Alex and I are at the airport waiting for our next flight to London. Toronto has a huge airport. Lots of walking to get to our gate. Now we wait…. We haven’t eaten much today and the time change is already messing with me. I’m super tired and still have an 8 hour flight ( twice as long as our first flight ) ahead of us. I’m not a happy flyer so I hope I can sleep most of this leg.
Note to self: take Ativan 60 minutes prior to flight to allow it to work as we take off. First flight was not so much fun for me.
While you were all tucked safely away in your nice warm beds Alex and I were off seeing some amazing sites today.
First stop… Roman Bath
Amazing architecture and quite a site to see up close. We were able to walk down into it and be up close to the water. Though it was recommended not to actually touch it.
Second stop… Stonehenge
Stonehenge has been on my bucket list for years and today I finally made it there. It was pretty amazing to see such a site up close. Though there are ropes and no entry signs so we couldn’t actually walk right up to it. We took tons of photos and will share them when we return to the states.
Today we decided to go geocaching. I’ve had a trackable rubber ducky for a while now waiting to be brought to the UK. This trackable is working its way to London. I could have kept it until we arrived in London in a few weeks but thought it might be cool if it got to exchange hands a few more times first before reaching its final destination.
We also weren’t sure if we’d be able to make time once in London to find a cache large enough for Princess Fey.
I hope the next cacher finds a great new home for her too.
Today is a “travel day” as we call it. We hate travel days because it means we need to pack up and move out of our cozy room we had. Our bags are 20 lbs a piece on our backs and it’s uncomfortable to lug around on and off trains.
Today we are heading to the Cotswolds. 2 hours and two trains away from Bristol.
Today we left Bristol and trained into Moreton-in-Marsh. We checked into our cute little B&B and headed off for a day of hiking through the Cotswolds towards Burton-on-the-Hill. We saw lots of sheep and cows along the way.
4 miles round trip and now our feet are nice and tired. We’ve walk almost 7 miles total today including our trek to the train station from our hotel in Bristol. It’s so nice to be out of a big city and away from the hustle and craziness of larger city.
The Cotswolds are much quieter and peaceful. The only sounds we heard as we hiked was that of birds, sheep and cows.
Now it’s time for our first real meal of the day. We are at a place called the White Hart Royal Hotel and Eatery.
Fish n Chips and burgers with a side of Hooky beer will be had tonight. Cheers!
8:00 AM – Breakfast time on our last morning in Moreton.
Today we are bound for Liverpool. A 3-4 hour train ride away from these beautiful little towns.
So bye bye noisy birdies who look like pigeons and sound like owls.
Bye bye Moreton-in-Marsh.
Today was our only full day in Liverpool. I never expected to love this city so much. It reminds me a lot of Seattle with its waterfront charm and quirky characteristics. There’s a great mixture of old and newer buildings throughout the city.
Today was an amazing day… for today is the day we stepped foot inside The Cavern Club.
The Cavern, located at 10 Mathew Street is the club that many very famous bands have played, most famous of all being The Beatles.
As you walk through the doors and down into the windy staircase the air gets thicker. The Cavern is not a very large venue so instantly you begin to sweat.
We spent 2-3 hours here today listening to 3 different singers play their covers of songs, many of which were Beatles tunes. The crowd was really into the music and the performers got us all involved with their sing a longs.
The walls are covered in the graffiti of all of the passers by that have come to visit this magical place.
It was hard to want to leave as the night went on. But the crowd was getting noticeably drunker and seemed to be forgetting the words to the sing a long songs. There were many guys dressed as characters such as Batman and Waldo and even John Lennon. The old man “Mr. Balloons” was quite fun to watch as he was flirting with the younger ladies who were too kind to tell him to buzz off. ( The guy in the far left of this photo is Mr. Balloons )
We had one last drink and decided to head out saying goodbye to the Cavern maybe for a short time, maybe forever. I will remember this place fondly with the hopes of returning someday.
Well.. We started out our day heading to the lake district. But plans suddenly changed when we realized we goofed up our car reservation. 2 cabs and £20 later we found ourselves back at the train station heading off to Blackpool.
Blackpool was our original destination before we decided to see the lake district. So it wasn’t as if we didn’t kind of want to come here anyways.
Blackpool is a cross between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. And at night there will be an illumination festival full of bright lights extending 6 miles through the city. It will be a sight to see!
Now we are sitting in Revolution, a restaraunt chain over here by the beach eating this yummy food and drinking the delicious beer.
We’ve spent the past few hours wandering around Blackpool. There are so many people here it’s like being in Disneyland. It’s definitely a tourist trap full of cheesy carnival games and rides. A true money pit. The only reason we are tolerating it is for the night photography which will begin around 8:00 PM. So for now it’s back to our hotel for a quick nap and then we’ll be on our way.
( This beach goes for miles and miles. )
If you’re keeping score at home, this is Blackpool on a map. About an hour or so north of Liverpool.
Here’s some shots from our iPhones of what’s happening tonight in Blackpool.
The sun was setting as we headed out down the miles of sidewalk. The lights began to turn on down the street lighting up the city with colorful characters such as Dora the Explorer, Sponge Bob and his buddies from the show. Even McDonalds had their own light show of blinking M’s in front of their restaurant.
The city seems safe in the daytime but with the thousands of people flocking to the piers at night it’s a little unnerving to be carrying around expensive camera gear.
We felt pretty safe in the other cities, not really needing to worry about being pick pocketed or robbed of our gear.
For some reason here though the vibe is much different. The city is much dirtier and garbage is littering the streets. Blackpool is a beautiful beach town in the day and very colorful at night. It seems a little run down and in need of some TLC but in spite of that it wasn’t a bad little stop on the way to Scotland.
The fog rolled in very fast tonight and suddenly the piers we had just seen in front of our eyes were gone.
Tomorrow morning we are headed off to Glasgow, Scotland bound.
