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Trip Itinerary

Welcome to the AK in the UK blog. We’ll be chronicling our jaunt across the three countries on the main Great Britain island: England, Wales and Scotland.

Curious where we’ll be? Well, then. Peruse at your leisure our planned itinerary:

  • Aug 31 – Fly Out
  • Sep 01 – Land in London. Train to Bristol to acclimate. Sleep in Bristol.
  • Sep 02 – Train to Bath and bus to Stonehenge. Sleep in Bristol.
  • Sep 03 – Train to Cardiff, Wales. Sleep in Bristol.
  • Sep 04 – Train to Moreton-in-Marsh. Sleep in M-i-M.
  • Sep 05 – Explore more Cotswolds. Sleep in M-i-M.
  • Sep 06 – Train to Liverpool. Sleep in Liverpool.
  • Sep 07 – Liverpool. Sleep in Liverpool.
  • Sep 08 – Pick up car in AM. Drive through the Lake District. Stay in Keswick.
  • Sep 09 – FLY BY THE SEAT OF OUR PANTS! Drive to Oban.
  • Sep 10 – Drive to Loch Ness, Inverness, Dingwall. Sleep in Drynachan.
  • Sep 11 – Highlands. Isle of Skye. Sleep in Drynachan.
  • Sep 12 – Drive to Edinburgh. Sleep in Eburgh.
  • Sep 13 – Edinburgh. Sleep in Edinburgh.
  • Sep 14 – Edinburgh. Sleep in Edinburgh.
  • Sep 15 – Drive to Durham. Hadrian’s Wall. Sleep in Durham.
  • Sep 16 – Drive to York. Drop car. Sleep in York.
  • Sep 17 – York. Sleep in York.
  • Sep 18 – Train to London. Sleep in London.
  • Sep 19 – London. Sleep in London.
  • Sep 20 – London. Sleep in London.
  • Sep 21 – Fly home. 🙁

Updates could happen. We like to change stuff up!

Flight Itinerary


Flight AC542

DEPART – Seattle/Tacoma Int’l Airport – Friday August 31, 11:55 AM

ARRIVE – Toronto, Pearson Int’l Airport – Friday August 31, 7:18 PM

Flight AC862

DEPART – Toronto, Pearson Int’l Airport – Friday August 31, 9:55 PM

ARRIVE – London, Heathrow Airport – Saturday September 1, 10:00 AM

Flight AC863

DEPART – London, Heathrow Airport – Friday September 21, 11:05 AM

ARRIVE – Toronto, Pearson Int’l Airport – Friday September 21, 2:05 PM

Flight AC541

DEPART – Toronto, Pearson Int’l Airport – Friday September 21, 5:50 PM
NOTE: THIS FLIGHT IS 1 HOUR LATE! Take off at 6:50 PM.

ARRIVE – Seattle/Tacoma Int’l Airport – Friday September 21, 7:57 PM

Flight times may change, check Air Canada for updates on arrival times.

Security a Breeze

The trip has started off with the easiest check-in and security pass ever.

We didn’t have the weight of our bags scrutinized and, once at TSA, we didn’t get a pat-down nor did we have to go through the X-ray machine. Score!

London, buckle up. Here we come!



Toronto, Ontario – Canada

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.



Day 1 – Bristol – Finally!

After (wow I have no idea how many) hours of travel, we have arrived in Bristol.

Our flight from Toronto to London was delayed a bit due to new landing gear tires needing to be put on the plane. Favorable winds however still got us to London at close to our expected landing time. Airport traffic meant we did a few circles but finally touched down at 10:30 local time.

We chose to take a coach to Bristol (departing at 12:15) in lieu of the train, which saved us quite a few pounds. A two hour ride through mostly English country side and we made it to our first town.

The GPS gave us some issues but we finally got it to sync and trekked about 20 blocks or so through an enormous shopping district to find our hotel. We checked in around 14:45 local time.

So, all said, since that’d be 06:45 back home, total travel time from Seattle to Bristol was right at 19 hours.

Yeah, so where’s the pub?

Day 2 – Bath & Stonehenge

Hello America!

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.




Day 3 – Putzing About Bristol

Today originally was going to consist of training to Cardiff in South Wales. Instead, we opted instead to explore the city we’ve been home-basing in: Bristol.

I suppose we may never know of it was the right choice, but it certainly wasn’t a poor one.

Bristol has quite a history to it. There is one section of the medieval wall still standing — on Nelson Street — in an area if town caked in artful graffiti.


We took the hop-on hop-off tour bus once through to get a sense of the town before hoofing the pavement to see some sights up-close.


The Clifton suspension bridge, with its 50 pence toll, was beautiful both from afar and up close. Whether staring down on it in the Avon Gorge from The Downs, or strolling across it via sidewalk, this was a terrific stop.


At first, we figured this town was a bit too modern, missing any old English charm, what with our route to the hotel from the bus station consisting of a massive mall with all the usual shops we’d be used to back home.

It took a little looking and suggestions from a local pub owner, but the charm is there under the shiny new metropolitan layer.

We’re about to go poke about a bit more, perhaps even Geocache. Cheerio!


Day 3 – First UK Geocache, Bristol

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.


Day 4 – Bye Bye Bristol

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.

So bye bye Bristol, you were swell!


Cabot Circus – local shopping mall


Graffiti Alley


Clifton Suspension Bridge


Kari @ Cabot Circus last morning in Bristol

Alex @ Cabot Circus – leaving Bristol


Day 4 – Moreton-in-Marsh, Cotswolds

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!





The Treetops Guesthouse B&B

“Hooky” beer

Alex’s burger

Kari’s fish n chips


Day 5 – Chipping Campden, Stow and Hiking

Quick note: Full English breakfasts are quite filling. Wow.

Anyhow, I may have said it in an earlier post, but reiteration here is valid: The English countryside is stunning.

I’m not sure if the busses here have extremely tight schedules to fit or if our driver had brakeaphobia. In either case, it was a swift ride into Chipping Campden (silent p for those keeping score at home) this morning.

We originally planned to hike into Broad Campden but the lady at the TI talked us into hiking up a hill instead. Of course, we did neither. The town was do nice we just poked around it a bit and took photos.

( The above photo was taken in Chipping Campden of an old church and cemetary. )

We took the bus back to Moreton-in-Marsh so we could hop on another coach that took us to Stow-on-the-Wold.

Once in Stow, we peeked around that village before hitting the trail that would ultimately spill us out at Bourton-on-the-Water.

This required passing through several fields. Some maintained, some filled with cows and some with very little evidence of a pathway ever existing.

( The above photo was taken on our hike through the Cotswolds as we exited Chipping Campden. )

( Alex “Felixing” in a field of cows. )

( After this photo was taken we realized we had no idea where the trail marker was. After 20-30 minutes of bonding with these cows we found our way out of this field. – bye smelly cows, nice knowing you! )

We passed through a couple small inhabited areas, likely even too small to be called villages. One house we went by literally had a stream running under it. It was hard to see the front but you could hear the small waterfall going. It was gorgeous.

We passed through a small town called Lower Slaughter. Like the others, it had an old church built with wool money many moons ago. It also had a pretty well groomed cricket club. No game was in process unfortunately.

Finally, we headed down a bit further and reached Bourton. This town is called the “Venice of the Cotswolds,” though this is a bit far fetched. Down the main drag, called High Street, as with all the towns here, runs a river that has been encased with man-made banks. Arching over the river in about five spots are cute little bridges.

