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!