This post is only about this amazing hotel room we checked into in Glasgow, Scotland. It’s called Citizen M. It’s very modern and flashy. The bathroom walls are a frosted glass and the lights inside change from red-blue-green-yellow. The curtains are controlled by a button and a dark shade drops down from the ceiling to cover the window. It’s very cool. We are here for 1 night. It’s been strange hopping from one place to another but this hotel is a very cool stop along the way.
Today we said goodbye to our fabulous B&B hosts, Neville and Sonia. They were two of the nicest people we’ve met on this trip. Granted we paid them to be nice to us but they did go out of their way to make us feel at home in their place.
Sonia’s pancakes were the best! I had them two mornings in a row.
It was about 9:45 when we left the B&B and headed out of town towards Loch Ness to track down the mysterious creature from the lake. With some amazing luck and great timing we spotted Nessie right away!
We also stopped by Tulloch Castle and The MacPherson Clan Museum. Alex has some family history there and we were hoping to find out a little more about his family at these two places. Sadly we didn’t learn much and left empty handed.
Our last stop of the drive was at the Wallce Monument. It was closed when we got there so we could not go inside but we did get some neat shots of the outside.
Tomorrow we will be touring Edinburgh on foot and seeing some more amazing sites.
Today we walked around Edinburgh. There were many sites to see and miles of roads to walk down.
We started off near Edinburgh Castle and walked down the royal mile. It was filled with many old buildings and lots and I mean LOTS of touristy souvenir shops. Most carrying pretty much the same old stuff. Scarves and kilts. Scarves and kilts.. etc.
The churches were amazing. Mammoth compared to our churches back home. The stained glass windows were so colorful.
The wind was super strong today, reports were up to 40 mph gusts. And boy we sure felt those gusts. We’ve sure seen the weather change from summer to fall on this trip. Back in Bristol it was very warm. T-Shirt weather, but in Scotland it’s more like super warm jacket weather. Luckily it did not rain today, we just had to deal with the wind. I’ll take wind over rain any day though.
We found s great pub today called Tolbooth Tavern. We had a beer and hung out for a bit to rest our tired feet.
We spent another day here in Edinburgh walking aimlessly about.
It was much sunnier today but still quite windy.
We found the Hard Rock Cafe and had a bite to eat with a side of beer.
We also found a couple new places to visit such as St. Andrews Square, where we were unable to find our third geocache attempt and an ice cream shop, where we stopped for a soft serve cone.
Tomorrow we head out to Hadrians Wall and leave this big busy city behind. It’s been nice to visit but I think 2 full days here was a little too long.
Today we woke up early and drove to York. It took about 1.5 hours to get here from Durham. Durham was nice but full of “older” ladies dressed up for a night on the town. Basically they were acting like drunken idiots at 6:00 PM. Good times!
Anyhow, when we arrived in York we dropped off our Mercedes rental and Alex said goodbye to driving on the left forever… Until we return someday that is.
We hadn’t had wifi access in 24 hours so we had no idea how to find our B&B that we reserved. After about a 1/2 mile or so we found a Costa coffee shop and a nice young lady who helped us out by using her phone. We’ve found most people very willing to help out with directions and have been very thankful for them. All it takes is a very lost look on our faces and strangers come out of the woodworks to help us.
When we finally found our B&B we checked in to our lovely room and started out on the town.
First stop was the York Castle Museum.
A very well put together story of how people fought and lived during times of war in the 1940’s. There were rooms decorated as they would have looked back in the 20’s , 30’s, 40’s all through the more modern times like you might see today.
There was even a whole street decorated with shops and a horse carriage with sounds of thunder all about. Easy to imagine how it might have been back then with this set up.
After the museum we walked about the Shambles, a shopping district here in York. This is where we sit and drink our beer and write these posts.
The enormous church here is called York Minster. So large in fact that we couldn’t fit the whole church in our photos. The bells were chiming as we passed by, I was able to get the sounds on video. Quite an amazing sound to here from such a beautiful church.
We spent quite a while today walking around the city and up onto the old city walls.
Tonight we head out for a ghost walk tour about York. I’m excited but I don’t think Alex is as into it as me.
It’s 10:15 PM and we just finished our ghost walk. Our guide was pretty good. He knew lots of tales of haunted York. York is supposedly the most haunted city in Europe. His stories were good and he gave me a fright and a few others too. We lucked out with the weather, it was a bit rainy before the tour. We walked all around the town listening to stories of murders and hangings. There’s a bar called the Golden Fleece that was featured on Most Haunted, a tv show. York is in the Guinness Book as most haunted city.
The tour was £5, pretty worth it considering the length was over an hour. It was not cheesy like some others we heard were. All in all, a good time.
I find stories of hauntings interesting. Whether the tales are far fetched or not I can’t say for sure.
Today we stepped into the Golden Fleece pub for a beer and a snack.
This pub is full of atmosphere. Lots of pictures and drawings of York and many, many ghosts encounters posted on the walls. The floor is slanted to the right and the tables are packed in tight. The light is dim and the door is creeky.
This pub is considered the most haunted pub in England.
This excerpt is from the Golden Fleece Web Site:
“Possibly the most famous ghost is Geoff Monroe, a Canadian airman who was staying at the pub in room four when he died in 1945, by throwing himself or falling out of one of the windows. People staying in his former room have been frightend in the night by his figure, in full uniform, standing over them, his icy touch having woken them from their slumbers.
Customers have complained of bedclothes being removed, clothes had been taken off the rails and thrown on the floor, the sound of footsteps were frequently running across the passage ways and The Lady Peckett’s Dining room.
During a ghost hunt in 2002 a number of people including a (now former) skeptic, saw a man walking through the wall of the front of the bar, Dressing in late 17th century clothes, he walked of a wall adjoining Herbert’s House, across the corridor to the Shambles bar. The most chilling aspect of the sighting was that the ghost paused as he crossed the corridor and looked straight at the horrified ghost hunters.”