After a small bite, a pint and sharing of stories with locals in a nice pub, we’re back in Moreton with our tired feet and eyes.
( Last stop in Bourton-on-the-Water was at a local pub. )

Now a little Geocaching before turning in!

Day 6 – Liverpool

The small village life was nice — and now is missed — but it had to come to an end as we headed north to the city the Fab Four put on the map.

Actually, I gather a map maker put Liverpool on the map, but The Beatles helped our eyes shift up the coast to find it.

We got in around 1410. After dropping our bags and doing a quick batch o laundry in the sink, we merely had to cross the street from our hotel to find the Albert Dock area.

We wandered around a bit checking out the old brick buildings and large sail boats docked in. On the south end of the dock, we booked our tickets for the Magical Mystery Tour for tomorrow at the TI.

Now it was time to poke about The Beatles Story, a walk-through audio guide lead tour through the famous band’s 10 years of being on top of the music world.

The artifacts, audio and ambiance were great. A replica alley way, Cavern Club and even a walk through a yellow submarine were nice touches.

There were several artifacts, from suits to instruments and more. Rooms filled with photos, letters or large displays replicating album covers.

We left the Beatles Story and had a bite and some cold beers. We finished up the day with some photos of old buildings and the water front as the sun started making its way down toward the horizon.
I was lead to believe that Liverpool was something different than this. In fact, it’s quite beautiful and after a couple more Beatles attractions tomorrow, we plan to stumble about the city to see a few more things that look interesting and picturesque.



Day 7 – The Cavern in Liverpool

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.
20120907-221730.jpg( 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.

Day 7 – Beatles Sights and Keeping a Promise

Another day is in the books. Why do people start blog posts with cliches? That’s incredibly boring and far too easy.

Reset button.

Today’s agenda during our stay in Liverpool was devoted to the town’s Beatles sights.

We kicked off and ended our day by wandering through the Cavern Quarter. Specifically, Mathew Street, where the Fab Four played nearly 300 gigs in a at the world famous Cavern Club.

Read more about our time there in Kari’s post.

We also took the two hour Magical Mystery Tour bus ride through the city and suburbs where the band grew up, met and became superstars.

We saw Penny Lane, Strawberry Field and the childhood homes of all the boys.

The driver was really comical and informative. Turns out he even played a role in that NBC movie about the band from a while back. Sometimes on tours like this, you feel like a bunch of boring filler is tossed in. Our guide, however, had a nonstop flow of really interesting tidbits and commentary.

It was a fun time. We’ve got to get up and drive on the left for the first time tomorrow.

Color me nervous.

But, before I go, a promise fulfilled for my good friend and fellow Beatlemaniac Gabby:



Day 8 – Blackpool

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.


And this is the Irish Sea…


Day 8 – Blackpool at night

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.


Day 9 – Citizen M Hotel, Glasgow, Scotland

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.










Day 10 – The Highlands

We finally got our rental car today. Now we are free to go where we please.

We had a beautiful drive through Glencoe today. That is until the rain finally caught up to us.



We even found a bagpiper along the road that let us take some photos of him.


The photo above is of a very cool looking old dam. The rain was coming down pretty hard at this point but we couldn’t resist stopping to see it up close.

The B&B we are at is pretty unique as well. It’s from the 17th century. It has a very cute look and feel.




Day 10 – Driving on the Left

Holy schmoly.

There aren’t many better ways I can describe driving on the left for the first time. Perhaps “nerve-racking” or “scared” offer ample descriptions as well.

We picked up the hoopty in Glasgow.

There were roundabouts everywhere in the city. Entering them wasn’t as difficult as I had anticipated. Instead, the difficult part was figuring out the proper exit to take.

After a couple misses, turn-arounds and try-agains, we got to the country side.

Again, my calculations for difficulties proved incorrect. I figured the city would be the tougher task than the country. Rather, it was the narrow roads in the highlands (they call these highways?) that at times scared the poop out of me.

Literally, every time a big truck passed by, I flinched and held my breath. They’d often be over the center line (some stretches of road didn’t even have a center line) forcing me further to the shoulder.

A couple wheel scrapes and curb hops are all I endured. It was odd. At times scary. But, this is the joy of travel: experiencing differences.

Next time, we go to a country that drives on the right side of the road!

Day 11 – Isle of Skye

The dramatic and picturesque Isle of Skye was our destination for the day.

I’d be remiss not to mention that, while the gorgeous scenery and fun of vacation consumed the bulk of the day, the anniversary of the September 11th attacks were still on our minds. No castles, sheep or photo opps can block that from our minds.

That said, we did what Americans do best. We pressed on and lived our lives, enjoying the freedoms and amazing financial blessings we enjoy every day.

On the way out to the island, we passed Eilean Donan. An extremely small island that holds a gorgeous castle.


This castle dates back centuries, having been defended against clans, Vikings and the English. It eventually was sacked and partially destroyed. Renovation was done in the early 1900s to return it to its beautiful state.

On to Skye. The weather was insane. As we drove around for hours, we had rain, sun breaks, rain, sun breaks and so on. This literally went on all day. The folks at our B&B gave us this head up, so of we found an area we wanted to photograph and it was raining — we’d pull over and wait.

You’ve heard the phrase in Seattle: If you don’t like the weather — wait 10 minutes. This phrase was clearly stolen from Scotland.

See below for lots of pics!

And then the rainbows. So, so many rainbows. The weather was almost a impressive as the high peaks, grassy slopes and whistling rocks near Kilt Rock.

Woolley-Bully let us get right up in his grill for photos. These guys were all over.




Day 12 – Loch Ness, Tulloch Castle and Wallace Monument

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.



Day 13 – Edinburgh, Scotland

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.



Day – 14 Another day of trekking through Edinburgh

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.


Day 15 – Hadrian’s Wall and Durham

After three nights in the hustle and bustle of Scotland’s capital, it was time to head south back toward and into England.

The morning drive included a nice stop in the borders for a fun photo opp.

Now back in England, we headed toward Hadrian’s Wall. Did you know it’s American English to say toward and UK English to say towards? I already knew that before this trip, by the way. Gabby probably taught me that.

The way’s length was quite amazing as you’d see long stretches of it as you drive between sights.

We stopped at Housestead’s Fort, which has the best preserved fort remnants. Still, it’s all foundation and rubble. Your imagination and help from recreation artists are required just as they are for most of the Roman Forum.

It’s amazing to think about the extended reach of the Roman Empire at its peak.

After poking about the wall for a couple hours, it was off to Durham. Here, there was of course a well known cathedral. It was stunning inside with it’s high bell tower, arched ceiling and stained glass depictions of biblical events.

The town itself was neat but overflowing with drunkards on a Saturday evening. I’d advise hitting this place during the week.

That’s it for now. Two nights in York upcoming then we’re off to finish the trip with three nights in London.


Day 16 – York, England

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.

Day 17 – The Golden Fleece

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!


Day 17 – More York

We’re just about to the finish line, which turns out to be an aptly used cliche seeing as how my feet feel as if I’ve been running a marathon.

Shoes were put to pavement once more this morning as we we made our way from our B&B, through the ancient walls and back into the certified most haunted city on earth.

We started by meandering through the Yorkshire Museum. This place had all sorts of information and artifacts spanning the city’s history under the rule of Romans, Vikings and evil Kings.

