Ireland and Britain in-depth
A Journal of a Journey
Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England
|Date of departure: June 4
|Date of return: June 19
Ring of Kerry, Ireland
Bath Region, England
Day 1 June 4 Weather: Clear/ Sunny
8am: Houston, Texas
Fly to Atlanta and wait for five hours before heading on to Ireland. NOTE: We flew Delta. I will never fly
Delta again!!! It was an awful experience. Flying from Atlanta we went through a thunderstorm, which was cool to see from the plane.
The clouds from the plane were awesome. They were so close that it seemed that I could reach out and pluck them from the sky. At 9pm we were in the sky and they informed us that we needed to set our clocks and watches to the new time for Ireland...2am.
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Day 2 June 5 Weather: Sunny
|Arrive in Shannon, Ireland. We meet our tour director, Jonathan Lansdell. The coach takes us toward the Killarney region. A stop in the village Aradgh, which is just north of New Castle West, in Limerick County, is a brief stop just for a bite to eat and a chance to walk around.
|We arrive in Killarney at about 2pm. Our stay is in the Linden House. Our room is very pleasant. Carrie and I go for a walk around town then return for supper. I am wasted and after I take a shower I don't even make it under the covers...I crash!
Night 1 Killarney region, Linden House.
Co. Kerry, Ireland 353-64-31-379
|Over all rating: Good
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Day 3 June 6 Weather: Fair, Windy
Travel the Ring of Kerryó Pass through Killorglin and see a statue of King Puck, a goat. During the Puck fair, August 11-12, they hoist a goat to the top of a podium as 'King of Puck' to watch over the celebration.
After John told us about Daniel O'Connell the Liberator, Ann renames him Ol' Danny Boy Liberator.
We stop at the Bog Village, where we tried Irish coffee, from the Red Fox. I found it interesting that old ladies should want to take group pictures in front of poop! The Irish must be laughing at us Americans for stopping and paying money to see piles of 'poop'.
We stopped in Adare for lunch at the Old School House. There we enjoyed a nice lunch outside and had our first taste of Shepard's Pie.
After lunch we found ourselves taking a brief stop to view the Dog Trails. This was very interesting and was not on our itinerary, but John hooked us up:) The display was really neat. After the presentation the Shepard asked for questions from the audience. One of the most ridiculous questions was, "Can you call the sheep?" The Shepard responded, "If I could call the sheep I wouldn't need to train the dogs for two years!"
We continued to drive through the Irish country-side and found fields full of wild yellow iris' and Lilies.
We made a brief photo-stop in Waterville. Charlie Chapman and Bing Crosby visited this lovely coast-side village. We travel past the village to a hilltop giving us a view of Waterville with Staigue Stone Fort just ahead of us. On the other side was a breathtaking view of the sea and the smaller islands scattered about it.
Later that evening John, set several of us up to ride the Jaunting Cars! The Jaunting cars were so much fun. The driver flirted with everyone on the carriage and we all ended up with a small bunch of flowers:) He was very funny and one of his jokes was, "What do you call an Irish man who has been buried underground for many years? Pete (peat)" He had pet names for each of us Rosebud, Rose, Turtle dove, and Bundle of Joy (me). Quite the gentleman, he offered his hand to help us off of the carriage, while commenting on my dimples and 'lovely' red hair. It was a blast!!!
Night 2 Killarney Region: Linden House again.
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Day 4 June 7 Weather: Cloudy
We have a new bus driver, Tommy. We drive through the country side and start seeing Celtic stones on the side of the road to Cork.
Macgrum is a cool town. We arrive to Blarney at about 10am. We are short on time and Carrie and I wait 30 min. in the rain and never make it into the castle! We grab a bite to eat, shop for 30minutes and load onto the bus. We had to fight the rain the whole time.
We start discussing the possibility of seeing a Shakespeare Play in London. Ann said, "Maybe Othello or something, but not Romeo and Juliet. They did that one to death!"
We go by the Rock of Cashel (Cash eel). The Story of Cashel: St. Patrick was preaching and Satan was flying over and found him. Satan became enraged and took a bite of rock from the near mountain ranges. Satan flew over St. Patrick and dropped the stone trying to crush him. St. Patrick was uninjured and the rock stood as just another battle won against Satan. The people built a castle upon the rock, which stands still.
It truly was a long way from Killarney to Tipperary!
The Ireland flag: Orange for the orangemen, white for peace, green for the land
We arrive to the Ardagh House, which is full. We are not allowed to roll our baggage on the floor and those staying there must share a restroom/washroom.
Six lucky people, including Pat, Ann, Carrie, and I are taken to the Belgrave Guest House.