Pretty crazy huh? While I didn’t encounter a ghost here, one that I know of anyway I did have a creepy feeling while I was alone in the restroom. I crossed my fingers hoping I wouldn’t get an icy touch or slap on the butt when I was in there. Definitely creepy, but a fantastic stop on this amazing journey we have had so far!
We had a lot of walking to do yesterday… So much in fact that we were too tired to post last night.
11 miles of walking over about 11 hours of being on our feet = sore everything!!
We got to see some really neat stuff though so we can’t complain too much.
First stop was at London Tower to see the Crown Jewels. Unbelievably sparkly! Pretty awesome to see up close.
Next stop was right next door to see the Tower Bridge. We got to go up top and see the view of the city up high. It was a gorgeous crisp end of summer day. A few clouds hovering above and a lot of sunshine.
Then we headed off towards the Globe Theatre. We used our London Pass to go on a tour inside. The theatre has the only thatched roof in London. It is not the original one but an excellent replica all the same.
And to top off our long day of walking we headed to the underground subway and headed out towards Abbey Road.
Although it is technically just a crosswalk, it is the most famous crosswalk in the world. There were many Beatles fans there trying to replicate the famous Abbey Road album cover. There were also many cars just trying to go about their day passing through that intersection frustrated by the Beatlemaniacs in the road taking pictures.
I would hate to live near by with all of the car honking happening everyday. And of course Abbey Road Studios is right next door so we added our names to the wall along with thousands of others.
After Abbey Road we went out to do some night photography by the London Eye and get a bite to eat. Long day and 1 more to go!
We woke up early, 6 AM and got ready to say goodbye to Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye for good. We got through our long 8 hour flight from London to Toronto just fine, minor turbulance. But now we see we are stuck here for an extra hour at the Toronto airport. It’s already 9 PM London time and this flight won’t leave for another 3 hours. We were hoping to be able to stay awake through the 5 hour flight back home to try to get our sleep schedule back to normal quickly but now I’m not sure this is going to happen. I’m already running low on energy. I just want to get home and get a good night sleep in my own bed.
When I was little my grandparents built a house in Winthrop, WA. I remember spending my summers there with my family and having the time of my life. I used to run through the alfalfa fields and catch gophers hiding in holes. Winthrop holds a special place in my heart and always will.
Photo above: I used to visit this little chapel on the way to Winthrop as a kid. I have many fond memories of this place.
Photo above: Lucy swimming in the lake.
Photo above: Here’s the store where we used to shop for groceries.
Woke up Friday morning with and itch to go for a drive. Destination… Anywhere.
Alex and I wound up dragging my sister and her family along with us for the day on this adventure.
We found ourselves heading towards the Ape Caves at Mount St. Helen’s. These caves are lava tubes that are walkable with the correct equipment. Sweatshirt, good shoes and a lantern or flashlight.
Sophie was a little hesitant at first because of the darkness and rugged terrain. But she came around and ended up having a great time. Sean was having a blast jumping out of the dark and scaring everyone as they passed him. Even the grown ups got in on the fun of scaring each other.
After the Ape Caves the Wilson’s had to head home.
Alex and I went on looking for a suspension bridge that a worker told us about. We eventually found it and got some neat photos.
Today I got to see the Sea Lion Caves, I’ve been wanting to visit this place for a few years now.
Now I can scratch another thing off of my bucket list.
The elevator ride was the smoothest I’ve ever been in before. I could barely tell we were moving. It descends quite a ways into the rock so it was hard to believe it could feel motionless.
At the bottom you can see directly into the cave. The largest sea cave in the world. It was pretty impressive. The sea lions were all over the rocks. The waves came barreling in and splashed up onto them on the rocks. This went on for a while and was very entertaining to watch.
Outside there is a viewpoint that you can look down onto the sea lions from above. There were hundreds of them sunning themselves on the rocks. Even from high up you can hear them talking to each other. A few were in the water swimming but most were lounging around.
Today we also came a cross a cute town called Yachats, OR. We stopped for lunch and then sat on the beach for a while.
Of course I couldn’t resist drawing “Go Sounders!” in the sand.
Funniest photo of the trip, below…
Sunday, July 7, 2013
Today we visited the Tillamook Cheese Factory in Tillamook, OR.
We saw how cheese is made and got to taste some samples.
We ended our tour with 5 scoops of different flavored ice creams. My favorite was the chocolate and Peanut Butter.
Total miles round trip from Seattle, WA to Florence, OR…. 690, though I think we ended up driving 700 +.
We began our Sunday morning landing at 8:00 AM in Dublin and hooking up with our Enterprise rental car. It was a bit chilly getting off of the plane. A refreshing change from the warm Seattle summer we had been having.
Still exhausted from the flights we trucked on and headed to Glendalough for a quick hike through the cemetery.
Alex adjusted quickly to driving on the left. He had some experience before in the UK a few years back.
This is Glendalough. It was an early medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century, only to be partially destroyed by British troops some 800 years later.
What still stands are a couple churches, a tower and an old cemetery here that we walked through.
Later in the evening after we found our B&B in Kilkenny we went out to eat.
We found a couple local beers — Smithwicks and Smithwicks Pale — that we liked.
Our second — and really first full — day was spent entirely in Kilkenny. We started with a hearty breakfast here at the B&B. Kari had a banana, eggs and some bread while I indulged in a full Irish breakfast. Well, minus the black pudding anyhow!
We then trotted up the street to Kilkenny Castle. This place has gone from private residence, to the seat of the Irish monarchy and back again over an 800 year period. After being basically left to fall apart, the inheriting member of the family which owned it sold it to the preservation society for only €50. After undergoing major renovations that restored it nearly an identical previous state, it’s a wonderful attraction.
We visited so early in the morning, there was nary a person around for most of our visit which allowed for some wonderful photos of the exterior. However, photos inside were not allowed.
