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!

Traveling with Friends

TRAVEL IS NIGH AND I am definitely filled with excitement! I’ve completely ignored my travel-blogging lately … well, there have been tiny bits peppering my blogs of late, but not much else. Oopsie!

Just so you are aware, I will be at the mercy of internet availability during my travels, so blogging posts may be sporadic—I’ll try my best to adhere to a schedule, but it will completely depend on availability. I do have hotspots for my computer whilst traveling in Ireland and the UK, but I’ll need to figure out how to use them again (it’s been waaaay too long—hope I can remember passwords …) and I’m sure I’ll have to “feed” them before they can be used.

In the past—beginning with our maiden voyage in 2007 (or was it 2008??), I’ve traveled with my daughter for two and a half months; I’ve traveled with her and friends for a week, then just with the friends (stationed over in Germany) for another week … then on my own; I’ve traveled alone for 3-6 weeks; taken trains and buses; rented a car. Each time has been fun; each time has been a learning experience.

This time around, I’ll be traveling with my daughter’s mother-in-law. Sandy and I have hit it off well since our childrens’ nuptial tying of the knot—but we have never spent more than a couple days together, so this will be a delightful experience in patience, understanding and sharing close quarters (the car, dorm-room style sleeping arrangements with 4-8 other roommates—complete strangers—that sometimes turn into lifelong friends, short and long tours cooped up in a van together …et cetera). It’s a matter of give and take for both of us. I think we are adult enough for this trip to be wonderful for both of us. Everyone has their own personal quirks that must be taken into consideration. If you are not able to be flexible, traveling with friends may not be for you.

We will be visiting my new (and old) internet friends that live in Wales, London (and surrounding areas), and Yorkshire area. I love being able to meet my internet connections—at least one face-to-face enriches the relationship. I will be showing Sandy around places I’ve seen (and have fallen in love with) and we’ll experience other places together for the first time. And we will do tons of walking. Literally tons … my habit of “park-it-and-walk” still applies for as long as I am able to walk. We’ll stay at hostels as often as we can—I’m sure there will be a few B&Bs and hotels when hostels are booked. We’ll do mini-tours around the “big cities” via the Hop-On/Hop-Off buses, more mini-tours with some of the tour companies that take jaunts out into the nearby country-side … and perhaps take the car out to look at the lovely countryside, ruins and other little towns. As I’ve just mentioned, I prefer the “drive to a location and park it till we move on” philosophy—walking is such a wonderful way to observe and soak in the beauty of the cities and towns. But sometimes, to see special spots and places far afield, cars are required. (Usually, I find cars are way too fast for sightseeing, but with a car, I can pull over or turn around if I see something that interests me—unlike various forms of public transport!) We will have our week-long tour (with the Celtic Invasion Vacation group, a annual tour organised  by Marc Gunn) up on Isle of Skye in Scotland about a month into our journey. Then we’re back to poking around and working our way back to Dublin for our journey home. There will be two ferry rides—I love these. Allows for a re-boot.

There will be at least one ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) for us to attend in Dublin at the Jameson Distillery (insert a very happy, smiley face). The date has yet to be set … I really need to get on that soon. Yes, there is more planning to do before we set sail. All in all, I’m looking forward to a laid-back, delightful tour of Ireland and the UK.

So, until next week (after my first book signing of the year—and just before the next one), I wish you all a beautiful, blessed Friday and weekend. Toodles!

 

Celtic Invasion Vacation (CIV): Northern Wales-Part One

THIS WAS A FUN TIME FOR ME–exhausting, but super fun and very memorable! I’d not miss any of it–I’d do it all over again…even the ‘vertical’ portions.

Every year, Marc Gunn puts together a trip to one of the seven Celtic Nations. He’s been doing this for quite a few years. In past years, he has taken adventurers to various parts of Ireland, Scotland (I’m so sorry I missed this!), and France to take in both modern and ancient sights. Since Marc is a Celtic musician (born on St. Paddy’s Day), he always includes personal house concerts, both with his playing and singing and with invited musicians bringing in their instruments and voices to play for us in the evenings. In addition, when possible he seeks out Celtic music in local pubs for his Invaders to enjoy whilst feasting and downing a pint.

The troupe of Invaders is usually on the small side (6-14 people, including Marc), which allows for a fair amount of leeway when proceeding through his very loose itinerary. If something doesn’t strike a fancy with the majority, perhaps another venue is more appealing…and so, itinerary might be changed. Going with the flow. I like that. So does everyone else.