Built among the ruined St. Mary’s Abbey — with some foundation and pillars still incorporated within — it’s phenomenal to ponder the change this relatively small city bore witness to.

After poking around the museum for a couple hours, we had a midday beer at The Golden Fleece, one of the oldest and, supposedly, most haunted joints in town.

Then it was time for the free walking tour hosted by the city volunteers group. Our guide, George, was an older chap that knew the city quite well. Having been born and raised within the walls, he had an undeniable passion and love for York.
We learned about different inhabitants, rulers and invaders. We were given bits of info on everything from Guy Fawkes to the Harrowing of the North. We even learned about how certain terms originated in York.

Such as “a hole in the wall,” which derived from a minister using a secret passage out of the Minster into an adjoining pub back when businesses surrounded the cathedral.

Can you spot where the door was? It was filled in when Charles II came to town and ordered all non-church related structures be removed from the holy grounds.

After three hours of walking the city, it was time for dinner!

Kari had green thai chicken curry — or something like that — while I had a chicken and mushroom pie with mash and veggies.

Okay. It’s time to relax. London tomorrow!

Day 18 – London (AC)

Travel days are quite crazy. Not just the hustle and bustle of going from a place that you’ve just finally mastered to a new, unknown animal. At the end of the day, the place you left seems like a dream you just remember bits and pieces of.

We hopped on the train in York at 10:25 – which was a bit later than we’d like, but that express train to London was literally half price (£50 vs £100 each).

Once in London, there was a sense of “making it.” We purchased our London Passes (multi-attraction discount card) and Oyster Cards (tube/bus pre-loaded fares), then hopped on the Tube for a 15 minute ride to our hotel in the Westminster area.

20120918-212139.jpgAfter checking in, we shot out and like little ball beatings got sucked in by the magnets that are historical and iconic sights.

Westminster Abbey.

I wasn’t supposed to take these and even feel a little guilty.


We toured the Churchill War Rooms and Churchill Museum. Both are amazing exhibits. The history of WWII just never gets less staggering. This was just one piece of that time in history.

The museum was phenomenal. So many pieces of information, artifacts and interactive displays on the man’s life.

20120918-214410.jpgSeeing Big Ben was similar to The David or the Statue of Liberty. These are places you learn about from a young age. When you see them up close, they consume you. It’s hard to stop taking photos. You just stare at the detail, soaking in the fact that you’re actually seeing it.


On the other side of the south bank, we poked around the London Eye. We bumped into an arcade that was part of our London Pass. £3 in free tokens each was enough for us to play a giant PacMan game and some air (hockey) soccer.

I won three games in a row. I played the fourth left-handed. After taking a 4-2 lead, Kari tied it up 4-4. Then I went up 6-4. She again tied it up. The machine’s air turned off and we had to play the final point without air. Lame. Left-handed and without air, I finally lost. May as well have used my foot!

And one more pic of Big Ben!



Day – 19 London Tower, Tower Bridge and Abbey Road

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. 20120920-210606.jpg
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!



Day 20 – Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s

Well, this is it.

The 20th and final day of our whirl wind tour around the main British isle. We’ve seen so much and traveled so many miles. Our feet hurt but our minds have been massaged with beautiful country side, history and culture.

Today we set out to see the last of the major London attractions. We started with a stroll to Trafalgar Square for a little photography and people watching.

We then walked through Admiralty Arch and marched down The Mall to Buckingham Palace. The thing that stuck out to me was how the gates are the most luxurious thing surrounding an otherwise vanilla building.

It’s the history that matters, though. We got in position for the changing of the guard. There were so many people nudging and pushing and positioning themselves to squeeze into any opening to the front.

The ceremony itself was quite long and drawn out. As the incoming guards passed by, I got some nice unobstructed video. Once inside the gates, though, the sea of people and the gates themselves blocked the view mostly.

It was still neat to watch. Those black furry hats have got to be heavy and hot!

After the guard change, we strolled through Hyde Park. Included was a stop at the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial fountain.

A tube ride later and we had lunch in the Notting Hill area. It’s a cute little part of town. A little quieter with more shops and restaurants than historic sights.

Our final stop was St. Paul’s Cathedral. The outside of this place looks really plain. Actually, it looks more like a government building than a cathedral.

Inside, though? Magnificent.

20120920-214012.jpgPictures aren’t allowed so that’s all I’ve got. The rest was magnificent, though. It rivals the inside of many others I’ve been into, and I thought it was nicer (inside only) that Westminster.

We’re ready to come home I think. Three weeks of walking takes a toll. Three weeks of washing clothes in sinks gets tired. Three weeks of sleeping in a foreign bed gets uncomfortable.

But this is what I label as a first world problem. I expect no pity and feel blessed to have been able to experience this.

We’re on our way back, America.



Day 20 – Trip Favorites

We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite things we liked about our trip.

Top 3 favorite places?
Kari: Liverpool, York, Cotswolds
Alex: Portree in Skye, Cotswolds, Liverpool

Best breakfast?
Kari: Scotland @ The Drynachan B & B Sonia’s pancakes
Alex: Tree Tops B & B in Moreton-in-Marsh, Liz’s full breakfast

Favorite lunch?
Kari: Glasgow @ Maggie Mays, chicken burger with salsa and jalapeños and hand cut french fries.
Alex: Liverpool, bangers and mash

Best Hotel?
Kari: Glasgow @ Citizen M
Alex: Glasgow @ Citizen M

Best B & B?
Kari: The Drynachan in Scotland
Alex: The Drynachan in Scotland

Most comfy bed?
Kari: The Drynachan B & B in Scotland
Alex: The Drynachan B & B in Scotland

Best Photography Locations?
Kari: Isle of Skye, the Highlands and London
Alex: Isle of Skye

Favorite touristy place visited?
Kari: The Cavern in Liverpool
Alex: Big Ben

Most memorable moment?
Kari: sing a longs at The Cavern
Alex: hiking through the Cotswolds

Day 21 – We’re coming to America!

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.


2013 – Winthrop, WA

May 4-6, 2013

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.wildwoodchapel



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.

winthrop sign


Photo above: Sign in town

2013 – Mount St. Helens, WA

Friday, July 5, 2013


Mount St. Helen’s hiking.


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.




2013 – Oregon Coast

Saturday, July 6, 2013OR1



Sea Lion Caves

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 +.





Ireland itinerary

Sat, Aug 30 – fly out to Dublin

Sun, Aug 31 – drive through Glendalough, stay the night in Kilkenny

Mon, Sept 1 – Kilkenny/Cashel, stay the night Kilkenny

Tues, Sept 2 – Blarney/Kinsale, stay the night in Kinsale

Wed, Sept 3 – Cobh, Charles Fort, stay the night in Kinsale

Thurs, Sept 4 – Wild Atlantic Way, stay the night in Goleen

Fri, Sept 5 – Wild Atlantic Way, Kenmare, stay the night in Kenmare

Sat, Sept 6 – Kilarney, stay the night in Kenmare

Sun, Sept 7 – Skellig Michael, Ring of Kerry, stay the night in Dingle

Mon, Sept 8 – Slea Head Drive, stay the night in Dingle

Tues, Sept 9 – Bunratty, Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, stay the night in Galway

Wed, Sept 10 – Connemara, Kylemore, stay the night in Westport

Thurs, Sept 11 – County Donegal, stay the night in Derry

Fri, Sept 12 – Derry

Sat, Sept 13 – Portrush

Sun, Sept 14 – Antrim Coast, stay the night in Portrush

Mon, Sept 15 – Stay the night in Cabra castle!!!