From there, we visited St. Canice’s Cathedral on the other end of town. With the combo ticket, you get entry into the 13th century cathedral and the ability to climb the 100 foot tall, 12 foot wide tower outside. The views of town from atop the tower were wonderful.
We spent a little time wandering about town, looking in shops and stopped at St. Mary’s Cathedral for a quick look.
After a lunch at The Fig Tree, we had a little siesta. We hit the town again after that to visit Black Abbey, and poked our heads into a few other small places.
We finished up the day with an appetizer and some pints at a pub, while watching a little Irish music being played. The performer had folks from the crowd come up and help by playing small hand held drums. It was pretty fun and interactive!
We woke up early today to catch the 9:15 Kinsale walking tour.
Our guide, Don was very knowledgeable about the city and gave us a great history lesson.
Later on we drove to Charles Fort just down the road from Kinsale.
We took lots of photos today of the Fort and the town.
( above photo Charles Fort )
( above photo Kinsale town )
In the evening we met up with a couple, George and Wendy from Canada. We had been bumping into them for days and decided to head to Kitty O Se’s for dinner and drinks. We spent a few hours chatting with them about traveling and then headed off for the 9 PM ghost walk.
Surprisingly enough our waitress was also a harpist and played a few songs for the crowd tonight. One moment she was taking our order and the next she was on stage. An unexpected treat. She was very good!
The ghost walk while a little gimmicky was entertaining and fun. I would say though, the York ghost tour in England was much more realistic and creepy than this one. Rick Steve’s did recommend it though and it was good for an hours worth of entertainment.
Today we left Kinsale and headed down the N71 toward Goleen.
The drive is called the Wild Atlantic Way. It sure does live up to its name.
We spent a few hours on the road today and made some stops to take pictures here and there.
We came across Drombeg stone circle. This was very cool to see up close. Much smaller than Stonehenge but neater in a way because you could walk right up to it.
We finally reached our destination for the night about 4:30 PM. We are staying in Goleen at the Herons Cove B & B. The view from our deck is gorgeous. And yes, there are Herons out in the water fishing for dinner.
The best photos though were taken at Mizen Head.
The cliffs were outstanding. The fog was thick but made for some interesting photos.
Today we left our cozy Herons Cove B&B and drove the Wild Atlantic Way toward Kenmare.
We took some detours off some small roads and ended up high in the mountains. The roads are very narrow and it was tough to know if another car was going to be right around the corner.
We took our time stopping to take pictures. We ran into a lot of sheep and cows, many which were in an open range. The sheep are very skittish and don’t like people getting too close.
We finally reached Kenmare a few hours later and found our new B&B the Forgefield House. The best B&B in town according to trip advisor. This place is much more modernized than some of the others we’ve been in. There’s even a towel warmer in the bathroom.
Around 4:00 we headed into town to check it out. There are lots of pubs and the streets were swarmed with cars. We poked around a bit and bought a few souvenirs and had a bite to eat.
Alex had his first truly Irish Guinness here today, pictured below.
Then we headed back to the B&B to rest a bit before going out to Foley’s Pub to check out the local music scene. A couple guys performed on stage and sang some old Irish songs and even covered the Beatles.
After another long day it’s time to turn in and say good night.
We had been warned it was a difficult drive by many people on trip advisor and by word of mouth. There are narrow windy roads and large buses making it hard to maneuver around corners. We however found it was a piece of cake, maybe because it’s the off season now. We didn’t see what all of the fuss was about.
The sun was out and the sky was blue, not a typical sight for Ireland. We’ve had many overcast days on this trip so far.
We stopped here and there along the way to take photos.
Around 1:30 PM we made our way into the town of Portmagee and had a bite to eat.
( Kari’s first Baileys and coffee of the trip, delish! )
After lunch we drove to Dingle. Dingle is right on the water much like Kinsale. Lots of sailboats. The town is bigger than Kinsale though and just about every other door in town leads to a pub.
Tomorrow we will explore Dingle a little more and check out Slea Head drive, a loop around the Dingle peninsula.
We got up early today and headed out to the Slea Head Drive loop. The road is much more narrow than the Ring of Kerry and we thought the views were even better. The loop itself is about 30 miles as opposed to the Ring of Kerry being 110 miles round.
We stopped at many lookouts along the way and walked down to the beach. The beach sand is very fine and soft. Not at all what I would have expected here.
Further down we came to Gallarus Oratory, one of Ireland’s best preserved early Christian churches. This church was built about 1300 years ago.
Another interesting stop we made was at another old church and cemetery.
This church was called Kilmalkedar. This church went into ruin in the 19th century and was never rebuilt.
When we got back into town we walked around, had lunch and shopped for a bit. We also stopped into the Dingle Brewing Co. For a self guided walking tour and pint. The beer they make there is called Crean’s, named after the famous Antarctic explorer, Thomas Crean. It’s a fairly new beer est. in 2012. It’s pretty tasty!
There was a great sunset tonight in Dingle and a super moon.
I just love this row of houses, they are so cute!
Tomorrow we head north to Galway and check out the famous cliffs of Moher along the way.
We got up early today and headed out of the busy college town of Galway.
I’m sure Galway had a lot to offer but we were mostly interested in what’s on the outskirts of these big cities. You can tell right away the difference between small town living and big city living. In small towns people actually say hello as you pass by on the side walk. In big cities, you barely get a glance from strangers.
All in all we were in Galway less than 24 hours and then we were off on a new adventure. My only photo I took in Galway was this one of some college kids playing what we think was a cross between hurling and water polo in kayaks.
Just a few blocks out of Galway we felt like we were back in the country again. We passed fields of sheep and cows time and time again.
Once we got deeper into the drive the scenery got more interesting.
The first big stop we made was Kylemore Castle.
We hopped out here to take a few photos, we decided not to pay the €12.50 to go inside. The photos were enough to satisfy us here.