Night 3 Dublin, Belgrave Guest House is quite charming and everyone is friendly. Cable, private restrooms and just five minutes from the hotel is a little shopping area with an internet cafe!
|Over all rating: Excellent
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Day 5 June 8 Weather: Rain/Cloudy
We take a guided tour of Dublin, which was really wonderful and quite informative. During the guided city tour we are taken into St. Patrick where we found the grave of Jonathan Swift. The church is designed with gothic influence and is very beautiful.
After the tour we are free to
investigate the city on our own. Pat, Ann, Carrie, and I head out into Dublin.
We stop at a little shop and I find name cards explaining the meaning of names.
Here are a few of interest:
Egan- son of Egan Sweeny- Pleasant White- fair/bright
We stop in a little cafe called, Bewley's, which was established in 1840, for fish 'n' chips. I had my first taste of shark...it was good:) Pat is very excited about visiting a shop called 'Clarks', which sells shoes. We head to Clark's after we eat, where Pat and Ann buy some shoes. We pass the Molly Malone statue where Pat talks to a cute cop. They have closed Trinity College to the public because Bill Clinton, and Bono and some others are visiting. We don't get to see the Book of Kells, which was something that I was really looking forward to.
We go to the National Gallery and view some wonderful Irish Paintings. My favorite was a painting called, The Sixth Seal. This painting took my breath away. WE go to another Blarney Woolen Mills.
At 5:45 we meet the rest of the group to have supper together. We go to MoJo's for supper. I love the atmosphere, good music, food, and friends!
Something we noticed about the Irish...many of them are quite tall!
The bus driver was supposed to take us back to the hotel, which is about 20minutes from where the pub was. The bus driver gets lost and 1 1/2 hours later we finally arrive to our hotel. Carrie and I walk down to the Internet Cafe, where I email those dear to me.
ALERT: At 2:35am someone smoking sets off the smoke alarm in the Belgrave. Carrie remembers her passport and money, I do good to take my robe to cover my slip of a gown. We go downstairs where Ann comments that it all reminded her of a bad play. We felt odd in our sleeping clothes with a bunch of strangers around, but felt better after one guy runs by with only his underwear on! Hahahaha! By 3am we were back in our rooms.
Night 4 Belgrave Guest House
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Day 6 June 9
Board a ferry at Dun Laoghaire (Dun Leery) seaport, which was built in 1817-1859. While we were waiting at the ferry we saw the Ireland Football Team! They were very nice guys. When we depart the ferry takes us in-between two lighthouses. We were supposed to leave at 11:10am, but technical difficulties push us to about 11:40.
We eat McDonald's for lunch and Pat comments that we had to come all the way to Ireland for a McDonald's hamburger!
New bus driver in Wales, Derrick nicknamed Decker.
Beaumaris Castle was built by Edward I, Longshankes or the Hammer of the Scots, where he ruled from 1272 to 1307. He had war with many peoples. The castles that Edward Ist, built were to help keep the Welsh in check. After our stop at this castle we were treated to Welsh candy by John.
The town Llangolin was quite charming. A song fest was going on at the time we were there. I couldn't help myself but to open the window before going to bed and sing out into the quiet rain-filled streets songs of tenderness. Wonderful experience.
Night 5- North Wales, LLanglin, Hand Hotel. At breakfast the next morning my table had no toast or juice. We borrowed juice from another table and it was so watered down it was awful. The table cloth still had food particles stuck on it from the night before.
Llangollen LL20 8PL
|Over all rating: Fair
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Day 7 June 10 Weather: Cloudy/Drizzle
Take bus to Chester, which was an old Roman past. Visit Chester Cathedral. We went through a long tunnel which was cool because it actually had a split in it.
Loud jets pass over Grasmere practicing in the valleys. At the Grasmere church we see the grave of William Wordsworth.
Visit Rydell Mount, home of William Wordsworth. Inside was a poem/love letter to his wife, with words so tender that it took away the breath of those who read it.
Upon leaving and heading to the Lake District, John once again passes out some candy that he bought for everyone on the bus. The candy was Kendell Mint Cake, which was most excellent!
Night 6- Lake District: Gretna Green Scotland
|Over all rating: excellent
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Day 8 June 11 Weather: Rain
We spend the morning in Gretna Green. This was a place that many people would come to to get married. In England the age that one could get married was 18, but in Gretna Green the age was 16! Couples would go to Gretna Green and would be married by the blacksmith, who was said could marry a couple and shoe a horse at the same time.
Stop at Green Welly to stretch our legs. While we were there I was waiting for my sister and I saw these gambling machines. I don't gamble, but was bored so I started pushing buttons. Suddenly the machine came to life and I was just pushing buttons! I won two English pounds (the pound as of June 2002 is about 1 to 1.60 of our money).