Tues, Sept 16 – Dublin

Wed, Sept 17 – Dublin

Thurs, Sept 18 – Dublin

Fri, Sept 19 – fly home from Dublin






Day 1 – Glendalough and Kilkenny

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.


Photo above: Kari’s Cajun chicken sandwich.


Photo above: Alex’s stew



– Kari & Alex

Day 2 – Kilkenny

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!


– Alex

Day 3 – Cashel, Blarney, Kinsale

Our most busy, and fun-packed day thus far, we got up early for our final breakfast in Kilkenny. We bid the medieval town ado, and headed to Cashel, home of the huge — both in size and history — Rock of Cashel.


The views from the yard down to the valley were splendid. One of the sights visible from this centuries old site of Kings and religion was Hore Abbey. We drove down to get a closer look.


We hit the road again after this, setting our waypoint for Blarney. We had a quick detour though as we saw a sign for Cahir Castle. This was a quaint little place that we just snapped a few photos of before getting back on our original course.

Blarney seems as though it’d be a cheesy spot. And yes, kissing the stone does seem a bit gimmicky. However, the castle itself is wonderful and climbing through the small, dank and narrow staircases to reach the top opened our imaginations to the folks who once actually called this home!


We finally reached Kinsale, our home base for the next two nights. After checking into the B&B and getting off our feet for a few minutes, we headed out to check out the harbor. We then enjoyed some traditional Irish music over dinner and a pint!


– Alex

Day 4 – Kinsale and Charles Fort

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.

– Kari

Day 5 – the Wild Atlantic Way and Mizen Head

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.




– Kari

Day 6 – the Wild Atlantic Way drive to Kenmare

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.

More fun to come tomorrow!!

– Kari

Day 7 – Killarney National Park

Today was a bit of a slow paced one, not rushing off from one attraction to the next, as we stayed relatively close to our home base in Kenmare.

That doesn’t mean we didn’t see some great things, however. We sprung into the Killarney National park. This was Ireland’s first recognized park. It’s not very big, but there some neat things to see.

After winding about for a ways up the mountain, we came to a sweeping view of the valley below. This is called Lady’s View. There’s a rock perfect for sitting and staring down into this gorgeous panorama.

[Lady’s View Pic to come later]

Down the way a bit further was the Torc Waterfall. A short jaunt up the path leads to this small, yet beautiful fall.


From there, we checked out Muckross House, a Victorian era estate that shows the vast delta between wealthy and poor during Ireland’s past.

The grounds were lovely, with jaunting carts flowing by every few moments showing visitors the area. We opted not to take one of these as the drivers were aggressive in their offering, and the horses showed signs of not being taken care of as good as they deserve.


Our final stop in the park was Ross castle. We then had a little lunch in the town of Killarney — a household name in America as a launching pad into the surrounding sights, but really nothing more than shops and restaurants.

We returned to Kenmare to do some laundry and take a little snooze. Around 8pm, we went back into town for a pint and some music. This was perhaps the best “trad session” we’ve seen this far. This trio was fun and everything that makes you think Ireland.



Day 8 – Ring of Kerry and Dingle

Today we drove the Ring of Kerry.

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.


Day 9 – Slea Head Drive and Dingle

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.

– Kari

Day 10 – Cliffs of Moher, The Burren and Galway

The longest driving day thus far ahead of us, we fueled up at breakfast before hitting the road. This first chunk of the day wasn’t going to contain much in the way of scenery as we left the Dingle Peninsula and headed inland.

At about the two and a half hours mark, we hopped off the motorway for a stretch, and snapped a quick photo at Bunratty Castle.


It took about another hour after that before we finally reached what will surely be one of the highlights of the trip — The Cliffs of Moher.


As we walked the cliffs, the view became more and more breathtaking around each bend. Over 600 feet in height in some sections, and no railing to prevent a gust of wind from feeding you to the rock and water below, the experience was amazing with a touch of caution at each step.

We spent close to three hours poking about the cliffs, taking lots of pictures and video. We even got to see a harpist play a bit along the way. It was time to move along, though, and we headed out and toward the Burren.


This place seems like a wasteland of nothing but rocks and weeds, which I suppose it is, but it has quite the history. Formed by glacial movement in the last ice age, the limestone slabs are scattered all about. There are glacial, Mediterranean and alpine forms of plant life all next to each other in one of the most unique ecosystems on earth.

We visited the Poulnabrone Dolman (pictured above), a five thousand year old portal tomb.

We finished off our drive by heading into Galway, a hustle-and-bustle college town. We didn’t find much to see here, but it’s purpose was a place to sleep before continuing our journey tomorrow. Kari got duped into ordering a Budweiser when it was advertised as merely a lager. Haha!

– Alex

Day 11 – Connemara Drive and Westport

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.

– Kari

Day 12 – Derry/Londonderry

Today, we drove to a town divided by religious and political differences. So much so, that it has two names. Ask a Catholic, or Republican, and it’s Derry. Speak to a Protestant, someone waving the Union Jack, you’ll be told it’s Londonderry.

It was a long drive from Westport, but after about three hours we crossed from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland — a nation of the United Kingdom. From Euros to Sterling, kilometers to miles, the differences are stark enough that you feel like you’ve traveled further than just a few miles.


We got into town just in time to hop into a walking tour of the town, which mostly consisted of walking the city walls — built between 1613-1619 — which are still completely intact, making it the only such city in Ireland.

Views included the above, peering over a Protestant neighborhood. Notice the Union colors are painted on the curbs, and the “No Surrender” moniker. While the tensions of The Troubles and Bloody Sunday have simmered, there is still a bit of an uncomfortable feeling seeing the fences, walls and opposing colors depending on which direction you look.


After the tour, we visited St. Columb’s Cathedral. Built in 1633, stained glass depicted scenes in great detail. The volunteer inside was an older lady, and extremely passionate about this place and some of the artifacts that they had in their small museum. Included were the original locks and keys to the town’s gates.

She even went on a little rant about Meg Ryan after we told her we were from Seattle. Apparently Meg Ryan was on some talk show here and showed disinterest in being there. One thing you learn about the Irish — speak to them, and you best be prepared to listen to them talk for a while.


We strolled around town a bit more, including crossing the Peace Bridge, a pedestrian bridge on the River Foyle. The weather has remained wonderful (yep, I got sunburned in Ireland, of course).

This town has so much history. It’s unfortunate much of that is recent history which contains bloodshed and tension. However, things have made a positive turn. The fact that we are even here is proof that the city is open for business and no longer dangerous.


Day 13 – Donegal Loop Drive

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.


Day 14 – Portrush and Dunluce Castle

We headed further north today, landing in the resort town of Portrush. Our B&B is right on the coast, with our room overlooking the water. It’s beautiful here, but then we’ve said that about ever place we’ve been to. The weather behaving has helped!

We got here a bit early, so we headed out to check out Dunluce Castle. This was the centerpiece of a small village in the 17th century, and what remains is still a decently in-tact structure. In the walls, you’ll find several hexagonal stones — cut from the nearby Giant’s Causeway.


I even got a photo with a nice gentleman dressed as a Knight. Being King Felix Day back home and all, I explained the pose to home and he was a great sport. He even wanted me to tag him on Facebook, haha.