After a few moments at Kylemore Castle we headed back out on the road and came to some more great photo ops. Our favorite was when we came upon a sheep hearder and his dog. They were moving the sheep out of one enclosure to another. We mostly captured video of this but here’s a still shot of what we saw.
After hours and hours of driving we finally reached Westport. A cute town with a river running through the middle of it.
Our B&B was very nice and our host was super friendly. We stayed one night in Westport and were off early in the morning again to continue our journey.
Today we left Derry for a few hours and drove through County Donegal.
First stop was a large ring fort called Grianan Aileach which was perched atop a high mountain. We were the only ones here at the time, pretty neat to have it all to ourselves.
Second stop was Glenveagh Castle. We went on a tour here. The castle itself is in great shape, it’s now part of a national park.
We saw more very impressive views on this drive and some things we never thought we’d come across such as a large pond of swans. There might have been 100 or so swans floating about. Some were young and their feathers hadn’t turned white yet. We got some great video of this.
We also found a couple of momma pigs and about 18 piglets in an enclosure off the road. The piglets were hungry and one momma pig wasn’t in the mood to feed so she was making a scene, snorting about. Finally the two momma pigs decided to let the kiddos eat dinner and laid down for a bit to let them do so.
On the way back to our B&B we drove by two donkeys on the side of the road. Alex wanted to pet one but one of the donkeys freaked out and started coming right at us making horrible donkey noises and we got scared and ran to the car. Pretty exciting way to end our evening.
We have one more night left in Derry and tomorrow we are off to Portrush.
We skipped out early on Portrush and headed toward the Giants Causeway today. We arrived about 9:30 AM and luckily there weren’t many people there at that time.
Here’s what the Wikepedia says about the Giants Causeway:
According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), from the Fenian Cycle of Gaelic mythology, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than he. Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this.
After the Causeway we headed to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.
It cost us each £5.70 to cross the bridge ( $9.27 ) kind of a lot in USD. There was a long trail to reach the bridge and once we got there, there was no turning back.
The bridge is 66 ft long and 98 ft off of the ground. There are crushing waves below, it holds 8 pedestrians at a time. Though there were more than that crossing today when we were on it.
The tiny island on the other side was where fisherman used to launch their boats from to fish salmon. Now it is merely a tourist attraction run by the trust.
Later in the day we arrived in Larne, still in Northern Ireland. There isn’t much to do in the town so we headed out to do a little geocaching. We were able to find one on a nearby trail.
After that we went out to eat dinner at Blue Chicago Grill. This place reminded us of a Red Robin or Ram back home. It was the first bar we’ve found that doesn’t serve Irish beer. We ended up with a bucket of Corona and Peroni.
Tomorrow we head to Kingscourt and get to sleep in a castle. Looking forward to that!!
Our first stop was Carrickfergus Castle in Carrickfergus Northern Ireland.
We spent £5 each to enter the castle. We walked around a bit and took some photos. This castle was in great shape and was only missing a wall or two.
Pictured above is King William III and Carrickfergus Castle.
Next we headed down to Kingscourt and found our hotel that was actually a castle from the 1780’s. The original Cabra Castle was ruined in the 1600’s.
Meet Oscar, one of two Irish Wolfhounds roaming the castle grounds.
An interesting story about this castle is that it’s haunted by a ghost named Sarah and her unborn child.
Here’s what I’ve found online about the haunting.
In The 1780’s, the local people of Dun Na Rí witnessed the unfolding of the tragic saga which was to become the legend of the ghost which still haunts Cabra Castle to this present day – dare to walk the corridors of this haunted castle knowing that the footsteps that went before you were that of evil predecessors………The then owners of the castle had a daughter and two sons, one of whom fell in love with a servant girl called Sarah. In true Romeo & Juliet – style, it was a passionate but secret love, which for the sake of property, could only be pledged silently.
The secret was broken when Sarah became pregnant and her lovers family ordered that she was to be killed; legend has it that she was taken from the Servants Quarters of the castle and dragged deep into the forest, where her body was hung over a bridge.It is said that in the dead of the night, the haunting cries of a baby may still be heard in Cabra Castle. Local people say that the baby is pining for its mother.
There is also a testament by those who have felt ‘a presence’ in the courtyard rooms – formerly the Servant’s Quarters where it is said that Sarah’s lost soul still wanders the Castle in search of her lost love and her lost child……..
I’ve also read some things about people feeling a presence and hearing the baby crying. I know it’s a hard thing to believe in this stuff and Alex is definitely not a believer but I am going to be sleeping with the lights on tonight. Especially since our room is in the courtyard not far from where Sarah lived. My mind will certainly play tricks on me tonight. I’m already spooking myself.
We checked out of our castle today around 9 AM and headed south toward Newgrange.
Newgrange is 5,000 years old. It was built about 3200 BC, during the Neolithic period, which makes it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. It is about five hundred years older than the current form of Stonehenge, and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, as well as predating the Mycenaean culture of ancient Greece.
We were allowed inside with our tour group. The entry way is small and narrow. Some areas were barely large enough to squeeze through. When we got to the center it was much smaller than what you would think by seeing the outside. There are rocks shaping the walls into almost a triangular shape. The rocks used weighed up to 50 tons each.
Once a year, at the winter solstice, the rising sun shines directly along the long passage, illuminating the inner chamber and revealing the carvings inside, notably the triple spiral on the front wall of the chamber. This illumination lasts for about 17 minutes.
They have a drawing for people to be able to be inside the chamber on the winter solstice. The chamber holds about 25-30 people.
Next we headed to Trim to visit the castle there. We took the tour which cost €4 each. The guide was very knowledgable about the castle and we were able to go right up to the top and look out over the city. There are a few reminants of the old city walls still visible, but it’s mostly in ruins.
Trim Castle was built in the 12th century by Hugh de Lancy. It took 30 years to build. It is the largest Norman castle in Ireland.
