Friday, July 29, 2016

European Adventure Day 4 (July 4th, 2016)

What an interesting way to spend the 4th of July. This day was a scheduled travel day to London, but it ended up being a long and costly day! We thought that the train system was such that we could just buy tickets at any time. WRONG! When we looked at the Sail and Rail prices before leaving for Europe, they were around 40 Euros a piece. When we got on the internet to book our trip once here, they were MUCH more! However, after digging around, we finally found tickets for just a little more than what we were expecting.

COMPLETE SIDEBAR - I forgot to tell you that I had a huge mishap with my blow dryer in Dublin before we left. Shawn bought this really cool electricity converter with all the adapters for each European country. We were set with our electronics! He spent about $60 on the thing. SO I plug my hairdryer in and put it on low, like I am supposed to. I am blowing my hair and then the thing starts sparking and smoke is billowing out! I promptly turn it off, but the converter thing is toast! :( I felt HORRIBLE. Moral of the story is don't do that! Suffice it to say, my hair was pretty crazy for most of the trip. However - my dumb $19.99 hairdryer still works! Below are a couple of pictures of our view from our flat and the beautiful neighborhood we stayed in while enjoying Dublin!

Back to day four…We had a very sociable and delightful taxi driver that took us to the port for the ferry ride to Wales. The ferry was lovely and was like a large cruise ship. We snatched seats with windows and enjoyed the lovely views! I also enjoyed reading the book I brought along, while Bill and Shawn took in the sights from the deck above.

Once we arrived at the train station in Wales, we tried to get on the train only to find out that our tickets were only good for the FERRY! The ladies apologized that the website had messed up, but…oh well…did we need a train ticket or not? And that will be another 125 Euros a piece. Grrr…really? Yes, really. So off we finally went.

I really romanticized about how lovely a train ride would be traveling through the English countryside! I hardly got to see it because most of the time I was looking at a wall or a hedgerow! And where was the dining car?! Oh, we are in the budget seats. Good thing we gathered the tidbits of cheese and fruit we had leftover in our Dublin flat! The landscape did finally open up a a bit and Wales was quite beautiful! I was grateful when we arrived in London, and a sympathetic London taxi driver saw us lugging our bags around. He motioned us in and it was like a clown car as we tumbled in! We were practically sitting on one another's laps! He spoke of Brexit and Trump! He likes Americans! He went on to share with us that he doesn't live in London - he commutes. But then no one really lives in London anymore. It is full of tourists…like us. Ha! :)

After grabbing a few groceries and enjoying an inexpensive dinner in our lively neighborhood, we settled into our new flat that boasts 52 steps to our rooms! I was feeling out of my exercise routine and there was a gym right across the street. So at 8:45 pm, I made my way across the street to enjoy a vigorous workout after my sedentary day of travel. Our flat is wonderful with lots of room and a washer right in the kitchen. Our host has thought of everything! Including a hair dryer! I am exceedingly grateful for my travel companions, the Boldts. Mr. Casey has been a joy! Can't believe we are experiencing this together! :)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

European Adventure Day 3 (July 3rd, 2016)

This day was one of my absolute favorites! We went on a guided tour to County Wicklow. Several movies and TV shows have been filmed here, including Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan, P.S. I Love You and Vikings. Our tour guide was very cheerful but a little lackluster. This tour took the entire day and I was in awe of the beauty of Ireland. It is so GREEN. I know people are aware of this already, but I mean, it is really green! During the tour we were able to see the Mountains and bogs. We visited a beautiful stream and the spent time at the bridge from P.S. I love you. Diane and I touched the water. This is really her thing when traveling - she likes to dip her hand in the waters, and I adopted this practice myself!

We were also able to visit Guinness Lake. It was a spectacular view! The water looks black because of the run off from the bogs which have a high iron content.  The lake is near an estate that belongs to the Guinness family. They imported some white sand on the edge of the dark, peaty water and as a result, the lake looks like a pint of Guinness! The lake's actual name is Lough Tay and is fed by the Cloghoge River. 