After a little lunch at the Wee Cottage cafe (seriously amazing tuna sandwich!), we decided to seek out the Dark Hedges, a row of interesting trees in this area recently made famous by the television series Game of Thrones.


We returned to Portrush to do a little laundry and then head out for dinner. We ate at a little place that overlooked the water. While we were told there was a 45 minute wait, we actually found a cool lounge upstairs that served apps. We had a nice wood fired flatbread and nachos, washed down with Guinness and Stella.

So, so much beer on this trip!

BONUS: Here’s Ireland fitting inside Washington state.


– Alex

Day 15 – Giants Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

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!!


Day 16 – Carrickfergus Castle and Cabra Castle

Today we left Larne and headed toward Kingscourt.

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.


Day 17 – Newgrange, Trim Castle and Temple Bar

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.

– Kari

Day 18 – Dublin Tour, Trinity College

We spent a good portion of today hoofing about town. In fact, we spent three whole hours on a “free” walking tour of the city. However, it was so r good that we tipped the guide €10.

We learned a ton. From thousands of years of Irish history, to how the county got independence, to even where U2 got their start. Our guide was wonderful. He mixed in facts, humor and group participation to really make the time fly while having fun.


After this tour, we went to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, a centuries old book that has actually been physically split into four pieces for rotational display purposes. The Long Hall a story up above is a working library with over 200,000 books of varying topics. The vast majority of hthe being in Latin. In fact, English is only the fifth most common language of these books.


After this, we decided to get a better feel for the town as a whole, so we jumped on the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus. This is about an hour tour if you were to stay on, but there are 22 stops at various popular sites. We got some great video from the roof of this double decker that will go into our little movie.

We got off at the Guinness Storehouse, but being close to closing time we opted to wait for tomorrow to tour this vast land of wonderful beer brewing.


We got back on to finish the loop and then headed into Temple Bar for a bite and a pint. We did that at Buskers, a neat place with a fun setting. A couple pints and dinner later, we were off for the mile walk back to the hotel.

One more day…


Day 19 – last day in Dublin

We got up early today and headed out to Kilmainham Gaol ( jail ) and visited the prison inside and out. It’s not an active prison any more but has a lot of Irish history.



One child was jailed here for 9 years for stealing a necklace. When the 9 years was up he was acquitted of the crime. Nice justice system huh?

Next we headed out to the Guinness Brewery. We took the tour which was self guided and did some beer sampling. Alex tried pouring his own pint and had a little trouble with overflow.


After the Guinness Brewery we headed to the cemetery and took some photos. There were massive head stones covering large grassy fields. Nothing like what I’ve seen back home.


We spent our last dinner in Dublin eating at BadBobs. A cute little pub with live music.


We will miss Dublin, it was a very unique city to visit. We’d love to go back again someday!

– Kari

2017 Trip Itinerary

Here is our rough itinerary! Of course, an important thing about travel is that you can’t (shouldn’t?) over plan. Have a soft schedule, note the things you really want to see and have some contingency ideas. But, ultimately, you need to just let the experience happen and enjoy what you discover!


Day Itinerary Notes
4 SEA -> PAR
5 Paris 4p Walking Tour / Eiffel Tower
6 Paris Rick’s Day 2 (Arc, Champs, d’Orsay) Catacombes?
7 Paris Rick’s Day 1 Notre (Dame/Louvre)
8 Paris Versailles
9 Brusells 4p Walking Tour
10 Ghent (DT drm BRS) 1p Walking Tour
11 Bruges 8p Walking Tour
12 Bruges Pay at hotel: €178.48
13 Antwerp Travelocity
14 Delft Pay at hotel: €172.00
15 Leiden/Hague (DT frm Delft) DT to Leiden/Hague/Gouda/Utrecht
16 Amsterdam 2p Walking Tour / Red Light District
17 Amsterdam 9:45a Anne Frank / 2p Rijks / 4p Van Gogh
18 Amsterdam Zaanse Schans?
19 AMS -> SEA

Bon Voyage!

We were awakened to a text from the airline that our flight has been delayed two hours. While certainly things could be worse, I naturally am fretting far too much over the loss of two hours in The City of Light!

A silver lining, I suppose, was an extra two hours to ensure everything was in order. Hurray for positive thinking!

TSA was smooth sailing for the most part, which I always look at as a good omen for things to come. Also, we saw Jamie Moyer at the airport bar where we had lunch. Vacation is off to a good start.

Speaking of airport bars: Here's our cheesy — yet obligatory — pre-flight simultaneous beer photos!

We should be in the air shortly. Catch you in a couple weeks, America!

Day 1 – Paris

Bonjour from the City of Light!

After a 10 hour flight, we were physically exhausted. Yet, we were energized. The adrenaline and excitement of being in a new place to explore and experience always provides a nice kick to keep you going. A half hour, 55€ taxi ride later, we arrived at our hotel. It's a charming little place on the corner of Avenue de La Motte Picquette and Rue Cler. The window — complete with iron balcony flowers living happily — feels very Paris!

After getting unpacked and freshened up, we took the short jaunt over to the Army Museum. Here, we picked up our Paris Museum Passes. We then toured the grounds. This place has a lovely courtyard and of course tons of info in the history of France's military.

On the other side of the complex sits the stunning Dome church which houses Napoleons tomb.

We then made the trip next door to the Rodin Museum, dedicated to French sculptor Auguste Rodin. While there were some interesting pieces in the fairly small exhibit inside, for me the far more interesting but was the grounds and sculptures outside. Well maintained bushes, grass, walkways and a pond at the far end set the tone for a lovely property. Laced between everything are various pieces of Rodin's work. Perhaps the most known of them is The Thinker.

At this point we were pretty beat, having essentially not slept — save for a quick snooze here and here on the plane — for going on 24 hours. So we took a one and a half hour power nap back at the hotel, to build up the energy to head back out and take in the Eiffel Tower up close.

It's grandeur lived up to the hype. The long stretch of grass called the Champs de Mars that lies at the feet of he Tower provides a great place for a picnic as you stare up at this beautiful symbol of Paris.

Finally, we strolled Rue Cler and admired its many shops and restaurants. We had dinner and a much deserved beer at Le Tribeca. Sitting at one of these small, outward facing tables facing the road was high on my list of Parisian experiences. Kari had a burger and I had the beautiful lemon chicken dish below.

I'm literally fighting off sleep as I write this, so we will say bonne nuit for now! Time for a full night's rest so we can tackle even more Paris tomorrow!

Distance Walked: 6.93 Miles

Day 2 – Paris

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.

Distance Walked: 14.17 miles

Day 3 – Paris

Any imagination of taking it easy after yesterday's marathon turned out to be false as we had another long one today.

We took the train out toward the Louvre to save a few steps. For breakfast, we kept it "light" by having a pastry from Angelina's — a recommendation from our hotel. This was apparently one of Coco Chanel's favorite spots. Oh, and we couldn't help but grab some macarons, too!

We headed into the Louvre. Where do you even start? We all know about the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and some other major pieces here. And they were awesome to see up close! But there were so many other great paintings, statues and artifacts from all over the world. Be it Rome, Egypt, Greece or Asia, this place has it all.

The crowds were crazy, but especially so at the Mona Lisa. We're talking elbow-throwing, jostling-for-position crazy. But, hey! We got to see one of the most famous pieces or art on the planet.

After a couple of hours wandering about here, we made our way over to see Saint-Chapelle. This cathedral has over 1,100 individually stained glass windows, each depicting a different bible scene.