When we finally reached Dublin it was about 5PM. We were hungry and headed out to find some grub. We walked toward the action in the Temple Bar area and found an Italian/Mexican place and had dinner. After that we walked across the street to the actual Temple Bar and listened to some fantastic Irish music and had a beer.
Tomorrow is our first full day in Dublin and we’ve got quite a bit to see and do in the next two days before we fly home on Friday.
We woke up very early this morning, 3 AM and had trouble getting back to sleep. The time change is certainly messing with our sleep.
When we finally got up and out of the room we decided to grab a quick bite on Rue Clere which is a cute little street just around the corner from our hotel.
Breakfast consisted of a cup of coffee with milk, orange juice and a croissant.
After that we headed to the Arc de Triomphe.
We have a Paris pass so we were able skip the line and walk straight up to the top.
The view from above was incredible. We could see the whole beautiful city.
There were many stairs to the top, our out of shape legs were feeling the burn.
After about an hour in the Arc de Triomphe we headed back down to walk the infamous Champs-Élysées. There was a terror attack recently here and we could tell by the numerous amount of police with high powered rifles they weren't going to let that happen again. The street was closed and thousands of people flooded the motorway taking photos of the Arc and shopping in a worry free zone.
The sun was hot today. The clouds rolled in and out giving some relief from the heat but not enough to spare me a red face and arms.
Around noon we headed towards the Orangerie Museum and saw many paintings.
One of my favorite parts of today was the walk through Tuileries Garden where we had our first gelato of the trip. I'm certain that gelato really does taste better in Europe. We found a small stand selling the tasty treat and enjoyed eating and resting our feet for a bit.
Next stop was the d'Orsay Museum where we saw more paintings and statues.
By this time our feet were really hurting and the only cure for sore feet is… you guessed it, beer!
Lastly but not least was a sunset picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. We tried out some night photography and saw the sparkly light show that occurs every hour on the hour. One thing is for sure, she is a thing of beauty.
Now off to bed, wake up time is 7:00 AM so we can get to the Louvre early and to see Notre Dame.
Since Alex is passed out from exhaustion and also too much delicious Belgium beer I will take the lead in today’s post.
We started our day in Paris. We finally got the rest we needed to gain our strength back from miles and miles of walking. Paris is a big city. Luckily their subway system is easy to maneuver and that really saved our tootsies a few thousands steps.
We had our first real Parisian breakfast this morning. Eggs, ham, croissant, green salad, fruit salad, bread, coffee with milk and fresh squeezed orange juice. That is a lot of food!!
After breakfast we headed for the train station and were off to Brussels.
Around 2 PM we arrived in Brussels. It was about a 1 mile walk to our hotel. It was hot and our backpacks were heavy but we were happy to be out of the city of light. We prefer smaller towns and Brussels seemed to have just the right amount of character we were looking for.
Upon entering the town square we were surprised to have arrived on a day where the city was having a summer festival.
It did not take long for us to find a beer and join in on the fun.
At 4 PM we met up with a walking tour and spent a couple of hours walking around the city learning some of the history. This city is gorgeous and feels so very old. The town square is absolutely incredible.
There is a famous statue here of a small boy peeing. ( there’s weird stuff here in Belgium ) our guide said the statue ranks up there with Christ the Reedemer in Brazil and the Statue of Liberty in New York. I’m not sure if that’s true or not but there was a large crowd around it and everyone was taking photos.
The statue is called Manneken Pis. It’s about 400 years old, it has been stolen 7 times in its lifetime. The town dresses up the statue for various events and today we saw it wearing an outfit. Later on in the day he was naked. ( again, Belgium has weird stuff )
After the walking tour was over we eagerly waited in line for our first taste of real Belgium frites. After we scarfed those down we quickly had our first waffle. Oh sweet waffles we love you so…
To cap off night one in Brussels we of course found the first open table and sat down for a flight of beer.
The flights here are huge!!! Bigger than the small table we were sitting at.
All of our beers were great, but our favorite was a surprise. Framboise ( Raspberry ) was so sweet and tasty I feel I must have another before we leave.
There are many languages spoken here so I will end my post with bonne nuit, goede nacht, gute nacht or simply goodnight.
We were up at 6 AM this morning, had a quick bite, packed up our things and headed to the train station, bound for Bruges.
“Bruges has two names and two spellings. Bruges (pronounced broozh) is the English and French spelling and pronunciation. Brugge (pronounced broo-gha) is the Flemish spelling and pronunciation.” – World Wide Web
Bruges is called the Venice of the north because of its canals and many windy streets and back alleys. Having been to the real Venice in Italy I’m going to say that’s kind of a stretch. This town is beautiful and quirky but there really is no comparison to Venice, Italy.
We found our hotel which is more like a B&B fairly easily. Hotel Ensor is a family owned business since the 1980’s. The gentleman running this hotel has lived here his whole life, he is very friendly and nice to chat with.
It was still very early when we arrived so we left our bags in the hotel and headed toward the town center.
Bruges is a very old city, the houses and shops are made from brick except one or two that are still made of wood. These houses are 500-600 years old and are historic landmarks now. They can only be renovated and not rebuilt. It’s not allowed to build of wood anymore since the fire danger would be too risky.
The town center is larger than Brussels’ town square. They have a similar feel and the buildings all face each other.
There is a festival going on this weekend. The town is setting up a dance floor and party lights. Saturday will be an interesting day in Bruges. There are many tourists here. The shopping areas were buzzing today with people.
We had a bite to eat at a burger joint called Ellis and also decided to have a Stella Artois in honor of its native country.
After dinner we met up with a walking tour at 8 PM. We were lead on a 90 minute walk around the city and learned of some history and a few ghost stories. A local man was walking by listening to our guide tell his stories and gave a good chuckle. It’s hard to say if the stories are true, it sounds like the town folks have a good time drinking and making stuff up which then become tall tales and folk legends.