Next we visited Glendalough (Valley with two lakes). There is an upper lake and a lower lake in this glacial valley. Glendalough is home to ancient medieval, monastic ruins and is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. It has several trails that run from the ruins to the lakes. Diane and I especially loved walking through the forested areas on our way back from visiting the lower lake. We touched the water here, as well.

As we were waiting for our tour bus to pick us up for the last leg of the tour, I felt compelled to take my shoes off and walk barefoot through the Irish clover here. I was completely charmed by the abounding loveliness of Glendalough and I will return again in this lifetime.

We ended our tour in the little village of Avoca (Below is a photo of a lovely church in the village). We had a scrumptious late lunch at Fitzgerald's Pub that included lovely desserts (Diane really loved her apple tart with fresh cream, warm custard and raspberry coulis).

On the way back, we caught a glimpse of the Irish Sea where scenes from Saving Private Ryan were filmed, but we were unable to snap a picture.  We leave bright and early in the morning for London! We will take a ferry to Wales and catch a train for London. I am looking forward to seeing the countryside!

(Side note - I was freezing most of the time in Dublin/Ireland as it was typically 62 degrees and drizzly. The lovely green scarf I am wearing was a bargain I snatched at the Jameson Distillery. I think it is the perfect Irish souvenir! I shall always think of Ireland as I am wearing it.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

European Adventure Day 2 (July 2nd, 2016)

We allowed ourselves to sleep in a little after our big day yesterday! We woke up about 9:30 and decided we needed to go back to Violet's for coffee and chai tea. We also decided to take advantage of our hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus that came with our Dublin pass. (Our feet were tired from our 9 hours of walking the previous day.) The weather in Dublin is absolutely crazy! We can no longer joke about the weather in Missouri changing! In Dublin they say they have all four seasons in one day and that is no joke! When we began our trek in the morning it was about 60 degrees and sunny. By the time we made it to our stop for the hop-on hop-off, it was raining and I was freezing my patootie off!

Our tour guide was very knowledgable and quite funny as she made sure we knew she was "Anne-with-an-e" in case we wanted to mention her on Trip Advisor. We were excited to make our first stop at the Guinness Storehouse. We were greeted by Irish Dancers at the front doors. We were very excited that our Dublin Pass allowed us to skip the line for tickets so we could get in straight away.

We enjoyed learning about the process and tools used in making this fabulous nectar of the Irish. We were delighted when we entered the room that allowed you to experience the different aromas created by the hops and indulge in our first tiny taster of Guinness.

We then made our way to the top floor known as the Gravity Bar to enjoy our complimentary pint (Shawn was most definitely having a spiritual experience) and to take in the view of Dublin from this perspective.

From here, we hopped on our bus again for our next destination - the old Jameson Distillery. We booked the last tour of the day but had a couple of hours to kill before our tour so we headed off to enjoy some dinner at Ireland's oldest pub, the Brazen Head. This pub was established in 1198. Yes, you read that right! Dinner was wonderful, but Diane's meal was the most heavenly! She enjoyed the Atlantic Chowder, but was kind enough to share with the rest of us. 

After dinner, it was back to Jameson. I learned that Jameson is triple distilled. I was able to taste what that meant as they put before us a taste of Jameson (triple distilled Irish Whiskey), Johnny Walker (double distilled Scotch Whiskey) and Jack Daniels (single distilled American Whiskey). The Jameson was palatable to me, the others were, in a word, nasty. We ended with a lovely Jameson Ginger and Lime cocktail at the end of the tour and earned our Jameson Tasting Certificates!

After dropping the boys off at our flat, Diane and I stopped in a local pub for some dessert and wine for the perfect finish to a perfect day. On our way back to the flat, we stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few items and giggled at the description on the orange juice cartons. What we call "pulp," the Irish call "juicy bits." What fun!