This year, I drove up from Holyhead (spent the night in Llanfairfetchan–I even know how to say it right–before proceeding), and (after a few wrong turns–remember, no fine-tuned GPS yet in the UK), turned in my car and met up with the Invaders at the Bewely Hotel very near the Manchester Airport the night before the actual tour began. Since we had to wait for the last two to arrive (the morning our group was to head out),

Trekking in Manchester UK

The six of us trekking back to the train station in Manchester

the rest of us (was there really only six of us?) took the train down into Manchester and,

Manchester UK

A glimpse of Manchester, on the way back to the train station.

ill-prepared for the rain that fell, we ignored the rain and did some walking around, sightseeing, made a few strategic purchases and had our

Dinner in Manchester UK

Drying out, enjoying a lovely Italian dinner

dinner (which allowed for us to dry out our sopping pants and jackets a wee bit–it’s only water, right?)…

After picking up our last two Invaders and retrieving the van, we headed out, traversing back down the way I’d traveled, down into Wales–actually, pretty close to where I spent the night when I first came over on the ferry. I could have checked with Marc about the details before I made reservations for accommodations and my car rental to save on the extra travel and expenses…but I did have fun with the group the night before we headed out, so I’m happy with how it went.

Marc usually rents a cottage of some sort for his Invaders and uses it at ‘base camp’, coming back at the end of each day to relax, have dinner (did I mention Marc is an excellent cook and prepares most of the breakfasts and dinners that we had at the cottage for us?) and, at least two or three (or maybe four) nights enjoy our own little personal house concert, whether Marc or one of the guest musician.

This was a delightful little cottage in Bryngwran, with an open floor plan–the front patio had a BBQ and picnic table,

Room at Watermill Cottage

My room, Marc’s bed on left, mine in right.

Patio at Watermill Cottage

Looking through the skylight down to the patio

Watermill Cottage

The partially hidden watermill at our cottage

Patio at Watermill Cottage

Delightful location for a meal…used the BBQ (not seen) for our dinner

the front entry lead into a large kitchen flowing into a dining and living room area, with an en suite bedroom (for two) stashed off on the side from the entry, plus a bathroom. Upstairs had a loft with two beds and two bedrooms (one was en suite), each accommodating two, which was perfect for us. (Sshhh–don’t tell anyone…Marc and I shared a room. Giggle…he was a perfect gentleman–he offered to sleep on the couch, but I said no way, and offered the second twin bed–no reason for him to sleep on the couch where there was a perfectly good, empty bed. Like I said, he was a perfect gentleman.) There was a washer off of the kitchen area…and solar drying (clothesline) on the beautifully landscaped garden patio…I should have done my laundry when we first arrived to allow time for items to dry (but we had off and on rain and couldn’t see things actually drying with the weather we were having), instead, I chose to wait till I left the Invaders and settled into the hostel before doing laundry.

Day One, Saturday, included the scenic drive through the countryside and along the coast from Manchester Airport down to the cottage. (I won’t mention who left their drivers license back in the states…teehee…two of us with licenses did some of the driving.) Our first adventure took us into Conwy (pronounced Conwee) to see their beautiful castle. From atop the turrets I could see the walls encapsulating

Overview of Conwy Castle

High atop one of the turrets, a shot into the castle grounds

Conwy Castle Grounds

From the turrets, looking into the castle grounds

Conwy City from Castle

View of Conwy from the Castle

the entire town. It was breathtaking to see the little hamlet with the great protective ‘arms’ wrapped around it. After touring the castle, we were free to wander the town for several hours before meeting back up. I ended up making my first purchases (a tea towel with wild flower of Wales printed on it, plus some tea and scones) in a little shop, then stumbled upon a local art exhibition, with some very nice works: photography needlework scenery, penwork…all lovely. I ended up with a few items: a bag with an owl (of course, since I’m such an owl fanatic) and a small water colour and/or pen drawn dragon for my daughter…and a bookmark, which I’ll use as a prize/giveaway one of these days. Definitely a town to revisit…

From there, we worked our way to our cottage where everyone claimed their bed/room, unpacked and Marc and one other brave soul went out to shop for our food supplies. I think Marc entertained us with music, but we were all so tired, I honestly don’t remember. Our poor last two CIVers

Marc Gunn, Personal Concert

Marc played many of his tunes for us over the course of the week.

were working on well over 24 hours of travel by the time we all headed to our respective beds…

Day Two and Three (Sunday and Monday) were a blur of activities. For a few days, I failed to note all of the places we visited–I was having entirely too much fun to take the time…I’ve looked at dates on photos and my posts on Facebook to figure out what we did…and I’m still not sure I’ve got it right–lol–think I’ve missed one or two castles and towns…oops–I’ll include them in next weeks blog.