One story was of a priest who fell for a nun that lived across the bridge from him. Apparently the priest confessed his love to her and she stood strong in her faith and would not give in to him. He eventually couldn’t take it anymore and one night he stabbed her to death. The old nunnery has been haunted ever since. The nuns who lived there were terrified of the strange happenings and moved out of the building. It’s been sold a few times and each family has moved because of the ghosts.
After the tour we headed back to our room. We are a week into our two week trip and have walked about 60 miles since we arrived. We are definitely feeling the burn…
I will miss Bruges dearly as I feel this is my favorite town by far from this trip. I may be speaking too soon as we have not been to Amsterdam yet.
I think timing our trip during Benenwerk was a fantastic surprise and I wish I had more time to soak up the environment last night.
The train to Antwerp was about 90 minutes. Antwerp is a much larger city than Bruges and it is mixed with old and new buildings. There's a shopping strip with most major stores like back home in Seattle but most were closed because it's Sunday. The train station was very impressive. It's probably the neatest train station we've been to on this trip.
We walked the Rick Steves book walking tour and also happened among the Pride festival here. There were tons of people gathered around a big stage in the middle of town listening to a guy sing cover songs of Michael Jackson and David Bowie.
We sat and had a beer and listened to music for a bit and then walked some more and found … more beer!!
Belgium was exactly what we are looking for. Beer. Chocolate. Waffles. Frites. Beer. Beer and more beer.
I could live here happily for many many years. The beer here is much stronger than the stuff I'm used to drinking. Bud light and Corona, crap like that. One good Belgium beer is like 4 Coronas back home. Drinking and pouring beer is like an art form here. You either know what you're doing or you don't.
On the beer tour in Brussels we learned that big head on beer is actually a good thing. In the US it's frowned upon.
This photo above is a great example of a very bad pour. My bad… I got too excited and over poured too fast.
The example below is of a good pour done by a professional bar tender.
Today was kind of a weird travel day, there's not much to do in Antwerp when everything is closed.
We had some time today and decided to go look for a geocache nearby. It was a quick find and then we ran back to the hotel for some down time before we head out again for dinner.
We ended up eating burgers at a place called Ellis. Same meals as we had a few nights ago in Bruges. The chocolate shake was so good!!
We left Antwerp this morning. We were ready to be in a smaller older feeling town again. I wouldn’t recommend visiting Antwerp it doesn’t have the same feel as Brussels or Bruges.
Delft on the other hand does have that Bruges feel. The town square is small and there is a church right in the middle of it.
The church was built 600 years ago but is called New Church. The bells chime often. It’s a lovely sound.
The canals here are covered in Algae. It was surprising to see as Bruges canals were much cleaner. We found some swans swimming about and took some photos of them.
We found a nice place to sit and have lunch at an outdoor cafe. We saw a couple eating this incredible plate of bread and cheeses and we just had to do the same.
After lunch we walked around a bit and took photos of the town.
We stopped for a moment to log a quick geocache and went back to our hotel for rest and relaxation. Our room is small but has lots of character. Similar to our room in Paris.
The night came around quickly. We went out for BBQ ribs and pulled pork burgers. Also of course beer.
The food was good. Tomorrow we head to Leiden and the Haage for a day trip, rain is in the forcast so it will be wet walking around. We’ve hit rain a few times on this trip but it is still warm and muggy here.
Our trip is winding down we are almost at the end. It’s been a long 10 days so far and just a few more left before we head back to the grind.
First stop the Anne Frank house. We were smart and booked our tickets a few months ago so we didn’t have to wait in line. We saw the line yesterday when we went on our walking tour. The line went around the block.
The museum guides you through the beginning of Anne Franks experience being placed into hiding. We stepped through the hidden annex behind the bookcase that lead to her and her family’s home for two years.
The stairs behind the bookshelf are very steep and narrow. You walk up them and enter into a haunting world. It’s sad to know what happened to her and her family after being caught by the nazis. Her father Otto Frank was the only survivor and he found a publisher for her journal. Anne wrote that she wanted to become a novelist and even though she wasn’t able to see her dream come true the world will always remember her. A 13 year girl who had to grow up too fast and die too young.
Our second museum was the Rjyksmuseum where we saw many floors of art from paintings to delftware to books and furniture. Rembrandt works were shown and the crowds were gathered around the paintings. This museum is big but not nearly as big as the Louvre.
The third museum was the Van Gogh. I enjoyed this museum much more than the Rjkes as Van Goghs art is more my style. My favorite piece is the starry night which is actually displayed in NYC.
I snuck a few photos but photography is frowned upon there.
After the museums we walked the town a bit. We checked out the Red Light District and some of the “coffee shops” This city is very lively and when it comes to bikes, cars and motor scooters pedestrians are the bottom of the barrel. You better move if a bike comes around. Even cars don’t stop for you here. I find this strange being from Seattle. It’s very different than back home. Motor scooters drive in bike lanes and nobody yields to each other. I don’t know why anyone would want to actually drive a car here but they do. People park bikes anywhere they want. We saw a van back into bikes that were chained up and not even care. I’m sure the wheels are bent on the bikes. Our tour guide said he’s gone through 6 bikes in 3 years. Sometimes bikes get tossed in the canals if they aren’t tied to a rail. The canals get dragged from time to time to pull out the bikes and so boats don’t get tangled in them. Bikes here aren’t super nice. They are meant to go from point A to B so none are expensive looking. They get knocked over sometimes. We’ve seen piles of bikes on their side and that’s just normal I guess.
We are now down to one last day in Amsterdam before we fly out Saturday morning.
It rained quite a bit today. We got soaked after the Anne Frank museum and had to run back to the hotel to change clothes.
The tough thing about traveling is not being able to wash clothes well and easily. Our socks have holes now and when you run out of underwear you have a big problem. Our room in Amsterdam is barely large enough for a full sized bed. But our celieings are high enough for bunk beds. Very strange. I’m sure this room used to be a closet.
This is how you wash clothes when traveling. Wash in the AM and let dry for a few days in the shower. Fun!!