We pass Loch Lomond, Scotland's largest loch, which is breathtaking! We walked out to the pier and watched as the heavy rain-filled clouds drifted across the mountains, seemingly cutting off the tops. Rain started across the loch in a great wall and was glorious to see, as the sun peeked through the clouds here and there, sending rays of light to the rain-soaked land.
When we arrive to the Stewart Hotel, in the Highlands of Scotland, we realize that it was not exactly made for large groups. The bus could not get up the hill to the hotel.
Carrie and I went for a 45 minute walk and enjoyed the quite country-side.
Ann was upset about their service and the young man who was waiting on us took the hit...literally. Ann asked him to hold out his hand, he did and she slapped his hand...hard. One of the younger girls in the back yelled, "I'll kiss it!" He smiled and went off. Later Ann suggested hitting it again, he wouldn't let her (ahh, he learned), but then he let someone else take a swipe at his hand, although not as hard. The guy went over to let someone kiss it. We all busted out laughing when he headed John's direction and like the tough guy John is he said, "Don't look at me I'm not kissing it!" What a blast!
Night 7- Highlands
|Food: Freshly cooked, good
|Service: not used to large groups
|Over all rating: fair
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Day 9 June 12 Weather: Cloudy no rain
Start the day viewing snow caped Ben Nevis, which is Scotlandís highest mountain. The sun made it's way threw the clouds just enough to light the mountain as we stood at a memorial where we could see the mountain.
Upon arriving in the Loch Ness area we realize that we would not get to see the Urquhart Castle which rests beside Loch Ness. John said that they only take people by bookings, which we do not have. We go into the village and see a little dinky video (don't waste your money, I've seen better on The Learning Channel and Discovery Channel). After the cheesy video we head out.
John had the driver drive by Urquhart Castle really slow for us to get a glimpse. Just past the castle we were back on the little windy mountain road and came to a stop where an 18-wheeler was laid over on its side on a curve. We waited for three hours for the mess to be cleaned up. While we were waiting we saw two sets of jets, Tornadoes, pass by us at dizzying speeds. Well, we sat for three hours by the Loch Ness and never did see any monster:) John made a quiz for us, with a prize for the winner. I didn't expect to do well at all. The 42 people were put into groups of two, Carrie and I were together. Here are the questions as I remember them: (answers at the end of this days notes)
|1. What landed on St. Patrick?
|6. What was his nickname?
|2. What were the bridges named that we crossed over after the ferry?
|7-9 Name three things about Wales.
|3. Who built it?
|10. who is King Puck?
|4. What Roman town did we visit?
|11. What is the biggest Park in Wales?
|5. Who built Beaumaris?
|12. Who is someone who doesn't like change?
As we are waiting for the wreck to be cleared we are entertained by a Scottish man with a very obedient dog.
We stop at Fort Agnus for lunch and see the Scottish bagpiper that we had met during the 18-wheeler wreck. He gave Carrie and I a wave. We then stopped off after getting a bite to eat and listened to him play. He was the bagpiper that played at Madonna's wedding.
For supper we started off with Haggis. Ann was the only one of us four that 'had any guts'!
Night 8 Highlands: Stewart Hotel
|1. The rock of Cashel
|6. Longshanks/ hammer of the scots
|2. No one answered this one right but it is Menai Straits
|7-9 Dragon symbol, longest named town in hte world, Beaumaris Castle
|3. No one answered this one right
|10. a goat
|11. Snowdonia National Park
|5. Edward I
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Day 10 June 13
In the morning more Haggis. I forced myself to try it and didn't like it one bit!
Stop at Rynoch Moor. Some of the land we viewed was owned by Ian Fleming, who wrote James Bond. Travel through the Trossachs, where the lowland and highland areas of Scotland meet. This area of glacial valleys are awe-inspiring and have all the classic signs of glacial action, a geologist's dream!
www.craglands.com Stopped on the outskirts of Callendarr in Kilamahog (pronounced Kill a ma hog), at about 11:30. Carrie and I tried Pannini, at Crofters Restaurant, which was really good!
Visit Stirling Castle over looks the Firth of Fourth. The walls were built to protect the Queen of Scots. Wallace and Robert the Bruce tried to take over this castle. Note: Robert the Bruce was the first King of Scotland. From the walls of the castle is an awesome advantage point. The Wallace Monument, built in the 1800's, can be seen from the wall overlooking the city below. A battery of cannons can be viewed from the walls of the castle. Longshanks had another nickname, Hammer of the Scots.