Cemetry Grounds on Church Island

Picturesque shot of cemetery

Snowdon Mountain

A view of Snowdon Mountain

Church Island at Low Tide

Church on the little island between Menai and Britannia Bridges surrounded by Menai Strait (in a portion called The Swellies because of dangerous whirlpools)

WWII Bunker

Cute little seaside town had a bunker nestled into a hillside.

Seaside View

Nearing the end of our guided tour, resting in a seaside village

In the midst of a sheep pasture, the view is breathtaking, the history told intriguing.

In the midst of a sheep pasture, the view is breathtaking, the history told intriguing.

Gates and Turnstyles

Lots of livestock to keep contained, so plenty of gates and turnstyles to get through. Note the detail of ironwork.

The Henge Burial Chamber, Wales

Our guide, Willym explained the lore, facts and some of the traditions behind the burial mounds.

A House Concert

Jonny Dyer and Vicki Shaw graciously played for us.

Deep in Snowdonia NP, Wales

A pristine lake (Llyn y Dywarchen) is our reward after a short climb.

Jonny Dyer and Vicki Swan Concert

Together, these two harmonized to make fantastic music for us, well past the time they planned to quit. Amazing duo!

We made quite a few stops (photo ops and ooohs and aaahs) on this first day of real exploring of Wales. We wound through the gorgeous, mountainous Snowdonia National Park. Outside of Scotland, it has the tallest peak in the UK…and the views are breathtaking, to say the least (and Day Three held even closer inspection of this magnificent region). The SavNat provided (TomTom) was not working well, so Kevin, the one person that had a smart phone with GPS was giving directions from the middle of the van. There was plenty to see. We ended our day with a bit of music by our fearless leader, Marc Gunn. Wonderful.

Day Three (Monday) was filled with cultural and natural history, with our guide, Willym. In addition to more beautiful sights in Snowdonia, there were hills to climb, gates to go through, and more climbing…all while we heard about the history of the area. Not the dry stuff with someone spouting off facts that fall on deaf ears. Our guide led us out to fields to explore cairns (burial mounds), up trails, into dales, across brooks. (I’d say I easily logged an average of five miles each day.) Delightful. I’m not a history buff, but definitely enjoyed taking in all I heard and saw. That night, we were privileged to hear the harmony of two wonderful musicians: Vicki Shaw and Jonny Dyer. They were fantastic! (I’ll tried to attach a clip.)

Day Four (Tuesday) was ridiculously fun…and exhausting. It started with a mead tasting in Llanberis. It was deliriously

Meadery Owner

The owner of Snowdon Honey Farm and Winery, is wearing one of my book wristbands

Mead Tasting

We tasted many very different (and delicious meads…

fun and took more time than planned. Many of us went away with arms full of goodies (I for one was trying to figure out how my purchases would make it back home unscathed…(they did make it intact, thank you very much…)

We were to meet a storyteller “near” the National Slate Museum and had to rush across the river to get there. Well, we took a few wrong turns (no biggie–it really was a beautiful area), Marc called our storyteller and he gave us directions for us to follow. We traveled a well worn trail up into the hills, passed a hospital (for the slate company back in the day–part of the museum, and beautifully preserved), continued to walk up, and up…down…and up. I think there was more verticality to this walk than I’ve ever seen, and my knee (and very out of shape muscles) protested. I was the ‘weak link’ in our party of eight and I finally got to the point, when they were unsure whether they needed to go up further or turn down, following the river, that I stopped. I begged them to check and see which way we needed to go before I took another step. They were sweet enough to oblige me and forged ahead, down the hill. Yup, the right choice. I slowly followed. And was rewarded with the most beautiful little encampment I’ve ever seen. A little village of quaint, and quite unique buildings.

Thatched Lodge

Here, we are resting from our weary jaunt, but soon, we would settle into the lodge for a wonderfully told story.

Sod-Roofed Cottage

So many of these little cottages are a delight to the eye and mind.

Our Storyteller and Marc

The village in the background as Marc and the Storyteller chat

Carpentry Features with Reflections

The rustic, yet intricate carpentry details were fabulous. Our CIVers (including your truly) are in the reflection of the window.

Storyteller at Cae Mabon

In the large thatched lodge, our storyteller spins his yarn…

Thatched roofs, a Hobbit home, rammed earth building…all nestled amongst beautiful trees, next to a babbling stream. My fatigue melted away. And our storyteller was superb. Well worth the trek.