Next was Note Dame. So beautiful up close. The detail on the exterior — gargoyles and all — was stunning. Then, inside, we got to gander at one of the absolute finest Gothic cathedrals you'll want to see. Just imagine actually designing, and constructing something like this. It took nearly 200 years to complete!

We made our way up to the Pantheon next. Another beautifully constructed building. This one was intended to be a church, but revolution changed that. It's now a state mausoleum, containing the remains of important Parisians.

After a little break back at the hotel, we went and found a Geocache! Then went and ate dinner on Champs-Élysée before climbing to the top of the Arc De Triomphe for sunset and the Eiffel Tower light show!

We are absolutely bushed! But, Versailles tomorrow!

Distance Walked: 13.32 miles

Day 4 – Versailles

*Palace by Alex

Our fourth and final day in Paris was spent outside of the city at the Palace of Versailles. To say that this place is massive would be among the biggest understatements uttered during my days. Not just the palace, or Chateau as they call it, but the grounds as well which stretch literally for miles and contain some of the most lavish things you’d ever see at one man’s “residence.”

We spent SEVEN hours here!

For sure, Louis XIV wanted to make sure everyone knew just how rich and powerful he was. From gold plated everything, to statues, to enormous paintings and ceiling frescos, this palace shows the story of a boy who grew up destined to be perhaps the most powerful King in the world.

Palace gates

His reign lasted 72 years, 100 days. A European record (compare to Elizabeth II at 65 years, 179 days as of this writing). Perhaps such a long time on the throne gives a person enough time to convince themselves of how important they are and the ability to build a vast home!

Palace courtyard

We waited in an extremely long line for nearly an hour to enter. Once inside, it felt a little like we were sardines being shoe-horned into a tube, filing through security before finally squiring out into the courtyard.

Despite all that, it was pretty amazing once inside and moving through the palace. From the King’s bedroom, which faced East for the rising sun — he was the sun king after all — to the throne room, and the hall of mirrors, each room presented a new way to help imagine one living with such incredible wealth and power.

The influence of Louis XIV even reached America! You’ll notice in the photo above the many different wigs in various portraits. Yep. Just like George Washington and our founding fathers. Paris has been a fashion center of the world for some time, no?

Palace chapel

Louis needed to project being the Sun King, so after waking up to the rising sun, he’d swing open some doors into the Versailles Chapel where he’d pray to the other Sun God. Or was it to himself?

Shoot. The guy even grew orange trees in a green house under the palace that he’d wheel out to the gardens so he could project to visitors his ability to grow Citrix’s fruits in chilly France. Hey, speaking of gardens…

*Gardens by Kari

There are miles of trails through the gardens of Versailles. The flower beds are perfectly sculpted into beautiful designs. 

We walked around for several hours and did not get to see everything. Unfortunately today the rain found us and we had to duck for cover a few times. 

There are many magnificent water fountains spread throughout the grounds. The fountains were made to turn on as King Louis XIV road past them. He would often give his guest personal tours to show off what he had created. 

He even had a grand canal built as he was inspired by the original in Venice. Venetians came over from Italy to live and work on the grounds and give gondola rides as the King wished.

About a half miles walk from the palace is where Marie Antionette spent her time. A quieter area of the grounds where ducks and fish would splash around in the man made ponds. A gorgeous site to see. 

Versailles is a wonderful place to visit. You can rent bikes, golf carts and boats to travel around but I wouldn’t recommend visiting when it’s raining. We got very wet today but we made the best of it as it was our last full day in France.

Paris was exhausting, our feet are sore and backs are aching. I can’t imagine doing a trip like this after we retire from working. This kind of traveling is meant for the younger kids. 

Distance walked 10.76 miles

Day 5 – Brussels

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. 

Distance walked 10.6 miles

Day 6 – Ghent and Brussels

Rain was forecasted for later in the day today, so the plan was to day trip to Ghent. This way, we could explore that town and then come back to Brussels for a rainy evening activity we're well-versed in back home: Drinking!

We busted down to the train station, and hopped aboard the first one heading west. Once in Ghent, we decided to walk to the city center. We typically do this rather than take a taxi or metro as a way to see a town, so we can stop for photos and to catch the vibe. Much of it was bland, but in the latter half we did get to see some cute canals. One thing we noticed: There are far more people riding bikes than walking in this town!

Once in the historical center, there was quite a bit to see. As with other little European towns, there are churches built with local trade money of yesteryear.

St. Michael's — or Sint-Michielskerk in Dutch — is no exception. Typically, the biggest trade in a town would build the biggest church, partly as a way to thump their chest. But unlike other big European cathedrals in small towns, this one wasn't the product of wool or crops. Nope. What industrial built this beauty? Beer! How Belgian.

St. Michael's bridge and church

We had breakfast outside, overlooking the church, old town center and canal. It's hard to get much more European than this. Sure, the breakfast was only so-so. But traveling, for me, is about temporarily immersing yourself as a local and feeling like you're part of where you are. Listen to the conversation of the locals, and soak in the sights they maybe take for granted.

Breakfast on the canal

We be-bopped about the town center for a bit before deciding this would be a great day for a canal ride. Not raining but also not sweat-inducing heat. For only 7€ each, this seemed like a solid deal.

It was a pretty nice ride! With only a short time in this town, we could have done a walking tour but it would have been later in the day. We felt like we got the same city history we'd have got doing that, but saved some steps on our tired feet and, well, who doesn't like a boat ride?!

(Video to come later, sorry bad cell service!)
Boat tour

On the boat tour, the guide spoke of the 12 original streets in the city — now appearing as narrow pathways tucked between everyone else. This is right up our, yeah, alley. I highly recommend weaving through the backstreets of a small, old town to see its charm and for a chance to see how the locals actually live.

Ghent back streets

Our time in Ghent ended here. So we took the tram back to the train station and zipped back to Brussels. We had enough time for a power nap and to freshen up.

We did a Beer Tasting experience, which was awesome! Our guide Maggie — a local — was extremely passionate, both about her country and her beer. She cracked the whip on people for chatting during her talks, which I loved! She explained not only the proper way to pour your Belgian beers, but also how to drink and taste them.

Maggie spitting fire

We had four beers between two bars. We started at Scott's Bar, then moved down the street to Delirium, the Guinness World Record holder for most beers at over 3,000!

We finished the night with waffles at Maison Dandoy, one of the top rated waffle spots in Belgium! Photo at the top of this post. It was delicious!

Anywho! With four beers down and 2,996 to go I better get off the blog and back to sip–hiccup–ping.


Distance Walked Today: 11.18 miles

Day 7 – Bruges / Brugge

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… 

Distance walked 12.28 miles 

Day 8 – Bruges

They call this place the Venice of the North. While, yeah, there are a bunch of canals and little bridges that go over them, I don’t think this town should have that nickname.

First, there aren’t nearly as many canals or bridges. Second, there’s auto traffic here — there isn’t in Venice. Third, I think Bruges is actually a much better place. Yeah, there. I said it.

There are some some spots that really remind me of Venice, like the photo above. But there are also a ton more areas in the town with really great back alleys and secret passages to poke around through.

Today was expected to be quite packed as the Bruges summer festival was kicking off. But the crowd didn’t show up until around 11, so our wise early start paid off as we got to wander around, take photos and just soak this place in.