Forth Bridge is huge. There are two bridges a new and old one. When the English have jobs that seem endless they say that 'Its like painting the Bridge of Forth'.
Through Glencoe which is a mountainous region where in 1692 the MacDonald Clan was massacred. The head of the Family missed paying tribute for five days. Guards came in and were treated very well by the family. When the guards found out that MacDonald was late to pay, they slaughtered more than forty people while they slept.
The night does not become dark into well after 11pm here. Their longest day, June 21st, consists of twenty hours of daylight. In the winter their shortest day, December 21st, consists of 20 hours of darkness. At 11:30pm I gaze out the window looking West and see the crescent moon and Venus, so close together that they seemed to be dancing close together in the waning light.
Night 9 Edinburgh, Scotland
4-8 Cates Gardens
EH12 5LB Edinburgh 44(131)3371108
|Food: Breakfast only
|Over all rating: Fair
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Day 11 June 14 Weather: Rain
At 7:00am Carrie and I wake and watch football while getting ready for our busy day.
Our day started with a guided sight seeing tour of Edinburgh. Robbie, a highlander, was our tour guide. He was quite funny, but could be seen as...well you'll see. We enjoy a view of the Scottish crown jewels at Edinburgh Castle, which sits on top of a extinct volcano.
We past an area where construction workers were supposedly working. To this he said, "Edinburgh construction workers are the only ones that make Mexican construction workers look fast."
Robert Lewis Stevens, writer of Treasure Island, lived here in room 17 and used the nearby pond for inspiration.
Robbie said that we would finish before 12:30 because he had a disease which required him to be in a pub between 12 and 12:30, the disease was called thirsty-citis. Another one of his little jokes was the different ways people count to see how everyone is present: The English count heads; The Irish count feet and divide by two; The lowlander counts empty seats; and the highlander looks around and says 'that's good enough'.
The group was dropped off to investigate Edinburgh themselves. Pat, Ann, Carrie, and I went to get a bite to eat from this pub called The Royal McGregor. The pub had great food and service. We walk up to the Tartan shop, which is beside the Edinburgh castle, to find Pat's tartan pattern. We shop for a new bag at Princes mall.
We walk to Waverly bridge to meet John and the rest of the group for supper. From the bridge we walk to Merchants street and have supper at the Merchants restaurant. We leave the restaurant and split off from the group to walk around and shop a bit more.
At 7pm we meet John and the group for the Ghost and Ghoul tour. The tour lasted for an hour and a half and was so much fun.
After that Pat and Ann catch a cab to Hard Rock Cafe. Carrie and I go in search of an internet cafe and decide to go to Hard Rock as well. We walked there and found that Pat and Ann had just walked into the place. After Hard Rock Carrie and I walked to the nearest Internet cafe, then back to our hotel, in the rain, and we made it to the hotel at 11:30pm. Carrie and I walked all over new and old towns! I love this city!
Night 10 Edinburgh
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Day 12 June 15 Weather: Rain
We load and hit the road again. We stop in Jedburgh to stretch our legs a bit.
When we reach the border of England we stop and take pictures with a Scottish Bagpiper. Carrie and I get a picture with him...he was a VERY friendly Scotsman.
The red poppies in the fields seem to glow. The flowers remind me of our blue fields of bluebonnets.
John informs us, as we pass through New Castle, that the way they great each other here is 'Why eye'. We see the Angel of the North, which is really a strange looking monument.
At 3:45 to 4:15 we visit York, which was once a Viking strong hold. Walk by medieval defense walls and view Clifford's Tower of York Castle. The tour guide, Lurch (no this is not the character from the Adams family), lets us walk around on our own for 30 minutes. Carrie and I are tired of shopping and decide to find a nice quiet place to sit and talk. We go to the Green House Cafe, located at 12A Church Street, York YO1 8BE. The cafe is small and quite charming. We order a chocolate milkshake, which is just chocolate milk to them. We enjoy the peace and each others company.
York Minster is the largest gothic cathedral with vaulted ceilings and stone pillars. The east window depicts the beginning of time and the timeline continues to the end. No pictures are allowed without previously paying 2 English Pounds for a license to do so. As we walked through a choir began to practice. Their heavenly melody filled the cathedral bringing it to life before my eyes. The walls seemed more bright and the sun light filtered through the windows with such grace that I could imagine the glory of this church when it was first built. The experience was...heavenly.
Night 11 Yorkshire, England
Humber Crown Hotel
|Over all rating: Good
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Day 13 June 16 Weather: Cloudy/drizzle
Decker drives us for a couple of hours toward Stratford. We stop for a break and Carrie and I find...an air hockey table! Carrie and I played a round and it was so much fun! I know that we became quite loud, but we couldn't help ourselves.