We are posting this blog late, we had technical difficulties and weren’t able to blog each day of the trip.
We were in Cancun, Mexico May 6-12, 2018.
We had an early flight that morning. We were up around 2:30 AM and headed to SeaTac airport. This was my first trip to Mexico, Alex’s second.
Our first stop was Houston, TX. We had just enough time there to grab a quick beer and hop on our next flight to Cancun.
Once we arrived in Mexico we found our shuttle driver who quickly gave us a cold towel to clean up and cool off with and also a Corona for the half hour drive to our hotel.
We stayed at the Hyatt Ziva, at the very tip of the Mexico peninsula.
Our resort was incredible. Our room had a view of the Caribbean Sea. The clearest water I’ve ever seen.
We settled in quickly and found some drinks and grub. We tried grilled cactus for the first time. It’s was great!
Our first night we sat on the beach and watched the sunset, a beautiful sight to see from that part of the world.
At that moment, watching the sunset I never wanted to leave.
The next morning we woke up refreshed and had breakfast and headed to discover the resort grounds. The pools were gorgeous. Lawn chairs were everywhere. The resort was pretty mellow which seemed odd but was nice. There weren’t too many loud party folks around to ruin the peacefulness.
The birds were chirping and the sky was blue what else can you ask for? What I was not expecting was the wind, it was quite windy.
So, what do you do when you’re at an all inclusive resort and it’s still really early in the day?
DRINK in the pool of course!
And swim in the Caribbean Sea!!
On Wednesday May 9th we went to Chichen Itza. This is one of the seven wonders of the world. It’s absolutely incredible to see up close.
The bus ride was 3 hours each way from our hotel. A long hot day to be on a bus but a very unique experience to be had.
One of our last nights in Cancun Alex’s work threw a spectacular party on the beach. There was a magnificent catered dinner. ( I had 3 lobster tails!! ) And one of the best dance parties I’ve ever seen. ( Only compared to Bennewerk in Bruges )
I think for me the best part of the trip besides drinking all day everyday was swimming in the bluest clearest waters of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.
The water was very warm, there were no worries of sharks. Just a few small fishies to be seen.
These hammocks were nice to lounge in for a bit. There were tiny barracudas swimming around beneath us.
I’d highly recommend the Hyatt Ziva resort, very friendly staff and beautiful water views from all sides of the hotel.
We purchased our bags in 2010 and they are still in great shape 8 years later. The cost is about $100 but well worth the price. We’ve never been hassled when walking onto an airplane with our bags on our backs, they fit perfectly into the overhead bins.
For my smaller personal item I love my Lowepro Passport Sling DSLR camera bag. This bag holds my camera, 250 mm zoom lens and my mini tripod. Also my passport and a water bottle a few pens and a book.
You can find this on Amazon for about $46.
My camera is a few years old now but still takes great shots.
I have a Canon T3i with additional 250 mm zoom lens.
The iPhone X also has a fantastic camera. Instead of a laptop, we travel with our iPhones for blogging and GPS navigation.
My new favorite camera accessory is the lens ball. It takes obscure photos “upside down” but as an end result gives a unique image. These come in two sizes, 60 mm and 80 mm. I chose the smaller size for an easy to pack travel accessory. I ordered mine on amazon for around $30.
I feel it’s easier to take a good photo with the DSLR camera but you can also use this lens ball with an iPhone.
Of course no trip would be complete without a lightweight travel tripod. I’ve had mine since 2012, it fits in my lowepro camera bag perfectly.
I’m sure there are better options out there now but here’s a look at the one I’ve been carrying around. It extends to about 4 feet tall and has a swivel head. It’s great for night photography.
Now lets talk shoes!
I probably own 25 pairs of Keens. They are my favorite shoes, flip flops, water sandals. You name it, I’ve got it.
I learned my lesson on my last trip to Europe, make sure your shoes have thick soles. Otherwise you will feel every cobblestone you walk on. Don’t bring running shoes, your feet will be mad at you for weeks.
I like these simple brown keen shoes, they go with everything and have thick soles. They cost about $110 but they are worth it. Occasionally you can find these on sale at Amazon for $50-60.
A few other must haves are a money belt, stretchy clothes line, laundry bag, travel towel, packing cubes and a neck pillow for the long airplane/train rides.
Photo above, I like to take two kinds of money belts with me. One for the waste and one that attaches to my bra strap. Sometimes carrying a money belt around my waste is uncomfortable but attaching a small one with a few credit cards and cash to my bra strap works perfectly.
A stretchy clothes line can be stretched across a room to allow for faster drying times. A laundry bag is also great to keep dirty clothes separate.
Photo above, a travel towel is a great option if you plan to swim or don’t trust the cleanliness of the room towels. These pack very flat are very absorbent and dry quick as they are made of microfiber.
Photo above, packing cubes. These are a must. They keep clothes organized and makes packing and unpacking a breeze. We got ours at Rick Steves travel shop but amazon also sells them.
Photo above, travel neck pillow packs pretty flat or can be velcrowed to a back pack for easy access. This one is called the trtl pillow, I got mine on amazon for about $25.
We headed out of town for Memorial Day weekend to explore the Rose City.
We love Portland for the extensive beer culture there. Everywhere you turn there’s a brewery, bar, ale house whatever you want to call it, there’s one on every corner.
We stop in to breweries and grab a quick flight then move onto the next.
In between beer tasting we like to discover new places. This time we visited the Rose gardens.
Many of the Roses hadn’t bloomed yet but we were able to grab a few photos of the ones that were out.
We visited the Chinese gardens as well which was another new experience for us.
We found a new brewery and pizza place we liked. Old Town Brewery. This place is supposedly haunted by a girl who fell down an elevator shaft.
On the way home from Portland we stopped at Multnomah Falls, neither of us had seen it before. It was very pretty. The trails were closed because of the wildfires last year but it’s a quick walk to the falls.