We followed the route drawn on a map by our B&B owner, who has lived here his whole life. This meant seeing some spots we saw yesterday when we wandered freely, but we got to see another side of the town we hadn’t yet.

We did a little shopping, photo taking and exploring before grabbing a lunch beer around 11. The presentation you get with some of theses Belgian beers….

Next, we toured a local brewery. It was pretty cool to learn about both their current and historical methods of making beer.

One of the neater things about this place is that as they grew, they wanted to stay in their historic building while also being able to produce more beer than their space would allow. How to fix that? Build a 3km pipeline to the other side of town to send your beer to for aging of course!

After the tour, we walked to the other side of town to check out another brewery. This one, we skipped the tour and just had beer. I think we might have a problem!

A tasty problem anyhow. Here’s the flight we ordered:

We grabbed some lunch at a pizza place in the Grote Markt. Then headed back to the room for a quick break.

We headed back out for some more exploring, eventually having a little bite and then going to the town center where Bruges’ summer festival was kicking off with all sorts of different areas to dance, sir around a fire and play games.

This medieval town was getting pretty wild tonight! Never thought I’d see an outdoor disco in front of a several hundred year old church, but hey!

Another great day in the books. I think we will carry fond memories of Bruges. What a town!

Distance Walked: 10.73 miles

Day 9 – Antwerp

Up and out the door at 9 AM today. 

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!!

Distance walked 11.44 miles

Let’s talk about Belgian beer

If you've been following the blog posts for this trip, you have probably noticed a trend: Talk and photos of beer. As we ride out of Belgium and into The Netherlands, now may be a good time to have this conversation.

You're free to assume we are just lushes, but the reality is that there is a unique beer culture in this part of the world that we had to experience. It's not about catching a buzz, it's a deep rooted history that leads to things we may find off back in the states.

First among those, the legal drinking age is 14. Fourteen! The second thing that may seem odd to us is that there's a lack of an open container law. Mix those two together and, yep, we've seen young teenagers drinking in the streets right on front of armed law enforcement. Quite shocking!

My first Belgian beer was had in the streets

Many years ago, the water in this country was actually not drinkable. So to solve this, everyone — from toddlers to grandpas — drank beer. The fermenting process kills bacteria, you see. Also, we're not talking about 10% IPAs here. 1% alcohol is plenty to get the job done.

From there, a culture is born. You of course want to try different methods and use different ingredients. Hundreds of years and technical advancements later, you've got a pretty wild beer scene.

My favorite!

Everything matters to these folks: The pour, the glass and how you drink it. For example, during our first day in Brussels it was suggested to me by our walking tour guide to get a Westmalle Trappist. This was during a quick break on the tour.

Knowing we had to get moving in a few minutes and that I could drink in the streets, I asked for it in a to go cup (lol). The bartender gave me a look, and said: "No. You must have this beer in its proper glass."

Kwak comes in a wild glass, with stand

From there, the pour has to be right. In America, we try to pour our beer with as little head as possible because of the appearance of not having a full beer. Here, it's more of a requirement to have a LOT of head for certain beers.

To make things more interesting, you're actually given the bottle and have to perfect the pour yourself. Unlike, say, Ireland, where bartenders are trained to get that great Guinness pour.

In the previous photo, my pour actually was a bit off. The head should have gone to just below the word Westmalle — roughly two inches. You'll see people press their index and middle fingers against the glass to measure. For the Kwak, I nailed it!

We had a couple nice flights

It may be hard to tell in some of these photos, but their beers are typically coming in smaller bottles and glasses than we have back home. Again — the idea isn't to get smashed, but to enjoy good beer. Yeah, three small 11% beers will still have you stumbling, so don't have three!

"Culture" may sound like a slick way to mask alcoholism, but it's really evident here. From Trappist monks who make beer for the sole purpose to give all proceeds to charity, to being named to UNESCO's cultural heritage list, this beer thing ain't no joke here.


Day 10 – Delft

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. 

Distance walked 7.8 miles

Day 11 – Leiden and Delft Night Photography

Today, we day tripped to Leiden. It's not that far away, but because the Delft train station is undergoing works right now, we had to first bus to The Hague. Then we hopped on a train for the one stop north to Leiden.

The rain was a bit brutal at times today. While it was on-again, off-again, it's hard to read a guidebook while walking about a town and also holding an umbrella. But this didn't stop us. We followed Rick Steves' Leiden walk, which took us to windmills, churches, fortified hills and a university.

Perhaps the town's most famous son is Rembrandt. The little square above is where he grew up. Now stands a full size replica of him as a young boy, looking at one of his many self portraits.

We were able to poke into the campus of Leiden University, where many well known historical figures either learned or taught at. Albert Einstein was a professor for a period here, while US President John Quincy Adams was a student.

This church holds some US historical significance, as pilgrims fleeing England for America stopped here in Holland before being able to make the journey across the Atlantic. They would attend their church service here and lived in the square around it.

Like other towns we've seen along our journey, there were many small alleyways stocked with charm. It's almost like heading back through a time warp. Especially due to the weather, the tourists and locals alike weren't out in abundance.

I love the canals in these Dutch cities, full of geese, ducks and other birds I don't even know the names of! Watching them plunge their long necks into the algae carpeted water, popping out with a little fish to gobble down is quite enjoyable.

Our last stop before headed back to the train station was to climb up through an old windmill. We went up six flights of narrow, creeky stairs. At each level you could admire the tools that made these things work.

Along the way, there were information boards and even a video on one level to help give an understanding of how the various mills were used to make bread, saw wood or reclaim land from the sea.

Wow, okay then, Leiden! We're out!

Distance Walked: 9.8 Miles


Bonus: We went out for some night photography this evening. Here are a few snaps!

Day 12 – Amsterdam

We made it to Amsterdam. This city was the main reason for coming to Europe this time. It’s been on my bucket list for years. 

I’ve never seen a place like Amsterdam before. There is so much craziness here. The bikes the motor scooters, the cars & pedestrians. Wow!!! You have to be so careful where you walk or you will get nailed. 

We went on a walking tour of the city today. Learned a few things and had some beer. The Red Light district is an interesting place. The girls stand in windows barely dressed. It’s odd because back home we have bikini barista coffee stands which the city wants to fine women $5,000 if they show too much skin and in Amsterdam prostitution is legal and regulated. 

We were told about a bar with 200 beers named Gollem so of course we went in and checked it out. 

We met a couple guys who lived in Holland but it was their first time there too. We probably spent three hours talking with them. Their names were Dennis and Kris. We were surprised that they had “normal” names. They work in real estate and we talked about house sizes and showed pictures of our homes. Most houses here are attached on both sides to the neighbors. They  were surprised at how big our house was. Not many people here have garages and most ride bikes anyways. 

Alex noticed this bar had one of his favorites from back home called Lagunitas and he bought the guys a round. They seemed to like it or else they were just being polite. Then after that beer Dennis and Kris bought us a round… 4 beeers later we were toasted. Luckily we had three days to recover and we needed it. 

After sleeping off the delicious brew we went back out to photograph the IAMSTERDAM sign. I had a feeling there would be less people there at night and was right. We saw the sign during the day with hundreds climbing all over it. 

Distance walked 9.96 miles

Day 13 – Amsterdam

Today was museum day!! 

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!! 

Distance walked 11.96 miles

Day 14 – Zaanse Schans, Zaandijk and Amsterdam

Welp. Here we are. The final day of this particular journey. We woke up with no agenda and would see what adventure we'd find.