After our trekking, storytelling and a bit more sightseeing was done and we were munching on snacks in Llanberis, looking back up into the area we’d been traversing, well…I videoed Marc’s reactions, but his comments are not repeatable in this G-rated blog. (I’ve tried to upload another video I did showing the distance we traveled, but it hasn’t worked so far.) All I can say is…

Far Above National Slate Museum

…looking across the river into the town of Llanberis (photo taken from somewhere above and to the north of the Slate Museum Hospital)

Oh! My! Goodness!

I’ll continue with the last half of our trip next week…until then,

Slainté and peace be with you on this fine day.

 

Looks Like Rain…

I’M ENJOYING THIS WEIRDLY WARM weather here on the Central Coast of California. Thursday’s high was 89.1, down about 74.5 (78 inside still, but coming down slowly) as I wrote this. Tomorrow (Friday) will cool a little more (80-ish), and even more over the weekend–almost back to the “normal”, but not quite…then it goes back up again. But, this doesn’t mean I’ll not be happy when cooler weather (aka: our ‘normal’ summer) comes, though…with this drought, I’m not really sure if it will arrive..

Though it’s too far out to see what weather I will have in store in Ireland, it’s 51-58 (F) and rain most days through the 11th (last day it shows). That will be a nice change after a week of off-and-on very hot weather. Unless there’s a drastic change in weather, I’m sure I’ve gotta make sure I pack a few long sleeve shirts and a sweater 😉 plus my umbrella and maybe my rain slicker. (Probably won’t get much use out of the capris I just purchased, but I’ll take them, just in case.) The coolness and wetness will not hamper my travels at all. I’ll revel in it. The only thing it might effect is the amount of photographs I can get without damaging my camera. I may resort to iPhone or point ‘n shoot to protect my good camera, but I *will* get my shots in.

I’ve got my route roughly figured out: Dublin to Galway, then follow the coast to Sligo (I will be visiting a Facebook friend–John is growing a labrynth and I’m anxious to see how it’s progressing) to somewhere along the north coast of Ireland or N Ireland to Dublin–haven’t decided exactly where yet (I’ll stick with the coast route all the way back to Dublin). Dublin to Holyhead, Wales (via ferry, as foot passenger) to Manchester, England–meet up with the Celtic Invasion Vacation group (headed by a capable Marc Gunn, Celtic Musician-tour organizer and guide Extraordinaire) to visit many points in Wales, then back to Manchester (say farewell to the group and hire another car to travel to Edinburgh (a favorite), Scotland and the northern coast (want to check out the Gunn Clan’s castle and history center), then to the outskirts of London to visit a friend, Natalie and her family (I’ve been invited to stay in their guest room). They will give me the ‘grand tour’ of London and surrounding areas, I believe. I may spend another day in a hostel in downtown London to hopefully meet up with a writer friend, Vickie Johnstone (she writes in several genre–childrens and thriller). Then it’s back to Holyhead. Holyhead to Dublin (foot passenger again on the ferry) with day trips to Cork and other areas in the southern portion–and of course lots of travel around one of my favorite cities, Dublin before I am forced to catch my return flight home.

Whew! And yet, six weeks is not enough time to thoroughly enjoy myself. Next time, I may look into sticking to one place for six weeks (or more) and use the time as a writing retreat–but I’ll still make sure I get some tromping around in the countryside to take photographs. A must. I just love the ruins, the history of the country.

And I cannot forget the people. All along the way, I plan on cultivating friendships wherever possible. These (Ireland and Scotland specifically) are countries I have fallen in love with and wish to connect on a more personal level.

Right now, I’m working on hostel room (or couchsurfing–I’m fine with this too and it keeps the cost down) reservations, but not concerned (I’ve got the important ones–first, last and a few nights in between–all taken care of). There shouldn’t be too much problem booking. Most of the time, all I have to do is book the next hostel when I check in at the current one.

I can *almost* count on my fingers how many days before my travels begin. I’ll be doing a little bit of fine tuning in these last few weeks–making sure I have all the electronic accessories I need (oh, my–it gets worse every time I travel!)–I’m taking my GPS this time since I won’t have a ‘nagivator’ to assist me. I love my GPS. I just purchased a new suitcase (the old one had a wonky wheel that made a horrendous noise) but plan only to fill my smaller suitcase and stuff it inside for the trip over (hope it fits in my cars). The larger one will be for “overflow” of gifts and purchases for myself. I’m not going to get caught trying to cram all my goodies into the small suit case like I’ve done before. The smaller one is small enough to use as a carry on, so if I am limited to one suitcase as checked baggage, I’m set. My backpack then becomes my ‘personal’ item, which will include my purse and camera equipment and GPS.

I’m nearly set. Wheeee.