy of Pace. Each days travel is colour coded. Even our day on the Uig Bay should be posted (at some point—he’s a bit behind in getting all of the days posted). I’d love to get the app from him so I can do the same with the rest of our trip, but maps each so much of my data plan <insert pout>.
So, my friends … another leg of our journey is coming to an end. I hope you are having fun following the CIVers adventure. May your day, your weekend and upcoming week be blessed with little serendipitous gems. Until next Friday—slainté!