After breakfast we headed toward the heart of the city. After considering some day trips, we decided on hopping a train out to Zaanse Schans, which is a working windmill village just northwest of Amsterdam.

This isn't just a tourist trap. Sure, they charge to go into some of the small museums and windmills. But these mills are actually still working. Not just spinning, but working. One cuts logs into lumber. Another is making batter.

We were able to wander through the village, snapping photos and taking video. Watching cows and sheep graze, ducks hopefully waddle toward someone with bread.

Continuing the no agenda theme, toward the end of the row of windmills we spotted a "ferry," which really was just a boat offering €1 rides across the water to the town of Zaandijk. So aboard we hopped and scooter across the channel.

The boat drivers were two old men, complete thick accents and pipes hanging from their lips. They were nice though, asking us where we were from and giving us a little info sheet they made about the town we were cruising to. Oldest building, where the original town hall is, places to eat. Things like this.

We happened upon a small brewery, so naturally we had to check it out. We haven't had enough local beer on this trip, you see.

After sipping these fine brews and gobbling down a couple sandwiches — by the way, the bread we've had here has been amazing! — we headed out and to the train station. Back to Amsterdam we go!

We wandered through the Red Light District and the heart of town once more and back to the hotel. A quick break at the room before heading out to do the Heineken Experience.

While this wasn't quite as cool as the Guinness Storehouse tour in Dublin, this was still pretty fun. You zig zag your way through historical bits, listen to some talks about the brewing process and take part in some fun virtual reality stops.

I was hesitant about this place, but am glad we did it. And not just because you end up with three beers along the way. It was genuinely a fun attraction.

After the rooftop panoramic views, bicycling VR video and strategically placed gift shop, we headed out for dinner.

One thing we've definitely noticed here: The Dutch eat just like us. A wide array of foods, from burger joints to pizza parlors. Mexican food to Chinese. I really don't know that I once saw a place that was traditionally Dutch. Some places had Dutch snacks or dishes, but these seem to take a backseat.

Tonight, I had ribs and Kari had pizza. What a way to wrap up Amsterdam, eh?

My feet are tired. I'm ready for my own bed and a meal that isn't heavy and expensive. Ah, that end of vacation feeling. In a couple of days I'll be mad at myself for thinking these thoughts and will start planning the next adventure!

Distance Walked: 12.31 miles


Favorite city for Photos 

Brugge – Kari

Delft – Alex

Favorite beer

Brugze Zot – Kari

Westmalle Trappist Tripel – Alex
Best hotel room 

Antwerp was nicest and biggest

Hotel with most character

Paris – Alex

Bruges – Kari

Most fun city

Bruges – Kari

Brussels – Alex

Best food

Cheese and bread plate at Van 9 to Seven – Delft – Kari

Ellis Burger – Bruges – Alex

Best Chocolate 


Best Bar

Gollem in Amsterdam 
Favorite cities in order – Kari






Zaanse Schans




Total Distance walked 

161.4 miles

Average of 11.13 miles a day

Headed for the sun!

I was fortunate enough to earn a sales incentive trip, so Kar-Dog and I will be spending six nights and five days in Cancun! Here’s a blurb from the site about where we’ll be staying:

AAA Four Diamond, Hyatt Ziva Cancun all-inclusive resort. The only resort in Cancun surrounded on three sides by white sand beaches and the sparkling Caribbean Sea, this oasis near the city features luxurious accommodations with stunning views. Indulge your senses at the resorts eight international restaurants, as well as seven bars and lounges. Splash in the warm turquoise waters of the Caribbean, take a dip in one of the resorts three amazing pools, partake in playful resort activities or rejuvenate at the oceanfront spa. From relaxation to adventure, the Hyatt Ziva has you covered.

Hyatt Ziva is on the tip of the peninsula

While our speed is typically not one that includes laying on the beach, I think we’ll be able to find a way to enjoy this! Luckily, we don’t have to just lay on the beach while sipping on fruity cocktails. Yes, that will happen a fair amount. But we’ll also have the opportunity to venture off the resort a bit.

As part of the trip, we were able to choose between a host of off-site activities. Naturally, we chose the furthest and most culturally-important one. Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities and there are some wonderful sites still standing, such as El Castillo. This temple/pyramid should be pretty great to see up close along with exploring the surrounding area.

Perhaps we will swim with dolphins, happen upon some sea turtles or just drink more margaritas. Either way, it should be a fun experience in a part of the world we haven’t yet been to!

Hola Mexico!

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.

Bella is the name of the Toucan Alex is holding.

Travel Gear

I’d like to share my recommendations for travel gear and accessories.

Luggage – I never thought I could get away with one backpack full of clothes and toiletries for a 2-3 week trip until our first European adventure in Italy.

The convertible carry on from Rick Steves travel shop is the perfect bag/backpack for light packing.

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.

2018 – Portland, OR

May 26-28, 2018

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.

Multnomah Falls, OR


March 2019

Grayland Beach State Park

Grayland, WA

Site ??

Back in parking, electrical and water hookups. Waste dump as you drive out of park.

Privacy: OK, depends on site. Lots of trees.

Notes: Beach nearby, dogs can run. Clam digging on this beach.

May 2019

Oceanside Resort & RV Park

La Push, WA

Site ??

Back in parking with water and electrical hookups.

Privacy : None. RV’s are right next to each other.

Notes: Close to beach, can hear waves crashing. Bathroom is nice and there are showers.


June 2019

Paradise Point

Ridgefield, WA

Site ??

Back in parking with water and electrical hookups.

Privacy : Some but very close to freeway, can hear noise all day/night long.

Notes: Close to freeway, noisy, homeless people camping there, large open fields for dogs to run.


September 2019

Lincoln Rock State Park

Wenatchee, WA

Site ??

Back in parking with water and electrical hookups.

Privacy : None, open campground, some trees but no privacy.

Notes: Swimming area nearby for people and dogs, kayaking, tennis courts for dogs to run inside. Beautiful sunsets, nice bathrooms.

March 2020

Fort Worden State Park

Port Townsend, WA

Site #31

Pull through with water and electrical hook ups, waste dump on site.

Privacy: Good, surrounded by bushes on 3 sides.

Notes: other goods sites: #29, #33 and #41


May 2020

Wine Country RV Park

Prosser, WA

Site #118

Back in parking with water and electrical hook ups, waste dump on site.

Privacy: Poor

Notes: Other good sites: #119, #120 and #121 – These spots are on the fence line, some trees and a cow field nearby, walking distance to wineries.

June 2020

Ike Kinswa State Park

Silver Creek, WA

Site #12 ( trail to lake right behind this site )

Back in parking and pull throughs site with water, electrical and waste dump on site.

Privacy: some sites decent

July 2020

Westgate Cabins & RV Park

Ocean City, WA

Site #

Sites are very tight, close together.

Back in parking only, somewhat sandy. Beach is right behind campsites, short walk via beach trail.

Privacy: None

August 2020

Ocean City State Park

Hoquiam, WA


No electrical or sewer hookups on site. Dump station on way out.

Back in and pull throughs, road is very narrow.

Privacy: None

Better sites: Loop 4 – 138, 139, 140, 142, 143, 145, 146, 147.

Beach trail close to these sites: 149, 150, 152 – bring a wagon to haul stuff to beach.

October 2020

Lincoln Rock State Park

Wenatchee, WA