Anne Hathaway married Shakespeare. We stopped by her house which was surrounded by a magnificent garden. The thatched cottage was very 'Twee' (cute), she lived quite well. We travel to Stratford-on-Avon and view Shakespeare's home. I always imagined that he was poor and did not have much. However, upon viewing his home it seems to me that he was pretty well off. We had three hours to tour the area. I believe it was 2 hours and 30 minutes too long. Carrie bought me some raspberry tea, which was very good.
Night 12 Bath Region, England; Jurys Bristol Hotel: has elevators and a dining room downstairs. The hotel was nice, but they did not put much effort into servicing our group. They seemed more interested in the other guests.
Jurys Bristol Hotel
BS1 4QF Bristol 44-117-9230-333
|Over all rating: Fair
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Day 14 June 17 Weather: Cloudy
The tour led us to the Royal Roman baths. I found it thrilling to see the stones where the once powerful Romans spent some of their time.
Stonehenge was one of our stops that I had been looking forward to since before we began the trip. As an amateur astronomer, the astronomical applications of this device by cultures from so long ago, amazed me. I am constantly amazed at the knowledge of the night skies by the cultures of the past, the druids are no exception. See more on my Stonehenge page...coming soon.
A stop later at Salisbury Cathedral was inspiring. The cathedral was started in 1220 and 40 years later completed in all of its glory. The spire is 404 feet tall and the weight of it caused it to start leaning many years ago. The spire leaned 2 feet to the side before support was built to stop the leaning. This is the tallest spire in Britain. We also had a view of the Magna Carta.
Night 13 London, England: The Comfort Inn on Hillgate near Nottinghill was by far the worst hotel experience of the trip. Carrie and I had a room so small that we couldn't roll our baggage to the other side of the room from the front door. The weather had been an agreeable 75 and we were quite hot in our hotel. The windows offered no help as they were facing a back alley and had no wind. Carrie and I both had to take sleeping pills to make ourselves fall asleep we were so uncomfortable. The only good thing about the hotel is that they had access to the internet though at a pound for only 10 minutes!
6-14 Pembridge Gardens
W2 4DU London 44-207-221-34-33
|Service: AWFUL and rude
|Over all rating: AWFUL
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Day 15 June 18 Weather: Sunny
Another guided sightseeing tour with Keith began with a stop by the American Embassy. We then moved through the Piccadilly Circus area. We visited West Minster and saw Big Ben. The highlight to the tour was a brisk walk/run to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards. This was a wonderful experience. Keith led us to follow the parade all the way to the stopping point. This was quite a wonderful experience.
At 12:30 the groups split. We went with one group to see the Tower of London, which really didn't impress me much. That group went into the Tower of London, for 11 Pounds 50 Pence. I did not want to spend that much and joked about spending money to see someone else's jewelry. Carrie and I walked to the Tower Bridge, now this was cool. This was an awesome bridge and we looked across to the London Bridge, which looked like every other bridge.
Carrie and I went to the tube (subways) and figured out how to use them. We traveled across town to our hotel room, where we freshened up a little bit. We meet John and the three of us had supper together. Pat and Ann showed up just as John was going to meet with some others from our tour to give them theater tickets. Carrie and I stay with Pat and Ann while they eat. Pat was kind enough to pick up tickets for The Phantom of the Opera for Carrie and I.
We take the tube to Her Majesties theater for The Phantom of the Opera. Carrie and I are very excited. We both love the soundtrack and had all the words memorized, but had never seen the musical. For that matter we had NEVER seen a musical...and here we were watching the Phantom...in London. The musical was awesome, much of the music and singing sent chills through me as I watched. Tender moments in love song watered my eyes. I had a wonderful time.
We left and caught a cab back to our hotel. We then meet John downstairs at 11pm to say goodbye.
Night 14 London: Hillgate Hotel again...yuck!
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Day 16 June 19
Carrie, Pat, Ann, and I join another EF Tour group and head to the airport. We check-in our baggage and head for the plane. I was upset, expecting a similar flight as I had coming up on Delta. However, I was quite pleased with my findings. America Airlines had spacious foot room, monitors that worked, comfortable seats, and great service. From now on I'm flying America Airlines...
The eight-hour trip was filled with classical music, two showings of Monsters Inc. and a showing of the Time Machine. We landed went through customs and waited for our next flight, which was five hours later. We finally got onto the plane and took a short flight to Houston. Mom and Dad picked us up at the airport, I have never been so happy to see them as I did that night.
I have now talked to all those I love and am glad to be home...for now :)
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